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Bridges found his earliest non-serious audience performing for his daughters and combined his ability to evoke their enthusiasm translated to an ability to evoke enthusiasm from children more generally and so he took the stage name “Mr. Don” and began tailoring both his original songs and his sets to the audience best suited to enjoy it.
“[Playing for children] is great because they’re so spontaneous, so present, so immediate,” he said. “They’re not worrying about the mortgage or whether a boy or a girl they’re thinking about is thinking about them.”
Bridges is a two-time winner and ten-time nominee of the Washington Area Music Association Wammie awards for best children’s vocalist, taking home the top honors in 2004 and 2005. Most recently he was honored with the 2007 Wammie for Best Children’s Artist. He has relocated to the
Any musician will tell you that when playing live the moment they most strive for is the out of time experience where the world seems to happen second to second. An audience of children starts much closer to that line of complete immediacy, but sparking the transition to total immediacy and them maintaining it is a completely different story. Engaging children in a meaningful way can be trickier than you might think.
But Bridges has been doing it long enough that his performance isn’t tactical, but a natural open invitation for the kids to get involved and stay involved; not only in the performance but with the attitude the songs convey. The show’s point it a kind of mini-elevation through engagement with music.
Many of his songs’ themes are age-appropriate social engagement tunes highlighting issues kinds can relate to such as sibling rivalry, the importance of gratitude and forgiveness and caring for the Earth.
But it’s all about keeping it fun and light and Bridges isn’t one to shy away from songs that range from comical do downright silly.
Perhaps the most important reason Bridges succeeds with show audiences is the engagement isn’t rhetorical. His stage show includes lots of props and instruments for the kids to play along with. Many of his songs also require other levels of participation, such as dancing or singing along.
By making the show more about the kids and less about the performer, young audiences tend to remember the shows as wonderful times out. While they’ll surely be humming the songs as they play later, they’ll also leave possessed of an even more open attitude toward music, dancing and celebrating the freedom of being kids.
Parents, grandparents and caregivers are also consistently pleased not only with the performance and the way it makes the kids feel but also for a little time where they have access to unencumbered fun that borders on joy.
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