Friends and random acquaintances routinely ask me, “Why do you listen to kids’ music?” I’ve asked myself the same question many times.
In poking through my Top 20 albums of 2015, an answer snuck up on me: the joy of music discovery. To be presented with and to explore new music is exhilarating –like discovering a whole new color or flavor. Sharing this passion with my daughter Emily (now 7 years old) is great fun and such a bonding experience. She is growing, and the music is growing with her.
For me, music discovery is more than just the songs at face value. It’s uncovering the stories behind the music; it’s connecting with the music makers and understanding the magical, teeny bits of real life, of real people that make the album art come alive. The artists that make up the kids’ music genre are welcoming and supportive and it’s been a pleasure to dive into what drives their creativity and thus, bring their stories to life. Continue reading →
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.
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.
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.
“In every walk with Nature one receives far more than he seeks.” ― John Muir
Happy Earth Day!
Where I live there are tons of Redwoods. They stand tall like soldiers commanding their territory. They are mighty, and I am completely drawn to them, taken in by their majesty and beauty. As I walk through preservations and national parks, I always find myself wondering what the trees could tell us if they were able to speak. I Imagine they would be some of the best historians and storytellers.
I’ve been to the Muir Woods National Monument, a Redwood forest named in honor of John Muir. It’s incredible and I would recommend this site to everyone. It should without a doubt be a bucket list item! It’s a sacred place and the size of the Redwood Trees is mystifying (as are the banana slugs!). There is so much peace and though there are usually people walking along the trails, taking pictures, there is a great feeling of peace and so much room for contemplation. There is even a Cathedral Grove which asks people to be silent and simply observe the beautiful sounds of nature. It truly is amazing how much you can hear. Life in the forest is abundant and as I walk through or sit and listen, there is a great feeling of interconnectedness.
As they day unfolds and Earth Day activities ensue, I have another song for you about an American hero who, along with Rachel Carson, made a significant impact in the way of wilderness preservation. John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club, is known as the most influential conservationist and naturalist in America. Muir went on many adventures through the woods, observing the beauty of the natural world around him.
Jonathan Sprout, an award-winning children’s musician and historian, has produced 4 albums filled with songs inspired by American Heroes. Sprout’s American Heroes #3 album includes a song written in honor of John Muir. “Come Back Home” was written in the first person as though Muir himself were singing about the mountains, his dreams of exploring, climbing, and protecting them.
As I was talking with Sprout about the inspiration for this song, I found out that there was a period of time that Muir went blind. This was something I didn’t know and I can’t imagine based on all that Muir has written about with regard to his observations. Below Sprout shares some thoughts and facts about Muir which is followed by the audio clip of “Come Back Home.”
John Muir knew how to look for gifts in life, even in his darkest moments.
In his twenties, he was a nature lover and successful inventor who could probably have become wealthy if he’d wanted. At the age of 29, tragedy struck. Or did it? He was bent over a bench, working on one of his inventions when a file flew up into his face, punctured and eye, and blinded him in both eyes.
For four weeks, he lay in bed with his eyes bandaged, having no idea if he’d ever be able to see again. With plenty of time to think, he made a promise that if ever again he could see, he’d forget about his inventions and instead devote the rest of his life to “the inventions of nature.”
Later, surprisingly, he regained his sight.
“Six months after the accident, he left his house and went for a walk. A 1,000 mile walk! Eventually, he visited the California mountains where lumber companies were destroying the priceless redwood and giant sequoia trees. It was time for John Muir to keep that promise.
The way he stood up for those trees inspires me as much as the simple fact that he did. Instead of attacking the greedy lumber companies, pointing out what was wrong, he chose to write about how beautiful and inspiring these trees are. His optimistic, poetic, and uplifting magazine articles and books stirred others from far and wide to meet, sympathize with, and fall in love with these giant trees. New activists stood behind Muir, and their combined efforts (mostly with the Sierra Club which Muir co-founded in 1892) stopped the destruction of the trees.
The accident with John Muir’s eyes brought great gifts to the rest of us. John Muir’s optimistic view of nature’s beauties helped redefine the ways we now view nature.
Personally, John Muir’s life has greatly influenced mine. I now own and live in a low carbon footprint home with a well, septic system, and wood burning stove. The solar panels are coming soon. I’m told by the park rangers out there in California there are redwood trees growing in every state. I’ve tried unsuccessfully to grow them from seeds. But how cool would it be to have a redwood tree growing in my Pennsylvania backyard! Perhaps this year, I’ll try again. Anyone know where I can get some seeds?
More about Sprout
Singer-songwriter and recording artist, Jonathan Sprout has dedicated the past 21 years to creating meaningful and captivating music for children. Sprout began this journey in 1994 after reading the results of a nationwide poll detailing children’s top 10 heroes, which included cartoon characters such as Bart Simpson and Beavis & Butthead along with several professional athletes whose off-field antics were anything but heroic. This made Sprout question, “who are our real heroes and why are we not teaching our children about their importance?” That’s when Sprout’s idea to write and record songs for children about real heroes was born.
Since then, Jonathan Sprout has written over forty songs and has released four American Heroes albums about some of the most remarkable men and women in American history. His albums detail the amazing stories of legends ranging from Pocahontas to Neil Armstrong. With the help of author-lecturer Dr. Dennis Denenberg, a noted heroes specialist, Sprout “chose people who lived and breathed elements of good character and are good examples that children can understand and emulate.” His list of heroes includes politicians, athletes, scientists, feminists, civil rights leaders, and many other admirable individuals.
“The more we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.” – Rachel Carson
Women’s History Month drew to a close earlier this week and now we look forward to spring holidays, and Earth Day. Today’s post celebrates a female hero, and her fight to maintain a healthier, greener planet for all living things.
Rachel Carson was a marine biologist who valiantly fought for conservation by calling out the hazardous effects of synthetic pesticides. Her book, Silent Spring, forced the banning of DDT, and made a revolutionary dent in the legislation governing the use of chemicals and other pesticides. Carson’s work and tireless efforts also inspired a grassroots movement which ultimate led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency.
Jonathan Sprout, a Grammy nominated musician who has devoted 21 years or his career focusing on heroes from a variety of trades and professions, (science, politics, sports, medicine, entertainment, education) wrote a song in honor of Rachel Carson called “Interconnected.”