I started my next Southside Children’s Festival residency at Marvine ES, a predominantly Hispanic school on the north side of Bethlehem. I’ll be doing weekly afterschool songwriting with these kids, so I figured we should have some sort of introductory session with the 4th and 5th graders, the core group for this run of workshops. Mr. Cordova, the school liaison for the project has great connections with the kids so I trust his instincts. He suggested that I come in during the lunch period and play while they ate. Normally, I would have said no, but this turned out to be the perfect teaser for the workshops. Kids signed up.

I set up a new PA for me, a simple amp with room for a mike and my guitar, low volume and easy load in and out. It worked great! Lesson #1.  I got there early so I was able to play for the younger kids eating in front of me, and, as the older kids came in and settled into their lunches on the far side of the room, I introduced myself and did some songs that other kids had written words to: Tropical Vacation, Cat Came Back, Names to the Animals, etc. We connected in spite of the lunch situation. Each set was brief and the kids filed out for recess for the rest of their period. The teachers, and the lunch ladies all had a good time with some of the younger kids getting up and dancing (with their teacher!).

Mr. Cordova was handing out papers to the kids, explaining what we were going to do over the next few weeks and recruiting kids for the sessions. He was pleased that he came close to handing out all of his stack. Looks like we stirred something up. It was a low pressure, social situation for the kids and myself, and it worked well. Lesson #2. Since I have been paid for the whole project up front, I am more willing to invest on the long run, and not just for this gig.

An interesting and unexpected thing came up at the end when Mr. Cordova mentioned that the school might be interested in this type of event, especially during the winter when there is no outside recess. The teachers commented how much the kids were engaged during the period, perhaps with less mayhem and uproar than usual. Can you say ‘crowd control?’ I was able to play for younger and older kids at the same time.

I might be able to come back and provide active and intelligent activities during the lunchtime periods. Sounds like a whole lot of fun for me and the kids, too. Lesson #3.  Making a living doing what I do.

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