Bounce performed by Suzanne Jamieson

I’ll admit, I’m still catching up on all the fantastic albums I missed over the past few months. Today, I was looking for something to brighten my mood. After taking one look at the cover for Bounce I thought I might have found just the thing. And boy was I right. Bounce is bubblegum pop perfection! Filled with a tremendous 80’s vibe, Suzanne Jamieson and her co-writers and producers The Pop Ups, have crafted a light, playful album filled with meaningful lyrics designed to uplift listeners.

The album opens with the title track, “Bounce” about the need to bounce back and not let failures get you down. From there listeners are treated to a collaboration with the Alphabet Rockers on a song that emphasizes the importance of being grateful for the big and small things in life, the totally 80s saxophone driven ballad, “Luna,” about the scary feelings that can emerge once the lights are turned out at night, and “That’s How Happy Feels” which encourages children to take time to recognize the simple things in life that make them happy – whether it’s taking a dip in a neighbor’s pool, nail polish on your fingers and toes, or an ice cream sundae.

Bounce also features several tracks that empower listeners.  Children are encouraged to be “Brave” even when feeling shy, scared, or nervous, while in “You Got This,” the affirmation “you’re stronger than you think, you got this” is repeated in the chorus. Jamieson’s background as a certified yoga therapist shines in the upbeat “Om Shanti” which teaches that when you’re feeling anxious or angry, take a moment or two to find some peace instead. 

Not only is Jamieson’s latest album a great collection of pop music for children and tweens, but it’s exactly what children (and adults) need right now – music that soothes, uplifts, and brings joy into our lives. 

Take a music break and and dance along to the video below that teaches us, “when life hands me lemons, I make lemonade.”

 

Wendy & DB’s Kids Music Festival

By nature, children’s musicians are a generous group of people with big, loving hearts and during this pandemic, their spirit of giving has only grown. Today I would like to highlight the latest music fest from Chicago’s own Wendy & DB. Over the past six months, not only did this dynamic duo release a new album, Hey Big World they also launched a monthly Kids Music Festival to benefit organizations such as this month’s recipient, No Kid Hungry. Making sure that children have access to proper nutrition and healthy food is a passion of Wendy’s and is extremely important in this time when so many children are doing remote learning and don’t have regular access to proper meals. It is the hope of Wendy & DB that these music fests will increase awareness of this issue as well as raise money to help ensure children all across the country receive the food they need to fuel their minds and bodies.

Each month, Wendy & DB are joined by 2-3 different friends from the world of children’s music. During the concert on September 16, in addition to music from Wendy & DB, fest attendees will also enjoy performances by Val Smalkin, Brady Rymer, and Falu. For more information, visit the Kids Music Festival event pageCan’t make it to the Kids Music Festival this month? Wendy & DB will be hosting a fest with an all new musical line-up the third Wednesday of each month from now through the end of the year.

For a preview of the fun that you’re going to have during the hour-long festival, enjoy Wendy & DB’s newest video, “Kitchen Band.”

Invincible! Performed by Roger Day

Singer-songwriter Roger Day‘s latest album, Invincible!, arrived just in time for the new school year. Filled with songs that encourage children to embrace the super hero within them, this is just the collection of songs that students need in these most unusual of times. From beginning to end, these ten tunes urge children to use their imaginations, be curious, and find their own super powers.

The kindie rock album kicks off with the title tune, “Invincible!” whose chorus proclaims, “Nothing’s impossible. I’m unstoppable. Every puzzle is solvable. I can do anything at all…through the pages of a book.” Sung from the perspective of the child, each track builds upon the theme that you don’t have to be an ordinary super hero (someone fast and strong, who can fly) but instead do your best and be confident and you’ll be the best kind of super hero around. 

Along the way, listeners are prompted to look at all the clues to solve the problem and save the day and be a citizen scientist and take a step back to look at the bigger picture. Aspiring super heroes are also given the wise advice to “Get a Robot First” because they come in awfully handy when you’re in outer space, as well as taught a little about learning how to fly in “Me & My Jetpack.” Every family needs to listen to “The Everyday Hero Song” toward the end of the album. With school starting, this track celebrating bus drivers, school nurses, teachers, police officers and more, is the perfect song to begin conversations about who our everyday heroes are, which heroes we are still getting to see this school year, and if we’re learning remotely, which everyday heroes we are missing.

Invincible!’s empowering message will bolster a whole new generation of super heroes. Below is “Me & My Jetpack,” the newest video from the album. Watch it, make your own jetpack, and “fly” around your neighborhood showing off the super hero powers that are unique to you!  

 

Video Premiere – “Sae Taryeong” performed by Elena Moon Park

My husband and I spent most of this weekend working on rebuilding our deck. Our backyard is ringed by old oak trees and marshland and while we were outside we kept hearing these high pitched long screeches coming from the branches above us. For the first couple of hours we couldn’t figure out what creature could possibly be responsible for such a sound. Then, in the early afternoon we finally caught a glimpse of two young hawks practicing their flying techniques. Were they the source of that unusual bird call? Last night we spent some time online searching out examples of what young hawks sound like, and just like that, the puzzle was solved. Our hawk friends were back again this morning, but now that we knew whose bird call was echoing through the air, it was easier to follow the sound and see the glorious youngsters high in the trees.

This experience very much reminds me of “Sae Taryeong,” one of the tracks from Elena Moon Park‘s most recent album, Unhurried Journey. “Sae Taryeong” is a well known folk song from the southwestern region of Korea that tells the story of birds on a hillside in the spring who are calling to one another. The song’s lyrics are a lovely blend of Korean and English that engage listeners and will have them calling “sook-sook, sook-sook,” back to the sparrows, bluebirds, and robins.

The video for “Sae Taryeong” is a whimsical blend of colors, collage, and video that perfectly captures the song’s celebration of nature in springtime. Created by composer and musician, Natacha Diels, “Sae Taryeong” presents unique imagery not often found in music videos for children. For more information about the song including lyrics and how to listen to bird calls, visit the “Sae Taryeong” page on the Unhurried Journey album website. Enjoy the video for “Sae Taryeong” below and next time you’re outside, take a minute to stop and say “sook-sook” to the birds above.

Backyard Bop Performed by Red Yarn

Red Yarn Backyard Bop album coverDo you need a pick me up? A return to a time when life wasn’t filled with constant worry and stress? Then Backyard Bop is just the thing for you! This latest album from Red Yarn is filled with original songs that are guaranteed to get the whole family moving and singing along. The collection kicks off with the rockabilly dance party title track before sliding into the high energy “Jump for Joy,” which reminds us that even though life is hard right now, there are still lots of reasons to be joyful, and what better way to celebrate than with lots and lots of jumping. There are several nods to animals including in the uptempo folk rock “Critters in My Garden” (boy can I relate to that!) and the celebration of “Cats & Dogs.” Woven throughout the album are several ways to enjoy the simple things in life as well. These include a beautiful song about watching the amazing show that nature puts on “Outside My Window,” saying hi to old friends, making new ones, and caring for one another as you roll “Around This Town” (featuring Mo Phillips and Aaron Nigel Smith), and using your imagination to go on all kinds of incredible adventures in “My Own Backyard.” In addition, “Town Hall Meeting” is the perfect song to help children understand that while it’s important to stand up and have your voices heard, it’s equally important to respect one another even when we disagree. Backyard Bop is a fantastic addition to Red Yarn’s catalog of music. Take a listen, share it with a friend, take a moment to look out the window, then jump and dance and spread some joy! 

Video Spotlight – “Giant & Colossal Squid” performed by Marsha and the Positrons

Welcome to Shark Week! However, rather than highlighting a song about a family of sharks, instead I want to shed some light on two other creatures of the sea – the giant squid and the colossal squid. In their latest video, Washington, D.C. based Marsha and the Positrons shine a spotlight on these two fascinating creatures. Filled with lots of fun facts about these invertebrates, “Giant & Colossal Squid” is a fun science song from the album Positronic. The lightheartedness of the song is perfectly paired with a video that combines the live action band with animation and simple puppetry. The lyrics appearing on the screen as they are sung is an added bonus and helps listeners to catch all the details being shared about these fascinating animals. Add “Giant & Colossal Squid” to every animal lovers playlist.

I’m Back – a Note of Gratitude!

Hello Friends! I’ve really missed you. The last five months have been – overwhelming, uncertain, worrisome, scary, aggravating, all-consuming, and so much more. As musicians, librarians, educators and parents we’ve been personally affected in different ways, but as a society, we’ve all struggled with how do I do my job now? How do I schedule my day? How do I meet all my commitments? Or, what do I do now that my commitments have disappeared? And, how casual is too casual for yet another Zoom meeting?

As I’ve mentioned before, I work in the Youth Services department in a public library. When we closed to the public at 6:00 pm on March 16, we truly believed we would be back in the building by April 1. Oh, what a surprise this virus had in store for us. Our challenges have included – how do I change my job from one that was based very heavily in in-person customer service, to one that had to be done exclusively online and completely from home? And not only from home, but without any of the resources I would normally have. And how do I prove my “worth” when I am not seen? Of course, just as we were really hitting our stride in the virtual world, it was time to think about returning to work. The struggle then was not only how do we go back to work safely, but how do we feel safe at work? And finally, how do we welcome the public back into the building in a way that is safe for all? Needless to say, these things took up much more of my brain space than I expected and Kids Rhythm and Rock had to take a backseat for a while.

One of the things that has sustained me all these months though is music. To relax, I listen to music from the 1980s. Mostly for nostalgia and just because it makes me happy. During our “current normal” (a phrase that a co-worker threw out the other day in lieu of “new normal”) I haven’t just been listening to music, I’ve been thinking a lot about it. This made me realize that there have been many, many factors in my life that have fostered a love of music, so I thought now would be a good time to share those and to say thank you. So, THANK YOU:

  • to my parents who listened to classical music and Broadway recordings. Who, even when times were tight, took us to symphony and community band concerts and local musical theater productions.
  • to my parents again who encouraged me to explore music (I think in the hopes of overcoming my extreme shyness). From a children’s music class at the local college, to buying me a teal recorder on which I taught myself the chorus to “Watch Out for Goofy!” (from Mickey Mouse Disco, one of my favorite kids albums) to cutting up an old broom handle so that I could practice my lummi stick skills at home, my parents never said no to affordable musical ventures.
  • to the public schools in my home town who supported band, choir, and orchestra. Because of them I was able to experience the joys of playing the cello beginning in fifth grade.
  • to Dr. Copenhaver at Grand Valley State University who gave little ole me a small music scholarship even though I wasn’t a music major or minor. One of the requirements of the scholarship was that I had to take weekly cello lessons. During these lessons, I didn’t just learn about playing the cello, I also received a big dose of music theory.
  • to my university who allowed me to take a voice performance class as an elective even though I still wasn’t in the music program and to the marching band who let me, a member of the color guard, take band for credit which meant I had to play an instrument during concert season – let me introduce you to my mad triangle skills.
  • to my Gran. Her record collection introduced me to crooners like Perry Como and Andy Williams as well as the crazy bass vocals in the classic country hit “Elvira” by the Oak Ridge Boys.
  • to MTV. I was a teen during the golden age of MTV when you couldn’t stream music and videos online. If you wanted to know what the Top 10 videos of the week were, you had to sit through the whole countdown. And it’s because of this lack of instant gratification, that my appreciation for a diverse range of musical genres grew. If it hadn’t been for MTV, would I, a shy girl from a small town in Michigan, have known who Public Enemy, Motley Crue, Aerosmith, TLC, and Lisa, Lisa & Cult Jam were? Would just listening on the radio have made me a fan of Nirvana, Amy Grant and The Red Hot Chili Peppers?
  • to YOU. Those who are making children’s music, who are promoting children’s music and who love and support children’s music.

I learn so much from all of you. Thank you for continuing to make such wonderful, entertaining, educational, impactful music. I have a big stack of albums that have come out this year just waiting for me. I’m ready to dive back in now and look forward to giving them all a listen.

Thank you! You’ll be hearing from me again real soon.

Hey Big World Performed by Wendy & DB

I was first introduced to the music of Wendy & DB with their 2015 album, It’s a Doo Da Day. From the title song to the upbeat “Pink Flamingo,” that album was packed with energy and joy. Not only was it fun to listen to, but it was filled with messages about love and acceptance – something that would become a hallmark of their future albums. On May 14, Wendy & DB are releasing their fourth album, Hey Big World, and I have to say, this by far is the best one yet!

Wendy Morgan and Daryl Boggs, are talented professional musicians, and with this album, they have elevated their children’s music to a new level. The fifteen tracks on Hey Big World cover a wide range of topics from geography and the science of clouds to playing in a band in your kitchen or creating your own silly language. The theme of imagination and play is woven throughout including in songs that would be perfect in storytime like “Clap-Tap (E-I-E-I-O)” an up tempo chant that will get kids moving to the beat, and “Stop for the Red Light” which will have listeners stopping and going while learning important life lessons.  Not only does Hey Big World cover a wide variety of topics, but it contains several different musical genres from the pop sound of “Home” to the jazzy tones of  “Ghost in the Closet.”

Wendy & DB compliment one another, allowing the lyrics of each song to take center stage, as an amazing group of musicians provide a rich musical backdrop. While Wendy & DB work well as a duo, they also give one another a chance to shine as solo performers. DB’s lovely tenor is showcased on his delightful cover of “Let’s Go Fly a Kite,” while Wendy’s voice is on display during the gentle lullaby, “Night Sky,”

Wonderful from beginning to end, Hey Big World is an album not to be missed! Join Wendy & DB on Thursday, May 14 at 10:00 am CST for a Virtual CD Release Party.

Celebrate National Train Day!!

It’s National Train Day!! There’s just something magical about trains. From the big, powerful workhorses that haul goods across the country to tiny N scale model trains, there is an allure that draws in children and adults of all ages. Over the years I’ve had the privilege of enjoying just a few of the many train experiences that this country has to offer. From the Tennessee Valley Rail Road Museum’s Missionary Ridge Local excursion, to train watching with dedicated rail fans at the Rochelle Rail Park in Illinois, to exploring some of the biggest trains around at Steamtown in Scranton, PA, there is lots of fun to be had.

In celebration of National Train Day, Lindsay Munroe has released a charming video for her sing-along version of the children’s classic, “Little Red Caboose.” For lyrics and ideas on how to make interactive railroad tracks and a train whistle at home, visit Lindsay’s website.

Sing-along Songs to Brighten Your Day

Singing a solo can be an amazing experience, but there is nothing quite like singing along with a group of people to make you feel like you belong. When you’re singing with your friends and family, it doesn’t matter if you hit all the right notes or sing a wrong word once in a while. What matters is that you sing with all you’ve got. If you’re like me and you live in an area of the country where staying at home is encouraged, you might see businesses and churches in your town, or ads on TV, using the phrase “In This Together.” What better way to show that we are in this together than by singing along with one another? Below are just two of the amazing songs out right now that encourage us to warm up our voices and sing with all our hearts.

In the first video, Ben Rudnick performs “Monster NO!” a quiet catchy tune that encourages children to wash their hands (and dance and jump around) to keep the monster (aka: the virus) away. Sing it with gusto – and don’t forget to wash those hands! The second video, “If You Want a Song” is a track from The Okee Dokee Brothers’s new album, Songs for Singin’. Joined by a whole host of familiar faces and voices, this tune will have you singing and dancing in no time. So grab your loved ones; it’s time to have a sing along!

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