***Miriam Makeba***

In honor of South African songstress Miriam Makeba, who passed just two weeks ago, here's a short review of one of her indispensable albums, Sangoma, recorded in 1988 for Warner Brothers Records. A Sangoma is a traditional healer in southern African cultures, and these songs reflect that sense of history.

All the tunes are sung in Xhosa, a South African dialect, but don't let that deter you from enjoying these prayer songs, parables, lullabies, and gathering songs. Makeba is accompanied by a group of female singers on these traditional melodies, sometimes with sparse percussion, often a cappella style. Good vibes and a joyous spirit radiate from every song on the album.

A great way to introduce your young ones to the beautiful world of music from our beautiful Earth. And, this being 2008 and all, you can immediately download the album or songs for your family's listening pleasure.

Music and Language Skills

What interests me most about this research is that they noted greater progress from those who studied music earlier. It's also interesting to note that the people involved in the study were not musicians, just people who had studied music.

Study Guides for School Shows

By Johnette Downing

Study guides are an important element in your school booking confirmation packet. Study guides assist administrators, teachers and students in preparing for your upcoming performance by giving them useful information about you, your program and how your program fits into the curriculum. Below is a brief outline of the information you should address when creating your study guides:

A. About the Artist

A brief artist bio that indicates something about you, your art form, your accomplishments, and your experience.

B. About the Program

A brief overview indicating the theme, style, age range, length and content of your program. You may expand this section by adding the history of your art form or the particular style within your art form that you will be presenting. For instance, if you are performing a jazz program, you may want to make a statement about the history of jazz and why you have chosen to present this style of music.

C. Curriculum Connections

Indicate how your program makes curriculum connections in the areas of math, science, art, history, music, English, social studies, dance, etc. For instance, a jazz program may make curriculum connections in social studies, history and music.

D. Enrichment Activities

Include simple activities and ideas that the teachers and students can use before and after your program to enhance their understanding of your program and your art form.

E. Resources

Provide teachers with a resource list of books, audios, videos, articles, and websites for further information.

If you make your study guides simple, user friendly, fun and informative, you will increase its usefulness. Teachers have very little time to pour through pages of text or to use activities that require lots of time, materials and energy. The study guides should be on one sheet of paper (if necessary, back and forth) and the activities should be easily accomplished within a few minutes or by using readily available school supplies, books and materials. You can always provide in-depth information or expanded activities by including yourself as a resource on your resource list. The goal of a study guide is to enhance the learning experience about your program and your art form for the children and faculty.

The key is simple, user-friendly, fun and informative.

Copyright 2002 Johnette Downing

***Dog On Fleas***

In my extremely humble opinion, Dog On Fleas are one of the few kids' bands who make an effort to stretch out and grow as artists. Dig their riverboat/back porch/one-microphone approach on 2003's Cranberry Sauce Flotilla, and their solid pop/rock/world sound on 2006's When I Get Little. This year's Beautiful World, their fifth CD for kids, is a great collection of unmistakablely Dog On Fleas tunes, augmented by analog Moog synthesizers and whispers of electronica.

The album kicks off with the title tune, which mixes 6/4 and 4/4 metres with piccolos and flutes to create a world music ode to our world. Next is John Hughes' thumping tune of affirmation, "Star Tonight," then comes the head bobbin', in-your-face bass of "Do You Wanna Know My New Dance Step?" or, as my wife exclaimed, "Hey! Justin Timberlake for kids!" And the mysterious-sounding "Water Planet," with its Zappa-esque horn/woodwind arrangement, views Earth from an alien perspective.

John Hughes' beautifully simple "The Beach Song" puts your toes right in the Hawaiian sand, and the rockin' "Dumpling" takes a metaphysical look at existence. The wonderfully nonsensical "Lima Bean," featuring vocals from Lorette Velvette and Uncle Rock, contains awesome lines like "Lima Bean's lookin' in a full-length mirror /Singin' Rod Stewart so the whole town can hear her"; the Ben Folds Five-inspired "Crawl To Your Mother" is then followed by a waltzing "Where Would You Fly?" featuring Ben Richter's musical saw.

"I Love Your Accent" celebrates one world made of many people with the mantra "I love your accent! Where ya from?"; the buzzing new wave/rowdy New Orleans rock of "Unbirthday" dares listeners to sit still! Good vibes are flowing on the vegetable-lovin' "Sittin' in the Field," while the jazzy "Balloon Man" asks the amusing question, "Do you like Pop Music? Ahh ... probably not!" And the album ends with the pretty pop of the word-filled "Birds of a Feather", and the quiet lullaby to tiny tots 'round the world, "Babies," featuring Frances England.

This Hudson Valley, NY, collective of musicians and artists have been performing together for ten years now, and their combined experience together as bandmates and songwriters just makes them that much better. Look around you: it is a beautiful world, and Dog On Fleas are happy to tell you all about it.

Top Turkey Tunes for Tots

Wow, only a week until Thanksgiving! Just for the occasion, I've put together a list of downloadable Thanksgiving music for kids over on my About.com site for your last-minute holiday party planning.

The list of iPod-ready Thanksgiving songs includes favorites like Laurie Berkner, Dog On Fleas, John McCutcheon, and The Uncle Brothers, as well as lesser-known tunes by folksinger Si Kahn, kids from the Quincy Choral Society, Jewish Music superstar Debbie Friedman, and a 1956 recording of children from Brooklyn's P.S. 24.

Save me a slice of pumpkin pie!

Aimee Carter

Come see how far your child can go!

Kwanzaa Music for Kids

There are thousands of Christmas music CDs available for kids and their families, but what about music that celebrates Kwanzaa?

I've compiled a short list of great Kwanzaa albums over on my About.com site, but I know there have to be more out there. If you know of an excellent Kwanzaa CD (or out-of-print LP), or if you're a musician who has recorded an album of songs celebrating the Seven Principles, please feel free to leave a comment or make suggestions.

Ranns Doll Clothes

With Christmas coming up, I thought I would share this website with you. It's Ranns Doll Clothing and features handmade items that fit American Girl and other popular dolls.

Thanks Cindy for the heads up.

Themed Shows

Hey Venues!

Did you know that most children's musicians offer shows according to themes such as animals, multi-cultural, holidays, transportation, self-esteem, drug awareness, environment, bugs, marine life, literacy, music history, history, seasons, special needs, character building, etc.? Well, we do! When hiring a musician for your special event, inquire as to whether or not the musician has a show to harmonize with the theme of the event. If the musician does not already have a show to suit the event theme, they may be willing to tailor their show to include songs that do match the theme. Musicians usually have a huge repertoire of songs and can often create a show tailor made for you! The musician will often be happy to do it so give it a try!

Justin Roberts Wins Fids & Kamily Top Spot!

For the second time in three years, Justin Roberts earns the number one rank in the annual Fids & Kamily Awards for best children's music. His album Pop Fly comes in atop this year's impressive list of kids' CDs, including Frances England's Family Tree and They Might Be Giants' Here Come the 123s.

Here's the complete 2008 Fids & Kamily Top Ten, along with 10 honorable mentions and 47 nominated albums.

Story Time

Most, if not all, of us recognize the importance of reading with your child. According to a review published online ahead of print in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, young children whose parents read aloud to them have better language and literacy skills when they go to school. It makes sense that children who have been read aloud to are also more likely to develop a love of reading. The advantages they gain persist, but what I found most interesting when reading about this study was that the way in which we read aloud affected the outcome. For example, describing pictures in the book, explaining the meaning of the story, and encouraging the child to talk about what has been read to them and to ask questions caused greater improvement in their understanding of the world and their social skills. What are some of your favorite books to read aloud with your child?

***Johnny Keener***

West Virginia-born, Portland, Oregon-based Johnny Keener throws his musical influences into the pot and dishes out a great collection of rootsy, bluesy, Americana for kids and their families. Long John is his second CD for children, the first being 2006's Elephants Over the Fence. Check out Keener's solo album for grownups, as well as his work with the band Yoyodyne.

Long John kicks off with Henry Thomas' classic "Fishin' Blues," made famous by The Lovin' Spoonful on their 1965 album Do You Believe in Magic, and by Taj Mahal on his 1968 album De Ole Folks at Home. Next is the rockabilly raveup "Run Around," a tune that would be right at home on a Buddy Holly 45.

From the old to the new and somewhere in between: the title tune is a call-and-response African-American field song, followed by a cover of The Apples In Stereo's powerpop "Energy," from last year's New Magnetic Wonder. And then comes a spirited cover of Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Down On the Corner," their hit from 1969's Willy and the Poor Boys.

"I Don't Want It" is a sea shanty/waltz, followed by a Stray Cats-like version of the folk tune "Cat Came Back." Then there's a cover of Cat Stevens' great singalong, "If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out," written for the 1971 film Harold and Maude. The album ends with the quiet shuffle of Bob Marley's "Three Little Birds," and Johnny's own take on the oldie "Mockingbird."

Super folk/rock/blues for the entire family!

I Love You Rituals

I Love You Rituals is a book by Dr. Becky Bailey. I has some creative ways to help you connect with your child as well as promote better attention and higher level thinking. You can also click on the link above to get free tips about Conscious Discipline from her website.

Now enrolling for January classes

You can view our full schedule for Spring semester by clicking here. Classes will begin the week of January 5th. We even have a new monthly payment plan to make it even easier to enjoy the fun. Get enrolled today!

reflections on the future

As I am sitting in the Raleigh/Durham Airport, I find myself reflecting over the last week. I have been at the Kindermusik Convention in downtown Raleigh, celebrating the 30th birthday of Kindermusik International. It has been four days of inspiration, information, lots of fun and new friends, and even a few surprises. We spoke on change and our commitment to reaching children with the power of music. We spoke of legacy and anticipations for the future, and I think these things speak not only of our Kindermusik classes, but for our families. We are building a legacy as we invest ourselves into our children. I look forward to watching what the future holds as we work together to build it.

Vote for Change? Hey, Clap for Love!

Live from the Beat Kitchen in Chicago, Ann Torralba performs the title track from her latest CD, Clap for Love.

Little Miss Ann - "Clap for Love"

Tap into the power of music.

I thought this was a very interesting article about the power of music. You can read more of it by clicking the link at the source listing below.

More than 7,000 runners who recently raced in a half-marathon in London were under the influence of a powerful performance-enhancing stimulant -- pop music.
The music at London's "Run to the Beat" race was selected on the basis of the research and consultation of sport psychologist Costas Karageorghis. He has learned how to devise soundtracks that are just as powerful, if not more so, as some of the less legal substances that athletes commonly take to excel.
The link between music and athletic performance is just one example of the inroads scientists and doctors are making into understanding the amazing power that music has over your mind and body. Science has shown that music really can kill pain, reduce stress, better your brain and basically change how you experience life.

Live Science October 15, 2008

Tomorrow is a Highway

I'm happy this morning, happy that there's so much excitement in the air after last night's election, happy that the shitheads who always complained about the government finally got up off their lazy asses and voted, happy that my little boy got to go into the voting booth with me and see how important everyone's voice is.

The atmosphere was absolutely electric up here in the North Jersey/NYC area last night: I swear we heard a celebratory roar of the masses when the winning numbers were posted online and were aired on television. I listen to Matt Pinfield on WRXP in the mornings, and grown men, big burly dudes from Queens, Brooklyn, and the Jersey Shore, were calling in today on the verge of tears talking about how happy and excited they were about the election. Times ain't gonna be easy, but they sure are a'changin'.

So, in honor of President Obama, dig Pete Seeger and Lee Hays' classic but incredibly relevant "Tomorrow is a Highway." Download the song, listen to it with your kids, and talk about what's goin' on.

"Tomorrow is a Highway"

Tomorrow is a highway broad and fair,
And we are the many who'll travel there.
Tomorrow is a highway broad and fair,
And we are the workers who'll build it there;
And we will build it there.

Come, let us build a way for all mankind,
A way to leave this evil year behind,
To travel onward to a better year
Where love is, and there will be no fear,
Where love is and no fear.

Now is the shadowed year when evil men,
When men of evil thunder war again.
Shall tyrants once again be free to tread,
Above our most brave and honored dead?
Our brave and honored dead.

O, comrades, come and travel on with me,
We'll go to our new year of liberty.
Come, walk upright, along the people's way,
From darkness, unto the people's day.
From dark, to sunlit day.

Tomorrow is a highway broad and fair
And hate and greed shall never travel there
But only they who've learned the peaceful way
Of brotherhood, to greet the coming day.
We hail the coming day.

Words by Lee Hays Music by Pete Seeger (1949)
TRO - (c) 1950 (renewed) Folkways Music Publishers Inc. New York, NY

Celebrate Dia De Los Muertos with Uncle Rock!

"Picnic in the Graveyard" is pretty much the best damn song about Day of the Dead yer gonna find! Sounding like nothing less than a lost Los Lobos single, this track from Robert Warren's 2006 CD, Plays Well with Others, is a great introduction to the sentiment behind this ancient Mexican tradition.

Uncle Rock - "Picnic in the Graveyard"