Rachel Bell Conquers Cabin Fever with Musical Picnic in Cuba Library

Rachel Bell begins her musical picnic by having the children sit "criss-cross applesauce" around a homemade "campfire." Credits: Taylor Kickbush
One child handles a djembe, a drum that makes noise using vibration, and the other handles a tambourine. Credits: Taylor Kickbush
Rachel Bell encourages the children to clap along as she carries her accordion around the room. Credits: Taylor Kickbush

CUBA, NY— The music case that Rachel Bell carried into the Cuba Circulating Library is held together by gray duct tape.

“I play the accordion, of all things,” Bell said, laughing.

Bell’s love for the accordion began as a freshman at Houghton College, where she studied music education and received her bachelor’s degree. Her passion for music led Bell to pursue a graduate’s degree in classical piano at Bowling Green State University, helping her to land a job as a music teacher at Bolivar-Richburg Central School District.

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She resigned from the teaching position after six years.

 “I resigned to spend time touring nationally and internationally, but I still wanted to teach so I started to do community music education sessions and workshops,” Bell said, rummaging through her instrument-stuffed totes to prepare for the morning’s musical “Cabin Fever” session.

At 10:22 a.m. Bell placed a homemade, mock firepit in the middle of a circle surrounded by colorful, foam mats. Minutes later 10 children paraded into the library’s Community Room and followed her directions to sit “criss-cross applesauce” around the orange and yellow tissue-paper flames.

Bell whipped out an orange ukulele.  “Hello, hello! Clap your hands!” Bell sang with enthusiasm, strumming the ukulele and motioning the children to stand and clap.

The three boys and seven girls hopped to their feet and chimed in immediately. Another one of Bell’s own summer-themed songs followed, then another.

After the children became familiar with the warm flavor of Bell’s music, she rewarded them with instruments she removed the instruments from her mound of bags. Frame drums, djembe drums, tambourines and wooden sticks appeared, one after another.

Naturally, Bell drew out her accordion from its vintage case.

Henry, age 8, and Delaney, age 6, went on a picnic, planted a garden and road on a boat down a river with help from Bell’s visual, hands-on music session. Both Henry and Delaney admitted that they are excited for summertime following their instrumental adventure.

“My kids have been to a few of Rachel’s workshops,” said Katie Meyers, mother of Henry and Delaney, “We wish we could see Rachel more but I enjoy seeing pictures of all her travels.”

Bell might be a traveler, but she will return to the area.

On March 9 at 12:30 p.m. Bell will give a free concert in the Cutco Theater of Jamestown Community College in Olean.

She also has  plans to offer collaboration workshops for parents and their children. For now, Bell is headed on the road in her jampacked car. With her is her accordion— and the certainty of her passion for travel, music and teaching.

Bell’s website lists upcoming community events and band gigs, as well as photos, videos and music.

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