About Elders' Wisdom, Children's Song™
“When senior members of a community go into schools and talk about their lives and work, and children write songs with Larry Long about what they have learned, they create a remarkable celebration of humanity and hard work.” —Dr. Tony Seeger, Smithsonian Folkways
Elders’ Wisdom, Children's Song™ is an intergenerational program created by Smithsonian Folkways recording artist and social justice advocate Larry Long, director of the 501(c)(3) nonprofit, Community Celebration of Place. Working with young people in schools throughout the nation Larry has generated an unparalleled collection of life stories of American elders in both song and narrative.
Maintained in print as well as audio and video recordings, this richly diverse collection chronicles several generations of American life through the recollections of over 500 elders from 65 communities in 25 states. Collected over 20 years, the stories span the nation's cultures from elders both long established and newly arrived.
Larry Long's collection uniquely documents how Americans pursue honest and honorable ways of living that affirm hope in what the country aspires to at its best. The songs and stories affirm values and provide models that are core to American life. They also personalize the tragedies and triumphs of our country by revealing the grit and determination of people to lead good lives - often against injustice and terrible odds - while contributing to the wellbeing of their communities and the nation.
Community Celebration of Place is working with multiple new school sites hosting Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song during the 2014-2015 school year. Each site will honor three to four elders who reflect the many faces of the classroom today. Each Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song activity culminates in a large community wide celebration. It is our goal for each new site to reach self-sustaining status in the following school years. Community Celebration of Place continues to work with the many sites, both regionally and around the nation, who have already reached this capacity, or are transitioning to do so.
This year Community Celebration of Place, in partnership with the West Metro Education Program (WMEP) is working with three new school sites in the Minneapolis and West Metro communties of Minnesota to host Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song according to this years theme, entitled Honoring Men of Color.
Larry Long and EWCS™ artists are currently working with students throughout Minnesota and the Midwest, bringing elders' stories and experiences into the schools. They spend a week in the classroom, facilitating the interviews and the songwriting process. At the end of each residence, the students help put together a community celebration.
At the Celebrations, students honor their chosen elders by reading a first-person narrative about their life and then performing the song they helped to write. The celebrations are open to the community.
Here are some video clips from one Elder Celebration:
- Elders’ Procession
- Children’s Narratives
- Children’s Song
- Elders’ Honor Song
- Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song Finale
- Elders’ Closing Words
- Closing Words from the School Principal
DVDs and Songbooks
Besides gathering oral history with children to honor our nation’s elders through Elders’ Wisdom, Children’s Song, Larry applies these skills in the production of DVDs for communities and organizations.
Larry also compiles and produces songbooks for several school districts, a compilation of extensive photos, narratives, songs and lyrics for each elder honored in that community.
A Long-lasting Impact
Dear Larry Long,
I am a former student of Rollingstone Elementary school, a place that much appreciated your work! Recently I was remembering the fabulous times we had when you were there and I now a sophomore in college and I am still singing those songs you wrote way back in the day. The time you spent with us really touched our hearts. I am from the 2nd grade class that went with you to sing at the teachers conference in Brainard. I am still very close with many of my classmates from that class and these songs we sang are always a happy reminder of where we came from. So I guess I just wanted to say thank you! Every time someone asks me where I am from I can't help but think "Rollingstone my Home".