Archive for Guest Blogger

A Comment from Regina Kelland – Owner of: To Market Kids

Reggie KellandThere are a lot of weird people out there and I’m proud to say I’m one of them. One of the best parts of being human is our differences – and that is what bullies try to take from us. October is Bullying Prevention Month spotlighting how to deal with and prevent bullying.  Supporting good character choices is a big part of averting bullying and I have had the pleasure of marketing Dave Kinnoin’s (a singular character if ever there was one!) last three CDs all focusing on this theme – his latest, The Best in Me, was reviewed here https://blogopottamus.wordpress.com/2013/09/.

But here, instead of writing about bullying itself, I decided to share some ideas on celebrating our distinctiveness, reveling in our own peculiarities and taking back our joy from those who would try to trample it.

Here are some ways, from the silly to the significant, to stand up, be counted and reach out – as a fellow oddball and as a caring member of the human race.  I have done most of them, some often.  I’m sure there are more each individual can add to their own personal list.

  1. Smile at a stranger. Some will wonder what you are up to and for others you will make their day.
  1. Dance in a supermarket aisle. A little boogie among the cereal boxes goes a long way.
  1. Put money in a meter that is about to expire (other than yours).
  1. Wear mismatched socks. (You do that already?  Good for you – even if it is by accident.)
  1. Compliment a stranger on their clothes, hairdo, tie, shoes, car, whatever.  The smile you get in return is often dazzling.
  1. Stand up to mean-spirited postings on social media.  We cannot expect that someone else will do it – we all must.
  1. Reach out to someone you think may be being bullied. A kind word of encouragement can make a big difference.
  1. Contact your legislators and ask them to support anti-bullying legislation and to not support other legislation that infringes or takes away the rights of others.
  1. Feel good about yourself. You’ve earned it – and some ice cream.

What, you were expecting 10?  That would be too – what’s the word – normal.

Regina Kelland is the owner of To Market Kids and has had the pleasure of promoting children’s music for the past, let’s just say, very many years.

For More Anti-bullying songs check out the artists at Kidzmusic.com

Leave a comment »

The Top 10 Ways To Make Music With Your Kids – by Alex Mitnick!

I’ve been entertaining kids for 10 years and teaching kids music for even longer. I’ve been a Dad for 16 months, and according to my wife, I’m a serious noise maker! Needless to say, I like having fun with music.

Here are 10 easy ways that you can introduce music into your child’s life.

1) Get up and dance.
Kids can hardly sit still while music is playing. They just bounce and move and shake and spin to virtually everything they hear! Personally, I’m not a great dancer. I’m a really good side-to-side two stepper, and if there’s a good beat my head will be bobbin’ up and down as well — but that’s about it! The good news is, my limited dance moves can last a pretty long time with my son Miles. Getting up and moving to the music is a great way to connect with your child. Maybe a little dance segues into a quick hide-and-go-seek game, or an attack of the claw on the couch. Take it wherever it goes, but it all starts with moving your body. So get up, and get down!

2) Turn off the TV. Turn on the radio.
I definitely think there are some great TV programs for kids — including my own! — but we all know that it’s all too easy to just turn it on and leave it on. We are visual creatures, and the TV can steal away our spontaneity and creativity. So turn it off! There is no greater way to fill the air with something joyful than to put on some great music — audio only. It gives us the comfort we need and the connection we crave, while leaving us free to be active and engaged with our environment. It’s that simple: Turn off the TV, and turn on the radio!

3) Just sing! Make up songs without words and play games.
After mama’s heartbeat, the very first sounds that children get used to hearing are their parents’ voices. Your child will love your voice even if you don’t — this is the ultimate judgment-free zone — so sing your heart out! With really young kids, singing in a soft, quiet head voice can be very soothing. My son primarily vocalizes using baby talk, and I’ve gotten into the habit of making up songs using his sounds. When we go out for walks, I just start making funny, repetitive rhythms of sounds, and sometimes he starts mimicking what I’m doing. I’ll listen for any phrases that he’s really grabbing onto and repeat them. If he changes his sound, I’ll begin mimicking him. It’s a great way to get him ready for real conversations. Changing the pitch of my voice (or the dynamic and timbre) often cracks him up! I’m sure I seem like a nut job to those passing us by, so I usually do this when no one else is around. Kids love these fun echo games, which also foster language development at a very early age.

4) Play music that you enjoy as much as your child.
This is really crucial. For better or worse, children will learn everything from watching you, so what are they going to learn if you seem annoyed while they’re listening to music? There is no need to play music for your kids that you yourself can’t stand. (This is why I’ve always insisted on making kids music that adults can enjoy, too.) Anything with a fun beat and a sing-able melody will do! Kids will love what you love, so don’t kill yourself by listening to Old MacDonald over and over. Put on that P-Funk album or some old-time bluegrass. Rediscover the old classics, like Motown or the Beatles. Whatever you like, they will like. Start early, and save yourself from hours of musical torture!

5) Break out those old instruments.
I played the trumpet in high school, and I’m kicking myself now for selling my old horn. Not that I could play it very well now, but I wish I could dust off the old case and share it with my son today. If you play the guitar or piano, or if you have an old violin or clarinet laying around in the attic somewhere, now is the time dig it up! Your kids will have no idea that you can’t really play, and they’ll love seeing Dad march through the house with that old trombone, oompah loompah-ing his heart out! When the time comes for your child to choose an instrument to play, you’ll be glad you shared yours with them when they were young.

6) Go to concerts.
Summer is the best time to take your kids out to see live music. There are always festivals or concerts in the park or at the library. If you plan ahead, you can find events where kids don’t have to sit still in one spot, so they can play or dance or just romp around while live music is in the air. It’s great to take kids to a kids show, of course, but you shouldn’t hesitate to take them to see a Polka band or some fiddlers — anything upbeat and lively.

7) Recycle old materials into new instruments.
I’m not a very crafty person, but just about anyone can handle most of the craft ideas out there for making your own instruments. Take a paper cup and fill it with beans or rice. Tape up the top, and bam! — shakers aplenty. Old coffee can? Five-gallon bucket? Hello! Flip them over and bang away. Here’s a personal favorite: Take an old metal can and punch a tiny hole in the bottom. Thread a single guitar string through the hole, and screw on a narrow piece of wood, two or three feet long, to the side of the can. Attach the string to the top of the piece of wood and wind it tight around an eye hook (or a guitar tuning peg, if you have one). Pluck the string and change its pitch by slightly bending the piece of wood. Boing … Boing … Boing … Canjalele! Scissors and tape not your thing? No problem – just open up the cupboard, and you will find a plethora of interesting-sounding and -looking things to bang and play to your heart’s content. Exploring textures and sounds with different materials can be a really creative activity. What do wooden objects sound like? Metal? Plastic? Organize them into groups, or make up patterns that combine them. Here’s the easiest way to get started: Play a steady beat, and then stop! — like in a freeze dance. Simply learning to start and stop together is a big step!

8) Go to a music class.
In the last 10-15 years, music classes for babies and toddlers have popped up all over the place. These mommy-and-me-style classes either traumatize participants or introduce them to a lifetime of loving music. A lot of these programs are pretty great, but it really comes down to the individual teacher, so start asking around. Nothing beats a personal recommendation, and most of the classes out there offer a drop-in trial class, so go check them out and sign up! And when the teacher asks you to sing along, do it!

9) Turn everyday things into a jam.
After our baby was born, my wife made up this little song she would sing when she brushed her teeth: Brush, brush, brush… brush, brush, brush … brush your teethers … brush your teethers. Now, our little son Miles sings this little tune every time he sees us brush our teeth! More often than not, he happily grabs his little toothbrush and brushes his teeth to the song, too. By making everyday things into fun little jams, we can save ourselves a lot of stress, as our children learn to associate the mundane chores of life with something fun and expressive. Music makes everything more fun, so take advantage of that and get jamming!

10) K. I. S. S. – Keep It Simple, Sweetheart
With all of the top 10 lists out there it’s easy to feel overwhelmed and unsure of where to start. There’s no immediate need to fill every moment of your child’s life with musical activities or to go out and buy a ton of instruments. Like music itself, it should all feel easy and natural. So keep it simple. Pick one activity and try it just for a few minutes here and there. Wake up one morning and put the radio on first thing. Clean up the kitchen and bang out a little ditty with the serving spoon. Sing a song you know out loud! Do the twist to “The Twist”! Most importantly, have fun and enjoy yourself!

Check this out for more great kids music

Leave a comment »

MAKE IT A MUSICAL MOTHER’S DAY – 5 TIPS FOR MAKING MUSIC WITH YOUR KIDS – by Suzi Shelton

Make It a Musical Mother’s Day

5 Tips for Making Music with Your Kids, by Suzi Shelton

 

As a working mom, it is really important to me to spend as much time as possible with my kids. On the weekends, sometimes this means going to the park with our puppy, and sometimes this means that they have to come to work with me.

 

Suzi and Sebastian

Suzi and Sebastian

My son Sebastian has been performing with me since he was a baby. Now at 15, he plays a variety of instruments, and was recently the emcee for my CD Release Party this past Sunday, where he charmed the audience with his style and finesse.

Suzi's band at Battery Park w daughter Emma

Suzi’s band at Battery Park w daughter Emma

My nine-year-old daughter Emma sings and dances with me as one of my backup singers, and my stepson Cole, at 6 years, plays harmonica and shouts out the words “Go, Fire Truck, Go!” for even the spectators in the back row to hear.

At these shows, I couldn’t be happier, or feel more proud that my kids are having fun with music.

 

Not every family shares this same opportunity to perform onstage together, but there are many ways to make music with your kids right at home. Making music with your kids fosters a curiosity and love of music, and also allows for real connections and family bonding.

Here are some fun and easy suggestions for making music with your kids.

 

1. Sing!

…and I mean sing about anything! Look around your kids’ room, or perhaps the kitchen or living room, and find things that are silly or interesting to your kids and – well, make up some words and sing! For example “I love peanut butter, I love cake, I love dumplings when they’re on my plate!”

 


2. Use Found Objects

We have used oatmeal containers as drums, chopsticks as great rhythm sticks, and plastic cups that make cool sounds when tapped on the table. Find some objects around the house and make up your own rhythm section to play along to your favorite music.

 


3. Down Time as Musical Bonding Time

The car is one of the best places for us to connect musically. When driving around from lesson to lesson, or while stuck in traffic, we always have a bunch of random CD’s on hand to pop into the CD player. Some of the music is my choice, and some of it (most of it) is what my kids want to listen to… but no matter what, try to connect with each other this way and turn down time into bonding time.

 

4. Keep Instruments Out

We have many instruments, such as a keyboard, drums, guitar, ukes, dulcimer and even a kalimba (thumb piano) that are always out and ready for someone to play. It doesn’t matter if you or your kids are not professionally trained – just having the instruments out to play is good for creating new songs and fostering musical curiosity. The lessons can always come when the time is right.

 


5. Have Fun!

Don’t think too much about it or try to plan too many goals for making music with your kids. Just go with the flow and have fun. The key is to connect with your family using music as your tool. Your kids will take your cues and will want to join you if they see that you are having fun.

 

A couple of Suzi’s songs are featured on this free download Mother’s Day playlist, too:

Leave a comment »

Lishy Lou’s Fabulous Fiesta Tips – Make It Musical – An idea to help you celebrate Cinco de Mayo

Lishy Lou’s Fabulous Fiesta Tips – Make It Musical
By Alisha Gaddis of Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
http://www.luckydiazmusic.com

I’m not Mexican, but my husband is- so our home is bilingual and multicultural, like so many of you out there.

But it doesn’t matter where you came from, or what your home celebrates- EVERYONE loves a party (and who doesn’t like burritos?!?!) Why not throw a Cinco de Mayo shindig with us- Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band?! We are celebrating the release of Aqui, Alla.

Here are the tips I use in our own home for the perfect fiesta:

1. Invite your most fun friends AND your most interesting friends. Sometimes, these are the same people, but oftentimes, they aren’t. Shake things up and invite different friend groups. Your kid’s soccer team would love playing with her Girl Scout troop. Mingle with magic!

2. Prepare delicious food and lots of it! Everyone loves to eat yummy treats! It doesn’t have to be pricey. Throw some chips in a bowl and use Lucky’s salsa recipe (see below).

3. Serve up something bubbly and make lots of toasts! Sparkling cider, fizzy water, champagne – anything that screams- LET’S CELEBRATE!! Toast people, events, and happiness.

4. Go for the theme. Hang lights and festive banners. Buy a piñata. Wear a fresh flower in your hair. Give the kids some maracas to shake (the adults will love those too!). Fiesta!

5. Always, always, ALWAYS have a dance party! Put one of the new songs from Aqui Alla (soon to be available via KidzMusic.com – and available right now on iTunes on your player of choice (“Viva La Pachanga” is my fave; it means “Live the Giant Party”), and dance your booty off. Not only is it a way to really feel joy surrounded by your family and friends, but it counts as your daily cardio, so you can eat more chips and salsa. ÓRALE!!

Lucky Diaz’ EASY Fiesta-ready Salsa Recipe:
1 1 1.5 oz. can Mexican stewed tomatoes
2 3 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
3 1 fresh Serrano or jalapeño chile
4 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
5 Dash salt and pepper

Add ingredients to blender or food processor – and you’re done!

Editor’s note: Alisha is an author and comedienne, married to Lucky, who was born in Miami, raised in San Antonio, and now lives in Los Angeles with Alisha and daughter ella.

Kidzmusic note: If you want to hear and purchase more great kids music, click here.

Aqui Alla

Aqui Alla

Leave a comment »

JUST PLAY

By Jim Gill

About 20 years ago Robert Fulgham became a best-selling author with the release of his inspirational book All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. One couldn’t doubt his sincerity as he recalled the lessons he learned about fairness, sharing and order: lessons he attributed to time spent in the sand pile, at play.

Soon after that things began to change in America’s kindergartens.

With school boards and administrators clamoring for a “jump start” to higher test scores in later grades there was a great shift in the schedule towards academics and away from time spent “just playing.”

Many child development experts will tell you the same thing that Mr. Fulgham did in his simple way: it was never “just play.” Today’s kindergarteners may be better prepared, at their age, to recite the life cycle of the butterfly, including the use of the word “chrysalis.” (I’ve witnessed this!) In other words, they may be taught more.

They may, however, be learning less than kindergarteners in the past. Today’s kindergarteners may lack abilities to “self-regulate” (which is essential for sitting, focusing and enjoying a book) and be challenged in their use of executive functions of the brain (the kind that keep us from making impulsive choices) that are all developed in play.

Those of us who work in early childhood know that it has even been a challenge to maintain “play based” preschools.

15 years ago I attended an open house at my daughter’s preschool. As the teacher was describing all of the things that children learn at the various centers in the classroom while at play I noticed one father, in suit and tie, reading notes from his briefcase, only occasionally looking up. (A few years later he’d be tapping at his Blackberry.)

After the teacher was finished with her presentation she asked if there were any questions. That father was the first to raise his hand and ask,” We’ve heard all about all of the play that goes on here. How much time do you spend at this preschool just playing and how much time do you spend getting these children ready for school?”

The teacher, a veteran professional, silenced the man by confidently stating, “We do play here in preschool. We play because play is the context where children develop and express abilities across all domains of development – physical, cognitive and social.”

Then she added, matter-of-factly, “That is why we play.”

And, because of this sort of understanding and advocacy, my daughter’s hours at preschool were filled with play.

I dropped my daughter off at college last month. On the drive home I had enough time to think about how thankful I am that everything she really needed to know…she was allowed to learn in preschool.

Jim is an author, musician and child development specialist. Jim will release a new CD this month called “Music Play for Folks of All Stripes”.

You can find samples of his music and books at his website: www.jimgill.com

This Blog is re-printed from Jim Gill’s blog. You can also read his blog at:

http://jimgillswordsonplay.blogspot.com/

Leave a comment »

Running With the Big Dogs – The Grammys

February 14, 2011 by billharley

Re-printed from Bill Harleys’ Song, Story And Culture

As some of you who read this blog know, I was nominated this year for a Grammy in the Best Spoken Word Recording for Children category.

And if you know that, you may know that Julie Andrews won in that category for her reading of a book of poems she wrote with her daughter. Spoken word is an odd category – it’s mostly people reading books – as before, I was the only storyteller in the category, who works by and large without written text – so it’s a little apples and oranges. We need to work to get more spoken word artists into the category. I’ll think about that.

And then, well, the winner of a category often wins not because of a particular recording, but often because of their body of work. This is a little unfair for someone who has a truly great recording, but it’s the way it is. This year, for instance, I think Justin Roberts richly deserved the Grammy award in children’s music – Jungle Gym is a wonderful recording. But Pete Seeger (one of my biggest influences) was in his category. If you didn’t know the recordings and looked at the lineup, who would you vote for?

But, like they say, getting nominated is already being a winner, and there are a lot of other things that go into determining who wins other than artistic merit of the recording. That said, winning is more fun – I love Julie Andrews, but I would have liked the award.

I digress. I went this year, knowing my chances were pretty slim. I was disappointed when they didn’t call my name. But getting to go, I met some pretty interesting people. The night before, I got to sit and watch Julie Andrews get a lifetime achievement award. She was gracious and eloquent, and I felt a nail in the coffin as far as winning goes. The Ramones that were left and their various family members were still rebellious, and that was heartening. I had a nice talk with Roger Linn, another honoree, who revolutionized the music industry with his drum machines of the late seventies and early eighties, and is still creating stuff. He explained some of the projects to me, and I really wasn’t sure what he was saying, but it sounded cool.

At the nominees’ reception the night before the awards, I ended up in line with a Nashville writer (you can tell by the hat) there for the first time. I gave him the rundown of what would happen in the various lines, having been there before, and we had a great time. Halfway through the line, I learned he was Allen Shamblin, up for best song of the year for “The House That Built Me”, and also writer of “Don’t Laugh at Me” – a great song on bullying that I have sung, and “I Can’t Make You Love Me” – sung by Bonnie Raitt – which I think is just about a perfect song. We were pals before I realized who he was, or otherwise I would have been a little tongue-tied.
Later that night, I ended up in a conversation with someone else in a line. I had voted for Gregory Porter in best jazz vocals because I loved his music – didn’t know anything about him or what he looked like. There he was. We took pictures and traded e-mails. He’ll be more famous than he is now – he can really sing.

And finally, after I lost to Julie (no, didn’t meet her) I sat in the Staples Center to watch the show next to a very elegant couple, and shortly found out I was sitting next to Albert Bell, the head of Stax records during the sixties. Present at the creation with Sam and Dave, Otis Redding, and Booker T. and the MGs. Then, I was tongue-tied. I finally said, “You were the soundtrack for my growing up.”

He said, “Glad to hear you have a little bit of soul in you.”

I responded, “Some folks are even whiter than me.”

So – tell me who the winner is here.

A lot about the Grammys is ridiculous. Completely ridiculous. It’s inevitable that there is a grasping for attention in the entertainment business. The posturing and preening is stunning, as is the sycophant aspect. If you’re famous, people want to be around you for very weird reasons. (Not that such a thing happened to me for Spoken Word for Children – kids just shake hands with me and give me their cold viruses)

But watching Mavis Staples break down into tears when she learned she had won her first Grammy, you knew that there was something else going on other than fame, fortune and glitz.

Just lucky to be there. And glad to head home.

Leave a comment »

We Are Witnessing History

By: TOR

Tor


Re-printed from NAPPA

Every decade or so, a new genre pushes its way to the surface of musical history – the punk explosion in the ‘70s, new wave in the ‘80s, grunge in the ‘90s. Today, we are seeing the rapid proliferation of a new genre: family music.

Formerly known as “children’s music,” family music is the fastest growing (and selling) genre of music in the world. Thinking back to the ’80s and the early days of kid-centric music, we remember Raffi, Peter Yarrow and the occasional compilation album, such as Marlo Thomas’ Free to Be You and Me. As the “love children” of the ’60s (who had grown up on The Beatles, Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix) became parents, they needed something more … and some of them picked up their guitars, plucked a few keys and started writing songs. Today, we see thousands of albums released annually by everyone from former rock stars to punk rock moms.

New Genre of Family Music

This new genre of family music has a wide variety of sounds and influences (everything from rap to country, indie rock to jazz), but shares some essential ingredients: parental love, creative passion, positive messages, humor, fun, and sophisticated music. Family music speaks to children as full members of society without patronizing. When accomplished musicians create music for families, they deliver an album that’s easy on your ears as your child asks to play it over and over – and to which you’ll sing along, too. These 2009 NAPPA-winning artists make music with a message for all your family members: what is communicated to adults is just as important as what the kids get out of it. Whether the songs are about using your imagination (My Trampoline by Peter Himmelman) or are eco-conscious (Aventura Collage by Mariana Iranzi), the commonalities are clear. Whether you’re looking for music that crosses generations and makes you get up and dance (Soulville from Little Monster Records) or lulls you to sleep (Songs from the Garden of Eden by Secret Mountain), the music’s positive messages and lessons about life make these winning titles rise to the top of their genre.

Children crave positive reinforcement and inspiring messages, such as treating others with kindness and respect. They respond enthusiastically when encouragement is delivered in a medium that is also fun to sing and dance to. If we give kids something to think about, their minds absorb it. If we treat them with respect, their hearts listen. If we make it enjoyable, they remember the lessons therein.

By providing children with rich and diverse entertainment that feeds their minds, we challenge and inspire them. This is the goal of our NAPPA-winning artists, who have achieved this goal through uplifting fun activities, playful lyrics and original music. Who could ask for more?

Leave a comment »