The last week of January is a welcome sight on my booking calendar – it’s Catholic Schools Week (!!!), the one week when parochial schools blow their arts’ funding to bring in folks like me to rile up the kids. I have four gigs this week and, weather permitting, a good way to supplement a slow time of the year.
Monday was a return to a small school in nearby Hellertown, St. Theresa’s, a school that I’ve played in the past. I was tickled to be asked to return for an assembly. I set up in the basement’s lunch room/stage, one I can clearly recall from years past. There’s something about a low ceiling, a bingo machine and a cheap sound system that screams Middle America and my place in the process.
It was the beginning of CSW so the kids and teachers were juiced. It was also Donut Day and there was a vast array of spectacular and deadly delights at the other end of the room. As it is with several of these small Catholic schools, it’s a K – 8th grade so I have my work cut out to bridge this vast age gap (and still play to the teachers), but it’s a wonderful artistic challenge. I seem to make it work.
I had an interesting wrinkle in the process. The 8th graders were doing a buddy system with the K’s so they were sitting on the floor up front so I had my most challenging segment right in my face. It did shape my early set. When I get the kids up to do the Tutti Tah, it’s important that everyone does it, to set the bar for community action. And, sure enough, the older boys really don’t like to loosen up, and I have the bad habit of focusing on them. It often works and the rest of the school gets to see these guys in a new light. The teachers do appreciate the effort. One commented that the one I worked on was the “leader” of the group. I got radar, I guess.
I rolled out my current staples: Cat Came Back, Names to the Animals, Bear Hunt, Peanut Butter and Jelly, Giants and All Around the Kitchen, all bonafide assembly tunes. Each has some special moments that link me with the kids, the teachers, the school and my past history with this school. Each gig is a creative enterprise and I feel good when it works like today. And I got a great donut!
I was done on a Monday morning, check in the bank and back home by 11:30. Dis ain’t too shabby.