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How to get a 1000 Viewers

Special group-guest blog by StreetJelly musicians: Clifton Printy, Peter Bensen, Josh Cline, Image and Family.  They have a combined 28,900+ viewerships to their StreetJelly shows …and still growing.

How to get a Thousand Viewers?

Here’s a clue for you. If you want to set records for the most viewers in an online show, own the world record for the most tips, become an internet streaming pop icon, and maybe even have some fun while making a little scratch; here is all you need to do…

Don’t Suck!

So where do we start? At a show with no viewers, of course. We have all been there. No fun at all. So what should you do? Get viewers! Not too difficult really. What is your mom doing? How about your best friend? Where are you fans from the real world? Did you invite them? Are you using the twitter link? Did you post your show on Facebook? It doesn’t take much time to post a message telling your friends that you are performing.  Also, it may seem like such a small thing, but it’s amazing how much people respond to the personal touch. Send them a message to ask them out to your show.

1,000s of ViewersYou can get a little creative, too. How about posting, “live music no cover with free imaginary drinks,” on your favorite social venue. It works! Try it!

If you have the computer savvy, try using Photoshop, or other such programs, to create posters for your shows. You can post them on Facebook or any other social media type sites to help get your name out there. Print a couple off for your job, friends, and acquaintances. (editors note, i.e. Frankie – try BandPosters.com)

Next, Don’t Suck! No one wants to hear the beginning of Stairway to Heaven sixteen times only to listen to 4 bars of Smoke on the Water. One song well performed is worth more than 100  hours of garbage.

Are you interacting with your guests? Ask them if there is anything about your show they “don’t love” (answers could hurt, but you’ll get an answer).  Want to engage someone? Ask them about themselves.  Be gracious and friendly. Support other artists. Support other artist supporters. Try dedicating a song to your viewers, it’s a great way to show them that you appreciate their support.

It helps to acknowledge your viewers. They are “gold” to you. Try to mention EVERY visitors name. People LOVE hearing their name treated respectfully. Keep an eye on the comments, clappies, and tips. You’ll get a good idea of what works and what doesn’t. Play what the audience says is good (another hard pill to swallow). Let them tell you if it’s good.

Be aware that every show is different. It’s all good. You can do a killer show with only 5 viewers or a horrible show with 20, and those five viewers will come back.  I’ve even found that mistakes I’ve made in a performance are not always caught by the audience. They can still be entertained by a less than perfect show.

The idea is to keep your nose to the wheel. When in doubt, PLAY!!! As it has been said, “If you build it, they will come”. StreetJelly beats performing on your sofa alone for your metronome. People will come and go, but your (total) viewers will accumulate!

Don’t just be a performer in an ivory tower. Watch other shows! Become an active part of the StreetJelly community. There are a lot of people participating in the StreetJelly “thing.” Making new friends, and showing an interest in other artists will foster a curiosity about you, in viewers of other shows. Also, glean from other shows. Nobody knows everything. There is more to know about performing. You can learn a lot from what other people do. Stand on the shoulders of the giants that have gone before you. And, if you can’t stand a show then I like to say, “take the chicken and spit out the bones.” Take the stuff that works and try it. It can be a big help.

“Not sucking” contains a few ingredients. It’s more than playing your instrument, and singing in key. Your overall image as a performer is huge. An engaging, friendly player/singer will do better in the long run at this racket than a pure virtuoso that has the personality of a cardboard box. That doesn’t mean that you need to be something you’re not. It means that consideration for your audience, and their desires will be rewarded in the long run.

The most important part of a successful show is to have fun. If you are enjoying yourself it will show and it will rub off on your audience.

Lastly friends, you are a visionary, so pony up. You have seen that the internet age is going to change the world. You have stated that eventually everyone will want to interact directly with their favorite artist. You know that this is the herald of a new age for performance of music. Time to pay for your entertainment. What? Oh yes we have to make this work from both ends. Why should someone believe that this is a legitimate venue and support you when you wouldn’t support it yourself? Where is the crowd? What are you?

Great Sound, Simple

I had this question come in the other day, it’s always worth repeating for everyone.  ~Frankie

Blue SnowballWhat do I need to have a good broadcast quality?  -Bob

Hello Bob,
The best way to get a good broadcast is to have a quality mic input for your computer.  Most webcams these days all look great – so any decent webcam you can find at Walmart will do fine.

For sound, it depends a lot on the type of performance you put on.  If it’s a singer-and-a-guitar kind of show, then all you need is a good USB “podcast” mic.  We recommend a Blue Snowball ($50) – http://amzn.to/1u3MyaT

Alesis 4 Channel MultimixerFor a more complicated setup: multiple mics, amps, keyboards, etc – the best approach is to mix them (with a multi-mixer) before you connect it all to your computer.  A great product to do this is an Alesis 4-Channel Multi-mixer (under $60) – http://amzn.to/1vt77Nt  Like the Snowball mic, this is a USB plug-in to your computer.  Your computer will see all your sound as one simple mic input source.  They both give great sound and make it VERY easy to hookup.

-Frankie

The key here is simplicity.  I’ve seen it many times over where tech-gurus try to perfect their sound with computer software – especially those who use a computer as their mixing board, effects machine, and so on.  It just takes much more processing power (CPU cycles) for your computer to mix multiple sound inputs AND broadcast the video upstream.  And there are always a zillion more things that can go wrong.

So the advice is – process everything before it gets to the computer you are broadcasting from.

This, That, and Thanks

Some quick news and site updates to come.  ~frankie

2014 is coming to a close.  Here in the States, we kick off the holiday season with our Thanksgiving.  Then the real holiday insanity begins!

Here at StreetJelly, we are most thankful for another wonderful year of growth.  We are immensely grateful to all the musicians and viewers on the site that make it great.  Thank you, Jellyfish!!!
New Layout

This past month, we released a new design of StreetJelly.  It’s more correct to say this was a “partial” release.  We are not done making changes!  The changes you see were mainly to the homepage, logo, branding, etc.  Some of the old sections on the homepage:  upcoming schedule, new members, friends of SJ, etc. appear to be missing.  Don’t worry, they are coming back.  We are currently working on getting these features back on the site with the new look.  We will slowly trickle in these updates from time to time.

Next, we are also working on upgrading the broadcasting software to full mp4 (H.264 + AAC stereo) compatibility.  This will allow the streaming to be playable on any device, specifically iPhones / iPads, without having to run a special Flash-converter browser like Photon or Puffin’.  Broadcasting at full mp4 is also the precursor for deploying a true mobile app version of StreetJelly.  Expect to see the mobile app by first or second quarter of 2015.

The rest of our (very long) To-Do list includes services to better promote our artists and viewing experience.  On the short list will be affiliate programs and discounts for 3rd party musician services, a SJ store for musician merch, customizable broadcasting pages to set your econcert mood and vibe, and plenty more nifty ideas we have up our sleeves.

Thank you, again, StreetJelly community.  Great things are still to come!

More Fiddlers are Coming – Part 2

More Fiddlers are Coming – Part 2, by Barry Nelson

Continuing guest blog introducing the new fiddle players on StreetJelly.
See Part 1 – The Fiddlers are Coming!

BillyG

BillyG

Hi, I’m Bill Gunn, a.k.a. BillyG on StreetJelly and MadBill on the FiddlerMan.com forum. I’ve always enjoyed music, of any style, and have played guitar for over 40 years. On occasion I have messed around with piano and low-whistle, and some five years back I got hold of an old fiddle. Unfortunately, it was extremely sensitive to temperature and humidity, and the tuning drifted so much it was almost unplayable, and after about 4 months of fighting with it, I gave up. But in March 2014 I decided to return to the fiddle, got myself an electric violin, and followed that up in July with a new acoustic in the form of a FiddlerMan Concert Violin.

Musical tastes? Well anything from the 60’s is good for me, from pop/rock to easy listening. Classical, I enjoy listening to, but rarely attempt to play.
Favourite performers? Neil Young, Neil Diamond, James Taylor, Suzanne Vega, Kate Bush – oh far too many to mention. Groups? Stones, Nirvana, RHCP, Led Zepp – again too many to name. Violin? David Garrett, Lindsey Stirling.

With my friends and colleagues on the FM site, I’m beginning to get a serious liking for specific “fiddle” music such as Irish, Scottish, Bluegrass and so on – but still have a long way to go!

My journey with this instrument has really just started, but I’m loving every second of it. I’ve always enjoyed playing guitar for my own pleasure and other folks’ general amusement – so let’s see how it goes with the fiddle!

See you on SJ!

 


fishnrodds

FishnRodds

SJ name: fishnrodds
Hi, I’m Paul. I’ve been fiddling for about 5 years, grew up listening to dad and grandpa play old time music, some Scandinavian, mostly USA stuff. It’s been a great experience so far. Other than family, my bigger influences have been guys by the name of Tommy Jarrell, Chubby Wise, Johnny Butten and the awesome people I get to play with at our local jams that keep me challenged. I will update this more on down the road. Thanks for listening! I play mostly two old fiddles, one is a no name that came off of eBay for 20 dollars. It almost went in the woodstove, but I decided to give it a new life. the other is an old stainer that my wife and daughter gave to me for Christmas last year. It’s my forever fiddle. Both were trainwrecks when I got them, I spend a lot of time monkeying and repairing old fiddles.

 


SJ name: Juan Violin
Hi I’m Juan, I’m 28 and come from Uruguay, South America. I’ve been playing for almost 3 years. I like music in general, my favorite is Irish music then I go with classical and some tangos. This is a style I’m just starting to get into.
Juan Violin

 


FiddlinSteudel

FiddlinSteudel

SJ name: fiddlinsteudel
I grew up playing the violin at the age of 4. Did the usual Suzuki method thing, and quit once when I got into middle school. I decided to take up guitar and played classical and jazz guitar for many years. After probably 12 years of not playing the violin, I decided to try it again. But this time, I decided to check out Bluegrass music. After that I didn’t look back. I’ve been playing bluegrass music for probably 12 years now. I play in two different bluegrass bands and frequent as many local jams as possible.

 

 


Mad_Wed

Mad_Wed

Mad_Wed
My name is Naska. I was born and still live here in Kazan, Russian Federation, Tatarstan republic.  =)  Yep, try to find that place on the map LOL! (editor’s note: we found it!)  I was born on 12/11/1982 so I’m almost 30 years old.  =)  I was actually a present to my mama on her birthday (she was also born on the 11th of December.  =))  OMG! I was not the best present in her life LOL!

I bought my acoustic violin at the end of summer in 2008. But can’t say that I really learned to play it. My parents refused to listen to my off notes and horrrrrible bowing XD….Unfortunately, no mutes to be found in our stores =/ … Then I got an e-violin in February of 2010, and with this violin I developed lots of bad habits and no useful skills for playing it.  =(  When I met my teacher, she told me that we not only have to start from 0 but from backwards, LOL. She says that I’ve been playing since April of 2011, and who am I to argue?  =)   See more at my FiddlerMan interview.

 

 

 


1stimestar
I’ve always wanted to play something, piano, guitar, what ever. About 10 years ago after I arrived in Alaska, I decided I would love to learn to play the fiddle. After all, it’s so portable. You can play it around the camp fire, on a mountaintop or in the woods. It’s light enough to pack out on a backpacking trip over tundra and small enough it doesn’t take up much room in a small cabin.

1stimestar

The Fiddlers are Coming!

The Fiddlers are Coming, by Barry Nelson

Special guest blog introducing the new fiddle players on StreetJelly.

Barry Nelson

Barry Nelson

I’m sure you folks have seen them on StreetJelly. Those bow sawin’ fiddlers! Who are these guys and what’s up with those fiddles? Well, a little about the Violin first. The violin & fiddle are exactly the same instrument. Even classical violinists refer to their violins as their fiddles. But there are fiddle styles: old time, Irish, Bluegrass, Cajun, Western Swing…the list goes on and on.

The Violin has four strings (from low to high) GDAE, the Viola (the bigger one) is tuned a fifth lower and its strings from low to high are CGDA. We have no frets, so intonation is something we keep a close ear on.

So enough about the fiddle itself, there’s lots of great info on the internet and forums to help learn nearly any style. So lets meet a few of these StreetJelly fiddlers.

Barry Nelson: I picked up the violin 6 years ago and recently found the Viola a better fit. I play a mix of styles from Irish, Rock, Old Time, etc. If I like it, I play it. I also play guitar and piano, and I record my own backing tracks to jam with.

 


Toni Gomez

Toni Gomez

I am Toni, 49 year old violinist. I have always loved pianos and organs. A few years back, I thought I would learn to play the piano. I did not have a piano or know how to read music. So the violin came to mind. I thought about violin as my sister had one growing up. She had lessons through the school system for a few years. I was overlooked for playing instruments as I was painfully shy. Anyway, I started up on my own learning with YouTube videos tutorials and online sites. I also took about 12 lessons my first year. Since then I have learned from my violin community and my violin friends in real life. I am at 2½ years and I am as passionate about it as ever. I have broadened my horizons and I am learning fiddle and Bluegrass …I can’t believe how that good ole sound feels to play. I am obsessed with playing and continuing to learn all I can and be a great violinist/fiddler.

 


My name is Robin Swan, a.k.a. Feathers. I’m self taught on the fiddle, and that journey didn’t begin until I was almost 34 yrs old. I’ve been playing it for 18 years now, and still learning. I mostly play by ear, but can also read music. My ability to read music came from playing piano starting at age 4, followed by many years of lessons. And during my adventure, there’s been many great violinists and fiddlers who have inspired me along the way.

Robin Swan - Feathers

Robin Swan – Feathers

 


Stone Dog

StoneDog

Hi, StoneDog here. I am 62 years on the planet and rocking on. I live in Pittsburgh, PA, USA. The sound of this instrument sends bolts of pleasure though my spirit. I’m a guitar player. I like putting musical tracks together. I also play with vids a bit. I have a few things out there. I can put the rhythms, base, drums, and other various percussion to my tracks. But what has always been missing and something one cannot just import into the tracks I work with is the VIDDLE. When working with my music I have always had the need to hear some violin/fiddle within the track. SOooo I figured I better learn how to play one.

 

 

 


Pierre Holstein

Pierre Holstein

Pierre Holstein was raised in South Florida. Concert master of youth orchestras and a concert master at Eastern Music Festival in NC at 17 years of age. Studied with Thomas Tzaggaris and Tom Moore. Majored in music performance at the University of Miami. Took some lessons with Dorothy DeLay at Congress of Strings and world famous soloist, Ida Haendel in Miami. Played with the South Florida Symphony Orchestra and the Miami City Ballet before moving to Sweden in 1988. Associate concert master of the Gavleborg Symphony Orchestra for 4 years, then moved to the south of Sweden and became one of the principles in the Malmo Symphony Orchestra for 16 years. Recently moved to Fort Lauderdale with plans on staying in Florida. Pierre manages his website: Fiddlerman.com.

 

 


Diane - KindaScratchy

Diane – KindaScratchy

Diane, a.k.a. KindaScratchy. I’ve always loved violin and fiddle music, and have played a number of other instruments over the years, but a seemingly unrelated sequence of events led to my taking up the violin.

A number of years back I had occasion to travel to Shepherdstown, West Virginia, a few times for work. I discovered a place called O’Hurley’s General Store, which has a Thursday night jam session for local musicians who play guitars, fiddles, banjos, hammer dulcimers, harp, tin whistles, sometimes a bodhrán or Celtic drum. They play Appalachian folk music, Celtic music and the like. The seed of an idea was planted, albeit unintentionally. A few months later, my husband gave me my violin for Valentine’s Day. Read the full story and interview on Fiddlerman.com.

 

 


Dennis Boring. I started playing (learning) violin about Feb 2012, although I owned a violin for all of 50 years. Yep, our family had an old one that was broken and never got used. I figured I might want to play it a little after a David Garrett concert in Reno got me inspired. I fixed it, stayed with it, and now have four beautiful violins to play. I don’t play by sheet music and instead devote many hours to “picking out” the notes from a tune I hear. My oldest violin is about 130yrs, another around the 100yr mark, and the electric/acoustic is around 12yrs. Finally, the newest is one I made myself and play as much as the rest. I’m the only one in my family that plays an instrument. I learned music some 30yrs ago on piano. I still live in the same house I started first grade in. All my kids have grown and left the nest, and that leaves me plenty of time to practice! I’m single, a self employed mechanical engineer, and can play at all hours of the day or night!

Dennis’ violins, left to right: 130yr old Roberts, 100+yr old German Production, Chinese Aco/Ele, Handmade 2014.Dennis Boring - Fiddles

Meet Chuck Foster

I love artist interviews where you get to learn about the person behind the skills.  Our Chuck Foster recently did such a TV interview.  It’s a great way to understand the passion and meaning behind Chuck’s art.  Enjoy the show…  ~frankie

Musician, artist, and teacher Lynn Charles Foster, a.k.a Chuck Foster, interview June 2, 2014, on Measure for Measure.

“Children of Rock & Roll,” “Life is an Elevator,” and more…


http://www.streetjelly.com/chuckfoster
http://www.lynncharlesfoster.com/
http://www.youtube.com/rockandrollgrandpa
http://www.facebook.com/chuckfostersongwriter
http://www.reverbnation.com/chuckfoster

Branding, the Key to Large Crowds and Fans

StreetJelly starts a new blog series on Marketing and Artist Promotion.

Stand Out from the Crowd

Stand Out from the Crowd

Whether you are fairly new to StreetJelly or part of a larger following of regular StreetJelly performers; you almost certainly notice the steadily increasing number of artists who draw a large audience. These musicians are the envy of most performers on StreetJelly. There is no magic trick behind attracting an audience of die-hard-fans. You can follow some simple steps that can lead to an increase in viewer numbers and even a cult of followers who will go above and beyond to tip, attend shows, and promote your music. It all boils down to Branding: the who – your name, the what – what you are all about, and the how – how you spread the word.

Who – the Artist Name  Don’t underestimate the power of your artist name. StreetJelly allows you to create a unique profile name (at least 5 characters) that becomes your own StreetJelly link. Think of it as your “stage name.” Choose a name that is pleasant and meaningful. It is tempting to choose something cool, but keep in mind that names which are associated with unpleasant events in life might deter people from going to your show. Pick something that defines you as a person or your music. It is perfectly fine to be inventive, but toilet references or violent phrases can be an automatic turn off to your shows.

Recommendations: keep it simple; choose a name that you are comfortable being addressed by; and when in doubt, use your actual name or family nickname.

What – Are you All About  What does that mean? It’s your personal identity. Your intent is to create a strong bond with your audience so they feel a deep connection to you. The key to a large loyal fan base is a personal and individual approach to communicating with your fans. It literally means conversing with them one on one. It is about exchanging interests and skills in everyday life. If you lend a helping hand to someone, often people will remember you and support your own agenda. We often call this “networking,” or the building of productive relationships.

StreetJelly is a great avenue for networking since you get to talk live to your fans. Think about what you say during your shows, how you want people to perceive you, and what you post later online in other social media communities. Talk to people, a lot of people, everyone you meet.

How – You Spread the Word  Many Streetjelly artists support each other and attend each other’s shows. This is wonderful, but it is important to attract your own personal audience. Maybe your friends or family, your coworkers, or neighbors enjoy live music. Let them know that you are performing on StreetJelly. Inform them about your upcoming shows and share your talent with as many people as possible. Soon your audience will grow and you will be one of the artists with the popular show. This will attract even more fans. Crowds attract crowds. Connect with this audience and make them watch you perform over and over.

Remember, do not spam a huge number of people on social media. Your posts will get lost in the sea of noise out there. But do individually invite people you know to your shows. And ask them to share your invitations. Rotate through different groups of people you know, too. It’s unpleasant to burden the same people all the time.

Branding is forming memories, opinions, representing ideals, and stirring emotions. You build loyal fans that associate your name and performance with a specific mixture of musical talent and personal charm. Building that deep bond takes time and commitment. But it’s simple. Get to know your fans, entertain them with your music, help them out when you can. Good luck out there!

Year Two – We Keep Rolling

Happy 2nd Anniversary, StreetJelly!  August 17th, 2014

Anniversary TwoOn August 17th, 2012, the very first musician performed on StreetJelly.com!  …and to quote a great lyric, “what a long strange trip it has been.”  Yes, year two is now in the books, and we keep on truckin’.  It has been an intense busy year.  The site has grown tremendously and we are most proud that we still keep it a friendly fun destination for pure live music on the web.  Here are some quick stats to date:

  • 70,000 unique visitors came to the site 300k times
  • 1.3 million page hits
  • 696,000 minutes of streaming video, 11,600 hours
  • 14,800 musical performances
  • 1,540 musicians on StreetJelly
  • 306,400 tokens tipped to musicians, that’s over ¼ million tokens – $50k
    THAT’S A LOT OF TIPS ! ! !

Read about Year One click here

Timeline Highlights

Jellypalooza 2013August 18th, 2013 – Jellypalooza Online Music Festival! We kicked off our one-year anniversary with the first ever truly Online Live Streaming Music Festival. 12 hours straight of continuous multiple streaming musicians.  The Second Annual Jellypalooza is scheduled on 8/31/2014, Labor Day weekend.

August 25th, 2013Meadow Ryan Album Release Party.

October 19th, 2013 – Big Deal Extravaganza!  Awardees of the Big Deal rocker pin (a 500 token value) perform special back-to-back shows. Clifton Printy, Image and Family, and Lana Mason.

Halloween JamOctober 31, 2013 – Halloween Jam!  StreetJelly musicians perform live shows in scary …and silly costumes.

Mini-Merv

Mini-Merv

November 10, 2013 – The Merv Roast  Amanda secretly plans a surprise roasting of Merv.  Mini-Merv looses his shins!

December 15, 2013 – Jelly Jingle  Oh, this was so much fun.  All day, SJ musicians performed Christmas and Holiday carols.  We are totally doing this every year.Christmas Jelly Jingle

December 31, 2013 – Another tradition continued.  Our second New Year’s celebration by SJ musicians singing Auld Lang Syne in every US timezone.  19 more timezones to go for next year.

January 28, 2014 – StreetJelly wins 1st place in the Tennessee Veteran’s Business Associations business plan competition.

Purple Lana

Purple Saturday

February 14, 2014 – Sing me a Love Song Night  Who needs dinner and chocolates when you get great musicians singing all love songs live on Valentine’s Day.

March 1, 2014 – Purple Saturday  Purple what?  It’s a StreetJelly thing, you gotta know the SJ anthem – Purple Rain.  “Purple Saturday” was our tribute to all things purple.  It was a ton of …uhem …purple fun.

May to July, 2014 – Street Jelly Media, Inc. participates in a media business accelerator program, MediaWorks, hosted by the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center.  This is behind the scenes stuff, but nonetheless an important step in growing StreetJelly to the next level.  It takes a village (not my words) to build a great and successful start-up.

July 2014 – The Great StreetJelly Guitar Giveaway Music Video Contest  :flatley!This was the battle of all jelly battles for a beautiful brand new J. Backlund Retronix R-800 guitar.  There was jelly-blood everywhere by the time the dust settled.  But only one musician was victorious – Alex Mason of Nashville, TN.

Here are all the great music video entries…

What’s Next?

Two big things coming for 2015.

  1. Website Updates: design and features.  Yep, we’re not going to keep it the same forever.  Stay tuned for pretty layout changes, and as always, new features.
  2. Mobile App.  Yes, let’s get our jelly-fix everywhere and anywhere.

The Hay-day of the Drum Corps

The Hay-day of the Drum Corps, by Frank Podlaha

GlocksWhen people ask me if I am a musician, I usually say, “no, I’m a music lover.”  Well, that’s not entirely true.  When I was a kid, I did belong to a few musical marching bands known as drum corps.  I played the glockenspiel, or “glocks.”  The glocks are the marching version of xylophones, in the percussion section.

When best describing a drum corps is NOT to think of a school “marching band” like you may remember back in high school or college.  Although we primarily marched in parades, a drum corps is really nothing like a school band.  The drum corps is made up of much fewer instruments.  The groups I belonged to were mainly fifes and trumpets on the brass side, and glocks and drums on the percussion side.  The repertoires generally consisted of patriotic parade songs, Sousa marches, etc.  For example:  The Stars and Stripes, Yankee Doodle, Yellow Rose of Texas, and so on.Drum Corps

Firemen’s Parades
I know drum corps exist all over, but in my day they chiefly existed as a local town civic organization with close ties to the volunteer fire departments.  I grew up in a small New England town, New Fairfield, CT.  Drum corps were big back in those days, 1970s to the early 80s.  At the time, the local fire departments would host the town’s yearly carnival.  Just like today, the town’s carnival was the highlight of the summer.  Where I live today in Tennessee, they call them County Fairs.  But back then, these firemen’s carnivals were always kicked off with the annual town parade.  Firemen's ParadeThey would invite fire departments from other towns (Connecticut and New York) to participate in the parades.  The parade itself was actually a competition among fire departments to display their best fire trucks and equipment.  Prizes were handed out for best truck, best marching unit (firemen – yes, they marched too), best drum corps, etc.  The fire departments would hire a drum corps to help them march in the parade by keeping time with a continuous drumbeat.  The New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department would always hire the New Fairfield Sparklers Drum Corps.

Now you get the picture, this is where the fun starts…

The 70’s Were Crazy
I belonged to the New Fairfield Sparklers in the late 70s, early 80s, from about age 10 to 15.  The Sparklers were a kid drum corps, most of them were.  Later in college, I belonged to the Newtown Striders, a “senior” drum corps of adults.  The Sparklers traveled to and from parades in old Bluebird school buses painted in our colors.  Yes, imagine the Partridge Family bus!  Now imagine these buses filled with young teenagers.  The parade season lasted all summer.  At least two, sometimes three, times a week we traveled to a parade and firemen’s carnival in a nearby town.  It was heaven for a kid.  We were carnival junkies.  I think I’ve been to every town’s carnival in western CT and south-eastern NY over the years.

What a blast they were, too.  After each parade, the host fire department would offer free food (hotdogs), beer, and soda for those in the parade.  Most parades were evening time, and we’d get a few hours after the parade to eat some hotdogs and check out the carnival.  It was usually late by the time we all piled back into the buses to head home.New Fairfield Sparklers

They’d all get Arrested Today
Parents, cover your ears!  We did some crazy things back then.  Oh, I forgot to mention: we changed in and out of our uniforms on the bus before and after the parade.  Young girls and boys stripped down to their undies two feet from each other.  I know, what can I say!  I got my first peek at a you-know-what on the drum corps bus.

Firemans CarnivalThe free food and drink after the parades were off to the side of the carnival grounds, roped off from the general public.  We called them “bullpens.”  They were full of 100s of drunken firemen.  You do remember the free beer part?  It was also very easy for a crafty kid to sneak over to the beer side and grab a brewsky.  Uh-em, so I’ve been told.

After the festivities, we all loaded back onto the retro groovy buses for the ride home.  Dark buses were full of hormone filled young teens.  Oy vey!  That glass you hear clanking was a spin-the-bottle game rolling away as the bus made a sharp turn.

Times were definitely different back then.

Lessons Learned
Besides the things I can’t mention, the drum corps was the coming of age for us New England kids of the 70s.  We did learn music, marching, discipline (some), team work, and even a little respect for one another.  Drum corps still exist today, but I’m sure their hay-day has come and gone.  Thankfully, we all made it out safely.