Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday. I would begin planning my costume for the next year on Nov. 1st. It's a bit different being on the adult end; dealing with the kids on a sugar high (or subsequent low), managing costumes that include weapons, calming children who are scared or over stimulated, and worrying about the neighborhood kids vandalizing your property. Despite all that, it hasn't lost any of the magic for me.

Today, I wanted to share some great Halloween ideas as well as some fun Halloween songs. These have all been passed down to me from my earliest memories of Halloweens past to my years in the classroom:

The Halloween Store:
There was a really great family I met my first year teaching. They had three girls between 2-6 years old, and the couple were both friendly and skilled parents. To combat the problem of bags full of candy rotting their kids' teeth and filling them with junk, they opened the Halloween Store. An exchange rate was worked out so that the girls could trade in pieces of candy for prizes like books, pencils, erasers, small toys and costume jewelry. (The parents admitted that at the end of the night, they wind up eating all the candy themselves).

The Ooky Spooky:
I have a vague memory of hearing someone sing this variation on the Hokey Pokey, but I can't remember who. Regardless, if you change the words "Hokey Pokey" to "Ooky Spooky," and pause after "that's what it's all about," for the kids to shout "BOO!" you've got the Ooky Spooky.

The Grand Old Spook of York:
The original, Grand Old Duke of York is one of my favorite action songs to sing with children. For this Halloween variation, I just substituted some of the words and imagine that the "Spook" is chasing us up and down the hill as you slowly speed up the tempo upon repeating.

The Grand Old Spook of York,
He had 10,000 men,
He scared them up to the top of the hill,
And scared them down again,
Oh when you're up you're up,
And when you're down you're down,
And when you're only halfway up, you're neither up nor down.
(They can also shout "BOO!" here too)

Witches' Brew
I remember my sister learning this song right at the age when I was getting too old for silly songs, so I couldn't remember the melody when I planned to add this song to my repertoire. Fortunately, my wife Tracey had sung it in church choir growing up, and helped me figure it out. Here's a link to Hap Palmer's own introduction, explanation and lyrics.

I've been having a great time singing this one with the kids, and hearing what they come up with to add to the brew.

Kid Quote of the day: "I'm going to be a white fairy-princess, but I'm keeping it a surprise." Amelie (age 3)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Exclusive Myspace Release

Dear fans and friends, I wanted to let all my loyal blog readers know about an exciting and exclusive music release on Myspace. In the interest of promoting In The Nick of Time's upcoming album (tentatively titled "The Many Faces of Mr. Nick"), I have uploaded two singles from the album to my Myspace page.

The first is my tribute to Johnny Cash and the Florida Everglades entitled, "Alligator Sally."

The second is my tribute to the Ramones called "Punk Rock Vowels."

I hope you all enjoy! I hope to finish up and release the album sometime in 2009. Until then, this should wet your appetites.

Kid Quote of the day: "Wow, Mr. Nick, your legs are really skinny! How do you stand up?" ~Ava (age 4)

Monday, October 20, 2008

Catch That Train...

Greetings fellow bathtub-singers! Today I am proud to announce Singing in the Bathtub's first concert review. Tracey and I were lucky enough to catch Dan Zanes and Friends at the gorgeous Adrienne Arsht Center in downtown Miami.

I missed his last visit to Miami, but I recall the kids showing up at school with T-shirts the next day. Dan Zanes made reference to this concert at the beginning of the this Sunday's show, and I tracked down a little YouTube clip which illustrates why:

There was no onstage, toddler moshpit at the end of his performance this time around, but there was a healthy crowd bopping along down in front or resting their chins on the edge of the stage.

I always love to see events at the Arscht Center (and the Knights Auditorium where Zanes et al. played). The buildings are beautiful inside and out. The stage and setting are great for everything from Comedy (we saw Kathy Griffin a few years ago), to Broadway (we caught "Celia" the biography of Celia Cruz on the first leg of it's tour), to Family Music like Zanes and Friends. Miami is a perfect local for Dan Zanes to debut music from his latest Spanish Language Album, "Nuevo York."

Tracey and I were up in the third tier balcony, but we were near the front and as a performer and live sound engineer it was a good vantage point to check out their set-up and see how they negotiated the sea of cables that keep everyone connected. By my mark, the group of multi-instrumentalists covered the Electric and Acoustic Guitars, String Bass, Banjo, Mandolin, Violin, Trumpet, Spoons, Recorder, Drums/Percussion, Accordion, Harmonica, Ukulele, Tin Whistle, Melodica and not to mention, everyone sang.

I have to admit, I was totally jealous of Zanes' amazing and dynamic band. It's a group effort in the truest sense of the word. Every performer had a chance to sing lead, the front line often swapped instruments between songs, and no one played just one instrument over the course of the show. Dan Zanes is the hipster-star of the show, but he gets by with a big help from his "Friends!"

I love to play the influences game, and I was sensing an ample blend of Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger, Norah Jones, The B-52's, and even a bit of Hendrix (towards the end, Zanes played his electric guitar behind his head a la Jimi). If Bill Harley sounds a bit like Steve Martin (when you close your eyes), Dan Zanes looks a bit like Martin and even has the banjo. Zanes presents a nice blend of Folk, Old Tyme, Rock n' Roll, Latin and Zydeco. Much like Pete Seeger, Zanes is a collector of traditional songs from around the globe. In this sense his, "Family Music" is just the newest branch on the old Folk Tree. 

Where a Dan Zanes and Friends show misses the mark in my opinion is in Zanes' onstage banter, which is directed almost entirely to the adults in the crowd. It's more of a missed opportunity. Zanes had the crowd right at the foot of the stage with their chins on the edge and yet he seemed to be addressing the balcony. Playing traditional, grown-up Folk music can also bring up some questionable themes (like the sinking of the Titanic, or debt collection in Pay Me My Money Down). I guess the same could be said for Ring Around the Rosie!

All in all it was a great show. I would rank Dan Zanes and Friends with some of the best live performances I have seen (Family Music or otherwise)! I love to see talented, energetic performers inspiring the very young with quality music. Don't miss them when they come to your town!

Kid Quote of the day: "I just saw Dan Zanes play! Who did you see?" ~anonymous boy in the elevator (age ~5)

Friday, October 10, 2008

The Mission

Recently, I've been fretting about my career, my personal goals and the direction my life as a musician and educator will take. Bogged down with the mundane, but very real concerns of these troubling times, I've allowed myself to loose sight of something fundamental: The Mission.

Why do I write these songs? Why do I labor to plan my lessons? Why do I spend the hours in traffic, or wear out my fingers playing the guitar for hours? It's not so I can make a name for myself (though I'd love to reach a wider audience). It's not to pay my mounting bills (for I could certainly choose a more lucrative field). It is in the service of children. 

I woke this morning to discover a wonderful documentary on A&E was being broadcast. It was an hour-long biography of Mr. Fred Rogers, and it came as a reminder to me of why I chose the path that has lead me here. His inspiration came from a sign engraved in the halls of his future wife's college dorm, "A Life is for Service." I hope that at the end of mine (as with his), that I can look back and feel that I have truly met this charge.

It is at times like these, when I face obstacles, sagging inspiration and general worry, that I look for powerful examples to show me the way. This small snippet from a US Senate hearing seems particularly appropriate:

I am touched by the way Mr. Rogers was able to melt the crusty shell of his disrespectful inquisitor. His words are as true today as they were when he delivered them, especially when you consider that this fight still continues to this day. As recently as 2006 year, PBS's funding has been in peril. It's a shame when politics allows us to loose sight of the true mission.

Concert Update:
This Sunday, The Arts Academy of Hollywood will be hosting the Health and Safety Showcase! I have been asked to be the M.C. on the main Harrison Street stage. My afterschool students will be giving a sneak-peak of their Halloween performance, and Tracey and I will be performing as In The Nick of Time! The event is from 1-5pm. It's free and should be a lot of fun.

Kid Quote of the Day: Here's a video response to Mr. Rogers' testimony that was posted on YouTube: ~ Lady Xeona (age 2)

Friday, October 3, 2008

I Met The Mayor!

Well, Funatstic Friday was a big hit! I set up in the newly refurbished Anniversary Park and played for a throng of kids and parents. They blocked off the entire street, set up a moon bouce, and hosted clowns, magicians, local venders and Yours Truly! This will be a bi-monthly event and I was invited back indefinitely (perhaps I can convince the city to pay me next time)! 

I did sell a few CD's and pass out a few cards, and hopefully reached a new audience outside of my school, The Arts Academy of Hollywood. Because I was the only one with a P.A. I was responsible for making announcements (and helping lost children reunite with they're folks). I did a lot of plugging for the venders, the city and for the movie that followed my set "Shark Boy and Lava Girl." I hope that the powers that be recognize my contribution!

On an exciting note, I did get to meet the Mayor of Hollywood, Peter Bober.

I have to admit that, at first, I thought he was an interested parent. He is very young, attractive and dynamic in person. He's the first public official to praise me for my work, and I don't take his endorsement lightly. I was also photographed for one of the local papers. Hopefully I'll get some press out of the deal. So that's the story for this evening. October is turning out to be a very busy month for me and In The Nick of Time. It's great to be back in the swing of things!

Kid Quote of the day: "You're almost as good as the Jonas Brothers," ~ Anonymous Fan

Thursday, October 2, 2008

11th Hour Gig Update (Literally!)

Greetings! I finally have word from the good folks at the City of Hollywood. I'll be performing at the Funtastic Friday Night event tomorrow evening (10/3) starting around 6pm. The gig is in the newly refurbished Anniversary Park, on the corner of 20th and Hollywood Blvd. I'll be followed by a 3-D showing of "Shark Boy and Lava Girl." I've heard mixed reviews about this flick, but I guarantee that the pre-show will be a winner!

Kid Quote of the Day: "George Bush invented guns, and guns are bad, so George Bush is bad!" ~ Jack (age 4)