Monday was well spent at YANJ’s headquarters near Princeton, NJ. These are training sessions in early childhood education. The morning session featured Ed Greene (www.pyramidprinciples,com) who’s been doing this for a long time. Great info on the spectrum of learning abilities from 2-yr. olds through 5-yr olds. We also got to hear from two ladies who run a Pre-K center in Newark – boots on the ground, as they say.

The afternoon session was play time for the artists – Miss Tree, a wood-sculptor and teaching artist. She modeled her five-day residency, working with the kids and, importantly, the teachers. Very similar to the PASELA experience I participated in last year. All kinds of wood: blocks, twigs, bark, tree limbs, knobs, etc. The best thing to come out of the session was mixing it up with the other artists. A nice community, indeed. Oh, and they fed us!

We hit the stage in Hudson County, NJ this morning. We don’t get into this area too much, though I know I pass through there all the time (ah, 95…) It was a joy to see the special-needs kids just get up and boogie. All in all, another great group of kids and teachers.

I played for an assembly and family night concert this last Friday. Albany Township (100 kids) bussed on over to Greenwich school north of Kutztown, PA. The last time I played there, there was no stage. But we did it up in style. I did pick on the dads at the family night, but how often do they get to sing and dance? Oh, well. Thems that did, did. Rock on, Dad!

What a time it was! We put in long day in Moorestown for 4th, 5th and 6th graders, crack o’ dawn shows at 8:15 and 9:15 am and then a long haul til 1:45 pm. Phew. But good shows, with some very talented signers on hand, interpreting the show for hearing-impaired. We learned what “punk” is. Cool.

I’m constantly amazed by Donnie, Nick and Kevin who consistently play with great professionalism, joy and fun, regardless of the time or situation that we have to deal with. The lads continue to seize the moment and play like they mean it. And it doesn’t go unnoticed, as the principal remarked, “It seems fresh each set.” And it is!

RockRoots got to roll through the home of Count Basie today – Red Bank, NJ – into neighboring Fair Haven for two show with the middle school. The principal was crooning Somewhere Over the Rainbow as we entered, and it is now stuck in my mind. Thanks…. As always, the lads stepped (Donnie gets 3 hours sleep for Thursday gigs – he has a blues/jazz jam at The Raven’s Nest every Wednesday, outside of Quakertown, PA). Amazing how playing music makes it all possible, even if sleep-deprived.

I had the pleasure to play for a wonderful school for the gifted in Elizabeth, NJ on Thursday. These kids (pre-K to 3rd grade) were into it, and we had a great time. Did you ever see a flamingo playing bingo? A good way to start off my ’08 school season.

Nor’easter coming in on Sunday. Stay warm.

Twas a bitter cold night that brought out the CT openmikers in Middletown. Kent played his new OJ song again, Ted tinkled on the piano, Rick got mellow, Stan spanked the guitar, Train Wreck left on an airplane and Ron played C, F, G over and over again. Good though.

A three-sweat day on Monday….

The Banana Factory kicked off the day at 1:00 with a fairly loopy crowd, instigated by two loopy fans. A giggle fest, three NJ women, the big sister from Easton (I’m gonna tell..), and good families.

I then hit the stage at Godfrey’s at 3 pm, no sound system, a lot of up and down and clownin’ around. A very wee child to my left was full of joy, and proceeded to attack the stage. Again, a full house of kids, families and curious adults. I love it.

I had the luxury of playing the same stage later, as I sat in with my friend Joey Mutis, aka The Electric Farm. Joey and I shared a capo, several songs, and I got to see first hand Joey work his crowd. They did more singing than he did. Cool.

I followed up with two sets of my own, and these nights are special. Again, a very mixed bag o’ folks, so I sprinkled in some of the kids’ stuff like Shark and Peanut Butter, cause that stuff is simply great theater, regardless of audience. But I also got to stretch on some fun stuff for me from my folkie bag: Miss. John Hurt, Bo Diddley, swing, Celtic, etc. I pulled out my fabulous Waldzither again (only for special occasions), and plunked the mandolin. It’s a real treat to spend two sets with friends. It’s rare and wonderful, and the best way for me to celebrate the New Year! Thanks to you all.

I have a traditional visit to Culbertson ES in Newtown, PA for the last day of school before Christmas vacation. The principal, Tom Cook, insists on my assembly – actually I open for the teachers – and he told me it’s been 18 years, now. Phew…. Christmas sweaters and teachers. Tis the season.

Last Friday night was a treat. The folks in Thomaston, CT had their open mike at the Thomaston Opera House. Normally, they hold it in one of the smaller rooms, but Friday night was in the Opera Hall itself. Magnificent. I asked if there were ghosts, and someone chirped up that there was one. Ooh…

Anyway, I was playing my mandolin – of course, into the sound system, when I wanted to hear the room itself, so I got up from the mike and walked to the front of the stage and continued to play. You know, that small instrument filled the hall, or the hall shrunk down to the mandolin’s size. It was a powerful experience to play in that space. Wonderful!

A good way to finish out the 2007 RockRoots schedule – at West Amwell ES in NJ, a K thru 6th grade school.  the teachers and kids boogied, and it was an all-around good time.  A beautiful slice of NJ.

The pre-Christmas tour rolls on with a visit to 123 Grow With Me, my anchor in my old home town, Madison, CT.  These folks always welcome me with joy, and it was especially gratifying to see the two and three-year olds up and boogying.

Tueday found me in Alpha, NJ at the Alpha Public School for a holiday show.  It dawned on me that these are the hardest gigs I do: K through 8th grade schools.  It's as wide a cultural divide that there is.  But it works.  The older kids come back to being kids, the teachers provide the glue, and the school celebrates being a community.  Thanks to the older kids for showing the way for the little kids.  We had a ball.
 

I wrapped up my annual Daniel Boone school tour in style. I dodged the ice storm yesterday to get in both show for the Amity 2 – 5 graders, and, as the weather cleared, made it smooth sailing for today. the morning was spent at my favorite kindergarten center at Monacasy. I’ve been playing for these kids in this small center for years, and always features “Nice Dog”, the school mascot. He was a hit again. The teachers had a feast laid out for lunch, including two chocolate/marshmallow desserts. Phew! The Center is closing down next year and I will sorely miss the place.

The afternoon was for the Amity K-2nd grade school. Opposite end of the spectrum – ~400 kids, but it lent itself to the “Dance Concert” concept. We had great time a-reeling and a-rocking!

Monocasy School also gave me a Dave Fry Daniel Boone 2007 Tour T-Shirt. How cool is that?

Since I had a down-day in Bethlehem today, I dropped in on “my kids” down the street at Holy Infancy. My PASELA kids are now 1st graders, but I’ve developed relations with the new Pre-K and K classes. We sang some of the old favorites, and I was serenaded by them with some of their Christmas songs. Always a delight and nice to experience their spontaneity again. Off to Amity tomorrow for a day and evening of song.

I had my first session on Tuesday with Young Audiences of NJ and its Creative Beginnings program. It’s aimed at early childhood child-centered arts activities, and an emphasis on enabling teachers to use their own creative capabilities. I’ll be working with other experts in the field as well as other artists, poets, musicians, theater folks, etc., similar to what I’ve done with PASELA. A good start.

I had the pleasure of attending and playing two songs at the Lehigh Valley Music Awards on Monday in Hellertown. I’ve always enjoyed checking out my fellow LV musicians and friends, recalling old barroom warstories, and listening to some new music (at least for my ears). This was the best run one of these things yet, thanks to Ian Bruce, the Meadows and Steve Walker, who managed sound for the evening.

I got to hear some new music from young(er) folks, Brittany Ann is wonderful new songwriter from Bethlehem, Dave Cahill channeled Django, good blues from Mike Dugan, a couple of crisp oldies bands, and cool Allman Bros. group The Mississippi Pig Farmers. Cool.

I was honored, along with Mike, Steve Brosky, Jake Kaligas, Tommy Zito for Twenty Years of Music to the LV. (Twenty? That’s revisionist history.) I used my walker to get to the stage….

Godfrey’s won Best Open Mike – along with the King of Open Mike’s, Phil Stahl.

Godfrey’s won the Musicians Choice – Best Venue, This one is special since it’s voted on by the Lehigh Valley Musicians, all who recognize the great audience, sound and hospitality that makes Godfrey’s such great play to experience live music. Thanks to you all.

Back to working on Christmas songs…. I have to relearn ’em every year.

Good to be back home. I’ve spend a good deal of time driving lately, but found a great podcast to keep me in a good frame of mind. Utah Phillips is now laying down ~17 minute reflections upon occasion and can be found on Itunes. Utah is one of the great voices in folk music, recognizing how important “sub-industrial” music is to our culture. Bruce comes from the union side of things, is quite the historian, and a gifted storyteller. He also speaks from the heart.

The Golden Voice of the Great Southwest, as he goes by, has been a tremendous influence in what I do, having seen him perform at Cafe Lena’s, just as I was discovering this lively (and live) art in the late 60’s. He began to play Godfrey’s in the late 70’s, along with sidekick Rosalie Sorrels, and that was a dream come true. A consummate rascal and raconteur who cared about the club and its folk music audience.

Utah has curtailed his live performances due to heart problems, but has taken upon himself to report in from Nevada City, CA, via the internet, and his sessions are pithy, funny and instructive, and its great to hear his wise words as well. Check it out. www.utahphillips.org/

A marvelous RR in NJ – no travel problems – and the music teacher Mr. Bond sat in on trumpet. He played on Charlie Stone and literally blew us, the kids and his fellow teachers out of the water. Phew! There’s a a lot of music teachers who have mighty chops and often don’t get to “show off” for the kids. thanks, Mr. Bond!

Of to the Lehigh Valley Music Awards in Hellertown tonight and I will catch up with some of my friends in the biz, play a song and hear some new folks as well. I’ll check in tomorrow with the details.

Crack o’ dawn again… 5:30 am start, but it was worth it with two energetic sets for the 5th and 6th grades at Grant School. Good show, lads. Back to CT on Wednesday.

We had the pleasure to play for the primary kids (pre-K thru 3rd grade) in Dutch Neck, NJ. It’s really neat to play for relatively young kids – though they may not be able to immediately reference the styles and influences we cover, the overall message gets out: there’s a lot of great music out there, and, perhaps more importantly, live music is wonderful. That’s why I love playing with Don, Nick and Kevin. The lads and I love LIVE music, and it shows.