Monday, June 13, 2011

The Secret Ingredient for Better Assemblies

Have you ever searched for a cultural arts program and found that none of the available options met your needs? It’s frustrating. Unfortunately, this is a common problem for parents and teachers booking programs, so we’d like to offer a solution to make your life easier. The answer you are seeking is much closer than you think.
But first a little story…
Beth grew up in a small, working-class suburb of Philadelphia, a town where fathers went to work and mothers stayed home to raise their children. In Beth’s family there were four daughters and one son. The stories my wife tells our kids reflect a time that was very different from now. When problems or challenges occurred, it was the family that everyone relied upon. And the children witnessed the adults struggling and surviving to meet these challenges with little money and a lot of spirit. Ahhh, the old days!
One year, Beth’s maternal grandmother came to live with the family. Grandma Kuzma, as she was called, was a gentle woman who wore her grey hair pinned up in a bun. She had a well-deserved reputation for cooking chicken soup and other eastern European dishes. But what Beth remembers best is the twinkle in Grandma Kuzma’s eyes. Strangely, one of these eyes had a cloudy spot on it from a childhood accident, but Grandma Kuzma’s eyes remained very pretty and her gaze was always intent as if she was staring into your soul.
Beth’s mom did her food marketing on Fridays and one of the treats she would sometimes buy were sticky buns. The buns came six to a package, so Beth’s mother had to buy two packages for everyone to receive one. This left four additional sticky buns for the kids to fight over.
One day, the kids were discussing how wonderful and tasty the sticky buns were but how annoying it was to not have enough for everyone to get two buns. The loudest complainer in the family was Beth’s youngest sister, Linda, a fireball well-known for speaking her mind. Her complaints about the sticky situation led Grandma Kuzma to say in her thick Hungarian accent, “I can mek ‘em.”  To which Linda replied, “Then do it, Gram!”
When the kids woke up the following Saturday morning, they were greeted by the sweet smell of hot, sticky buns wafting through the house. It was like Christmas morning when they rushed into the kitchen and saw tray after tray, piled high with buns, fresh from the oven. There were dozens of buns, enough for each member of the family to have their own plateful. There was little talk at that point and a lot of “oohing” and “aaahing” as the children began eating their sticky buns. “These are way better than the ones from the supermarket, Gram, “ said Linda.
After the kids had their fill, Beth looked at her smiling grandmother and said, “This is amazing, Grandma. How did you do this?” Very matter-of-factly, Grandma Kuzma replied, “Leenda said, ‘If you can mek ‘em, then mek ‘em.’ So, I mek ‘em.” And now there were no more fights and plenty of breakfast treats for all.
When Beth tells stories, they are usually funny, but they also serve to illustrate a lesson that we want to share with our kids. This is also true of the stories we tell in our concerts. In the case of the sticky bun story, the solution to the problem was easily found by an adult who listened to everyone’s needs and made it happen with her natural talents. The answer was not to be found by searching outside but within their own family.
Like Grandma Kuzma, Beth and I are interested in hearing what you need in your school. Our natural talent is to use the ingredients of music, humor and interactive stories to make learning more delicious and satisfying.  As we say on our web site,, our mission is to educate, entertain and inspire. Oftentimes, we can do this by offering schools the programs that we have already written and performed hundreds of times.
Other times, though, you might be better served by having a conversation with us. An example would be the school in Yonkers who said, “We have so many cultures in our building and we need one holiday assembly program that’s going to cover it all.” That conversation led to “Happy Holidays Around the World” which we perform every December for dozens of schools.
Another PTA representative from Long Island once said, “I remember my school song and all of the great feelings we had when we sang it. I want my kids to have that, too.” That’s when our residency program, “Creating a New School Song” was born.
So, our suggestion to make your life easier is this: check out our offerings online, but also consider what might be a phone call away – two professional Teaching Artists who have a talent for turning your “problems” into programs. As Beth’s Grandma said, ““if we can mek ‘em, we’ll mek ‘em.”
Mmmm, mmmm, good!

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