Kodiak arts: Visiting musician jazzes up Kodiak classes

Edward Littlefield, the Kodiak High School and Kodiak Middle School artist in residence, plays trumpet while leading an afterschool program Wednesday in the KHS band room. Littlefield, a Sitkan who lives in Seattle, has been in Kodiak for two weeks as part of the Artists in Schools program. (James Brooks photo)

Percussionist Ed Littlefield speaks almost as fast as he drums.

On Friday, the Sitkan musician ends his two-week stay teaching Kodiak Middle School and Kodiak High School students.

KHS music director Dale Lhotka said Littlefield’s fast-paced, intense style has been a boon to music students on the island.

For Littlefield, the trip to Kodiak was a learning experience.

“It’s amazing the amount of support for music here,” he said. “It’s been an amazing two weeks.”

Littlefield, who now lives in Seattle, is a Tlingit Native born and raised in Sitka, where most of his family still lives.

“Sitka is a lot like Kodiak,” he said.

Lhotka contacted Littlefield almost one year ago, shortly after the Kodiak Island Borough School District won an Artists in Schools grant, which paid for Littlefield’s stay.

Littlefield has done six or seven other school visits in the past four years, he said. Proficient on several instruments in addition to drums, he tries to make sure schools get their money’s worth. This week, he has worked with groups ranging from middle school beginning band to the high school’s acclaimed jazz band.

He taught orchestra and music theory, then stayed late to work with after-school programs. On Saturday night, the KHS small jazz band drafted him to play drums during the Kodiak Community Showcase.

“Any time (students) can go out and do things in the community, that’s great,” Littlefield said.

Though he stayed in Kodiak, Littlefield’s influence reached into Kodiak’s rural schools as he participated in videoconferenced lessons broadcast to Akhiok and Old Harbor.

“I have not done that before,” he said.

The new experience turned into an interesting challenge as Littlefield and Lhotka competed against the three-second lag imposed by satellite transmissions. As their playing bounced up to a satellite, down to Akhiok and back, they could never quite sync with what those distant students were playing.

“Basically, we had to ignore what we were playing,” Littlefield said.

Though he’ll leave soon after his work wraps up Friday (stops in Juneau and Nome schools are on the horizon), Littlefield hopes Kodiak’s students will remember his lessons.

“On the first day I got here, I asked, ‘Who has composed before?’ A few raised their hands,” he said. “Today I asked, and all of them raised their hands.”

Contact Mirror editor James Brooks at editor@kodiakdailymirror.com.

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