November 5, 2017
Practice Makes Perfect (or at least a little bit better)
Last month, I was walking with Mark Hynes in New York City. Mark is the tenor saxophone player for the Duke Ellington Orchestra, and he is a side-man with some of the best musicians in the world. We were talking about music when a young woman stopped us and asked “do you know how to get to Carnegie Hall?” Mark pointed down the street and said “go past Broadway and take a left on 7th. It will be on the next block.”
Since Mark practices his instrument more than anybody I’ve ever met, he should have known that the correct answer to that question is “practice is how you get to Carnegie Hall.” Mark can really play. And since I’m lucky enough to be his cousin, I have leveraged our shared Catholic up-bringing to guilt him into jamming on songs about space aliens and itty bitty monsters. Mark and I performed for several hundred children at the Brooklyn Public Library last month. And, boy, did he sound good.
He sounded so good that I was inspired to practice. For me, practice means 20 minutes on my instrument per day. It’s not much. And I must admit that practice hasn’t ever made my playing perfect. But at least practice makes me a little bit better.
March 21, 2017
Zar and the Broken Spaceship just got a shout-out from Kids Rhythm and Rock. We tested Zar at library story-times because, despite my years of experience working with children, I am still occasionally surprised by what garners a strong reaction from four-year-olds. As a result, the edits made a big difference for group presentations.
Here’s a snippet from the article:
“One of the librarians who works with me has been using this book in her preschool visits this winter. The fun, interactive aspects of the story have made it such a hit with the preschoolers that it quickly became the finale of each story time.”
Here’s the link to the full article.
February 13, 2017
This is a busy month. There aren’t any public shows, but I am performing my outer space science show, “The Milky Way, Moons, and Meteorites” for the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. I’m flying to New York City for the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators conference. And I am visiting one of my favorite preschools, St. Peter’s Early Childhood Learning Center in Kansas City, Missouri.
I visit a lot of preschools, but St. Peter’s is one that I particularly look forward to. Last year the teachers began a new tradition. The 8th graders were asked to join our audience and sit with the preschool classes. The four-year-olds had a wonderful time while unwittingly giving the thirteen year olds permission to be little kids again. And the teens took full advantage of it in the best way possible: helping the preschoolers count on their fingers, fixing Zar’s spaceship, handing out imaginary high-five pizzas, and even puppeteering a story about little monsters under the bed.
Building bonds is especially powerful during adolescence. We are at our most vulnerable as hormones change our bodies and intensify our feelings. St. Peter’s is excellent at creating community and fostering a safe environment that allows their students to connect in constructive ways across age groups. Win-Win!!!