The small concert space at Brooklyn Bowl, a live music/bowling venue the like of which you will only find in Williamsburg, was occupied by hula hoop-whirling toddlers bobbing to the music of Tom Petty this past Sunday. No, it wasn’t anyone’s birthday party. And no, their dad wasn’t the DJ. It’s was one of the regular family concerts thrown by the Rock and Roll Playhouse.
“There are amazing artists who make music for kids and there are amazing programs for kids who want to make music,” says Amy Striem, one of the creators of the program. “But what we really didn’t see was an opportunity for kids to see live music and share an experience with their parents to tunes they know and listen to at home and in the car. So we throw concerts featuring a different artist from the classic rock canon—The Beatles, David Bowie, Billy Joel, and Van Morrison to name a few.”
This educational music program that uses rock and roll as its base is the brainchild of music entrepreneur Peter Shapiro and Striem, who has a master’s degree In Early Childhood and Elementary Education from New York University. As the executive director of Rock and Roll Playhouse, Striem has been developing the program’s curriculum and curating its programming to maximize not only the fun but also the educational value for the past five years.
“The program is structured so that it incorporates the developmentally appropriate movement games and songs that engage the children throughout the event,” says Striem. “We want them to be moving to the music, repeating a clapping sequence, and singing along. But the activities are seamlessly incorporated into the show so they aren’t overbearing.”
Among the crowd of clapping, dancing, and singing kids was a girl with pigtails jumping perfectly to the rhythm of Tom Petty’s “American Girl.”
“She loves it here,” says her mom Laura, who is holding her four-month-old baby and swaying to the tune. “This is our second show. The first one we went to was David Bowie and we had a blast there too. I love this type of music and it’s nice that my family is able to spend some time together with good music, food, and beer.”
Laura and her family are certainly not the only ones enjoying themselves. Although the program is geared towards children it is obvious that it is a family affair where both children and parents can relax.
“The thing that people should know about our shows is that it’s much more of a family event than anything else,” says Max Bandisch, Sunday’s MC and regular ‘teaching artist’. “Families get to know each other here, and kids get to make friends outside of school. And we get to watch them come out of their shell and blossom so it’s truly amazing.”
And what’s the best part about Rock And Roll Playhouse? You don’t have to live in NYC to go to one of its events. The program, which has had over 500 shows in the past couple of years, has been a nationwide success taking place in Boulder, Nashville, LA, Chicago, Berkley, and Boston.
“We’re very excited to continue to grow and bring the program to many more families in many more cities around the country,” says Striem.
For more information on their upcoming shows visit their website!