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Whistles join in special music-making

PROCTORVILLE — It may look like a simple party whistle to you. But in the hands of youthful masters it becomes a musical instrument of note … well maybe just a couple of notes.

But the enthusiasm behind those notes could not be questioned. That’s what happened Thursday when youngsters got a music lesson from Dan Mahoney, a South Point based Appalachian musician.

It was all a part of the summer youth series at the Eastern Branch of the Briggs Library.

Party whistles and kazoos were distributed throughout the group and they joined along as Mahoney demonstrated the classic Appalachian instruments of guitar and dulcimer.

He also showed off his own creation — a cango — a homemade version of a banjo made out of a coffee can and some cat gut.

Mahoney got into music only in the past 10 years after he underwent open heart surgery. A second cousin, who was also a minister, brought a dulcimer to Mahoney as something to do as he was going through rehab.

“He put it in my hands and said learn how to play it,” Mahoney recalled. Now he goes out to schools to introduce youngsters to music.

“I like for a child to learn what music is about and enjoy it,” he said.

What the children learned Thursday was a gamut of standards from Amazing Grace to Banks of the Ohio to Red River Valley to Itsy Bitsy Spider. And if a child could add his musical two cents worth, he was encouraged to do so.

Rob O’Lynn of Proctorville brought his two children, Caleb, 5, and Kyla, 3 to the session.

“This helps them think about other ways of expression other than just sports,” O’Lynn said. “It helps them to be more creative. It introduces them to other forms of music.”

Taylor Henderson, 8, of Proctorville, got to try her hand at washboard music as she joined a makeshift quartet of dulcimer, maracas, sticks. She had come to the session with her sister, Emma, 5.

“This gives them a chance to play instruments you wouldn’t normally have around the house,” Beth Henderson, their mother said, as she watched her daughters perform.