We have an annual visit to a large, special-needs school near Atlantic City every summer, and each visit is spectacularly rewarding, and equally challenging for us. It is a gym full of challenged kids and their dedicated teachers (frequently on a one-to-one basis) and we give them a loose variation on our show, with less info and more music, and just give it up for dancing and singing. We’ve finally grown comfortable with being able to depart from the script (my problem) and stretch the music part and let the kids dance. I’ve broken out the bag of rhythm instruments, something new for the RockRoots situation, so that these kids can participate to the best of their abilities, within a safe, caring space and community, for an extended time period.
This is not an unnoticed experience for these band mates of mine, Though we don’t get to compare notes on the experience, we come away from these gigs humbled and grateful that we get to play for these kids (and teachers). We get to experience how music can stimulate all these amazing paths that humanity connects through music, regardless of mental/physical abilities, skin-color, age differences. This is powerful stuff, and we get front row seats.
It’s a long trip to Mays Landing in this summer heat, but the gigs get closer to each other (obvious time-shrinkage), the staff is friendlier, the kids have more fun, and I remain enriched with my art.