As I sat in the darkened auditorium I felt my eyes well up with tears as 1,200 children sang the words to “This Pretty Planet” while three-time Grammy award-winning performer Tom Chapin accompanied them on the guitar. These children knew all the words to this song — and every other song Tom performed Thursday morning. (They even knew his repertoire. When Tom forgot to sing “Don’t Play With Bruno,” he was reminded to do so by a boy in the front row!)
The students are very familiar with Tom’s music because of a curriculum developed by his longtime friend Debbie Rubenstrunk, a Valley consultant who specializes in nonprofit marketing and development. Debbie worked with local teachers to create The Building Bridges Classroom Program for grades K-5. The interactive music program, which supports Arizona State Standards, can integrate into existing curriculum. As children learn the lyrics to Tom’s thoughtfully worded songs, they absorb life lessons about diversity, healthy choices, environmental responsibility, tolerance and respect.
The magazine has sponsored this event for the last 15 years, so we are always invited to a performance. This was the third time I have seen Tom perform live, and it is always a pleasure. I was accompanied by Karen Barr, our publisher, and as an added treat we got to enjoy lunch with Tom (and his lovely wife, Bonnie) after the show.
During lunch, Tom chatted and answered questions. He has another CD coming out (his 22nd!) and the sparkle in his eye lets you know that there are probably more songs in him waiting to be shared.
Tom Chapin is truly a gentle, kind and generous man and he loves performing for these children. He radiates this love on and off the stage. He works tirelessly to entertain and educate, and also performs benefit concerts. If you are looking for a truly enjoyable way to spend this Saturday afternoon, take the family to his 2pm show. It will be performed in one of the smaller theaters at the Higley Center for the Performing Arts and it will be a very memorable show. If you wish to see Tom perform his music for adults, he is playing Saturday night at Fiddler’s Dream in Phoenix.
While we were at lunch, I had the opportunity to confess in front of Tom, his wife (!) and everyone else that I have a crush on him. So when Karen and I were getting ready to leave and we wanted to thank Tom one more time, I first approached Bonnie and asked her not to hate me for professing my love. She laughed and we had a lovely chat. Then Tom came up and said that he was flattered. He’s a genuine person and a talented musician. Can you blame me?