At 5 years old, Zion Lang had never before seen an instrument quite like the euphonium.
When he arrived Sunday at the Morris Museum of Art and saw the gray-haired man blowing into the mouthpiece, the bellow that came out of the large, brass horn surprised him.
The man, Donald R. Finch, has been playing the instrument since he was 13, back when his father was an oil worker during World War II.
Seeing his interest, Finch wanted Zion to feel the same excitement he had the first time he held a euphonium.
“You want to try?” Finch asked. “To play it, you have to make your lips vibrate. Just do that, and you’re set.”
As Zion gripped the euphonium’s valves and took a deep breath, his eyes widened when
he heard the sound his lungs created.
“It feels like a car buzzing on my lips!” Zion said.
At the Morris Museum, children had a chance to experiment with more than 20 instruments during a yearly program meant to expose kids to music. The 20th annual Instrument Petting Zoo paired each instrument with a Friends of Symphony Orchestra Augusta volunteer, each of whom helped many curious youngsters play instruments for the first time.
The instruments were split between two floors of the museum into percussion, woodwind, brass and string, and each section had a volunteer ready to instruct.
Friends of Symphony President Sue Alexanderson said the idea is to take the intimidation out of music.
The complexity of the instruments can sometimes be discouraging, but Alexanderson said making the introductions in a fun setting makes all the difference.
Last year’s zoo brought in more than 300 kids, and Alexanderson said she expected about the same amount Sunday.
“They kind of jump in with both feet without hesitation,” she said.
After they had a chance to experiment, the kids were able to see the same instruments come to life as a group of John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, University of Georgia and Grovetown High School students played a mini-concert.
Kristie Connell said she brought her two sons, ages 6 and 7, through the museum to keep them in touch with music at a young age.
“They actually ask on their own to come,” Connell said. “They love it.”
In the museum’s lobby, volunteer Steven Wilson, 15, sat in the middle of a circle of African drums, a snare drum and a xylophone.
In his percussion section, he said there’s something about the feeling of banging on a drum that pulls kids in.
As he moved to the snare drum, he pulled Connell’s son Sam toward him and wrapped his tiny fingers around the drumsticks.
With his hands over Sam’s, Wilson showed him how to pace the tempo for just the right sound.
When he let go, Sam took over on his own.
“It gets very loud here to say the least,” Wilson said.