Spotlight – GRAMMY nominees Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

Today we’re shining the spotlight on Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band, or as they are otherwise known, husband and wife duo Lucky Diaz and Alisha Gaddis. Being part of the GRAMMY landscape isn’t new for this children’s music power couple. They were nominated last year for their album Crayon Kids and have won Latin GRAMMY awards for Buenos Diaz (2019) and ¡Fantastico! (2013). Their latest entry into the Best Children’s Music album category is the EP Los Fabulosos, a delightful high energy pop/rock/punk romp.

Thank you to Alisha for taking the time to answer a few questions for us!

You’ve garnered multiple Latin GRAMMY nominations, and two wins!, as well as several EMMY Nominations and one win for your PBS show “Lishy Lou and Lucky Too.” What does this nomination mean to you?
Nominations are a tremendous honor on their own. I think we look back at the career we’ve built ( and have been lucky enough to experience) in awe. The awards and recognition are nice but making the art is really the win for us.
You have performed in venues around the world to crowds for whom neither English nor Spanish are their first language. What is it about your music that transcends language barriers?

Photo by Carson Sargent

Joy is infectious. Smiles are universal. Whether we’re performing in stadiums in China or festivals in Mexico it’s all the same. We create work to spread love and encourage creativity. This is a language we all speak as humans.
What is next for Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band?
Exciting times! We have a summer tour all around the country (please see our website for dates!) Also, Lucky has his second book on HarperCollins coming this spring entitled La Guitarrista. It’s a follow up to his hit book Paletero Man!
Is there is anything else you would like to add?
We’re so grateful to you and all your readers. Just being included in the conversation of children’s work is so special! Gracias!
In case you missed them, check out the spotlights for fellow nominees Wendy & DB, Divinity Roxx, and Alphabet Rockers.

Spotlight – GRAMMY nominees Alphabet Rockers

Today I am very excited to shine the spotlight on Alphabet Rockers. Led by co-founders Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Soulati Shepherd, the group has evolved from offering poppy, light hip hop songs about everyday concepts that are geared toward younger children, to creating music that is “healing, reflects who we are, and empowers us.” The collective already garnered GRAMMY nominations for its albums Rise, Shine, #Woke, and The Love, but there is something unique about their latest album, The Movement. This time around, Kali de Jesus, Maya Fleming, and Tommy Shepherd III who have been with the Rockers since they were small children, are now teenagers, and they actively participated in writing the content of the album. The resulting collection of songs speaks to a reimagined world of belonging and justice.

For the 2022 Children’s Music Round Up I created a category called “The Children Are Our Future.” It featured The Movement as well as Multiply from The Wise Channel. I chose this heading because as Whitney Houston once sang, “I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.” With The Movement, that’s what Kali, Maya, and Tommy are doing – leading the way. The only time I’ve seen Alphabet Rockers perform live was at a pre-GRAMMYs showcase in 2018 (please excuse the blurry photo taken with an old phone). One of the things that stood out was that the adults in the group proudly shone the spotlight upon the young children in the collective – including Maya, Kali, and Tommy III – giving them the microphone to rap in their still high pitched voices and the space to dance with boundless energy and joy. Those kids who were only nine or ten at the time, have grown into amazing 14 and 15 year olds with voices that need to be heard. 

Rather than Kaitlin and Tommy being part of the interview for this post, they instead worked with Kids Rhythm and Rock to get feedback from, as Kaitlin calls them, “the kids.”

How old were you when you started performing with Alphabet Rockers?

(Kali) I was around 6 when I started performing with the group
(Maya)  8 or 9
(Tommy III) 4 or 5

You were an active part of the creation of the content for The Movement. What was your favorite part of that process? 

(Kali) My favorite part of the process in creating The Movement was getting together with everyone in the group, whether it be for a music video or in the studio. It’s always great to get together, brainstorm, and formulate our songs.

(Maya) That’s a good question. I think My favorite part was probably the feeling of being in the studio during the pandemic; being able to come to the studio and even though we were masked up, still being able to be together and be in that creative flow with each other and create music and spread love even though we were going through a really hard time.

(Tommy III) Oh, I don’t know if this counts, but the “Slide” video, that was actually really fun. Everything is fun to do but that one was hecka fun and that’s why it’s one of my favorites,

Were there any challenges?

(Maya) There were challenges, but probably the biggest one was being able to, as we get older, find the [right] stuff for us, as you know our bodies change and our voices change. I think just also being able to have a balance of things where we have things that we actually like and have things that, you know, we use for the album or music videos where we’re able to add our ideas while still meeting your vision (Kaitlin and Tommy). Like how we were able to do music videos and add our friends and add our school, being able to do things like that. 

(Tommy III) The challenge was, to be honest, sometimes I didn’t feel like doing it, but we have to do it because it’s the work that has to be done. Just being so tired. Because of Covid it felt like we weren’t doing that much but it took a lot of emotional energy out of us and it drained us a lot so during that time, I didn’t feel like doing a lot of things, but we had to put in the work so we can push for freedom.

Photos by Nino Fernandez

What does this GRAMMY nomination mean to you?

(Kali) This GRAMMY nomination means a lot to me. I believe that it provides us with the opportunity to present our work more widespread and gives us a voice that speaks louder than before.

(Maya) This GRAMMY nomination means a lot. The work we put in, and the time, and energy, and like Tommy was saying, emotional commitment. Knowing the struggles and challenges that we all had to go through during the time we were making this album and seeing our growth and being able to make it to now our fourth GRAMMY nomination, 

(Tommy III) The GRAMMY nomination. I just really like it. To say that we have a GRAMMY nomination, that’s really dope. To say we have a GRAMMY nomination considering what type of music we’re making. The music that we make doesn’t always get GRAMMY nominations because it’s not mainstream. But, it’s like, the music we’re making is pushing for change, and the fact that music like that can be put onto a platform like that is good. 

Thank you very much to Kali, Maya, and Tommy III for sharing your thoughts with us! These kids, they are our future and with them taking the lead, I think we’re going to be alright.

In case you missed it, check out the spotlights for GRAMMY nominees Divinity Roxx and Wendy & DB.

Spotlight – GRAMMY Nominee Divinity Roxx

Welcome to the second installment of a series of posts putting the spotlight on the nominees for the 2023 GRAMMY award for Best Children’s Music Album. Today we are shining a light on Divinity Roxx and her first album for children, Ready, Set, Go! Divinity is an extraordinary bassist, composer, and performer. On Ready, Set, Go!, she created a collection of songs that empower children to  embrace who they are and to joyfully live and love everyone, everyday. Divinity’s driving beats grab you from the first notes of the title track and keep you moving and singing along from beginning to end. Divinity took some time out from her tour to share more about herself and Ready, Set, Go! with Kids Rhythm and Rock.

You have an incredible career entertaining adult audiences. What led you to create music for children?

I’ve always wanted to create music and books for children. In fact, I wrote my first children’s song early in my career (2003 I believe). The song was called “I Can Be Anything” and featured my 5-year-old cousin TJ and 8-year-old Goddaughter Alaysia rapping alongside me. They are now well into their 30’s. The company I was working with, Mee Wee, was an offshoot of the hip-hop label Rawkus. They ended up closing their doors, unfortunately, but the album is still on streaming services. I turned my attention back to recording and performing alternative hip-hop, progressive r&b, and soul music, and then ended up touring with the great Victor Wooten and eventually the incomparable Beyoncé. I always thought I’d eventually write for children again. During the pandemic, a peculiar series of circumstances led me to writing music for Scholastic. That evolved into two full picture books featuring my songs Happy and Healthy and Me+You, (available on Amazon), and that turned into a GRAMMY-nominated album, Ready Set Go!

Of all the nominees, you are the newest to the genre. What does it mean to you to receive a GRAMMY nomination for your first children’s music album?

The community of children’s music artists is a very special one and the entire community has embraced me and supported my music and message from day one. To be nominated for a GRAMMY on the first release is an honor and to be nominated for this album, in particular, is very special for me because out of all the records I’ve ever made, I am the proudest of this one for so many reasons. This record allowed me to return to why I started making music in the first place, to inspire people. I recorded it mostly in my home studio, sharing files over the internet with some of my favorite musicians who happen to be my friends, and with my wife who was locked in the house with me during the pandemic. This record brought us so much joy to create. We sang and laughed and jammed in my little home studio and created this music that has been impactful for so many in unimaginable ways. 

You are incredibly busy. What are some of the things you have coming up in 2023?

When you’re an independent artist and musician you have to stay busy so 2023 is a year filled with lots of projects near and dear to me. I’m working on a one-woman show called ‘Starchild-The Ballad of Debbie Walker’ which premiers at Cross Roads Theater in New Brunswick, NJ from May 27-June 4. I am planning to release a new EP for the play as well as a new children’s music album in the fall. I co-composed music with a good friend of mine, Eugene Russell IV, for a children’s play, The Boy Who Kissed The Sky written by Idris Goodwin which will premiere at The Alliance Theater in Atlanta (my hometown) from April 1-16. 

If there is anything you would like to share?

I have some live performances coming up that I’d like to share. I’ll be playing at The Kimmel Cultural Campus in Philadelphia on Saturday, February 25, and The Weis Center for The Performing Arts at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, PA on March 11. 

Please check out my websites, www.divinityroxx.com and www.diviroxxkids.com, and sign up for my email list to stay up-to-date on shows and performances that may be in your area. Also, give me a follow on IG @diviroxx/@diviroxxkids as well as YOUTUBE to watch the latest videos and bass lessons. 

In case you missed it, check out the Spotlight for fellow GRAMMY nominees Wendy & DB.

Spotlight – GRAMMY Nominees Wendy & DB

Chicago-based duo Wendy & DB (Wendy Morgan and Darryl Boggs) introduced families to the Blues with their GRAMMY-nominated album, Into the Little Blue House. From the album’s opening notes filled with wailing harmonica and bluesy guitar, listeners know that they are in for something special. Working with a cadre of Chicago-blues musicians and frequently backed by a talented children’s choir, Wendy & DB created a one-of-a-kind musical tapestry that combined relatable subject matter and tidbits from the history of the blues with rich melodies and top-notch musical performances.

This mark’s Wendy & DB’s first GRAMMY nomination. Kids Rhythm and Rock recently caught up with Wendy to learn a little more about this talented pair.

This is your first GRAMMY nomination. What was it like hearing your names announced?

We had just finished a show. I picked up my phone figuring I would have texts from friends if we got a nomination, and the texts were coming in, one after another, congratulating us on our nomination. I was so happy it brought both tears and excitement. I told DB, and we literally started jumping up and down! We were together when we heard the news, so that made the moment even more special. I tried to do a live video, but my hand was shaking so much I couldn’t capture the moment. It was amazing!

While you have both performed for adult audiences, it’s clear that you have a true passion for entertaining young listeners. What is it that makes children’s music so special?

Children are the future. Children are the hope, and we have the amazing job of keeping them hopeful through our music. Also, adults need to reminded how to be silly again, and in live shows every child brings an adult.

What is next for Wendy & DB?

We are already working on another album with Dean Jones (Dog on Fleas). We want to use our nomination platform, or whatever platform we are given, to spread the love and diversity, and sound alarms on environmental concerns and human injustices around the world.

Is there anything else that you would like to share?

We are in a wonderful community of very special independent musicians. We will support other musicians in their efforts to do their meaningful and important work with young audiences. How amazing to have this opportunity to share the space with our talented fellow nominees: Justin Roberts, Alphabet Rockers, Divinity Roxx and Lucky Diaz and Alisha.  We are so appreciative to the teachers, librarians, families, children and adults that make up our audience.  Your support of our music and live shows means everything to us!

Spotlight – The GRAMMYs

GRAMMY season is upon us! For those of us who love listening to music, the season is just a few short weeks between the announcement of the nominees and the awards show. For those who make the music, the season is months in the making but the road to the nomination is much, much longer than that. Many artists spend weeks, and for some, possibly years, planning, writing, and creating their latest albums. They pour not just their time and energy into these productions, but their hearts and their souls. After months of hard work, performances, and promotion, it’s time to put the final product to the test.

The GRAMMY Awards have a clearly defined timeline. For an album to be eligible for this year’s awards, it had to be released between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022. Entries were then submitted to the Recording Academy for consideration between July 18 and August 31. Once entries were verified as meeting all the criteria, the First Round of voting opened to Academy voters on October 13 and continued to October 23. This round was used to determine the five albums that would appear on the final ballot. The Final Round of voting took place from December 14, 2o22 to January 4, 2023 with the 65th GRAMMY awards set to be announced on Sunday, February 5.

One of the things that I absolutely love about the Children’s Music Community is the incredible amount of love and support that they show one another. There were dozens upon dozens of family music artists who submitted their albums for consideration and even though they may have been disappointed when their names weren’t called, within moments of the announcement of the five albums nominated for this year’s GRAMMY award, social media was flooded with congratulations and support from throughout the family music community. Over the next three weeks Kids Rhythm and Rock will be featuring each of the nominated albums along with brief interviews with the performers. Be on the lookout later this week when I shine a spotlight on Wendy & DB and their GRAMMY-nominated album Into the Little Blue House.  

2022 Children’s Music Round Up

Welcome to Kids Rhythm and Rock’s annual Children’s Music Round Up! For those of you new to the site, at the end of each year, rather than doing a “Top 10” or a “Best of” list, I compile a list of albums that have come to my attention during the last 12 months and separate them into fun categories. The total number of albums that are included varies from year-to-year. This year 45 albums make an appearance in the list below.

The richness and depth that is family music just keeps growing. 2022 saw the introduction of new artists, established acts returning after creative hiatuses, and veteran performers taking risks and trying something new. Let’s say hello to 2023 by taking a look back at the “year that was” in children’s music. All albums are available online. Don’t see your favorites? Please add them in the comments.

Be Mindful, Be Kind

Music to guide our everyday lives.

  • For Children of All Ages performed by You and Us
  • Happy Day performed by Jenn Cleary
  • Just a Minute performed by Jesse Jukebox
  • Mosaic performed by Jumpin’ Jamie
  • Nursery Rhymes for Kinder Times performed by Raffi and Lindsay Monroe
  • Your Voice is Magic performed by Again Again

Dynamic Duos

Sometimes it’s just more fun to sing with a friend.

  • Best Day Ever performed by Stacey & Athena
  • Dear Heart performed by Martin and Rose
  • The Greats performed by Louis & Dan and the Invisible Band
  • Smith & Yarn performed by Aaron Nigel Smith and Red Yarn

Festival de Música

Music in Spanish and English for the whole family to enjoy.

  • Los Fabulosos performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band
  • Mi Colores performed by Nathalia
  • Musiquita performed by Musiquita

Oh, to be Young

Perfect tunes for the preschool crowd

  • Let’s Move performed by Katie Dwyer
  • Echo Songs, Vol. 2 performed by Noodle Loaf
  • Forgot My Oars performed by Tim Seston
  • Rain Rain Go Away performed by Adam Steele
  • Wondering performed by Music with Gina

Our Friends to the South

2022 was the year when music from Australia and New Zealand arrived on the scene.

Potpourri

This was always my favorite category on Jeopardy! 

Rockin’ Rhythms

I’m a little bit rock ‘n’ roll!

Sweet Home, Chicago

All of these artists call Chicagoland home.

The Children Are Our Future

These groups put young people front and center in creating and performing music that educates, entertains, and uplifts all those who listen to it.

  • The Movement performed by Alphabet Rockers
  • Multiply performed by The Wise Channel

Unique Musical Stylings

There was nothing else quite like these albums this year.

  • Adults These Days performed by Greg Lato
  • Dark Side of the Banana performed by Go Banana Go!
  • Dinosaurs and Monsters performed by Howdytoons
  • Mammal Music performed by Marko Polo

Unstoppable Beats

Music to get you moving and grooving.

Song Spotlight – “New Leaf”

I first heard “New Leaf,” the latest single from Marsha and the Positrons at the beginning of December. Right away I knew I wanted to save it for the week between Christmas and the New Year because 1) I didn’t want it to get lost in the riches of the holiday music shuffle and 2) it really spoke to me about looking ahead to 2023. For the last two years at the end of December I’ve said, “next year has to be better,” and both years had an unexpected amount of challenges. By the end of November I declared that this time I wasn’t going to say, “next year has to be better.” In fact I wasn’t going to really acknowledge that a new year was starting at all. And then I listened to “New Leaf.”

In less than two minutes, Marsha and the Positrons filled my heart with such light and hopefulness that I started to cry. Normally I’m not that weepy, but after a tiring, trying year, hearing the words, “I’m turning over a new leaf…I’m starting fresh, it’s going to be fine,” just touched something deep within me. In “New Leaf,” Marsha Goodman-Wood’s gorgeous, rich vocals lead the listener’s gaze to the future while beautiful harmonies and simple instrumentation enhance the truly lovely lyrics. Never melancholy, “New Leaf” uplifts the listener leaving them feeling loved.

As a side note, while the phrase “turning over a new leaf” nowadays has more of a tree-related connotation, when it was first used back in the 1500s, it referred to turning the page (back then known as a leaf) in a book to a blank leaf so that you could start anew. As a book lover, the origin of the phrase really appeals to me, but as a nature lover I also enjoy thinking of a tree full of leaves. If the first one doesn’t have exactly what you’re looking for, try a new leaf, “it’s going to be fine.”

Please take a few moments and enjoy “New Leaf” by Marsha and the Positrons.

Video Spotlight – “Christmas Socks (Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose)

Esther Crow brings audiences another Earth conscious video in “Christmas Socks (Recycle, Reuse, Repurpose),” her follow up to October’s “Homemade Halloween.” This time around, Esther and her sock puppet friends encourage viewers to explore ways to repurpose items like jam jars, coffee tins, and wrapping paper into gifts and decorations. Esther never shies away from her message, but wraps it in a fun melody with a 1950’s flair (featuring a kazoo solo!!) that will have listeners chanting “recycle, reuse, repurpose!”

New Holiday Music

The December holidays are upon us! While I had intended to get this out shortly after Thanksgiving, it’s never too late to discover new sounds of the season. By far my favorite new holiday album of 2022 is Oy Vey! Another Christmas Album from Joanie Leeds and Fyütch. Blending Joanie’s lush jazz-infused vocals with Fyütch’s hip-hop stylings and updating the tempos and arrangements, the duo brings a fresh new vibe to songs such as “Winter Wonderland,” I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” and “Little Drummer Boy.” While you might come for the standards, make sure to stay for the originals including the delightful “Decorating the Christmas Tree” which features Joanie’s daughter Joya and Fyütch’s daughter Aura, and the children’s radio hit “Every Day’s a Holiday.” Take a listen to the EP here.

Looking for more holiday music? Try these offerings. 

Another Laurie Berkner Christmas by The Laurie Berkner Band

Christmas Eve” by Suzanne Jamieson

Christmas Time is Here” by Tom Weber

Go to Bed Little Reindeer” by JellyBean Queen

Great Big Holiday” by BenAnna Band

Happy Holidays” by Mr. Pete’s Playhouse

Holiday Lights” by Stacy & Athena

It Must Be Christmas” by Mr. Jon & Friends

It’s Almost Christmas Day” by Fabulous Lemon Drops

La Navidad” by EVT Kids 

Listen for Santa” by You and Us

Best Children’s Album GRAMMY 2023 Nominees

It’s the most wonderful time of the year – the GRAMMY Award Nominations! The 65th annual GRAMMY award nominations were announced today. To be eligible for the award, a children’s album must contain at least 51% playing time of new musical or spoken word recordings that are created and intended specifically for children and released between October 1, 2021 and September 30, 2022. The depth and variety of children’s music this year was truly incredible. Congratulations to all of the nominees and to all the artists who created such amazing music this year. The GRAMMY Awards will be announced on Sunday, February 5.

Into the Little Blue House performed by Wendy & DB

Los Fabulosos performed by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band

The Movement performed by Alphabet Rockers

Ready Set Go performed by Divinity Roxx

Space Cadet performed by Justin Roberts

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