CALL GLENN Colton a cheerleader for kids -- he won't mind. The musician, composer and educator is living a dream by helping youngsters realize their own dreams.
"I love music and I love working with kids," says the perennially smiling Colton. "And I believe the kids are hearing my message."
It's a message of self-confidence and self-motivation Colton shares through his educational concerts and four releases, including the new CD "Glenn Colton Takes a Look Within." The encouraging words in his catchy tunes carry messages about a healthy heart, mind and soul. In "The School Song," he helps kids understand how name-calling hurts others, by likening it to the pain of a skinned knee. In "Take a Look Within," he sings, "When you listen to your heart, you'll hear what it has to say."
Ironically, Colton says, he was slow to take his own advice. He supported himself through college playing solo gigs at bars, but was unsure of his future after earning business and elementary education degrees. "I didn't know what to do. I knew even then that bar gigs weren't the answer to finding musical happiness. But I avoided making a decision. I didn't follow my own advice," he says.
He finally decided to work full time in an area he enjoys, a philosophy he now shares with youngsters. "If you like what you do, you'll like yourself," he says. Combining his musical talents, educational background and outgoing personality, Colton created an ever-evolving series of theme concerts and fun. He performs about 200 times annually at schools, museums, festivals and family-oriented events, including three shows each year for the past decade at the Theodore Roosevelt Elementary School in Cheektowaga.
"He has a way of motivating students without them knowing it," Principal Tom Slaiman says about Colton. "And the kids love it. He involves them in his shows and he even has the teachers playing an active role."
Audience participation is the key, Colton says: "If I do my job right, the kids are involved from start to finish." It's also important, he says, to be subtle in his lessons.
"I don't like to be preached to. That's why I go through the back door with the kids and use a subtle hand," he says. "I can plant the seed in their mind with a song like 'The Choice Is Yours.' But I tell them that once I leave, they are left with themselves and the choices they make. And anything is possible if they're willing to make healthy choices."
Upcoming: Noon and 2 p.m. Saturday at the New York Power Authority Wildlife Festival, Artpark in Lewiston.
LOCAL RECORD PICK
Stray Bullets, self-titled. This four-song debut EP has the heart of '80s arena rock, but the temperament of a quiet soul. The musicians like to rock live, but they may want to explore this quiet side, too. The sparse instrumentation and subdued guitar openings to "Save Your Best" and "Another Day" are very nice. The stylized vocals, however, don't quite fit those songs, working better in the rocker "Too Late." "She Came Knockin' " has another quiet opening, this time breaking into a jangly funk.
-- Toni Ruberto