Through October at Santa Monica’s Tongva Park, a number of cultural events are scheduled as part of Santa Monica City’s Family Saturdays. To kick off the events, award-winning musician and composer Martin Espino held an interactive workshop and demonstration of indigenous American instruments for families this past Saturday.
Espino has built or helped others build over 60,000 indigenous instruments in his lifetime. He regularly holds community workshops to educate audiences about indigenous American music.
Throughout his two hour demonstration at Tongva Park, Espino explained the ins and outs of many different kinds of instruments, all constructed from materials like deer bones and butterfly cocoons, to a rapt audience largely composed of children.
“I didn’t go to Home Depot and buy this,” Espino emphasized, while demonstrating his deer bone rattle, emphasizing the craftsmanship necessary to build each individual instrument.
Hands-on in his approach, Espino got both kids and parents involved throughout the morning. Adults kept musical time with simple percussive instruments, while kids were given rainsticks to play – Espino himself produced a number of animal noises with multiple instrument designed for that purpose, to create a lively composition.
Between his presentation’s musical components, he educated his audience about the nature of indigenous American music, often comparing it to other musical traditions, like Irish music or Cowboy shouts, with which his younger audience members were more familiar.
Espino maintained the attention of his enthusiastic crowd of children by encouraging involvement. For example, he urged children to personally return rainsticks to him rather than leave them with a parent.
“If you’re a mom, please have your kid do it,” Espino said to all parents involved. In this manner, his exercises were aimed to teach not just music but history and responsibility as well.
For a list of Tongva Park’s upcoming Family Saturdays events, visit tongvapark.smgov.net/events.