White Dove

White Dove

It was part of what used to make me very happy. Sitting in a big empty multi-purpose room in a school with my harp, guitars and PA system, with a half hour left over just to play music before the hundreds of children arrived for the show. I’d feel the harp music ripple through my fingers, filling the space with glorious sound. I’d be sipping at my black coffee. Often teachers would come in and stand to listen for a minute or so, smile and wave. “Can you come here every morning?” many would ask, as the harp music echoed down the halls. “It’s just so beautiful and peaceful.”

The children heard that music, too, in their classrooms. A faint, magical whisper that something special was about to happen.

And then close to the hour the principal would come over, or the arts liaison (usually a nice mom) and ask, “Mr. Bodkin, are you ready for them?”

“Bring them on in,” I’d reply. The doors would open.

Like goslings following mother goose, the little kindergarteners would usually arrive first with their teachers and sit on the floor about three feet away from me, row after row of them. They’d finally see who was playing the harp, and that it wasn’t a recording. Then the grades above them would arrive, sitting next in extending rows. These were shows for two hundred to five hundred kids, a growing sea of young faces. Often they wouldn’t say anything, forgetting to chitchat with their friends because of the music.

I’d finish one extemporization in a major key with a flourish, and they’d wildly applaud. I’d bow slightly, winking and lifting my finger, as if to say, “All right. See if you like this one,” and then launch into another piece in what I call Fairytale Minor, which is really just B minor but played in a certain lilting way. If kids came into the space talking, others who were already seated would shush them, which I found charming, and the most effective crowd control I could ask for.

And so as often as not, there was no reason for the principal to call them to quiet before the show by doing the double hand clap, the universal training American kids learn in school to signal when it’s time to quiet down. Since they were already quiet, at a heightened state of attention–the music having primed them for the listening–it usually wasn’t necessary. This was much to the surprise of the teachers, who I could tell were archly eyeing their problem children. What would they do? Act out? Embarrass the school? Ruin the show?

Instead, the principal would repeat what I’d asked her to say: “This is Mr. Odds Bodkin, and he’s here to tell you some stories.” No preamble about empathy, kindness, or walking in others’ shoes. “The stories will explain themselves,” I’d usually tell her beforehand. “We don’t need to mention those things.” And then I’d pull the harp aside and pick up the 12-string for the introduction. It was always the same:

“Well how’s everybody? Good?”

“Good!” they’d reply in unison.

“Good. Well, it’s a pleasure to be here. As you heard, my name is Odds Bodkin. Can you say that?”

A chorus of Odds Bodkins, or something close, would follow.

“That’s right, and believe it or not, here at the dawn of the 21st century, I make my living telling stories. Now, I have a few for you this morning, but before I can tell them, I need to offer you a thought, and the thought is this: if instead of being here at your school, you were in a movie theater getting ready to watch a movie, all you’d need to do to see the story the movie told would be to look up at the movie screen, and there the story would be. Same thing with television: you look at it, and there it is. But in what we’re going to do today, you don’t have to look at anything. You don’t even have to look at me. But I hope you’ll consider this thought: think about looking inside something. It’s your power of imagination, or your Mind’s Eye, and it’s right up here.”

At this point I’d tap my forehead. Some of the kids would wrinkle their brows and touch their own foreheads, wondering if they really did have an eye in there. “Now, I can offer you words, character voices, music and sounds. But it’s going to be up to you to be the moviemakers here. To take those things and in your Mind’s Eye spin them up into a kind of movie of your own making, and if you do that, then the stories will come to life, I’ll probably disappear, and we’ll have a really great time. So what do you think, deal?”

At this point, they’d all thunder back, “Deal!”

“Good enough, then,” I’d say, setting aside the 12-string, which I’d have been playing in an upbeat way all during this introduction. “I’ll put away my 12-string guitar, which I’ll play for you later, because my first story comes from Africa, and in order to tell it to you, I need to use this.” I’d reach down and pick up my sanza, or kalimba, as some folks call it, and plink a few notes. Instant delight on their faces. “This is my sanza. Can you say that word?”

“Sanza!” came the chorus.

Holding it up so all could see, I’d explain the instrument. “All it is is a little wooden box with a hole in it to let out the sound. And there are strips of metal of different lengths along it. The long ones make the low tones (plunk) and the short ones make the high tones (plink). And with it, I’ll tell you my first story. This sanza was made in South Africa, and so, too, this first story. It’s called The Tale of the Name of the Tree.

I’d make the sound of dry, singing savannah wind, tinkle the notes, and begin the story.


The reason I bring all this up is because for two years, I haven’t done any of it. Haven’t set foot inside a school to perform for kids, haven’t asked where the adult bathroom is, haven’t dodged crowds of munchkins in their brightly colored jackets, haven’t been offered cupcakes or cookies– none of it, not since March of 2020. Been on Zoom plenty of times, and Facebook Live, and recently I’ve begun doing live shows again for adults in Cambridge at a club called Grendel’s Den, but I haven’t set foot inside a single elementary school in all that time.

But now that the masks are coming off and the fears are waning, lo and behold, the schools are calling to book shows once again. Live, in-person shows. Performances in schools I visited often in that life I lived before the world came apart.

Come May, I’ll be back with the little kids, playing my harp in those big empty rooms before they file in. As I write this—as much to remember how to do it as anything else—I’m getting a lump in my throat. I really missed telling stories to schoolkids, and wasn’t sure if I’d ever do it again.

It’s as if after two long years, a magician has pulled away his dark cape to reveal the same white dove I’ve always loved, still there, still alive.


–Odds Bodkin


To book a show, go here.








Odds Bodkin’s Live and Zoom Shows Now Booking for Fall 2021 and Winter 2022

Odds Bodkin’s Live and Zoom Shows for Are Now Booking for Fall 2021 and Winter 2022!

Fully vaccinated and delighted to be back performing for live audiences, storyteller and musician Odds Bodkin is now booking live assembly performances for K-12 schools in New England and beyond. Plus a host of other incredible offerings for adult audiences. All shows are also available on Zoom.

Last year, Loyola University Maryland opted for their annual Iliad/Odyssey performance via Zoom, and 200 Classics and Honors students tuned in. That was Odds’ 13th annual September show for Loyola. But this year, he’ll be flying down in person with his 12-string guitar to regale his college audience once again. That’s 14 years in a row!

Special thanks to Gavin Bodkin, Odds’ son, for building a Zoom studio for his dad and engineering a host of appearances during the pandemic. Full day GOLDEN RULE residences for elementary schools in Merrimack, NH, complete with custom workshops, were completed to rave reviews (watch video). A Halloween show of Dark Tales of the Supernatural for Syracuse University. An Odyssey: Belly of the Beast performance for Old Greenwich School in Connecticut. An adult concert for a Long Island library. All took place on Zoom.

But now Odds is back live with his 12-string guitars, Celtic harp and other instruments. He’s ready to travel once again.

What is he offering?


GOLDEN RULE: World Stories About Empathy for K-2 and 3-6

FAIRY FOLKS AND OLD OAKS: Two Long Fairy Tales told with voices and 12-string guitars

DARK TALES OF THE SUPERNATURAL adult scary concerts for Halloween

DANIKA THE ROSE: A Blend of Dvorak’s Moravian Duets with an original Odds Bodkin fairy tale performed with sopranos Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer, available for concerts nationwide (the next show is for The Groton School on Jan. 9, 2022!)


STORYBLAST! Family concerts for libraries, churches and museums are also available.

Be sure to check out the storyteller’s amazing family recordings at Odds’ Shop!






THE WIND AND THE SUN: A Free Story for Young Kids with Odds Bodkin

THE WIND AND THE SUN: A Free Story for Young Kids with Odds Bodkin

As I explain to children, a fable is a very short story that weighs a lot. Here’s THE WIND AND THE SUN, one of my favorite Aesop’s fables. This version was captured over Zoom last month before an audience of PreK-1st Graders. As you’ll see, I speak more slowly than usual.

To learn more, visit: https://www.oddsbodkin.net/educational-programs/

THROUGH A TEACHER’S EYES: Odds Bodkin’s Zoom Storytellings for Schools/Watch Video

THROUGH A TEACHER’S EYES: Odds Bodkin’s Zoom Storytellings for Schools work well for 2021.

I’d just finished a long day on Zoom visiting a school full of 5th and 6th graders. Beginning with an hour-long show, GOLDEN RULE II–three fun and absorbing musical stories filled with conversation points about kindness and empathy–I followed up with six workshops. Laura Piccolo, the school’s Language Arts Coordinator, had sent me a list of topics she wanted covered. She’d even requested a workshop about how music enhances emotions in stories.

Here’s a video of our conversation that afternoon.

With the pandemic easing, not only am I always available via Zoom for schools, but I’ve decided to journey forth into the world again to do live shows.

Her school also purchased an EPIC DRIVE for its library–a collection of all my audio stories.


as well as copies of THE CRANE WIFE, one of my children’s picture books.

It was a full arts and literary experience for her school.

Visit https://www.oddsbodkin.net/educational-programs/ to learn how you can bring such a program to your or your child’s school.


WHEN THE ANIMALS SPOKE: A Summer Reading Zoom Show for Libraries

Since last June, Odds Bodkin has been offering full-screen storytelling concerts on Zoom.

Loyola University watched The Iliad: Book I and students stood to applaud, even though they were all at home.

Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA, unable to host his winter series live on stage this past winter, forged ahead with a Zoom series; adult ticket holders loved it and came back again and again.

Elementary schools that postponed their residencies during the pandemic spring re-booked, and all those school kids are now singing along from behind their masks.

Yes, vaccinations are on their way, but summer 2021 might still be a little early for live shows in enclosed spaces, and so Odds is offering a new Zoom show to library communities. Echoing the Collaborative Summer LIbrary Program’s summer reading theme for 2021, Bodkin has created WHEN THE ANIMALS SPOKE, a collection of four of his best animal stories for kids and families.




The Name of the Tree

Of all the thirsty, starving animals on the African savanna, only the little tortoise with the big heart remembers the name of the magical tree. When he speaks it, down tumble giant fruits, filled with water and filled with food. Odds has always been interested in myths about the universal Tree of Life, and this tale is a kid-sized version of that myth, filled with sounds and yes, talking animals.

Told with African thumb piano.

The Fox and the Cat

Aesop never failed to tell the pithiest of truths, and this fast little tale told with Celtic harp is no exception. A fox is bragging to his friend the cat about how many ways the fox knows to escape the dogs of the hunters, but when the dogs appear, it turns out the fox has never really tried any of them at all. That spells trouble.

How the Animals Stole Back Fire

Myths about the origin of fire are universal. Prometheus the Titan, as the Greeks tell it, brought fire down from Olympus and gave it to humankind. Australian Aborigines were given fire, but were no longer one with the animals afterwards. In this show’s How the Animals Stole Back Fire, a Native American myth of the Maidu of the Northwest Coast, Odds tells the tale of how Thunder and his Three Evil Daughters steal the animals’ fire. Soon deer, bear, fox, mouse, lizard, wolverine, all the animals, begin to die off from winter’s cold. The tale Odds tells is how they discover where their fire is, and in desperation, how they steal it back.

Told with alto recorder.

Tale of the Kittens

What can go wrong in a fairy tale about singing kittens and a talking mother cat? In a secret world beneath a giant cauliflower no less? It turns out plenty can go wrong if you don’t treat the kittens right. Kids love this quirky and funny Italian fairy tale told with 12-string guitar and a catchy song.

During Odds Bodkin’s Zoom shows, the storyteller is up close. Everyone has a front row seat. So if you know a librarian, please pass along this post!  Thanks!

For more information, visit https://www.oddsbodkin.net/educational-programs/







Joseph Walsh is the current Chair of Classics and Co-Director of the Honors Program at Loyola University Maryland. On September 10, 2020, storyteller Odds Bodkin and Walsh tried an experiment: since the university went completely virtual for Fall, would Bodkin’s annual Classics performance of The Iliad or The Odyssey work on Zoom?

Here is Walsh’s review:

“Odds Bodkin has been thrilling our students every Fall for years now with his live performances, and this year’s zoom performance of Iliad Book 1 was every bit as successful. We have gotten a good deal of feedback from the attendees, and it indicates that they were mesmerized, as usual.  Indeed, several students who had seen Odds perform in the past – and he has fans who come back every year – considered it even better.  They loved the fact that they could see his face up close, watch his fingers dance across his guitar and harp, and they thought not a bit of the usual intensity and beauty of his performance was lost.  I agree.  It was just terrific.  Several students said they broke out into applause at the end, even though they knew Odds could not hear them, and a few even said they gave him a standing ovation, though they knew he could not see them.  They were just carried away, as was I.  We were a bit apprehensive about having a zoom performance, but our apprehensions were completely unfounded.  Great performance, as usual, and every bit as impactful.  And it transported our students, who are studying remotely and feeling confined and disappointed with the current circumstances, beyond their homes, beyond these times, and beyond this world.”

Bodkin’s next Zoom performance is yet another of his renowned tellings of Greek myths. Hercules in Hell comes online live on Sunday, Oct. 18 at 5 pm EST. Buy a ticket, get your Zoom invitation, and settle in for an epic imaginative experience.

An Endangered Tradition Makes the Leap to ZOOM

It’s been thirteen years since Martha Taylor, Chair of Classics at Loyola University Maryland, first invited me to perform The Iliad or The Odyssey live before her audience of Classics and Honors students. Every September since then, I’ve journeyed to Baltimore, stayed with my sister Lindsay at her place outside the city, and then gone to campus for one of the two shows. Afterwards, Martha and Joe Walsh, another amazing Classics professor, would always take me out for some fine dining.

Then came Covid and the university went totally remote for the fall semester. No students on campus. Everybody on Zoom. As with so many traditions, here was another one endangered by the virus. I though for sure it was over.

But guess what? Last night, with my excellent Zoom producer Gavin Bodkin and event techs from Loyola co-coordinating, I performed The Iliad: Book I live at 7 pm. It worked! A hundred and twenty-nine students logged on and they all stayed at their screens for the entire telling. We followed with a live Q&A, and all but three stayed for that. They even typed in their questions, lots of them, about the music and character voices, and I answered onscreen, explaining how it was done. It was a solid hour and lots of fun.

No fine dining this year, but the show went on.

The art was made.

I am pleased as punch.

My next ZOOM concert is THE ODYSSEY: BELLY OF THE BEAST sponsored by Grendel’s Den in Cambridge MA.

Sunday Sept. 20th at 5 pm EST.

Tickets: $15 per screen








School systems across America are facing a back-to-school dilemma. Should students stay home for everyone’s safety or attend real classes this fall? And even if students return, are school assemblies where hundreds gather in a gym or auditorium for arts presentations a step too far?

If you are a parent, teacher or administrator, explore storyteller Odds Bodkin’s ZOOM assemblies. As a solo performer, his presentations are the same music-filled adventures as always, and with ZOOM, every seat is a front row seat. From his Rivertree Productions studio in New Hampshire, he comes to your students live on full screen. Each assembly is password protected and we administer the tech. All you need to do is log on, at school or at home. Live Q&As and follow-up workshops are available as well.

To learn more about elementary school ZOOM assemblies and Odds Bodkin author visits, click on the links or go to Show Requests.

I Didn’t Think a Zoom Show Would Work, But It Did

I couldn’t see them as I sang “Meow meow meow meow!’ with my guitar humming, but Gavin could. All I could see was the camera, but behind it, on the studio bench, he was smiling at his computer. “You should have seen them, dad,” he said after the show. “All those little kids, standing and clapping and singing. They loved it.” Gavin Bodkin, in his infinite kindness, helps me with these shows.

“So it works,” I said.

“Yeah, it works.”

This was a live Zoom K-3 concert for a Montessori school in Boston, just last week. All the kids were at home in front of their computers or TVs, and I was in my studio in New Hampshire.  Usually I perform for kids live, of course, in large groups, but haven’t lately, for obvious reasons. Lots of performers have been missing that live audience energy, and I’m one of them. Storytelling is meant to engage the imagination, and that’s tough through a screen.  Still, if these little kids were singing along in real time and laughing, apparently it worked for them.

And so we evolve.

Check out available shows here.



Hello, Odds!

My goodness, words can not express our ENORMOUS thanks and gratitude for your time and talents on Tuesday… The students were absolutely awe-struck (as was I and the other adults!)!

I’ve waited on writing you because I wanted to gather the feedback for you and the biggest feedback I’ve gotten is “He is AWESOME!!” “He needs to come back!!”! They LOVED your choice of stories, they were fully immersed and involved and captivated and your workshops were the perfect format to digest and disseminate these stories even farther into their true meaning! They really enjoyed getting to go deeper into the stories and their meanings with you and to learn more about you! Letting them have time to ask about you was perfect as well! You had clear evidence of being an educator previously, in the way you worked with the kids and how your broke down your lessons and how you were able to reach out/teach them! Your content and style was perfect! The format was perfect to hear everything as a full group and then let it “sink in” for a bit and then break it down more with you. 🙂 You are true treasure and I plan on spreading the word even more about you! I will even post your website on my web page, if you’re ok with that! 🙂

I look forward to hearing more of your tales soon!
Christina Catino
CSDA General Music, Chorus, Orchestra


If you know any elementary schools that could use a dose of storytelling and civility learning, tell them about GOLDEN RULE: WORLD STORIES ABOUT EMPATHY.



In Danika the Rose, Danika’s tower rises two hundred feet in the air, and once she’s imprisoned there, her single window with its view of the meadows, forest and river is all that she has. It’s a sheer drop to the hard earth far below, and so when the Cuckoos swoop into her window to warn her that the Duke is coming up the stairs with murder in his heart, Danika fears for her life. There is no escape.

“Throw a blanket out your window!” the Cuckoos cry in their strange, slow tongue. The Duke and his men are outside the door. She hears his angry voice as the key enters the lock. Wondering what good a blanket can do, she hurls one out the window anyway.

“The Duke yells, “Open it!” and the lock turns.

Just when he bursts in, Danika sees a marvel appear in the air beyond her window.



Danika the Rose, a new performance work that combines Dvorak’s Moravian Duets for women’s voices with Odds Bodkin’s adult fairy tale told live, premieres Sunday Oct. 6th at 4 pm at Bass Hall, Peterborough, New Hampshire.

The songs are sung by Jazimina MacNeil and Sarah Shafer, while Emely Phelps accompanies on piano and Odds Bodkin narrates and creates character voices and sounds.

Tickets are $30. Seating is limited. Grab your tickets today at ElectricEarthConcerts.