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Paul Gunter, at drum, and Dave Gallagher of the London musical "Stomp" talked to elementary school students at RAF Alconbury last week about music, rhythm, and even counting.
Paul Gunter, at drum, and Dave Gallagher of the London musical "Stomp" talked to elementary school students at RAF Alconbury last week about music, rhythm, and even counting. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Paul Gunter, at drum, and Dave Gallagher of the London musical "Stomp" talked to elementary school students at RAF Alconbury last week about music, rhythm, and even counting.
Paul Gunter, at drum, and Dave Gallagher of the London musical "Stomp" talked to elementary school students at RAF Alconbury last week about music, rhythm, and even counting. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Alconbury Elementary School students Anthony Walker and Thomas Tarach hold their hands up in hopes of being picked to help with a musical demonstration with a basketball.
Alconbury Elementary School students Anthony Walker and Thomas Tarach hold their hands up in hopes of being picked to help with a musical demonstration with a basketball. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Serenity McKenzie bangs on a garbage can as David Dougherty runs around her at the Alconbury Elementary School gym.
Serenity McKenzie bangs on a garbage can as David Dougherty runs around her at the Alconbury Elementary School gym. (Jason Chudy / S&S)
Alconbury Elementary School's Mattea Swegles beats on the back of a trash can, trying to keep beat with Stomp performer,Paul Gunter, at back.
Alconbury Elementary School's Mattea Swegles beats on the back of a trash can, trying to keep beat with Stomp performer,Paul Gunter, at back. (Jason Chudy / S&S)

Garbage cans and basketballs may at first seem like strange tools to teach kids about music, tempo and rhythm, but teachers from the London musical “Stomp” put that lesson in a little better perspective.

“Stomp” performs with what only could be considered nontraditional instruments — familiar household items such as trash cans and garden hoses.

Two troupe members were at RAF Alconbury last week as part of the elementary school’s Artist in Residence program.

The program brings specialists from a variety of art and science fields to the school at various times during the year to give students an out-of-classroom — and in the case of “Stomp,” an out-of-this-world — learning experience.

In addressing the students, Dave Gallagher and Paul Gunter said they were from a “strange planet” where rhythm was key to everything, from the way inhabitants walk to how they pronounce their names.

As the children learned how to “fit in” on the “Stomp” performers’ planet, teacher Sandy Adams explained that the Artist in Residence program works to enhance regular classroom instruction for the school’s kindergartners through sixth-graders.

“[The program provides] enlightenment and exposure to different cultures, different genres of the arts,” she said.

The program has been running for more than five years and events are set up by school faculty, including Adams. The program is supported by the base Parent-Teacher Association and enlisted spouses club.

Since the program’s start, children have been educated — and entertained — by a variety of artists and scientists, including a forensic scientist, dancers, reptile and raptor handlers, and even an astronomer who has worked for the British Broadcasting Corp. and ITV news organizations.

“I mean, how often do you get an opportunity to work with a professional at this level?” said music and art teacher Jeannine Bennett. “With ‘Stomp,’ we’re bringing in someone from the London stage.”

While the children clapped, banged — and stomped — at the session, teachers and even some parents watched from the back of the school’s gymnasium.

The Artist in Residence program got a positive review from parent Theresa McKenzie, whose fifth-grade daughter, Serenity, sat up front with her classmates.

“Their faces all kind of light up,” said McKenzie, whose family has been at Alconbury for two years. “It’s entertaining in a very educational way.”

McKenzie said her point was best illustrated by a visit from a Cambridge University astronomer.

“She talked about that for days — ‘do you know this, do you know that?’ ” McKenzie said.

And if two days of “Stomp” wasn’t enough excitement for an entire school year, Adams said they already have next month’s Artist in Residence planned: Morris Dancers, who perform a traditional European dance that traces its history to the 16th century.

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