Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Twenty-one Days Until TEOTWAWKI - Building Community ... with Swag

On Day Nine of our journey toward TEOTWAWKI my family participated in a community summer festival. 

Many years ago, we enrolled our daughters in private music lessons that were offered by a local teacher through an educational non-profit whose mission was to bring Arts and Science to the community.  They were predominately focused on afterschool enrichment classes and camps, but they also offered classes to homeschoolers, like us, during the day when other children were in school.

As homeschoolers we have always looked for activities, classes, and field trip opportunities.  So, when I found this organization, and it was just a hop and a skip from our house, I jumped on the chance.

When we got there, we discovered that several of the teachers AND one of the Directors were also homeschoolers.  It was a win all the way around.

There were a lot of choices for classes for all ages.  Initially, we enrolled Precious and Big Little Sister in the six-week afterschool program.  Precious was in an art class.  Big Little Sister was in a physics class.  The previous Christmas, Little Fire Faery had received a violin, and so we signed her up with the violin teacher for lessons. 

After a few lessons, I chatted with our new violin teacher about other string instruments.  See, on that same Christmas, all three girls had received instruments.  Big Little Sister had a guitar.  Precious had a ukulele.  I asked Little Fire Faery's teacher if he could also teach those instruments.  He said he could. 

And so our years' long relationship with Andy Happel began.  What we didn't know when we first signed up for lessons is that Andy is a former rock star ... like, literally.  He was the front man for a 1990s band called Thanks to Gravity that was part of the happening music scene in Portsmouth, NH, and his band was featured in the documentary In Danger of Being Discovered.

Andy isn't *just* a teacher, though.  He is also a musician, a composer, and a music producer.   He was a soloist for the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra, was the opening act for superstars like Dave Matthews, has played at *the* Carnegie Hall, was nominated for a Grammy, traveled the world as a music producer for organizations like PARMA, and composed, performed and produced several solo albums of his own. 

Andy's goal seems to be to bring music to the masses - whatever that looks like. 

In his case (in addition to all of the above), it looks like an eclectic mix of students (ranging in age from 6 to well over 60) playing a broad range of musical genres, including everything from Bluegrass/Americana to Classical at a local community supported summer festival. 

The point of music, really, is to play, and Andy's philosophy includes encouraging students to play in a group in front of people.

As such, on Day 9 of my family's twenty-one day journey to TEOTWAWKI we found ourselves under a tent on a stage playing an hour-long set with Andy and a group of his students.  Our set included a ukulele and cello duet with Andy and Little Fire Faery playing her original composition "Rhae's Lullaby" and our family band arrangement of the late George Michael's "Careless Whisper", for which I dusted off the old clarinet.

Ultimately, the purpose of these summer festivals is to bring the community together.  It's kind of like an old fashioned barn raising/Church social, but showcasing area businesses and community organizations.

What's fun is visiting the various booths, where one can collect "swag" (free stuff) or information.  Deus Ex Machina and I had a nice long chat with the historical society group.  We got to spin with wheel for a free gift (sunglasses) from an area bank. 

There was also a train ride around the festival, live music (not just us), a bouncy house for kids, a bunch of raffles (to raise money for groups like the high school wrestling team), lots of food vendors (I steered clear of the deep fried snickers bars, but the lemonade was really good), a trivia contest (Big Little Sister and I both won gifts for answering correctly), and just a general sense of community.

At the end of the night they set off fireworks. 

Humans are social animals.  We need other people, for protection, for enrichment.  In fact, one of the primary (albeit completely unwarranted) criticisms of homeschooling is a perceived lack of socialization. 

Community festivals are a wonderful opportunity to meet one's neighbors, find out what's happening in the community, and to enjoy some (mostly) free entertainment.  While it is true that there were a lot of things to buy at this festival, there were also a lot of free things (including the above mentioned swag).

For us, TEOTWAWKI is financial.  We don't have a bunch of money to spend on entertaining ourselves, and so being able to participate in things like this community festival were invaluable. 

The other bonus is that we connect with our community, and so we develop a support system on which we can rely if things get really bad for us.  I don't what, if anything, the people we met at the festival can do for us, but when the time comes to ask, at least we'll know where to inquire.



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