This was an amazing and tough gig. RockRoots assembly for 1300 7th and 8th graders. Big auditorium. Tiny band with tiny amps. Damn.
We’re used to assemblies in the 200 – 400 kids range, so these gigs are always an especially big jump for us. It’s a stretch on the sound system, our theatricality and my role as ‘educator’ – all for an age group that is culturally savvy as can be. And we are at the front of this cultural war. It’s no wonder these gigs are stressful, but I do like to rub it in with my fellow folkies, that they never, never ever could do one of these jobs.
Cultural wars. And music is the gate way. In my experience, I learned about Howard Zinn’s America through folk music and rock and roll history. Social injustice, deep culture…. Why do you think they call it the blues?
Meanwhile, the gig progressed on this huge stage. The kids are in the middle of days and days of testing, raging hormones, and are penned-in in a closed space in front of four old guys playing weird, but curious, music. And more curiouser, with live instruments and voices and patter.
There’s the immediate element of youthful chatter that I really have to navigate as a performer. I have to set the rules of the show, so the kids know what to expect from me, the band and the show. This is Theater 101, friends. I have to balance excited response and social ramble, in order to bring the kids back to the ‘educational’ (and really, ‘social’ ) moments.
These kids do not want to get up and dance. Understood. But I am drawn to the few crazy kids in this age group that just get up and react physically. Often they are crazy dudes, and sometimes the kooky girls, but always the kids who feel safe in their skin. Again, these are the future artists in the crowd.
Nice comments from kids (“nice job, cool, thanks…”) as I got my gear out in the parking lot, as 1300 kids got on buses and left for the week. *** Teaching Artist Tip #5 (Never mess with a school bus driver).
Tough job, but to the best of my abilities. That’s what I try to do.
Day off to recollect, then a busy Friday and Saturday.