Autumn Graham, 10, said she never really had played an instrument until a few weeks ago.
And it was no ordinary instrument she used in a performance in front of more than 100 people in the Yampa River Botanic Park on Thursday.
“I’m going to be playing glass with a fork,” she said matter-of-factly, just before she and 20 of her classmates from the Boys & Girls Club of Steamboat Springs performed at the free Music on the Green concert.
The group spent the past two weeks making instruments from recyclable materials — think rice and beans inside milk cartons, painted cardboard boxes and used bottles.
After two rehearsals with the Strings Music Festival performers the Meridian Quartet, the students were ready to take their instruments and compositions to the outdoor stage.
“Mine are glass because people drink out of them and we’re reusing them,” Lauren Eck, 8, said about the instruments she made.
As the midday sun beat down Thursday, families spread out on the park’s lawn on blankets and under umbrellas.
The audience gravitated toward the cool shade, basking by the flowers and shrubs of the botanic park as the sounds of classical music of the Meridian Quartet carried through the air.
Monique Mead, Strings Music Festival director and violin player, said it’s not uncommon for classical composers to incorporate the sounds of nature into their pieces.
Mead had children from her outreach program at Bud Werner Memorial Library, called “Music with Monique,” as well as the Boys & Girls Club students help act out the music of Vivaldi, Haydn and Debussy as the Meridian Quartet played.
“The idea behind this was to build a future audience for classical music and get the children when they’re really young,” Mead said about the outreach programs and the concert.
She said the students lit up when they first heard their music click with the quartet’s sound.
“Immediately, they saw that when this works, it works great,” she said. “And they created it.”
In the first half of the performance, the children bridged the connection between music and nature, buzzing around the lawn with kazoos — mimicking the sounds made by mosquitoes — and flapped their arms along to the music like butterflies.
In the second-to-last piece, the Boys & Girls Club students finally got to show off their instruments during Pachelbel’s “Canon in D Minor.”
And they didn’t lose their connection to nature.
“The boxes sounded like thunder, it seems like,” Sydney Graham, 8, said. “And the plastic shakers sounded like rain on rocks.”
Ethan Hansen, 8, said he enjoyed performing music in front of people, and especially liked decorating and making the instruments.
“We learned that you can make music out of anything,” Ethan said.