Out On A Limb

100_3410-edit“Stop singing!” my son has been begging me. But I can’t  stop singing the beautiful song (Out on a Limb) I heard last week out at the CIS Think Summer! program.

If CIS had a theme song, I thought to myself, it would be this song written by Jon Gailmor. “Let’s go out, out on a limb. Show ‘em the beauty of the world we’re in. Take a chance, grab a partner and dance–out here, out on a limb…” Jon himself performed the song (my son would have much preferred Jon’s pitch perfect, clear and soulful voice) which ends with these words: “Every child is a miracle–tall, strong, short or fragile. Being there to love ‘em’s the least we can do. Lift ‘em up where they can see the view.”

Jon Gailmor, according to his website, ”was born in New York State and failed to grow up in Philadelphia.”  Jon lives in Vermont now but last week, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo had the honor of hosting this most talented, funny and down-to-earth singer/songwriter at CIS Think Summer! out at Hillside Middle School. (The CIS Think Summer! program is made possible through the Michigan Department of Education, 21st CCLC Community Learning Centers.)

Jon was struck by “how much the kids are really enjoying themselves. It’s clear how much they love being here and how important CIS is to them in their lives.” He praised the CIS coaches, Site Coordinators, and CIS partners who are doing what it takes to make a difference for children. “Thank you for going out on a limb for these kids,” he said, addressing the crowd who had gathered last Thursday at Hillside’s cafeteria to hear the performance.

Just how did this artist-in-residence program play out? Each elementary grade level and Kids in Tune (a partnership with the Kalamazoo Symphony Orchestra, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Public Schools) reflected with Jon on what they have been learning during the summer program. The students then worked to identify an area to focus in on and their topics ranged from The Kalamazoo Promise® to protecting drinking water and helping others. The children got busy developing lyrics, setting them to music, and recording their original compositions.

Jon GailmorTheir work with Jon culminated in a performance before peers and grownups of their new compositions. Jon pointed out that “each of the songs had something to do with Kalamazoo. They composed every lyric, every note. I just choose the key and play the melody to accompany them…I’m always in awe of what kids can do.”

The children titled their five performances as follows: Big Brains and Big Goals (1st & 2nd Graders), A Promise of Hope (3rd Graders), The Six Pillars of Rock (4th Graders), We Know What to Do (5th Graders), and Changing Our World (Kids in Tune). Each of the students will soon be receiving a cd of their songs (thanks to Absolute Video) and we will be featuring the lyrics and songs with you in future blog posts.

For Nicole Barrow, whose daughter Zaria attends Think Summer!, the performance was nothing short of amazing. But her expectations were high to begin with. “This is a place kids can learn and they are learning a lot. My daughter comes back home each day from the CIS program tired and excited. We love that! I have confidence and trust in the staff, knowing they are each looking out for my daughter and all of these kids.”

A special thanks to Casey Gershon, a former Vermont resident, who planted the seed and wrote the grant that introduced Kalamazoo and our kids to Jon Gailmor. Funding for this artist-in-residence program was made possible through the generosity of the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. We are grateful to them for helping kids and grownups alike love where we live! Guitar Center, thank you for providing the equipment necessary to rock our kids’ worlds, which in turned, rocked us adults.

Jon GailmorJon Gailmor, we appreciate you reminding us that adulthood is often overrated. Even more importantly, as CIS Site Coordinator Stacy Salters put it, “Great things are living inside our children. Thank you, Jon, for tugging the greatness out of them.”

And a most special thanks to our awesome kids of Think Summer! You have created songs with powerful lyrics that dream boldly and challenge us grownups to live up to the Kalamazoo you sing of:  “there’s no better place in the nation.”

May we all go out on a limb for each and every one of you.