Arts / Mr Tim knows how kids tick

Mr Tim... “Kids surprise me all the time and I still laugh my head off,” says Mr Tim. Photo by Andrew Finch

Mr Tim… “Kids surprise me all the time and I still laugh my head off,” says Mr Tim. Photo by Andrew Finch

WITH feathers in his hair, boundless energy and an instinctive way of making music fun, performing arts specialist and children’s comedian Tim Bevitt has many strings to his bow.

They range from creating kids’ concerts in primary schools in four days to performing and recording with his band Mr Tim and the Fuzzy Elbows and bringing families together with his venture Mr Tim’s Family Choir.

“There’s not a lot of activities that parents can actually do with their kids,” he says.

“You can go and watch your kid do sport, drop them off and go. But there’s not many extra-curricular things you can do together, except maybe bush walking or the movies.

“But even then it’s not a skill that you build together and there is something very powerful in seeing how a family interacts and what it does for them. I love the parents that come for the kids but they all help each other and work together.”

Currently run at Hughes Primary School, Tim is taking his family choir northside this year and, while the location is undecided, he says it will be held at 6pm on Thursday evenings. He says the choir covers a mix of songs, including his original songs as Mr Tim, pop and rock classics, and rounds.

Nathalie and Tim Bevitt. Photo by Andrew Finch

Nathalie and Tim Bevitt. Photo by Andrew Finch

“The idea is to keep it entertaining for kids – you’ve got to be more entertaining than an xBox and faster than a computer,” he says.

“I’ve always been exuberant and excited, and I can bring that crazy energy which carries people along. I’m doing what I love.

“Singing together can bring back the joy of childhood, to help parents reconnect with that part of themselves and to have fun with their kids.

“It’s important for your child to see you having fun with them, being silly, seeing the child in you.”

Along with his wife, Nathalie Bevitt, who he met in Canada while teaching tai chi, Tim also runs Unexpected Harmony, a choir for grown-ups, and this  year will sing at Summer Sounds and produce a kids’ food detective show to promote healthy eating in the ACT.

As for his skills in getting 400 kids to perform on cue after only four days in his school “Extravaganza” program, Tim says it involves a little bit of magic,  works every time but doesn’t sell well on paper.

“I come to the school, we rehearse for four days then put on a show. People don’t believe it until they see it,” he says.

“But then they see the kids, even the shy ones, performing on the stage and loving it – there’s a magic to it. They know they’re going to have fun, they are very directed but they don’t feel it, and they are very engaged very quickly. And once parents and teachers see what’s happening, they’re gobsmacked at what can be achieved. It’s the quality of the performance but also the process involved – the kids are just having so much fun.”

“Tim comes in knowing for sure that they can do it,” says Nat.

“There is a true confidence in them and they can feel it. Kids will give you their best when they feel that you are believing in them. That’s a part of the magic that we miss – they’re actually capable of amazing things from a very early age.”

While studying at the ANU School of Music, Tim, 38, says he became involved in accompanying a children’s choir, helping at the Music Society summer school and conducted the youth choir, and found that he loved working with children and later went on to study a diploma in education.

“I have a large family, I’m the eldest of a lot of cousins, so I grew up herding children and I’ve always had a good sense of fun and games,” he says.

“I didn’t like school though, I found it miserable, I was bored and had a bit of a Trunchbull as a teacher, who was actually scary and made me fear school. I loved the end-of-school concerts, though I never got the main parts. Which is why I generally don’t give individual solo spots, just group solos, which gives the kids confidence because they’re up there with their mates.

“I don’t want anyone to have a negative performing experience.”

Tim says he started to write his own music in 2003 because he was running into copyright issues through his choir work.

“I thought, if I write it, I’ll own it,” he says.

“I get inspired by kids, and songs like ‘Scabs are Irresistible’ came from a child who walked up and randomly said that to me. Kids surprise me all the time and I still laugh my head off. And that’s where my energy comes from. I know what makes kids tick and what’s actually funny to them.

“Being a kid is awesome. I love it and I feel like I’ve never lost that feeling of not wanting to grow up.”

Mr Tim and the Fuzzy Elbows will perform at the Summer Sounds series at the Botanic Gardens on Saturday, February 4. Visit mrtimblog.wordpress.com for more information

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