Our Interview with Amy Striem, Co-Founder of Rock and Roll Playhouse
by Gina Alligood
Congratulations on the success of your Rock and Roll Playhouse and events! What went into building the national series, and what do you believe is behind the overwhelming response you’ve received?
Thank you, we took our time building the program in our home venues, Brooklyn Bowl and The Capitol Theatre, which helped us figure out how to bring a successful program to other venues and cities. We love opening up in new communities and hearing the enthusiasm that comes from families. The Rock and Roll Playhouse is a unique program. It was created as an interactive music program for the whole family — kids and adults — there isn’t anything else out there quite like it.
It’s fabulous to see you emphasizing creativity. As an educator you know research suggests kids are happier, better problem solvers, and overall more successful when they develop their creativity. Was the Playhouse a chance for parents to have their music fun with their kids, or was this about hosting a creative event for the children?
The Rock and Roll Playhouse was created as a way to pass down music to a new generation through family concerts, giving parents an opportunity to share the music they love with their children. The flow of the concerts is created for children to explore and interact with music. For example, we always hand out rainbow streamers to kids during the show. The kids dance and twirl with them, some pretend the streamers are wings while others use the streamers to jump over.
There are so many ways this program can impact parents and their kids. Do you see this primarily as a cultural experience to expose kids to their parents musical tastes, or is there more you hope is happening within the children themselves?
One of our goals is create a shared musical experience for the whole family, but we know that creating a live music experience for children opens up many opportunities for learning from exploring sound, to dance, to lights, to sharing a physical space and watching music come alive on a stage.
Amy, you bring an educator’s expertise to Peter’s music-promotion experience. How do the two of you use your unique talents to collaborate on events?
Peter is a visionary and has a a true love for music. I listen to his ideas and filter everything through an educational lens. It has been a true pleasure to work together over the years, creating The Rock and Roll Playhouse.
I imagine you hear great stories from parents about the fun and maybe the unexpected gifts of sharing this with their families. What are some of your favorite stories?
I love hearing the stories from parents whose children, at a very young age, connect with a particular artist in a very real way. Seeing the music played on stage is beyond special for both parents and children. One of our families, whose child is non-verbal, always sings along to a particular song and reached out to us to play the song on stage during a show. One story I just heard from a venue manager, while at the Relix Live Music Conference this week, was that he now receives requests from staff to work shifts during our shows because they enjoy the family vibe.
Along with all the fun to be had, whenever there are large groups of kids in one space there is potential for a bit of chaos. What sorts of strategies do you use to keep the kids engaged?
The setlist and activities are planned in advance with our band leaders, teaching artists, and production staff so we know that the flow of the show will work for kids. We always share that information with the venue so they’re in the loop. The teaching artists are also on the floor and stage interacting with the families.
Can you share a couple of tips that will ensure a good time and positive experience by families that are considering attending?
The show is 60 minutes long and usually starts 30 – 60 minutes after doors, so think about how that schedule affects you child’s nap time. Bring headphones if your child is used to wearing them and/or you’re worried about your child’s ears. We keep the volume down for little ears but there are lots of lights, sounds, and people at a show. Many kids may feel comfortable having headphones. If your child can’t walk, bring a carrier so they can dance! Lastly, check out the FAQ section on our website! We try to answer as many questions as possible that parents have about our shows so you can plan the day in the most successful manner.
What do you have planned for the future of Rock and Roll Playhouse?
We keep getting requests for new cities so our plan is to continue growing in order to continue sharing music with new families.
We love your band choices. How do you choose the bands, the classic music, and the event venues?
We start with the classics in every new city. We then work with venues and listen to families to bring in new artists. It’s all about fostering a musical community. Each city has a local band leader who helps us find the incredible musicians who live and play locally to come join our shows. Our venues are incredible and we are so happy to partner with each one to create unique daytime family programming with The Rock and Roll Playhouse.
We are lucky in Austin to have events happening each month at the iconic Mohawk on Red River in downtown. For more info on RRPH and upcoming shows, including the special Father’s Day event, check out their site.
The Rock and Roll Playhouse is a multi-city event at iconic venues around the U.S. to expose children and families to the amazing classic music (and great icons) of Tom Petty, The Grateful Dead, Phish, The Beatles, and more. Created by entrepreneur and owner of The Capitol Theatre and co-owner of the Brooklyn Bowl, Peter Shapiro, and Amy Striem, a certified Early Childhood and Elementary teacher, The Rock and Roll Playhouse uses music to educate children and explore their creativity. The idea for The Playhouse came to Shapiro, a parent of two young children, after he discovered first-hand a lack of regular programming in New York City that combined his passion for live music and his family. He collaborated with Striem, then an administrator at his daughter’s nursery school, to help fill this void that they felt many other parents also shared.
Amy Striem and family