By Carrie Ann Salvi
Clapping and snapping fingers on the beat, Inda Eaton shared her musical talent and sense of humor with kids in Sag Harbor at a songwriting series sponsored by the John Jermain Memorial Library this month.
Ms. Eaton demonstrated a natural ability to share her words and music, and developed an instant rapport with the kids.
“I am Inda, I play the guitar, the piano, and a little drum. I’m not a drummer, but I have a good groove,” she said when she introduced herself to her class of five on July 14. She told them that she likes to record, tour, and perform her own music as well as record and sing backup vocals. Next, the young attendees were treated to Ms. Eaton’s songwriting tips, audio recording skills, and a live music performance.
Ms. Eaton played the kids a song she wrote about growing up in her hometown of Casper, Wyoming. The birthplaces of the kids in the class ranged from London to Bangkok. “Write what you know about,” she told them.
“I remember being really bored with ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,’” Ms. Eaton said, explaining why she started to write and play her own songs. She taught the children about the acoustic guitar, which she said helps her a lot, while adding, “Playing an instrument proficiently is not the only way to write a song.” Later in the class, the group did some free word association, and recorded a little track.
“Everything we do guys, has music behind it,” she told the children. Using “Who Let the Dogs Out?” as an example of a song that sets a mood, she said, “We as humans have a sense for music—we don’t play Jamaican reggae during a scary movie.”
They then created sounds and cut-and-pasted them into her computer. Jamie Farrell, who will soon be in seventh grade, smiled ear-to-ear afterward exclaiming, “That’s cool” after hearing the song he helped to create. Before class had started, he had announced, ”I’m just not an instrumental person.”
“Inda is nice,” said Christina Luu-Pierce, a 9-year-old girl from Bangkok who visits her grandfather in Sag Harbor’s Azurest neighborhood for a few weeks every summer. “I am interested in singing and music,” she said. “Mostly I want to be a singer. I learned that you can use weird words, even though it doesn’t make sense,” she said after class.
“She is totally awesome,” said the library’s director, Catherine Creedon, of having Ms. Eaton at the library. “I am so excited about it.”
Ms. Creedon then presented a load of musical treasure recently donated by Jeanette and Paul A. Wagner. The couple, whom she called frequent donators to the library, provided the funds for keyboards, iPads, and headphones for musical programs she hopes Ms. Eaton will be involved with on an ongoing basis. “We’ve had a lot of interest in it,” she said, adding she hopes to have Ms. Eaton perform in concert to help celebrate the library’s reopening, when the construction is finished.
Ms. Eaton’s series of songwriting workshops is part of her long-term “Ideas to Inspire” project, now four years old, that encourages creativity, song writing, storytelling and self-expression through individual and group instruction and public events.
The workshops were presented at libraries in Westhampton Beach and Amagansett, as well as Sag Harbor.
Ms. Eaton’s “Ideas to Inspire” mission also includes the ability to enhance school curriculums with an imaginative approach to learning that promotes curiosity and yields tangible creative rewards.
For a little inspiration at the end of her first class, Ms. Eaton showed a video of a song that was written and performed by students in sixth through eighth grade in the Midwest, where she took her program last winter. Larger events she has embarked on have enlisted the help of local musicians such as Nancy Atlas, who she said got on a plane and came out to Wyoming to teach about signs and symbols.
“Songwriting doesn’t always have to be lyrical, it doesn’t always have to have a beat, and it doesn’t have to have a melody,” she told the kids, “but when you have all three, it’s pure magic, and as an artist and a storyteller, that’s what I love to do.”
“If I had my childhood to do over, I would be a library hopper, the programming is so good, Ms. Eaton said, adding, “and it’s air conditioned.”
Information about Inda Eaton’s educational programs can be found at ideastoinspire.org. She will be teaching songwriting to kids 9 through 12 at the Amagansett Library on Thursday, August 13, from 1:30 to 4:30.