This is the third year I’ve been ‘donated’ to Urban Promise camps in downtown Trenton, thanks to AIR (Artists in Residency), an arts-education group in Bucks County. I visit three day camp centers, usually over three separate days. Today, I was prepared for two sets in the morning at Trinity, and one set at St. Mike’s. I was surprised when I found out it was two sets at both places. This is going to be a long day….

These are essentially all inner-city black kids and counsellors. I am concerned with dealing with black culture as an older white hippy with a guitar. But, as always, once I’m in the space, we are cool. Still, it is very intense work.

I have developed some good ways to engage, somewhat different material, but lots of goofing around, bag of instruments, and gauged for the different age groups. The older kids are harder to convince, but there are always boys and girls who are ready to join in. I work them hard.

I also try to rope in the ‘sitouts’ with the Thunder Tube, and having active counselors makes all the difference.

The first two sets were in The Crypt, one of the more amazing rooms I’ve ever played it. It’s been an inspiration I use to gather attention, right off the bat, with the echo of “Whoo” in Peanut Butter. It forces everyone to act together and then remain silent to experience the sound. Zen, for sure. Both sets were pretty cool.

Off to St. Marks.

St. Marks was only a mile and a half away, so I took the chance to park under a tree and do some TM before the next two sets. It’s a good thing to do today.

This space was more spartan, a fellowship hall with limited air-conditioning and some loud fans. I settled in with the older kids first and the youngun’s next, and most of us made to the end of each set. All the kids were polite and respectful but still somewhat reserved, while other kids launched right in. I have to try to engage each kid somehow. It is intense work, and today gave me four sessions to work on what I do.

It’s good work.