Soundbites: The Busy Morning Band Tours Vermont Libraries | Music News + Views | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

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Soundbites: The Busy Morning Band Tours Vermont Libraries


Published July 3, 2024 at 10:00 a.m.

Linda Bassick and Greg Rothwell - FILE: LUKE AWTRY
  • File: Luke Awtry
  • Linda Bassick and Greg Rothwell

True story: I was terrified of the library when I was a kid. There was no bibliophobia involved; I loved reading. Nor was it the idea of quiet studying — even for a 10-year-old motormouth with attention deficit disorder, I was able to be a respectable library-goer.

My fear was specific to a strange program the library ran one weekend, in which a man dressed up as Thomas Jefferson — white wig, stupid buckle shoes and all — and read to us about American history and the U.S. Constitution.

Halfway through his description of building Monticello, the ersatz American founder doubled over in pain. We'd learn later that his appendix burst while cosplaying, but to a roomful of fifth graders, it sure seemed like it was part of the presentation in the moment. As the EMTs arrived and rushed to where the fake Jefferson was crumpled on the floor, my friend Xavier leaned over to me.

"Just like in real life!" he said.

"What do you mean?" I asked.

"Thomas Jefferson got punched in the stomach and died," Xavier said with startling confidence. "He dropped dead in a library!"

Years later, laughing over some beers as adults, Xavier and I realized he had mixed up Thomas Jefferson and Harry Houdini. The magician is rumored to have died as a result of being punched several times in the stomach by a McGill University student — though he perished nine days later in Detroit and not in a library.

But for years after the incident, I couldn't sit in a library without worrying that any number of famous deaths throughout history might be reenacted in front of me. When we started reading William Shakespeare, I was convinced the library would stage a bloody assassination of Julius Caesar in the reference section.

Fortunately, I've recovered from my childhood trauma and can now properly enjoy libraries. But it might not have taken so long had young Chris been lucky enough to catch a performance by Linda Bassick and Greg Rothwell, who play children's music, often in libraries, as Busy Morning Band.

The duo released an album in 2022 titled Maple's Busy Morning, following the story of a child, Maple, who has a lot to do before nap time. If that sounds like good fodder for a children's book, it is.

"We always knew that we wanted put out a kids' book to accompany the album," Bassick said. An early childhood educator, she's been playing music for kids for more than three decades. "We made this album that was all about planting the seeds of positive talk for kids, and it just made so much sense to illustrate that."

Working with Burlington artist Jackson Tupper, Bassick and Rothwell put together their first kids' book, Squirrel in a Tree, named after a song on the record.

"It's the most epic track on the album," Bassick said. "We hired three string players from the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association to play on it, though it was so long ago now — they're all in their twenties!"

The album was recorded at Tank Recording Studio in Burlington in 2019, but it's taken Bassick and Rothwell time to get the funds together to illustrate and print the book.

"At first, we kept trying to write for grants," she said. "After a while, we realized it just wasn't going to happen, so we decided to raise money the old-fashioned way — gigging."

The duo wants to put out a total of five books, each derived from a song on Maple's Busy Morning. Squirrel in a Tree is the first in the planned series, and Bassick and Rothwell plan to follow it up after raising money through a unique summer tour of state libraries.

"I love Vermont libraries," Bassick said. "There's 187 of them in the state! So I just said one day, 'Why don't we tour them?'"

Bassick, who started working with children in the late '80s, already had a busy library schedule, playing weekly gigs at Fletcher Free Library in Burlington and Dorothy Alling Memorial Library in Williston. Booking 187 shows seemed bold, so the duo settled on a 17-library tour, starting on Friday, July 19, at Brownell Library in Essex Junction and wrapping up on Saturday, August 17, at Highgate Library & Community Center.

Bassick is excited play the songs from Maple's Busy Morning for kids across the state and show off the new book.

"I really love watching kids interact with Maple's story," Bassick said, noting that the character is never given a gender. "Maple is always wearing a hoodie and even has hoodie pajamas. We leave the gender ambiguous on purpose so any kid can identify with the story."

It's a busy summer for Bassick. She and Rothwell are also slated to play at the annual Maple Roots Festival in Montpelier on Saturday, July 27. She'll put aside the kids' tunes at night to reunite with her all-star rocksteady outfit, Steady Betty. The all-female group features some of the area's most badass musicians, including Bassick, Miriam Bernardo (High Summer) and Kat Wright, who are coming together for the first time in almost six years.

"If you're going to spend your summer on tour, this is the way to do it," Bassick said with a laugh. "Play for the kids and [be] back home in your own bed that night."

I'm looking forward to checking out Busy Morning Band when they swing through Burlington for a show at Fletcher Free on Saturday, July 20. If you see me and I look a little apprehensive, don't worry — I'm just trying not to think about Thomas Jefferson.

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