Violist, CC Library team up for musical children’s story

Soloist Susan Bengtson. Contributed photo
Soloist Susan Bengtson. Contributed photo
By Kate Hayden,

Charles City children can hear a favorite old story in a new light, thanks to the Charles City Public Library and violist Susan Bengtson.

Bengtson and children’s librarian Dana Schwickerath will lead the Children’s Musical Story Time this Friday, from 3:30-4:30 p.m. at the public library.

As Schwickerath reads the classic book, “Owl Moon,” by Jane Yolen, Bengtson will be playing interpretive music between passages.

“I’m going to be playing music that goes along with the story, and the emotions and the actions that are taking place,” Bengtson said. “That’s a classic children’s book that some families know of. We’re going to present it in a unique and exciting way.”

Bengtson is a native of Richland, Washington, and is currently a performer and music instructor in the Chicago area. She is a masters degree student at Northwestern University after having received her bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music.

Schwickerath said it will be the first time the library presents story time with an accompaniment.

The Charles City Public Library has regular story times every Thursday and Friday from 10:15-11 a.m. This week’s Musical Story Time is targeted for children in kindergarten to fourth grade.

The book “is kind of poetic as a girl goes out with her dad to go owling,” Schwickerath said. “I think with the tune next to me, it’ll just be cool. It’ll bring that experience to life.”

Bengtson will also lead a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. As she plays her viola, volunteers will answer a series of questions that direct the story’s plot line.

“Whatever comes to mind based on what I play or where they want the story to go, that’s where it will go. That’s a way to see how music affects your decisions,” Bengtson said.

Bengtson and Schwickerath organized Friday’s event after they were introduced through the Charles City Community Chamber Orchestra, of which Schwickerath is a board member.

Bengtson will be the guest performer at the orchestra’s winter concert, at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3, at Trinity United Methodist Church. The concert is free to the public.

“The goal of the workshop is to present the viola to these kids, but also to relate music to literature and show them how music can tell stories,” Bengtson said. “We want to get them excited about learning and reading.”