Children's band is a hit with elementary students

Friday, September 18, 2015
Virginia Ralph and Bobby Matthews sing songs from their self-titled album 'Mömandpöp' on Tuesday at Eureka Springs Elementary School. (Photo by Tavi Ellis/Carroll County News)

If the students at Eureka Springs Elementary School have any say in it, the children's band Mömandpöp will be very successful. The band performed at the school twice Tuesday to rave reviews.

"They should do this every single week!" said fourth-grader Madalyn Sewell.

Third-grader Dillania Jackson disagreed, saying the band should perform every day. Mömandpöp's performance, Jackson said, entertained all her friends.

"My favorite song was the one where Pop was a wizard. It was funny. I felt like my head was going to explode it was so good," Jackson said.

Created by husband and wife duo Bobby Matthews and Virginia Ralph, Mömandpöp released a self-titled album this past year. The couple moved to Eureka Springs this summer to begin a show based on the songs from "Mömandpöp."

Ralph recalled giving a copy of the album to Donesa Mann, a music teacher at Eureka Springs Elementary School, before school started this year.

Mann said she immediately wanted to use the album as a teaching tool.

"I was amazed. I thought it was perfect for the students in our building. Their songs teach things like days of the week and the seasons," Mann said.

Mann said she has begun using the the first song on the album, "We're So Glad to See You," to introduce the elementary school's weekly assembly.

"The song's about being friends. It's like, 'Welcome to my school. Welcome to being here with me,'" Mann said.

Until she and Matthews were setting up for their show in the elementary school cafeteria, Ralph said she didn't know their album was being used as a teaching tool. She remembered hearing students in the next room working on a rhythm exercise to Mömandpöp's song "Socks and Shoes."

"They were clapping with it. It was being used to teach rhythm," Ralph said.

It's fitting for Mann to use the album in the classroom, Matthews said, because he initially conceived the album for that purpose. In the beginning, Matthews explained, he hoped

"Mömandpöp" would be used to teach toddlers and pre-kindergarten students rhythm.

"We were teaching them rhythm, days of the week, colors of the rainbow and seasons. That's embedded in those songs," Matthews said, adding that he wrote the songs with his own interests as a child in mind.

Instead, the couple started performing at Gaskin Switch Theater. The show has since moved to Pine Mountain Jamboree Theater.

At these shows, Matthews said, Mömandpöp didn't draw a large audience. He described feeling overwhelmed after his first performance at the elementary school, saying the large group far exceeded his expectations.

"We're sometimes prepared to pull kids out of their shell because we like the show to be interactive, but we didn't have to do that today. The kids were all excited and willing to participate," Matthews said. "They didn't have any problem dancing, and they laughed at all my jokes."

Ralph agreed that the students participated heavily; the best part, she said, was seeing special needs students get involved. Several of these children danced to the music, Ralph remembered, and a non-verbal student even started singing along.

Matthews choked up when being reminded of the non-verbal student's reaction, saying he was rendered speechless.

"That meant a lot to me. Everybody participated. Everybody was there with us," Matthews said.

Ralph remembered how Sewell responded to the show; during the performance, Ralph said, Sewell held her hand up after every song. When she finally called on the fourth-grader, Ralph said she was touched.

"She spoke on how much music means to her and how inspired she was by music and how inspired she felt right then. She was very overwhelmed by the experience in a happy way," Ralph said.

Sewell recalled speaking up. She said she has been inspired by Mömandpöp's music all year and was excited to see the band perform live.

"I told Mömandpöp that I really love music. It makes me go happy and every time I talk about that it makes me cry for some reason," Sewell said.

Sewell's response, Ralph said, encapsulated the goal of Mömandpöp.

"It's exactly the whole reason we make music is to hear something like that. It was just an amazing moment," Ralph said.

It was not a shock, Mann said, to see Mömandpöp connect so well with the elementary students. Mann called Matthews and Ralph experienced professionals, saying the couple interacts well with children.

"It's obvious they have experience. They're very effective," Mann said.

Mömandpöp, Mann continued, should have no trouble finding a place in Eureka Springs.

"We're very blessed to have them here. I hope the community will be curious about them and take advantage of this talent, because it's not every day that a couple this talented moves into your town," Mann said.

Ralph said she hopes to perform at other schools in Carroll County; after performing at Eureka Springs, she said, she's confident that Mömandpöp translates well to young audiences. Matthews added that he's already drafted ideas for a second album.

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