by Douglas A. Moser
TEMPLETON — No end-of-tour party. No groupies on the bus. No screaming finale. Instead, Todd Mack quietly packed up his guitar, his stand and his book and left town. The crowd he left behind was entertained, but hopefully a little more educated as well.
Thanks to a grant from the Templeton Cultural Council, Mack on Wednesday made Templeton Center Elementary School the last stop of a tour that took him to schools around the commonwealth. The singer, songwriter and author, who lives in the Berkshires, was tring to strike the creative spark in each of those youngsters.
On his tours, which over the past 18 to 24 months has included stops in Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York, Mack toted his guitar and his first children's book, "Princess Penelope."
The program is called, 'Writing and Rhythm,'" said Mack. "I try to incorporate the music side with the writing side to connect singing and songwriting with a picture book so their imagination is helping to teach them about rhythm and meter."
During his performances, Mack reads his book, which he said was inspired by his now 7-year-old daughter Caroline, along with playing a mixture of his own children's songs and traditional songs "that tell stories and are very rhythmic," he said.
"Rhythm is involved because picture books are meant to be read aloud. And rhythm is an important part of writing," Mack added.
When he walked back into Ms. Kazinskas's afternoon kindergarten class for an unexpected encore, Mack sang a couple of traditional folk songs to the children huddled on mats on the floor, engaging them with questions about which lyrics should go next.
For Mack, his future plans include wanting to record a children's album after this winter, after which he will tour Georgia schools with a new program there called, 'Georgia Read More.' The program chose "Princess Penelope" as their pilot book, which will be read to students by Georgia notables, including Mack.
For the tour he just completed, Mack said he applied for grants from cultural boards all over the state, with Templeton being the only board in the area to award him a grant.
According to the Massachusetts Cultural Council's Website, Mack was one of 10 to receive grants in 2004, totaling $2,800. Others included a jazz performance, animal adventures for Baldwinville Elementary and a senior citizen concert.
Mack said that careers in the arts are not mandatory for his two children. "I hope they do something that brings the same level of satisfaction as I get," he said. "It'd be nice if it's in the arts, but it's not a prerequisite."