Welcome to 2007!
The year has started with a big bang at the big bash fundraiser gig for SASS (School Alliance of Student Songwriters). This Toronto, Canada-based organization is doing important and wonderful work, having created a platform for teenagers to explore and develop their talents of expression through songwriting and musical performance.
The brainchild of teacher/singer-songwriter Artemis Chartier, SASS has grown in the last 5 years from an idea into a templated curriculum adopted on a volunteer basis by mentor-teachers in over 50 Canadian schools, touching the lives of over 1000 kids. Some of these kids, who were highly “at risk”, are now flourishing; not just staying in school, but doing extremely well, thanks to finding themselves through the art and disciplines of songwriting.
Early on, Artemis enlisted the help of Co-Founder Dale Russell, former guitarist for the Canadian mega-stars, The Guess Who (and a good bud of mine). At this point, Dale has donated something like 6000 hours of time, recording the works of the SASS participants and performing at live workshops.
The show took place in the beautiful Markham Theatre, in that northeastern suburb of Toronto. Nearly all of the 500+ seats were taken, by young and older alike. The “opening acts” were the SASS students themselves — a 1/2 dozen representatives, of a diverse but uniformly excellent nature — backed by a house band that included Dale, Artemis and their local pro buddies. In a word, they were great! (we weren’t bad, either 🙂
On the evening prior to the show, a VIP dinner was hosted by long-time and major SASS supporter, local businessman Byron Nelson and his wife, Diane. Many thanks go to Byron for, without his help, the show (and maybe SASS itself) would not have been possible. Anyway, after dinner, we were to do a short, semi-unplugged kind of set for the 3 dozen guests. A small PA, a couple of acoustic guitars, my bass, Lane’s little keyboard and … what? No one brought the hand percussion for Charlie?
Not to be left out, veteran of all manner of gig circumstances and pro that he is, Mr. Morgan interfaced with the kitchen staff and came up with a makeshift drum kit — two plastic ice buckets and some kitchen utensils, including a ladle, which became the “bass drum” beater. He topped the kit off with a pair of maracas that had been given to him by a friend that evening. In the middle of “Love Takes Time” where the song returns to the “head” (intro), Charlie threw the ladle in the air to grab the maracas, making the transition and eliciting a shout of amazement from the small but mighty crowd!
Topped off by an impromptu rendition of Fly’s “Mall Cop” (you had to be there :-), the evening was a totally fun succcess and paved the way for the equally successful big gig the next night, netting SASS a few thousand to continue its work.