GriffinEd: First Year

With the school year drawing to a close, I look around and find my head spinning a bit as I realize it was one year ago this week that I made the decision. One year since I took the plunge, resigned my tenure as an elementary teacher, and turned my musical sabbatical into a full-time job by starting up Griffin Education Solutions. Walking away from a tenured (and, after eighteen years, still mostly fun) teaching position to plunge into the unknown was a bit like learning to swim by jumping into the deep end of the pool with ankle weights.

What a difference a year makes. Last week I did shows at Palm Crest Elementary in La Canada, Kingsley Elementary in Hollywood , and Branch Elementary all the way up in Arroyo Grande. This weekend I did a show for the grownups at BayCon in San Jose; I forgot some words for that one, I need to practice my grownup songs more! This week I’ve got shows at Descanso Gardens and Palm Crest here in La Canada. The third album came out in December and I am already recording demos for the fourth album, tentatively scheduled for release next January. My writing workshops for kids are going gangbusters. In fact, my main obstacle right now is that there are not enough hours in the week.

The point is, I didn’t make any of this happen by myself. I thought running my own nonprofit would make me more independent, but in fact I am now more dependent on other people than I have ever been.

So, two thoughts about that. First, I want to take a moment to say a huge, heartfelt THANK YOU to all the people who have taken time and energy to help develop and promote my music. This would include (but certainly not be limited to) Devin Thomas, who took a lot of my jumbled ideas and showed me how to make them sound like music; Kevin Tiernan, who continues to show me that “good enough” is never good enough; Dr. James Robinson for showing everyone how to make music and science rock; Jeff and Maya Bonhoff for making it look way easier than it actually is; all the filkers who have sat through my songs that were *almost* ready to share; Victoria Chang and the other parents who have stuck their necks out to get me into their kids’ schools; all the teachers and principals who have trusted me with their precious instructional time; Talis Kimberly for saying nice things about me on the web; Bob Kanefsky and Chris Robinson for cutting my lyrics to pieces so I could put them together better; Harold Stein and every other sound engineer who treats *every* performer like a rock star; Pam Mahony, my guerrilla minister of propaganda; and way too many other people to mention here. Most of all I want to thank my wife Shannon for pushing me to turn a passion into a career. To all of you, please know that I will never take you for granted; I am very grateful for and deeply humbled by your support.

Second, looking ahead to the next twenty years: if I am to succeed in my mission to bring music back to its proper place in the classroom (i.e. smack in the middle of it), I am going to need a lot of help. Here’s what you can do:

If you like my music, TELL PEOPLE about it. Especially teachers, principals, librarians, and anyone else who works or volunteers in a place of learning. One referral is worth a hundred paid ads. Help me book shows! I’ll go pretty much anywhere if you’ll help me set up enough free shows to make it worth the trip. Send links to this site to lots of people. Make sure they know the downloads are free, though they can certainly make a donation if they like. I want to see ten thousand downloads a year! If half of them donate $10, that will cover half our projected long-term budget; I hope to get the other half from grant funding.

I really, really need your FEEDBACK. How can we make this site better? Where do you want me to perform? What kinds of songs would you like to hear? Challenge me with a topic and I’ll try my best to create or find something.

If you’ve got money burning a hole in your pocket, order some CD’s or (better still) just download an album and make a donation. Not only does your support bring educational music to schools that have no budget for the arts, but it greatly strengthens my grant applications when I have a long list of donors. I would rather have one thousand people give $10 than have one person give $10,000. Of course, if you want to donate $10,000 that would be fine…

Keep coming back to this site! We’ll be posting some demos of new songs in coming weeks, with more polished works coming in the fall. Your traffic also helps with grant applications.

Again, thank you for helping me get this far. This year has been a scary and incredibly fun white-knuckle roller coaster ride. I can’t wait to see what comes next.