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Area musicians delight students with Teach-In performance at Gulfside Elementary

Gulfside Elementary third-grader McKenna Schmidt-Cole dances to the music of Souled Out during the Great American Teach-In.
Gulfside Elementary third-grader McKenna Schmidt-Cole dances to the music of Souled Out during the Great American Teach-In.
Published Nov. 25, 2015

HOLIDAY — Looking back, Scott Myers figures he was pretty fortunate to grow up in Chicago during a time when arts programs were a given, right from the start.

"In elementary school, we had a full jazz band and a full orchestra and a full dance program," said Myers, who spends a lot of time these days playing trombone with a well-known cover band called the Black Honkeys. "It kills me that (school) budgets are not funding those arts programs like they used to."

So when longtime fan Bob Bocchetti urged Myers to come out and put on a show at a local school, Myers was more than happy to comply.

Turns out Bocchetti had a school lined up — Gulfside Elementary, where his sister, Lisa O'Keefe teaches music.

Myers recruited 11 musicians who perform regularly with different local bands. They came together under the name Souled Out, donating their time to perform a free concert during the Great American Teach-In, held the week of Nov. 18 at schools throughout the Tampa Bay area.

For a solid hour, the band played a romping set featuring music of old and blending it with a little education. Keyboard player John Dash Dixon and lead guitar player Lenny Austin demonstrated the "happy" and "sad" sounds of their instruments and gave students a homework assignment to listen to their favorite songs and figure out the happy or sad stories they were telling. Others took turns introducing youngsters to the soulful sound of famous artists such as Aretha Franklin (Chain of Fools/Respect), James Brown (I Feel Good) and Sam and Dave (Soul Man), while kids, their teachers and parents played air guitar and danced on the black pavement.

The concert tied nicely into what the kids had been learning in music class.

"America is the birthplace of the blues and jazz, and that's what we've been studying," O'Keefe said. "For them to have exposure to this type of music played live is wonderful."

"It's good. It's got that feeling that makes you want to get up and move," said fifth-grader Izea Banks, adding that he really enjoyed the harmonica playing of TC Carr, who had recently completed a European tour with his band.

Band members enjoyed the day as well.

"It kind of felt like we were the Beatles with all that high-pitched singing," said lead singer Phillip Esposito. "It was fun jamming with the different bands. I'd like to see us get together again and do this at other schools."

"It's amazing. I wish I could bottle their energy," front man Ronnie Dee said after wrapping up with a cover of Bruno Mars' Uptown Funk. "It's a blessing to have fun with the kids — to give them an actual experience of seeing a live band play. That was pretty cool."

And there's a magic element, Carr said.

"Music is a great communicator," he said. "It cuts across all languages and all barriers. It's a gift — a gift we like to give."

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Contact Michele Miller at mmiller@tampabay.com. Follow @MicheleMiller52.

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