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The following article appeared in the New York Times newspaper:


The Animals are having a party.EEE in New York Times

The problem is that many of the invitations to the animals are coming back marked, “Return to sender.” This is the story line in a new musical compact disc by Eric E. Everett. a Rye resident and a teacher at Rye Country Day School. It is part of Mr. Everett’s effort to bridge the musical gap between Raffi, a popular children’s singer who appeals to the very young, and much of today’s popular music, which is geared by theme to teen-agers and young adults. At the same time, Mr. Everett’s self-produced CD (Zowie Music and Productions, named after his cat) is an effort to raise childrens awareness of the environment and and raise money for programs that protect it. Mr. Everett, whose nickname is Triple E, will donate all profits from the CD to causes supporting endangered species and environmental education.

Mr. Everett, 31, who plays the guitar, has been at Rye Country Day School since 1991, where he teaches theater and various stagecrafts. Two hundred students, teachers and staff members make up the chorus of “Animal Party.”

He has written and performed two other rock musicals, including “Speaking In Tones,” which was presented at Rye Country Day School in 1997 and deals with finding identities and overcoming communication barriers. His earlier CD, “Dreams To Be” (1994), features 13 original songs he performs with the Eric Everett Band, aimed at an older audience than the one for “Animal Party.”

Here are excerpts from a recent conversation with him:

Q. How did “Animal Party” come about?

A. “Animal Party” was something I always wanted to do. I always wanted to record with the kids, have them sing some songs. It kind of started out as something for Earth Day to do with the lower school music teacher Anne Bauby. I had had this idea in the back of my head, and then went off on a trip to Africa with my dad, who was there on sabbatical. So I visited South Africa and Kenya, and that kind of experience helped with the story line.

Triple E on the back cover of Animal PartyQ. What was your purpose in doing “Animal Party”?

A. There are two purposes. Kids, in my experience with them, are always singing songs they don’t understand – stuff they hear on the radio or MTV. I shouldn’t say they don’t understand, But they don’t realize what they’re singing about sometimes in terms of sexual or whatever content is involved. It’s not like I’m going to hold moral judgment over what they should or shouldn’t be singing, but there’s just no musical step for them between Sesame Street and Raffi to Metallica and Spice Girls. There certainly isn’t a lot. I’m trying to create some rock-and-roll – because that’s what they want – that they are going to dance to and have fun with.

Q. How do older audiences react to “Animal Party”?

A. Usually pretty well. because while the songs are aimed at kids, they have humor for adults and it’s still rock-and-roll. Even though a lot of the songs have a lot of kids singing on them, the upbeat element is still there. It’s not Raffi. And I don’t want to pick on Raffi. But even second graders don’t ant to listen to him because it’s just not cool. And I’m not trying to be cool, but I’m trying to give them something more interesting to sing about than the simple stuff. And I wanted to have a story that has some kind of message to it.

Q. What is your message?

A. The message is helping animals, and there is plenty of need to help them. I’m trying to raise their environmental consciousness, I suppose – to get them to start learning to appreciate nature and the earth at a young age because those are values they can take with them as they grow up. If they learn these things earlier, they are going to hold them dear. And it’s important to realize that this generation – all the generations – are going to be affected by environmental issues.

Q. You wrote the music and the lyrics?

A. And the story that kind of connects all the songs. It is a story of Triple E. He has a farm, a cranberry orchard somewhere on the east coast, and he wants to have a party. And he sends out invitations to all to all his animal friends all over the world. And the invitations all come back. So he takes a few of his animal comrades and goes out to find out why all the invitations came back. And in traveling around the world to various places like South America and Antarctica and Africa and various places around America, he finds out different things about the environment and what happened to the animals.

Q. These are animals that have disappeared?

A. Yeah, they disappeared. They’ve been forced to move. It touches on a lot of the topics such as deforestation and animal extinction and poaching.

Q. Where do you trace your environmental consciousness?

A. My parents’ interest or someone’s interest that turned me on to certain environmental magazines when I was a kid. But also by being involved in outdoor activities at my grandparents’ farm.

Q. Where are the profits going from the CD?

A. I’m going to basically fund organizations that have specific programs for teaching environmental awareness and supporting endangered species, such as the Sierra Club, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Greenpeace. I’m taking the profits and donating them directly. If anyone has a program and wants to get in touch with me, I’d be glad to help out, especially locally.

Q. What was it like performing with the children? Did it take lots of takes?

A. We didn’t have that luxury. We had the luxury of maybe a couple of takes for each class. I’d gather kids around the microphone and they’d sing, and I did a lot of editing later. The kids’ stuff is mostly as it was.

Q. You had said that ideally you would like your story made into a cartoon or video. What does it take for that to happen?

A. It takes interest; it takes publicity. The framework is here within the CD, and I’m working to expand it into a script that could be done as a musical or animated movie.

Q. What do you do? Go to Disney? Got to Dreamworks?

A. That’s exactly what I’d like to do. But I’m not necessarily just aiming for the top. I’m looking out there for whoever is interested. I’m going to eventually do it.

Q. You clearly found the animals of Africa interesting. Describe what you saw.

A. I did a safari. A lot of people think a safari is just going out and hunting. But it’s more like going out and shooting your camera. It was incredible stuff. You get so much more of an appreciation of what we will be losing when you see it not in the zoo. You realize you’re going to losing this wildness, this wilderness, the more we don’t care about the land. That’s when you start really thinking that you should care, when you see it up close.

That’s another reason to promote environmental education – to give kids a first-hand appreciation of it. If they don’t go out and go through a forest or walk on a seashore and that kind of thing, then they will never appreciate it as much from there classrooms.