WES students dress up in western garb and perform in rodeo

For years, except during the pandemic, a rodeo for second grade and multi-age Wells Elementary School students has taken place in the school’s gymnasium as part of a class unit studying the history of the famed Oregon Trail and the pioneers who traveled its 2,000 miles westward from 1840 to 1860. However, this year’s roundup was a scaled-down version with fewer students and no audience. Nevertheless, a local fiddler, Keith Fletcher, was there as he has been for over two decades contributing to the music of these hoedowns.

On a day in mid-May students once again filed into the school’s gymnasium dressed in colorful western clothing including cowboy shirts, hats, and neckerchiefs. For roughly a half-hour they danced to familiar square dance melodies including a portion of Aaron Copland’s ballet. Rodeo.

Then they all sat down in a half-circle to listen to Fletcher play portions of a few other tunes including Happy Acre Two-Step, Floppy Eared Mule, and Bach Solo Violin Sonata #1. He interspersed the songs with talk about music and the string instruments he brought with him, a violin and a large deep-sounding viola.

“For twenty-one years I've worked with our wonderful Wells teachers, Karen Taylor (Music teacher) and Kathy Calo (PE teacher), and their 'Rodeo' program,” noted Fletcher on a recent Facebook post. “Both Karen and Kathy are retiring this year, so the string ends. But a generation of Wells and Ogunquit kids got to play and dance to fiddle music and learn about the Western migration, and Aaron Copland.”

The above-mentioned unit of study involves the school’s CORE teachers who together provide an educational blend of music, physical education, art, library, and explorations of the settlement of the American West.

“What a wonderful cross-discipline program those teachers put together and I am so glad to have been a part of it,” added Fletcher.

In the center facing a group of students is Keith Fletcher, an accomplished musician who has added fiddle music to rodeos at WES for 21 years

Students of 2nd-grade teacher Kim Blanchard in a rodeo at WES

Students of 2nd-grade teacher Kim Blanchard in a rodeo at WES