No doubt, 2020 has been a rough year for many kids, who spent nearly half of it isolated from their peers, attending school at home. With the mix of emotions that comes at the end of every term hitting students harder that ever — plus the strangeness that is an education in an era of social distancing — Denver musician Rob Drabkin decided to give one group at Ute Meadows Elementary a special present: a music video for a song of his that children love called "It's a Beautiful Day."
Drabkin is a joyful musician, walking in the footsteps of Michael Franti, combining upbeat pop music and activism. "It's a Beautiful Day" has been making its way around the world, and with his new album, Two Left Feet, ready to drop soon, his career is only headed up.
With momentum and a desire to make the world a better place, Drabkin turned the music video project into a fundraiser, splitting proceeds between Conscious Alliance, a group addressing hunger nationally, and the Jeffco Schools Foundation, which addresses the issue locally.
We caught up with Drabkin, who is premiering the video below with Westword, to find out more about how this ridiculously charming collaboration between an up-and-coming musician and a bunch of schoolkids came to be.
Westword: How did this project come about?
Rob Drabkin: Mr. [Joel] Anderson, an art teacher at Ute Meadows Elementary, heard “It’s a Beautiful Day” on the radio. He played the song to his classes, and it spread around their school. About a month ago, after schools had closed down, the PTA reached out to me on Instagram. They told me how much their kids loved the song, and asked if I’d be up for doing anything for the students who were at home. At first I thought an acoustic performance would be fun. Then I had the idea to make a surprise music video starring all of the students.
Families of the kids submitted videos of them playing instruments, dancing, being goofballs and making heart signs at home. They had no idea it was for a music video until it premiered at the school’s Virtual Evening of the Arts. I had sent the PTA group a private link intended for the art show. Then I noticed the families sharing it on Facebook that night. Ute Meadows Elementary had even tweeted it! I am hoping it spreads some joy and we can use it to raise money for a good cause.
Was this the first time you met the kids? What was it like working with them online?
I had never met the Ute Meadows Elementary kids until our Zoom concert. It was chaotic, but in the best way. I wouldn’t say our call had the best sound, but they didn’t mind. The host hit the unmute-all button, and it was hysterical and super-cute. They didn’t need me to teach them the song; they already knew it! I just told them to grab whatever instrument they could find, and we started singing it together. It was awesome!
What was surprising?
In one of the submissions, a student named Avery started dancing with perfectly timed moves to the lyrics. The video her parents sent in was an amazing three-minute dance choreographed to the whole song. They told me she originally made it for the school talent show, and I couldn’t believe it! Her choreography is objectively great and fits the song so perfectly. I’m going to have to learn it.
Talk about any other work with kids you do?
Earlier this year I performed at Schmitt Elementary as part of Levitt Pavilion’s BandStart program. That was a blast! I tried to do call-and-response with the line “It’s a Beautiful Day.” We had to wear earplugs when 200 kids in the cafeteria screamed back, “DAY!” at the top of their lungs! They got so into it! I’ve also helped out at schools and libraries where my friends work. I love working with kids, and hope to do more of it.
How are you holding up through the shutdown?
I’m a mixed bag. My introverted side has handled the shutdown well, but I’ve had hard days, too. I'm still writing songs, but I also remind myself that it’s okay to not create every day. The pandemic is a burden that we’re all feeling, but I have to constantly adjust my expectations as a creative. However, I am working hard, taking on new challenges, and staying positive.
What new projects do you have going on?
My new album, Two Left Feet, is mixed, mastered and ready to go. We had a release show scheduled for May 5 at Ophelia’s, but needed to cancel before it was announced. Even though it’s not safe to have concerts, people are craving new and positive music. We’ve had to push back our release date, but the new album has a lot of uplifting music. I can’t wait to share it with the world.
Find out more about the new album, Two Left Feet, at Rob Drabkin's website.