[Dixielandjazz] Playing for YOUNG AUDIENCES - Turning on the young.

Stephen Barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Sun Apr 18 01:26:08 PDT 2004

A few posts ago,  couple of young 17 year olds from the USA and OZ
talked about how they liked OKOM. This sparked a thread and many of us
seem surprised that young people like our music.

Here I am preaching to the choir again, but I just got back from a
Fraternity party gig at the University of Pennsylvania. A Dixieland Jazz
Dance / Drink /  Celebration. Filled with 250 or so young people. Fifth
one there in 3 years. College kids keep hiring us back?  You bet. Do we
love it? You bet.

It is really very simple. Only 2 basic rules;

1) Make the music relevant to their age group.

2) Play it where they are.

Yes, there are a lot of nuances, but it really is a SIMPLE deal. The
same thing that got you interested in OKOM will get them interested. And
except in very few cases, it was not all the pseudo intellectual BS. It
was the power, excitement, booze, mild naughtiness and sensuality of

Along the way you may have to ignore some "advice" from knowledgeable
jazz fans. Like ignore the folks who say things like "Your guitar player
is too loud". or "You are improvising too much" or "Kids will never like
our music."

Be Heard. What could be simpler?

Friday, I made the rounds of the local record stores that stock our CDs.
I have 11 locations now, all within a 25 mile radius of our "territory.
About a year ago, I put them there on consignment. (Once again ignoring
the advice of other band leaders) I visit them once a month like a route
salesman. I sell 100-120 CDs per month, in local stores, (do the math)
with no effort, other than that visit. At a couple of University
Bookstores, I see College kids buy our West Chester University Jazz
Concert CD. I figure that's 100 or so new OKOM fans per month, many who
have never seen us.

We play where regular people & kids are. Elementary schools, High
Schools, Colleges, Street Festivals.
Take a look at our schedule on the link below.


See the variations in locations. And realize the variation in audience
demographics. And the fact that it is ALL LOCAL.  Realize also that our
private party gigs are not listed and are about equal in number to the
public ones. And realize that gigs like the July Turks's Head Music
Festival will have an audience seated on the grass in front of us of
about 2000 and another 3 to 6,000 within earshot throughout the park. .

We also play with young people. 8 year old violinist Jonathan Russell is
with us several gigs this summer when his schedule permits. And we PAY
HIM to play. We've got room for other young folks to come to the
Philadelphia area and gig with us. Heck, we love it because we're giving
back something to the music and because it is good for us also. Kymmi,
come on down (bring a chaperone). We have some dates that Jonathan can't
make, where I can squeeze the venue for additional dollars for a
promising young jazz artist.
We don't create young jazz artists or young jazz bands, we just make it
worth their while to continue.

Bottom line is that you can make a living with OKOM, in your own
backyard, with a little thought and a swinging band. Just make it
relevant. Understand that the young swing dancers adore Louis Jordan,
not Glenn Miller so get hip to that rhythmic kind of OKOM. Then, Be

Depending upon where you are, your vision, and your audience, just about
all styles will work if you make the effort to be relevant and be heard.
You too will soon find out that a young audience is waiting for you and
in many ways that audience appreciates what you have to offer far better
than many OKOM festival audiences. Because they are still filled with
the wonder and excitement of the "new" music.

Steve Barbone

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