Special notes on next service.

August 6
“Yom Kipper”

 Rabbi Michael Sternfield will be our speaker with a sermon title of “Why Jewish people fast on Yom Kippur (The Day of Atonement) and why it would be a good idea for everyone.”                                                              Music:  Barbara Jensen  
August 13

When Justice Returns  

Rev. Thomas Poole will be our speaker with a discussion calling for citizens of faith to recast all socio-political activity in service to “justice” rather than partisan or ritualistic positioning.              Music: Tasha Robinson

      August 20
“A Troubadour’s Pursuit of the Elusive American Spirit”
Bill Schustik will be our speaker and musician. Bill says: “I hope to share, sing and explore a modest selection of songs from the past and present that –  to my way of thinking – seem to frame various aspects of American aspiration and conflict.”

Bill on stage Bill in the classroom
Photo: © Sarasota County Arts Council, Artists in Schools Program

Bill Schustik’s passion for American history and performing for audiences of all ages has led him to become involved in numerous educational programs and performances in schools across the country.

Below is a letter from Deane L. Root, Director, Center for American Music, University of Pittsburgh on Bill’s participation in their National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Teaching Institute, “Voices Across Time: Teaching American History Through Music” in the summer of 2004. It provides insight, not only on the power of Bill’s performances, but also on his impact in the field of education.

Below that is an article first published in “Art Beat,” The quarterly newsletter of the Sarasota County Arts Council. Bill served as Artist in Residence in the Arts Council’s “Artists in Schools” program and the article gives a sense of the unique way Bill brings history to life for children and young adults.

University of Pittsburgh
Center for American Music
University Library System

August 31, 2004

Dear Bill,

The twenty-four teachers who participated in our NEH Summer Teaching Institute, “Voices Across Time: Teaching American History Through Music,” have now all returned home and most have started their teaching year already, putting what they learned here in Pittsburgh to use in their own classrooms.

You got us all off to a terrific start the first week. One of the favorite photos circulating the last week was our Interlocked teacher, Amy, dressed in pirate’s garb, and throughout the five weeks teachers held up your presentations as a standard against which they measured our other performers.

We are beginning to get the participants’ (anonymous) evaluations of the Institute sent on to us from the National Endowment for the Humanities, and they are terrifically enthusiastic. Here is the best example of the comments:

“There were so many good performers. Bill Schustik, is a shanty singer and had to be the most entertaining of all the performers. He not only performed for us for two days, he came to Dr. Whitmer’s house and performed and gave us a lecture on pirate history. It was wonderful. In fact I have already spoken to my administrator about having him come and perform for our school.”On behalf of all our NEH Institute participants and our staff, please accept my heartfelt thanks for a job superbly well done. You have positively affected the teaching in schools as far apart as Alaska, California, Texas, Michigan, Florida, and Massachusetts. Here’s hoping this is just the start of even greater things to come.

With appreciation,

Deane L. Root, Director, Center for American Music
Fletcher Hodges Jr., Curator, Foster Hall Collection
University of Pittsburgh

Bill Schustik’s passion about American lore,
particularly the less-known people, places and circumstances surrounding the American Civil War, has led him on a 25-year adventure, stopping all over the world to captivate audiences with his boundless energy and skill. He has performed his ‘Troubadour’s Songbag’ in over 2,000 villages, towns and cities across the United States, including Washington D. C., where he has performed for three U. S. presidents, and written a show about the Civil War, “Shiloh Hill”, which was produced by Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C.

So why is a critically acclaimed historian and performer spending his time in Sarasota classrooms? Well, he’s a troubadour, and in true troubadour style, he unpacks his instruments and his props wherever he finds an audience. And in Sarasota County schools, thanks to the “Artists In Schools” program, Bill Schustik finds thousands of kids waiting to be wowed.

Capturing the attention of 100 seventh and eighth graders in the throws of adolescent self-consciousness and preoccupation is a daunting task. Just ask their regular teachers, who are given a brief respite when Bill Schustik comes to town. Last month, I had the opportunity to see Schustik at work, during a supervisory visit led by Ruth Gassett, who oversees the program for the Arts Council. Accompanied by Gerri Aaron, an Arts Council board member and passionate steward of the arts in education, we found seats in the audience at MacIntosh Middle School for an hour-long performance of ‘A Troubadour’s Songbag’.

I was there to take notes for this story, but although I did manage to jot down a few quotes, the right moments to shift my attention from Bill Schustik to my pen and paper never presented themselves. Like the kids, Ruth, Geri and I were transfixed.

Inspired by his deep curiosity as a child growing up in upstate New York and his parents’ love of history, Schustik has spent his life studying American history, looking much deeper than textual accounts and combining fact with folklore for a story that is as captivating as it is enlightening. He says kids ask him why they don’t get the real story in their history classes. He responds, ‘O. K., you want the real story?” and off he goes, donning a three-cornered hat, breeches and boots, telling inside stories about the Confederate and Union soldiers like the kids have never heard them before.

While Schustik communicates factual history through entertaining anecdotes, he never stands still. He marches from one end of the classroom to the other, expertly plays the banjo or guitar, and sings American folk songs, pulling new props from his bag periodically to enhance the role of the moment.

We learned that Jeffrey Amherst—and not the Indians—invented the barbaric practice of scalping to substantiate the number of Indians he killed and was compensated for. We learned that Continental soldiers’ style of dress and coif, which included very tall wigs and feathered caps, was known as ‘macaroni’, after the Continental cuisine du jour, because the men held their stacked hairdos together with flour and water. I have heard or sung Yankee Doodle a hundred times and I never knew what was meant by the lyric, ‘he stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni’. Now I do.

After telling us stories about the Quartering Act and other oppressive British practices that led to the Revolutionary War, Schustik explained the origin and purpose of the armies’ articles of clothing and weapons, illustrated with an impressive collection of authentic samples. The double-breasted coat was designed to overlap to the left or right side of a soldier’s chest depending upon the direction of the wind. Likewise, the three-cornered hat was designed to catch the wind in such a way that it stabilized the hat to the head rather than blew it away and also funneled rain off the shoulders. The tomahawk not exclusively an Indian weapon, was the armies’ weapon of choice because it also served as a hatchet tool in the woods.

I had to steal myself away from his performance long enough to look around and see that not one student was fidgeting or whispering or falling asleep. Between 9 a. m. and 10 a. m. on a Friday morning, when middle school students have long-since spent their attention on a week’s worth of learning, Bill Schustik had successfully captivated every single member of the audience, including me.

—Story by Wendy Cloutier, “Art Beat”

August 27
“The Truth of the Matter”
Rev. Katy Korb will talk about the importance of truth in these “post-truth” and “alternative facts” days, how we discern it, and how Unitarian Universalists believe.                                                           Music: Barbara Jensen