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Jazz artist from Paris spends week at Watson

Take a piano, clarinet, trombone, bass and some drums, and you have jazz.

That’s what the fifth-graders at Watson Elementary learned as Keri Chryst, a jazz vocalist, played a video of “Now You Has Jazz,” sung by Louis Armstrong.

Chryst, who lives in Paris, is the artist in residence at Watson this week and is helping teach every grade about jazz. She is giving extra attention to the fifth-grade students who will be performing at their annual concert on Thursday and at a school assembly on Friday.

Chryst was brought to Hastings Public Schools through the Nebraska Arts Council, a group that connects vetted artists to organizations for the purpose of promoting the arts. The artist-in-residence program at HPS helps get kids excited about a new type of music — in this case, jazz.

Tom Michalek, vocal music teacher at Watson, said each music teacher tries to teach students about types of music and ways to make music from around the world. Jazz fits into that equation because it is “uniquely American,” he said, and Chryst’s experiences growing up in the Midwest and now living in Europe fit well in that curriculum.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Watson Elementary fifth-graders (from left) Sam Horn, Ben Niemeyer and Bennett Baack practice for their Thursday concert while working with artist in residence Keri Chryst (not pictured) Wednesday at the school.

“She brings a Midwest sensibility, with such a worldly flair,” Michalek said.

Jazz still is present in contemporary music genres, with rock, pop and country having roots in the style.

Chryst helped teach Michalek’s class this week, conducting exercises and sharing her experiences with the students. Michalek said each music educator tries to teach the students using his or her own strengths, but there aren’t many educators in the district with jazz experience, especially compared to Chryst.

“That’s one thing that I can’t give them, a perspective from someone with firsthand performance experience with jazz,” Michalek said. “Even if she doesn’t talk a lot about her performing career, that shines through in what she does.”

Chryst said she wants to get kids familiar with jazz and swing music by giving them a name, like Armstrong or Duke Ellington — two names the students were introduced to over the week. Teaching those names is her way of passing the torch, she said.

“They often respond really well to it, but then they don’t know that it has a name and they can go find more of it,” Chryst said.

lbeahm / Laura Beahm/Tribune  

Artist in residence Keri Chryst works with music students at Watson Elementary Wednesday.

Chryst also is helping the fifth-graders learn “I Wan’na Be Like You,” a song from the 1964 Disney movie, “The Jungle Book.” The students began learning that song earlier this semester.

“I remember when I was a kid, I loved it,” Chryst said. “I had no idea that all I had to do was go listen to Ella Fitzgerald if I wanted to hear more of that.”

For the other students, Chryst is introducing them to the concept of jazz and improvisation, a skill that she said can appear daunting, but is easy to jump in. She hopes this exposure will help spark interest the students’ interest down the road.

One way Chryst exposed the students to improvisation was by doing a call and response. Each student made an animal noise or said a word while keeping a rhythm, and another student would respond. While some kids would be shy or take their time making noise, others excitedly jumped into the exercise with laughter and grins.

“Creating music on the fly is intimidating. But people like Keri make it accessible,” Michalek said.

This is Chryst’s fourth time being an artist in residence in for Hastings Public Schools. Chryst has helped at Longfellow, Hawthorne, Hastings Middle School and Hastings High School. She also was at the Hastings College Jazz Festival Concert in March, which featured artists from the original Blues Brothers Band.

Michalek said he is grateful to share his class with Chryst, because he can learn new teaching activities and exercises.

Michalek also said he is thankful to have strong support for the district’s artist-in-residence program from stakeholders.

Museum gets new sign

The Hastings Museum has added a splash of color to the building with a new sign and a pair of banners. 

The sign covers the Lied IMAX Theatre name that was etched in stone on the south side of the building when it was constructed in 1991. The museum's relationship with IMAX ended in 2001, and executive director Rebecca Matticks said they have since wanted to correct the name on the building. 

"This is a project we've wanted to do for a long time," she said. "We've just haven't really had the money in the budget."

But that changed when the museum received a $25,000 anonymous donation through the Hastings Community Foundation. 

Matticks said the funds were unrestricted, meaning they could be used in any part of the museum. As the largest municipal museum between Chicago and Denver, she said Hastings should be proud that it has that kind of community support. 

The cost of the sign was $9,700. The anonymous donation covered $4,700 with the Hastings Museum Foundation providing $5,000. 

The museum contracted with Henn Signs in Phillips to construct the sign as well as the new banners being added to the north and west walls. It's the same company that installed the museum's marquee in 2016.

Brian Henn, owner of the sign company, said it took about five weeks in fabrication with a lot of planning before that. 

aroh / Amy Roh/Tribune  

The last section of the new Hastings Museum sign waits to be installed Wednesday.

Matticks said the sign is designed to last 13-15 years before it starts to fade. As a permanent sign, it also meets the rules set out by the Hastings City Council regarding signs.

The new sign and banners will showcase the museum's logo and she said it should make it more recognizable to the public. The signs will add color and the museum's logo to the theater, now known as the Lied Super Screen Theatre.  

"It's right on Burlington and people are going to be able to see it," Matticks said. "It's a way to freshen our face in a colorful and fun way." 

Propane suppliers struggle to meet rural demands amid chill

Associated Press

DES MOINES, Iowa — A late harvest, wet grain and the fall chill have combined to multiply demand for propane in Iowa and other states, according to agriculture and propane industry officials.

Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig told The Des Moines Register that the demand on the supply system during the last week to 10 days has been tremendous.

“It’s really created a supply pinch,” Naig said, adding that nearly every bushel of corn needs to be dried.

The corn crop’s late maturity means it had less time than usual to dry in the field. Corn normally should have about 15-17% moisture, officials said. But the average for corn currently being harvested is 21%. It could spoil if not dried.

Temperatures dipping into the 20s and 30s this week also mean more propane is needed to heat homes and livestock facilities.

The situation may not be as pronounced in Nebraska.

Kurtis Harms with the Nebraska Corn Board checked with some farmers and said he didn’t turn up more problems than usual with wet grain. But that could change soon, Harms said, as the harvest continues.

Record flooding along the Missouri and Mississippi rivers and tributaries and heavy spring rains delayed planting and now the harvest.

Just 43% of Iowa’s corn crop had been brought in as of Monday, a federal report said, and the harvest is 11 days behind the typical figure at this time of year. In neighboring Nebraska, Monday’s U.S. Department of Agriculture report showed 60% of the state’s corn has been harvested, compared with 69% for the five-year average.

“I don’t believe it’s an actual product problem. It’s a transport problem,” Lynne Schuller, executive director of the Nebraska Propane Gas Association, told The Associated Press on Wednesday.

Trucks must wait in line for hours at propane terminals as elevators scramble to get propane for customers. Iowa’s Gov. Kim Reynolds has already signed an emergency proclamation to help boost supplies by lifting restrictions on how many hours drivers can work.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also has lifted driver restrictions across Iowa, Nebraska and other states with propane supply problems.

Nebraska to shuffle staff at homes for juvenile offenders

Associated Press

LINCOLN — Nebraska officials plan to cut staff at one state-run home for juvenile offenders while adding to its workforce at two other facilities.

The Department of Health and Human Services announced the changes Wednesday as part of a larger overhaul of its Youth Rehabilitation and Treatment Center system.

Department officials say they plan to reduce the workforce at the YRTC in Geneva effective Jan. 6, 2020, because that facility won’t be serving as many youths. But they plan to hire additional employees at YRTC facilities in Lincoln and Kearney.

Department officials say they staff members who lose their jobs will have the opportunity to apply for jobs at the other YRTC facilities or elsewhere in state government. They say they hope to retain employees whenever possible.