The Invite, The App and The Rock Star: My Amazing Trip to NYC

When I finally sat down to document my recent experience in New York City, I realized that there were so many different angles from which I could have come in writing this piece.   The trip to New York City itself was quite an adventure and the people I met while there were absolutely amazing and inspiring.  I knew I obviously wanted to write about this fantabulous (yes, that’s a word!) new storybook app that was promoted at the social media event I attended…..but then there was just the simple fact that I met the Godfather of Shock Rock and Rock ‘n Roll Hall of fame inductee, Alice Cooper!   See my dilemma? There was an abundance of “spectacular” that happened, making the narrowing of my blog topic quite difficult.

New York City, Times Square ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown, April 2016
New York City, Times Square ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown, April 2016

That being said, I pondered for a day or two and figured there had to be a way to take the entire experience and turn it into a beautifully written mosaic.  I brainstormed, chicken-scratched some ideas, played back the videos I shot and realized that there were three or four distinct parts to this amazing adventure.   So, I simply broke them down and the words started coming!

THE INVITE

Email Invite Confirmation ~ April 2016
Email Invite Confirmation ~ April 2016

There is nothing like receiving something extra special in your email inbox!  As a blogger, I am one of many who dream big and wish upon a star on a daily basis for some kind of magical invite.  This could be to an exclusive social media event or even to join an elite team of bloggers and writers.   Since I’m still new to this venue, I expected it to take some time before anything came my way.   So, when I received an email invite to attend a social media event here on the East Coast, I was stoked!  The invite was to attend an exclusive gathering at the Universal Music Group that would center around the launch of a new children’s story book app for iPad and iPhone.   The invite in itself was an honor to receive, but the golden nugget was really found in the anticipated guest appearance (more on that further down).

I quickly responded to the invite and waited patiently for a confirmation.  In the meantime, I worked out the potential details on who would watch the kids, looked at maps and train schedules and did some research on the app itself, as well as the rock star I was hopefully about to meet.   I also found out that a sweet friend of mine was invited and, should both of us be reserved a coveted seat, we were going to have the opportunity to meet for the very first time!  The excitement was building exponentially by the moment!!!

Pam C. and I outside Universal Music Group ~ photo taken by one of us, April 2016
Pam C. and I outside Universal Music Group ~ photo taken by one of us, April 2016

Well, the confirmation email finally came for both of us and I just want to apologize to those of you on the West Coast ~ yes, that was MY scream you heard echoing across the country!!

THE APP

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Nearly everyone is familiar with Sergei Prokofiev’s 1936 Russian Classic, Peter and the Wolf, the story of a boy living with his grandfather in a forest clearing.   In defiance of his grandfather’s wishes for him to stay protected within the gated yard, Peter seeks to prove his lack of fear and intends to capture a wolf that seems to be lurking in the area.  Each character has its own instrumental orchestration and the intent of the story was to cultivate an appreciation for music in youth during the early years of their education. The story, however, was not well received at its initial introduction, but eventually gained its fame and classic label in years to come.

In more recent days, Doug Fitch (visual artist) and Edouard Getaz (producer, filmmaker) of Giants are Small, saw an opportunity within this classic to modernize it and retell it as a prequel of sorts in a storybook app called Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood.  They spent eighteen months, from beginning to end, reinventing the story and creating an interactive musical adventure.   As noted, they adapted the story-line to modern times and have Peter coming from Russia to live in Hollywood with his grandfather.  Much to Peter’s surprise, his grandfather does not fit the stereotypical grandparent and is, instead, a hippie working for someone famous in Hollywood.  The story keeps some of the traditional characters from the classic, including the cat, a duck, Peter, his grandfather and the wolf, but puts a very interesting spin on each of their personalities, as well the plot.  Much like his classic character, Peter still intends to prove himself in his new surroundings by setting out to capture a wolf that has escaped from a local zoo.   Each set was designed by hand using simple items such as cardboard, paint and markers.  The creators then incorporated interactive games into the app so that readers could participate in Peter’s adventure.  There are eight games included on the deluxe version for the iPad and one game on the iPhone.  The games allow children to help Peter build a robot, draw out constellations and even help capture the wolf! During our event, Getaz enjoyed showing us a game that involved a diving board and a duck.  I’ll leave that one to your imagination!

The app itself is designed for children ages five to eight and is available now for purchase from the app store.  It was also designed by its creators to be an educational tool for both music and English teachers.  On the site for Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood, there is a section designed to assist educators in this regard.  Musically speaking, the app draws from a variety of classical composers, including Prokofiev, and even maintains some of the original music used to illustrate each individual character.   On a personal note, I found this quite heartwarming as it reminded me of watching a particular Sesame Street video with my children when they were young that retold the classic, placing tremendous emphasis on the musical score and instrumentation of the characters.  Of course, not only does the contemporary version by Fitch and Getaz provide young readers with an appreciation for classical music, it also tells a story of “facing your wolf,” teaching bravery, courage and finding your identity – all great lessons to be learned.

THE ROCK STAR

T meeting Alice Cooper ~ April 2016
T meeting Alice Cooper ~ April 2016

Okay, I am not going to lie.  This was the most amazing aspect of the entire day.  I have heard so many stories over the years about Alice Cooper and how antithetical he is from his persona on stage.  I have friends who have met him in the past on airplanes or during other interviews who have described him as a “teddy bear,” as a “gentleman.”  I was extremely eager to find out if all of these rumors were true.

On stage, Alice Cooper portrays a character intrigued by the macabre, adding boa constrictors, blood and morbid scenes to his theatrical musical performances.  In real life, however, the man is truly a sweetheart!  I’d love to say, “Ssshh – it’s a secret that only a few privileged individuals know,” but, in all reality, he has shamelessly let the cat out of the bag himself.   He dotes on his beautiful wife, to whom he has been married for 40+ years, speaks lovingly about his children and 17 month old grandsons and remarks candidly about his 30+ years of sobriety, commenting on how he watched so many of his friends waste away too early in life.   He supports classical music, though he admits he doesn’t listen to it regularly and gives all the credit to his wife, a ballet dancer, for keeping him tuned in to this genre.  He also believes that it’s important to find “your subject” in life.   Book reports may not have been his “subject,” but when he found music and began performing on stage, he knew exactly what he was doing and any anxiety he once felt left.   He commented on how knowing your subject has a tendency to take away the fear and enable you to do the things in which you enjoy.

Cooper was approached to narrate the entire cast of characters in Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood.  He poured a little of himself into each, yet distinctly and individually defined them.  He put a little “Tommy Chong” into the grandfather, created an evil persona for the arrogant cat and, of course, interjected some of his stage presence into the wolf.   His suspenseful voice carries the tone of the story very well and I was intrigued by the clarity and definition in his narration.  He was truly a great fit for the project.

THE TAKEAWAY

"Thank you" for attending the event ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown, April 2016
“Thank you” for attending the event ~ photo taken by T.M. Brown, April 2016

This entire adventure for me was a “wolf” of sorts.  This was my very first social media event and I was both excited and nervous about the entire opportunity.  I knew I wanted and had to get my foot in the door if I had any intentions of seeing my writing progress.  I knew I wanted and had to meet others doing this exact thing in order to know if I fit or if I had a chance.  No doubt, I am truly grateful for the exposure and experience this event afforded me, my friend, Pam, and so many others.  I do recommend the app for those of you who have children between the ages of five and eight and I encourage parents to have some fun with the games, as well.   I’m telling you – try the game with the diving board and the duck!

Something unique that was brought to the discussion during our intimate chat session was how this project actually has a wonderful way of bridging a gap between generations.  Many of us who are parents with children in this age range and a little beyond grew up listening to Alice Cooper as a part of our musical play list.   Now, our children can listen to him narrating a storybook app, giving us both the opportunity to share in the talents of an artist whose multi-faceted career has spanned five decades.

I will never forget this experience.  There was so much I  took away and many memories I will cherish for a lifetime.   I went to New York City to face my “wolf” and I came home having caught him by the tail!

Until next time, ~ T

(Revised, 04/25/16) Though I was compensated with a small promotional gift bag containing items pertaining to the Peter and the Wolf in Hollywood app, all the opinions expressed above are mine and mine alone. 

Huge thanks to Maria Bailey, BSM Media, Giants are Small, Universal Music Group and Alice Cooper for this unforgettable opportunity!

T with Matt Morgan, from Disney's The Lion King on Broadway ~ photo take by Pam Charles, April 2016
T with Matt Morgan, from Disney’s The Lion King on Broadway ~ photo take by Pam Charles, April 2016

BONUS!!!  While visiting New York City to attend this event, I had opportunity to meet up with an old friend from high school.  It was great to see Matt just before his performance on Broadway in Disney’s The Lion King!   So proud of you, Matt!

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