"My Goal in performing at schools is to stir imaginations"
Bill Wellington began presenting programs at elementary schools in 1977 in West Virginia, where he served as artist-in-residence in several mountain communities. Since that time he has performed everywhere from one-room schoolhouses to elementary schools with over 1,400 children.
Bill is an energetic performer who immediately creates a rapport with his school-age audience, whether they are kindergartners or eighth graders. The question children ask the most after seeing Bill perform is "When is he coming back?"
The Radio WOOF school assembly is a celebration of folklore featuring Bill Wellington's lively banjo music, funny folk songs, fancy fiddling, and fantastic storytelling. Bill's enthusiastically shares his message that folklore, whether in the form of a familiar jump-rope-rhyme or a spellbinding story from another land, is a marvelous treasure we have inherited.
Bill introduces folklore by asking:
The answer to this riddle is the word "folklore." Folklore is not something mysterious and far away, it happens every day, especially at elementary schools. All you have to do is look around the playground to see kids doing jump-rope rhymes, chanting hand-clapping games, telling knock-knock jokes and riddles, and singing silly songs, all of which are expressions of folklore.
The word "folk" means "people," and the word "lore" means "knowledge. Folklore is the shared knowledge of the people. When students learn that the jump-rope rhyme "Cinderella," which they all know, is known by children at every school across the land, they begin to see how folklore connects them to kids everywhere.
Bill shows folklore demonstrates the creative use of language. Words that are put together in ways that are rhythmic, rhyming, musical, funny, and clever are worthy of being shared. That is why they are passed along and become part of the shared knowledge of the community.
In the Radio WOOF assembly, children are also encouraged to create new versions of favorite rhymes, such as one heard recently:
Roses are red,
As part of the One-Day-Wonder program, Bill will ask students to write roses-are-red poems after the assembly. He will then read selected ones at the evening family concert.
Bill plays banjo, fiddle, guitar, and Irish flute (see Radio WOOF Study Guide for explanation) during the course of this show, and children learn about the history and background of each instrument. He sings funny folk songs such as Magalena Hagalena. He also sings some of his own original compositions including Gnarly Roadrash, Tell me a story, and How Could We Live Without TV?
When describing this performer Parent's Choice Magazine said: "Children couldn't ask for a better storyteller than Bill Wellington." Bill is indeed a great storyteller and he always includes at least one tantalizing tale in each radio WOOF assembly. He uses an amazing array of voices, sound effects, facial expressions and dramatic gestures in his unique style. A classic example of Bill's storytelling can be heard in "The Haunted Chewing Gum," which appears on the CD WOOF Hits Home!
At the end of this assembly Bill Wellington encourages children to continue to share and enjoy FOLKLORE FOREVER!
Celebrating astronomy in the exuberant style of Radio WOOF, Bill Wellington introduces audiences to the wonders of the universe, and to humankind's attempts to better understand them. This wide-ranging program was originally commissioned by the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum and was first performed there in the fall of 1996.
In this presentation all of Bill's skills as a storyteller, songwriter and folk musician are put to work as he enthusiastically pursues his topic. For example: The song "Baby Face" becomes "Outer Space." In this song, as with others in this show, Wellington uses catchy lyrics to teach real science.
There are songs in WOOF Blasts Off! that cover everything from the invention of flying machines (Orville and Wilbur), to spacecraft which have traveled to the edge of the Solar System (Voyager). Other concepts covered include weightlessness, supernovas, meteor impacts, Earth's atmosphere, and space aliens.
To explain how the planets in our solar system got their names Bill asks for nine volunteers from the audience. Each child represents a different planet (Saturn wears a hula hoop to depict it's rings). Bill then describes how each planet was named for a god or goddess in Greek and Roman Mythology.
Bill stresses that while spacecraft attract much of our interest today, the most important invention in the history of astronomy is the telescope. He describes how Galileo, using a telescope he built himself, was able to disprove (at his own peril) the ancient belief that the Sun and all other celestial objects revolved around the Earth. Bill displays beautiful poster-size photographs taken by the Hubble Space Telescope, and other powerful telescopes to further prove his point.
One of Bill's goals is in this assembly is to have students begin to understand the awesome size of the universe, and the mind-boggling power at work in celestial objects. One remarkable song, and a favorite of the students, is What's Inside of a Black Hole? The lyrics tell the story of these mysterious objects in a three-minute long lesson in astrophysics.
At the end of the WOOF Blasts Off! assembly Bill invites students to ask questions. It is evident from many of these questions that students are fascinated by astronomy and really do want to learn more. Some of the questions are pretty tough ("how big is a red giant star?"), and students really pay attention to see if someone can stump Bill!
Bill sends his school audiences off with a final encouragement to learn as much as they can about the amazing universe we live in.
Bill Wellington's most popular option for elementary schools is a unique combination of events called the "One-Day-Wonder," consisting of:
Performance workshop with ten children who are selected in advance by your music teacher. These children will then perform with Bill At the
Family Concert that brings together your school community for an evening of fun and folklore.
In addition to all this, Bill will present a Radio WOOF intercom broadcast over the school PA system as part of the morning or afternoon announcements
All this is available for the same fee as for two assemblies. The school simply agrees to participate in a cooperative sale of Radio WOOF recordings. The school receives 10% of this sale. Bill only asks that:
~ there is no admission charge for the family concert
~ the sponsor provide volunteers to assist with sales at the family concert
~ there are no other sales (Bookfair, etc.) at the family concert
~ schools pay an additional fee if the family concert is on a Friday night.
Bill will provide flyers and CDs with helpful suggestions on how to successfully promote the One-Day-Wonder to make it as wonderful as it can be!
In his workshops, Bill Wellington teaches children to perform on stage with enthusiasm and expression. He shares with kids his belief that being on stage is an honor, so performers should give all they can to create great shows.
The student workshop for the One-Day-Wonder includes ten students, selected by the school's music teacher, who meet with Bill for about 45 minutes. They learn several songs they will then sing with Bill at the Family Concert, where they are introduced as the "Woofers and the Tweeters." In this workshop the children develop a group spirit as they learn to cooperate with each other and with Bill to present the best show possible.
In his residencies Bill meets several times with three "core groups" of students, totally as many as sixty children. In addition to learning songs, students in these workshops create story-theater pieces under Bill's direction. Some groups will learn folk dances as well. These workshops are conducted in preparation for a Family Concert culminating the residency
Being in a workshop with Bill Wellington is a memorable experience for children. He has met with thousands of kids who, even as middle and high schoolers, often come to see "Sir Bill" when he returns to their elementary school.
Bill Wellington is available for residencies for as short as two days or as long as three weeks. Each residency includes assembly programs, workshops, daily Radio WOOF intercom broadcasts, and a family concert.
One popular option for schools is a three-day residency for it allows time for Bill's visit to have a greater impact on a larger number of students without taking up major amounts of classroom time.
Bill is on the Virginia Commission for the arts ( www.arts.state.va.us ) Artist-in-Education roster, and is therefore eligible for matching funds for residencies of two weeks or longer. The grant application deadline is April 1 for programs during the following school year.