Bridging Generational Divides Through Music & Media

outside landsSept. 28, 2009 This past weekend I hosted “team bonding” for the JV girls’ volleyball crew coming together from a wide array of schools, cultures, and socioeconomics to learn to trust, play and unite as one cohesive unit.

At first my ears were sounding alarms as if I had a living lab of Rachel Simmons’ ‘girl talk’ research in my house, so I tossed those ‘Table Topics’ handy icebreakers their way, as they segued to music, bands, songs, first concerts and media moments… whew. Big exhale.

All I could think of was my post about “Playing for Change: Peace through Music” and the post about harmony via Grammy artist Narada Michael Walden and even the one about Susan Boyle…because music truly unites divergent crowds like a universal smile.

I started thinking about music and media on road trips (a pack of girls shuffling through ipod favorites sharing a hub) concerts that connect both parents and peers and even use of YouTube videos as touchpoints for connectivity to open up dialog in ‘seen this?’ mode…

So today I’m turning over the blog to a parenting poppa, Bruce Sallan who was up here in the Bay Area last month about this time, experiencing the ultimate ‘teen bonding’ experience with his tribe from the L.A. area who made the trek for the big multi-band rock-n-roll music festival Outside Lands in Golden Gate Park.

event staffBruce Sallan’s feature is part wistful nostalgia, part heart-warming parenting reminder that “being present in the present” (even in the background, far removed from the core crowd) can be a massively rewarding bonding experience, or as he argues, ‘there’s no such thing as quality time, just quantity time.’

After this past weekend, I see his analogy all too clearly…As we wrapped up our own ‘team bonding’ overnighter with music, water sports, and a wild-n-wooly weekend of play, we laid the foundation for mutual respect among us and between us. Why? Not because I hovered like a helicopter parent, but because I stayed out of the way like ‘staff’ at a concert, scurrying backstage to make sure all the wires were working and logistics were handled…

It was music to my ears when my daughter mumbled to me as she dozed off to sleep, “thanks mom, for everything. Really.”

A Dad’s Point-of-View, by Bruce Sallan

Not Too Old for Rock and Roll

I just returned from one of the best three-day trips of my parenting life. My son, Will, not yet 16, and two of his female friends and I drove to San Francisco to attend the Outside Lands Music Festival. (same time next year, 2010)

bruce outsidelands

It’s an all-day late-into-the-night, music festival on the Polo Fields at Golden Gate Park.  There are multiple acts performing simultaneously on several stages throughout the festival grounds…

The list of performers included such well-known acts as Incubus, Pearl Jam, Tom Jones (yes, that Tom Jones who has become a sort of icon to the younger set), The Black-Eyed Peas, and The Dave Matthews Band.  On the more obscure side, especially to this ol’ middle-aged dude were acts I’d never heard of including Gooferman, Zap Mama, Kinky, Q-Tip, Albino, Dirty Rotten, TV on the Radio, Ween, Lenka, Cage the Elephant, and Heartless Bastards.  Honestly, I didn’t make up any of these names.

rock concert

There were tens of thousands of festival goers and the grounds at various times were full with excitement, tension, and anticipation as well as the ubiquitous smell, to quote Dave Matthews, of “Eau du Reefer.”  The first day they ran out of beer as the jostling of the crowd to get to the drinks and food was almost as intense as getting to the front of the stage for the bigger-name performers.

During our six-hour drive from Los Angeles to the Bay Area, I was inculcated to the better-known acts by my son and by all three of the teens that played their music non-stop.  It was definitely overload for this dad, but also an education.

For my son and for his two friends, it was probably the first such adventure of this sort in their young lives with only one adult chaperone and an astonishing amount of freedom during the festival itself.


For me, it was proof of my theory, which I espoused in one of my first columns, that there is no such thing as quality time, only quantity time.  The hours we spent together brought a closeness and, now, shared memories and experiences that are irreplaceable.  I saw my son blossom as a man, learning to take care of the two girls in his charge.  As one was less than 5 feet tall, she required special care when they were working their way close to the stage or she’d literally get trampled.  My six-foot-two son rose to the occasion and all three kids were spectacularly happy and riding high, without the aid of any of the “Eau du Reefer.”

Our taxi driver, the first day when we missed the bus to get us to the festival, was an old hippie who had on a sixties radio channel and offered my son a buck off the fare if he could identify the song that was playing.  He did.  It was “Tired of Waiting” by The Kinks. It turns out this taxi driver’s name was also Bruce and he turned around to the three kids in the back, and sounding stoned, said “Do you have any idea how lucky you are to have a dad that takes you to this?”  Needless to say, he got a big tip.

sallan kidsFor me, watching my son interact with his girl peers was a chance to re-live those moments of growing up that are so special.  The excitement of going to something that keeps you from sleeping the night before, the fun of being with a cute girl you like and sharing the experience, and maybe the tingle of pleasure that comes from holding her hand for the first time.  I got to vicariously live those feelings again and maybe enable them to happen under wonderful and truly magical circumstances.

The first day, I watched from afar the big acts while the kids went into the tight mass of humanity crowding the stage.  Modern technology, in the form of texting, allowed me to keep in touch.

They couldn’t leave their spot to join me and see Tom Jones or they’d lose front standing room status, so I went alone to marvel at this Dorian Gray phenomenon.  It seemed that Mr. Jones and I were the only middle-aged people present as I watched in awe as all these teens and young adults, seemed to know every word of every one of his songs.  Thousands singling along to “What’s New Pussycat” was a complete hoot.

The closing act of the second day, turned out to be the highlight of the event for all of us as the Dave Matthews Band played for a non-stop 2.5 hours.

I mustered up my resolve and for 30 minutes or so wormed my way through the crowd, tiptoeing over prostrate people, to stand adjacent to Will and his friends.  It was worth it.  Will would turn and look at me with this wide-mouthed grin.  He and the girls were dancing in place and the whole field was alive with joy.  I remember the same feeling when I went to see Peter, Paul, and Mary in 1967 with my first “love,” Robin, when it took me the length of the entire concert to get the nerve to put my arm around her.

sallan kids2

Maybe the music has changed, but I don’t think growing up is much different today.  The irony that I realized midway through the trip was that I was 15 in 1969, when Woodstock happened on that August weekend 40 years ago.

Now, these three 15-year-old kids enjoyed this festival with the open-eyed enthusiasm I suppose all 15-year-olds bring to life.  Maybe the difference is parents today choose to experience some of these things with their children.  For me, it was a priceless time and memory.

bsallan“Please visit to contact Bruce and to enjoy the various features his new Web site offers, including contact info for advice and coaching, an archive of his columns, general contact info, links to his published work, photo galleries, and reader comments, plus much more.  Bruce Sallan was an award-winning television executive and producer for 25 years.  Google him if you really want to know more (e.g. his credits).  When his boys were quite young, Bruce left show biz to become a full-time Dad.  Shortly thereafter his marriage ended and his wife abandoned their children, leaving the State.  Bruce found himself a full-time single Dad, in his late forties, as well as a returning single man to the changed world of cyber-dating.  It became a classic “sandwich” situation when he also began to care for his ailing parents.  He began writing various blogs on the dating sites he used as well as articles for local publications.  The goal of his column, A Dad’s Point-of-View, is to primarily focus on parenting and occasionally other issues from the male perspective.  Presently, his column is available in over 75 newspapers and Web sites in the U.S. and internationally.  Bruce lives in Agoura, California with his second (and last) wife and two boys, who are 15 and 12.  Find Bruce on Facebook and add him as your friend.  Just be sure to tell him you saw him here.”

Amy’s note: Check out Bruce’s article on Single Dad Single Dads Making A Difference, which houses all of his photos from the day…Also, there’s a YouTube channel for the Outside Lands concert to hear live performances (be there virtually/vicariously) and hear some good tunes. (here’s DMB with his signature growly voice, below!)

Others have stories about using media/music as familial touchpoints? Send ’em my way to ‘spell the staff’ 😉



  1. @Elizabeth, you appear to know what you’re talking about. Do you mind shooting me your email? I would like to speak more with you.

  2. Donna Medi Tate says

    Hi Amy!
    Consuming Kids:
    Thornhill Elementary School-Montclair
    Tuesday, April 20th 6:30- 8:30p
    5880 Thornhill Dr.
    R.S.V.P Donna Medi Tate 510-379-6212 or

  3. Aww, I love how music can bring people from all different backgrounds and interests (like parents and teenagers) together!

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