Phew. I was checking through my note pad by my computer and noticed that I had a gig the next day at 10 am. Through the Musikfest slog, somehow it hadn’t made it to my daily gig book for the next week. Hmmm.
Anyway, it was a great gig. A daycare at St. John’s in Nazareth, PA for about 80 or more kids and staff in a nice (and air-conditioned) wooden fellowship hall in the church. I’ve done other gigs here so I was comfortable with these folks. No sound system, lots of dance space and quite a wide age group to deal with. There was a big group of toddlers and early preschoolers on hand and they turned out to be a source of great joy for me and their teachers.
I really like to witness the spontaneity of the really young kids, clapping, dancing, enjoying the moment and these moments distill the joy of live music for me. They instantly get it. No cultural filters. These moments are perhaps an essential and amazing thing for me to take in, because it runs so deep into what the live music experience is, for me as an artist, and for the audience as well. We connect and it gives me the oxygen that feeds my soul. I am nourished by these reactions.
I did another very cool experiment with this rather large and diverse (age-wise) crowd. I imagined during my morning meditations, an exercise with my new set of scarves, an element I have in my bag ‘o toys that I carry with me. Some folks are shakers and love instruments in their hands, but some kids deal with art in other ways. That’s why I have included styro-noses, hand puppets and scarves in the bag. We can celebrate the music in many different ways. (Higher Order Thinking sessions in CT)
I thought I could build a campfire with these kids by placing the core of the scarves in the center of this group of kids (who were engaged, disciplined and ready to do what I ask …no small thing). I asked that they toss the scarves (sitting) in the air (yellow, red, orange and green). That was kinda cool. But the other kids wanted to participate. So I moved in that direction quickly. (This is the laboratory part….)
This led to the major turning point of the day for me, especially as a teaching artist. It became an exercise in community building through the arts, and what I’ve been studying on these many years.
I asked that the scarves be passed on to other kids that hadn’t used them. The ‘Flame’ was now being passed around the community, and it became, in so many ways, a campfire. Passing the Flame on. Folk music, great visuals, physicality, curiosity, commonality…. so many ways of becoming a community. I get to watch it happen.
I owe so much to my audience. They constantly challenge me to create on the spot. It’s where I do my best work.