Guest Column from Sharon Elliot
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
BLUEGRASS KIDS HELPING OTHERS
Every weekend in the month of February had already been planned with activities for my husband and me, most having to do with bluegrass, but not all. On the weekend of the 5th, we were going to a pickin party and were to be there at 3:00pm. That morning, however, we were to be in San Mateo for the Sportsman Show before going to the party. Steven was interested in looking at a canoe and we had been talking about it ever since our last backpack trip. But somehow things just have a way of changing at the last minute. Just a couple days before, I had seen a message on the CBA message board, “Smith Brothers playing for Tsunami Victims Saturday, Feb 5th in San Ramon” The Smith Brothers are Calvin and Trevor Smith, 9 year old twins who are also some of our wonderful “Kids on Bluegrass”. For me, I knew instantly that I wanted to go see these boys, but I also didn’t want to disappoint Steven by asking him to give up the Sportsman show. ( It would be a lot more fun watching these boys than thinking about how I was going to carry some dang canoe with all our gear up to some lake!!!) So I didn’t mention about the boys singing. Not until Friday night just before going to bed, when I just happened to tell him about what a great thing Calvin and Trevor were doing. Without a moments hesitation, he asked if I would like to go. Ah! God love him. So our plans changed, and we went to see the boys. (And the canoe gets to wait!!)
This informal show took place outside the Whole Foods Market in San Ramon next to a fountain. Across the street is a Target Store, and there are a number of other stores so the parking lots were full as this was a Saturday afternoon, and the weather was warm. As we walked up to where the band and the boys were setting up, I saw Chris Smith, Calvin and Trevors dad. After saying our hellos, I asked Trevor and Calvin if they remembered me. Both boys looked shyly at me and said “no”. Huh! So much for my ego. But after talking to them and telling them I worked with Frank Solivan they did begin to remember and with that I told them why I was there. I wanted to know how this all came about so that I could tell everyone about what a generous and kind thing they were doing.
Calvin and Trevor would have a backup band. Chris Smith (aka dad) plays guitar and sings along on a few of the songs. Jeff Zieba plays the banjo. Mark Wardenburg on fiddle, Alex Mayers on bass (he won the guitar at the Woodland Festival) and Ken Torke on mandolin. When playing with the boys, this is the Smith Brothers Band. When playing without the boys, they are called “The Mighty Crows”. And actually, I really enjoyed this band. They have a really nice sound and I hope to see more of them.
As Steven was setting up the video camera, Calvin and Trevor began to sing “40 Years of Trouble”. I sat down to listen and pulled out my paper and pen and began to write. I remembered the first time I saw and listened to these twins sing. They were at Grass Valley at Fathers Day and sang “Blue Moon of Kentucky.” I wasn’t working with the Kids on Stage yet, so I was in the 6th row watching the show. Steven was video taping and I was just blown away listening to the beautiful sound coming out of them. And the harmony!! Wow. I found out later, that “Blue Moon of Kentucky” was the first song they learned.
In front of the boys lay “dads” guitar case, opened, and a sign that said “Tsunami Relief Neil Armstrong Elementary School Red Cross.” With these boys singing, it didn’t take long for a crowd to gather and the donations to start dropping into the guitar case. As I sat there watching, Joyce (Calvin and Trevors mom), sat down beside me and I was able to begin to get the story of how this all started.
It was just before Christmas, that the Smith family was sitting together watching “Little House on the Prairie” It was an episode where the whole town got together to fix up an old house to be used for a school for the blind. Trevor said, “I bet that feels real good to do something like that for someone, huh mom!” Mom answered, “Yeah, it does, and you boys could do that too, if you wanted “. So together as a family, they thought about what they could do and for whom.. The twins decided they wanted to do something for kids. The next day, Dad got on the computer and tried to find just the right place and the boys final decision was Childrens Hospital in Oakland. They called Childrens Hospital and found out what was needed, toys, coloring books, color crayons, sticker books and anything that kids confined to beds could use.
The next day, the 23rd of December, Trevor, Calvin and Chris went to the Whole Foods Market in San Ramon and started singing and playing some good ole Bluegrass music. With the guitar case opened, the people stopped and listened and began to give generously. By the time the singing stopped, Calvin and Trevor had earned $114.00. They returned the next day and were rewarded with $246.00 more. A total of $360.00 was earned and they promptly went to Target and explained what they were doing. Target offered the boys a 10% discount on everything they needed to buy. By the time they were done, they had 8 huge bags of toys and gifts for the children at Childrens Hospital. Down to the hospital they went lugging all their bags and after getting one of those big flat bed carts that you see at Home Depot to carry everything in, they presented the gifts to the staff. It would have been really nice for these twins to be able to give their gifts directly to the kids at the hospital, but most are to sick to take a chance on bringing germs in to the kids. After presenting their gifts, the staff asked them to sing. Since no one brought their instruments, Calvin and Trevor sang their one a’ cappella song “Hard Working Pilgrim”. The Reception room was built in such a way as to lend itself to GREAT acoustics so when the twins sang, the sound was said to be AWESOME. The staff gave them a standing ovation, and seemed to be thrilled with what they heard. Both boys received a patch that said “Kids helping Kids”. They later received a beautiful Thank You letter from the Hospital. Now THAT’S what giving at Christmas time is all about!
By the time Calvin and Trevor had returned to school after Christmas vacation, the world had learned about the devastating Tsunami and relief efforts had begun everywhere. At the Neil Armstrong Elementary School in San Ramon, that Trevor and Calvin attend, plans for all the students to help in the relief had begun. Jars were put on each of the teachers desks, and students were asked to donate their quarters, dollars, and do extra chores at home to earn money to help. Calvin and Trevor came home from school and talked with their mom and dad about what they could do. They thought maybe they could sing to earn some money like they had for the Childrens Hospital just a couple weeks before. So once again, the family and their band went back to Whole Foods Market Place in San Ramon and next to the fountain, the music began once again.
For the next 2 1⁄2 hours, Bluegrass Music and the voices of two young boys drew in the crowds and the donations rained in. People sat listening, while their children danced around the fountain to the music. As I watched, a little girl danced, spinning round and round and round till she should have dropped. Young kids stood watching and listening. Everywhere you looked there were smiles and foot tapping. We all laughed when out of one store three men came, with one doing the jig as he came out, hands high in the air. Many people asked Steven and I and Joyce (mom) about the boys, where else they sing and about this Bluegrass Music they were singing. As we answered their questions, we also told many of them about the CBA and its web site and handed out the web address so that they could find out more. These boys and their mus