“Hey everyone! Show me your arm!” said Mike Messer to a sea of kids. “Now wave it!” The tots happily complied, then wiggled all their parts to songs about love, bugs, underwater treasure and a pungent place called Cheeseworld.
During a crystal-clear Friday morning, May 18th, hundreds of children rocked out with their parents to a free concert at McGolrick Park. Organized by community group Town Square and the Greenpoint Y, the event featured TreesNY’s Mrs. Crabapple, a cranky tree-hating puppet who learned the importance of the environment, and Messer, lead singer of the Dirty Sock Funtime Band, a hugely popular children’s music group based in New York. Messer was a human jukebox, performing classic songs by the Beatles and Paul Simon as well as debuting tunes from the second upcoming Dirty Sock album Dirty Socks Come Clean. Though geared towards younger listeners, the music was highly melodic and full of clever chords designed to take root in developing ears. “People in the children’s music genre don’t want to dumb down the music,” said the ambitious singer-songwriter. “I want to offer different tonalities to the ear that they might not hear on the radio. When I heard [guitar virtuoso] Steve Vai’s music as a kid, that made a huge impression on me. There’s tremendous value in offering another way of looking at things to a developing mind.”
Messer grew up in Rockland County listening to the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Randy Newman, Frank Zappa and the Police. At the age of 6, he and his brother Ron built their own toy guitars and performed as the Star Brothers. Since then, Messer has traveled the globe as an actor and a musician, touring in musicals, playing guitar with Big Bird on Sesame Street and singing with one of his idols, Billy Preston. Although Messer initially struggled with juggling his two careers, children’s music has always been a natural fit. “It doesn’t adhere to any genre,” he explained. “[The band] does rock because we’re very theatrical and it’s got a certain energy that brings kids to their feet.”
That was certainly music to the ears of the Greenpoint Y, which has long focused on early health development. “This is a very artistic community, so bringing in a musician was right up our alley,” said Tammea Tyler, Senior Director of Youth and Family. “It’s even more fantastic that we a performer who can get them up and moving, which goes with the Y’s youth fitness goals.”
The Greenpoint Y brought students from its early childhood classes while P.S. 34 marched in kindergarteners and first graders from across the street. “Everybody walked!” said Town Square Chairperson Anderson. “We like offering local field trips to our schools and institutions. We wanted to bring more exposure to McGolrick, and we especially wanted to work with the McGolrick Park Schools Alliance, a great park group which, we hope, will ultimately have stewardship of McGolrick.”
The McGolrick Park Schools Alliance, a collaboration of parents and kids from P.S. 34, St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Academy and P.S. 110, has already acquired an excellent reputation among fellow community groups since its creation five months ago. Following the show, Alliance member Holly Fairall, who helped secure Messer as a performer, led a tree stewardship project with P.S. 34’s Young Environmentalists Club, teaching Greenpoint’s youngest gardeners how to clean out garbage, put down fresh mulch, aeroate soil, and what harms urban trees. The Alliance also sponsored a collective chalk drawing in the center of the park, covering the ground with pastel-colored flowers.
Parents who could not make the event, however, need not fret. Three more children’s concerts in Greenpoint parks are scheduled on Fridays this summer. The next takes place at Copper Park on June 15th and will feature the return of Mrs. Crabapple as well as the groovy CoCreative Music Experience of Jon Samson (The rain venue is School Settlement Association at 120 Jackson Street.) This will be followed by shows at American Playground on July 20th and McCarren Park on August 17th.
For more information, visit :www.townsquareinc.com”:http://www.townsquareinc.com/ or call (349) 559 – 1410. You can also learn more about Greenpoint Y events at www.ymcanyc.org/greenpoint.
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