Santa Cruz Good Times

Monday
Aug 03rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

Tunes that Teach

music_BananaSlugStringBandThe Banana Slug String Band Celebrates 25 years
Children’s programming runs from the idiotic to the sublime. But rare is the children’s musical group with a socially conscious vibe—imagine the Wiggles with a soul or Soupy Sales with a vegan pie. For 25 years, Santa Cruz’s aptly named Banana Slug String Band has been entertaining tots around the globe with an eco-message of hope.

On Saturday, Nov. 13 at Kuumbwa Jazz, the ensemble will play two special anniversary shows for children (and their parents) at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. The band will be pre-releasing their upcoming CD and showcasing the newest songs from their vast catalogue in a family-friendly atmosphere.

Self-branded with monikers that reflect their love of all things outdoors and under the sea, lead guitarist  “Airy” Larry Graff, bass player Doug “Dirt” Greenfield, songwriter/guitarist “Solar” Steve Van Zandt and mandolin/guitarist “Marine” Mark Nolan all come from a background in nature studies. Together they make music that is deserving of its own animated Saturday morning show.

Doug Dirt graduated from Ohio University with a degree in pre-law and communication and came to California to go to law school. Airy Larry graduated from the University of Michigan with a degree in environmentalism, and all four met at the San Mateo Outdoor Education and Exploring New Horizons in 1985. Today, Solar Steve and Marine Mark run the San Mateo outdoor education school where 200 kids come each year to learn about redwood trees, the ocean and environmental education. “They are actually famous curriculum developers, educators and trainers,” Greenfield boasts of his bandmates. “One is a countywide administrator and the other is a principal on site—legit nine-month-a-year jobs.”

Each player’s ability to be comfortable on a stage or trekking down a trail creates the unique feel of a Banana Slug String Band show. “Our message has always been about love for the planet, families and kids,” Greenfield says. “All of our music, our issues, anything we do is about that. Since we all mostly come from an outdoor camp environment, we all have a framework of inclusive interactivity. Singing and dancing allows the message to go deeper. It might be for a couple of thousand people, but it’s a big campfire.”

Besides a common sensibility for nature, each band member brings a unique musical passion to the band: Solar Steve is a folkie guy who loves Bob Dylan, Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie and comes from a strong tradition of singer/songwriting, Marine Mark is an old school rock ’n’ roller, Airy Larry loves the Grateful Dead, and Doug Dirt comes from a soul and funk background. Melded together, Banana Slug String Band is a prism containing the kaleidoscopic colors and sounds of a well-honed rainbow of music that began in Santa Cruz and has been seen around the world.

The band’s international appeal was evident when they were invited to play one of the toughest schools deep in the ghetto of Jamaica in 2002. They did a tour of Flankers, which is a very rough school. Greenfield recalls that “it literally looked like a prison. The principal was like an army sergeant: She was a smaller woman but stern.” The schoolmaster introduced the band to the students with a warning: The children were not to talk, sing or move. Greenfield attempted to intervene: “I tried to tell her we were interactive but she reprimanded us as well and said, ‘If it gets out of hand I will stop the show.’”

music_BananaSlugStringBand2Ultimately, the Banana Slug String Band’s playful spirit prevailed during the middle of their set. “Larry was going off and everyone was having a great time,” the bassist begins. “[The principal] was so moved that she came up to the microphone and did this rap and blew everyone’s mind. Afterward she said, ‘If these people are ever back in Jamaica, we welcome them to tour our school with open arms.’”

Now part of a two-year national program called Ocean Literacy, the Banana Slug String Band was commissioned in 2008 by the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, and the Centers for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence, to produce songs that would help students learn about the world they live in. “We proposed that you cannot have a successful ocean education program without music, and they hired us,” says Graff.

With their newly commissioned CD set for release next year, Only One Ocean, featuring a who’s who of musical prodigies—Victor Wooten of Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Michael Doucet of BeauSoleil, George Winston, Zack Gill from ALO, and Tim Garbone from Railroad Earth—the Banana Slug String Band is poised to educate earth children of all nationalities for decades to come.


Banana Slug String Band performs at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 13, at Kuumbwa Jazz, 320-2 Cedar St., Santa Cruz. Adult tickets are $13/adv., $15/door, child tickets are $8/adv., $10/door. For more info, call 427-2227.
Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

Health Screening

Santa Cruz wellness expert releases app to improve workplace well-being

 

Leo Sun; Full Moon, Venus Retro in Leo; Saturn Direct

It’s a complex week of planetary movements, challenges, demands and callings. We’re in the time of the Leo Sun. Leo—fixed fire, gold, the heart, generous, strong, noble, the king/queen—needs appreciation and praise from everyone in order to move forward. During Leo we gain a greater sense of self-identification by recognizing our creativity. It’s therefore a perfect time for Venus retrograding in Leo. In Venus retrograde we review and re-assess values. Venus retro in Leo concerns our self as valuable, acknowledging talents, gifts, abilities and offerings. Friday, Venus re-enters Leo (29 degrees, a critical degree) continuing the retrograde to 14 degrees Leo on Sept. 6. Friday (Full Moon) is also the (8 degrees) Leo solar festival, Festival of the Future. Leo is the heart of the sun, the heart of all that matters. When attuned to this heart, we have understanding and inclusivity. The heart of the Lion is Mitra (think “Maitreya,” the coming World Teacher). Leo prepares humanity to receive divine love from subtle sources and later to radiate that love to the kingdoms. Sirius, Ray 2, where love originates, streams through Regulus (heart of Leo), into the heart of the sun (Ray 2) and into all hearts. The heart of Leo is Regulus. Joining Venus, the love underlying all of creation appears. Saturday is Sun/Neptune (confusion or devotion) with late night Saturn turning stationary direct. Ideas, plans and structures held long in abeyance (since March 14) slowly move forward. (Read more on Leo and the week at nightlightnews.org and Risa D’Angeles’ Facebook page, accessed through my website.)

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Film, Times & Events: Week of July 31

Santa Cruz area movie theaters >
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Holy Cannoli

New bakery opens in Ben Lomond, plus Randall Grahm’s quest to grow 10,000 new grape varieties, and Mexican cooking classes

 

Is Santa Cruz turning into Malibu North?

It's got a ways to go before it gets wrecked like Malibu, but I think we need to be very careful about growth. Maria Mattioli, Santa Cruz, Psychotherapist

 

Bargetto Winery

A much-anticipated annual event at Bargetto Winery is the release of their very special La Vita red wine. June 7 was the day to be heralded this year, and I happily squeezed my car into their overloaded car park in eager anticipation of tasting the new La Vita nectar.

 

Margaritaville

Popular Capitola spot gets new owner and complete makeover