Seventh- and eighth-graders at Brooklyn Park/Lindale Middle School rocked their bodies back and forth, danced the twist and did the wave as the zydeco band strummed guitars, scratched the scrub board, beat the drums, played the bass and worked the accordion.
Swept up in the rhythms of a blues song, one boy stood up, donned black sunglasses and swayed from side-to-side, imitating blues singer Ray Charles.
For most of the students, the 15-minute concert Friday in the school's auditorium was their first exposure to zydeco, a Southern Louisiana sound that mixes French and African rhythms, soul, and rhythm and blues.
"This is zydeco," declared band leader Roy Carrier, as the five-member group finished a Cajun waltz tune.
"You can move your body. You can move your feet. You can dance along with anybody in the house. We don't care."
Some students embraced those words wholeheartedly, letting the music sweep them out of their chairs -- to the dismay of teachers standing nearby, who coaxed the livelier ones back into their seats.
"He kept coming after me," Travis Romano, 14, said of one of his teachers.
"I just wanted to keep dancing. It was the kind of rhythm you can dance to. That's what I liked."
His peers agreed, using words such as "cool" to describe the music of the Lawtell, La., band, Roy Carrier & Night Rockers.
The students' positive response to the 23-year-old band left school officials relieved.
Not sure whether the teen-agers would like zydeco, school officials only told them there would be an assembly in the school auditorium Friday. They did not tell the students what the assembly was about.
"It's lively and fun music, but it's not rap and they might start tossing their chairs," joked teacher Richard Burger, who sponsored the concert for the school's 870 students as part of the Renzulli program he heads at Brooklyn Park/Lindale.
The Renzulli program, developed about 10 years ago by Joseph S. Renzulli, a University of Connecticut researcher, believes "everyone is gifted in something at sometime," said Mr. Burger.
To unearth those gifts, the program exposes students to things they might not normally experience. It also encourages students to explore their own interests.
The Carrier band was paid $300 for its performance, he said. The group filled in on short notice after a Fort Meade rock band, Camouflage, which performed six years ago at the school, canceled a week ago.
The army band needed more rehearsal time for upcoming military engagements, which take precedence over others, Mr. Burger said. Their performance would have been free.
When science teacher Larry Benicewicz, who writes for various music publications and has been the Carrier band's booking agent for three years, heard about the cancellation, he offered the zydeco band as a replacement.
The group, which had been on the East Coast performing since Nov. 3, heads back to Bayou Country today .
This was the band's first performance at a school.
Mr. Carrier said he "didn't want to force them to clap to something they had never heard of before."
But the moment he let out a long "Ohhhhhhhh" during a Cajun waltz, he hooked his young fans, who started letting out "Ohhhhhhhs" and hoots of their own.
"I wish they could come back," said Travis Rowmano.
"It was the funnest time I ever had in school in two or three years."