Quiet, please!

I have recently had some trouble with my voice and one of the things I was instructed to do by the doctor was to limit my speaking and singing to only absolutely necessary things for the next three months. This has created quite an interesting situation for me. First of all, telling me not to walk around singing, is like telling a fish not to swim. That, in and of itself, has been a challenge, for singing is so much a part of who I am. However, what has really intrigued me most is the reaction that my lack of vocalization has had on me, as well as those around me.

It has caused me to re-think some things and here is what I have discovered.

  • You can say just as much with a few words if you choose them carefully.

  • The volume and timbre of your voice can have a tremendous effect on your attitude and behavior as well as everyone else around you.

  • Actions speak louder than words.

  • You find out more when you listen more.

  • Communication and talking are not necessarily the same thing.

  • THANK GOD for written language! :-)

I hope this gives you some food for thought. I look forward to hearing your reflections on this, and I'll talk with you again soon!

***Rhythm Child***

Where can you go for one-stop shopping to find a John Lennon Songwriting Contest Grand Prize-winning song (2005), two Children's Music Web Award-winning tunes (2004 & 2005), and an XMKids Radio #1 hit (2007) ? Hey, you don't have to go any further than Drum Circle Sing-A-Long, presented by the Rhythm Child Network.

Norm Jones and his wife Heather founded Rhythm Child in 2003 to "promote creative expression and cultural exploration" through drum circle workshops, interactive music classes, and live concerts. Drum Circle Sing-A-Long is an aural representation of their mantra, and is full of beats, rhythms, and melodies that'll keep your little ones moving.

The CD kicks off with "Jammy Put On," Grand Prize Winner in the children's category of the 2005 John Lennon Songwriting Contest. This funky adaptation of "The Hokey Pokey" about getting ready for bed is more likely to get kids up and dancing than to settle them down for a night's sleep! Next is the very poppy "Learn from Nature," a sort of kid-friendly description of the science of biomimicry.

Two story songs are then featured: dig the very cool drum sample and tremeloed guitars in "Bird & the Dragon" and the slow jam of the Isley Brothers-inspired "The Story." Hand drums and percussion dominate an updated "This Little Light," and the electrofunk version of "Five Little Monkeys" is one of my favorites on the disc.

"How Much Farther" is an amusing tune about the frustration of being stuck in the car on a family trip, based on the structure of "Oh My Darling, Clementine." The album ends with a rhythm-heavy remake of "Kumbaya" and instrumental versions of "Learn From Nature" and "5 Little Monkeys."

If your little ones are into rhythm and drums, check out Drum Circle Sing-A-Long, a great CD for classrooms and family music collections.

What mile marker are you at?

I've been working for the last month or so on the breakout session I will be presenting at this year's Kindermusik Convention. It will be about working with special needs children as an Early Interventionist. I am so excited about this opportunity to share. It is a wonderful thing to watch these very special children grow and learn in my classroom along-side their peers. During my research, I ran across some great websites and information that I will be sharing with you in the coming months.

One of the hardest things about my job is talking to parents who may not realize that there child is experiencing a developmental delay. As a parent, I understand how hard that would be to hear. Yet, often times, the delay is not significant and can be readily resolved without long term affects on the child, especially if the intervention is begun at an early age. Check out this great resource for understanding your child's development. If you have concerns about your child's development, you should discuss it with your child's pediatrician or another appropriate medical professional.

***Mike Mennard***

Feelin' particularly swashbuckling today? Well, Mike Mennard has just the thing for you! Pirates Do the Darnedest Things is his swaggering, silly, singalong collection of tunes dedicated to a rogue's life on the sea. Historic tunes, originals, and classic covers are tied together by short skits, limericks, and goofy jokes, all celebrating the joys and trials of being a pirate.

Mennard kicks off his fourth kids' CD with a roll call of pirates in the title tune, followed by "Yo Ho Yo Ho (A Pirate's Life for Me)," the old theme song from the Pirates of the Caribbean attractions at Disney. Silliness ensues with "ARRH!" "Buccaneer Singing on Broadway," "Ramsey the Pungent Pirate," and "Silly Willy Walla Walla Wary," in which the land-bound buccaneer laments that "it's tough to be a pirate in Nebraska."

Another highlight is the great tune "Captain Blake," with music by Mennard and lyrics by Kelsey Hulsman, an elementary school student who won Mennard's inaugural Pirate Poetry Contest. And check out the funky medley "Early in the Morning/Blow the Man Down," the mostly a cappella version of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Fifteen Men on a Dead Man's Chest," the homesick ode "Fiddler's Green," and the sweet "Pirate Moon."

Hey, it's only 358 days until the next Talk Like a Pirate Day, so start collecting your pirating stash with Mike Mennard's Pirates Do the Darnedest Things.

Dreamin' of getting away

If you are considering a trip soon, I wanted to tell you about a new website that I have. The Powersearch located at the top of the site is the world's most powerful search engine and will pull the best prices from every major travel site. No more searching around for hours only to go back and find your original price gone!

If you are interested, you can also join the World Ventures organization as a dream trips member or leisure travel agent. My family is excited to be taking our first dream trip in December. This travel club allows you to buy trips at wholesale prices. You can find out more about working from home as a leisure travel agent or becoming a dream trip member here. Feel free to email me if you have any questions.

More Yo Gabba Gabba!

Jimmy Eat World posted a sneak peek of their video "Beautiful Day," scheduled to be aired on today's episode of Yo Gabba Gabba! Great pop song, and cool flying dogs and cats.

Jimmy Eat World-Beautiful Day-Yo Gabba Gabba

Yo Gabba Gabba!

The second season of Yo Gabba Gabba! premiered yesterday and rave reviews are already coming in. Brobee celebrated his birthday, and how better to rock the party than have The Ting Tings cover "Happy Birthday," a tune originally recorded by Altered Images back in '81.

Like DJ Lance Rock says, "Listening and dancing to music is AAAWESOMMME!"

Funding for Performances

Venues are often surprised to discover that professional children's musicians do not work for free and charge a respectable fee for their work. Children's musicians are contacted weekly to volunteer their time to perform benefit concerts for worthy causes. While children's musicians are some of the most kind-hearted and worthy-cause-oriented people around, the volume of these calls makes it impossible to accept them all, if any depending upon whether the musician makes his or her sole living from music.

Venues should expect to pay a fee beginning around $200 and going up into the thousands depending upon the experience, reputation, region and needs of the musician. In addition to a performance fee, musicians may also charge for travel, lodging, rental car, excess baggage fees for flights and per diem based on travel distance.

Keeping this in mind, there is help available. If the musician's fee is more than your budget, before asking the musician to volunteer or reduce his or her fee, consider several funding options.

1) Grants from city, county, state or federal agencies, arts councils and organizations.

2) Sponsorships from large corporations, local businesses, individual, hospitals and civic organizations. Usually sponsors will fund music programs in exchange for advertisement.

3) Parent-teacher organizations. Many schools have PTO's that have funds to pay for special programming for children.

4) "Friends" Organizations. Many libraries and non-profit foundations have "Friends of the Library" or "Friends of the Museum" organizations that raise money to fund special programming.

5) Fund-raisers or Raffles. Many schools and venues have fund-raisers to pay for special programs. Some venues raffle off the musician's CDs, books, DVDs or collections to partially or fully fund the performance.

6) Donations. One or more individuals and organizations may make a donation to the venue or the musician to fund the performance.

7) In-school field trips. With the cost of fuel and bus insurance, many schools have adopted in-school field trips. Like off-site field trips, on-site field trips are student funded through a nominal fee per student (often as little as $0.50 to $1 per child).

8) Patrons are individuals or groups that support arts programs and use the expense for the program as a tax deduction.

9) Cover charge. Many venues and musicians work together to share a percentage of the admission fee charged at the door of the venue. Usually an agreed upon amount of money is “guaranteed” to the musician as a base before any amount is collected at the door. If the cover charge collected exceeds the guarantee, the shared percentage applies to the excess funds. If the cover charge collected does not exceed the guarantee, only the guarantee applies to the musician.

Bringing the joy of music to children is worth the effort of finding the right funding source for your venue. There is ample funding available for programming. It just may take a little extra step to find it. The key is building a musician/venue relationship and working together to brainstorm ideas and make a plan of action to make the performance a huge success for everyone.

-Johnette Downing
Copyright 2003 & 2008 Johnette Downing

I see you!

Can you guess this month's What in the World? Post your answers as a comment below.

***Nikolai Moderbacher***

You'll have to pardon the crappy photography, but I wanted to give you an idea of the concept of this CD package, lest you think I had inadvertantly posted a white square. Remember back in 1987 when Sammy Hagar ran a contest to let fans name his latest album? Turns out I Never Said Goodbye was the best they could do ... Anyway, Brooklyn-based music instructor and wood artist Nikolai Moderbacher goes one better by allowing each listener to create the cover art for their own copy of his kids' album Tabula Rasa.

Niko's music is sonically similar to Mr. David's style: eclectic with out being weird, and simple while being memorable. Check out especially the wittily-titled "Chew, Chew Train," the alphabet nonsense song "ABACA," and the ode to boo boos, "Au." And dig the charmingly odd arrangements in "Take Off the Crumbs," not a far throw from those that The Who's John Entwhistle was so fond of ("Boris the Spider," "Fiddle About").

The loping "Wake Up" sounds like a low-key Daniel Lanois production, and "When I Was a Baby" is a great 3/4 - time rewriting of the classic "Cotton Fields." Dance along with the samba-influenced body part identification game "Baby Baby," and the Mediterranian-flavored tribute to the "terrible twos," "No, No, No." Then settle down for the day with a quiet version of the traditional Austrian lullaby "Haidschi Bum Baidschi."

Moderbacher recruited fellow Music Together instructor Rachel Friedman to help out with the vocals on half of the songs, and his wife Pyeng Threadgill on one. Moderbacher even utilized the rhythm section from his wife's jazz combo on several of the tunes, and all the songs have a great recorded-at-the-same-time-in-one-room sound, giving the whole project an intimate, personal feel. Super kids' debut that's perfect for the whole family.

Justin Roberts' Greatest Hits?

I was putting together an artist profile about Justin Roberts over on the About.com site, and I started looking through his albums ... man, that dude has lots of good songs! Which led me to wonder: if you were to compile a Justin Roberts greatest hits album, what songs would you pick?

Would you go heavy on his earlier James Taylor-influenced CDs, or choose more tunes from his later Fountains of Wayne/Blink 182-sounding albums? Sure, you would include tunes like "Our Imaginary Rhino," "Pop Fly," and "One Little Cookie," but what about lesser-known album cuts?

Limit your theoretical CD to 12 songs, with maybe one bonus track. Lemme know what you think ...

Kindermusik... It's just plain good for you!

A recent study found that repeated enrollment in Kindermusik improves a child's ability to plan, guide, and control their own behavior."Children currently enrolled in Kindermusik showed higher levels of self-control than those never enrolled and those previously enrolled. ...This suggests that in order for children to reap the benefit of increased self-control as a result of Kindermusik participation, it is important to have repeated and recent Kindermusik experiences and remain enrolled in the program."

"Four-year-old children who had been exposed to Kindermusik for longer periods of time are better off in terms of self-control—namely a child's ability to plan, guide, and control their own behavior—than similar children with less Kindermusik history. These experiences, stop-go, high-low, fast-slow, short-long, and loud-soft, whereby children's motor behavior is guided by the music, appear to be good exercise for young children's emerging self-regulatory skills."

The study, "The Effects of Kindermusik on Behavioral Self-Regulation in Early Childhood," was conducted in 2005 in the psychology department at George Mason University in Virginia. Results were made available to Kindermusik in May, 2005. The study was conducted by Adam Winsler Ph.D and graduate student Lesley Ducenne in the Department of Psychology at George Mason University. The 15-month study included 91 children between the ages of 3 and 5 who were split into three groups: 23 students currently enrolled in Kindermusik, 19 students previously enrolled in Kindermusik, and 49 students of similar family backgrounds from local preschools who had never had Kindermusik.The children were observed doing a variety of tasks that required self-control such as slowing down their motor behavior, delaying their gratification, refraining from touching attractive but forbidden toys, quietly whispering, and compliance with instructions to initiate or stop certain behaviors. Parents also completed surveys.The study was supervised by Adam Winsler, Ph.D, Applied Developmental Psychology in the Department of Psychology at George Mason University.

***The Spanglish Wrangler***

I first reviewed Will Thomas' collection of bilingual kids' tunes back in May, when it existed only as mp3s on his website. Now that Spanglish Sing-Along has been released as a physical CD, complete with awesome revamped cover art and a slightly different, less clunky title (formerly The Spanglish Wrangler Sings Bilingual Songs for the Whole Family), I thought I'd repost an edited version of the original review. And Bill Childs, over at Spare the Rock, gave Will a cool little writeup in the July issue of Parenting magazine, as well.

Here ya go:

'Will Thomas' bilingual tunes for kids are fun and funny and witty, and, most importantly to adults, stand up to repeated listenings. While Thomas has recorded grownup albums at Birdland Recording Studios in Town Creek, Alabama (very close to my hometown), he laid down the basic tracks for Spanglish Sing-Along at his home studio in Miami Beach.

You can practice your Spanish vocabulary by inference in the song "Emociones;" while "(They Call It) Spanish Monday," based on T-Bone Walker's "Stormy Monday Blues," helps you brush up on the days of the week. "Desayuno Boogie" is a celebration of breakfast, while the swampy funk of "Broccoli" describes a girl's love of that vegetable.

"Eres Mi Vida" is a Spanish-language version of "You Are My Sunshine," and the story of "Cucaracha" is set to the music of Earth Wind and Fire's "September." "Bailla Pollito" is a funny little tale about a reluctant dancer, while "I Love My Dog" is a little reminiscent of the old classic "Down By the Bay." Additional vocab practice is provided by "Gator and Bee" and "Bear's Picnic," directions en Espanol on the former and present tense verbs on the latter ("I sing, canto, y'all sing, cantais", etc.).

Thomas' intimate, downhome, bluesy performance and playful songwriting style make this collection a perfect teaching tool in both the classroom and at home. You're not smacked in the head with ridiculously bombastic production, and the lyrics don't make kids (or adults) feel like dunces. This is a great project from an artist who is a welcome addition to the kids' music world.'


As many of you already know, I've started writing for About.com as their Kids' Music Guide. Now, that doesn't mean I'm abandoning good ol' KidsMusicThatRocks. No, no, no, it only means I have additional space and can use alternative formats to bring you information about music for children.

Over at About.com, I'm working on things like the best Beatles' singalongs, the music of Yo Gabba Gabba!, and an interview with Beethoven's Wig creator Richard Perlmutter, so keep checking in over there to see what's new and shiny in the world of kids' music.

And thanks to Bill, Stefan, and Amy (and all the rest of you kids' music folks) for all the help and suggestions!

Chocolate Cake

This was sent to me the other day. It's not Milk and Cookies, like we are studying in the Our Time class, but I figured if you love chocolate half as much as I do, you might need the recipe anyway! Besides, it will make a fun cooking project for the family.


1 Coffee Mug

4 tablespoons flour(that's plain flour, not self-rising)

4 tablespoons sugar

2 tablespoons baking cocoa

1 egg

3 tablespoons milk

3 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons chocolate chips (optional)

Small splash of vanilla

Frosting (optional)

Add dry ingredients to mug and mix well. Add the egg and mix thoroughly. Pour in the milk and oil and mix well. Add the chocolate chips (if using) and vanilla and mix again. Put your mug in the microwave and cook for 3 minutes at 1000 watts. The cake will rise over the top of the mug, but don't be alarmed! Allow to cool a little, and tip out onto a plate if desired. You can add frosting if you like and EAT!

(this can serve 2 if you want to share!)

Who are you?

I was reading Sally's blog today, Wombats in the Belfry. She is a mother in one of my classes, and was talking about life as a mother. It reminded me of something that had already been floating around in my head for weeks. It had been begging to be written about here,since writing my thoughts down here with you seems to make it easier for me to make heads or tails of them. Anyway...

I had picked up my youngest daughter from school, and as we were walking out, I heard one of her classmates yell, "Bye Sarah's mommy!" It made me smile. There are so many names that we have! I'm no longer just Aimee. I am now "mommy", "wife", "the Kindermusik lady", "daughter", "business owner"... The list goes on and on. I suppose for some of us, there is a fear of losing our identity in the mass of all the labels we wear. Yet, I have come to believe that the labels do not dissect us, so much as they help to define us, if we let them. They are like pieces of a puzzle that, when properly fitted together, show all of who you are. I haven't lost my identity. We gain experience in life as we earn each new label. Every piece fits together to form the masterpiece that is YOU!

Honk If You Love Honking!

I've always been a big proponent of the Do-It-Yourself ethic when it comes to music, and these folks take that belief to the next level. The organizers of the HONK! Festival in Somerville, Massachusetts, invite marching bands of, for, and by the people to march, play, and generally make a musical ruckus in their annual celebration of indie brass bands.

Several NYC groups, including The Hungry March Band, Rude Mechanical Orchestra, and Tri-Battery Pops, are performing in the festival which, at the very least, guarantees to entertain you and your little ones with massive amounts of loud, rowdy music, and at most hopes to inspire onlookers to get involved with music, social issues, politics, and getting to know your neighbors.

Friday Free-for-All # 20

A sudden surge in hip hop for kids warrants a review-a-thon!

Kat Vellos, Musiplication

Smooooooth math lessons via hip hop, thanks in great part to Batsauce, Jacksonville, Florida's underground beatmaster. Seattleite Kat Vellos and Britt Traynham (aka Batsauce) have created an album of very listenable tunes featuring the numbers one through ten. If you like production from the "dusty ol' record" school, or you like Digable Planets and Arrested Development, this disc is definitely for you and yours.

Various Artists, Hip-Hop Nursery Rhymes Collection, Vol. 1

Executive produced by DC Metro-based Ben Tynes, this CD presents classic nursery rhymes backed with spare, late'80s beats. Oldies like "Humpty Dumpty," "Old King Cole," "B-I-N-G-O," and "There Was an Old Lady" are given a funky fresh makeover. Check out the updated "Grand Duke of New York," which includes NYC locales like Brownsville and Sugar Hill in telling a young boy's success story.

Mark D. Pencil, Learning with Hip Hop

Atlanta, Georgia's Brett Schieber follows state curriculum standards to create an album full of songs about simple math and reading practice, following directions, physical exercises, and cleaning up the classroom. The CD starts off on a decidedly acoustic foot, then about track four, the beat drrrrops on "Numbers Help Me Count." Funky, fun, and perfect for the early elementary grades. Comes with downloadable lesson plans and coloring pages.

MeeWee, Hip-Hop for Kids

Co-created by NYC-based Daniel Klein and Perry Landesberg, MeeWee's message is all about empowerment, acceptance, friendship, and music. The CD features laid-back, R&B-flavored hip hop, a little A Tribe Called Quest-ish, a bit Parliament/Funkadelic-like. Dig "Planet Brooklyn," a tune that extols that borough's unique flavor. The album is currently available as an mp3 download only, but the MeeWee website includes lesson plans and lyrics. Nice feel-good hip hop for kids.

Hello Goodbye

My little boy is fond of reading signs out loud now, and one of his favorites is "STOP!" I'm always looking for good songs with simple lyrics for kids, and this song is close to the top of my list. I always use "Hello Goodbye" to open my KidsMusicThatRocks singalong programs in the library because 1) it's a super song, 2) it's full of words like "stop," "go," "yes," and "no," and 3) it's the Beatles!!!

Gotta love their goofy antics, the psychedelic set, and the hula dancers (sure, why not? it's 1967!) at the very end. Enjoy!

Kindermusik House

For those enrolled in our Milk and Cookies class this semester, I hope you enjoy this little number from the employees at Kindermusik International!

Happy Labor Day!

Since this holiday was originated by America's labor movement in the late 1800's, let's commemorate the date with a review of Ella Jenkins and a Union of Friends Pulling Together. This 1999 Smithsonian Folkways album, nominated for the 2000 GRAMMY Award for Best Musical Album for Children, is one of the best, if not only, true "concept albums" for kids.

Jenkins skillfully weaves songs, spoken word pieces, and call and response tunes about labor unions into an overall theme of togetherness, including songs about family, friends, and our nation. Kids will recognize favorites like "The More We Work Together," "If I Had a Hammer," and "Skip to My Lou," while historically significant songs like "Solidarity Forever," "Which Side Are You On?" and the powerful "Keep Your Hands on the Plow" are great discussion starters for families and schools. And compare this album's version of the Populist song "The Farmer is the Man" with the more rockin' version on Dog On Fleas' Cranberry Sauce Flotilla.

Check out this great collection of historical singalongs, perfect for both the classroom and the living room.