This month, the Ashland Children's Library is embarking on a year-long program for elementary-age children and their parents and care-givers.
Called "Third Tuesday at the Library," every third Tuesday of every month the Library will host a live children's storyteller. The event will follow the conclusion of the school day, with storytelling starting at 3:45 p.m. After-school snacks will be served.
The event will conclude by 4:45 p.m., early enough for the children to be home by dark and in time for dinner, homework and bedtime.
"Once upon a time ... these powerful words will open new worlds to the children of the Rogue Valley," said Children's Librarian Perii Owen. "Instead of afternoon cartoons, children will hear and see live storytellers share stories from the world's cultures and make-believe."
As practitioners of oral storytelling - one of the oldest human art forms - professional storytellers from around the country and Canada will endeavor to enchant young audiences with yarns that will tickle funny bones, dazzle imaginations and puzzle brains. Stories will explore French fantasies, Hawaiian superstitions, Irish anecdotes and Korean myths. Fables, legends, tall tales, and the retelling of classic fairy tales will keep children on the edges of their seats, or their bottoms on the floor, depending on where they choose to sit.
"Storytelling brings an immediacy and a richness," said Ashland Branch Manager Anne Billeter "There's nothing separating the storyteller and the audience. In the presence of a storyteller, each member of the audience draws on his or her imagination. It's not better than a picture book; it's an entirely different kind of experience."
"These performers will encourage children to return to books so they can keep alive that great feeling of having an activated imagination."
Popular northwest storyteller Jeff Defty will kick the year-long series off by regaling young audiences at the library, Tuesday, Jan. 20. Defty will offer a selection of his favorite folktales beginning at 3:30 p.m..
Defty, a children's librarian in Eugene, author, composer and cellist, has been an avid teller of tales for more than two decades. He has a strong belief in the power of stories to unite communities and cultures, and draws his repertoire from the great oral traditions of cultures around the world. He especially delights in tales of tricksters and fools and specializes in audience participation tales.
Defty grew up in Medford and graduated from Medford Senior High School in 1976. He attended Willamette University, earning a B.A. in Philosophy and spending his last year abroad, studying philosophy, art, music and German literature at the Ludwig-Maximilians University in Munich, Germany. He returned to Oregon to continue studies in music, folklore and theater at the University of Oregon.
In the early '80s, Defty made his living as a professional musician while actively composing for small ensembles and the Mary Miller Dance Company. His storytelling career began at this time, and he quickly learned a large repertoire of folktales, myths and fables for public performance. He was the host and co-producer of the popular cable access program The Wishing Well, and began performing at schools, libraries, festivals and storytelling concerts for adults. In 1989, Defty decided to bring his art into a library context, and completed a master's degree in library science at the University of Washington.
Continuing to work as a children's librarian at the Eugene Public Library, Defty has also kept busy as a composer and recording artist. He has recorded four CDs, "Vanish into Blue," "The Descent of Inanna," "Sanctuary: Romances for Guitar and Cello," and "Amber Moon," the latter two in collaboration with Forrest McDowell and the "Confluence" ensemble. He has also created numerous works for stage and dance, including "Playing God: a Dance Opera," funded by the National Endowment for the Arts. A film about the collaborative mask-drama "The Descent of Inanna," for which Defty composed a continuous score, was featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting in 2001, and the stage production played to sold-out audiences two years in a row. His instrumental music has been featured on the nationally syndicated radio program "Music from the Hearts of Space" and been marketed internationally. He was the 1999 recipient of the Oregon Arts Commission Fellowship for New Music for his work "Eclipse" for solo cello, which was performed at the Oregon Bach Festival in 2000.
Defty has also collaborated with picture-book artist Will Hillenbrand to produce recorded narrations and original musical soundtracks for eight picture books. While these are not yet commercially available, Defty hopes to produce more works of this kind, since, as he says, it "puts his worlds together." Defty's other current interests and projects include a study of traditional Japanese music and beginning a new collaborative work featuring creation myths of the world, involving storytelling, music and dance.
Third Tuesday at the Library is a free event due to co-sponsoring from Trust Management Services, the Ashland Friends of the Library and the Jackson County Library. Other supporters include Albertsons, which is helping provide the after-school snacks, and the Ashland Bed and Breakfast Network, whose members are providing lodging for the storytellers.