Mini musicians

Gabe Neeley, 6, whacked the Chinese gong, while some in the audience covered their ears because of the loud reverberations. Quentin Gonzalez, 9, played the Djembe drum in an African number. Wearing a Mexican sombrero, Owen Stanley, 11, shook his maracas so hard and furiously during the song “LaBamba” that he was chosen one of two winners for “best shaker.”

The 2015 Summer Reading program started off with a bang ... well, actually, more like a gong when about 75 children, 4 years of age to fourth grade attended Multicultural Music from around the World with Don O’Brien at the Oakhurst Community Center last week. He was recognized in 2014 for “Best Kids Show in Northern California,” and offers a hands-on musical experience using a variety of ethnic instruments.

O’Brien explained to one of his young volunteers the importance of hopping and shaking at the same time to produce the best sound from an African gourd rattle from Ghana, with a netting of shells wrapped around it.

There was an African percussion segment, which included an African Tree Frog, made of wood with sharp triangle-shaped ridges on the frog’s back. Rub a stick along the back, and a sound similar to that of a frog - “ribbet” - is emitted.

Several tiny musicians participated in a Trinidad parade, strolling down aisles playing an instrument of choice to the Calypso song, “Hot, Hot, Hot.” Others “mariachi-ed” like mad in their sombreros, while enthusiastically shaking their maracas.

O’Brien entertained the audience playing a Hawaiian Conch shell. Once a small hole is cut in the top, it sounds much like a trumpet. He said the sound can be heard from two-to-three miles away, and back in the days before phones, that’s how Hawaiians communicated with each other.

He used a Navajo Indian flute, considered “magical,” to call forth the buffalo during the Buffalo Hunting Song. The Indians believed that, by playing this tune, it would attract the buffalo to the Indian village to provide food. The flute took two weeks to make, and during those weeks, O’Brien and his wife lived with the Navajo Indians.

Soon after, he played the song, “Colors of the Wind,” from Disney’s film Pocahontas. He said the Navajo Indian children didn’t like the song because it wasn’t played the way the Indians would play it on the flute, so they taught him to play it “their” way.

With floating colored lights dotting the walls, O’Brien began the song, immediately captivating the youngsters, who sat quietly and cross-legged, spellbound by the sounds. The spell broke at the final note, and once the applause died down, Ava Simonich, sitting up front, whispered, “encore.”

This event was the first in a series of the Oakhurst Branch Library’s summer reading program, “Reading to the Rhythm.”

For upcoming events, see:, or (559) 683-4838.