All entries filed under Summer Camps

 

Our last RockRoots of this resurrected Spring season was at a summer recreation program in central NJ in Union. We set up in a pavilion in a large park, and started on time at 11 am. The kids were seated on the concrete in front of us, fairly close, and, I also encouraged the counselors to come up and sit in with the campers. (For the most part, they did and helped with their participation.)

I still stumbled over some of the monologue, but it’s been definitely an upgrade from the beginning of the spring. We played well, though Wayno was a little loud for having the kids so close. The Peanut Butter do-wop, as always, breaks any remaining barriers between the old white guys playing strange music and the young urban kids in the audience. But since these are kids who elect to participate in a summer program, these kids are open and ready.

I decided to stretch the session with some questions from the kids and this always fascinating. “Are you famous?” “Did you ever play on a stage?” “Have you played around the world?” etc…. I particularly like that we treat these kids’ interactions like adults. Several kids came up afterwards with some nice personal reflections, proving that we made a difference with our presence.

We finished up with All Around the Kitchen, with the kids coming up with some old favorites (The Dab and The Floss) but came up with some really nice new ones with curious names as well. The final one brought up some of the counselors who sealed the deal with some very funny ones (The Ace and The Patricia). I’m glad we put in the extra time in this kind of situation. The counselors loved it as did the kids. We done good.

I hit a ton of traffic, ironically here in PA just 10 miles from home. I had to add on an extra half hour to my return from New Jersey right here in the LV. Creeping NJ, as I call it. It was a good way to finish the school year with RockRoots. I love these guys.

 

My friend Angela Reese invited me to return to this small day center in Hellertown. The weather was iffy so we stayed inside for this one. It was a mixture of ages so I had my job cut out to engage the older girls and the toddlers at the same time. Phew.

Since masks are required inside, I did the show with a mask, which is always a bother, but so it goes. We’re all in this together. The kids warmed up easily and Thunder Tubes always gets the older kids to step up. I Like Peanut Butter, Tutti Tah, I Wanna Be a Dog, Giants, and then I broke out the bag for Names of the Animals (shakers), Down By the Bay (puppets) and finished with Jelly in the Dish (scarves).

At the end we talked about what the kids and the teachers liked (reflection). The teachers like the scarves and the rhyming in Down By the Bay.

It was a good hour’s set and I drove away satisfied and pleased to play locally.

Angela posted these pictures on FB and added: “As always, you’re the BEST, Dave Fry! Everyone, teachers included, had SO much fun today! Without a doubt, you definitely make this world a happier place! ??

We’ve done this North Philly day camp a couple of years ago and it was a little tough for us since we did our straight historical show for a fairly young and black camp group. A lot of the show went over their heads so I was glad that they asked us back and asked us to vary up the show a little. We did a library show in Jersey a month ago and I got to try out this “new” show back then and it worked out well. Today was the situation that I had planned for back then.

Actually, the kids got up and danced from the get-go and we didn’t have a problem when we stuck to the basic “roots” portion of the show early on.  I stuck in Names to the Animals after the swing era. It was a good break and re-engaged the kids nicely. We did the early R&R stuff, did I Like Peanut Butter, followed with My Girl. Another break with Giants and finished with a great version of All Around the Kitchen with everybody up and dancing, with some of the counselors showing off some nice moves. (One older woman came up and did “Smooth” which the kids and the band thought was really good. She knocked it out of the park.)

We were lucky to miss the heavy rains later in the day, and the camp and counselors had a great time. Sometimes I worry too much. It was a long haul down and back on a very humid day. I’m beat.

I returned to one of my favorite camps, Camp Happiness, in Milford, CT. I’ve been doing a show here for at least ten years now (even though last year was washed out with Covid) and particularly like the counsellors who “get it.” They jump in and make a great example for the kids.

The kids have special needs, to varying degrees, but the staff encourages the students wonderfully. This year’s turnout was especially small due to the continuing Covid worries, but we managed to have a good time. I got into town early and we decided to move my 10:30 show up to 9:30, which was most welcome. We also decided to do it outdoors on the grass.

I’m actually rusty on some of the material: Cat Came Back, Baby Shark, Bear Hunt. I’ve haven’t done these in front of folks for a year and a half. So it was good to get them out. This show with these kids usually gives me a chance to work on some new things. I asked for a new wrinkle for Bear Hunt so one boy said, “Haunted House” and another chimed in, “with an elevator.” So we did it. It was pretty funny.

I brought out the bag. Rhythm instruments for Names of the Animals, puppets for Down By The Bay and scarves for Jelly in the Dish. I also got the kids to change instruments and scarves with each other after every verse. Mixing it up socially.

I finished up with Splish Splash but added a part for the kids to add one of there favorite dances, similar to what I’ve been doing with All Around the Kitchen. One counsellor came up with what we called the Car Dealership. It was great and I’ll use it again.

It was a good session and I’m so glad the staff invites me back every year. I get energized from the visit. It was a long day 5 am to 2 pm with lots of road time, but the traffic was fairly easy and I listened to a lot of podcasts.

My local food c0-0p will be moving into a large, former car dealership on the Northside of town and I was asked to perform for a couple of hours as the aging hippies gathered in the parking lot. There were some food trucks near by, our local ice cream vendor and a DJ at hand and a tented area for folks to sit and eat. I found a nook in the shade, set up my small sound system and set in to playing. I put out my bag o’ instruments and started to troll.

Many familiar faces and some folks were listening from the tent. No problem that no one was nearby. It’s all about the ambience. Eventually, several moms, dads and kids made their way over to the shakers and I had my connections in gear. One lad sat next to me and was working the maracas. He was really getting into it and was coming up with some rather sophisticated moves. I opened up some spaces for him to extemporize and got him to count off the start to a song. He really nailed it, and, later, his dad said that he does have a gift for music. Another young girl took to the scarves and lost herself in dance. Again, her dad expressed some surprise with her ease in movement.

The bugger of the gig was the fact that I was set up next to the food trucks which were running their engines during my set, a constant rumble and an air of gasoline for the whole time. I was glad I had my PA, but it was cranked up more than usual. It took a toll on my voice later that afternoon at Father Folk.

It was a good gig and much appreciated by the organic crowd. When the sun moved overhead, I packed it in a little early and I was grateful to get a head start out to Berks County.

An appropriate drawing of how it felt on our first gig back in 18 months.

This was our first RockRoots in a year and a half. We were booked for a library camp program held in the gym of the local school for about 120 kids (k-6) and about 25 teen counselors and two librarians. It was a brutally hot day in July and we were thankful for the AC, for sure.

As usual, it was the usual 1.5 hour commute from PA and, of course, Nick and Wayne had faulty GPS help, but, again, of course, we started on time at 10 am. I was glad I checked out the PA (also sitting in moth balls for 18 months) and things were working. Now, all I had to worry about was remembering the show and adding a few wrinkles I had worked up.

I decided to sit down for this one. My asthma is high and stamina low and that was a good idea. The format and most of the script flowed well, to my surprise, and the show moved well, thanks to the lads being professionals.

I added a couple non-history songs for this one, breaking up the show somewhat, but I think the situation was appropriate and helped out the attention spans of the kids. I put in We Gave Names to the Animals that was fun and provided some give and take with the kids (and librarians love the rhyme-play). Later on, I threw in Giants just for fun. And, at the end, we did All Around the Kitchen that was a riot.

Through out the show, I tried to engage the counselors, who, without fail, don’t what to get involved. But, thanks to a few who understand their role in interacting with the kids, they came around at the end.

All Around the Kitchen gives the kids a chance to show off their dance moves and then I brought up 5 councellors to show us their moves. I had also asked the counselors sitting on the side to come down and dance with their kids. All in all, it was a great unifying event to finish off the show. It worked.

The band did well in spite of a few key difficulties and appreciated the new material. It was a long drive back and it made for a long day. I find myself pretty exhausted from the gig, but I’m glad we got the band together again and re-inflated the show.

This was a summer camp type of situation at this fine automobile museum. They run a six-week camp for kids (same as The Discovery Center, PA Youth Theater and other cultural groups looking to make some money during the summer) so I had planned on a one hour set. The museum wanted to stretch that to an hour and a half, and though it’s tougher to hold kids’ attentions (especially in the summer), I agreed for a nominal fee hike.

My set up at the museum.

I set up for a 10:15 start in a comfortable, carpeted part of the museum and started in. There were some slightly older kids who were a little tentative with my kids stuff, but leaned on the counselors to join in and we were off to a good start. Now, these were all white middle-class to upper class kids, as would seem natural for a vintage car museum. A couple other small groups filtered in (one with a cadre of boys that had an attitude) and then a large group of Latino and black kids with several adults as chaperones. They initially were off to the side but I tried to encourage them to move in with the other kids. There were some older girls and several boys who rolled their eyes about the whole situation and were obviously uncomfortable with a old white guy on acoustic guitar playing kids music.

So, that was the challenge: engage two different cultural groups, stretch my material for an extra half hour and still play my material. At one point, after a monster reference in one of the songs, I decided to ask the group to describe a theoretical monster. The fact that it was conversational made for a good break away from the folk music to a relatively adult conversation and that seemed to ease the tension in the room. I followed that with Giants and intentionally got one of the young scoffers to come up to play thundertube. Reluctantly and with a teacher’s insistence he came up. A younger and more demonstrative girl came up as well, and as we did the show, the reluctant lad persevered and the young actress lit up the room with faces and movement. For a while, the song took over.

At one point, I had to tell the four older Latina girls to put away their cell phones, and with a teacher’s insistence, they gracefully did. I took some time to explain what it’s like to perform for a distracted audience, how that makes for a harder situation for the artist, and came short of playing the ‘respect’ card. I hate to have obvious teaching moments in the middle of a show, but (and some teachers back me up on this) someone has to do it at these moments.

Eventually the Latino and black group took off for other parts of the museum and I finished the last 20 minutes with the white kids. Again, at the end I asked the teachers what they liked about the show and were somewhat shocked that I asked. They liked the Tutti Tah. Meh….

One clique of the white boys refused get involved in any way, and that got my dander up. This is symptomatic of summer camps when, away from school and family, some kids develop “summer attitude” where they are empowered to say NO. Unfortunately, the one ringleader had dragged four other younger boys into his sphere of influence. I still haven’t developed the sense to let it go.

The set drained me, but as I packed up, I struck up a conversation with the elder gentleman who helped me load in and out. He told me the tale of working with his dad, a drummer, at the Lyric Burlesque Theater here in Allentown when he was a kid. One time, at the age of six (“I remember it to this day”), when the famous stripper Blaze Starr was working at the theater, she noticed him back stage and bend down to say, “What a fine young man this is!” All he could see were two tassels swinging back and forth in front of his young eyes, a sight forever burned into his psyche. Great story.

This remains one of my favorite gigs of the summer. Camp Happiness is a special needs camp, kids with behavioral as opposed to physical issues, so, they seem to me to be fairly functional and fun-loving kids. So that’s how I roll.

I’ve been doing this camp for over 10 years and the campers, staff and counselors have their favorites that they know and actively use during the camps. When I came in the doors of the school today, I was greeted with shouts of “Hey, Dave Fry”, “There’s Dave Fry!” etc. and, since I had my shades on, I looked the part for once. This, of course, never happens anywhere else so I smiled to myself. Cool. Even the counselors were glad to see me and made me feel really welcome.

I had left 4th St. at 5 am, partly because I’m waking up early these days, and I never know what morning traffic I might hit. Today was a breeze getting there so I had time to meditate  before I headed to the school.

I set up in the wonderfully air-conditioned auditorium and the kids and staff sat on the rug area in front of me. Lots of familiar faces. I thanked them for having me back and told them off the bat that this was one of favorite gigs, that their counselors are the best I’ve seen and that this gig gives me the chance to try new things that can use at schools and festivals later on.

I started with I Like Peanut Butter but did it a cappela with four girls and four boys up with me with matching red shades. It was a good way to start, singing as a group, no guitar, movement and solos by the kids. I also did Avner’s crowd sound direction with three separate sections. It was another good way to work the crowd away from the microphone, in the space.

Then, I picked up the guitar ten minutes in, with Cat Came Back, a song that is a camp favorite. We worked on paw movements, singing like a cat, the counselors doing opera and the kids doing rock. The kids really surprised me with that one; I definitely heard some punk vocals during that. It was a riot and unexpected. When I gamble, I’m rarely disappointed.

Bear Hunt is another one that they love. This time, as I was headed for the finish, one of the counselors slipped on a bear mask and ‘hid’ behind my PA speaker. When we hit the end, the woman jumped out as the bear to everyone’s delight. They were prepared for me, and it was delightful.

Giant was next and one male counselor had asked for it before the gig so I got him and two campers to come up and play Thunder Tube. Again, these counselors commit to having fun along with their kids and it makes all the difference. Big fun.

I had success with Jimalong Josie this week at Summer Slide so I’ve substituted it for my other dance pieces All Around the Kitchen and Keep A’Knockin’. I passed out the bag of instruments and my scarves and the counselors helped distribute everything, so things were not as chaotic as I had expected. I did some of my scarf exploration with them, and got everyone up to dance. Jimalong affords me the opportunity to guide the kids with hopping, twisting, twirling, etc. and then with the current dances (Floss, Hype, etc.). Since the camp is divided into groups (Tigers, Hurricanes, Dolphins, Monkeys, etc.) I then had the kids make up dances for each tribe. The whole place was rocking with kids, staff and counselors shakin’ that thang.

I decided to do a reflection at the end, and the kids came up with singing, dancing, wearing shades, etc. and then I opened it up to the counselors. That kind of took them by surprise, but I said that there were things I did that they can use. They came up with the surprise bear, Avner’s applause conductor, the movement and dance, having fun (no small thing), singing all together, etc. This discussion also gives me a chance to explain what I do and what I get out of it personally, in the moment.  Maureen, the head of the camp, who has booked me these many times over the years, said she liked everything.

As I packed up, I got one of the groups to put things back in the bag, and this also works well as a way to interact in close quarters with the kids, exchange small talk. I’m not just some performer up on the stage.

As I headed out, one of the counselors thanked me and told me I was great. That was totally unexpected coming from college-age counselor, and helped me realize that these folks understand what I’m trying to do with the kids, and have a great time along with the campers. That’s no small thing either.

The drive back was a bitch. Traffic on I-95 was thick and every twenty minutes featured a torrential downpour all the way home. But I had my tunes and leftist podcasts and a general high from my annual visit to Camp Happiness. Funny thing about that.

This was a tough gig in several ways. We were booked to play for a summer camp in North Philly for about 140 kids and counselors and we were asked to play outside near a pavilion at a school’s playground. We drove onto the site, found electricity and started to set up. My brand new PA head didn’t turn on. 140 urban kids waiting to hear a band and we’ve got no vocals or my instruments. We tried everything so I had to drag out my two channel guitar/vocal cabinet and I plugged my guitar and my vocal into it and it seemed to get enough volume to start us off. During the show, Nick and myself were switching Wayne’s vocal with mine and my guitar and my mandolin back and forth. How professional. It, of course took our attention away from the show.

The show itself doesn’t work as well in a camp situation as it does in an assembly. The kids are not as focused, the counselors don’t have the same clout as teachers, and it is the summer. I did think the group did quite well for the situation, counselors got up and danced (and that encouraged the kids) and there were pockets of girls and boys who found ways to interact with each other, so we did our best to keep the music moving. I’m just not sure that the presentational/historical aspect had much affect, and these kids have no idea who Muddy Waters, Louis Armstrong, etc. are (nor the fact that they are radically important black artists).

The kids and staff were very polite and everyone enjoyed the afternoon’s show. Still, it was work. Thank goodness for working with my professional friends in the band.

Driving up from Philly was a bitch, though, and I was beat when I got back after 4 pm.

Off to Riegelsville for a spotlight set at Andy’s Jam. I’m dragging for this one.

This has always been a good gig – the summer Kids’ Camp at Allentown’s Jewish Community Center.  The preschool kids are always bright and there is a good amount of engaged teachers, too.

This session brought in the entire daycare, with infants, toddlers and young, active preschoolers. It made for an interesting audience, and though I play to the preschoolers, I love to see the reactions of the younger children, especially when I witness their engagement at any level.

Before the main core of kids came in, the infants came in, in strollers with their caregivers. I went over to play guitar and sing for them and the reactions were wonderful. The teachers got out their Ipads and recorded some of the rapt attention and one child clapping her hands and feet to All God’s Critters. It was a shear delight for us all.

As the kids gathered for our set, the older kids sat on the gym floor in front of me while the toddlers sat on mats around that area. The energy of the teachers adds a whole lot to the situation, as they help guide the younger kids with hand-motions, singing, etc. since the kids have little idea of what’s going on. It also gives me a chance to play to the adults, as well. During Bear Hunt, two young girls were laughing and rolling on their backs when I did the “what’s that?” I said an aside to the teachers, “That’s what the girls used to do when I played in bars.” Part of my success is the attention to the adults in the audience. Not necessarily planned but instinctive.

The 45 minutes went quickly and I had them up dancing with puppets, instruments, etc. when I noticed the attention of the toddlers start to wander. At the end, we talked about what we did, and the older kids were surprisingly in tune. It was a great session and appreciated by the teachers and the JCC administrators. I was back on the road by 10:30 in the morning.

 

   This is one of my favorite annual gigs – a special needs summer camp in CT. I’ve been doing this one for 10 years or so, so the kids, counselors and staff are primed and ready for my show. We do it in the auditorium of the local high school with lots of room on the floor for the crowd.

You look like a psychopath.

This one was quite orange and recalled Trump.

This group is special for me because the counselors ‘get it’; they have as much fun as the kids, participate in the silliness and songs. It’s actually rare to have summer counselors this perceptive but, I guess it comes with the situation.

Since I’ve been here many times, the kids have their favorites so I roll out Peanut Butter and Jelly, The Cat Came Back and others. I did sneak in I’m Gonna Tell and I Wanna Be a Dog (for Sam), and a special rendition of Down By the Bay with rhymes for the different camp groups (Hurricanes, Dolphins, Monkeys, etc.).

I finished up with All Around the Kitchen with the kids (and counselors) coming up with some interesting dances (my favorite was from a counselor doing the “Water in My Ear” dance, jumping around with his head cocked to the side).

I took time to thank them all and Marleen presented me with some special crayon drawing of me done by the kids. I thanked each one. We finished up with Baby Shark, a camp favorite. I left with a warm heart once again. Camp Happiness!

Off to Louis Audette’s for an overnight stay and Madison Farmers’ Market on Friday afternoon.

It was a good day to play outside with these campers under a large catalpa tree on the grounds of Cedar Crest College. I did this last year with Star Wars actors roaming the building (yes, I insulted Darth Vader), but today it was just me and the ice cream truck.

I had to tell the ice cream guy to turn off his sound track and as I did my first couple of songs, sections of the audience went off to get Italian Ice. I then had to limit my material to non-dance, non-hand movement, non-hands on instrumentation. I managed to find the songs to navigate these limitations.

As is the case with summer camps, I also have to negotiate with the high school and college age counselors who haven’t been prepped with their obligations to help guide the campers and help me engage them. I have to gently remind them that they have to participate with me and the kids to insure a truly community event. I struggle in making this clear, and without support from the main organizers, it comes off somewhat arrogant on my part.

For the most part, the kids sang along, and eventually finished their treats, got up and danced and had a good time. It was hard work though on my part. At least Darth Vader didn’t confront me like last year.

My first gig this weekend was at the Da Vinci Center for another camp visit (the topics are Musical Mayhem (I’ve got that down) and Coding, an interesting take as well) on Friday morning, with a band gig later in Macungie. There were a bout 20 kids and 6 counselors in a comfortable class room at the museum. We did the usual stuff, with the emphasis on mayhem. One older girl settled in and I mention dancing. She said, “I don’t dance.” Hmmm. I took that as a challenge.

It was a good mix of intelligent kids, some very chatty, some not so outgoing, but all curious minds. We talked about coding with being able to think backwards, so we decoded, of all things, The Tutti Tah. I also compared a Martin Guitar with a Thunder Tube. Pretty heavy stuff, but actually quite good as teaching experiences. A good session and I was assured that I will get my check when the treasurer returns from vacation. I told the gentleman, “Well, I have something to live for.”

To Macungie this afternoon.

 

This was a gig I was looking forward to, working with some kids at a rather sophisticated camp sponsored by The Bach Choir, a week-long camp exploring vocal music (and other forms). I was asked by a Moravian music professor to present a workshop on folk music, and I relish these situations.

I put together a session about the essence of folk music and community singing. I started with The Cat Came Back which worked well from the get go. Storytelling, chorus, etc. I introduced work songs, religious songs, social justice songs, Motown and pop songs, all with some nice dialogue with the kids. Heady stuff.

At the end, I introduced I Like Peanut Butter and asked four kids to be back up singers with me. Out of that, I decided to involve everyone and it turned out to be a great workshop exercise. I divided up all of the other kids into four groups and had them work on adding movement to the song, and I gave them roughly 5 minutes to do it. It was great to see them work on the project, see folks take charge and lead (see a few other kids not grasp the idea of working together – but that’s an important part of the process) and then present their work in front of the others. It’s a big step for some of these kids, and I was glad to give them the opportunity to experiment – along with me.

These are wonderful chances for me to expand on my music workshop chops and grow with the kids.

I had three gigs today, starting off with a last minute pick-up at the Da Vinci Center’s summer camp. It was in my wheel house, with their theme of music, beats, codes and more. I had the K, 1st and 2nd kids, with some counselors tossed in. A good group to work with, though one boy proved to be a challenge early on, and I had to assert myself and put him in the back. I tried several time to encourage him, but nope. It worked out in the end.

It was fun to engage the kids with some science, with music, physical vibrations from the guitar and the Thunder Tubes. We worked on rhythm as well as just having fun. I had a nice talk one of the directors, a fellow engineering student who drifted into science/education. Nice to know that younger folks are picking up on this as a vocation.

A couple of the counselors brought in some instruments – harmonica and guitar – and I gave them the opportunity to join in. Always involve the counselors.

I’m coming back for a previously booked gig next Friday, and I also picked up a gig in August for the moon eclipse. I’ll work up some sun and moon songs for that one. A very nice connection developing with this educational center in Allentown.

I had a one set visit to a daycare/camp in a small, urban church today, one that I remember from last year. The group was a little sluggish, having been glued to a big screen Netflix cartoon series. The counselors were off to the side and uninvolved. Such is the reality of these centers. It takes a bit of work to shake them up and get them involved, and there’s not much help from the teen counselors.

A couple of the kids knew me from last year and were warmed up to have some fun. Others were new and, I figured didn’t know much English, so I had my antennae up to figure how to play this out. I explore several ways to engage them. One boy seemed not to know English and was uncomfortable with the Peanut Butter, and other response tunes, so I got him up with the Thunder Tube. He lit up. Another older boy seemed put off by the “childish” stuff, but when I introduced the rain stick and gave it to him to play for the rest of the session, he also locked in and did some great dancing with it. Another male counselor started to dance with Jelly in the Dish with some stylish moves. I invited him into the group when everyone was up and dancing. Scarves, puppets, shakers made for a lively 15 minutes at the end.

I gave out foam noses at the end as they rounded up the instruments for the bag.

I always have my doubts of how to interact with such a wide gulf of cultures, but – and I am always amazed – it always works. I relish these opportunities to learn and grow.

This was pretty cool, to be asked to return to Camp Happiness in Milford, CT. I’ve been playing for these kids, counselors and staff for around a decade or more. I didn’t realize the span that these several generations of folk that have put in, serving their community with great attention to their special-needs community. I’ve had the privilege to perform every summer, and I’ve achieved some sort of rockstar status. It only happens here, friends.

There were a bunch of alumni in the house for the hot dog picnic at noon. I pulled up to check out the situation and Maureen broadcasted that I was in the house. The picnic erupted. That’s cool.

I headed back to the air-conditioned auditorium to set up for the show. Praise to the AC, it would have brutal outside in 90 plus July temps.

It was a good session all around. There were some older folks in the back, and I was able to engage them, and as the show went on, it was gratifying to see them smiling and even getting up and dancing. The kids gave me suggestions so I rolled out Bear Hunt, Cat Came Back and Peanut Butter. I’m glad I have some ‘hits’ to call on. I picked on the counselors and they pitched right in, as they have many, many times before. They are an essential part of making these visits so successful. The kids and the counselors really have great relationships and they are the bridge to my music.

These folks have paid me well on an annual basis, and they allow me to learn things from every gig, stuff that I carry into the next season. I’m am particularly thankful for this opportunity to play for this community and earn their wonderful respect that I so rarely enjoy out on the road. I must be making a difference.

Off to Northford for some kitchen tunes with friends tonight. A pretty good day on the planet.

It was a small set of kids and teachers today with only four kids and three aides, with two of the kids with learning differences. Michael, though, continues to amaze me with the stuff he remembers from the last two sessions, though his attention span is quite limited. Dominick still struggles with any kind of attention.

I limited the bag to specific instruments today, bringing out maracas, tambourines, scarves at separate times, and that helped quite a bit with these kids. The scarves are particularly expansive. We danced with them, spelled out our names, tossed them at particular points and did a scarf soup. With the group forming a circle waving the scarves in the center, we picked out vegetables with same colors and added them into the mix: purple/eggplant, orange/carrots, blue/blueberries (!), green/broccoli, yellow/squash, etc. Both the aides and the kids had a good time with it, and it seems to be a keeper for younger kids. Always exploring, always learning.

This is the third year I’ve been ‘donated’ to Urban Promise camps in downtown Trenton, thanks to AIR (Artists in Residency), an arts-education group in Bucks County. I visit three day camp centers, usually over three separate days. Today, I was prepared for two sets in the morning at Trinity, and one set at St. Mike’s. I was surprised when I found out it was two sets at both places. This is going to be a long day….

These are essentially all inner-city black kids and counsellors. I am concerned with dealing with black culture as an older white hippy with a guitar. But, as always, once I’m in the space, we are cool. Still, it is very intense work.

I have developed some good ways to engage, somewhat different material, but lots of goofing around, bag of instruments, and gauged for the different age groups. The older kids are harder to convince, but there are always boys and girls who are ready to join in. I work them hard.

I also try to rope in the ‘sitouts’ with the Thunder Tube, and having active counselors makes all the difference.

The first two sets were in The Crypt, one of the more amazing rooms I’ve ever played it. It’s been an inspiration I use to gather attention, right off the bat, with the echo of “Whoo” in Peanut Butter. It forces everyone to act together and then remain silent to experience the sound. Zen, for sure. Both sets were pretty cool.

Off to St. Marks.

St. Marks was only a mile and a half away, so I took the chance to park under a tree and do some TM before the next two sets. It’s a good thing to do today.

This space was more spartan, a fellowship hall with limited air-conditioning and some loud fans. I settled in with the older kids first and the youngun’s next, and most of us made to the end of each set. All the kids were polite and respectful but still somewhat reserved, while other kids launched right in. I have to try to engage each kid somehow. It is intense work, and today gave me four sessions to work on what I do.

It’s good work.

The afternoon’s session was my second with the Summer Slide kids at Marvine. As this program develops, the directors are beginning to figure out the system as well as some of the capabilities of the students, some of whom have issues. On my attendance sheet, several kids were noted for slight autism, behavioral problems, etc. so it was nice to have that information up front so I can deal with it. Actually Michael, the boy with some autistic tendencies, was surprisingly engaged, remembered things from my visit two weeks ago, and was a real pleasure to work with. I felt good about complimenting him on his efforts. These are only K, 1st and 2nd graders and the intellectual differences are noticeable.

We had some nice explorations together, adding some verses to She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain and the Bear Hunt. Some good dancing, instrument playing and spontaneity. A good session.