Children’s Music Network Conference

Did you know that there is an annual conference just for those with a passion for children’s music? Whether you are a performer, librarian, teacher, radio host, or PR person, the Children’s Music Network (CMN) Conference is the place to be. Following a three year hiatus of in-person gatherings due to the pandemic and its aftereffects, the conference is returning in a brand new hybrid format and it is my honor to be co-chairing this amazing event along with the incredible Stacey Peasley.

Beginning Sunday, October 29 attendees can enjoy a variety of virtual workshops, song swaps, and affinity groups. Then, on November 3, the fun will continue in-person in Boston. Highlights include – 8 top-of-the-line workshops, 4 song swaps, 1 round robin, and a Keynote Presentation by GRAMMY-winners Alphabet Rockers.

There are a variety of ways to participate. Attendees can register for just the virtual conference, for the in-person conference, or the conference as a whole. However you choose to attend, friendship, fun, and lots and lots of music are guaranteed. Register today and let’s make history!

Video Spotlight – “Let Us Rock!”

We are thisclose to the beginning of August already and many families that I know are beginning to experience the summer slump. That time of year when most of the fun activities that you’d been looking forward to all winter are now over and the rush to get ready for school has begun. Stir into that mix some really unpleasant temperatures, and all anyone wants to do is hang out inside and chill. That’s where Mr. Evan V & the Jumping Jams Band‘s video “Let Us Rock!” comes in. 

Featuring Mr. Evan V and an electric guitar driven melody, “Let Us Rock!” showcases children dancing and moving around outdoors to a rocking beat and lyrics that encourage listeners to, “Let us rock and shake all of your blues away.” Viewers will be hard-pressed to ignore the energy and excitement of “Let Us Rock!” and will soon find themselves clapping and dancing along.  

There is a real versatility to Mr. Evan V’s music. Check out his YouTube page for more videos including his latest, “Swimming in the Water,” which is a gentle, animated delight.

 

Video Spotlight – “Wave a Flag for Harvey Milk”

Forty-five years ago, politician and activist Harvey Milk asked artist Gilbert Baker to create a symbol of gay pride. The result was the original gay pride rainbow flag. According to the Human Rights Campaign, the colors of what is known as the Gilbert Baker Pride flag represent different aspects of the LGBTQ+ community – “hot pink represents sex, red symbolizes life, orange stands for healing, yellow equals sunlight, green stands for nature, turquoise symbolizes magic and art, indigo represents serenity, while violet symbolizes the spirit of LGBTQ+ people.” Shortly following the creation of the flag, the hot pink and turquoise stripes were removed. The traditional pride flag as we know it continues to be a representation of the LGBTQ+ community, but also serves as a reminder to all of us that we need to celebrate and love those around us not just during the month of June, but all year long.

“Wave a Flag for Harvey Milk” is the first single off the upcoming Smithsonian Folkways album Mr. Greg and Cass McCombs Sing and Play New Folk Songs for Children. While this is the first children’s album for singer-songwriter Cass McCombs and preschool teacher Greg Gardner, they have been collaborating since they were teens in the Bay Area. That history together is evident in the smart, well-crafted melody and lyrics of this debut song. Featuring animation of illustrations created by Gardner and the San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus lending their vocal might, “Wave a Flag for Harvey Milk” is a song that everyone should hear. For more information on the creation of the Pride flag, pair this video with the picture book, Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Steven Salerno. 

Video Spotlight – “Bring On Summer”

Hurray! The first official day of summer is finally here!! As adults we sometimes get bogged down in the details of grown-up life, bemoaning the fact that it’s hot, the energy bill is going to go up, the lawn needs to be mowed (again), etc. and we forgot about the simple joys that come with the lazy, hazy days of summer. Luckily, Dana’s Music Playground is here to remind us of just how great it is to be a kid this time of year. “Bring on Summer” captures all the colorful excitement and joy of the season, and celebrates with sunshine, bike rides, hikes, s’mores and more! Check out the video below. 

Song Spotlight – “7 Days of Fun” performed by Charlie Faye & The Fanimals

Photo by Eryn Brooke

Austin-based Charlie Faye began her musical journey singing and playing guitar and mandolin in Dan Zane & Friends. Since those early beginnings, she has branched out and toured as a solo artist as well as creating unique collaborations like Charlie Faye and the Fayettes. Following the birth of her daughter and the end of the pandemic, Charlie launched Charlie Faye & The Fanimals, a collaborative group of musical powerhouses who have joined Charlie in creating music for kids that has as Motown sound and the heart and soul of the music of the 1960s.

Charlie Faye & The Fanimals’ self-titled album won’t be released until July 21, but today, I’m excited to help debut the first single from the album, “7 Days of Fun.” From the first downbeat of the drums, listeners will want to move and grove to this tune, a fantastic retro romp that breathes joy and excitement into every day of the week. Take a listen below. 

 

Dim Sum for Everyone performed by Little Miss Ann

As I’m sure you’re aware, May is Asian American Pacific Islander heritage month. In celebration of the month and in honor of her Filipina American heritage, Little Miss Ann released her newest EP, Dim Sum for Everyone on April 28. This trio of songs is a joyful reflection on Little Miss Ann’s Asian American identity. The EP kicks off with the title track, a tale that regales the excitement of a family going to Chinatown to eat Dim Sum for brunch. The delicious meal is followed by an ode to that timeless activity where everyone gets to be a superstar – “Karaoke.” The collection then closes out with an earworm of a tune, “Ube 2.0” on which Little Miss Ann is joined by Kymberly Stewart to sing the praises of the exotic purple yam. Skillfully repeating lyrics will keep listeners singing along well after the song is over. Listen to Dim Sum for Everyone here, or on your favorite streaming service.

In addition to Dim Sum for Everyone, Little Miss Ann also recently released “Tong Tong Tong,” a Filipino song about a crab featuring fellow Filipino kindie performer Mista Cookie Jar and along with Dandelions newsletter, curated a list of 53 songs all performed by AAPI musicians. Enjoy this incredible compilation of songs not just during the month of May, but all year long! 

Video Premiere – “Rainbow Flow”

A couple of weeks ago we had several days of pretty serious storms here in the Midwest. After one of the storms the sun came out so bright, I immediately wondered if there was a rainbow. I popped out my front door and this is what I saw (the photo is unfiltered). I couldn’t get a picture because of the houses, but that afternoon the sky was aglow with a complete rainbow. It was such an awesome sight after such a dark day.

“Rainbow Flow,” the opening track from Jessa Campbell & the Saplings latest album for families reminded me of this beautiful moment. Filled with facts about the science behind what makes a rainbow, Campbell takes what could otherwise feel like a school lesson and turns it into a one-of-a-kind dance groove. The melody of “Rainbow Flow” swirls around you making your body move while Campbell’s stellar vocals weave in lyrics that educate and entertain at the same time. Throw in special guest, GRAMMY-nominated Saulpaul, and you have a song that listeners won’t soon forget. And speaking of forget. If you’re like me, you were taught that the easiest way to remember the colors of the rainbow was with the acronym ROYGBIV. After listening to “Rainbow Flow,” I say forget that! All you have to do is listen to the chorus and you’ll never need ROYGBIV again.

Jessa Campbell & the Saplings second album for families, Forest Flow, is due out June 9. Filled with STEM and ecology-based songs that celebrate the wonders of the forest, this new collection of music features themes that are accessible to children wrapped in sophisticated arrangements that will appeal to adults. While June 9 is still a ways off, here’s a little sample of what to expect with the video premiere of “Rainbow Flow.” Enjoy!

Listen Lead Love performed by Esther Crow

I have been looking forward to Esther Crow’s new album Listen Lead Love ever since she debuted the singles “Homemade Halloween” and “Christmas Socks” late last year. After listening to the album, I have to say, it was well worth the wait. On her second outing as a solo artist, Esther leans into her unique retro-rock style to great affect. The album kicks off with “Start the Discussion” (featuring special guests Strawbitty Yops). This call to action encourages listeners to take the initiative and start talking about the climate crisis. As with many of the songs on the album, Esther crafts lyrics that break down the issue in ways that make it easily accessible to children. In addition to the climate crisis, she takes on the importance of switching to solar power, the need to move away from creating waste and instead recycle, reuse, and repurpose, and in the closing track, the directive to not be afraid to let your voices be heard and “March!”

For most of the songs in this collection, Esther’s power vocals are backed by drums and electric guitars with melodies that often call back to the rock of the 1960s and 1970s. On “The Leader in You,” Esther injects reggae into the groovy sound she creates with Kare Africa Kids by including a special guest appearance from Father Goose. Just past the halfway point in the music there is a gentle interlude in the form of a duet between Esther and Kymberly Stewart. The veteran performers’ voices blend perfectly on “Feelings are a Rollercoaster,”  creating a beautiful moment where listeners are reassured that emotions are ok to feel and that real friends stick by each other during the happy and the sad times. By the end of the chorus children will feel as though they are wrapped in a warm hug.

Listen Lead Love isn’t just the name of Esther’s second album. It’s also how she approaches life. Esther shares that philosophy with families as a reminder that we only have one Earth and and it’s important that we love and honor the planet, as well as all those who inhabit it. Listen Lead Love will be released on Earth Day – April 22.

 

Make it Myself! Performed by Ants on a Log

Julie Be and Anya Rose (Ants on a Log) are back with their third full-length family album. On this latest outing, Make it Myself!, the duo’s talent for combining social justice with silliness is beautifully on display in a collection of 14 songs that encourage children to think creatively about challenges they may face in life. Those challenges range from something simple like finding ways to stay entertained while waiting in line to more complex challenges like finding the courage to stand up against the injustices that a child may encounter in every day life. On the sillier side is a buzzy lullaby to a mosquito and a yummy twist on King Midas where the king turns things into cheese rather than into gold. Also included is the stellar “They’re My Friend,” an accessible introduction to nonbinary pronouns, and “What Book?” a song sung from a girl’s perspective as she implores adults to see more than just pretty appearances.  Whether the lyrics are serious or silly, Ants on a Log creates a sound that engages and entertains. Check out the video for the title track, “Make it Myself” below.

Kaboom! performed by Todd ‘n’ Tina

 

Welcome to the second album of non-stop fun from Minnesota duo Todd Millenacker and Krissy Mondelli, or as they are more commonly known, Todd ‘n’ Tina. With Kaboom!, Todd ‘n’ Tina continue to demonstrate their skill in telling full stories in small packages. Although each of the ten tracks in this collection only lasts 1:30 to 2:00 minutes, each still manages to tell a complete tale. Whether it’s the pop-delight “Tennis Racket Guitar,” the sea shanty “Pirates & Parrots,” or the punk-fueled “Box Life,” each tune tells its own special story in its own unique way. Todd ‘n’ Tina do a fantastic job of pairing just the right musical genre to the subject matter before layering in clever lyrics that children will listen to again and again in order to catch all of the zany word play. Not only do Todd ‘n’ Tina create lively, engaging songs, they also create entertaining videos to go along with them. Kaboom! as well as a library of one-of-a-kind videos are available on their website. Catch Todd ‘n’ Tina’s latest video “Jellyfish Chicken” (because nobody wants those chicken bones!) below.

 

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