It is a hectic drive to this area of NJ, not far from Philly, the Delaware River and traffic snarls along the way.
We were at a large ES school not far from a middle school we had played earlier this spring, in fact, booked by the same enthusiastic PTA mom who was walking away from over 10 years on the job. Phew!
Traffic and GPS screw ups made this a much tighter gig than I would have liked. I try to allow an hour for these things, but things happen, as they say. I really don’t like to drive, set up and play in these circumstances. I am not a happy camper when I am not centered.
We had two assemblies, back to back, at 9 and 10 am, and thanks to the flexibility of the PTA lady and the school, we were able to start only 15 minutes late. I really didn’t think we could even do that, with ETA’s of 9:30 from Kevin and the lads. Somehow, the band showed up just after I got there with 20 minutes to spare. Negotiating Philly is a bitch.
The PTA lady said that the kids were a little distracted this late in the school year. It proved to be true. Fairly noisy kids, chatting with each other in the crowd, seems to perk up my performance dander, and I have to use my gathering skills to retake the stage and refocus attention to the show. I can do this and do it well.
I could have done this better with the older kids (3 -5) today. I have had productive talks with Kevin, drummer and friend, about this dichotomy I have with: 1. letting the show go, and roll on its integrity (it works), or 2: use my performance skills to bring it back (I can do this, as well).
I recognize that I deal with a two-edged sword when I work with an audience. I do have a finely honed ironic and, often sarcastic twist to my stage humor, developed in the many decades of playing in bars, et al. This is subtle but a real consideration when I’m dealing with a youth audience that doesn’t react with applause, attention, singing along, and, especially, getting up and dancing. Here’s where I have step up, and not let the intense travel and set up constrictions affect my stage persona.
Towards the end of the show, I encourage the kids to get up and dance for our Beatles and Disco sections. It’s at this point, the whole auditorium should be up and dancing, including the teachers. It happens most of the time. (we can get into the differences between 7th and 8th graders some other time).
The younger kids are always up and dancing (3rd, 4th or so) but the ‘mature’ kids remain seated, glaringly so, to me. This is a cultural and ageist battle that I have to deal with all the time. Encourage kids to be kids, and express some individuality.
I tend to land on these kids to get up and dance, and it’s here I feel can subtly step over the line, after the fact. I should really let them go and let them figure it out. Pick my battles else where.
It’s hard to do. Thoughts on the job…..