By Dave Austin, “The Music Professor”
A few days ago, I received a call from a school representative asking me to provide the music and games for a “fun day” event following the system-wide tests. There are numerous ways to take on a school event, but I’d like to share mine with you in the hope that you’ll find some inspiration next time you’re called on to entertain school kids.
“We want our kids to have fun and blow off some steam, but,” cautioned the caller, “We don’t want any inappropriate music!” Just so we were on the same page, I asked what she considered inappropriate music. As expected, the response was “rap songs with cursing or bad subject matter,” “sexually explicit lyrics” and so on. After talking with her for a time, I found that a previous DJ hired by the school went pretty far over the limit with his music selections and some of his comments. Thus, the school was looking for his replacement.
The kids ranged in age from grade school preteens through high schoolers, so I was faced with a very wide range of musical tastes. What could I to play that would make all these kids happy and not get me booed off the stage? After some research, I came up with a list of about 125 songs which fit the bill.
For the younger kids I selected songs from “High School Musical,” “Teen Beach Movie” “Hanna Montana,” the Jonas Brothers and “Kidz Bop.” Of course, all of the kids listen to the radio, so I also opted for a number of pop songs such as, “Happy” by Daft Punk & Pharrell, “Selfie” by Chainsmokers, “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida and “Brave” by Sara Bareilles. As always, I mixed in a few currents, driven mainly by the kids’ requests.
Just for fun, I tossed in a couple of “goofy” songs to which the kids could jump around and act silly: “Crazy Frog” by Axel F, “The Fast Food Song” by the Fast Food Rockers, “Y M C A” by the Village People, “The Fox” by Ylvis, “The Gummi Bear Song” and a couple of the “slides.” Almost any song the kids could sing along with went over big. For example, “The Fast Food Song” was not very familiar to many on the crowd, but after hearing the hook line a couple of times and some encouragement from me, the kids were quickly chanting, “McDonald’s, McDonalds, Kentucky Fried Chicken and a Pizza Hut!” I made an effort to include songs which were upbeat in both tempo and subject, and a number of the songs contained positive messages.
Due to the activities (awards, etc.) originated by the school, I had time for only one game, but it went over great. With a nod to Scott Faver, The Game Master, I had the kids select three teams of five members, then provided each team with a pile of 20 foam “noodles,” several rolls of masking tape and a challenge to build the tallest tower possible with their tape and noodles within a 15-minute time limit. It was a free-for-all as the teams struggled to get their towers to stand upright as the onlookers shouted instructions and encouragement! Which team won? It didn’t matter as they all received a token prize for their efforts. To add to the madness, the left over rolls of tape began circulating among the crowd and kids had a marvelous time taping one another’s hands, feet, etc.
The key to the success of such an event is in understanding the audience and playing the music they know and like. In this case, the hours I spent researching paid off with a number of songs I would not have thought of on my own and which helped make the kids’ fun day a success.
As with any event I do, there is a great deal of research, preparation and practice which goes on prior to the actual event. Many people hold the mistaken idea that all the DJ does is show up and play some music, when in fact, you and I know that all the audience sees is the end product. Yes, there are many DJs who simply show up and push “play,” but the professional comes prepared and armed with the tools and information needed to take it to the next level. Because the sponsors were still wary from their earlier DJ experience, I wanted to make sure to meet (and exceed) their expectations and I believe I did.
Oh…how did the event go? I must say that the boundless energy of those kids amazed me and I felt exhausted just watching them. At a couple of points, the only phrase which came to mind was “organized chaos.” But, that’s what it was all about – having fun and celebrating the end of a grueling series of school tests.