This Canadian quartet began its career in Toronto clubs and cabarets in 1978. It released six albums 1982-91: The Nylons (LAT-1125), One Size Fits All (LAT-1152), Seamless (LAT-1190), Happy Together (LAT-1233), Rockapella (LAT-1254), and Four on the Floor (ACD-1301).
Its repertoire includes many pop hits of the 1960s through the 1980s - eg: The Tokens' 'The Lion Sleeps Tonight' and The Supremes' 'Up the Ladder to the Roof. Its first two albums each sold more than 100,000 copies in Canada. Total sales internationally reached 3 million by 1991. The Nylons' greatest success, however, has come through their exuberant, if campy, live performances. The group's concerts are characterized by the dramatic use of lighting, costumes, sets, staging, and choreography that reflects the members' theatrical expertise. They employ only percussion for accompaniment. (The Canadian Encyclopedia)
And why should you care?
Way back in the day when I was a Grade Seven student at my local high school my sister was on the basketball team and I was in the band. However, I loved our annual sports events because that was where I got exposed to acapella music for the first time. The entire school would get together and meet in the gymnasium for a major musical production.
Now a pep rally is meant to be an energizer for the audience. One of the best ways to get students excited is to poke a little fun at their teachers. My dad would work on a collaborative project with other teachers in his school over a weekend. Sometimes they spent longer planning but usually they could get their "act" together over a Sat/Sun. Each year the "Pylons" would be a main event of major tournaments hosted at our school. The "Pylons" act featured brave teacher recruits lip synching and doing a dramatized dance routine to a Nylon's song and then to some current and popular "teenie bopper" hit of the day.
The "Pylon's" started out dressed in white overalls from the local school shop. Underneath which was their costume hidden for the second teenie bopper number. The first costume would rip off easily and dramatically to the encouragement of the cheering crowd. The white coveralls were complemented with a flourescent orange pylon borrowed from the gym teacher (Mr. S) worn as headgear! This is how the "Pylons" truly earned their name. These teachers really did some exceptional performances and utilized the skills of Mr. S with the fog machine and stage lighting to make the pep rally a real event. I fondly remember one year where the entire staff joined in for a number cross dressed. I think in fact that is the point I wanted to share with you. I remembered the efforts of all of these teachers. All of us students came to anticipate these performances. They built a lot of school moral and I think also helped the staff at the school bond. I like to think of teachers as "real" people with a sense of humor. I think this type of event allowed students to appreciate their teachers in this way.
You may not be the type of teacher that feels confident taking on the school play or leading the singing of "Oh Canada" in your gym, maybe even your classroom. The lesson of the "Pylons" for me is that you can find ways to participate and take artistic risks to build a strong community in your school. Hoja did a great job of this when they visited our school. It happened that they selected some student teachers to be part of their act. While I'm not sure the student teachers loved it in the moment. They energized students and I think won a great deal of respect for their performances from the rest of the staff. Taking these kinds of risks can pay off in many ways, especially encouraging a sense of play and friendly regard in the school.
I know my father as an administrator at his school often had to take on an authoritative role. This was the part of his job that he liked the least. The "Pylons" gave him a chance to connect with students in a positive way and provided a forum for him to be seen differently by some of the students he had to discipline. I hope that this idea he started at his school can inspire other people to let loose a little and not be afraid to start a collaborative project at their own school. I'm thankful that he's "cool" enough to let me share this with you!