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.

 

Song Spotlight – “Happy Feet”

Released on February 5, “Happy Feet” is a wonderful take on the “freeze dance” that will get listeners tiptoeing, jumping, and doing the dance and jive around the room. Continuing the theme from the last post about artists creating cross-continent collaborations, after writing “Happy Feet,” Los Angeles-based singer/songwriter Ashley Mills Monaghan started brainstorming potential duet partners and immediately thought of New Zealand-based award-winning children’s performer Music with Michal ,and soon a wonderful new partnership was born. Listening to the seamless way that Ashley and Michal’s voices combine, it’s hard to imagine that the entire song was created by simply sending wav files back and forth through email. Ashley and Michal adeptly meet each other note for note, mirroring each other’s energy and joy. The result is an engaging, earworm of a song that is perfect to use during storytime, in preschool classes to burn off a little energy, or at home. Everyone’s feet will be happy after dancing to this tune!

Song Spotlight – “Thank You Science”

Happy International Women and Girls in Science Day!! As a child, I loved science – especially the wonders of things that couldn’t be seen with the naked eye. My parents were very supportive of my interests and bought me a beginner’s microscope one year for Christmas and a telescope the next. While my drive to officially study science waned, my interest never did. In college (as a French and International Relations major), when forced with taking a science course with a lab, I chose astronomy. I loved those chilly fall nights up on the hill gazing out into the galaxy and to this day, I still own that child’s telescope, carefully packed in its original box from JCPenney’s. These memories from my younger years are just a few of the reasons why I love the new single “Thank You Science.”

Born of the creative minds of Marsha Goodman-Wood of Marsha and the Positrons and Claudia Robin Gunn, “Thank You Science” is a beautiful song full of gratitude and celebration. Chock-full of information, in the span of a few short minutes, Marsha and Claudia manage to include basic facts like the Earth is round, call out things such as the Scientific Method, and shout out to a whole host of famous female scientists. Even though the subject matter of “Thank You Science” has an educational element to it, the poppy melody is uplifting and fun. Marsha and Claudia are joined on vocals by Positron member Ayanna Gallant and when the three voices join together in harmony, the effect is a real delight.

In December of 2021 School Library Journal published a piece I had written about the evolution of children’s music as a result of the pandemic. In that article Claudia spoke about how the virtual realm of the pandemic had expanded the world for children’s musicians and was leading to collaborations with artists they may never have connected with otherwise. “Thank You Science” is an example of one of those collaborations. Marsha is based in the Washington, D.C. area while Claudia lives a bit of a ways away in New Zealand. Through the wonders of Zoom, they were able to combine their interests in the scientific world and love of music to work together and write “Thank You Science.”

“Thank You Science” is available today on your favorite streaming services.

Spotlight – GRAMMY Nominee Justin Roberts

Welcome to the fifth and final spotlight on this year’s GRAMMY nominees for Best Children’s Music Album. Today we’re shining a light on Justin Roberts. No stranger to children’s music, Space Cadet marks Justin’s 16th album for families and fifth GRAMMY nomination. As with his previous collections, Justin perfectly captures the voice of young children creating fully developed characters in each song that empower listeners to embrace their differences, feel their feelings, and love one another. Now that he’s a father to his own little one, there is an even deeper feeling of understanding and empathy to Justin’s music that makes this album stand out from his discography. Kids Rhythm and Rock caught up with Justin shortly after the GRAMMY nominations were announced.

This is your fifth GRAMMY nomination. Is there anything that makes this nomination special?

Absolutely! I’m so thrilled and moved to be nominated this year. Having made 16 albums over the past 25 years, there is no greater honor than knowing that my peers think highly of the creative work I’m doing. It’s always scary to put out a new album when you know it will be judged against your entire catalog and I try to make sure I’m pushing myself creatively with every new project. After making a very personal and quiet album a few years ago (wild life), it was amazing to return to the studio with the Not Ready for Naptime Players and make a big rock record and then get this kind of recognition.

Photo by Todd Rosenberg


Not only did you release a new album in 2022, your latest picture book, I’ll Be Your Polar Bear was also published. How is Justin the musician different from Justin the author?
 
Making books is a totally different process than making albums. Not only is there an incredible back and forth between me and the book’s editor but there is a really fun collaborative process with the illustrator. You never know what story or stories they are going to tell with their art and getting back sketches and final pieces is just so moving when you see how it interacts with the text you’ve written. I’m thrilled with with way I’ll Be Your Polar Bear turned out.
 
What’s next for you?
I’m currently co-writing songs with R&B/Soul singer Meagan McNeal for an upcoming kids record that she is working on. I met Meagan when we collaborated on a video series for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra last year and then did a live performance with members of the CSO at Symphony Hall in November. I loved Meagan’s voice so much I asked her to sing on a few songs on Space Cadet (“When February Comes” and the skat singing at the end of “I have Been a Unicorn”) and then we started co-writing for her project. It’s been amazing getting to know her and I’m just a huge fan.
 
Is there anything else that you would like to share?
I have another picture book coming out from Penguin in the spring called Giant Sized Butterflies on Your First Day of School illustrated by the incredible Columbian Illustrator Paolo Escobar. It’s based on a song of mine about a first day of school called “Giant Sized Butterflies” from Pop Fly. I absolutely adore the illustrations and am really excited for folks to see this one. I get a lot of notes about that song serving as a yearly ritual for families starting school and I’m hoping this book will also serve that purpose.
 
I’m also working on new songs for my follow up to Space Cadet and looking forward to more touring in 2023 with the Not Ready for Naptime Players.
 

In case you missed them, check out the spotlights for fellow nominees Wendy & DBDivinity Roxx, Alphabet Rockers, and Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band.

Watch the GRAMMY’s Premiere Ceremony LIVE on Sunday, February 5 at 12:30 PM PT/3:30 PM ET on live.grammy.com or The Recording Academy YouTube channel to see who wins Best Children’s Music Album. 

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.  

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