Author: Campbell, Bruce

Kids Need Places to Listen, Watch and Play

Last weekend, Cassy and I volunteered to watch our granddaughters. My daughter and son-in-law may think they tricked us into watching them, but I think everybody won in this deal. They got to have a night out with adults, and we got to enjoy the company of two wonderful little girls. Naturally, our first order of business was to let them see some quality live music.

Martinez is a good town for live music, but on a Friday afternoon, the only deal in town is the Happy Hour and a Half at Armandoís nightclub. Great room, excellent sound, nice stages and lights - itís an environment where artists can really put their talents forth.

Only one problem: Armandoís is a 21-and-older establishment. Fortunately, it being late afternoon, and Martinez being a small town where folks donít let rules intrude toomuch, the proprietor was OK with the little girls coming in so long as we stayed behind a little raised balcony area. As it turned out, it was a perfect spot.

The girls, who are pretty used to seeing their grandad perform, really enjoyed the live music. So much for the brief attention spans for modern youth - they were transfixed. After about an hour we left, and they had lots of questions about why the singers moved their mouths in certain ways and other arcana that only pre-teens could come up with.

I got to thinking, the choices for quality live music, presented in a professional manner, are fairly limited for the 10-and under crowd. There are kiddie shows, like the Disney on Ice spectacles and the like, but they are so large, it lacks intimacy. There are much smaller kiddie shows (Iíve performed many of these at schools), but those are typically presented with a much starker production value.

Most all kids really enjoy music, and one of the best ways to encourage that interest is to expose them to really quality quality music on a stage in a small neighborhood venue. More and more, I see coffee shops that have stages and lights set up. I know they make their best money with an evening show, but why not also feature some local talent in the late afternoon, and encourage parents to bring their kids.

Also, as those kids grow up, some will decide to play music, and there needs to be places where budding performers can watch their peers, meet other musicians, and hone their stagecraft. Itís tougher to provide a place where young rockers can mount an equipment-heavy, high volume show, but dozens of venues can accommodate a more ďunpluggedĒ style of performance. IN Walnut Creek, thereís a place called The Red House, that offers both.

When I was a high-school age musician, we got rock and roll gigs at dances, but I donít think any of my kids had live music at their dances. How many kids took up music and then let it go when it seemed like there was no place to enjoy a community of other musicians and music fans?

The CBA does a great job of encouraging musicians from a very young age, but those efforts need to supplemented by places to play in their local areas. Kudos to those local proprietors who have used their imagination to make this a reality for young musicians.

Posted:  12/4/2013

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