Monday, May 25, 2009

Jiggle Jam 2009

So, did Jig
gle Jam live up to it's hype?? I may be a smidge biased, but...YOU BET! It absolutely rocked Kansas City.

The line-up alone was enough to blow a kid's Crocs off -- TMBG, Dan Zanes, Brady Rymer, Trout Fishing, Justin Roberts, Recess Monkey, Sugar Free All-Stars, and our local Kansas City musical family -- add in Crown Center's beautiful fest site, great weather, 25K smiling people, ecstatic children, smiling parents, some semi-healthy food choices, plenty of parking, and a place for kids to nap, and you've got the creation of the perfect musically-festive storm.

I'm still fumbling around in the fog of a pleasant post-jam coma. My muscles ache from dancing and hauling equipment. My spirit is swooning from all the good energy from the performers and the grateful families who stopped to say thanks. My voice is still raspy from singing and talking my throat off to everyone I saw. I must have effusively spewed "Thank you!" to a thousand people while smothering them with hugs.

We could not have pulled off this event without our dedicated board members and committee heads. And we had nearly 300 volunteers! They were checking tickets, hauling trash, dressing up like princesses, re-stocking water, and carrying strollers up and down the stairs.

Many thanks to all who made it happen and to all the families who supported this dream of
ours. I met people from throughout the Midwest, and from New York, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alabama, and California. I'm told folks traveled from about 15 different states. You all rock!

Let's do it again next year. In the meantime, I'm going to get a little rest.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Look out, Hannah Montana!

The diva-producing storm has been brewing for months. If anyone has watched our groovy girl Lyda perform recently, you've seen a budding young drama queen upstage her old man regularly. She's now the star of the show! Not that I mind at all -- it takes some of the pressure off me. It's just one of those things that a father gets misty about as he watches his little girl grow up.

Early on there were a few stage-left exits after our duets when she would bawl and say, "They're laughing at me!" But once she figured out that the audience wasn't laughing AT her, but WITH her, she started to milk it.

Now she struts and preens and curtsies and rolls her eyes with such starlet confidence that you can't help but laugh. And we all know it's cute because she's four -- we also know there will come
that devastating day when she realizes that it's not so cute. Thankfully we still have a few years.

You should have seen her in Hebron, Nebraska, last week! After the show she was swarmed by a mob of mostly middle-schoolers who wanted photos and autographs. On the way home she said breathlessly, "It was crazy. There were so many cameras, I didn't know which one to look at first."

Then reality bit. Our little shooting star experienced a heart-breaking and humbling descent this past week after we performed at a roller rink in Marshall, Missouri. No one asked her for an autograph! She wa
s incredulous. And when one girl asked her to scoot out of a picture with me (Lyda's always beside me in photos), she said to me with welling tears, "Daddy, you're more popular than me now."

I didn't have the heart to tell her this: That's the way it goes in show-biz, darlin'. One minute they love you, the next minute you're a clod.

I'm grateful for the love when it flows and have become quite comfortable playing the clod.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Stickin' together

Children are miracles. From their conception to their birth, through their development, to their insight and intuition. And the people who help them heal -- the docs, the nurses, the therapists -- perform miracles every day. If you don't see the hand of the creator in all of this, then you're just not looking.

A few days ago we visited the Via Christi Regional Medical Center in Wichita, Kansas. It's the very same place where Willa healed from her bonk on the head nearly two years ago and where Lyda came up with the song "Let's Stick Together."

I stopped in to visit with a girl on the PICU, a few doors down from where Willa spent four days hooked up to tubes and monitors. We sang and chatted and I was able to coax a smile from her even as she winced in pain. Then Jeni and the girls joined me in singing with some kids in the play room on the pediatric floor.

It was a tad bit emotional for us to be roaming those halls again, but mostly it was cathartic and uplifting. There is nothing like the smiles and giggles of kids who are healing to help put things in perspective.

The Children's Miracle Network arranged the visit and a show later that day at a nearby elementary. CMN was there for us when we thought we were all alone in a strange city. They became our family when ours were so far away. I did a benefit concert for CMN several years ago, but never imagined I would be on the receiving end of their generosity.

And the kids at OK Elementary raised the most money in the "Change is Good" promotion for CMN. They won a concert! It was the ultimate honor to be there. Thank you all for a great time and the privilege of paying it forward!


Tuesday, May 5, 2009

No good children's music?? StinkFest 2009

Please, I never want to hear anyone say -- ever again -- that there is no good children's music out there. I've heard it. I've seen it. And, occasionally, I produce some of it. (At least I'd like to think so.)

Jeni and I are just getting our legs back from a whirlwind trip to Brooklyn for StinkFest 2009. (What a perfect fest for an odoriferous guy like me.) I have lovingly referred to StinkFest (kindiefest from here on) as a gathering of the family music "mafia" -- that is the growing familia that is this beautifully diverse genre. They came from the west, from the east, from the south -- and we represented the heartland. We discussed athe business and swapped stories about gigs and shared leads about venues. And, man, the positive energy was jolting.

Despite what a few panelists said, there is not a "glut" of family music. An implied glut might scare off those who are just testing the waters and suggest that resources are scarce. I find the opposite to be true. There is plenty of work out there for all of us -- if you're willing to work it and play to small groups and if you're willing to share the love.

That's how we've created the scene we've got in Kansas City. We've made a conscious effort to create a real family where we share our success and where we don't always agree. And that's what we're on the brink of on a national level. The more we give away our knowledge, our leads, our "secrets" (there are really very few of those) -- then the more we work. And the more we all work the stronger we are as a whole. Audra said it best from the stage during her set, "Let's all be happy for each other's success."

No room here for disingenuous players. No reason for competition. And no excuse for anything less than doing what we do for the love of kids, the love of families, and the love of music. The success will naturally follow.

The love was flowing in Brooklyn. And if I took nothing else away, it is that this community will do great things when we stick together.