I had a wonderful time in Topton, PA today, back in my old haunts in the hills of Macungie, Longswamp, Mertztown, Kutztown, Siesholtzville, Rockville, Lyons. I played for the K-4th grades and we all worked up a sweat. Thanks, folks! Back to CT tomorrow morning – crack o’ dawn….

I had an inspiring Saturday at an Arts Education seminar in Middletown, CT, sponsored by Young Audiences of CT, on “The Art of Inclusion”. Centered on reaching children with disabilities, myself and a group of artists explored the latest in brain research in how the brain is wired in early childhood. Amazing! It seems most of the optimum windows of learning for speech, basic motor skills, vision, vocabulary, etc. happen early on, and that the arts play a great part in reinforcing them. Powerful stuff.

The past two nights have been some good get-togethers with some of my CT performers at two open mikes here in CT – Peaberry’s in Simsbury and at the Buttonwood in Middletown. A good crowd at Peaberry’s (I’ll be there the first Saturday of October) and I got to meet Sour Grapes, a husband/wife quasi-jug band. The lady played a boom-pah with a crutch as its base – very cool. We had a nice discussion about the boom-pah, or devil’s fiddle, as it’s called back in PA. Good time had by all. The Buttonwood was a small crowd, but inhabited by some of the same folks that were at Peaberry’s the night before. Do any of us have a life?

Off to the Farmers’ Market on the green in Madison today. I look forward to playing more than two songs….

It was a hot and sweaty day in Kent, NY, as I helped open up this hamlet’s community day on Sunday. I encountered a young blond kid who used every chance to get on mike to sing “Leaving on a Jet Plane”. The power of the microphone! Back to CT…..

I’ve been doing some work on my computer to process some great pix passed on to me by some very creative kids. I’m in the process of putting these pictures into a workable form and will be making some of this great kids’ art available. Stay tuned.

Another rousing session at one of my favorite gigs (yes, another one…) on Third Street on the SouthSide of Bethlehem – First Friday. Interpretive dance, laugh-out-loud toddlers, and mighty fine chocolate.

As I set up in the afternoon, Brian greeted me with chocolate-soaked gloves – how cool a job is that?! Well, we’re in the same boat – folks who decided to work for ourselves. Yes, there are moments when we both wonder what the heck are we doing? Well, ya gotta do what ya have to do….

A wonderful moment with a dancing toddler, simply starting to dance (how come the adults aren’t ?) and then bursting into laughter. It caught fire. Yes, adults, kids, and myself, couldn’t help but chuckle out loud. A woman came up afterwards and said, “It’s a gift from God to make children laugh.”

Yes, it is. And it still is all of us, if allowed to bloom. Sometimes you have to let the children lead: dance, laugh, sing and be ourselves. I’m a lucky guy, to be able to experience it so often.

As the summer comes to a close, we did it in style at the East Wharf Gazebo in Madison. Another beautiful evening on the beach. Thanks to all who came out this summer for these wonderful family events, and to Austin Hall of the Beach and Recreation Dept. and his new daughter, Grace, who made her appearance tonight. So many familiar faces and so many Madison friends! I hope y’all can make it out to my next Madison gig on Sept. 14th on the Green for the Farmers’ Market.

I’ll be making up the missed August gig on Dec. 8th when I gig with Santa Claus at the Surf Club. Stay tuned!

It was my pleasure to attend for the third year Will Tressler’s annual picking party in Easton, CT. On their rambling CT farm, Will, his wife Katie and his family have been throwing this hoot for 44 years, drawing pickers and grinners and folkies in a rarefied opportunity to celebrate music. Groups like the Ash Creek String Band, the Pulpit Rock Rounders, the Easton Banjo Band, the Walking Wood Mandolin Quartet and Will’s own band The Jackson Pike Skifflers. Bluegrassers jamming here, Irish tin whistlers over there, .

The Tressler’s barn is a great venue, stage and sound, tables and folk music in front of a listening audience. I got to play three songs early on, and then I settle in to take it all in.

Last year, Pete Seeger showed up and played; what a great surprise and I got Pete to sign my banjo. This event makes my summer and epitomizes all that’s good about Connecticut folk scene, and folk music in general.

Whoda thunk… that I’d be on the Toddler Tour at Pottery Barn for Kids. Today I was in Newark, Delaware. Packed house and a great crowd. Again, I do get the best seat in the house. Moms with babies, toddlers, pre-k, grandparents. Exposure to live, acoustic music is such a great thing, regardless of age, and it’s a privilege to introduce music to these new ears and minds. I come away surprisingly refreshed.

If you blinked, you missed my Musikfest appearance this year. A good, sweaty time was had by all. We passed around the fool’s hats and carried on under the tent. My friends from Kentucky drove up for their annual visit (hat’s off, folks), Dawn – PASELA partner was there (fellow honorary kid), and lots of friends and families from other far flung places. Seamus Kennedy knocked off a great family set before me, and stuck around for some of my set. It’s a special treat to play for Irish royalty.

Several great moments – lots of kids on stage. and a banjo-failure. Hmmm.

One girl had a new Knock-knock one that I loved for some reason..
Knock, knock. Who’s there? Orange. Orange who? Orange you glad I didn’t say Rock and Roll? I’m still chewing on that one.

My friends, Dave and Terry did sound, and it’s fun to have nice equipment to play with – first of all, I didn’t have to set it up, and, second, I could concentrate on the audience. Thanks, guys…

Sunday’s gig was in Westchester, PA for Moms of Multiples – twins, twins, twins everywhere, with some fraternal duos as well (brother/sister). I had the best seat in the house, watching and comparing the look-a-likes. Fascinating!

Back to CT, crack o’dawn to play at Bright Horizons day care in Orange. Again, lots of fun for all.

Truly one of the gems of CT in Old Lyme, the Florence Griswold Museum is a world-class museum of American Impressionism, where Florence had a boarding house of artists who congregated, painted out in nature and shared a new revolutionary way of painting. There’s a modern museum facility, and Florence’s house is chock full of the works of her boarders, including paintings in the panels of the doors and kitchen/dining room.

I played two sets under the shade of a giant tree, and we had a ball. Old Lyme was swamped with art lovers all over town and it was a hot, humid day. Ah, July!

RockRoots had the privilege and pleasure to play for the good folks, kids and teachers, near Atlantic City today. It’s a time to reflect on the power of music; it’s an awesome device that creates community and positive energy in our world. My thanks to the guys in the band who continue to reach out to every audience we play for.

“I love your music and I would love to meet you in real life. I have 2 CD’s of yours. I have “Peanut Butter and Jelly”. That one kind of got scratched because I listened to it all the time. My CD player always ran out of batteries because I had your CD in there 24/7. I also have “Shake It”. That one I keep safe and I only use it when I clean my room. I don’t want that one to get scratched too bad.”

Nice to know my music is being used productively. I’m replacing the Peanut Butter CD for her. I’ve never considered myself 24/7 before. No wonder I’m tired at the end of the day.

Another beautiful day to play! This time it was in a park grove in Trumball, CT, part of a regular noon time Tuesday family concert series. Last year it was rainy, and a “select” audience showed up. Today, my goodness, we had a crowd. I did it au plen aire, a mangled French expression for “out in the air”, no sound system (oops), but the kids gathered around and we had a ball. Unplugged.

Interestingly enough, I had my bag of rhythm instruments out, and I said, “Come up and pick up an instrument.” Well, for the first time, a little girl went right for my 1920’s mandolin. Whoa! Oh, well, that’s what I said, and I should always watch what I say around kids…. But you know that.

Off to Annapolis, crack o’dawn….

We attended your concert tonight in Pen Argyl, PA and I wanted to tell you how wonderful it was to see you perform. Your enthusiasm and energy was unbelievable and you really connected with your audience. When my friends suggested we come to the concert with them, we had no idea what we were getting into… but once we got there, it was great! We are now planning to come and see you at Musikfest in August too.. and we are bringing some more people with us!

I also wanted to thank you for spending some time with us after the concert was over and singing with the kids. I must say.. you MADE their day!! Before we even left for the concert the kids were talking about it… but then it continued all night long!! As a teacher, I understand that sometimes you just want to go home… but I also understand what it is like to touch the hearts and minds of kids. Thanks again for being so wonderful to them!

Thanks for the kind words, Debbie.

Just drove back to Bethlehem, with a fabulous July sundown. I just played in Pen Argyl, PA on an old-fashioned clam-shell stage in a small town park. The old folks come and park their chairs, in the back – it’s safer there. The families spread blankets and old friends come out of the woodwork.

So, there I was, mixing it up for the assembled scene, when this guy and his wife and two kids pull up on one of the benches near the front. I thought to myself – that looks like John Gorka – but nah…what’s he doing in deepest, darkest Pennsylvania? So, I go on, and, as I do so often, I break a string, do a few more songs and take a break to repair the damage. (I have to say, the old guitar did remarkably well as a five string guitar…)

It was John, my old buddy and folk legend… His mom lives two blocks away, and they were in town visiting and saw my name on the park sign. I played “Branching Out” for the crowd, embarrassed him (not really). Looks like I’ll have to check on if I did it right, and re-learn it from my CD.

Simply a wonderful night, playing music in a park on a Sunday with old and new friends.

Busy week ahead in CT, MD, NJ and CT.

I just spent two intense and exciting days in Philly as part of an artistic/musical panel for PennPAT, a wonderful Pennsylvania resource for touring aritists (one I was lucky enough to be part of when I lived there). The panel listened to ~75 acts, reviewed promo, and decided on who would be added to the state roster. Classical, folk, jazz, world, and many interesting niches therein.

The panel included Larry Ridley, who toured on bass with Monk for 10 years (imagine how he hears music?!), Gabrielle Goodman, jazz vocalist from MA, Anthony Kelley, Duke professor of composition, and Vanessa Whang, arts consultant and musician from NYC. It was really neat to discuss musical excellence amongst these folks. It’s nice to be invited up to the White Tower every once in a while.

Thanks to PennPAT and Katie West for putting us to work – and feeding us. The chocolate brownies were really, really good!

I traveled to Port Chester for a recreation dept. gig in the Kings St. Park. Great kids and fun counselors. It’s so important that the counselors participate and have fun. Often, the teens don’t loosen up, and the little kids see that and react similarly. These counselors had it down, and a party happened.

I then headed back to Madison for a return trip to Strong House – an elder facility I’ve been to a couple of times. I took my bag o’ shakers – a trick I picked up from my toddlers’ experience – and it was was really good. It kept the folks in the game, and we had a hoot! Looks like I’ll be back regularly, and they’re working on a grant for music and Alzheimer’s, so I hope to expand my understanding of this powerful thing called music. Always curious…..

After playing Saucon Valley Country Club on the Fourth, I passed by the Sleepy Hollow Graveyard and on to Croton on Hudson for a day camp gig. Hot and sweaty!