“What He Wrote” a song about Thomas Jefferson in honor of Independence Day by Jonathan Sprout

unnamed (2)

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – Thomas Jefferson

Happy Independence Day! Today I have another holiday guest post by Jonathan Sprout who, inspired by American Heroes, has created a whole collection of award-winning music in an effort to remember those who have made a significant impact on the history and development of our country. As you can tell from the image and the quote above, today we are remembering Thomas Jefferson.

Thanks to Jonathan’s post, I have been in more thought about what our country was like back in 1776 when we first declared our independence. Rereading the words in the quote above, and thinking about it’s significance in relation to the recent law set by the Supreme Court is eerily on point and gives me goosebumps.

As we celebrate today, whether it’s through parades, waving flags, and chili cook-offs (ahem), we always end with a grand ole celebration of the beautiful lights in the sky. As you get ready to whoop it up today, I would recommend incorporating some time to listen to Jonathan’s words about Thomas Jefferson, finding some good kid reads on this American Hero’s impact in our history, and learning together about the Declaration of Independence.

In his post below, and in “What He Wrote,” Jonathan gets the conversation going enough to pique kids’ interests to learn more about freedoms, and civil rights. Getting into a discussion about what he/she might have done if they were in Jefferson’s shoes will likely invoke some interesting responses. What do your kids feel are their basic rights and how would they act if someone was impeding upon them? It’s always interesting for me to hear what Em has to say. Even if the response is “I don’t know,” I’ve found that I am more motivated to think along with her.

You can find more information and links on this topic at Jonathan’s site.

Thomas Jefferson: My, What He Wrote!
Guest post by Jonathan Sprout

Many people become heroes because of what they do. Once in a while, someone becomes a hero by what they say or write. To me, it’s Thomas Jefferson’s words that define him as one of the great heroes of his age. Thomas Jefferson did many amazing things as an inventor, architect, master gardener, President. He lived his life on the cutting edge of progress. He sent Lewis and Clark on their great mission and more than doubled the size of the United States. He also did some not-so-amazing things. But, my, what he wrote!

There he was, in his early thirties, representing the colony of Virginia in Philadelphia in early summer, 1776. He and representatives from 13 colonies had come together to form a new government. Mr. Jefferson was asked to put into writing for the King of England and the rest of the world what the representatives were demanding and why.

I can’t imagine how overwhelming that first blank page must have appeared to Jefferson. Where would you start? For several weeks, he wrote, edited, revised, tweaked, trashed, and re-wrote until he came up with most of what Americans now call the most important document in America – the Declaration of Independence.

Have you ever actually read this document?

It’s hard for me to imagine how one guy could have done this, mostly on his own. His Declaration was approved by Congress in July of 1776. The rest, as they say, is history.

Jefferson, with his words, expressed the highest of human aspirations becoming the leading spokesman in the revolution of ideas that transformed the way people actually thought in America, and to some extent, around the world.

He changed the world with what he wrote.

Find lyrics at Jonathan’s official Thomas Jefferson page.

Jonathan’s song about Thomas Jefferson, “What He Wrote,” is from his Grammy nominated album, American Heroes #3.

World UFO Day 2015 – Celebrate with Dino O’ Dell and Zar the Alien!


Today is World UFO Day and what better way to celebrate than with a bunch of friends and an alien named Zar.

Dino O’ Dell, a Kansas City-based musician, educator and storyteller has a deep and abiding interest in anything to do with space, UFOs, and life on other planets. He is also the author of the book Zar and the Broken Spaceship, which tells the story of a hip, three-eyed alien named Zar who finds himself on Earth after his spaceship crashed down and went kaput. This book is colorful and interactive. The sequence of actions that lead to the success of Zar’s journey back home are wildly Screen-Shot-2014-08-25-at-2.34.52-PM-438x300fun and reminiscent of popular reads such as Press Here and Lovable Furry Old Grover’s Resting Places (a classic), all of which encourage literacy, eye-hand coordination and body awareness. Plus, talking like an alien is just naturally entertaining. O’ Dell even goes ahead and includes an alien-speak glossary at the end. Fizzle Moo!

Kids at home can play along with the book (guided along with colorful illustrations by Uruguayan artist SantiagoGermano), and afterwards they can treat themselves to this fine video in which Zar moves from speaking his native tongue to groovin’ and rhymin’ in English.

Zar and the Broken Spaceship is the first in a planned series of “Zar” books and is available today through Dino O’ Dell’s siteBook BabyReading Reptile.

The single is available for purchase and download through iTunes and CD Baby.

Video: “The Cat Came Back” – Laurie Berkner


“The Cat Came Back” is one of the classics we’ve listened to from Laurie Berkner since Emily was little. I am thrilled to see Laurie’s new video for it, which was made through YouTube Spaces.

Ok so there’s a cat in it, and it’s cute. But what I also love about this video is Laurie’s charm. Her vibrant personality lights it all up, right along with the mustaches, and the cat ears. It’s just a feel good experience and it’s exactly why Laurie has been such a staple in our home!

Without further ado, from the recently released Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection, here is “The Cat Came Back!”

Want to play along with Laurie? If you are in the New York City area, the next Laurie Berkner’s The Music in Me Teacher Training will be held August 28-31. Learn Laurie’s classroom philosophy and teaching style, 40+ Laurie Berkner songs, and get tools to begin your The Music in Me classes or supplement your current music classes. Learn more or enroll today!

Dads Who Rock! Father’s Day Q&A featuring Alex Mitnick of Alex & the Kaleidescope

unnamed (2)

PA-based kids’ musician, Alex Mitnick of Alex & the Kaleidescope, will soon welcome a second baby into his family. When Alex became a father for the first time with his son Miles (now 2-years-old), he was so overjoyed that he wrote an entire album, Love Songs for My Baby, which he released as a solo album in 2014, which is just so sweet and soothing. One thing I have always been fond of with Alex, whether solo or with his band, is his soothing voice, uplifting energy and the multi-cultural aspect of his sound.

Alex shares, “When living day to day with a baby one must master the art of letting go, and I think this is especially true for men. I am a busy person. I have big dreams that I am working hard to achieve. Nothing has ever stopped me or come in the way of getting my work done until now! And, I’ll admit, that can be a very difficult thing to do. I found myself struggling at first with being present with the baby when I had so much I wanted to do. That quickly faded however when I realized that whatever I was seeking in my work I would actually receive ten times over by being absolutely present and available to my son. Whether it was in the middle of the night or way early in the morning, he became my meditation, and the relief and joy that I experienced after coming to this realization was like nothing I’ve ever experienced.”

Alex has since moved on to become the producer of his own TV program for children which takes kids around the world with clips filled with rich educational content, and music videos. A new Alex & the Kaleidoscope album, Get On Board, will be released on October 9, 2015. Keep up with Alex through his official site, Facebook, and Twitter to find out how you can get your hands on a copy of Get On Board. In the meantime, check out Alex’s music through his official site.

Get to know this Dad who rocks with some additional Father’s Day Q&A where Alex shares about how being a parent continues to inspire him, while also providing a successful path that continues to fuel his creative path. Also check out a sweet Father’s Day video for “Feelin’ Fine,” which was written in honor of Alex’s son, Miles.

unnamed (1)

KCG: What does being a Dad mean to you?
AM: I have always felt deeply connected to children and to all that they represent in terms of our human potential. Their immense capacity to learn and absorb information, their honesty and ability to love both people and the world around them and the way that they truly live in the present moment at all times has been the inspiration for my work as an entertainer and teacher for my entire adult life. Becoming a Dad affirmed all of this and truly completed the circle of my life as a children’s artist. I believe more than ever that the best way to create a better world for us all is to lift our children up and to show them by example how truly amazing life can be. Let’s face it, life is really hard, but, every minute spent with my son is another chance to be positive, patient, loving, and fun and I am grateful for each and every one of those moments.

KCG: How has your work as a musician/artist been impacted by your role as a father? Also, if you are a touring musician, how does that affect the time you spend with your family?
AM: I’m now not only a producer of kid’s media but also a consumer and can see more than ever the value of truly high-quality experiences for my son.  As a consumer I am always looking for entertainment that balances stimulation and fun with intelligence and sensitivity to the developmental needs of children. I cannot help but to think about these things as I write new songs, perform live concerts and produce more episodes of my TV show.

So, now, as a parent, I am basically creating the music and video that I want my own children to consume. In terms of balancing the musician life with family life it is a challenge for sure but I am grateful for the support of my wife and extended family without whom I couldn’t keep working as hard as I do.

KCG: What are your plans for Father’s Day?
AM: I don’t have specific plans yet (at least none that I know of) but I’ll be very happy to turn off my phone, close my computer and spend the entire day with my wife and son doing something fun together as a family.

KCG: What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had as a Dad?
AM: Wow. This is a hard question to answer with a single moment! My son is about two and a half now and witnessing the language explosion that is happening to him is truly amazing. It’s not so much the vocabulary itself but all of the little nuances and funny inflections of his voice that are clearly his own unique expressions. Watching him become his own little person is truly mind blowing.

KCG: How often to do you play music with your son? Does he perform with you?
AM: Every day! Whether it’s tapping on the steering wheel or having my son at one of my concerts or simply singing a few songs before bed music is a big part of our family’s everyday life. My son doesn’t perform with me but he loves to get on the mic during sound checks and sing songs! It’s hilarious. My opening act!

Dads Who Rock! Father’s Day Q&A featuring Keeth Monta Apgar of The Harmonica Pocket

unnamed (1)

Keeth Monta Apgar, master songwriter and multi-instrumentalist for the Northwest-based group, The Harmonica Pocket, delivers rich vocals in harmony with his wife, Nala Walla.

TheHarmonicaPocketSundropsRecently, The Harmonica Pocket released their fourth third full-length children’s album called Sundrops. The recording of the album, as well as previous albums, took place in a solar powered studio on a tiny island in Puget Sound, Washington, where they live.

Prior to the release of their third album, Apple Apple, Keeth and Nala welcomed their first child, Montana, into the world. As a result, many of the songs reflect the experiences and bond they have as a family while also celebrating the natural world that surrounds them on their little island.

Below Keeth shares his thoughts on Father’s Day, and how he is inspired through creative play and his 4-year-old’s wonderfully magical imagination.

Stay tuned for a new video from The Harmonica Pocket, and keep up with the band through their official site, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can listen to and purchase Sundrops through iTunes, and Amazon.


KCG: What are you planning to do for Father’s Day?
KA: Kick back.  Hang with my family.  Eat some food.  Play a little, dream a little, live a little.

KCG: What is the best thing about being a dad?
KA: For me the best thing about being a father is getting down on my belly and playing.  I love entering the magical, non-linear world of kids and there is nothing more magical than a 4 year-old’s imagination.  This creative play is very inspiring to me as an artist and as a grownup.

KCG: What is the hardest thing about being a dad (especially if you are a touring artist)?
KA: As I type, my son Montana approaches me and says “What are you doing, Papa?”  I show him the computer screen with multiple windows open and point to the day’s to-do list.  He looks it all over briefly and says “Work is play,” as he heads out the screen door. Yup.

The hardest thing about being a father is carving out time to be with my family, to be present and enjoy the moment and not be thinking about the varied tasks screaming for my attention. It’s maddening and I know I do not hold a monopoly on this aspect of parenthood.  Kids are only young for a short time and then they’re off to live their own lives. I’m definitely aware that the childhood clock is ticking, and want to be as present as I can manage.

KCG: How often do you play music/sing with your son?
KA: In our tiny, one-room house we have instruments everywhere.  They hang on the walls and are overflowing various baskets and crates, ready to bust out at any moment.  I’ve found when musical instruments are handy, they get played the most.  We sing and bang and toot almost everyday—some of these improvisations end up turning into songs on our albums.

KCG: Do your kids join you during performances?
KA: Our son was on stage in utero. After he was born we would tour with a nanny who would hang with him during shows.

One day, just after his 2nd birthday, the nanny bailed on us two hours before the show.  When we arrived at the venue I set up an extra mic for him and set his ukulele on a chair.  Twenty minutes before showtime he woke up from his nap and I told him he was going to play a show with us.  He walked right up to his chair and sat down, ready to play.  We laughed and told him we still had some time to use the potty and get ready for the show.  He rocked it, and has been on stage with us ever since.

Dads Who Rock! Father’s Day Q&A featuring Jon Babu from Here Comes Trouble

Babu 2
Happy Father’s Day!
I hope you’ve been enjoying my Q&A features over the past week with Dads Who Rock. It’s been fun to hear everyone’s experience and point of view and how they integrate music into their families lives, as well as how they find a balance between musical and parental lifestyles.
Today’s feature is the first of several I will be publishing to close out the holiday. Jon Babu, along with his wife, Kelly Donohue, are in the DC-based kindie band, Here Comes Trouble. Kelly’s soulful voice leads the group while Jon’s drumming keeps up a wicked beat to give the band their punchy sound. 
Jon is an outstanding jazz drummer, in addition to being a tax attorney and a kids’ musician. He was trained at New England Conservatory of Music  (both he and his wife, Kelly, received double undergraduate degrees in English from Tufts University and in Jazz Performance from NEC). They worked and studied with such jazz greats as Ran Blake, Dominique Eade and Bob Moses. Babu has extensive experience with the sticks and has performed and recorded with a number of bands, toured Germany with a jazz trio and headlined with the hip hop group Red Time, gaining a diverse palette of experience that filters into the jazzy/funky/punk inspired sounds of Here Comes Trouble.

Together Jon and Kelly have two kids: 10-year-old Jack and 6-year-old Nora. In addition to being a kids’ musician, Jon also leads a double life as a tax attorney at an accounting firm in Bethesda, MD.  It was when their son Jack was about 5-years-old that Jon and Kelly realized that their kids knew nothing of their parents’ musical background. After a disappointing search for quality children’s entertainment for Jack’s fifth birthday party, they decided to do something about it and formed Here Comes Trouble in 2010. Together with some musician friends, they wrote and rehearsed a full set of original songs just in time for their Jack’s party, and Here Comes Trouble was off and running from that point onward.

Here Comes Trouble’s debut album, Goo On My Shoe, was recently released and is available for download and purchase through their official site. Keep up with the band through their Facebook page.
herecomestrouble (1)
Below Jon offers some Father’s Day insight, as well as episode one of a drumming essentials tutorial recorded in honor of keeping Jack, as well as other young drummers inspired to keep up with their craft. Jon’s expert advice starts with one of the most iconic skills, stick twirling, followed by a demonstration of him crushing it on his own kit with the kids jumpin’ on a trampoline behind him. Another iconic picture…of work/life balance!
Babu 1
KCG: What does being a Dad mean to you?
JB: I’ve always wanted to be a dad – long before I considered being a musician.  It is the most important thing I do in this world.
KCG: What is the best thing about being a dad?

JB: I think I have the best kids in the world, and I know them in a way that no one else can (it is not always easy – ask me another time and my answer may be different!). They’re really fun, cool people and I get to see them at their best and their worst, and I love having the relationship with them that I do.

KCG: How has your work as a musician/artist been impacted by your role as a father? Also, if you are a touring musician, how does that affect the time you spend with your family?
JB: When I got out of college I was ready to move to New York, sleep in someone’s closet, and play as much music as possible until I could do it as a career. Now, the idea of committing that much time to performing doesn’t seem realistic, in my opinion. I do miss performing, especially at a higher level than I can reach these days. I know people maintain touring schedules and parenting duties, but for me I don’t know how I could do that with young kids (…unless they were out there with me – maybe I need to work on that plan!). On the other hand, whenever I get a chance to play music with people these days, whether it’s with my wife and our band (Here Comes Trouble), or some of the other folks I play with, I have the BEST time. I appreciate every chance I have to get out and play with people, now that I don’t do it as often as I used to.

KCG: What are your plans for Father’s Day?
JB: This is a big weekend for me – my birthday is on Saturday, so it is a double whammy. I’ll be turning…well, I’ll be over 32.  :)  I will probably grill something for dinner – cooking is one of those household duties that I really like to do. Preparing food for your family and having them actually like it is a real treat!  We will probably watch a Science Fiction movie as well, if there are any left that we can watch as a family. I have really indoctrinated our kids into the Sci-Fi/Fantasy world, so that they are really into those movies. My wife is not a big Sci-Fi fan, so she is not terribly happy with this development…

KCG: What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had as a Dad?
JB: We went snow tubing this winter.  Before we got there, both kids were whining and complaining about going – probably because it was my wife’s idea and they never want to admit she has any good ideas.  By the time we left the mountain, we had to drag the kids back to the car because they had so much fun.  They were both asleep before we’d even gotten on the highway to come home.  I love those kinds of days – when no one is in a good mood and then everyone turns it around and has a great time.  That was a really fun day.

KCG: How often to do you play music with your kids? Do they perform with you?
JB: Both kids go in and out of phases with music.  Our son has been playing saxophone and we’ve been trying to think of ways to get him in on some of our songs with Here Comes Trouble.  But now he’s talking about giving it up and trying something else.  Both kids have good voices, so they sang on our last CD.  The video I sent is in part my attempt to get them interested in the drums, since we have drums and cymbals lying all over our house and it would be great if they would use them!  I remember taking guitar lessons when I was 7, and within a month I lost interest because it wasn’t fun.  So this video is meant to try to get our kids and other kids to pick up some drumsticks and do something fun with them, rather than focusing immediately on rudiments and sight reading.  That stuff is important, but we need to learn about showmanship and have some fun too!

Dads Who Rock! Father’s Day Q&A featuring Josh Shriber of Josh and the Jamtones

unnamed (1)Josh and the Jamtones are a Boston-based group known for their killer live performances, and hilarious improvisational banter. Their energetic Roots rock/Reggae style is high octane for little feet, which seem to go at full speed while joining in a dance party led by the group’s charismatic frontman, Josh Shriber.

Prior to the formation of the Jamtones, Shriber started up a program/performance center called “Jammin’ With You!” where about 350 kids per week are introduced to music in a variety of ways. For the smallest jammers, also known as Jamkids, there are in-home lessons on any of 10+ instruments, i.e. piano, guitar, voice, drums, beatboxing, etc. If they feel like jamming in a more public environment with other kids, they can go to the center to join a rockin’ band. In addition, there is Stageplay and StageJam where kids put on a show and learn theater basics, games, singing, and even mic technique.

Since producing their first kindie album in 2012, the Jamtones have soared on to release a DVD movie based on their last album Bear Hunt and have their music and videos play in Chuck E. Cheese restaurants around the country.

These guys are unstoppable and worthy of a prominent placement in your music collection. Look out for their forthcoming album, Rock Steady, due out this summer.

For today’s Father’s Day Q&A, Shriber, father of three, shares some deep, heartfelt thoughts about being a Dad. His answers are so relatable and touching that I got a little weepy when I was reading them. So cozy up and get to know this Dad who ROCKS!

KCG: What does being a Dad mean to you?
JS: Everything! Including never sleeping, changing diapers, getting puked on, carrying 3 kids at a time even when it’s 400 degrees out and at least 2 of the 3 are perfectly capable of walking, sharing your breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, drinks while begging and pleading for them to eat the exact same thing that is right in front of them!

It means loving someone more than you’ve ever loved anything and not knowing it would even be this possible to love someone so much. It means worrying about and praying for things you never knew were important! It means no matter what you “thought” your purpose in life was, you now know for sure without a doubt, and all the little things that were so important instantly hold far less value.

KCG: What is the best thing about being a dad?
JS: All the good stuff and all the bad stuff mush into a blurry blob of “life!” There is nothing I wouldn’t do for my kids. There is no better feeling than getting big hugs and kisses, snuggles, affection, excitement, etc. When they are small and fall asleep on you, it’s the cutest thing in the world, and when they grow up and turn into real people who have real conversations and big time imaginations there’s no match for the pride and satisfaction you feel. When you say “I love you” and they say “I love you too, daddy” it can melt your frikkkin heart!

KCG: How has your work as a musician/artist been impacted by your role as a father? Also, if you are a touring musician, how does that affect the time you spend with your family?
JS: I just passed up 5 shows on the west coast so I could spend Halloween and Christmas with you little punks!

Having kids shines a whole new light on writing and performing. You instantly understand what kids will and won’t “get” at certain ages. You learn that if you are gonna be anything to any kid you better have a goofy side and not take yourself too seriously.

KCG: What are your plans for Father’s Day?
JS: Working! And my kids will be there of course!

I worry about my kids growing up and what they will think of my work when they are teenagers and too cool for school. Right now they are 1, 3 and 5, and they come to every show, hang out at the studio, and are part of my work everyday. I hope they grow up loving music and feeling like they are a part of my work life, inspiring, assisting, cowriting and acting as role models for others. Also, I plan on getting a million awesome gifts including back rubs, foot massages, an extra 7 hrs of sleep, cooperation, no yelling for at least 1 hour of the day, clean rooms, brushed teeth, clean plates, in-assisted dressings and diaper changes.

KCG: What is one of the most memorable moments you’ve had as a Dad?
JS: That’s impossible to answer, BUT, my favorite periods as a dad have been when we are expecting new siblings. When we went from 1 to 2, my oldest (Piper) and I bonded leading up to the delivery, but even more so once her little sister was born. Piper and I had so much time, just the 2 of us, and she was 2.5 yrs old which is the best age ever!! Their language is EXPLODING and they are turning into real deal people. Oh, and there’s also the wicked cuteness factor at that age. Anyway, that bonding period was so powerful for Piper and I and from there our connection has only gotten stronger. The same thing happened when our 3rd (Jonah) came along and our middle girl (Adeline) had to detach from mom a bit and trust that I was as fun and funny as every other kid who doesn’t have to live with me thinks!!  Introducing your kids to their new baby siblings is just the sweetest most precious time and I never want to forget it!  

Right now, I’m seeing, sniff sniff, things that are so present that we assume will always be there like little mispronunciations, the way she dances or the way he crawls or the way she says the word “breakfast” (Briskit). They fade so quickly!  My wife and co-Jamtone, Patience, keeps saying the days are soooo long but the weeks, months and years are flying. Everyone who’s been through this parenting thing says “Enjoy it! It goes so fastI” and at first you say “Yeah, yeah, yeah,” but all of a sudden they are 1 and then 3 and then 5 and you can start to feel it moving WAYYYY too fast even if the 3-minute nightly teeth brushing routine feels like 17 hours of torture! Patience and I LOVE being parents. It has defined us as people more than anything we’ve ever done in our lives, but if we have a 4th, I’ll have to sell all my guitars and live on a beach somewhere so we should probably not let that happen!
KCG: How often to do you play music with your kids? Do they perform with you?
JS: Patience puts show tunes on regularly. We listen to Jamtones (BY REQUEST!!) in the car nonstop, and well I guess I own a music school or something so they have basically grown up completely surrounded by musicians and music!  Addy and Jonah (3 and 1) come to our Jambaby classes at our JWY! Program and Performance Center a couple of times a week and Piper is now in JamKids and StagePlay learning the actual language of music and the ins and outs of being on stage/in a performance.
My kids come to all our local shows for the most part and they jump on stage when we invite the crowd to come up and go crazy with us. But if I had them up for a performance piece, they’d probably hang all over me and grab my legs and my pants would probably fall down and I’d never work again.  Funny thing is when I pick up my guitar at home, they say, “NO DAD! We wanna sing with the iPod (Karaoke style).” Thanks kids.