Every Saturday morning at 10:00 AM, Sean McCollough teams up with WDVX to host “Kidstuff,” an excellent musical variety show for children. The last Saturday of each month the show is presented before a live audience in the Knoxville Visitor’s Center. This past Saturday the show celebrated its first birthday with cupcakes from Magpies, ice cream from Cruse Farms and a special guest performance by the Pinklets.
I often lament the loss of common cultural touchstones in our country. I’m not sure our current popular culture offers our young citizens a set of mutual reference points that extend beyond Snooki and the Kardashians. As a result of this change, I fear, the culture becomes more fragmented. Try explaining the myriad Biblical references, for example, in American literature to young people – even the “religious” young people – and the result is blank stares.
Similarly, in the arena of music, certain songs seemed to float in the air and become known to all without effort years ago. Songs by Woody Guthrie, Stephen Foster and old spirituals have slipped from common knowledge to complete obscurity for our citizens under a certain age. What now passes for children’s songs in too many cases is a catchy marketing device brought to the youth of America by Disney or some similar corporation.
This show offers a blessed antidote to this cultural drift. Children are respected from the outset by the offering of excellent music – not some dumbed-down, insipid version of real music. It starts with the musicians: Sean McCollough, Maria Williams and Steve Corrigan of the Lonetones (Steph Gunnoe was in the audience), and Kevin Abernathy, local guitar hero who just released a quieter album garnering amazing accolades. I found myself grinning with each delicious lick Kevin played realizing that these children are getting the real deal – and may just grow up to expect solid music if we’re all lucky.
Most of the songs are original compositions by Sean but, in a move that warmed my heart, he noted Woody Guthrie’s 100th birthday this year and led a sing-a-long of “This Land is Your Land.” The songs focus on interesting subjects to children – who doesn’t love a good song about watermelon which allows you to spit as part of the fun? Other songs featured nods to friendship, the earth and billy goats. Children often participated with motions and movement, sounds and singing in a joyous cacophony of delight.
A special guest appearance by the Pinklets, a band consisting of McCollough’s daughter, Willa, and Kevin’s daughters Eliza and Lucy provided a highlight. The girls range from eight-years-old to ten and they performed original songs playing their own instruments. The songs leaned in a darker direction than other songs offered on Kidstuff which is likely a testament to the depth that children feel which are too often ignored by the adults in their lives. And how can you not love the message to each child: You, too, have music inside you.
After final hand motions, the time finally arrived for cake and ice cream which is pretty stiff competition even for the best of music. The show was filmed for promotional purposes. I wish the film could be made available for the viewing of children everywhere. This concept could so easily translate into wonderful programming for PBS on a Saturday morning. It might even edge out some of the thirty minute promotional videos for Disney accessories the network channels offer. Who knows what can happen when we really respect children?
Listen to WDVX at 10:00 on Saturday mornings or come to the Visitor’s Center the last Saturday of the month to find out. You’ll leave smiling and you’ll want every child in your life to be there for the next show.