Women’s History Month: “What Does Your Mama Do?” – Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer


Every day when I pick Em up from school she asks me how my day was and what I did all day. As a mom working at home, my day consists of working on the computer combined with household duties. I explain this to her but as a 6-year-old, she comprehends it as me staying home and making sure I have the right snacks for her.

Until my daughter was born, I worked in an office. I left the corporate world to run my own business and have been doing that before she was born and every since. It’s a strange situation to be in because choosing to stay at home has its own set of responsibilities, as does the addition of working from home. The balance can be tricky but the explanation to my daughter feels trickier sometimes.

In 1984, Cathy Fink released a song called “What Does Your Mama Do?” from their album Grandma Slid Down the Mountain. According to Fink, the song was successful in terms of engaging kids to talk about what they knew about their moms did:

In the 1980’s this song really had a positive impact on giving kids a wide view of women at work, both in the home or outside of the home. We would include verses where kids told us what their own moms did and got some fun responses: 

She bags potato chips

She’s a lady wrestler

She’s an opera singer

I love hearing what my daughter comes up with as part of how she understands her world and the roles people play in it. When music can invoke thought and serve as a guide to raise awareness and encourage conversations, I am reminded of how powerful it is. 

As part of rounding out Women’s History Month, it is my pleasure to feature “What Does Your Mama Do?” for families.
Share this with your children and share their responses in the comments. I’d love to know all about it!

Learn more about Cathy Fink’s work, including her new album, Dancing in the Kitchen: Songs for ALL famililes, which features Marcy Marxer, at their official site. The album celebrates the diversity of families in today’s society and encourages togetherness and love.

“What Does Your Mama Do?” is available for purchase at Amazon, and you can buy the corresponding album, Grandma Slid Down the Mountain, through Cathy and Marcy’s store.


Elena Moon Park – How Nature Inspires Art and Music


When it comes to weather right now, I’d say we are a nation divided. The calendar says it’s spring though many are still experiencing the effects of winter. At the same time, other parts of the world are experiencing winter at just the right time.

During her visit to Iceland, Elena Moon Park, was inspired by the beauty of a freshly powdered landscape. Seeing the art in nature is something that inspires her as an artist and informs her craft as a musician. Below Park shares inspiring thoughts about her relationship with the natural world and the beauty of its elements, particularly during winter.

The photos featured below are by Elena Moon Park. You can view additional photos of her Icelandic adventure here.

At one time or another, I imagine that we all see ourselves as minuscule beings rambling through a boundless world of natural landscapes. Perhaps this is becoming less common in recent generations, as we continue to surround ourselves with buildings and technology. Once in awhile, I am reminded of the sweeping power of the natural world, and I am invariably captivated by the thought. I feel a deep reverence towards nature — this unyielding, powerful, unforgiving, breathtaking and beautiful force – and I embrace

Elena Moon Park - Rabbit Days and Dumplings Cover Artthese moments of reflection as crucial and wholly inspiring reminders.

Many of the tunes I discovered in the process of recording Rabbit Days and Dumplings reflect wonderment at brilliant natural forces. The Korean traditional song “Poong-Nyun Ga” celebrates the fall harvest season, the Japanese sea shanty Soran Bushi depicts life on the rough oceans, the Korean ballad “Doraji” describes a white root that grows on the mountainside.

Reverence towards nature is heightened for me in wintertime. Where I live and in many parts of the country, people are fed up with the snow, ice and freezing temperatures. It has obstructed work and lives and travel, and I understand the frustration. But when I step out of the madness of the city and stand in silence in a snowy landscape, I feel invigorated and deeply calm. A canvas of white snow and ice covers the earth. A stillness and silence take over. In winter, the majesty of these natural landscapes astonishes me.


I’m fascinated winter’s intricate, complex formations; ice on ponds, streams, trees, and icicles dripping from rooftop gutters. Cracks crawl slowly across icy surfaces, somehow appearing random and orderly at once. Fresh, untouched snow sits on top of bare trees, outlining the coordinated tangle of tree limbs. Mountains, frozen lakes and snowy plains blend into the horizon of white winter skies. Landscapes are still, except for the wind that stirs the powdered snow. I breathe fresh, cold air. I feel energy. Beauty. Solitude.


Women’s History Month: “Trapped in the Attic” – Lloyd H. Miller and Shamsi Ruhe honor Harriet Ann Jacobs


Throughout the month, Emily and I have been reading about women in history. Earlier this year, she was fascinated with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s work to end segregation, and was especially excited to recount how Rosa Parks made history by refusing to let anyone bully her. In Emily’s words, “that is really cool!” I love when we share enlightened moments like this and am prompted to continue to find similar stories to share with her. Shortly after the excitement around Rosa Parks’ story, Em learned about Abraham Lincoln, the Civil War and slavery. While reading about this period of time, we came across the brave tale of Harriet Ann Jacobs, an African-American woman and writer who sought to gain freedom and prevailed.

Jacobs’ autobiographical novel, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, chronicles her struggles as a slave, and how she gained autonomy through willpower. Though the specifics of her story, as described in her book, talk about the complex relationship between male slave owners and female slaves, Jacobs’ story also touches upon perseverance while also providing an opportunity to discuss race and gender issues.

Shamsi Ruhe, the bold, beautiful voice also featured on “Stand With Me” from Dean Jones’ album When The World Was New, brings this tale to life in a song by Lloyd H. Miller of The Deedle Deedle Dees. Today I am proud to premiere a song and video for “Trapped in the Attic” from Miller’s forthcoming album Sing-A-Long History Volume 1: Glory! Glory! Halleluah! which contains a collection of original and traditional songs about the Civil War Era. “Trapped in the Attic” highlights the fact that Jacobs spent 7 years in the cramped corners of an attic before she escaped and was ultimately set free.

Miller has done extensive research to make history accessible to kids through his music. Sing-A-Long History Volume 1 is follow up to S.S. Tales, Miller’s first solo release which highlights men and women who have made a historical impact on the world. This release will be the first album in Miller’s sing-along series. Stay tuned for additional coverage here on Kids Can Groove around the time of the album’s release in April.


Learn more about Lloyd H. Miller’s work at his official site, through Facebook and Twitter. 

Teachers and families can following along with the words in the lyric video below.

Continue learning about female heroes through a previously published Kids Can Groove post on Amelia Earhart, and listen to the song “8000 feet” by Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band here. 

World Premiere Clip: “Spring Day” – Karen K & the Jitterbugs

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What is there to do when it just keeps snowing? Write a song about Spring, of course!

Even though I’ve been living on the West Coast for the past few years, I am still not completely adjusted to sunny, warm winters (though I’m not complaining either). When I hear from friends and family on the other coast that it is snowing AGAIN, I feel as though I am on another planet. As a former snow bunny, I can sympathize, though I do miss the beauty of the falling snow and monster-sized snowflakes.

Karen Kalafatas of Karen K & the Jitterbugs has a different take on the allure of a freshly painted powedery landscape, especially after being stuck inside for the last 4 months. But her spirits are up and her creative juices are flowing!

Today’s audio premiere, “Spring Day,” is an anti-snow, pro-sun anthem eager to welcome Spring and hang outside with a cool glass of ANYTHING!

Stay tuned for the video for “Spring Day,” though Kalafatas explains that they will need a few Springtime shots for that.  Says Kalafatas, “So basically August.  August is when we’ll get the Spring shots.”

“Spring Day” is available at iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon


Karen K (aka Karen Kalafatas) is a writer and performer along with her band Karen K & the Jitterbugs.  A winner of a Parents Choice Award and “Best Kid Vid of 2014” for her YouTube Smash hit (I Woke Up in a) Fire Truck, Karen and her Jitterbugs tour the country performing her original songs and delivering a rockin’, energized, theatrical show to kids ages zero to one-hundred-and-three.  They’ve been seen on CBS-New York and in the Boston Globe, Boston.com, the New York Times and New York Magazine.  Karen is also the founder and producer of Kids Really Rock family music festival at the Lawn on D in Boston.

For more information, visit http://www.karenkjitterbugs.com

Interview: Jeff Krebs (Papa Crow)

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Kids are very sensitive and honest. They want to be engaged more than entertained or simply sung to.

Jeff Krebs, aka Papa Crow, is a Northern Michigan singer/songwriter. Krebs plays acoustic folk that is gentle and charming. Since 2011, Krebs has produced 4 albums,  2 of which are Ep’s. His latest full-length release, Full Moon, Full Moon is his most personal collection yet as it represents his family, where he lives and even carries on a special legacy from his grandfather.

In our interview below, Krebs talks about his grandfather, how his sons inspire his songwriting, why you have to be on your toes when performing for kids, where the name Papa Crow came from, and his new EP.

KCG: How did the concept for Full Moon, Full Moon come about?

Papa Crow: As I began writing songs for Full Moon, Full Moon, a nature theme began to form. Specifically, a north woods theme. These themes represent my family, where I live, where my family is from, and where we’ve been. The song types and their sounds reflect a lot of the old time music that I was raised with going back past my grandfather’s time. As I started to move songs in order, I found that I had a daytime section of songs and a nighttime section of songs which worked well together and nicely added up to a day in the life: from sun up to sun up.

Where do you draw musical inspiration from?

My family is always a big inspiration for me. My two sons, along with my nieces and nephews, sang on this album. I also rely heavily on my brother-in-law for a lot of bass tracks, keyboards, slide guitar, and accordion.

Inspiration comes to me from friends as well. Aaron Kippola, who plays drums on the album, ended up using his saxophone on a song called “Moving to the Beat.” I just said “Let ‘er rip” and he played an improvisational solo which we ended up choosing on the first take. As I hear different sounds in my head, I figure out how to accomplish them in a recording, and I really love when Aaron plays the sax.

Your previous album titles are similar in that they refer sounds, i.e All The Things That Roar and What Was that Sound?. Full Moon, Full Moon strays from that pattern a bit though there are songs related to the effects of sound as in hearing your own rhythm in “Moving to the Beat.”

Are you inspired by or more sensitive to sounds when you are writing songs?

I hadn’t really thought about how I use sounds, or how I use words related to sounds before, but I do see the pattern you are describing. I am pretty sensitive to sounds around me. I can either fall in love with loud noises or I am repelled by them. I’m always seeking out sounds that will carry a song in the best way. “Outside Sounds,” is completely about sounds and it’s one of my favorites.

Did you capture any outside sounds on your recordings?

In the summer, there are a lot of noises going on by the insects and the animals. While I was recording at my camp, a cottage where I record, I stuck a microphone out the window and turned up the volume. I used a little bit of that recording at the end of “Outside Sounds.” It’s amazing how many sounds you’re not conscious of when you’re walking around. You can’t be. You have to tune some of them out. But, there is so much going on when you sit quietly, and really listen.

On “Over the Rooftops,” I include the sounds of kids playing at the end of the song. My two boys were playing with another girl and boy at our camp. I wanted to capture the sounds of them playing so I just turned on the iPad and recorded them. I will always remember that day at camp because it’s on the album.

Are there songs on Full Moon, Full Moon that were inspired by your childhood?Full-Moon-Full-Moon

“Daylight in the Swamp” is a family song and something we say at camp all the time. We wake up early to
go into the woods, and it’s daylight in the swamp. I wrote that song about 5 years ago as a little instrumental for my family band, and we still play it whenever we get together.

For Full Moon, Full Moon, I added lyrics to “Daylight in the Swamp” and featured farm kids from a local 4H club called The Green Garden 4H Club. I knew I wanted to record with them when I first heard them playing on fiddles one day. I got together with 9 kids and their parents in a tool shed on one of the farms and recorded the reprise version of “Daylight in the Swamp.” It was a wonderful highlight for me.

You also included “The Michigan Waltz,” a song that your grandfather wrote. How did your grandfather inspire you musically?

My grandfather, Bill, was my main musical inspiration when I was young. I had been listening to him play since I was a baby. He wasn’t a professional musician, but he was a good one, and always played at family gatherings. If there were community events he would always have his ukulele or guitar out, and his kazoo, ready to entertain everyone. He used to sing a rendition of “You’re Bound To Look Like A Monkey” to me as a child, and early last year I released my own rendition of that song and plan to include it in my next EP, Monkeylele.

When I was 4-years-old, he bought me a ukulele. It was a cute little red Harmony, and I have it hanging in my sons’ room right now. I loved that I was able to learn simple chords and still think the ukulele is the best instrument for kids.

My grandfather wrote “The Michigan Waltz” when I was a child, so I’ve been hearing it all my life. When I was deciding on the tracks for Full Moon, Full Moon, it felt like the right time to continue my family’s legacy. I recorded “The Michigan Waltz” just sitting down in front of a microphone and playing. It’s the only truly solo piece on the album.

Did your grandfather explain the meaning of  “The Michigan Waltz?”

He wrote it because he had heard songs about waltzes in other states. There’s “The Alabama Waltz,” “The Tennessee Waltz,” and “The Kentucky Waltz.” Those were famous songs when he was growing up, and he wanted to write a nice waltz about where he was from so he wrote “The Michigan Waltz.” It has always been my favorite song, and I just had to have it on this album. 

Did you grandfather write other songs?

He wrote about a dozen that we have recordings of. He also wrote some Gospel songs and some war songs about WWII. He was a very good songwriter which was inspiring to me because I knew even at a very early age that if he could do it maybe I could too.

What music did you listen to growing up? Did you have other musical influences?

I was obsessed with radio when I was a kid. My goal as a teenager was to get an electric guitar and to play in a rock band, which I ended up dong through college. I also listened to a lot of classic rock. I love Bob Dylan and Tom Waits. Joni Mitchell, Lucinda Williams, Peter Gabriel,  and the Beatles were huge for me. I have a big collection with Bob Marley, Grateful Dead, Ella Fitzgerald, Charlie Patton and Graham Parsons. I have also added a lot of kindie music to my collection in the last several years. I can name so many musicians that I just love. 

Later in life, the more I started writing, the more my sound kind of softened. I tapped into the music I learned from my grandpa, which was the traditional folk songs and the old standards. 

Did you have an adult career before you went into children’s music?

Yes, I have been writing since I was a teenager. I lived in California for a long time, traveling with a few bands. During that period, I released a couple of solo singer/songwriter albums. Right before my oldest son was born, about 6 years ago, I became interested in kids’ music. I first discovered Dan Zanes and Elizabeth Mitchell. Over time, I started to find a whole wide array of other children’s musicians out there that I really enjoy. Before long I was writing songs and making plans to do an album. Kids’ music has been my main focus ever since and it has been extremely satisfying.

unnamed (3)How did you decide on the name “Papa Crow?”

I like my name, but I wanted something easy for kids to remember. The name “Crow” was given to me when I was younger and spent some time in Nevada. I stayed with a medicine man and one morning he told me that my Indian name was “One Crow,” which has always stuck with me. Then, when my first son was born, I became a papa so that led to me becoming Papa Crow. The name has accomplished what I wanted it to because sometimes when I drop my kids off at school other kids will say, “Hey, it’s Papa Crow!”

Are there songs on Full Moon, Full Moon that are inspired by your

Both of my boys are very inspirational. The songs “Fireflies” and “A Billion Stars” represent how I feel about them. Sometimes I will incorporate things they say that are a little off the wall, but coming from a 5-year-old or a 6-year-old mind sounds fresh and interesting. I also use them for ideas and as sounding boards because it’s important that my songs resonate with kids. That’s what writing music for kids is all about. If I make a song, and they’re laughing their butts off, I know I have something. Kids aren’t shy. If they aren’t interested in what you are singing they’ll just walk away (laughs) so I have to keep them interested.

Do your sons have favorite songs?

“Full Moon, Full Moon,” “Moving to the Beat” and “Over the Rooftops.” They like to hear their own voices on “Over the Rooftops.” They always remember that whenever they hear the song.

Sometimes I’ll hear them singing one of my songs while they are playing together, and that will encourage me to want to develop the song some more and record it.

I also like to sing my own songs but put different, silly lyrics in them just to make them laugh, and they always like that. They’re very silly boys.

Frances England appears on “Give Some Get Some,” which is a really beautiful song in both sound and meaning. How did that collaboration come about?

Frances is one of my absolute favorites and we listen to her albums a lot in our house. She made an offer to sing on one of my songs. I took her up on it and we put the song together through email. It was a great collaboration, and I’m really happy that she’s on my album.

When you are writing songs, do you think about how your audience will react?

If I write a song, my next step is to play it live in front of families and kids, and see what their reaction is. I know my craft pretty well, but sometimes I feel the audience knows it even better. When I perform, I like to see how they respond because sometimes it’s in a way that surprises me. If a song doesn’t prompt a response, or if it ends up going gangbusters, I listen to the audience.

What do you like most about playing for kids and families compared to when you were touring as an adult. 

There are so many things. Kids are easier to engage with as an audience. You have to be on your toes.

Why do you think you have to be on your toes?
You have to be on your toes because kids are very sensitive and honest. They want to be more engaged than entertained or simply sung to. If I just sat up there and said “Here’s a song I wrote about xyz,” it may be interesting to them or they may decide that they’d rather be on the other side of the room coloring. When I do a show I do a lot of call and response, engaging the audience with a lot of questions. The kids enjoy it and sometimes I get ideas for songs from those exercises. Overall, I want the performance to be more of a community experience than a concert.

What indicates to you that a song might not work?

The audience’s lack of interest is a good indication. But, mainly, as an artist I try a lot of things and know that not everything is going to work out and be amazing. I let go of the songs I am not satisfied with and keep the ones I feel a connection with.

What have you learned from the first time you decided to make a kids’ album until now?

The people in the kids’ music community are such a welcoming group of musicians, writers, bloggers and radio people. I feel like I’ve found a home with my music in this community. As a whole, the community is making great music.

The community is very strong and supportive! Do you feel as though kids’ music has changed?

The genre keeps broadening, which is great, and I am always excited when something new comes along because it inspires me to think about my own music differently. When I discovered The Pop Ups that was something different and exciting. They have such a fresh take on children’s music. Red Yarn and Pointed Man Band have also produced some very unique albums that I love. There are many artists in this genre putting a lot of creative thought into making music.

Do you have other creative outlets besides music?

I draw the covers for my albums. When I draw the cover images, I imagine a simple coloring book with
black and white drawing, and then I color the pictures in with colored pencils.

The drawing I did for the cover of Full Moon, Full Moon came out as I was looking outside down by the lake. It is very much a Lake Superior scene, and what we see every day. We’re very blessed to live in this area because it’s so beautiful. There are so many great people and so many great activities. It’s very cold in the winter, but we live here because we love it. 

What’s next for you? 

papacrow4_largeI just released a new EP called “Their Heads Are Green And Their Hands Are Blue” which is based on the “nonsense” poetry of 19th century writer Edward Lear who is most well known for “The Owl and the Pussycat.”

My next EP, Monkeylele, will be mostly covers, and I’m planning on doing an Alastair Moock cover on it. I really like Alastair! I enjoy doing little 5 song EP’s because I think they are nice for kids’ attention spans. After the EP’s are released, it will probably be next year by the time I get another full-length album out.

Also, if Dean Jones is reading this I want work with Dean Jones. I love his music, and I think we could make good music together. I would really like make that happen somehow down the road.

Interview: Justin Roberts on creativity, writing music for Hansel & Gretel and upcoming residency with the New Victory Theater


“This is really about America and not necessarily just a story about some girl with bugs in her hair.”

Justin Roberts is a well known and loved kids’ musician. A two-time Grammy nominee, Roberts has been putting out hits since releasing his first album, Great Big Sun, in 1997. In 2014, Roberts expanded his repertoire and authored his first children’s book, The Smallest Girl in the Smallest Grade, and wrote a score for Hansel & Gretel: A Wickedly Delicious Musical Treat, which premiered at the Broadway Playhouse (Emerald City Theatre) in Chicago. This year, from April 25, 2015 to April 26,  2015, Roberts will be performing a concert with a theatrical storyline called “The Mysterious Hat” at the New Victory Theater

Our family has always enjoyed the power pop style of music played by Roberts and his band, The Not Ready for Naptime Players, however, it is Roberts’ songwriting that has always struck a deep chord with me. He is a gifted songwriter whose music is made more vibrant through the words and phrases he strings together. I always feel as though I can see exactly what he is singing about, i.e. “Nothing on You,” from his Lullaby album, likens a flock of geese to “fleeting notes and rests that stretch across the sky.”

As a writer, I am inspired by Roberts’ work as I too strive to provide a visual experience through my own words. In our interview below, Roberts shares his experience writing music for Hansel & Gretel, thoughts on creativity, and how true originality leads to success.

Kids Can Groove: You have expanded your repertoire over the past year, including writing music and lyrics for a musical. Did you read the script for Hansel & Gretel before writing the music versus seeing the scenes played out and then beginning the writing process?

JR: Ernie Nolan sent me pages of the script as he was writing it with spaces for songs. I could get a sense of the characters and the story line and write as I was following the story.

Did you have to work with the actors or direct them in any way to reflect the intonations you imagined for the songs?

Yes, we did a reading in July and I helped coach the singers on how to get the words across. Andrew Fox and I also did that in the studio when we were producing the cast recording.

Did you have to write songs conveying the emotion of a scene/capturing the moment versus what a character might be feeling? 

You definitely have to capture the emotion of the singer to explain his/her predicament. But, more importantly, you have to take the listener on a journey that moves the story from point A to point B. That was really fun to do and to try and figure out how all of these songs could help shape the overall messages of the show. Ernie and I found that working together we had a similar vision and each of our ideas helped each other. It was a really amazing experience.

Were there moments when you were creating the music and songs for Hansel & Gretel that you felt vulnerable or out of your element?artwork_hanselandgretel_soundtrack

Maybe because I’d never done it, writing a musical felt totally natural. I’ve seen enough musicals and parodies of musicals (the son singing in Monty Python’s Holy Grail comes to mind) that it felt really natural to write in that style. And because I’m used to getting in characters heads in my kids’ songs, it wasn’t a stretch to write for a witch and a troll too.

What is the creative process like for you? How do you move from an idea to a finished piece?

I sit down at a piano or guitar and noodle around. When I find something I like I go into Logic and start laying down drum and bass parts to go with it and then start cutting and pasting parts together. Most of the creation of the songs happens while working on the computer because if I hear a cello part in the song (for example), I can make it happen instantly and that is pretty satisfying. Then I usually keep working on it for days or weeks until it seems just right. Sometimes for me that is changing “the” to “that” or something insignificant to everyone else but me. But, when it feels right I stop.

What is the inspiration from inside — how do you motivate to create from inside yourself, as opposed to finding yourself moved by external pressures?

Creation is a mystery. External pressures like deadlines are some of the best motivators to create the best work, maybe because you don’t have time to think about it too much, you just do it. I also feel internal pressures to make new things as no matter what you accomplish there is a feeling of “what have you done lately.”

How literal or metaphorical is your work?

I like metaphors, especially when I’m not even sure what they mean. “It’s the snow hanging on to the wire” from “Red Bird,” for example. I’m not sure how that corresponds exactly to the change the narrator has experienced but it made sense to me as I was writing the song. Usually my songs, whether they are about Halloween or recess, are about that but they are also about something else.

What’s your relationship with social media? Does it help or hinder your creative process in any way?

Like most people I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I feel like I’m addicted to it and use it to procrastinate a lot. I don’t think it helps my creativity. But, I certainly use the internet when I’m looking for the right word or need a list of things in a certain category, so that part of the modern world is helpful.

What political or social themes do you hope to/have you explored in your work, if any?

I don’t sit down and think “I’m going to write a song about X” but sometimes I’ll be writing a song like “Henrietta’s Hair” and think, “This is really about America and not necessarily just a story about some girl with bugs in her hair.” I care about big ideas like inclusion and acceptance of differences but I try not to hammer people in the head with them.

What’s the balance between collaboration and self-expression in your work?

I’ve never been able to write a song with another person. I’ve tried a few times but I have to get in a pretty vulnerable space to write and that means thinking no one else can hear me. However, I’m surrounded by musical geniuses like producer Liam Davis, and the whole band who definitely help with fully realizing the vision. Or in the case of Hansel & Gretel, I did demos of the songs with some arrangement ideas but orchestrator Andrew Fox really ran with it and helped make it feel more like a real musical.

How do the different media and formats complement each other in your work and in life? What’s the balance there?

Stepping outside my comfort zone and agreeing to write a book or create a musical is scary but when there is a deadline you don’t really have a choice, you just do it. I’m at turns frustrated and delighted. It’s good to challenge yourself.

Talk about your growth as an artist over time. How did you start out and where are you now?

I’ve grown a lot as a songwriter, though I’m still jealous of the guy who sat down and wrote a song as simple as “Little Raindrop.” Over time, to keep it interesting, my songs have gotten more complex as I’ve started writing more for a band and less for a single guitar. That has been a blast. But, you can tell that the same person wrote the early stuff and the more recent things.

Who are your favorite living/working artists? Who inspires you?

Songwriters like Nick Lowe, Ron Sexsmith, Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney, Fountains of Wayne. I’m inspired by Mary Oliver and my friend Ned Wyss who is a painter. I love theater, especially little storefronts like the Gift Theatre and Steep Theatre in Chicago that do moving work. Beauty comes in many forms and being struck by something that moves you is a powerful reason to make art.

Do you have any advice for people aspiring in your field or creatively in general?

The kids’ music scene is a little oversaturated at this point. It’s not news that people are making quality music for families. But creatively there is still room for excellence and surprise. The thing that sets certain groups apart from the hundreds who start kids’ bands every day is true originality. The Pop Ups come to mind. There was nothing out there even remotely like what they are doing and their records are good enough that they could be successful outside kids’ music. That’s pretty cool. It’s an obvious thing to say but “make sure you are writing truly great songs and keep working at it until you are” would be my advice. There is also room in the education element of kids’ music, and some of the “kindie” movement has neglected that too much. I’d like to see more people exploring the the kinds of music that Jim Gill and others have been doing in Chicago, continuing the traditions of Ella Jenkins and the importance of truly interactive music on a young person’s development.

What projects do you have coming up that you want everyone to know about?

Justin band big Sallyl Blood

Photo by Sally Blood

We are performing a concert with a theatrical storyline called “The Mysterious Hat” at the New Victory Theater from April 25, 2015 to April 26, 2015. That will be like nothing we’ve ever done. I wrote a script for the puppets and some brand new songs to help tell the story. Also, I am working on a new record that we will probably start recording in the late spring or early summer. Lastly, the digital version of the Hansel & Gretel cast recording will be on iTunes soon, with a bonus version of “There’s Always Me and You,” sung by Broadway stars Brian D’Arcy James and Jennifer Prescott. It’s super fun!

Make Your Own Irish Drum for St. Patty’s Day with Daria!

Top o’ the mornin’ to ya!

20050102_daria_003Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou, aka DARIA, a World Music children’s performer and American folk singer, devoted to educating children about world music. Daria has traveled the world collecting and immersing herself in musical styles while also introducing these cultural artifacts to children around the world. I love World Music and always feel as though I learn something new about a country’s culture and its people through the style of their music and the musical instruments used so following Daria has been a wonderful learning experience for both me and Em.

Daria is passionate about the power of creating and sharing music on a global level. To encourage this, she regularly features multi-cultural activities as a resource for parents, teachers, home schoolers and kids of all abilities. Whether she is making crafts such as button castanets, transforming a cardboard box into a cajon (a drum shaped like a box), or mimicking the sounds of a washboard using manila file folders and a spoon, Daria encourages kids and parents to really experience music in a holistic way.

Today I am excited to present a guest post by Daria for St. Patrick’s Day! Read on to learn how you can make a hand drum, called a bodhrán, out of of simple everyday objects.

To learn more about Daria, check out her official site which features songs that are popular or represent celebrations in different countries around the world.

Make Your Own Irish Drum for St. Patrick’s Day

Looking for a last minute craft to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day with the kids?  This easy hand-held drum is fun to create from “take-out” containers and is easy to play for kids of all ages. Modeled after the bodhrán from the Celtic tradition of Ireland, younger kids can tap the drum and older ones can try the more traditional method of playing the drum with a “tipper” or cipín (in Celtic).
bodhrans on green
What is a Bodhrán?
The bodhrán (pronounced “bow-ron”) is a hand drum that probably evolved from farm tools.  Music historians believe it was created in rural areas where farmers took big round, grain sieves and turned them sideways to be used like drums or tambourines.  To play this drum, you use a special beater that is held in the middle of the stick and the drum is tapped with both ends to create beautiful rhythms.
Although it sounds a bit complicated, it isn’t hard to play after a little bit of practice.
Take-out container and lid
Materials to decorate (paint, markers, stickers, glitter, glue, etc.)
2 plastic spoons
Make Your Drum And Tipper
take out bodhrans
Your take-out container works perfectly as a drum already.  But feel free to take the lid off and decorate it as you please or with a St. Patrick’s Day theme.  Then put the lid back on and create the special stick to play your drum.tippers for bodhran
To make the tipper, tape together two recycled plastic spoons.  If you don’t have any spoons handy, you can use unsharpened pencils or chopsticks as well.
Time To Play!
Everyone loves to play a drum!  You can start to play by simply tapping the drum with your tipper and making a beat.  Then try holding the tipper in the middle and letting the spoons on each side tap back and forth.  Tap one side first, then the other.  Try is slowly, then pick up a bit of speed, while keeping a beat.
Need a little inspiration?  This video shows a masterful musician from Ireland playing slowly at first and then demonstrating all kinds of wonderful ways to play this wonderful British Isles drum.
Happy St. Patty’s Day To One And All!

Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou

World Music Childrens Performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has spent the last two decades performing in the USA and around the world, creating music to inspire all the world’s children.  Along with numerous national awards for her culturally diverse music, Daria’s website (www.dariamusic.com) was given a Parent’s Choice Award and offers a variety of great resources for teachers, parents and kids of all abilities.

Check this out: Cat Doorman – Calling All the Kids to the Yard!

Cat Doorman (aka Julianna Bright) is back with a new EP! Calling All the Kids to the Yard! takes a quick little jaunt through a garden of fresh, rockin’ songs. Making a perfect companion to the ethereal Songbook, Bright’s kindie music debut, Calling All the Kids to the Yard! kicks things up a notch with 4 sprightly tracks eager to make you dance.

One of the many things I admire about Bright’s music is the cohesion between the vocals and instrumentation. Accents such as the piano or hand claps are perfectly timed and in sync with the meter of the song, as well as Bright’s bouncy vocals. There is clearly a lot of thought put into the production of her work!

Each track, infused with beautiful themes such as peace, love, kindness, and wonder, are filtered through inspiring words that are refreshing to hear.

“Drink this cup” picks up where “Peaceful” (from Songbook) left off. “Peaceful” ends with the lyrics “This life we choose, it fills our cup/ This life we choose, it gives so much,and “Drink this Cup” opens with Bright gratefully declaring that it’s time to “Drink this loving cup” and be nourished by the beauty life has to offer. “Wake Up” encourages kids to move through their day with kindness and an open heart while the title track encourages community building and care for the environment. “All the Pretty Little Horses,” is taken from a saunter to a canter as it urges you to “Kick up your hooves” and shake your tail, which you certainly will. Bright’s playful take on this classic showcases her hip style and dynamic range as a musician.

I love Bright’s style and am really enjoying the upbeat swing of this EP. Calling All the Kids to the Yard! is the first in a series of 4 seasonal EPs that are set to release over the course of this year. You can purchase this digital only release through the Bandcamp widget below.

For more Cat Doorman, check out Bright’s recent DJ spot on the Hilltown Family Variety Show, and her interview with the The Oregonian.

Audio Premiere: Jelly Beans! by Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips


Easter is just around the corner and you know what that means? Jelly beans! Oh man, do I love jelly beans. It’s probably bordering on obsession. If I could have jelly beans for breakfast, lunch and dinner I would! And don’t even get me started on the sneaky and enticing ways Jelly Belly draws you in with their special recipes. But, I’m a grown-up, and I suppose I know better….sometimes.

On the other hand, listening to a song about jelly beans is healthy for everyone, which is why I am very pleased to premiere the latest single by Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips.

Rollin’ in with a candy-bluesy-’lectro-pop ’n’ rock anthem, MCJ and his sensational sidekick Miss Ava Flava save you a trip to the candy store with this delicious, sugar-coated jive for your eardrums.

Flavor with a lotta soul.
Nothing like the POW
from some candy coated rock ’n’ roll.

So yummy yumaliscious
in my tummy-tum-tummy.
Kawaii — so cute, 
like a bunny-bun-bunny. 
If jelly beans were canines,
they’d be a pug-puppy. 

‘Nuff said…

“Jelly Beans!” can be purchased through the Bandcamp widget below.

Exploring Kids’ Music Album Art: The Perfect Quirk by Secret Agent 23 Skidoo


Secret Agent 23 SkidooThe Perfect Quirk

Secret Agent 23 Skidoo’s 2014 Grammy nominated release rode in on the wave of encouraging kids to be themselves. This empowering proposition has been the underpinning of Skidoo’s genesis as a kids’ musician.

Throughout his career, Skidoo has been a staunch advocate of embracing your quirks, standing proud and tall and being who you are. His expressive style of encouraging kids to show their natural, bold colors is complemented well with the tonal choices made by North Carolina-based artist, John Hairston, Jr

Hairston, jr. is a fine art painter who often captures the juxtaposition of beauty and oddity. The images that appear throughout The Perfect Quirk packaging are unique for a kids’ album cover, and together with the music make a cohesive package. Skidoo is a kid hop artist and pays respect to the hip hop genre by including elements such as his graffiti tagged name, and the third eye of the boy on the back cover.

Emily carried this CD around for weeks completely fascinated by the metamorphic characteristics of the kids, especially the boy with the third eye. She was intrigued and wanted to know what the reasoning was behind the choices made for the cover. Seeing the peculiar images piqued her curiosity and imagination over and over again which ultimately enhance her listening experience.


“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.” Continue reading