In doing performances for children, Michael's goal is to show that music is something people can make at home, not just something to buy at the mall. He conveys the message that it feels good (self-esteem) to make music, and that it's easier to do than people (who want to sell us music) would have us believe. Folk music is a great vehicle for this, because it's easy to demonstrate how the music was a part of people's lives before electronic media and that it is still a part of the lives of many people, including children. He begins a concert with songs he learned from children, either as a child or recently (thereby establishing credibility), and moves on to songs which friends have made up for their children. Then, depending on the age ranges, he sings (historically) older songs that people made up out of their own lives and work. He also shows and talks about the various instruments he plays, which include: 5-string banjo, fretless banjo (a little instrument, home-made in North Carolina, all wood, with no frets. It represents what I like best about folk music: elegant in its simplicity.), 6-string guitar, 12-string guitar (He sometimes plays "John Henry" on this in the "bottleneck slide" style, and demonstrates how simple it is to play something that sounds so complicated and powerful.) • concertina ("squeezebox" -- for sea songs, etc.), other small instruments as the occasion warrants – jaw harp, penny-whistle, harmonica, etc. He also sings some modern songs that he has learned in his travels, which may fit the occasion (i.e. "Be Kind To Your Parents" from a Broadway show). With younger children he includes a game-song of some sort, and usually finishes with a story song. For older grades Michael talks about how he loved rock & roll when he was a kid but that when he heard folk music it grabbed him and wouldn't let go. He observes that it's OK to like what your peers don't. He tells kids that you can do anything you want to do, but you can't always be anything you want to be: "Some kids want to BE a famous rock & roll star, but they don't really want to play music. If you really want to play music, you CAN!"
For grades: Kindergarten to Teacher -- songs, stories and talk chosen to fit the age, season, topic, etc.
Touring area: ME, NH, VT, MA, CT, RI
Special requirements: Chair. If audience is larger than 50 -- sound system with 2 microphones on floor stands.
Funding available through: Maine Touring Artists Register (Maine Arts Commission), New England Foundation for the Arts
Fees: From $350 per performance, depending on distance, number of performances, etc.
Born in 1943 in Carmel, California and raised in Tucson, Arizona, Michael has been helping others to experience the beauty, power and humor of old and new songs for over 35 years in countless concert halls, clubs, coffeehouses, etc., in the North America, Great Britain and Europe. He has performed, lectured or done residencies at hundreds of colleges and schools of all levels. Michael has appeared at most of the major North American folk festivals, some many times. (He has, for instance, been a performer and mc at the Philadelphia Folk Festival [America's oldest and most successful] semi-regularly since 1966 and for 12 of the last 15 years.) Michael has made many media appearances (among them "A Prairie Home Companion", "Morning Pro Musica", "The Today Show", "Captain Kangaroo" and "Sesame Street" (where he was invited to be a regular but declined, not wishing to be typed forever as a children's only performer). Six years on the board of the National Folk Festival in Washington, DC., in 1984, Michael was artistic director of Canada's Mariposa Folk Festival, and in 1986 Artistic Director of Philadelphia's "Maritime America Festival" (part of "We The People 200 - the National Celebration of the 200th Anniversary of the United States Constitution"), and a consultant to many other festivals. He was a member of the Music Panel of the Maine Arts Commission for four years and head of the panel in 1992-93. Michael has made four solo recordings and appeared on many others, including two for the National Geographic Society, for which was also an artistic consultant. These days he prefers to stay closer to home, play music occasionally and devote some time to his nationally acclaimed newsletter, The Friendship Letter, which he terms "a neighborhood newsletter for people who don't live near each other".