‘Helpers’ for hurricane relief: Nick of Time at The Parlor Room Nov. 11

  • “In the Nick of Time” album cover

  • Nick Deysher, top, and his wife, Tracey Freitag, bring their band, In the Nick of Time, to The Parlor Room in Northampton Nov. 11 for a concert to benefit hurricane relief. Photo by Jahn Eichfeld

For the Gazette
Published: 11/2/2017 9:31:50 AM

There have been a few benefit concerts for hurricane relief in the Valley recently, including a show by legendary saxophonist Charles Neville in Ashfield last Sunday, but the one happening at the The Parlor Room in Northampton next weekend is for a different kind of audience, one that’s full of helpers: kids. On Saturday, Nov. 11, Nick Deysher, a musician and preschool teacher at the Smith College Center for Early Childhood Education, also known as Fort Hill, will bring his In the Nick of Time band to the venue to celebrate the 10th anniversary of his 2007 album, “Coconut Groove.” 

Deysher recorded the album when he was a student of Media Writing and Studio Music Production at the University of Miami, and tracks like the titular “Coconut Groove” have an obvious Latin influence. “It is a Reggaeton song, so it’s definitely inspired by Caribbean, Puerto Rican music,” Deysher said. Proceeds from Saturday’s show will go to UNICEF USA’s Hurricane Relief Efforts. Irma hit South Florida back in September, causing major flooding in some parts of the region, and “a few of our friends have water property damage and still are recovering from the storm,” said Deysher, who added that Miami “is the community that supported us in making the album, so we really want to give back.” 

As a preschool teacher, Deysher has gotten used to talking to kids about hurricanes and their effects on human lives. “At Fort Hill, we have some relief drives as well. It’s something that’s in conversation and on people’s minds. But you have to tread lightly. I feel each parent knows their child and knows, to what degree, they feel comfortable sharing,” Deysher said.

And if a kids’ concert can promote empathy and be entertaining at the same time, all the better. He loves seeing kids listening to the music with rapt attention — and dancing. “They are not old enough to start being really influenced by their peers, second-guessing, ‘Should I get up and dance?’ They are just completely uninhibited,” Deysher said during a recent meeting at Fort Hill. He sat in a small and cozy room, amid a Casio keyboard, mini harp, African drums, rattles and tambourines and other instruments.   

Originally from Westborough, Deysher has been performing for kids for 17 years. Since the 2001 release of his debut album, “One Man Band,” he has recorded four more albums, including “People, Places and Things,” which was awarded a Gold Medal from the Parents’ Choice Foundation. He also received the Fred Rogers Memorial Scholarship from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

In 2000, when Deysher first walked into the classroom as a general-support teacher in the LEAP School in Lexington, he brought his guitar and strummed some kids’ songs that he knew. Students leaned forward to listen and sang along. The next year, he was hired to be a music teacher. “I would build curriculums out of some song ideas that kids would have,” he said, “and then I would use those to write music.” In his classroom, kids’ curiosity about ancient reptiles turned into a song about dinosaurs, and a number-counting exercise inspired the song, “Number Seven.” The music and teaching “came together to support each other,” Deysher recalled. “What we’re learning in the classroom would become songs that I would write.”

Deysher returned to western Massachusetts in 2013 and began teaching music at Fort Hill. Attracting a roomful of restless infants, toddlers and preschoolers is one thing, but carving out a niche in a market crowded with kids’ musicians is another matter. “Because of my teaching, I’ve always had a built-in audience,” said Deysher, who often performs with his wife, Tracey Freitag, who studied music theater at University of Cincinnati. The two have been performing together in music-theater shows since they were in high school. 

In addition to attending his shows at The Parlor Room and The Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, a few of his student fans have imitated his performances in class. “Sometimes I’ll hear a teacher saying, ‘You know, so and so are playing Nick and Tracey today; they got their ukulele, and they were drumming and singing the songs,’ ” he said with a laugh. “You definitely see some kids that get super-involved with it.”

His older brother, Seth Deysher, is also in on the act (he plays bass), as is their childhood friend Dan Cornely, who plays electric guitar. Last weekend, the band went back to perform at Fales Elementary School, in Westborough, where Deysher first performed onstage when he was in the first grade. “When there were school assemblies to bring music in, it was one of my favorite things,” Deysher recalled. “Anytime we perform, I think of how much it meant to me growing up. Being able to provide that to other kids is very powerful. That’s what I love about what we do.”

What’s also lasting is the impact he has had on his students’ lives. A former student of Deysher’s whose name is also Nick decided to pursue a professional music career partly because of his influence. “His mother wrote me just out of the blue: ‘I know you remember him strumming along with you’ … Now he’s at Berklee, and he’s playing the guitar,’ ” Deysher said. “I’m starting to see that kids grow up with our music and how it’s influential to them.” It reminded Deysher of his own childhood music idol Bill Harley, a two-time Grammy award-winning singer, storyteller and author. “When I started to network with people, I was able to go up to Bill Harley and say, ‘I remember seeing you at my elementary school. I had all your albums. You’re a big reason why I’m doing this,’ ” Deysher said. “To be able to pay that back and see it come back to me, it’s really neat.”

The concert features a raffle — in collaboration with local businesses including GoBerry, A Child’s Garden and A2Z Science & Learning Store — to raise money for hurricane relief. And the show itself promises vibrant and diverse musical styles: a blend of rock, pop, reggae, jazz and funk. “You might not be a big fan of folk music, you may love funk … whatever you like, there’s bit for you,” Deysher said. 

Signature Sounds Presents: In The Nick of Time: 10th Anniversary Concert! on Saturday, Nov. 11, with a benefit show for hurricane relief starting at 10:30 a.m. (doors open at 10 a.m.) at The Parlor Room, 32 Masonic St., Northampton. Tickets are $5 in advance, $8 at the door. For more information, visit signaturesounds.com.



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