For several years in a row I went to the Ted Brown Live It Outloud finale concert at Tacoma's Rialto Theater. What fun this show always is. It's worth the $15 for a ticket.
This year the time zipped by and the end was upon me before I even realized it. Sure, some bands are better than others, but it gives you a feeling for two things to be sure.
One is that playing in a band is easier than you might think. How else did all those garage bands ever get anywhere. These are after all kids, young teenagers doing this and yet they sound incredible. Of course that is due in part to their mentors in the program. Not all are perfection to be sure, but they are doing it, they are experiencing and learning to be on stage, and acquiring so much in being in this program. They are getting a feel for it and getting up there and doing it.
All of which is saying much more than it sounds.
The other thing is, this is also much harder than it seems. They are kids yes, but they are like any musician anywhere, putting blood, sweat and tears I'm sure, into these performances. And it shows.
I can't stop thinking while they are playing how much I would loved to have done that as a kid, but how terrifying it must also be.
There are a few things however, that I might change or add, to the finale show. They have other shows like at Jazz Bones in lead up to the finale but sadly I've not made those shows... yet.
Many programs I've seen on this order in the past have shown a professional band at the opening and for several reasons. To placate the attendees to see a professional band as well as talented amateurs. Basically, to draw in an audience. But this program has a built in audience, parents and family and friends.
It would be nice to showcase to the kids what a band to shoot for looks and sounds like. To have a pro band might be a bit much and after all, we've all seen or heard professional bands. We should want to get the kids involved, to support the program and not just have to watch a paid band show up, play and disappear. So, I would make a few suggestions.
Let's see some past alums show up and play to open the show.
Especially any success stories. Why do this? It gives the kids hope and an example of where their hard work could lead. Some might argue disingenuously, that it might make the other kids feel bad because they don't sound like them... yet.
But how does showing off what the program has succeeded to do, come off in anyway as bad? Besides, any kids feeling bad about something like that really shouldn't even be in the program in the first place. The entertainment industry is a brutal environment. You'd best be ready for it if you're headed in that direction.
So why don't we see at each season finale one of the previous bands or talent who have gone on to better things beyond the program?
I would admonish the program's directors and Ted Brown Music to let us see some past graduates and where they are now. I know they aren't hiding something. Their graduates have gone on to bigger and better things. I can only assume this lack of showcasing those successes is out of some kind of misguided concern?
Open the show with a graduate, with a success story! Show off! Perhaps alum of the program Cat Dewell could have opened the show (see Tacoma Music Camp site). Give the kids an opening example of where they can go with this program. Give the audience a show and let these past students show off to their mentors and the program.
This isn't the time to be humble. This is ROCK & ROLL! Bigger than life! Be Loud. This is after all, LIVE IT OUTLOUD! Right?
You could even have some of the top participants play in the opening band with the returning alum but of course, that would be up to the artist. Or perhaps they could play a final song like that. These are just some suggestions to enhance an already great program. Give the kids the motivation in rewarding the best to be better and the not so best yet, to achieve more as the possibilities are there.
I would also consider choosing the top three bands again for best bands. It's subjective right? So you don't have to choose a winner and two runner ups, just the top three.
Because if you don't you are setting them up for a real shock when they get into the real entertainment industry, one of the most brutal careers there are. There will always be I would assume, some kids who just won't make it. Now is the time to work that out before the entertainment industry chews them up and spits them out. Also "losing" is setting up those individuals in those bands for two things.
Those who can't handle it can save time and move on to something else in their lives that they can handle (this isn't about recidivism or capitalism as a company in having a program with repeat business (though that is surely a desire) but it's about turning out kids with professional orientations).
Those who can handle it and don't get selected can face reality and buckle down to work even harder for next year and come back a winner.
There are other programs like this around the country who are watching what the Live It Outloud's program is doing and they are using what they find useful. So as a leader in this field, why not push the envelope? Why not stay on top? Why not, lead?
All that being said this is an incredible program and if your child (or you, if you are a teen) think that this might be cool to do but it's too scary to consider, go talk to them at the program. Give it a shot! The worst you can do is fall on your face. The best is what I saw at the finale and the program works hard to set the kids up for success. It's really about what the kids can and want to achieve. About nurturing their potential to go as far as they want to go.
For myself I am far too old to be in the program and now, even my grown kids are now who are in their 20s. I look forward to next year's bright new students and bands so full with energy and potential, with many more to come after.
Live It Outloud!