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Wide World of Music

Artist Profile

Bill Jenkins will perform at Ashburn Library, 43316 Hay Road, to celebrate Children’s Day/Book Day, Friday, May 4, at 4 p.m. The event will be a multicultural celebration of children, families and reading. Recommended for all ages. Tickets required and can be picked up one half hour before the program, call 703-737-8100.

Introduce yourself:

I have a collection of more than 100 musical instruments collected from around the world. I give children a hands-on experience with them. I tell them how children would be playing music in different countries. Then I hand out instrument and we have the experience of playing music as children would in different countries.

How did you get your start?

I just always loved music and played music from elementary school on. I became fascinated with different countries from libraries. So then, in college I made that my academic specialty. I became fascinated in India first, it was the first country that grabbed me. I heard some Indian music on the Beatles record and that’s what started me off. I just kept listening and it just clicked. I realized that this music that wasn’t part of my background I could understand from the inside. Once you learn how to do that, you can apply that to any music.

How long have you been performing for?

I have been performing for 20 years. My first program was at my local library. I had no idea I would do this for children. I was just collecting instruments. It went over great. I decided to check it out.

What has been your best memory when it comes to music?

Working with the kids is great. Just some of the great concerts I’ve seen. The first concert I went to was a rock and roll group in the '60s, Lovin’ Spoonful. That was fantastic to see a live band. Just seeing live music, from a marching band to an orchestra is my thing. You never know what it's going to be like. That’s what I try to give to kids.

What instruments do you play:

Guitar, base, banjo, mandolin, sitar, koto as far as strings go. Recorder, penny whistle, harmonica as far as winds. I do mostly drums and percussions because I can hand those out to the kids.

Biggest musical influences:

The Beatles were really the first kind of world music group because they brought in world influences. They did so many musical styles. They opened the door for so many different types of musicians. They just showed that you could do your own music, not that you want to be like them, but you can do it your own way. You can just pull out their record and it really does hold up.

Favorite pieces? Why?

I like the traditional folk songs. I think there is a reason why these songs that came from England, like Humpty Dumpty, there is something about those melodies and words that are kind of our roots. I don’t want to write new children’s songs because you can do the classics all kinds of ways. You can do them with Mexican instruments or Egyptian instruments. They just fit the music perfectly for any instrument. That’s a great source to go back to.

What do you enjoy most about performing live?

That it is of the moment. When it's good, it's because everyone is doing it right then at the moment. It’s something we do together. It can’t be packaged. My big mission is promoting peace and understanding. If there is a conflict between us and another country, I’m going to check out that music. Musicians can beak down boundaries, there are no enemies in music. I don’t make a big deal about it but it’s just kind of inherent in it. I don’t have message, but it is there.

Anyone you would really like to play with? Why?

I’d like to sit in with The Who but I don’t know if the kids would. Someone like that, who I saw in my formative years. I love to sit in with artists in other countries. When I was in India or Japan, I could sit in with a group, that is just really fantastic. Just local musicians, they don’t have to be famous. That’s really exciting for me. We communicate even though we don’t have the same language. Music can bridge that gap.

Best compliment about a performance?

I’ve walked into high schools and had people say remember me, you started me off in music. That’s just really nice.

Anything special about the upcoming show?

It’s my first time at the Ashburn Library and I love doing libraries because my first performance was there and libraries are perfect for what I do.

Most recent song you’ve listened to?

Carlos Nakai, a Navajo flute player. He’s the most famous American Indian flute player in the United States.

How can people hear your music?

I’ll be at the Washington Folk festival June 3.

Future Plans:

Just keep doing it. Try to get out there and do it everyday. I’ve got the greatest job.