Today was another good day, this time in inner city Allentown: Central and Cleveland Schools. Again, traffic was snarled on Rt. 22 and I had to invent my passage into town. The folks were waiting for me at Central, including another teacher who was a fan. She said she shares my music with her kindergarten kids on a daily basis, especially I’m Gonna Tell. I got it going promptly shortly after 9 am.
There were more parents and teachers at this one and I had a great time playing off of them, encouraging them to dance and the energy flowed between them, the kids and myself. That’s why I aim for the adults, too. One enthusiastic woman came up at the end who plays for the kids, teaches pre-K and raved about what I did. The kindergarten teacher said she would share my CDs with her. Great!
These kids came up with the Bear Hunt entry of Dorney Park, Wildwater Kingdom and we did a cool trip down the water slide and a big splash at the end. I also added some dance moves from the teachers at the end: The Twist, The Shopping Cart and the Fishing Pole. Very spontaneous and creative on their part.
At the end, I try to have the kids reflect on what we did but I also ask the teachers to what they liked. That is perhaps the most valuable feedback.
I headed off to Cleveland ES, a school only a few blocks away for my 10:30 session. I’ve played this school many times with my friend and former Cleveland teacher John Christie. It’s a small neighborhood school in the inner city and, again a mix of bilingual, Latino, Black and white kids.
We were in the small cafeteria in the basement (I know it well) and the kids settled in. There were more older boys in mix, and I had to adjust accordingly. I cut out some of the ‘kiddie stuff’ and did some more ‘adult’ conversation. I focused on Giants, for some reason, and we imagined what a giant would look like. The chat was pretty lively and I admitted that they scared me. Sometimes the dialogue is as important as the music.
Some of the older boys were hard to break down and though they aren’t any trouble, they simply refuse to participate, as if it’s below their interest. This is the hardest part of some of these gigs: to try to encourage, explain why I do what I do, and not get personal. I don’t always do it right. But I have some tools in my gig bag (Thunder Tubes!) that have some effect.
For Bear Hunt, these kids came up with a haunted Tree House, with a rope ladder, bats zipping past and creepy vines growing up on us. Very creative and still somewhat macabre. All Around the Kitchen was a riot and the teachers were taken by surprise when I asked them for their dances. But, they stepped up, as expected. The teachers said they enjoyed my wackiness, the interaction and the movement.
These summer sessions are turning out to be quite productive for me, and the schools, as well.