A mood of excitement punctuates the students at Jordan Valley School, 7501 S. 1000 East, as they gather into a large room.

They have spent a number of hours here in the past week with the school's annual arts festival going on. Various performers, workshops and activities have taken place. Today they are listening to a duo who have become favorites of the student body: Dave and Carol Sharp.

The Sharps, who also refer to themselves as the Glastonbury duo, specialize in playing folk music from the Celtic countries, Tudor England and Renaissance Europe. Many of their performances are done in period costume and involve both music and storytelling, with elements of history and culture. Their repertoire of instruments is long and continues to grow but includes a Celtic harp, bowed psaltry, bodhran, dulcimer and tambourine.

Jordan Valley School serves 239 students from ages 5-22 who all have severe multiple disabilities including autism, cerebral palsy, traumatic brain injury, communication impairments, rare genetic disorders and syndromes — students who are born both deaf and blind and those who are medically fragile. Having an arts festival and concerts with performers, such as the Sharps, is good for the students, said Sue Corth, an audiologist with the Jordan School District.

"We love to play for kids, and I think these kinds of kids really appreciate it," Carol Sharp said.

The Sharps first started coming to Jordan Valley School 10 years ago and have enjoyed it so much that they keep going back. It is especially important to Dave, who connects well with the school's disabled students as his own brother is disabled.

"I grew up with kids just like this, so I know they like music, and I know it's therapeutic for them, so we make a point to put on shows like this every year," he said.

Christina King, a music therapist at the school, said the music has a good effect on the students.

"The music is very calming and relaxing," she said. "The kids enjoy this type of music."

Cheryl Argyle, a registered nurse at the school, said one of the reasons Jordan Valley keeps inviting the Sharps back is because of how much the students enjoy their music. As the Sharps played, students clapped their hands and one student stood up and yelled in delight.

"We just like them, and the kids like their music," Argyle said. "They're not intimidated by the kids bouncing and making noise."

Dave and Carol Sharp first started playing together after they met and married 15 years ago because they were both learning to play folk-type music. Their first performances were Irish wedding gigs, but after Dave gave Carol a small folk harp, they branched out into other types of music and venues. They now attend Irish, Renaissance, storytelling and other types of festivals, performing in full costume.

Comment on this story

Carol's favorite thing about playing at Jordan Valley is reaching an audience that might otherwise not have the chance to hear the show.

"(The most rewarding thing is) being able to get live music to an audience that doesn't usually have the chance to get out and see us in another place," she said. "You can tell they don't respond in traditional ways, but you can tell they like it and they're having a good time, especially with these instruments, which aren't traditional ones they might see."


E-mail: twalquist@desnews.com