What in the world?

We're back and I can finally download my pictures. I saw something that really caught my eye while away. Let's see if you can figure it out.

New Daddy A Go Go video

Everybody's favorite rockin' daddy, John Boydston, just released a video from his Rock of All Ages CD, "School Bus Driver (The Stop Song)". Crank it up!

Preparing For A Performance

You have hired a children's musician for your venue. What next? It is time to prepare the venue and audience for the performance. Here are some items to consider:

Weeks prior to the performance:

1) Inform the staff and child audience that the musician is coming (date, time, purpose of visit, etc.).
2) Publicize the event with flyers and photographs. Many musicians have Media Kits for publicity purposes. This kit may include a press release, publicity flyer, photograph and sample songs or video clips.
3) Invite the local media to cover the event. The media is often looking for "good news" photos and articles to put in the paper, on the radio or on TV. The media is your friend!
4) Ask for artist study guides if available. Copy and distribute the guides to staff and audience. Study guides offer pertinent information about the artist, their work and how the scheduled performance relates to curriculum.
5) Ask for order forms for the musician's products (DVDs, CDs, videos, books and merchandise). Many venues pre-order musician's products and use them prior to the performance in order that the child audience may become familiar with the musician's work.
6) Contact the musician a week prior to the performance to re-confirm and go over final details.
7) Discuss audience etiquette and behavior expectations with venue staff and child audience.

Day of the performance:

1) Make sure the performance space is clean and clear of debris and furniture.
2) Make sure the musician has total access to the space 30-60 minutes prior to the performance to set up equipment and sound check.
3) Reserve a parking space nearest the performance location for easy loading of equipment. Ramp access is preferred.
4) Make sure the musician has access to an electrical outlet.
5) Be available or assign someone to direct the musician to the performance space.
6) Discuss the best seating arrangement with the musician for optimum audience viewing and enjoyment. Be flexible. The musician knows their show best and often has a preferred seating arrangement in mind.
7) Provide a sales table for musician's products and assign a person to staff the table during the performance if possible.
8) Allow ample time prior to the performance to assemble the children in the performance space.
9) Begin the performance on time.
10) Introduce the musician to the audience.
11) Remind staff and audience about audience etiquette and behavioral expectations.
12) Assist with audience management and audience etiquette during the show if necessary.
13) Enjoy the show.
14) Assist with audience dismissal.
15) Confer with the musician after the performance to brainstorm ways to make the next event even better.
16) Pat yourself on the back for a job well done!

-Johnette Downing
Copyright 2003 Johnette Downing

Performing Biz

Hey Musicians!

Do you need a little help with the performing biz? Well look no further! Check out Jeri Goldstein's Performing Biz.com at http://performingbiz.com/. Her book, workshops, seminars, consultations, retreats and weekly hot tips guide musicians step by step into booking and managing their own careers with ease. Also check out her contracts and forms resource which helps organize and simplify the day to day paperwork of running your own music business. Your clients will love you and applaud your business savvy!

time to relax

It's been a few days since I posted last. We are on vacation, and I needed some private time with my family. It's so important to take time to refresh yourself mentally and physically. I'm not just talking about vacations either. You should take time out of each day to relax. You will reap the benefits of lower blood pressure and a clearer mind. If you include your children in some of that time, they will be able to learn some great relaxation tricks too. Learning how to relax is not an instinctual thing. Here are my top 10 favorite things when I'm looking to relax. Feel free to post your favorites here too!

  1. singing

  2. the sound of rain on a tin roof

  3. the smell of a campfire

  4. the sound of a babbling creek

  5. rocking on a porch swing

  6. taking a walk

  7. the sound of a whippoorwill

  8. bubble baths

  9. the smell of evergreens

  10. reading a book

Friday Free-for-All # 14

Dustin Type, Dustin and the Leftover Pancakes

Uncluttered, VERY happy rock and roll songs from LA-based children's music teacher Dustin Tiep. Lots of rip-roarin' guitar solos from Glen West on songs about colors, numbers, letters, pets, trains, and food. One of the best lines comes from "The Number Song (Something Special)": 'The number 16 likes expensive jeans'. Tiep's style (like a low-key Brady Rymer) and lyrical content make Leftover Pancakes one of the few CDs aimed at preschoolers that really hits its target audience.

Steve Pullara and His Cool Beans Band, Zooboogie!

Pullara's Broadway-like tunes celebrate a veritable encyclopedia of animals on Zooboogie! This Pennsylvania-based kids' music veteran covers habitats, animal features, and animal baby names, as well as getting in a little metaphor and simile practice. And listen for covers of Sammy Kahn and Jimmy Van Heusen's "High Hopes"; and "The Mouse", written by Denny Randell and Sandy Linzer for Soupy Sales!

Yosi live @ Shipyard Park

The family and I saw Yosi tonight at Hoboken's Shipyard Park. Beautiful night, big crowd, and flying bicycles (see below).

I do dog tricks

I found this on another blog and just knew some of you would enjoy playing with this cute pooch. Click here to play. My girls and I especially enjoyed getting him to "kiss". I wish my children always obeyed this well! :-)

***Recess Monkey***

Wanna know just how far-reaching the Beatles' influence still is? How their catchy, timeless, fun, powerful songs continue to weave their way into the fabric of pop culture? This here kids' band built a replica of the Sgt. Pepper cover for their second album, used the White Album's sprawling double disc format for their third, and for their fourth, Tabby Road, well, 'nuff said.

But the comparisons go deeper than cover art and album titles. Recess Monkey's Tabby Road is wall-to-wall sensational pop songwriting by Jack Forman, Daron Henry, and Andrew Holloway, arguably the most prolific kiddie rockers in the arena. The tunes are spiced up with 12-string guitar, a very Moog-y keyboard, and all-over-the-place bass playing, a nod to McCartney's low-end inventiveness on the Beatles' mid- to late-career albums. Listen for hints of Weezer, Klaatu, OK Go, Todd Rundgren, Jellyfish, XTC, and Jeff Barry's poppiest pop tunes. Oh, and the Beatles. The songs? Well, they're about friends, pets, teeth, bikes, and monsters, lots of monsters (more about that later).

Several songs, like "Birthday Bite", "Pedal Power", "Dr. Wiggle", and "Under My Bed", are perfectly designed for live audience participation. You could pair "KC in the Clouds" with Paul McCartney's "Little Lamb Dragonfly", with its similar subject matter (loss of a pet), and similar sound to Wings' output from that era. "Messy Nessie" would go well with Alice Flaherty and Scott Magoon's 2007 picture book The Luck of the Loch Ness Monster: A Tale of Picky Eating.

"Dr. Wiggle" and "Under My Bed" would fit perfectly on Jellyfish's Spilt Milk, while guest guitarist Rob Hampton's solo in "Robin (Sugar Goblin)" is highly reminiscent of George Harrison's angular Rubber Soul/Revolver six string work. And "Kitty Sister", well, in a perfect world this tune would be one of those songs that stays at #1 all summer (if Andy Partridge isn't jealous, he should be!).

Back to the monsters ... side two of Tabby Road seems to be Recess Monkey's homage to Abbey Road's second side, as an overarching monster theme is tied together with short songs that crossfade and abut into and against each other. Monsters: You've got the under-the-bed variety, a pro-veggie creature, a Yeti, a sugar-loving goblin, a Loch Ness monster, a mummy, a dragon, a wolfman, and a truck (monster, of course).

If you're a lover of indie rock, if you dig powerpop, if the Beatles never leave your CD player, if you admire a spirit of inventiveness in your music, Tabby Road is a must-buy. Now, should we start looking for "Jack Is Dead" clues?

Quote of the day

"Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go." TS Eliot

I like this quote. It reminded me of the hike we took a couple of days ago. That had to be the longest 3.5 miles of my life, but so worth the view. (I'll attach a picture later) I think it speaks of so many other things in life as well. Whether raising children, trying a new career, or just working through life's little details, life can be so full of challenges. I love the sense of accomplishment when you get on the other side of the challenge. Keep pushing forward. You will likely be amazed at how far you can go!

Early Learning Expo

Are you bored? Looking for some free summer fun? Make plans to attend the Early Learning Expo held at Babies-R-Us locations across the country on July 12. Kindermusik International, Babies-R-Us, and Baby Talk magazine have teamed up to create this exciting event. You can contact your local Babies-R-Us store for more details. Delightful Sounds will be participating at both the Brandon and Tampa Babies-R-Us locations this year. Plan to stop by our table and join in one of several free Kindermusik classes that will be going on in the store between 10:00 AM and 2:00 PM. We will also be giving away a gift basket with free tuition and other goodies at each location! I'll be looking forward to seeing you there!

***Jason Falkner***

Is it weird to be excited about a collection of songs meant for nighttime relaxation? I'm a big fan of Jason Falkner, and Jason Falkner's a big fan of the Beatles. I'm a big fan of the Beatles, too, but I'm not sure if the Fab Four or Falkner are fans of mine ... anyway, Jason Falkner's second CD of Beatles lullabyes was released today, and I'm pretty jazzed.

Now, naysayers will claim that Bedtime with the Beatles: Part Two is "muzak", or will ask "Why don't you just listen to the originals?" First, anything Falkner touches musically is way more interesting than most of what's out there. Second, these aren't meant to be "covers" as such, they're interpretations in lullabye form (see this review of his first Bedtime with the Beatles). Third, Falkner performs and produces everything himself: This ain't no "hit the drum machine button and play the synth" bull malarky.

Check out the Brian Eno-sounding "She's Leaving Home", the hummed "Hey Jude", and the perfect closer, "Goodnight". The most amusing thing about the project is the promo blurb issued by McCartney himself:

"I very much enjoyed the first 'Bedtime with the Beatles' and wish Jason all the best with this follow-up. It certainly works - it put me to sleep."

Whether or not that quote is legit, it's pretty damn funny.

New Digs

As some of you may or may not know, the Donnell Central Children's Room is no more. But here's the good news: I've transferred to The New York Public Library's Early Childhood Resource and Information Center, located at the Hudson Park Branch in the West Village. I've traded Midtown's steel & glass, harried businessmen, and confused tourists for tree-lined cobblestone lanes, bohemian New Yorkers, and friendly "hellos".

Early Childhood programming, materials, and research have increasingly become my focus over time, so the move fits perfectly. Oh, and three things I immediately liked about the area: There's a huge Keith Haring mural right behind the library, across one street is the exterior shot of the Cosby house, and across another street is one of our favorite pubs in NYC (I'll post photos later).

After several weeks of office shifting and a well-deserved vacation down the shore, I'm back in my new office where a massive stack of review CDs is about to teeter off my desk and onto the floor. Be patient, I'll get to your album if you sent one. I'll leave you with a picture of a New York Public Librarian leading a storytime in the adjoining Hudson Park in 1910...

lessons from the river

We arrived Friday in western North Carlina for our summer vacation. It has been great to get away and just rejuvenate and reflect on the highs and lows of this year. As I sat by the river today, I smiled. My children were being instructed in important life lessons. You know the ones; how to skip a rock, where to find salamanders, and the fact that fool's gold, while pretty, is really just a sparkly rock. I love seeing the world, with all it's wonder, along-side my children. I know that no one knows them better than my husband and me. In fact, I will always be their best teacher.

Six years ago, when I was researching what type of music program I wanted to start, that was the point that sold me on Kindermusik. The Kindermusik philosophy is that the parent is the child's best teacher. Often times, parents come into my class unsure. Like me, they wonder how their children are turning out. Am I doing this right? It's not like they come with instruction manuals, you know! I think one of the biggest things you take away from my class is finding you are not alone in your thoughts or struggles. There is a certain amount of empowerment in that. Mistakes or not, you'll realize that all the little things in life add up to something greater. In the end, your children will walk away to begin teaching their own life lessons from the best classroom they could have had; your life.

***The Beep Seals***

Normally, I reserve this blog for music created specifically for kids, with occasional sidetrips into grownup music when I'm feeling particularly sentimental or editorial. But I love indierock, I love harmonies, and I love Teenage Fanclub, which is why I have to recommend this band from Manchester, UK.

The Beep Seals just released Things that Roar on the tiny London-based Heron Recordings label, sounding like nothing less than the Zombies and the Beach Boys playing songs from the Beatles' Rubber Soul and Revolver. Any current group who put this much effort into three- and four-part vocal arrangements are tops in my book. And who did the band get to produce their debut album? Who else but Norman Blake from my beloved Teenage Fanclub, a pro at exactly this kind of melodic, jangly, harmony-filled superpop.

Check out this short clip of the Beep Seals performing live on Manchester's Channel M:

music + child = one smart kid!

Many years ago, there was a craze about something called the Mozart Effect. Research had shown that listening to the complex patterns found in classical music could actually enhance the cognitive development of children. Parents flocked to the music store for classical CDs. However in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, a closer look at this study has revealed that listening to any music that is personally enjoyable can have a positive effect on cognitive development. In one study, scientists found more grey matter in the auditory cortex of the right hemisphere in musicians compared to non-musicians. It is also thought that music enhances the immune system and mental health of the listener. So go ahead and enjoy some family music time; you can feel great about the benefits that you are giving to your child and yourself!

Drums of Thunder live @ Sinatra Park

This past Friday night we saw Drums of Thunder, a 4th- and 5th-Grade drum corp from Montclair, NJ's Hillside School, at Hoboken's Sinatra Park. The most awesome thing about the performance? Not the backdrop of Manhattan's Financial District, not the power of a three dozen-strong percussion team, but that one of the snare drummers had a full-on Kid 'N Play high top fade, circa 1988 (see photo below).

Rub-a-Dub Sub

Rub-a-Dub Sub by Linda Ashman has become a favorite of mine for class. I stumbled across it in the library one day. It follows the underwater adventure of a pint-sized explorer. The illistrations are wonderful with colorful pictures of manta rays, seals, shrimp, and more. Just watch out for that suprise ending!

Family Music Festivals in and around NYC

Here's a link to Time Out New York Kids' listing of the six best summer music festivals in the New York City area:

Performers from Tom Chapin, to Suzi Shelton, to Miriam Makeba, to Father Goose, to David Weinstone and the Music for Aardvarks Band (below) will be rockin' the 5 Boroughs all summer long!

dealing with loss

This has been a difficult year personally. In the last five months, I have had three family members pass away. Two of them were very unexpected. One wasn't much older than I am. Living on a farm, we are in a never ending cycle of life and death, but my children had never faced the death of a family member or friend until now. It can be difficult to face that challenge, especially when you are trying to deal with your own grief over the loss. We have always approached the topic of death in a natural and open way, whether it was one of our beloved animals or just questions that may arise. I think this has made it easier for us to talk about the deaths of our loved ones better. Here are some things that have worked well for us.

  • Be honest and open when answering questions and discussing death. (even if the questions are difficult)

  • Answer questions in an age appropriate way. Younger children may not understand the permanence of death.

  • A funeral or other ritual can be helpful in dealing with the loss.

  • Our Christian faith has played an important part in the process.

  • Keep communication open for a long time. Dealing with a loss is not instantaneous , and questions may arise weeks or months after the loss.

Americana Family Jamboree live @ Shipyard Park

Last Tuesday the family and I saw the Americana Family Jamboree at Hoboken's Shipyard Park. AFJ is the family-friendly alias of the Demolition String Band, a group that's part of the thriving bluegrass and old-time music scene in this area (mainly in Brooklyn). Even though our little one was more enthralled with the ornate fountain behind us, we all enjoyed an evening of singalongs like "Midnight Special", "Cotton Fields", and "Oh! Susanna".

Friday Free-for-All # 13

Recess Monkey, Tabby Road

Hooks galore on Recess Monkey's fourth CD for children! These three silly teachers from Seattle channel the Beatles (of course), Weezer, Klaatu, OK Go, XTC, and every pop song Jeff Barry wrote on their latest album, Tabby Road. Heck, "Kitty Sister" oughta be a number one summer smash! Lots of interactive fun, tons of singalong opportunities ... a certified chart-topper!!

Various Artists, Let the Good Times Rouler!

From the company who brought you Down at the Sea Hotel, comes Let the Good Times Rouler!, a collection of French folk songs in the Arcadian style (the precursor to Cajun music). Well-done albums of French songs for kids are hard to find, folks, but Secret Mountain does it up right. Recorded by a slew of France's roots and folk stars, Catherine Durand's "Le Train du Nord" is a standout track. Laissez les bons temps rouler!

Hullabaloo, Tall as a Tree

Low-key, rootsy songs from duo Steve Denyes and Brendan Kremer. This is Del Mar, CA-based Hullabaloo's fourth kids' album, continuing their string of fun, sweet, and silly originals and covers for families. Check out the short ode to Mommies "Mom's the Word"; the traditional song medley "Hey Lolly, Lolly"; and "Sippy Cup", inspired by coffee cup-totin' grownups across the nation.

the Kindermusik experience

My children are out of school now and have had time to once again be in Kindermusik with me. This is the first year since I opened my business that I have not had at least one of them in class with me. It has been interesting how that has made me feel. As I sat with my youngest daughter today, I found myself reflecting back to all the classes we had done together. She began in my Village class when she was just 11 months old. I thought back on some of her favorite songs as we did infant massage and danced together. Then there were her favorite finger-play and circle dance songs as a toddler. In preschool, she loved the stories and all the imaginative play in class. I was reminded how much she has grown and changed over the years, and how much this musical experience we have shared in has played a role in that. My children and I have had a chance to laugh, play, explore and grow together as a family. To me that's a big part of what the Kindermusik experience is all about.

Books Now! Books Wow!

Remember that Monty Python sketch where the Royal Navy is given a groovy makeover via animated advertisements, or the "Catholicism Wow!" campaign in Dogma? This is kinda like that, 'cept with books!

Yet another library-related song, this one specifically celebrating the Children's Book Council's Book Week theme of 1972. Here are the first two verses and the chorus:

"When it rains, when it snows / when it's Spring and everything grows / when you've got a cold in your nose / Read books, now! Books, wow! / Robin Hood, Little John, fairy tales that start 'Once upon', great adventures, fiction and non! / Read books, now! Books, wow! / Cheer the hero, who's brave! / Boo the villain, that knave! / Face a lion in his cage / and escape by turning the page / Travel west! Howdy, Pard! / Get a ticket, it isn't hard / It's your local library card / Read books, now! Books, wow!"

"Want to learn how to cook? / How to bait your own fishing hooks? / Even how to write your own book? / Read books, now! Books, wow! / Books on stamps, books on snakes / books that scare and give you the shakes / and without those commercial breaks! / Read books, now! Books, wow! / When it's Sunday and Jerome / who's your best friend isn't home / You don't have a thing to do / and you're slowly going cockoo / Don't give up! Don't despair / don't go home and tear out your hair / Grab a book, a coke, and a chair! / Read books, now! Books, wow!"

Summer Fun

If you're in the Hoboken, NJ, area this summer, stop by one of their Family Fun Nights featuring kids' music from our buddies Yosi, Princess Katie & Racer Steve, and others. Here's the link:

hello, ahoj, hej, hola!

We have such a multi-lingual society these days. I always find it interesting to find out how many different languages are spoken by the families in my classes. We have had such fun exploring various phrases or even animal sounds from each of these countries. There are advantages to introducing your children to various cultures and languages. They gain a greater understanding and respect for the world around them and learning a second language can also come in handy down the road. If you are not part of a multi-lingual family, you can learn with your child through books, CDs, and language programs in your community. Some parents may be concerned that adding a second language will inhibit your child's budding language development. Actually, early childhood is the ideal time for introducing a second language, and you should find that they pick it up quite easily. It is completely normal for them to mix up words from each of the languages as well as confuse the rules of grammar. If the introduction of the second language is new to your child, you may even notice that they are rather quiet for a period of time, even as long as a month. This is just an adjustment period where they are processing the new information and should not be a sign for alarm. Until next time... ciao, ha det, and au revoir!

In the Garden

We are just completing our first semester of the NEW Kinder-Gardeners class. They learned about the different parts of plants. It has been amazing to see how much the children are learning. Young children learn by exploration of the world around them, and what better place to explore than the garden. At home, try pulling weeds, planting a few seeds, catching toads, or finding ladybugs together. These types of activities are going to not only enhance their physical development and love of nature, but also will help to develop language acquisition and a budding understanding of cause and effect cognitive skills.