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Trash Music Brings Smiles to Eastchester Pupils

EASTCHESTER, N.Y. – Kindergartners and first-graders at Eastchester's Waverly Elementary School were treated Friday to a display of musical virtuosity, refined clowning and creative thinking, all wrapped up in a nonpreachy save-the-Earth lesson.

Bash the Trash, a musical environmental arts group based in Hastings-on-Hudson, presented its showcase of music and laughter with instruments straight from the Dumpster: old refrigerator bins, drawers, boards, metal and PVC pipes, straws and paper.

The group's mission statement on its website says, "Bash the Trash Environmental Arts combines science, music, and environmental awareness through performances, educational programs and social initiatives. Whether performing with musical instruments built from trash, building artworks from found objects or consulting on environmental arts education, BTT always focuses on how the arts and science work together."

The program at Waverly was all about getting the children to look at discarded items in a different way. Founder John Bertles and his wife, Carina Piaggio, teamed with Erika Kapin to show off their reuse skills. Early in the program, the trio came together on percussion instruments and had the children spontaneously clapping in rhythm. As the presentation neared its end, Kapin, an accomplished violinist, traded her board and box instrument for the real thing, while Bertles picked up an amplified base made from discarded materials for some impromptu jazz, with Piaggio adding percussion.

With a mimed, clownlike opening designed to get the kids' attention and get them settled, the performance gave all three a chance to show their versatility while emphasizing their message.

Bertles started the group in 1988 as The Experimental Orchestra and, in 1992, it grew into Bash the Trash. According to the website, the company reaches about 50,000 students, teachers and adults each year.

A classically trained composer, Bertles chose to go a different route with his music.

"Working with kids gets to the heart of what I want to do with my music," he said, which is to get them to think and consider the possibilities of the arts. Piaggio, he said, is a trained choreographer who is well-known in her native Argentina. Kapin is an accomplished violinist and photographer.

"We put our performers through a rigorous training program," Bertles said. "We literally have a line of musicians waiting to work with us. We get wonderful, fantastic musicians."

Bash the Trash was brought to the school by the Waverly PTA as part of that group's cultural programming paid for through Southern Westchester BOCES – the Board of Cooperative Educational Services – which includes poets, authors and artists, and discussions about bullying, recycling and other topics.

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