Jim Kanas: Jazz Guitarist - Folk Musician
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Photo with Students
"Jim Kanasí warm personality and fine music connects audiences
of all ages to those who came before us. He draws his audience
into the insides and values of our rich American tradition."
Joan Ericksen, Executive Director, Sun Foundation


Jim Kanas swoosh

“Bring him back! Excellent job, Great ideas. Great activities. Grand amount of ideas. Marvelous! Great session! Entertaining hands-on activities.”

Meeting the Challenge X
2000- Teacher Conference

"Wonderful festival--Jim Kanas is a monster clinician. To keep a group of Middle Schoolers that into it for hours, w/o condescension--I'm impressed."

Lee Tomboulian
Instructor of Jazz Piano and Improvisation
Lawrence University
920-993-6216 (office)

“Jim was consistently well-planned. He worked well with adults, parents AND students, His expertise in music, combined with his knowledge of history and the social sciences and his acceptance of all people as learners, provided an enriching, global experience.”

Kevin O’Connor, principal
Maplewood School
Cary, IL











“Both the faculty and the students mutually agreed that it was the best assembly we have had! ....”

Garry K. Falcone, Principal
Concord Lutheran School, Grades 4-8,
Addison, IL




































"...I was also amazed at what the kids picked up in a short time."

Gary Mattin,
music teacher
West Elementary,
Sycamore, IL

















"Jim entertains, educates, and engages all students and staff with his
music. His music became OUR music. Working with Jim was more valuable tome than attending some workshops or classes because of the opportunity to learn, perform, and build instruments alongside my students. My eyes were opened to new ways to involve children in music-making, but what I appreciated the most was that Jim reinforced the age-appropriate concepts I was already teaching in my music classes: reading rhythms, matching pitch, learning about form, texture, tempo, and more. He does it in a way that is non-threatening and fun so every child feels success!"

Pamela Heiser,
General Music,
Liberty School,
Danville, IL









"As a trustee of the West Chicago District #33 Foundation for
Educational Excellence who sponsored the Artist-in-Residence program and the President of the Board of Education, I was highly impressed with our Artist-in-Residence, Jim Kanas. 
Students and teachers alike said this was
the best Artist-in-Residence program we've ever offered.  His residency is informative, interesting
entertaining and just plain fun!"

Barbara B. Toney
Board of Education, President

Foundation for Educational Excellence, Trustee
West Chicago Elementary District 33

March 6, 1997



























































“Jim Kanas is the most effective and proficient artist-in-residence with whom I have worked in over fifteen years of participating the Artist-in-Residence program. .......”

Ken Williamson, Superintendent
Sparland Grade School
Sparland, IL 61565













Question: What was the best feature of the workshop?


“The best feature was Jim Kanas. His expertise on folk music and instruments was wonderful. You could tell he has worked with children.”

“Everything could be transferred to the classroom.”

“The constant interaction and the valuable information that was given to me!”

Harlem Consolidated Schools, District 122
Loves Park, IL
Interdisciplinary Teacher Workshop/ In-service- 2000






















“All I expected and more. Jim was an excellent presenter. I learned things I can share with my students and he got me enthused about doing it. This presenter has a vast array of experiences with instruments and folk music and shares them with the participants in the workshop.”

Participant evaluation
Meeting the Challenge X


Philosophical Statement
Family/ Community Events
Narrated Performances
Educational Literature
Sample Lesson Plan
Educational Media
Teacher In-service
Jazz Improvisation
Instrument Making
Individual lessons
Printed Music
Core Groups
State Goals
Grant writing
Elgin Comunity College

General Information

Small groups/
Breakout Sessions
> American Music Assembly Poster > click here

Selected Education Related Credits
Press/Education Related Articles
Photos/ Students in action
Testimonials/ Quotations

General Information

American Roots Music Programs

Assemblies, small-groups/ breakout sessions, short and long term residencies and combination programs are prorated.

Availability: year round, statewide, regular, ESL, and special needs students.

Nature of Assembly: Demonstration, very informative, cognitive, performance on large assortment of conventional and homemade instruments. Emphasis on cross-cultural connections to American music and the "Living Oral Tradition".

Small Group/ Breakout Sessions: Highly interactive. Students play and sing. Other activities include instrument building, songwriting, composition and applied audio technology/recording and interdisciplinary application.

Folk Music in the Classroom

Jim Kanas activities and songs
he has collected as a folk musician and educator.
His educational programs are interdisciplinary by nature,
multicultural in tone, and always fun!
Jim strives to make each student (and teacher)
feel connected to this rich American living oral tradition
we call "folk". By utilizing an assortment of instruments
ranging from fiddle, banjo, and guitar, to dulcimer,
limberjacks, bones and spoons, Jim demonstrates and leads
hands-on activities, call-and-response singing and incorporates
methods by which an artist can collaborate with teachers.

more general information...

Assemblies more on assemblies...

• Latin, African and European Roots
• Large assortment of instruments

• Narrated performance
• Historical background
• Intrinsic experience
• Student volunteers
• Interdisciplinary
• Cross-cultural
• Oral tradition

• The Blues

"The Development of American Music through its Ethnical Roots"

This assembly/presentation/performance traces the development of American music through its European, African and Latin roots. Students go on a guided journey through time from early American to modern jazz music and the origins of the blues, the thread of which is the "living oral tradition of folk music" and the process of which is related to improvisation. Mr. Kanas demonstrates, discusses, sings and performs on fiddle, spoons, saw, "dobro", "sweet potato", pocket instruments, flutes, banjo and others! Typically even the youngest listener is drawn into this highly acclaimed intellectual program. Audience participates by clapping in time, enacting motions, and singing in call-and-response. Some student volunteers are selected for demonstration assistance.K-12 (geared respectively, standard age grouping suggested)


more on assemblies...
jazz assemby...


Breakout Sessions/ Small Groups

Jim's small group session, 
and residences
engage students in fun hands-on activities including:

Singing in call-and response
Playing folk instruments
Instrument building
Movement and dance

"American Folk Music- Hands On"
Small Groups/ Breakout Sessions

These highly interactive sessions engage participants in instrument playing and singing. It is a true intrinsic experience in the essence of American folk music. Students sing in call-and-response and play a large assortment of homemade, conventional and world instruments including: limberjacks, spoons, "gut-bucket", saw, shakers, cuica and others! Mr. Kanas leads his

ensemble of students by singing and playing fiddle, banjo, guitars, native American flutes and drums. 30-50 minutes K-12 (geared respectively). Adaptations for ESL and special populations are typical.
top... more on assemblies...

... fun

• Call-and-response singing
• Guided improvisation
• Ensemble performance with artist

• Playing the spoons, washboard, dulcimer, the saw and many simple homemade and conventional instruments

• Sight-reading, rhythm and pitch echo
Emphasis on dynamic variation, timing, triplets, accents, texture, syncopation and other elements of music

• Limberjacks
"Beat" and "rhythm", up and down beats
Half time, double time and on the beat, "three against two"

• Instrument Building; (integration with science and visual arts),
Shakers, panpipes, dulcimers, and more

• Songwriting- integration with creative writing and language arts
• Song analysis or original composition (connotation, thematic development, symbolism, form, tone, metaphor, etc.)

• Making a CD recording of your school ensemble/ audio music production

• Improvisation sessions for music students; jazz band, orchestra, band, vocal

• Conducting, patterns, improvisation

• New music compositions and notation

Creative expressive instrumental improvisations and original notation applied to live and/or recorded performance

• Topical Songs
Interdisciplinary; integration with American and world history, geography, language arts, social studies, math, etc

• American Music Cross-Cultural Assembly Program- Overview
Cross-cultural examples, "Living oral tradition", bridge to written tradition
Jazz/ aural/ improvisation/ process

• Tone Bells/ Hand Chimes

Applied technology Audio Recording Production/ Making a CD,
Samples of Digital Hard Drive recording, mixing and editing, Creating audio "soundscapes".


Jim accompanies on fiddle, banjo, dobro, guitars and other instruments!
Participants sing, playing spoons, limberjacks, dulcimer, saw, "gut-bucket", bones, washboard, panpipes and other American folk and world instruments.

< "Play Circle"

...everyone gets a turn!

"Juba Rhythms" >

...this is related to drumming, triplets, dynamic variation
, slavery, swing, oral traditions and more... 

< Limberjacks 

...an Appalachian folk instrument

more about limberjacks...

< Dulcimers
...these are class-made

Instrument building>
...from recyclable


and spoons

"Omm-a-ladda-wadda" >

Is a song written by students, teachers and Jim during a cross-curricular all school second grade ocean study/music unit. Each verse in this original song represented a layer of the ocean and its creatures. The visual art throughout the entire school was organized into the layers of the ocean. The students along with Mr. Kanas produced a high quality digital recording, that represented sounds of the ocean and coming over to America across the ocean. The thematic material for the recording was produced on a class-made instrument with water in it. All these activities took place during a residency which included
an introductory assembly, core and non-core group hands-on sessions, a culminating event, teacher in-service and an assembly on jazz, to expand on the process of improvisation of which the students had been engaged in throughout.

sample lesson plan...
instrument making...
more activities related to residencies ...


Whistles, flutes, bones, ocarinas>
and pocket instruments that came from over-seas

A residency is a long or short term experience with an artist that utilizes his or her skill or specialty, usually in an educational setting. Jim Kanas' residencies mirror his assembly program in that the structure or content that presented (the development of American music) is elaborated on throughout . The Illinois Arts Council has particular guidelines for residencies including core-groups, non-core groups, community outreach, guest artists, documentation, and time frames for implementation. These guidelines help to foster an in depth artistic experience. Mr. Kanas has had numerous IAC residencies and independently contracted residencies. Sometimes schools and organizations do not require financial assistance for short term residencies and wish to implement a structure unique to their situations. In this case, Jim insures that the essence of the experience rivals an IAC program.

< Community

...students, parents, administrators, teachers, staff and artist

Short Term Residency
Assembly(s) with small groups/breakout sessions


-All sessions should take place in one space/ room per day
-Teacher supervision with each class/ group
-Assemblies require 1-2 hours set-up (students may be present) and 30 minutes tear-down
-Specific schedule/ exact times should be mutually agreed upon/ approved prior to the start of the residency. The schedule should reflect the host school's or site's needs and/or typical scheduling framework unless otherwise agreed upon
-Mr. Kanas will provide his own sound system unless otherwise arranged
-Two large table are required for the assemblies
-Adequate table space is required for the hand-on break-out group sessions
-Typical class size is 20 -30 students
-Breakout groups are hands-on in nature (students play and sing)
-Assemblies are informative in nature and geared appropriately for the intended audience
-Reasonable breaks and duration for programming is expected

more on residencies, grant responses, activities, goals...

Culminating event
Short or long-term residencies can conclude with a culminating event. Parents, students, teachers and artist get together !


Parent and student workshop
A culminating event may be a workshop or a performance or narrated performance...

Jimís school programs are interdisciplinary by nature and the in-services reflect that. He integrates music with other traditional subjects areas and shows how he collaborates with educators and other artists in pursuit of a holistic educational experience for the student. In-services or workshops are also geared to music specialists. Topics include: a study of the development of America Folk Music and its cultural and ethnical influences through song and tale, song-writing, instrument building, exercises in movement, dance, visual art and creative dramatics,  rhythm games, one-on-one or group study of the previously mentioned instruments, applied technology/ recording techniques and multi-media production,   and advanced instrumental improvisation for music students.  All activities and presentations are geared to grade levels K-12, respectively.
Handout example...
Teacher In service- Liberty School, Danville, IL

"Quotations and testimonials ... "

"Jim Kanas was an absolute delight to have in my high school drama and  American literature classes.  He engaged the kids
with both his music and their participation, so that they didn't even realize that they were learning history, poetic devices, performance style,and lots more. Anyone who teaches an area that touches on cultural literacy could make use of Jim's tremendous talent."

Kathy Hopkins
American Literature/Drama, Durand High School

> > > >

“Both the faculty and the students mutually agreed that it was the best assembly we have had! I was especially impressed at how well you related to the students and how well they related to you. You did an excellent job in expressing your love of and appreciation for music, and the students really picked up on this.”

Garry K. Falcone, Principal
Concord Lutheran School, Grades 4-8
Addison, IL

> > > >

“Mr. Kanas provided my sixth grade class with some valuable hands-on approaches to learning music.”

Mrs. Connie Ulrich, Sixth Grade Teacher
Maplewood Elementary
Cary, IL

> > > >

"Jim's school program was relaxed but professional in nature. His musical talent and ability to relate to children kept their attention and conveyed a great deal of information about American Folk Music in a way that was both controlled and fun."

Jane Patton, Director
Centralia Cultural Society

> > > >

Dear Mr. Kanas:

"On behalf of the entire Tyler Elementary Community I would like to thank you participating in our Family Reading Night. I took great pleasure in discussing music with you; as well as watching you interact with the children in such a remarkable manner. Mr. Kanas, you are certainly are remarkable performer! We are grateful that you visited our school! Thank you."

Mr. Kubelka
Principal, Tyler Elementary
DeKalb, IL

> > > >

“The whole experience was new to us. The students and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! The music was fun, we were all able to participate and the time just flew by. His musical talent was extraordinary (that was the main thing that impressed the boys). His versatility and quiet manner made the class run smoothly. I particularly liked having him write a song with us, using one of the student’s poems. It was interesting to see how he did it and be part of the process. Jim was a great person and musician, and we loved having him. It was a great experience for all of us. I only wish we could have him longer. He gave all of us an appreciation and enjoyment of folk music.”

Donna Winnbigler, Classroom Teacher

> > > >

“Jim’s style of teaching and professionalism made learning fun, easy and enjoyable for my students. Hey were drawn by his calm manner, wide musical abilities and open-ended sentences. He related history, geography, musical terminology and songs into every student class session with lots of student participation, both active and passive. All student contributions were handled with respect. Other strong points, outside of the classroom, include his flexibility, appreciativeness to faculty and staff, willingness to share his talents, and make everyone feel at ease with him. He has touched many people in our school and community. This definitely was a positive experience for our entire school.”

Sherry Griffin, Classroom Teacher,
Warren School
, Chicago Area

> > > >

Harlem Consolidated Schools Teacher Workshop/ In-service,
Interdisciplinary artist collaboration visual art and music 2000

Question: What was the best feature of the workshop?


“Everything could be transferred to the classroom.”

“The instruments were very unique”

“The constant interaction and the valuable information that was given to me!”

“Feeling the enthusiasm of the presenters and the sense of accomplishment and empowerment they instilled in us. “

“I loved having the opportunity to experience and play various instruments. Hearing Jim’s music was so wonderful. What a wealth of information he has to share with students.”

“The best feature was Jim Kanas. His expertise on folk music and instruments was wonderful. You could tell he has worked with children.”

Harlem Consolidated Schools, District 122
Loves Park, IL
Interdisciplinary Teacher Workshop/ In-service- 2000

> > > >...

"We learned a great deal from our residency with Jim Kanas. The song writing, singing, dancing, and folklore enriched our lives. It was not long before Jim was an integral part of the teaching staff."

Rose Gordan, Principal
Thomas A. Edison School
Morton Grove, IL

> > > >

Community Child Care Resource and Referral Training- Workshop
Davenport, IA ,
July 23, 2003,
at the Deere Wiman House, Moline, IL


“You were awesome!”

"The hands-on instruments were extremely helpful. Good hints on how to make music fun for yourself and the children."

"I am a K-8 music teacher and also teach music to the disabled. I can't wait to try these new ideas!"

"I will be working with the disabled and they enjoy instruments. We can have the students make the cuica and the rice shaker. This makes these special people feel as if they can accomplish tasks. It was obvious that Jim enjoyed what he does, so his humor added to the presentation."

Participants/ Teachers
Community Child Care Resource and Referral

Deere Wiman House, Moline, IL

> > > >...

“Jim Kanas is the most effective and proficient artist-in-residence with whom I have worked in over fifteen years of participating the Artist-in-Residence program. He is a creative, talented, knowledgeable artist and a stimulating, skillful, perceptive teacher. He brings a freshness of authentic tradition to his work and it makes it seems so special. Students enjoyed his artistry, were stimulated by his creativity and skill, and responded to his energy and quiet intensity. What a great teacher he is in the music classroom!”

Ken Williamson, Superintendent
Sparland Grade School
Sparland, IL


Contact Jim Directly Regarding
Residencies and
Assemblies -
click here

Jim Kanas delights children and adults alike with his American Folk Music programs. His younger audiences are typically bubbling with excitement and smiles as they join in on Jimís frivolity of song and story.

Jim is well rooted in the oral traditions of folk music and even the youngest listener becomes part of his ongoing living tradition. Adult audiences on up to seniors are often carried on a journey to sometimes forgotten joy filled feelings. Jim carries an assortment of instruments: fiddle, guitars, mandolin, dobro, harmonicas, sweet potato, autoharp, spoons and limberjack, each of which helps to tell his story of life and times.
> American Music Assembly Poster > click here

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