Article Originally Appeared in Live for Live Music
Twiddle learned an important lesson recently: If you want fans for life, you need to start them off early! When it comes to keeping traditions alive, the most important thing to do is making sure a new generation is coming in to replenish the ranks. After a video of a pre-school class singing one of Twiddle’s songs went viral, a teacher involved reached out to the band to see if they’d share some time with her class. Luckily for everyone, the timing worked out, and last Saturday, the young music fans met their first big rock band and Twiddle got to see the future of their audiences dance in the aisles of The Palace Theatre a few years earlier than expected.
Twiddle keyboardist Ryan Dempsey and teacher (and former mayor of moe.down!) Marcy Dunigan shared the tale of how they made this magic moment come together below. Thanks to Paul Citone for popping by and getting some shots of the heartwarming event for us to share. Enjoy!
Live for Live Music: We’re having this chat around 6 p.m. on January 2nd, the day after New Years. Are your ears still ringing from the big NYE party?
Ryan Dempsey: Oh yeah, man, that was intense! I actually had to drain my ears from wax. I shoved my earpieces from our closed-circuit monitors in so far because it was so cold. The first show was a little hard to hear, but by the second show, I had cleared them. They’re still ringing a bit though!
Twiddle Welcomes Giant Country Horns For New Year’s Celebration [Full Audio/Video]
L4LM: You guys brought out the Giant Country Horns to help make New Year’s Eve a bit more over the top than usual, right?
RD: They came out the second night and gave us a new dimension. They played with us, they helped lift us up—great musicians, great people!
Watch Twiddle ring in 2018 in the clip below!
L4LM: Obviously, when you call that particular group up, there are some connotations of past. Did you enjoy that added dimension?
RD: The version of “Divided Sky” they played with Phish back in 1991 at Battery Park—I was just like, “Wow, these guys are so good.” I just never thought Twiddle would end up playing with them, but we thought “Why not?”
We reached out and they not only said yes, they transcribed all our music for us and looked for places for themselves. It’s funny—we, as a band, aren’t really big music readers. I can read a little, but the GCH are on a whole different level. They took our music and found a way to add to it that was all them but still us. Very impressive.
L4LM: I understand you have a background in teaching?
RD: I taught piano lessons in college. My degree is in mass media and film, but I ended up teaching the first four or five years out of college. I was doing summer camps, then moved into daycare and working with one- and two-year-olds in Rutland, Vermont. Eventually, the rock-and-roll lifestyle got to me and my late nights had me falling asleep in the nap room more than the kids. I miss it a bit—I loved helping share music and love. It was a rewarding thing.
L4LM: Over the weekend, Twiddle got to fuse your passions, education, and jamming, as you guys got a visit from a gaggle of school kids. How did that come about?
RD: Well, Marcy Dunigan, a friend of ours from the scene—big moe.ron and lover of Twiddle—she hit me up about something she has done in the past and wanted to try again. First, she sent me a video of a bunch of kids singing one of Twiddle’s songs. It blew up on my social media, I think twenty-thousand people ended up checking it out, and I thought it was really cool.
She approached me about her idea of bringing them in for soundcheck. We couldn’t quite work it out at first, but I really worked hard with the band to fit it in. I think the rest of the band didn’t want to disappoint them by just doing the practice we needed for the big shows, but I knew the kids would be amazed just having the experience.
Marcy was a big part of it too. She made sure that the parents would be there to supervise, as she was too, of course. They made sure all the kids had protective earphones. They got to come in and rock out in a big two-thousand-seat theater and have a good time watching a band. We brought some of them onstage and showed them the lights, and we got some pictures with them. Lots of fun.
L4LM: What was the high point of their visit for you?
RD: I love children, and so it was cool to watch them react to a big musical production. Hopefully, for them, it was like a really fun ride at an amusement park. I felt like their excitement, their dancing, maybe just their love in general. When we brought them onstage together at the end for photos, that was a very rewarding feeling. My wife, Alexandra, works with kids after school in Burlington, and she loves working with kids as much or more than I do, so it’s something we can share hopefully.
L4LM: Time permitting, is this something Twiddle would consider doing in other cities?
RD: Well, I understand Marcy heard that all of the parents were happy but it was a lil stressful with the timing. I know if we can find a moment when the band is all up for it, we will do it again. Personally, I have been talking to Taraleigh Weathers, who puts on festivals and amazing musical events and retreats. She just bought some land and has a new center, This Wonderful Place, and I ‘m hoping to do something with her out there soon. That would be amazing.
L4LM: Twiddle has their first headlining Red Rocks show coming up. You’ve played that hallowed stage a couple times already, though you had the unfortunate cancellation necessitated by Rob Derhak from moe.’s illness. How perfect is it to make up that show with a headlining performance?
RD: It’s great, honestly. I feel blessed man. Of course, last year was a bummer for us, but health is always more important than any show. I feel very honored to be invited back. It’s gonna be more time for us too, so we can really showcase what we can do. An hour is nice, but this we way we can stay and jam. It’s a dream come true! Can’t wait!
L4LM: Well, thanks for taking a few minutes from your “New Year’s Recovery” time, and thanks especially for helping form the next wave of jam fans with your little field trip hosting!
RD: Thanks, it was cool to be part of. Hopefully it is the kind of thing they end up telling their grandkids about! “Yeah, I been seeing shows since I was in pre-school!”
For more information and tickets to the Red Rocks Twiddle show, click HERE. We thought we should get the other side of this heart warming tale and spoke to Marcy Dunigan, so read on for a behind the scenes look at the teacher who just wanted her kids to jam!
L4LM: What Grade/area of interest do you teach?
Marcy Dunigan: I teach preschool. Three and four year olds at the Albany Jewish Community Center
L4LM: How long have you been teaching?
MD: I have been teaching just over twenty years. I have taught preschool for about sixteen.
L4LM: What do you enjoy most about teaching?
MD: I love helping children learn to be independent and to experience the world through music and the arts. I really love sharing music with my students and sharing my love of the live music experience.
L4LM: Do you play music for the kids in your class often? If so, what do you listen to?
MD: I play music every day in my classroom. I have SiriusXM radio in my classroom, so we get to listen to lots of genres of music. We especially love Jam_On and the Grateful Dead channels.
L4LM: How did you get in contact with Twiddle?
MD: I have become friends with Ryan Dempsey, the keyboardist, over the past few years. We just connected personally, and I asked him if he thought the band would let me do it.
L4LM: What was the band’s initial response to your idea?
MD: Ryan loved the idea, and he brought it to the band. Initially, I first asked last year, and they couldn’t make it happen. This year, when they announced the two-night run, I figured I would hit them up again. And they said yes!
L4LM: Was it difficult getting permission from the school to do this?
MD: It wasn’t a school-sanctioned field trip. This was on the weekend on my own time. I did tell them about it, and they thought it was great!
L4LM: You did this on your own time? That shows a level of love and commitment that is insanely impressive. What drives you to go the extra mile like this?
MD: I just feel so connected to the music when I go to live shows. Especially with bands like moe. who I have been friends with since the 90’s. I guess that personal connection to the music has always been super special for me, and I wanted to share a little bit of that with my students. Not only are we seeing the behind-the-scenes workings of a concert, I taught the children about each of the band members before the soundcheck. They then got to see them play, meet them, and get high fives, hugs, guitar picks, and pictures.
What a connection to make with the band and for the parents and the children. I hope they now might experience live music together again in case they haven’t before—planting a seed in the children, the seed of loving live music. We changed those children’s lives during that soundcheck, and I am very thankful to bands like Twiddle and moe. for allowing me to do such an amazing event.
L4LM: How hard was it on your end, with things like getting permission from the parents for this educational excursion?
MD: My student’s parents were thrilled about this opportunity. They were pretty blown away by the idea of it all and quite impressed.
L4LM: Were any of the parents also Twiddle fans?
MD: Yes, absolutely. Some are fans now that they have been exposed to Twiddle! I love sharing music that I enjoy with the families I work with.
L4LM: Do you think this is an experience you would repeat?
MD: This is the third time I have done this. moe. invited me to do this with my class. I decided to ask Twiddle to do this after talking with Ryan about how he worked in early childhood development in his beginning years of being a working musician.
My students are really drawn to their music, as they are to moe.’s music. Partially because their teacher loves it, but it’s also because their minds are open and pure. Exposure to the arts at a young age can make a lasting impression. My parents brought me to see my first Grateful Dead show in 1973—I was four years old. It made a lasting impact and I am very thankful. I hope the experience for my students will make a lasting impact as well.
L4LM: How long have you been seeing moe.?
MD: I go way back with those fellas—my first moe.show was 1994. Been friends with them since the old days. I even won “.mayor of moe.ville” with a very silly, adults-only inanimate object.
L4LM: Former .mayor huh? I have heard that can be a weird gig. Well, thanks for all you have done to help bring the next generation to the shows, and most especially, thanks for being part of the far more important job of helping shape the next generation.