One of my favorite schools in the Lehigh Valley – one that really cares about the arts and especially music…. I am asked to come play for the kids right after testing is done, so the kids and teachers are primed for a good time. The first show is for K-2nd and simply a giggly bunch, and then 3 -4 grades. Since I’ve been going there for close to 10 years, the kids know the songs and love when we do The Cat Came Back, Peanut Butter and the Happy Shark, and why not? They are great songs.
What makes this visit special is the ‘workshop’ set up for the 5th graders, in a more informal setting, and a chance for them to ask questions. Several good ones, like why did I like to play music. Several kids wondered if I ever smashed my guitars….. I told them I only wound them, with nicks, dings and the occasional crack. One kid wanted a Beatles song, so I played my favorite Here Comes the Sun, and told the story of playing it on my first really good Martin and the effect that had on me. I told them the time I played I Wanna be a Dog on the main stage Saturday night at the Philly Folk Fest under a full moon, and how the audience simply took off howling. Another signature moment for me.
A year ago, I commented to the teachers how cool it was that we still had jobs. The principal then informed me that the school district had eliminated 274 jobs. gulp….. Today, I watched my big mouth. but, I did talk with Phil about the effect of the arts has in the development of cognitive skills in these young brains, especially with the little kids, and how there is substantial evidence (yes, science) on the physical benefits for arts education. But the public system of primary education is under attack, with fewer funds on state and federal levels, and austerity watches by local school boards.
I realize how special schools like Muhlenberg and principals like Phil Turpin are for their community’s familys. And its an honor to be part of their community.
The April doldrums are upon me, with few gigs in the next few weeks, but it’s time to workout, clean up some performance material, work on some live recordings (Steppin’ Out!, and some Ansel, Eric, Reid duo stuff that’s fun).