Pegi Young has seen rock and roll history unfold in front of her eyes at least twenty-five times. She’s the co-founder of the Bridge School (with her husband Neil), an innovative school for students with severe speech and physical disabilities. That means that she’s also the driving force behind the annual Bridge School Concerts, which has seen artists from Thom Yorke to Tony Bennett to Metallica lend their time and talents to performing acoustically for the students, staff and those lucky enough to have a ticket. With the 25th Bridge School Concert occurring last week, and a compilation album of some of the finest moments from the concert’s history now out this week, we thought it was a great time to check in with Pegi about her favorite memories from the series.
1. The Very First One
I thought less about the individual performances, which are all so stellar, that you can’t pick one or two or five or ten — there are too many great ones. One of the things that really stuck out for me was the very first concert. It was so simple and so innocent — my husband Neil came up with the idea for the all-acoustic format, which was genius. MTV Unplugged hadn’t started yet, and it was very revolutionary an idea at that time. The innocence and purity of that whole evening. It was only one evening, and it was very simple. Bruce [Springsteen] came off of the three-year worldwide tour for his Born In The USA record, it was a super memorable evening for me when I think back on it
2. Watching Eddie Vedder’s daughter befriend Drew from the Bridge School
Another thing that came to mind, was this year — Eddie Vedder’s oldest daughter, and one of the Bridge kids, became buddies over the weekend. The Bridge kids do interviews with the artists backstage, and Olivia was with Eddie at the time. Drew was interviewing Eddie, and they’re about the same age, and they just became buddies for the whole weekend.
3. The way the artists’ perception of the students change
The artist comes in, especially those who’d never played the show before. They get to meet the kids and meet the families, and see who the kids are. Besides seeing their physical manifestations, that they have severe speech and physical impairments, that they have personalities and likes and dislikes, too. There are so many artists who have young kids, and seeing the similarities — that’s huge. They leave knowing the next person they meet with severe disabilities has much more going on than might meet the eye. I love that.
4. Eddie Vedder’s Commitment
“He said to me last night that he wanted to come back and help, and just hang out and be with the kids. That tells you what kind of a man he is. He’s particularly bonded with [Bridge Graduate] Mericor. One year, Billy Idol and Eddie were sort of vying for her attention. Eddie said that he caught Mericor flirting with Billy Idol, and he wasn’t sure how he felt about that!
5. Watching the kids grow
One student who started at the school when he was very young — a lot of the time the little guys get overwhelmed — there’s so much energy that they get kind of unglued. And watching one little guy, Matt, who went from that stage to now — he’s front and center, and clapping, and he just has a great time. Usually sitting right near him is Keith, the Mad Drummer. He’s out of high school now, and some drummer will give him a stick, and he’s always grooving with the music. The Bridge kids are the real stars of the show.