One man’s trash is another’s musical instrument

The Junkman teaches local kids about protecting the planet
Don Knaack, of Williamsburg, plays his junk music during an assembly Wednesday afternoon at Ressie Jeffries Elementary School. Knaack makes music out of recyclables, including auto brake drums, bottles, house shutters, cans and an old MacIntosh computer. Rich Cooley/Daily
Kaden Anderson, 8, helps hold a piece of plastic piping while Kaack makes music during the assembly. Rich Cooley/Daily
Don Knaack makes what he calls body music. Rich Cooley/Daily
Don Knaack makes music using kitchen utensils. Rich Cooley/Daily
Jayden Shannon, 7, makes his music with wooden sticks at the end of the performance Wednesday. Rich Cooley/Daily

FRONT ROYAL – Ressie Jeffries Elementary School hosted a performance by Don Knaack, also known as The Junkman, Wednesday afternoon.

A fine arts grant from the Warren County School Board allowed Knaack to show off his percussion skills, but with a twist. His instruments are recycled materials he’s gathered over the years.

Roughly 600 kids clapped with enthusiasm as he demonstrated his musical skills for about an hour in the school’s gymnasium. His “junk instruments” included an old computer, brake drums, saw blades, tin cans, tubing, flip flops, glass bottles, a gas station sign, wood, clay pots, rocks and frying pans.

Knaack, 69, lives in Williamsburg but he has traveled around the United States and around the world for 30 years showcasing his skills and teaching people about the need to protect the planet. His performance repertoire includes a show at the 2016 International Summit on Climate Change.

“We travel a lot, but it’s what we do,” he said.

He said he likes to experiment with the materials because the sounds are unique.

“Now they’re instruments of music,” he added about the junk he has collected from garage sales and dumpsters.

He also created short jingles for the kids to recite to teach them about water conservation, the detrimental effects of littering and how they can save the planet at home.

At the end of his performance he told the kids, “Now we’re going to jam together.”

The kids got a chance to make their own music with The Junkman. They stood up and stomped their feet to the beat he created, while a select few joined him up front and played on some of his junk instruments.

Knaack is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music and has played with The Louisville Orchestra and The Buffalo Philharmonic.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toy at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com

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