[Dixielandjazz] Adding Youthful members / or audiences

Larry Walton Entertainment - St. Louis larrys.bands at charter.net
Wed May 26 14:08:56 PDT 2010

Almost all of the things I play don't have young people around.  Old people 
pay, young ones don't and everyone I know wants to make money or they won't 
play.  If it was just me I would think that there was something wrong but as 
far as I can see none of the OKOM bands here draw any meaningful young 

A couple of years ago I was playing at a plaza surrounded by hotels and 
businesses.  We were doing the usual Dixie tunes and a couple of kids around 
16 or 17 dressed in 1940's style cloths came up and started swing dancing. 
The audience quickly grew to over a 100 watching the kids dance.  The kids 
were really good. They danced a half dozen tunes and left - so did the 
audience.  It was really fun while it lasted.  It would almost be worth 
hiring some young kids to dance to get the audience going.
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stephen G Barbone" <barbonestreet at earthlink.net>
To: "Larry Walton" <larrys.bands at charter.net>
Cc: "Dixieland Jazz Mailing List" <dixielandjazz at ml.islandnet.com>
Sent: Wednesday, May 26, 2010 3:41 PM
Subject: [Dixielandjazz] Adding Youthful members / or audiences

>> "Phil Wilking" <philwilking at bellsouth.net>
>> If you will (can find a place to) play where teen-agers can hear you -
>> perhaps shopping malls and such - and will play at tempos a human  can 
>> dance
>> to - the young people will come - at first to jeer and then they  will 
>> start
>> to dance. You have to seek them out, they are not looking for you.
>> Tempos to dance to are critical, you are trying to be attractive to an
>> audience which has never heard anything like you before and is 
>> completely
>> self-absorbed. They DON'T CARE how musically amazing you can be, so  save 
>> the
>> virtuoso showing off with strange extended chords for the after- hours 
>> jam
>> session. The same applies to long announcements between tunes: they 
>> don't
>> care about the history, they want to polish their belt buckles. Use  old
>> traditional jazz warhorses - King Oliver, Jelly Roll Morton, etc.,  they 
>> have
>> strong rhythms and good melodies which will stick in the kids' minds 
>> despite
>> the raging hormone fog.
>> Again, KEEP THE SPEED DOWN! Yes, through familiarity, it is going to 
>> seem
>> draggy to you - SO WHAT? Your object is to get the girls moving to the
>> music. As soon as the girls start to move to the music, you have  found 
>> your
>> proper tempo. Foot tapping is a beginning, but it isn't good enough,  you
>> want full body movement. When the girls begin to wiggle, the boys  will 
>> join
>> in. If they don't know how to Charleston or Black Bottom (and who 
>> will?),
>> they'll make something up on the spot and be very happy.
>> I have seen it happen.
> Right on Phil. Barbone Street sees it happen every summer. For proof,  go 
> to our myspace page, see our schedule for a look at the public  places we 
> perform at and then click on my pics. Once on the pics,  click on swinging 
> Thursday Night and see the audience involvement.  Especially the YOUNG 
> kids who are digging the band.
> http://www.myspace.com/barbonestreetjazzband
> Yeah, that old guy kissing the swing dancers is me. It doesn't get any 
> better than that. How many years did it take for OKOM festivals to get 
> hip to swing dancers? Joe Hopkins has been preaching that for about 15 
> years, and me for about 10..
> BTW, if you click on the first band picture to enlarge it, you will  see a 
> 5 year old kid playing his toy electric guitar with the band. He  is at 
> far left, next to our guitarist. I can't tell you how thrilled  he and his 
> parents were that we got a chair for him and asked him to  come on up on 
> the bandstand. (He brought his guitar to the street  festival because he 
> had heard that live bands would be there.)
> Your point  about venues is well taken. PLAY WHERE THE KIDS ARE. Easy  to 
> do as we proven for about 15 years now. Once we decided to market  first 
> to general audiences instead of jazz heads, we expanded our  venues and 
> our audience now includes very young kids, teens, 20  somethings and all 
> the rest.
> Your point about kids not knowing how to Charleston or Black Bottom is 
> also well taken. We played a High School Graduation party recently sat  a 
> local Country Club. The folks who hired us heard us at a street  festival. 
> The other kids who attended came up and asked us how to  dance to the 
> music. We said, just "free dance" to it. What ever you do  will be 
> correct. Just dance like nobody is watching. They did, and  they had a 
> ball.
> IMO, the biggest problem we have reaching young audiences is that most  of 
> us don't try. That negativity becomes a self fulfilling prophecy  and we 
> end up believing that young audiences will not like OKOM.  Nothing could 
> be more wrong.
> If we stop daring the audience to like the music, and start making it 
> relevant to THEM, we will all have the kind of Summer Gigs Barbone  Street 
> has.
> And yes, throw Mardi Gras beads. Many bands/leaders dissed our  throwing 
> of beads at public gigs. Too bad. Those bands aren't working,  or are 
> working for peanuts, while we are turning down gigs because  we're just 
> too damn old to take them all.
> Cheers,
> Steve Barbone
> www.myspace.com/barbonestreetjazzband
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