After our success in Belt at our last actual “full show”, it was a bit daunting to know we had to make the drive back to Seeley. It helped to know we were getting to play for more kids, and it helped that we had a day off in between to hang out with the Seeley locals at the Hungry Bear and enjoy the Super Bowl. With no skin in the game ourselves, it was a super fun and relaxing game to cheer for, as we honestly had no real preference who won. Some of the town folk recognized us from our show there, and others came up to apologize for missing it, since everyone said how good it was! We participated in some Super Bowl bar bingo, and some corn hole for prizes. Jared left with this Hungry Bear tee and I won a Miller Light tee. (🤣 When in Rome).

The game was fun to watch (when the teams actually decided to show up) and we got home early enough to get a really nice sleep, even with the overtime. Our plan for the next day was to play the schools then hit the road and get as close to our kiddo as possible without wearing ourselves out too much from driving. The roads were all MUCH better, but there was no need to rush. Honestly, we could have made it, but it was better to take a dinner (and margarita) break in the middle and press on the next day.

So, the first school we played at was Seeley Lake Elementary. These were K-6 (you can clearly see the sixth graders in the top back bleachers,  doing their best to ignore us and sleep sitting up). It was early, and I thanked all of them for participating and being so well-behaved in the morning.

I was actually pleasantly surprised to see so many kids get up when I invited them to dance for “Fallin”. With the lyric, “Turn it around” repeated so much, it’s a great one to get the kids up and moving! They even do some pretty sweet air guitar solos in it as well!! A lot of the older kids got up too. It’s such a unique age. They still want to do all the fun things with the “kids”, but they don’t want to be looked at or laughed at by their peers…who are all thinking the same things!

Even teachers were getting in on the fun. I think this was the first school where all the teachers were really into it with the kids. Everyone had such a great time!

After all the chaos, I would typically get them settled back down and open up a QnA session. It’s so awesome to hear so many questions and feel like the kids actually want to be there, and want to talk to us.

Once the assembly was over, the 5th and 6th graders stayed behind for a workshop. Because the school is sans music program, we had to come up with something to do with the kids. One of the teachers suggested that they really liked Jared’s looping pedal, so we just decided to build a song with them, and see what happened.

Channelling Jack Black as my ultimate hero and inspiration from “School Of Rock”, we first had to find something they all had in common; school. (Their idea). Then, we had them give us words to describe school, how they felt, stuff they thought, etc, and found out that the common thread was their overall disdain for the place, and all roads lead to Summer. 😆 I quickly realized they had a lot to say and I wasn’t going to be able to keep it all in my brain. I grabbed the back of a set list and a sharpie and began writing.

Next, we got some volunteers to help put down some percussive snaps on top of a drumbeat Jared laid down from his guitar on his loop pedal. The kids were so excited to get up and help. We then came up with a “hook” that everyone could sing. In this case, it was easiest to just sing “aaahhh’s” so they could all lock into it. Now that our backing track was complete, Jared found a good key, and I just used the words the kids had given to create a verse about the bad things in school, and then one about summer and how much we all looked forward to it! They really had a ball, and so did we.

That’s not something we’ve ever done before, so we really felt challenged, but also competent enough in our skills to be able to guide them in the exercise. The cool part about the whole thing was demonstrating how you can create something from nothing! After we were done with our masterpiece… the kids wanted autographs for fifteen minutes. 😍

Our afternoon outreach show brought us back into Condon at Swan Valley School, home of the Warhawks. A VERY small school, these kids were starved for entertainment and music and we were ready to oblige! It was also one of the coldest gyms I’d been in, so it was good to get them up and moving!

We got to hang with the older kids again. This time it was the Jr. High-ers. We decided to do the song writing workshop again, merely because it worked pretty well the last time, and I was curious to see if it was just a fluke, or if Jared and I were on to something. I’ll tell you though, listening to this group of kids talk about their school made the other kids seem like optimistic unicorns. So much to be upset about, so much negativity. They all wanted out of school, but didn’t even have anything better to replace it with. Not even Summer.

I asked them, “Well, let’s say you didn’t have to be here (which they compared to prison, since they’re “forced” to come)…Where would you go? What would you do instead?” I just received weird, apathetic answers like, “Home, I guess.” Or “Nothing. I just want to do nothing.” One kid said he only wanted a job so he could make money. I asked him how in the world he expected to learn how to do anything at a job if he didn’t learn anything from school. He just stared at me. Then, Jared inquired, “What do you guys want to BE when you grow up?” The answers were shocking. “A doctor!” “A construction worker.” “A lawyer!” “A designer!” Not the answers I expected from this level of disinterest. Again, I prodded, “These are all great! But how will you do any of them without school?” More blank stares.

I felt defeated. I can’t believe teachers do this every single day. Please let’s pay them all the money. Like, all of it. They don’t get nearly enough to put up with this all the time. I felt like I was in the Neverending Story, on the edge of the land that “The Nothing” had begun to destroy, watching with my own eyes the apathy consume these once hopeful and goofy children. While I stared into the faces of the future America, I searched my heart for some answer, some connective tissue to pull from and cling to.

I said, “This can’t be all there is to you. It can’t be all bad. There’s got to be a silver lining.”

“What’s a ’Silver Lining’?” One young man asked.

“What?” I responded in a little bit of shock. “You aren’t familiar with that term?” They all shook their heads.

“A silver lining is literally what I live by! It’s that beautiful glow around the darkest storm clouds, reminding us that the sun is just right behind there, waiting to come out and heal us with warmth, no matter how bad the storm is.”

“Did you get that from a song?” The same boy asked.

“Nope. I just spoke what my heart was thinking.”

“You should be a therapist.” Another boy said quietly.

“Maybe I kind of am…through music.” I said.

And with that, we had our song, “Silver Lining”

And, although there was no recording of it, the hook was so good and the connection hit so hard, I just know Jared and I will flesh it out one day and dedicate it to these kids; the Warhawks of Condon. May they find some inspiration.

After the workshop, we solemnly high-fived and the kids all thanked us in their own ways. No hugs here, but we had held their attention and gained their respect.

The teachers, who were in a room next door listening to the whole thing (which I was unaware of), came out to congratulate us on achieving the nearly impossible; connecting with the Jr. High kids. They assured us it was not us the kids were apathetic to, they were just like that all the time. They said they saw their faces light up and heard them all engaged and involved the entire time. The teachers thanked us for taking the time to actually listen to the kids and help them feel seen. It was our pleasure, and a great challenge for us. Especially because we have a little guy right on the precipice of this exact age group.

The drive that night towards Tacoma was quiet. We knew we’d done big things on this tour, but were still trying to process it all. We also knew we wouldn’t get all the way home that night, so we just relaxed into the rhythm of the road and thought a lot.

Not only did we go into this tour with the obvious objective of getting more people to know who Champagne Sunday is, introducing  places to a new and fresh look and sound, and something not to be afraid of. But there was a subtlety of so much more at play. When we were first approached with the agenda of these Arts Council boards to come in and play for the towns and the schools, we just thought it would be a fun and new experience to add to our resume. We then thought, as we got into the swing of things and began to rethink our presentations and sets, about how we had this amazing opportunity to change people’s minds and open up kids’ eyes to the possibilities of music, connecting all the dots of the steps we’d taken over our entire lives to get here. What I didn’t see coming was the profound impact the whole thing would have on us personally. We hadn’t considered the challenge that some of the older students would put before us, connecting with a sometimes overlooked demographic, pushing the positive message while remaining honest and not overbearing. Listening to what they had to say and felt, and letting it be so, but gently reminding them that it will get better. And hopefully for all of them, it will.

For us, this whole trip was an amazing eye-opener to the huge impact that music can have directly and indirectly. I said to Jared as we pulled away from Standing Stones B n’ B and got on the highway headed west, “We threw the stone. Now who knows how far the ripples will reach.” It’s a pretty magical thought that sound waves never stop traveling. Every note we’ve ever sang, played, pounded out, all traveling towards the great unknown. Just like into these kids. Who knows what they will take from this? Will they tell someone in the cafeteria they love them because of “That Girl”? Will they end up a music professor because of a songwriting workshop they participated in in a freezing cold gymnasium? Will they end up the next guitar virtuoso because Jared’s guitar playing was so shreddy and his pedal board looked too enticing? Will they keep their head up in the hall when they feel depressed because they know there’s a “silver lining” somewhere? I don’t know. All I DO know is we’ve started some ball rolling, and even though we won’t be able to see what any of these kids do with it, we will be able to see what ours does…

So excited to get home to this little angel…

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