Young Audiences lined up a preschool center for me in Vineland, NJ on Friday morning. It’s a long haul to southern Jersey, about two and a half hours, but a fairly hassless commute. I left a 6:15 for the 10 am first set, so I pretty much breezed down and got there in good time.
I checked in at the office of this rather sophisticated preschool center. The site features 12 classrooms spread through a main building and several other buildings. There was great artwork throughout the spaces, all at kids’ level, a wonderful play space where I played, a very fine outdoor play area – all at level that I’ve never seen in any school situation.
I met the founder Carol Deola, a woman now in her eighties, still on the job. I had a chance to talk with “Miss Carol” before my first set. She taught school for 40 years and, upon retiring at 63, she found herself wanting to do more. She set up the preschool at the building in front, as demand increased she actually built other outbuildings on the site as well as a baby-care center across the street. Carol has obviously made some money on child-care, but also has done it very well. She also was really proud of the staff she has developed.
I set up in the spacious activity area for my 10 and 11 o’clock sets. I love the fact that I now have a small sound system perfect for these gigs. I had about 120 kids and teachers for each set, the first one with more three year olds, the second with more four year olds. There’s a big difference. The little kids are quite used to live music and singing along, but it remains important to expose them to the experience and the opportunity to do so. Still, there was great reaction from the kids and the teachers and I got to roll out my good stuff for both sets. Miss Carol was there for the first and part of the second set and she had a great time.
The kids were obviously engaged, thanks to the values and skills that this school provides. At one point, I had the kids sing back The Cat Came Back and Magic Penny by themselves and I was actually amazed at how well they did. At one point, I stopped and saluted them on their participation.
I left several copies of my kids’ CDs for the school, hoping that the teachers will make good use of them. The teachers and Miss Carol absolutely loved my visit. So did I.