Thursday was the wrap up assembly for my Big Plans residency at Wm Penn ES. I got there early to work the core group on our songs and was reminded of the lack of focus these kids have, and how that’s not a big problem – they are kids. It was fun to see them relish performing on this stage in the middle of the school (open air format), and they took turns rolling around on the carpeted stage. I felt pretty good that they would handle the songs well.
The space filled up with K – 5th grades with the teachers along the sides in folding chairs. I’ve played here many times and I like the space and its unique layout. Full house!
I started with I Like Peanut Butter, the Tutti Tah and we were rolling! Even the older kids were engaged. I followed with The Cat Came Back which I prefaced with my pandemic discussions about the song having racist origins, something I promised my Black teaching artists that I would do. I have done the song at this school for years and it was requested by some of the tenured teachers who remembered it. It worked well, with the kids picking up on the chorus, getting the teachers to sing it and getting the kids to respond to the teachers chorus. This works great!
I brought up the core group (who were sitting on the side of the stage) to do our Down By the Bay verses and it worked pretty well, in spite of being fairly vanilla in the writing. Still, they took well to the spotlight. I followed with Giants with two of the core group kids playing thunder tubes. It was then time to premier the Big Plans song I Can Be. Aaron, my liaison at the school, projected the words on the screen behind me so that it would be easier for the audience to sing along. It worked well, and the core group did fine, with all the clever nuances and movements that bring some charm to the song. I’ve used this chorus at Fountain Hill, linked with a Bruce Cockburn lick on the guitar. (I was glad to have that chorus and lick in my repertoire, considering the shorter residency). It came off well, short and sweet.
I finished with All Around the Kitchen which never fails to get every one up and dancing. I introduced the water sprinkler, the car dealership (forgot the name…) and then brought up kids to demonstrate their own moves. It always works to see the kids come up with moves and names. Then, I always ask a teacher to come up, with several of her fellow teachers (she gets to pick ’em). This particular teacher had already expressed that she wanted to come up, so she was ready. She did The Gritty and her friends did The Charleston, Around the World, showing some quick thinking and ingenuity. The place rocked. A great way to bring everyone together at the end.
I packed up my gear and headed off. The shy East Indian boy waved to me as I drove off among all the parents picking up their kids, and it was a nice payoff for the work I had done, on the micro and macro levels. Now, I await the check from Doug. I’m not even sure what I’m getting paid.