Whether this is your first visit to our website or you are familiar with everything that East Side Story, Nashville’s only all-local bookstore, has to offer, we want to take a second to welcome you to East Side Storytellin’ for a very special occasion. We were beyond honored and thrilled to be asked by the fine people over at Cheekwood Botanical Garden and Museum and Art for the second year in a row to put together a Children-themed show that would be featured within their Cheekwood in Bloom series. So like previous East Side Storytellin’ shows we at East Side Story have curated thus far (105 and counting), we all decided to take a break from our busy schedules all over town in order to sit back and relax and get everyone cultured up just right in the form of a Nashville writer reading from original prose, followed by an amazing local musician performing and talking about their original music, and then a round-up creative conversation with all featured guests of this event to talk about their individual journeys and personal ties to Nashville. Unlike the previous East Side Storytellin’ shows, with the exception of last year’s Cheekwood show (see here- http://eastsidestorytn.com/east-side-storytellin-cheekwood-in-bloom-edition/), we added another something special the event that had never been donw before. So, without further ado, this is the recap and recording of a very special 2nd annual Cheekwood edition of East Side Storytellin’. Let us begin, again.
On Saturday, April 8th, 2017, I was one of the first guys on the scene to help set up for the show. Cheekwood reserved the perfect location for everything we wanted to make happen come together. The weather was perfect, yet again, and we had more sunshine than you could shake your leg at in any direction. Point being, the natural stage was already set for success. All of the signs pointed to a proper show like none other on a Spring Saturday in Music City.
The featured guests arrived early to set up their props, followed by my sound man Tom Eizonas and the ultimate man on the radio in Dave Eastman, and the Frist Learning Center & Contemporary Art Galleries setting and staff couldn’t have been more helpful for all involved.
But even before the East Side Storytellin’ show was set to go down, our Cheekwood guide, Meagan Rust, invited me and two other local children’s book authors to take part in instant classic readings along the enchanting trail she had set up for story time. She handed each of us a few books and gave the big group of kids with their parents the right direction to follow the path on the grounds to end up at three different locations for some quality reading sessions. I was honored to have the opportunity to share the local literary spotlight on Kimberly Dana (author of Pretty Dolls and a few more) and Mark North (author of The Day Anthony Counted to a Googol and counting) to join me at said spots. Each of us had the attention of the groups for about 15 minutes. We read through our own books and other classics Meagan had on stock that related to the nature found at Cheekwood. Whether the toy trains were humming by us or if the pollen added a few more sneezes into the mix, the overall lap around the path for story time with the kids and parents was a perfect appetizer for the East Side Storytellin’ stage.
The theme of the show was Cheekwood in Bloom: Drop Everything and Read! So we did just that. I’ll go ahead and introduce the featured guests before I reveal how the show transpired.
The first of the featured artists became a father in 2012, naming his son Noble. In my humble opinion, there are very few people in Nashville, or who I’ve been blessed to meet, who are half as noble as this artist. He is a good person and friend who constantly exercises, practices, and teaches his son and everyone around him about mindfulness, gratitude, compassion, acceptance, and other values that generate a peaceful, happy life. Together with his wife, Amy, he created the book from which he would share at Cheekwood. It is a book titled Zen Pig. It is a book and character that spreads the word about good morals and values for everyone, speaking wisdom and serving his town and neighbors. But Zen Pig is not just a book to read to kids. This author gives money back from each book sold to help an established non-profit organization in Africa fight poverty and provide clean water. You can find out more information about his efforts and his creativity at his website listed below, but it was truly an honor for me to introduce and bring to the Cheekwood platform my wonderful friend who embodies the word altruism with every breath he takes … I’m talking about the one and only Mark Brown.
Mark stepped up to the microphone and immediately had the smiling attention of every kid of every age in the crowd. He is like the original Pied Piper with a just and noble cause that follows his shadow. But seriously, Mark used the time and stage he was given to share the lessons of gratitude and compassion for the kids. He began the performance by saying a little prayer in the form of hitting a Buddhist singing bowl. It instantly reminded me of one of our beloved authors from the show we hosted at Cheekwood a year ago with Kaaren Engel. Kaaren passed away this past year due to complications with Cancer, but she was a practicing healer of this tradition and religion mixed with the arts. God, rest Kaaren’s soul.
Bringing us full circle again, I knew, with all my heart and soul, that this was going to be an epic show after Mark rang out the singing bowl prayer. I could literally feel it.
When the singing bowl had sung, Mark asked the audience to relay things they were grateful for on this given day. There were several great responses, because you know kids have all of the fun ideas and answers. I saw two parents tear up a little bit when their child stood up to be called on and share to the world that she was grateful for her parents’ love. This is the kind of vibe and setting when Mark and Zen Pig are at their best.
And from this new circle of trust and love, Mark jumped into his book and shared the story of Zen. Every kid, from my 15 month old who just loves to turn pages to the end of books and carry them back to where they came from to the oldest adult in the crowd holding the bags for her daughter and baby in stroller, were mesmerized by Marks words and presence. You don’t have to take my word for it. Look at the pictures above and below for yourself.
Mark literally could have stayed up on stage for hours and had everyone smiling the entire time. He’s just that kind of artist and person. But, as soon as he hit the final page, he threw out a Namaste and got a collective one thrown right back at him from the crowd. It had been a mutually enjoyed reading trip. And the party kept going, as many of those same people got up while the music was setting up shop so they could purchase one of Mark’s (as well as the other Mark and Kimberly’s) books at the merch table to take home with them after the overall experience.
And speaking of music, the second featured artist of the show set up the stage and was ready to rock before I could sneeze three times fast. You may have seen and heard of this talented musician while he played at The Family Wash or even Cheekwood during his residency not too long ago. He is originally from New York, where he grew up fighting with his brothers and trying to make milk come out of his sister’s nows while telling jokes at the dinner table. He loved to ride bikes, watch tv, and listen to rock n’ roll. When his older brother bought a guitar, this guy played it more than his brother did and got really good at it. Fast forward to present day Nashville, and this guy was joined on stage by a crew of his talented friends to bring some music to life for our audience. It was my job and honor (I say that word a lot here and there because it is true) to introduce, alongside his bandmates (Alan Young, Pat McInerny, Merissa Marx, and Don Kierce) the very talented and the very nice man named Bill Crosby.
Bill, like Matt, jumped right into his set. He played rock n’ roll music for kids of all ages. His band played tight and they played steady. Every song had a fun, upbeat messages with quirks for smiles and laughs while the melodies felt like classic rock shows from the 70’s and 80’s at their finest. I did you not, these guys are probably the best I’ve ever heard at taking children themes and playing rhythms that would make any professional rock musician move their feet. It’s like the musical equivalent of the humor found in any and all Pixar movies from the past twenty years. Basically, the kids and the older kids who brought the kids all had an absolute blast.
Did I mention that the sun was shining down on all of us and everyone was out on the dance floor? Well, let me tell you that the sun was shining down on all of us and everyone was out on the dance floor. If you don’t believe me, again, take a look at the pictures above and below. You can listen to the actual recording of this Cheekwood dance party in the link below. Take note to enjoy, share, and mark your calendars and stay tuned for when we bring the Bloom edition party back to Cheekwood next Spring too. We feel blessed to be included and we take this gig very seriously, in the most heartfelt and fun way possible.
After the music faded with one last killer hook, the babies were ready for their naps and the adults were ready to relax at home as well. We broke down the stage and the merch table in record time, and we cleaned up our party so well there wasn’t even a trace – like nothing extraordinary had just taken place in that courtyard. But it had, and you could still feel the love and joy in the air, if not the echoes of the music cast over the rest of the grounds around us. Don’t believe me? Come again next year and test me. In the “nice” time, check out the recording of our show below. That’s the least we can do for those who came and missed out too.
Here is the edited recording of our very special 2nd Annual Cheekwood in Bloom edition of East Side Storytellin’ that took place on Saturday, April 8th, 2017 and featured Mark Brown alongside Bill Crosby and his band of friends.
Before I say goodbye for this round of fun, I’d like to give a big round of thanks for Mark North, Kimberly Dana, Mark Brown, and Bill Crosby and his band of friends (Alan Young, Pat McInerny, Merissa Marx, and Don Kierce) for sharing their stories, talents, and time with us.
You can read more about Mark North’s book here-
You can read more about Kimberly Dana’s books here-
You can read more about Mark Brown’s Zen Pig series here-
You can listen to more of Bill Crosby’s music here-
You can check out everything else you need to know about Cheekwood here- www.cheekwood.org
I’ll keep the gratitude going for Tom Eizonas and all of the kids, young and old, who came out here to support the show in person and online.
Last, but certainly not least, I’d like to give one last shout out to everyone, especially Meagan Rust, at Cheekwood Botannical Garden for their hospitality and everything the do for this community all year round.
That said- that’s all for the 2nd Annual Cheekwood in Bloom edition of East Side Storytellin’. Thanks for coming out and sharing the good word and giving some love to all of these great Nashville artists and our creative ideas. Don’t forget to drop by East Side Story, located in the heart of 5 Points in East Nashville, and also the other various events and programs that we put together all year round. Also, please remember to be nice to one another out there.
**Here are a few pictures of my number one assistant, trying to get the best seat (or standing view) possible: