We headed way up into Northern NJ – almost NY State – for two morning assemblies for about 300 Pre-K – 4th graders in Hillsdale. It’s our last school show for the season though we have a few special needs schools left this summer. It was a good one and a time to reflect on it all.
The kids paid attention, got up and danced, and the teachers enjoyed both shows a lot. I know it sounds like a broken record (remember broken records??), but invariably, this show works on so many levels: musicianship, presentation, educational strength, humor and audience participation by the teachers and the students. The lads play strong and sure like the professionals that they are. Donny Mayer’s guitar sounds great, he plays new leads to old songs and I enjoy his friendship. Nick Franclik on bass is solid and works great with who ever is playing with the band, and he doesn’t complain about the early starts and long travels. And, of course, Kevin Soffera is as good as it gets on drums, adds his personality to the show and is the anchor for all the transitions, kick-offs, etc. He’s the glue. My Bro, fo’ Sho’!
I’m the brains of the outfit. I have to play point with the speechifying, the interaction with the students and teachers, run the PA, keep my guitar and mando in tune, deal out the schedule and the checks, work with Young Audiences bookings, and drive myself to and from the gig. I think I wrote the script, too.
But its the band’s skills and ease with the show make it easier for me to concentrate on the spoken parts of the show (mostly scripted by now), but I always have wiggle room for various techniques I have to employ in the moment: humor, intellectual tidbits for the teachers, as well as crowd control, not being the least of them. Though I front the show, I know that these kids and teachers are also taking in the individual skills of the players and, no small thing, get to witness a band communicate on stage as professional musicians and as friends. I concentrate on my exposition but still appreciate my fellow musicians’ craft. It’s no wonder the showtime goes so fast. Engaged.
It’s always great to hear from the students and teachers and PTA ladies as they leave the all purpose room (as we furiously try to pack up for the long drive back to PA). The PTA lady today said she couldn’t keep up with the notes she was ascribing and she remarked that there was so much going on, on so many levels. A rich arts experience for this school.
I am proud of this good work that we do as RockRoots, in these small and distant communities, spreading musical and cultural history, performing for hundreds of people at a time, getting people to dance and sing as a community. I have created a good paying and consistent job for my musical friends in a very receptive performance atmosphere. We are playing for folks who really like what we do and how we do it. I have steady work, a challenging and fertile performance situation and have been able to put my son through college with the pay.
RockRoots is a beautiful performance piece that not many of my many friends have experienced. It is a great show. I know, the band knows and thousands and thousands of kids and teachers who have seen us over 25 years also know.