A harmonica pocket - Keeth Monta Apgar's term for funny asymmetrical pockets on 1970s jackets - is just big enough for a harmonica.
But the Harmonica Pocket — the catch-all name for Apgar’s musical projects — is big enough to hold indie-pop music for children and adults, a rotating cast of band members, and even a hula hoop.
Apgar and hoop-wielding sidekick Nala Walla, both of Port Townsend, are celebrating Dr. Seuss’s birthday and the kickoff of the Timberland Regional Libraries’ annual Read-Aloud Program with shows March 4 and 6 in Lacey, Olympia and Tumwater.
“We’re looking at Dr. Seuss as a person who inspired creativity, someone who revolutionized learning to read and childhood in America,” Apgar said. “We’re looking at his life and his books as symbols of that.”
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If that sounds serious, Harmonica Pocket is anything but. When it comes to creativity, Apgar knows what he’s talking about, said Ellen Duffy, Timberland’s youth services coordinator. Duffy booked the group to perform last summer at Aberdeen Timberland Library.
“They wowed every single person in the audience,” she said. “I will never forget it. It was so unbelievably creative, and there was lots of audience interaction. Last summer’s theme was ‘be creative,’ and we could not have found a group that fit that theme any better.”
The show will give audience members the opportunity to sing “One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish” and other Seuss stories, and to sing “Happy Birthday” to the late author, who was born March 2, 1904.
“We have a piece called ‘Guess Which Seuss,’ ” Apgar said. “The audience will hear a couple of pages and then try to guess which book they came from. Some of them are really easy, and some are pretty challenging.”
The show Duffy saw included some Seuss, and she asked Apgar to develop a program for Dr. Seuss’s birthday, the traditional starting date for the library’s Read-Aloud Program. It was the latest step on Apgar’s winding road to becoming a children’s entertainer.
“The Harmonica Pocket was a bar band for about six years,” he said. “Eventually, I got a job substitute teaching in a preschool. I would bring in instruments and play music with the kids and for the kids.”
Eventually, that led to recording songs, and that led to a show at a school. “We didn’t really know what we were doing, but we went in and tried to do the best show we could,” Apgar said. “At the end of the show, the director of the school said, ‘Wow, the kids have never sat still for an hour.’ It’s been an organic thing, and now I find myself doing it full time. You get surprised sometimes where you end up.”
He also hasn’t stopped making music for adults.
“A song will hatch, so to speak, and it will tell me, ‘I’m a kids’ song’ or ‘I’m not,’ ” he said, sounding a bit like a kids’ song himself. “About half of my songs are adult songs and half of them are kids’ songs.”