This is our annual trek to a big special needs school near Atlantic City. We’ve played here going on 8, 9 10 times every summer. It’s a gym full of a wide age of kids, with different abilities, along with an equally large number of teachers and aides, all of whom we have the deepest respect for.
Our task is to engage and encourage the kids to get up and move, play our set with feeling and craft, and not worry so much about the ‘book’ or script that we usually present. This makes it necessary to direct the show on the fly, use the set list as a guide and count on the lads in the band to be heads up on places we can cut, expand on, etc. We apparently do it well.
We received some nice compliments from the teachers, saying we continue to get better every year. I was surprised, seeing how we always adapt the show differently over the years. Part of our success today seemed to be our ability to change on the fly, encourage the kids to dance and the wonderful bag of instruments I now open up for the kids to play. This last factor created some problems today that I have to address.
The kids respond to the beat and will react as best they can to each style we play, and that sets us free to minimize the talk and emphasize the music, something I’ve learned to let go of over the years. Kevin is in tune, as is Nick, and Steve is coming around to.
I had prepare the bag for the show (not well enough, it seems) to eliminate the more challenging boomwhackers, broken shakers from yesterday and other inappropriate tools. I do like the scarves and cool shades I put out to connect with the kids. I pulled a couple others out and placed them on my guitar case behind me. Unfortunately some kids found the pieces along with my prescription sunglasses behind me and my glasses were gone. It’s a wonderful chaos going on, and my focus remains on the 400 people in front of me.
My glasses are gone, but so it goes.
This gig continues to be one of the band’s favorites on several levels. The audience response is unlike any other, we get to provide the kids the opportunity to dance and play along with us in a safe and caring situation, we get to improvise on the show, and the teachers and aides get to share the good vibes with their kids. There’s a bit of education in there, too.
It’s a long day, with a very early departure, four plus hours of traffic back and forth but worth the effort. I am beat when I get back home in the afternoon. Righteous work.