Child's play

Jennie Avila brings her 'new folk' music to the kiddies at Lollipopalooza

Jennie Avila brings her 'new folk' music to the kiddies at Lollipopalooza

August 14, 2008|By JULIE E. GREENE

Close your eyes and listen to Jennie Avila play the conga drum while cawing like an exotic bird or hooting like an Australian kookaburra and you might imagine yourself in a distant land.

Show up this Saturday at Lollipopalooza and you can "sing" along with her.

If animal sounds aren't your thing, Avila also sings using the English language to folk tunes she's written or more familiar children's songs such as Bob Dylan's "Man Gave Name To All the Animals."

Avila said she enjoys performing for children because of their energy and excitement.

"They love to sing along and play along. And I love to play," she said.

Lollipopalooza is a back-to-school family fun day with children's concerts and events at Hagerstown Community College's Alumni Amphitheater. The free event is sponsored by HCC's Student Government Association.

Approximately 300 children attended last year's Lollipopalooza, said Heather Barnhart, HCC's student activities coordinator. The event is aimed at the elementary school-aged kids.


The event will have a bubble-blowing area, an inflatable slide, a Moonbounce, face painting, games and prizes, giveaways and other activities. Kids will have a chance to pose as rock stars and get their photos taken. There will be free popcorn and drinks.

Entertainment includes strolling guitarist Joe Poist; Uncle Bean the Magician; folk musician Slim Harrison, who performs American folk music and talks about its origins; and Bill Wellington, who writes fun, humorous songs.

Avila, a "new folk" musician who lives in Hagerstown, will bring several unusual percussion instruments to demonstrate. These include Japanese kokiriko, which look like a spine or snake of wooden dominoes attached with string and which clap against each other as Avila moves the ends up and down.

She also plans to bring a cabasa, which sounds like a metallic maracas, and ubangs, clay pottery that creates a resonating sound like a distant bass drum when the palm is slapped against a hole on the instrument's side. Avila describes its sounds as a belly gulp.

Avila has been performing for 30 years. After singing for two years, often for four hours at a time as she provided entertainment at a restaurant, she decided to try adding percussion instruments.

She began with maracas and claves - short, thick sticks struck against each other.

Then she learned to play conga drums.

"From there on, I just got totally enraptured with the sounds things make," Avila said.

As she met other percussionists, she learned more unusual instruments. Some of her instruments were made for the purpose of being musical, while others - soda bottle, keys - Avila has just put to musical or rhythmic use.

She said it's not just the look and sound of unusual instruments Avila likes. She likes a challenge.

"... Of course, it's fun to figure out how to play them. They all take different hand movements," she said.


WHAT: 8th annual Lollipopalooza, a back-to-school family fun day with children's concerts and events

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 16

WHERE: Alumni Amphitheater, Hagerstown Community College, off Robinwood Drive east of Hagerstown

COST: Free admission

CONTACT: For more information, call 301-790-2800, ext. 225.

MORE: Attendees are encouraged to bring at least one school supply to benefit Children in Need Inc. of Washington County. For more information about Jennie Avila, go to


See and hear some of the unusual instruments Jennie Avila will perform Saturday at Lollipopalooza.

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