School of Rock
In the 30+ years that I’ve been playing music professionally, I’ve been lucky to have many incredible experiences performing all around the world. There are lots of variables that go into creating a great show: the venue, the crowd, the sound, and of course, the rapport with other musicians. It’s a rare occasion when everything comes together, but when those magical moments happen it’s powerful for everyone fortunate enough to be in the band or in the audience.
Recently, in New York City, I played a concert that immediately found a spot high on the list of my all-time favorite gigs. The sold-out show was at a great theater (Symphony Space) on Broadway and my backing band was a group of phenomenal children. The kids who played with me are the stars of the hit Broadway musical “School of Rock.”
In many ways, working with Brandon, Evie, Dante and Ethan was similar to rehearsing and performing with grown-up pros. I sent them mp3’s and chord charts of the songs before we met, and they showed up prepared having done their homework. We had one short rehearsal and then played the show.
The difference had everything to do with their astonishing musicianship, their creative curiosity and their composure on stage. Like everyone else in the theater, I walked out feeling inspired by what I had just heard and witnessed.
It’s hard to imagine just how impactful it is for children to see the “School of Rock” children on stage. No matter what we want to be when we grow up, we all need role models. It’s particularly true in the arts in a society like ours that does very little to foster the idea that committing your life to an artistic pursuit is a worthwhile or valuable pursuit.
Reflecting back on the experience, I couldn’t help contrast where I was as a musician at their age. I started taking guitar lessons when I was nine years old–just a little younger than the kids I performed with at Symphony Space and it was years before I had any technical mastery over my instrument. I can’t imagine how blown away I would have been to see kids a little older than me sounding and looking like fully formed artists.
Happily, I just learned that I’ll be getting a second chance to perform with these remarkable kids this July at SummerStage in Central Park. It’s going to be a free concert and I’m told there will be 3000-4000 people in the audience. If you’re a kid who wants to be a musician, I hope to see you there.
Having said that, I know some incredibly talented young musicians right here in the Valley and I’ll be performing with them at the Green River Festival, also in July. Inspiration is a two-way street, and I’m thrilled to be getting so much these days from the next generation of great musicians.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
A 2015 Latin Grammy Award winner, two time Parents’ Choice Gold Award winner, Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children. Calling western Massachusetts home, Mister G is one of the leading figures in the children’s music world. www.mistergsongs.com.