Messenger - Vol. 4, No. 1, Page 3
Pre-schoolers boogie with Mr. Al

     Look out Raffi. Beware Sharon, Lois and Bram. There's a new guy
in town, and he's capturing children's hearts faster than you can say
     He's been called "the M.C. Hammer of the toddler set" and "the
Elvis Presley of the pre-school set-their king for sure." He's cut
seven albums, has a video in the works and there's talk of a future
television pilot. Children love him, teachers adore him and even world-
weary reporters who cover his events have been surprised to find
themselves dancing in the aisles when he breaks into such hits as the
"Wiggle Your Knees Boogie."
     Enthusiasm for life and a love of kids and music have transformed
Alfred E. Rasso Jr., Delaware '76, '84MI cum laude, from a not-quite-
traditional classroom teacher into "Mr. Al," the high-energy, wild and
wacky children's entertainer and educational consultant.
     Based in Santa Monica, Fla., Rasso travels the country performing
for children and presenting in-service seminars for educators on
cooperative classroom techniques. Favorite seminar titles include
"Sing Me Some Sanity-Please!" and "United We Learn-Divided We Brawl."
     Listening to him, you won't find any syrupy lyrics or sing-songy
tunes. You'll find creative words set to up-tempo music ranging in
style from '50s rock to '90s rap.
     It's a world miles away from the Deer Park Tavern in Newark,
Del., where Rasso's musical odyssey became serious in the late '70s
when he sang and played bass for Mother Flag and Country, a New Jersey
rock band and Newark favorite that twice opened for a just-starting-
out Bruce Springsteen.
     Ironically, Rasso left the band because he was tired of the
travel. Now, years later, in a very different venue, he's on the road
     "It's a better audience. There are no cigarettes; nobody's drunk;
and you can use exactly the same techniques in the classroom that you
use in nightclubs," he says.
     For several years after leaving the University, Rasso taught
elementary school-most of the time at Avon Grove Elementary School in
West Grove, Pa. He taught pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and grades 1
and 2.
     In 1985, he married and moved to Florida. He taught first grade
there for a year and was encouraged by the response to his music and
lyrics in the classroom.
     In 1987, taking out a loan, he recorded his first album, "Mr. Al
Sings Colors and Shapes," a conglomeration of all the songs he had
written while teaching. Favorite cuts include "Do the Circle" and "The
Square Shuffle."
      In his words, "It did so great in southern Florida that it was
picked up by a national company- Melody House of Oklahoma City."
     Mr. Al's other albums include:
        * Mr. Al Sings Friends and Feelings
          Designed to help young children develop their social and
          emotional skills, with such songs as "What Do You Worry
          About?" and "You Gotta Have Hugs."
        * Mr. Al Sings and Moves
          Geared directly to the physical development of the child,
          with songs that include "Rock 'n' Roll Body Parts" and
          "Wiggle Your Knees Boogie."
        * Just One World
          Written in collaboration with Stephen Fite, president of
          Melody House, featuring songs that help children become more
          aware of the world around them and the potential
          environmental problems that they could face. Songs include
          "Conserve Is the Word" and "Blues for Our Blue Skies."
        * Back To School
          Another collaboration with Fite designed to make the
          transition from home to school a little easier for children,
          teachers and parents. Songs include the "Back To School Bop"
          and Don't Talk To Strangers."
        * Sing Me Some Sanity
          Intended to help teachers, parents and children through the
          routines of the day, with such songs as "The Slow Boogie,
          Please Stand Up" and "It's Clean-up Time."

     During an in-service program, it's not unusual for Mr. Al to
summon teachers on stage for "Teacher Humiliation Day," while
demonstrating his routines. He also asks teachers to break into small
groups and write original lyrics to his tunes, often with side-
splitting results.
     At the end of a children's concert, he's likely to put his
techniques into practice by having children leave the auditorium doing
the "Slow Boogie" (designed as an effective way to keep children in
line) after he has had them atwitter for an hour or so.
     Naturally, Mr. Al is full of educational theories to go along
with his workshops. In a recent issue of Teaching K-8 magazine, he
made a plea for giving students the gift of time-allowing them to
develop at their own pace instead of rushing them into subjects.
     "We assume children are ready to read at 6. We're not taking into
account the different developmental levels of the children we're
teaching. Some simply aren't developmentally ready to read until
they're 8 or 9," he says.
     Rasso began his own adventure into music at the age of 5, taking
classical piano lessons. By the time he was 16, he was also proficient
on guitar, bass guitar and drums.
     He is the father of three children-Jason, 20, who is a sophomore
at the University of Florida; Jamie, age 8; and a new infant daughter,
     "Jamie has always been the first person I try my new songs on. If
he likes them, they go in the album. If he doesn't, it's back to the
drawing board."
                                                          -Beth Thomas