Early Childhood Learning Center
Having retired RockRoots in the last month or so, I’m down to occasional solo shows. I don’t miss the long drives into deepest, darkest New Jersey. (Actually, I got a lot of thinking done…) This one came from a PTA mom who wondered if I was still playing for kids (??!!). You bet.
From the PTA lady, “The kids loved it so much and the teachers said it was awesome!” nice.
I love playing for preschoolers – their energy, their glee and their curiosity. It’s a treat to see the teachers have some fun, too. That’s a big part of my fee. I was paid well for this one, and I was glad that got what I asked – what I deserve.
After dealing the the traffic cop, the front office folks, I was guided to my workplace for the morning – a carpeted library!! Oh, yeah, my kinda space.
My liaison was a great help. She scouted down some water, supplied an extension chord (and plugged it in!), and made me welcome. Nice to not play in an echo chamber like the gym – what I had pictured in my mind. She also asked for three short sets, roughly 20 minutes – I fought for 25. I’ve not done something like this small scope but figured out 4 songs to do. It was fun to do as a sprint.
Here’s my thought process as I play my set. Perhaps it’s TMI, but it’s place where I exercise my creative juices so that I can claim to be an Artist.
Each session had about 75 kids apiece, enough that I was glad I had my small amp and mike setup. I introduced my guitar and we counted the strings, listened to the bass E and the high E. I talked about the wood, and that it was born in Nazareth. Why is called a flat pick?
I started with I Like Peanut Butter, complete with clapping, hand-motions and a freeze, stuff that breaks down the doors with little kids and teachers. I then introduced my Superstar response, again with gettin’ up and moving. Also, a nice pat on the back for their cooperation. We did the Tutti Tah, which really demolishes all sense of decorum. I wasn’t sure what to follow that with, but I figured I should play guitar again, and settled on Down By The Bay. A simple call and response, rhyming, rhyming and rhyming. Lots of spontaneous rhymes which the teachers often grin. As I was playing, I notice I had a short time left and made the song short. Time flies.
I had prepared for the big ending: Jelly in the Dish. I use scarves for this one, and had gotten in a new stash of them so that I could have one for everyone. We used them all. I immediately say, “Let’s hide!” and all put our scarves over our heads. This really centers and quiets the crowd. We then played with unveiling a variety of faces (they get to chose, but I always add “your teacher””). Again, modeling emotions.
I get the kids to spell the alphabet with scarf movement, A, O, Z, and their choices. Then we do the first letter of their name (ownership). I really love how the room is morphing into a sea of swirling colors. Psychedelic.
Now it’s time to dance. Jelly in the Dish is a great tune, once a jump-rope rhyme, now transposed to my kitchen. I love playing funky music on my Martin, and the kids get to dance in their own safe and creative space. At the end of the chorus, I say “Jelly in the Dishhhhhhh…..” and ask the kids to toss the scarves in the air, something they usually do on their own, but this creates a controlled splash of color in space. I then ask the kids to trade scarves with a neighbor, and that’s a great social device. (I am so manipulative)
I surrendered to the chaos by having the kids come up and put the scarves back in the bag. The kids get to “break the plane” to enter my performance space. A good choice in the moment. Connection.
I get the kids to sit down and make my final comments: first of all, share something we did with your parents at home, and then asked they liked, getting them to reflect on what just happened, and arming the kids a vocabulary to vocalize. (One kid said she like the microphone.) I then ask some of the teachers what stood out to them: rhyming, movement, coffee, Martin guitar, fun. It’s always informative, and often humorous. It’s also good to acknowledge their input and the kids get to hear adults converse in the room. Community.
I packed up my small gear and wheeled out my stuff to the front of the school, still running on adrenalin. (It does catch up to me later in the next day or so.) I’ll be sending out my kids’ CDs to the music teacher, in spite of the fact that few teachers have players in their classroom. One teacher had primed the kids before hand with my I Like Peanut Butter CD. Always amazing at the life and longevity of my music. That feels good.
There ya go. I was busy.