MUSIC : 12 Youngsters Will ‘Reach for a Rainbow’

Chris Pasles covers music and dance for The Times Orange County Edition

Don’t be surprised if you see a few of your neighbors’ kids on stage at Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre this Sunday.

Twelve lucky youngsters will be on stage with children’s entertainer Bob Schneider as part of the “Reach for a Rainbow” program at the Meadows.

The 12 are Christie Amos, 11, of Huntington Beach; Angel and Tiffany Asche, 12 and 8, respectively, of Orange; Jenny Lynn Chung, 11, Santa Ana; Kristin Eaton, 10, Orange; Cara La Green, 11, Santa Ana; Tiffany Kilgast, 10, Garden Grove; Mengting and Mengson Shieh, 10 and 7, respectively, Irvine; Christina Stojanovski, 11, Orange; Jennifer Taillon, 10, Newport Beach; and Greg Wilterink, 11, Long Beach.


The concert is a benefit for the Pacific Symphony and the Rehabilitation Institute of Southern California, a 41-year-old facility in Orange that treats the disabled. Proceeds will be divided evenly between the two organizations.

The program also will include orchestral music, led by Pacific Symphony music director Carl St. Clair. Jeff Bergman, who does voices for such cartoon characters as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, will serve as narrator for Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.”

Schneider likes to recruit your average kid, rather than any young bound-for-Broadway whiz, and let him or her blossom in front of an audience.

“Most of the kids that you see on stage have been taking singing or tap lessons for years,” he says, “and most kids feel that’s way beyond them. But with my kids, they get the feeling, ‘I could do this, too.’ The key thing is for them to feel very good about themselves.”

A 45-year-old Bronx native who has been living in Toronto for the past 10 years, Schneider has been working with children for 12 years. He discovered his talents for songwriting and working with kids while teaching immigrants in an artist-in-the-schools program in Canada.

“At first, it was a pretty scary thing,” he recalls. “I had nothing planned.”

It was raining, so he picked up his guitar and simply created a ballad, “Listening to the Raindrops Falling Down.” It worked, and he soon had the kids “making actions of rain falling down with their fingertips.”

Now his whole act has been worked out. The kids receive a videotape of the songs before Schneider arrives in their city. They get together with him for a single 90-minute rehearsal, and then they’re ready for the show.

On stage, you’ll see the kids singing with him and acting out the songs--usually about friendship and families or dreaming--with simple, chorus-line gestures.

Sure, the kids have “different levels of talent,” Schneider says. “But we transcend that. This kind of energy hopefully filters through to the audience, because when you do a job well, everyone will feel part of the show. . . . I know it’s great for me. I get real close to the kids real quick.”

What: “Reach for a Rainbow” benefit concert.

When: Sunday, Sept. 1, at 7 p.m.

Where: Irvine Meadows Amphitheatre, 8800 Irvine Center Drive, Irvine.

Whereabouts: San Diego (405) Freeway to Irvine Center Drive exit. Turn left at the end of the ramp if you’re coming from the south; right if you’re coming from the north.

Wherewithal: $12 and $14 for adults; $6 and $8 for children under 12.

Where to Call: (714) 474-4233.