Bridging imagination, education, comedy, and great beats, the Alphabet Rockers bring something special “to the table. “
Thinking up creative snacks and lunchtime meals for school sometimes gives me a little bit of anxiety. My daughter is a picky about food temperatures and textures which makes creating a balanced meal feel like a challenge. Serving up veggies in a little container somehow doesn’t taste as good when it’s packed in her lunchbox. And trying to “educate” her on why she should fill her tummy with healthy food doesn’t always get through the way it’s supposed to. This is especially true when she sees her friends pulling cookies and other sweet treats out of their lunch boxes.
For my daughter, candy, or anything containing sugar, is a righteous culinary choice. That’s the stuff the makes you feel goooood! Sometimes, she’ll ask for a “healthy dessert” which includes cut-up banana pieces and brown sugar. In her mind, she is satisfying my definition of healthy eating as well as hers, which I definitely appreciate (and get a chuckle from).
In the premiere episode of their web series, the Alphabet Rockers introduce young children to the “food calculator,” a helpful nutritional tool. The episode starts off with three friends sharing what they packed for snack. As they consult their “food calculators” they quickly learn which foods are healthy to eat.
WHAT YOU’LL LOVE ABOUT IT: The Alphabet Rockers present educational concepts in a playful and relatable way. They put themselves in a real world situation, sharing snacks, because that’s what kids do at school. As they roll through their healthy choices, one of them has candy. When they consult the food calculator, it bombs. So the friends work together and come up with a successful resolution. The message here is nutrition, and the way the friends were problem solving together is an added bonus. It’s important for kids to see that their friends can make a difference to them.
NOTE: Make sure to scroll down to find dance instruction, an art activity, and more educational tools that encourage literacy. You can even print out and make your own Food Calculator!
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: “Food Calculator” is an essential song featured in many of Alphabet Rockers’ workshops.
WANT TO LEARN MORE? You can extend the fun beyond using the palm of your hand by using their extended curriculum for visual arts and movement activities. Stay up to date with Alphabet Rockers’ tours, workshops, assemblies and news via their Facebook Page.
LEARN THE DANCE MOVES!
PRINTABLE FOOD CALCULATOR PAGE – CLICK HERE
ART ACTIVITY AND LITERACY TOOL
These exercises can be used in the classroom and at home:
1. Brainstorm Healthy Foods, A to Z.
2. Names: Alphabet Letter: Healthy Food: Have students decide which letters in the alphabet are in the class as first letters of students’ names. Erase those not in the class. [This is a great review tool, or a chance to assess literacy development.]
3. Trace hands on construction paper, have students draw a picture of the healthy food associated with the student, or another healthy food they love. Have students cut out the hands.
4. Add the hands to wipe board, or paper (identified as the “Food Calculator”), with a share out from students.
Imagine, for a moment, strolling barefoot through a lush grassy meadow. As the first light hits your face you are instantly caressed by its warmth. The joy that comes from bathing in that moment describes the feeling I get when listening to Suz Slezak sing. Her gentle voice tenderly radiates warmth and peace.
Slezak’s solo debut, Watching the Nighttime Come, was originally written for friends who are also young parents. As a lullaby album it does it’s job of providing soothing ambient sounds that are perfect for, as Suz explains, “anyone that just needs some chilling out in their life.” I can definitely relate to this, and actually found myself mostly playing this album after my daughter was asleep as a way to help me unwind and reflect on my own day.
Watching the Nighttime Come was started while Slezak was pregnant and finished after she had a babe in her arms. As someone who seeks a creative outlet while trying to balance my responsibilities as a mom, I greatly admire Slezak’s dedication to herself as an artist.
The collection of songs on the album present a nice blend of originals and classics, some with vocals and some that are simply instrumental which make for nice, fluid transitions. There are also some cultural songs such as “Caballito Blanco,” a Mexican lullaby which features Slezak’s husband, David Wax, singing in harmony with her. One of my favorites, “Leather Winged Bat,” a well known English Folk Song, is actually an uptempo song, adding some buoyancy to the collection.
Another talent of Slezak’s is the fiddle, which she plays in the acclaimed indie-folk band David Wax Museum. We get to hear a bit of her magic in “Jessie’s Waltz,” an instrumental track showcasing the stringed instrument’s gorgeous and contemplative sounds. “Jessie’s Waltz” echoes the graceful, gliding movement of an actual waltz. I enjoyed taking my daughter’s hands and slowly dancing with her. She loves this song and at times she would close her eyes as she danced like a ballerina, feeling the music. It’s an intimate song that would also be wonderful to hum to a sleepy infant while smoothly sliding around as you cradle them in your arms.
Watching the Nighttime Come is officially released tomorrow, February 10, 2015. You can sample several songs, and get an up close and personal look at their touring van, through Slezak’s Pledge Music site.
In honor of the album’s official release, you can stream “Where Did You Come From,” (the album’s first song) through the Soundcloud widget below. As you listen to this track and experience the remaining 9 tracks on this album, you will quickly discover what a treasure it is, for you, for your family, and for your friends, as its meant to be.
In just a few days, we will find out who will triumphantly raise the iconic golden gramophone as the winner of Best Children’s Album. This year’s nominees present a truly eclectic mix, with four of them representing kindie music, and a fifth being an audio book about a girl’s miraculous journey of survival from a Taliban attack. I previously posted an audio playlist featuring all 5 nominees, and today thought it would be great to post some of our favorite videos by the kindie music nominees. For additional info and to listen to the audio clips, including an excerpt by Neela Vaswani for I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and Was Shot by the Taliban, check out this playlist.
There is a live concert featuring the Grammy nominees in Los Angeles February 7, 2015, but for those unable to attend, Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live (ch.78) will be airing a LIVE broadcast of the Children’s GRAMMY Awards Concert along with some artist interviews. Listen in on Saturday at 11:00 pm ET, and again on Sunday, February 8, 2015 at 12:00 pm ET and 5:00 pm ET
**NOTE: The Children’s Album category is not presented during the live show in the evening so make sure to tune-in to the GRAMMY Awards telecast at http://www.grammy.com/live 3p EST/12p PST.
The bold artwork for this Grammy nominated album was done by North Carolina-based artist, John Hairston, Jr., whose unique, otherworldly images perfectly capture the theme of this album, as well as the essence of the Skidoo’s humanistic perspective.
“The kids and parents all represent a mutation towards higher consciousness. The boy is spiritual, with a 3rd eye representing higher awareness. The girl has antennae, representing alien or intergalactic consciousness. The mother is multi-armed, riffing off Hindu deities and the Dad has angel wings. The race is supposed to be a futuristic mix of all races, when racism has been put down and everybody gets with everybody. The skin color, hairstyle, face and eye shape, etc.”
When The Perfect Quirk was released in June 2014, Skidoo declared that year as “The Year of the Weird.” As Skidoo expressed in our interview,
“The etymology of ‘weird’ has its origin in the Old English word ‘wyrd,’ which was a noun that means ‘fate or destiny.’ Weird means interesting, authentic, unexpected. It means not basing how you act, look and create on what others are doing or expect from you. It’s good to be aware of other’s opinions, but not to let them dominate your natural self.”
From concept to cover, The Perfect Quirk speaks to the fact that in today’s society, with all its social pressures and expectations, it’s important now more than ever that we make a statement and rise against what is thought of as the norm. After all, is there really a norm anymore? We must embrace both our own special qualities, and those of each other, as we work toward building a more peaceful union.
Skidoo concludes by adding:
“Minds hungry for novelty will be the most healthy, and hopefully, the ones to push the evolution of our species forward. It’s about the “weirdos” or fringe or outliers being the beginning of mutation to a more wise, openminded, spiritually attuned species.”
2 ART FORMS IN ONE
I love album art! Since I was a child, I have been obsessed with the imagery that accompanies music. Two art forms in one package has always been a source of wonder. Getting a new record, taking in the smell of fresh pressed vinyl, and examining the cover was just as exciting as dropping the needle and hearing the crackle and pop.
LP jackets adorned our walls as though they were installations in a gallery, and with each one I would spend a considerable amount of time examining the art, wondering why a specific image had been chosen, what inspiration and story lay behind it, and how it represented the music within.
As music is increasingly consumed digitally, album art is at risk of becoming an afterthought. There are still many musicians, however, who are taking the time to ensure that their music has a visually distinctive identity. In the children’s genre many kindie artists are preserving the novelty by releasing a complementary LP version of their album while others are beefing up their album packages with informational booklets, and DVDs.
The graphic at the top of this post shows a sampling of albums from 2014 that caught my eye. As you glance at this collection, you’ll immediately notice what a diverse array of artwork it is! I feel so fortunate to be a part of such a talented community of artists and musicians, each working hard to create a lasting multi-sensory impression.
Over the coming weeks I’ll be talking with musicians and artists, gaining and sharing insight into the creative process that led to the final packaging you see today. If you’re a music fan, a fan of art, or simply a collector of interesting artifacts, I hope you’ll join me in learning about the “other half” of the album…. the one you see, but never hear.
It’s always fun to gather up some great songs, and tuck them neatly into a playlist. Today I’m sharing a bunch of songs (new and previously released) that we’ve been jammin’ to. It’s been fun to revisit some “classics.”
As always, I recommend listening to the playlist in the following order and then mixing things up with a little “shuffle.” If you like what you hear, click on the links below the playlist and consider supporting these wonderful, independent artists.
Daylight – Dream Jam Band from the world of Nickhoo
Easy as 1,2,3 (Feat. Ellen Brackin Sevits) – Jamison Sevits from Get On Down!
Vroom – Todd McHatton from Super Audio Sunshine
Nose in a Book – The Not-Its! from Raise Your Hand
Monkeys Driving Cars – Billy Jonas and the Billy Jonas Band from Build It Back Again
Someday Some Morning Sometime – Little Miss Ann from Follow Me
Outside Sounds – Papa Crow from Full Moon, Full Moon
Jazzy – Kira Willey from How to be a Cloud
We Got The Bite – Gustafer Yellowgold from Gustafer Yellowgold’s Wisdom Tooth of Wisdom
Block House – The Pop Ups from Appetite for Construction
Food Songs – Alphabet Rockers from Go!
Everybody Dance – Josh and the Jamtones from Bear Hunt!
Food Calculator – Alphabet Rockers from Go!
Lines and Dots – Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band from A Potluck
Rad – Play Date from Imagination
Nicky Nicky Knock Knock – The Dream Jam Band from Kidzapalooza Volume One
Don’t Ask Me Why – The Whirlygigs from Greetings from Cloud 9
A Fresh Start – Lucy Kalantari from Pockets Full of Joy
The Snow is Falling Down – Josh and the Jamtones from Bear Hunt
Rattlesnakes – Walter Martin from We’re All Young Together
Not Too Young For A Song – Randy Kaplan from Jam on Rye