A high school string ensemble, an award winning actress, a group of second graders, a man who’s written hits for Elvis Costello and Reba McEntire, two fourth grade classes, an internationally touring folk musician — sounds like a pretty good group to write songs, doesn’t it?

Throw in a few more songwriters and a bunch more kids, all from Albemarle County in Virginia, and you’ve got the Virginia edition of Kid Pan Alley, a project started by musician Paul Reisler several years ago which brings songwriters into classrooms across the country to get kids exploring creativity through writing songs — and they turn out some wild things, too, songs that speak of the serious and hard and crazy things of life and songs that are just plain funny. There have been projects in several parts of the US, and sometimes, as with the Charlottesville/Albemarle project, this results in recording.

Virginia based songwriters got together to put eighteen of the songs the kids wrote on a CD, which is called I Used to Know the Names of All the Stars. That title song talks wistfully of time and change. I Sure Do Love Virginia speaks of love for home and landscape. My Dog Did My Homework is a wry and funny twist on a common excuse, and We Could Make A Song About Love offers surprising perspectives on that eternal subject of song. The songs aren’t kid stuff, and yet they are, funny and engaging and thought provoking at the same time.

Musicians who sing and play on the album include regionally and nationally known artists, among them award winning actress Sissy Spacek, hit songwriter Jesse Winchester, and internationally known folk singers Terri Allard (who co ordinated the project) and Ellis Paul.

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Kerry Dexter is one of six writers who contribute to Perceptive Travel’s blog. You will often find her writing about places, events, and people connected with music, history, and the arts in Europe and North America. You may find more of Kerry's work at her site Music Road as well as in Wandering Educators, National Geographic Traveler, Ireland and the Americas, and other places online and in print.

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