Cellist, singer, songwriter, storyteller, Shana Tucker is a woman of many talents. In fact, she’s had to invent new words to encompass it all. She recently visited with students at Pineview Elementary School and offered a “SongStories” “informance” highlighting her self-described musical genre “ChamberSoul.”
Part concert, part workshop, the interactive experience provided third, fourth and fifth graders an introduction to the practice of songwriting. Students also saw how melody, harmony, and lyrics intersect. It was all part of the In Class program presented by Opening Nights at FSU.
As a professional performer, Tucker travels the country weaving jazz, classical, soulful folk, acoustic pop and a touch of R&B into her music. She eagerly seeks opportunities to educate adult and young audiences about the role of musician-as-storyteller. “Songs are stories,” she said, and “people, especially children, need to be reminded that they have a voice and they can sing.”
She also feels they need to see themselves represented in the artists they encounter. “As a child, I never saw a black girl play a cello. I didn’t even know that was a thing that could happen,” Tucker said. “I saw a symphony and people performing but something in me didn’t realize it was something I could do. I had to figure out a lot of stuff myself.”
Pineview principal Carmen Conner, wants to give her students an artistic advantage. “Our kids rarely come into contact with string instruments,” she explained. “When you have someone who plays the cello and she’s black, and she looks like my kids at my school, that’s a reminder that they can be anything they want to be.”
One of Conner’s goals is linking her students with arts experiences like this to help broaden their perspective. “I need to show them these things are possible. I want to share every possibility outside and beyond these walls. I want them to see this could be you one day.”
That message was not lost on fourth grader Ka’Zariyah Williams. She was inspired by Tucker and what she learned about songwriting. She said it “helps us express our ideas and share with each other. Some people, they can’t communicate easily and music can help us talk to each other differently.”
Ge’Quel Powell was particularly taken with some of the techniques and equipment Tucker used, especially her loop station. The fifth grader said, “I liked how she was recording her voice, playing that, and singing over it at the same time.” This type of device is especially helpful for solo artists like Tucker. It allows her to improvise and add effects to the original recording, creating a spectrum of sounds and effectively providing accompaniment to herself.
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