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'I've been playing for kids all over Israel for 13 years," says percussionist Ziv Eitan, speaking by phone in his usual feverish manner. "Today I played in Rehovot, yesterday in Shlomi and tomorrow in Kadima. I play for 'normal' kids, for hyperactive kids, developmentally challenged, religious, secular, whatever. Once I came to some Bet Shean school and the teacher said: 'Poor guy, these teenagers will eat you alive, they do it to everybody.'"
The teacher was surprised to find that they were actually attentive, listening to Eitan's frenetic speech and music. How does he manage to capture the typically short attention span of kids?
"Well, I hate to say things like this, but I am a champion!" says Eitan.
It's a fact that's hard to dispute. In addition to composing and performing captivating programs for kids, Ziv Eitan is a serious musician who performs around the world, and will represent Israel at the Independence Day celebrations in Berlin (last year it was the Israel Philharmonic). For Eitan, though, the laughter he elicits from children is the most rewarding.
"I enjoy communicating with kids, because in a way I still am a child myself: I'm creative, imaginative and full of energy. They can see that I'm one of them, so they listen to my music - and I play all kinds of music. Much of what I play is classics, which I grew up on, and which is not exactly a part of most school programs. I also tell them about Mozart and Bach and Beethoven, about the invention of the piano and the importance of melody."
Another amazing aspect of Eitan's music making is his sound. A veritable magician with instruments, he's capable of producing a pure, authentic and captivating sound from nearly anything, be it his marimba or cow bells or something even more exotic, like a rattle made of dry hedgehog's claws.
"I simply listen to instruments, just as I listen to people. Everybody has his or her own voice - sad or merry."
At the end of his shows, Eitan invites the kids to join him on stage. Everybody receives his own percussion instrument with brief instruction, while Ziv plays solo on marimba. By looking at them, you couldn't tell who's have more fun, the 36-old-child or his younger participants. But one thing is certain - for many children, the day Eitan arrives is the day their love for music is born.
Ziv Eitan will present his program for children March 15 at the Tel Aviv Art Museum at 11:30 a.m. He will also play jazz with guitar player Rafi Sofer and a legendary clarinet player Harold Rubin at the Givatayim jazz festival on March 25. The concerts are intended for children aged 3 and up.