Fresh Press Digest 002 – Laurie Berkner partners with Simon & Schuster, Lisa Loeb’s new album with Amazon, and a Mighty Mo Productions debut

Hello Everybody! Welcome back to the Kids Can Groove Fresh Press Digest!

Edition 002 is full of new and exciting news.

unnamedLaurie Berkner & Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers to Publish Three Picture Books

This is a HUGE announcement! Laurie Berkner will publish three picture books with Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing.

Starting in Spring 2017, Berkner will release the first book based on one of her most popular songs, We Are the DinosaursShortly thereafter, Pillowland, a gorgeous lullaby destined to become a beloved bedtime book, is due out in Fall 2017 and will be illustrated by Camille Garoche. Monster Boogie, a hit at Berkner’s live shows, is scheduled for Summer 2018, also to be illustrated by Ben Blanton.

Laurie Berkner, as many of you may know was a former preschool music teacher and indie rocker. Her latest album, Laurie Berkner’s Favorite Classic Kids’ Songs, hits stores this month (October 23, 2015!). The album includes 51 well-loved, traditional children’s songs, plus 6 bonus tracks of popular Laurie Berkner originals. Click on the album link in this post for more info.

“It is no wonder that Laurie is beloved by children and adored by parents,” says Christian Trimmer, executive editor, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers. “Her songs, besides being incredibly catchy, are crafted with the utmost care and respect for her audience. She understands what kids, parents, and educators want and need. On top of that, she’s just really cool. I’m very excited to be making books with her.”

“I could not be more thrilled about my collaboration with Simon & Schuster,” says Laurie Berkner. “I’ve always imagined my songs being made into picture books. Now Ben’s and Camille’s stunning talents will bring them to life in ways I can only dream of! Their talent and Simon & Schuster’s expertise (with the gifted Christian Trimmer at the helm) is the perfect combination to help me create many wonderful books to share with my fans.”


516KOzNrsUL._SS280_PJStripe-Robin,TopLeft,0,0Lisa Loeb’s Nursery Rhyme Parade is available through Amazon Music! 

Lisa Loeb’s fourth children’s album, Nursery Rhyme Parade! is now being offered exclusively to Amazon Prime members through Amazon Music HERE. This album is also one of two children’s albums to debut on Amazon Music this fall. Loeb’s new recording will be available in both digital format and as a CD package, available on-demand.

Nursery Rhyme Parade is chock full of familiar nurser rhymes and songs  – 35 to be exact! – perfect for building a musical foundation for teeny tiny and toddling ones. Songs on the album include guest artists such as singer-songwriter Renee Stahl of Renee & Jeremy and Renee & Friends, with children’s voices rounding out the joyful tome of the album. Acclaimed children’s book and magazine illustrator Ekaterina Trukhan created the bright animal art for the album.

Many of you may recall from her hit song “Stay (I Missed You)” from the film Reality Bites. Her music career has stayed strong in both adult and family genres while also designing Lisa Loeb Eyewear, writing children’s books, and supporting non-profit causes. The Los Angeles based mother of two is well known to parents and kids for her albums Catch the Moon (with Elizabeth Mitchell) and Camp Lisa (with sales benefiting the Camp Lisa Foundation). She published her second picture book-CD for Sterling Children’s Books: Lisa Loeb’s Songs for Movin’ and Shakin’, in 2013. Lisa recently collaborated to co-write the children’s musical “Camp Kappawanna,” which debuted at New York City’s Atlantic Theater Company.


6PAN1T-C PSDNew Kindie lablel, Mighty Mo Productions, releases debut compilation featuring award-winning artists.

On October 16, 2015 Mighty Mo Productions released its first album called Smiles Ahead. The compilation is filled with award-winning artists like Grammy winners The Okee Dokee Brothers, Grammy nominees The Pop Ups and Secret Agent 23 SkidooBrady Rymer and The Verve Pipe, Billboard Top 100 artist Rissi Palmer, and multi-award-winning artists like Frances England, Kira Willey, Grenadilla, Johnny BregarMista Cookie Jar, Caspar Babypants and a debut artist, Katydid.

Smiles Ahead can be purchased through the label’s site, Amazon,  and iTunes.

Check out previously published interviews and videos with featured artists Frances England and Rissi Palmer.

#WhatMakesYouSmile featuring Rissi Palmer celebrating the release of Mighty Mo’s Smiles Ahead

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The idea of living life with childlike wonder has been rolling around in my mind for a while, and not just because I’m a mom. Sometimes I just want to get closer to that uninhibited, ridiculously silly voice that otherwise takes a backseat to professional and parental obligations. Obviously, as a mature adult I can’t get too uninhibited, but, in general, my day could really brighten up with a little more nonsense and play. Kids are amazing in that respect. They move through life in moments, and their joy is naturally infectious.

For my daughter, each day begins with a fresh new perspective. Waking up to our dog licking her face, catapulting into my bed in the morning, wearing a cape, drawing on a pristine piece of paper, or just holding a pretty marble are all things that make her smile. That’s the beauty of childhood and something I truly envy at times! It’s also what makes being a parent such an adventure, keeping me closer to living life with childlike wonder.

Celebrating that unfettered joy and offering it up in the form of music is something I tend to get really excited about. Rissi Palmer, a North Carolina-based singer-songwriter, is featured on Smiles Ahead, a compilation that is debuting today by new kids music label Mighty Mo Productions. What you will immediately notice is that Rissi’s voice is golden, and her song “Best Day Ever” is just such a wonderful reminder that life’s precious and most gleeful moments can be found in the little things. Whether it’s the bestest breakfast or just chillin’ in your jammies, it’s the in-between, the tiny details that make life so sweet.

Many of you may be familiar with Rissi from the Country music world. Best Day Ever is also the name of her debut family album and there is just so much soul and joy in this record. Rissi has had an extremely accomplished (putting it mildly) career as a Country Soul singer, including earning a comfy spot in Billboard’s Hot 100, and recently appearing on the Tavis Smiley Show. She’s amazing and another excellent choice that makes Mighty Mo’s new compilation such a treasure.

Smiles Ahead will be available in select Hallmark Stores. You can also purchase it online at Mighty Mo Produtions’ official site, iTunes and Amazon.

Below, Rissi shares what makes her smile, and I am extending the same questions to all of you. I would love to hear what makes you, your family, your pets smile.

For more #WhatMakesYouSmile goodness check out the post I published earlier this week featuring Frances England. You can listen to and watch the video for “The Sun Will Shine Again” here.
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Kids Can Groove: Tell me about “Best Day Ever.” Is there a special meaning or inspiration behind it?

RP: “Best Day Ever” was the first song written when I decided to do a children’s album. My co writers (Deanna Walker, Rick Beresford, & Blue Miller) and I sat in Blue’s studio with my then 9 month old daughter Grace as our inspiration/mascot and talked about all the things that would make up a kid’s perfect day. It turned out to be such a fun song and set the tone for all the other songs on the album that we decided to make it the title of the whole project.

KCG: How did you earn about Smiles Ahead, and what drew you to it? 

RP: Jim Cosgrove gave me an offer I couldn’t refuse lol! Once I heard the concept and who was on the project, I was sold.  This is a special thing and I’m really honored to be a part of it. I especially love the tag line “cool music for cool families”.

KCG: What makes you smile? Could be a memory or two, a special someone or something like fills you up, etc.

RP: Listening to my 4-year-old daughter, Grace, sing the songs she makes up makes me smile. Music has been a lifelong passion of mine and it brings me so much joy to see my child grow to love it as well.

KCG: What is next on the horizon for you?

RP: I am currently recording a Christmas EP that will be released in November 2015 entitled 3 and I’m on the road supporting my “adult” EP, The Back Porch Sessions, which was released in May 2015.

Fresh Press Digest 001: Billboard features Latin Children’s Musicians, Loog Guitars launched lessons with Tim Kubart, The Pop Ups debut through Amazon Music, and Rhapsody releases Rhapsody KIDS

Welcome to the first “Fresh Press” edition here on Kids Can Groove. It’s a brave new world for Chidren’s Music and I want to capture related and exciting news, in addition to my regular features, reviews, videos and interviews.

To kick off the first Fresh Press post, let’s start with the Billboard feature by Judy Cantor-Navas, Billboard Correspondent and Billboard en Español Managing Editor, who published a great article titled 5 Latin Children’s Music Artists You Should Know which highlights Jose-Luis Orozco123 Andrès, Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam BandSonia de Los Santos and Chino y Nacho.

This Billboard feature was published during a particularly celebratory time for Latin Children’s musicians. In addition to it being Hispanic Heritage Month, 123 Andrès was recently awarded his first Latin Grammy Award nomination for ¡Uno, Dos, Tres, Andrés! en Español y en Inglés and Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band celebrate their second Latin Grammy Award nomination for Adelante! (they won their first Latin Grammy Award for Aqui, Alla). 

Additional musicians covered are José-Luis Orozco and Sonia de Los Santos. Orozco, a prominent figure in this style of music has had a prolific career as a bilingual musician, composer and educator. Not only is he releasing bis sixteenth album, ¡Come Bien! Eat Right!, but it’s also his first release through Smithsonian Folkways! Joining Orozco on the list is Sonia de Los Santos, a singer-songwriter who has been an integral part of the Grammy Award winning group Dan Zanes and Friends. Sonia is working on her first solo family music album.

NOTE: Videos by Billboard’s featured artists can be found within the article. Below is Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam Band’s latest video for “Piñata Attack” (a live version can be found within the Billboard article as well).


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Loog Guitars launches Loog Academy featuring guitar lessons with Tim Kubart of the Sprout Channel’s Sunny Side Side Up Show!

The new Loog website launched an all new Loog Academy featuring Tim Kubart of Sprout’s Sunny Side Up Show giving some expert lessons to get beginner players started. There is also a ‘parents’ page addressing the benefits of kids with children and for families playing music together. Check out Lesson 1: The Loog method overview with Tim here.

Also, Loog released a new Loog Electric Guitar series which features a Lucite model for hip young rockstars. Additional electric guitars come in a variety colors including pink, blue, yellow, white, green, red, black, and natural. Loog’s beautifully designed 3-string guitars make it easier for kids to make music and still allows them play chords in any song. It’s a less intimidating and quicker approach to the fun of making music. The Loog Guitar comes unassembled as a kit for children and parents to build together, creating an instant emotional bond between musician and their instrument- also a great fit for the current DIY/maker trend. The finished result is a fully functional, beautiful looking and sounding guitar. The holidays are just around the corner (already!) and giving the gift of music, with long-lasting, quality equipment is priceless. Especially when little rockers want to smash their guitar after an awesome living room performance.

Loog pricing

ElectricLoog $199
ElectricLoog in Lucite $299
Special Edition Jack White/ Little Third Man Electric Guitar $200
AcousticLoog $159

Various accessories including Loog custom fit backpacks for guitar transport are also available at loogguitars.com/collections/products.

Also, check out Tim and the Space Cadet’s new video for “Breakfast Club (feat. Carly Ciarocchi) from Kubart’s recently released album for families, Home.


610+A9x2u7L._SS280_PJStripe-Robin,TopLeft,0,0The Pop Ups release their third album, Great Pretenders Club, exclusively online through Amazon Music with Lisa Loeb to follow. The release of The Pop Ups’ third album marks a major milestone as this is the first kids’ album Amazon’s Editors chose to exclusively release to Amazon Prime members. Anyone visiting Amazon can purchase the album, but Prime members get the extra special privilege of downloading the album for free. The Pop Ups will be releasing videos for each song on the album through Amazon Music’s YouTube channel so make sure to subscribe. You can also catch up with The Pop Ups through to their newsletter, follow along in Twitter and/or Facebook to stay up to date on releases.
In the meantime, enjoy the first video from Great Pretenders Clu, “Bird and Rhino.”


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Rhapsody launches Rhapsody KIDS a new streaming service  (as part of their main app) specifically targeting younger listeners and their families.

The main Rhapsody app is a subscription-based model which means access to music is available for a set monthly price. Rhapsody is offering a special subscription rate bundle with Rhapsody KIDS for $1/month for 3 months and then the pricing goes up to $9.99/month.

Below are some of the highlights that Rhapsody KIDS offers.

  • Create-your-own: Parents can select songs from the main Rhapsody app and add them to a playlist in the KIDS section.
  • Featured editor curated songs and playlists.
  • Offline Access – Save your data plan! Anything that’s bookmarked for kids automatically downloads for offline listening.
  • Repetition is key – Songs and playlists in Rhapsody KIDS automatically loop so you’re kids can hear their favorites til the cows come home.
  • Keep it separate – The KIDS section is designed to fool the young’uns from getting back into the main Rhapsody catalog and revamping your playlists or cranking out some jams to a song you wouldn’t even want to play in public. Rhapsody requires users who want to return to the main app to swipe the screen in a specific direction.

For more info on the artists mentioned in this edition of “Fresh Press” click on the accompanying links in this post.

Stay tuned here for more “Fresh Press!” I’ll be back with updates next week.

Video: “L-O-V-E You” – Play Date

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Recently, Play Date released a video and it’s L-O-V-E-L-Y. Together, Gregory Attonito and Shanti Wintergate (husband-wife duo) capture the spirit, mystery, playfulness and omnipresence of love. It’s such a sweet video to accompany an equally heartwarming song.

Take a listen and then go spread some of that warmth to the loved one(s) in your life.

“L-O-V-E You” is a single from Play Date’s most recent release We All Shine which can be purchased through Play Date’s merch site.

The Digital Future of Kids Music: Rhapsody launches Rhapsody KIDS

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Recently there have been a couple of big announcements in the kids music world that further underscore the shifting of the tides with regard to streaming media. Spearheading the big news was the release of the Pop Ups’ latest album, Great Pretenders Club, which is being offered exclusively online through Amazon Music, along with music videos for each song. The second is Rhapsody’s launch of Rhapsody KIDS, a dedicated resource specifically targeting younger listeners and their families.

The introduction of a new streaming service for kids isn’t that surprising as there are many streaming-video services already offering the convenience of a kid-friendly zone (Netflix, YouTube, Comcast XFinity).  But, the move to create a streaming-music section especially for kids is trendsetting as there isn’t one streaming/subscription based model that has a separate kids section yet. Digital outlets and streaming media competitors like Amazon, iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and Apple Music offer access to titles within the Children’s Music category, but still require parents to sample and search for an artist/song, music channel, and select/create curated playlists. And there is essentially no buffer between kid-appropriate content vs grownup content. In other words, you can’t just hand your digital device over and not expect some exploring or tinkering with “your stuff.” With Rhapsody KIDS, Rhapsody is essentially promising a “hands-free, worry-free” experience where parents can let the kids “drive.”

As a someone who is professionally immersed in kids music what struck me about this new service is the impact that it could have for the genre as a whole. How this plays out financially for artists is another story, as small royalty payments and the loss of CD sales to streaming media continue to be sensitive topics. The thing that I find intriguing is the exposure potential that a dedicated kids music resource could offer, similar to the way Sirius XM’s Kids Place Live has made satellite radio a conduit for families to discover music together. While I recognize that exposure is in no way a substitute for the value of an artist’s time and craft, having a special “nook,” could add significant value through more focused research by dedicated music editors, and parent-child interaction. As the progression of kids music leans toward more of an all ages experience, where the sounds and quality of the lyrics are meant to appeal just as much to grownups, Rhapsody KIDS could open up a path toward a shared listening experience. As a parent I recognize the convenience of this service, and am eager to try it out with my daughter. As a music lover, and supporter of independent artists, I recognize that this is yet another avenue that discourages consumers from purchasing music, which is what puts more of a reward in artists’ hands.

Hopefully over time the industry will shift and artists will start to earn more. A recent Newsweek article polled indie artists on their thoughts about streaming music and a few artists asserted that exposure through streaming services are attracting more attendance at live shows. Since the kids music genre is somewhat of a niche it’s hard to say if that same logic applies, but exclusive offers through digital outlets and featured kids music sections could sway things toward greater success.

Chris Ballew of Caspar Babypants (and lead singer of The Presidents of the United States of America) is the featured artist in Rhapsody KIDS’ promotional video. Caspar Babypants is featured in promotional ads as well, alongside Kidz Bop and Disney. 

The main Rhapsody app is a subscription-based model which means access to music is available for a set monthly price. Rhapsody is offering a special subscription rate bundle with Rhapsody KIDS for $1/month for 3 months and then the pricing goes up to $9.99/month.

Below are some of the highlights that Rhapsody KIDS offers. We will

  • Create-your-own: Parents can select songs from the main Rhapsody app and add them to a playlist in the KIDS section.
  • Featured editor curated songs and playlists.
  • Offline Access – Save your data plan! Anything that’s bookmarked for kids automatically downloads for offline listening. Think dead spot on a local road, camping, or a dressing room in the mall.
  • Repetition is key – Songs and playlists in Rhapsody KIDS automatically loop so you’re kids can hear their favorites til the cows come home.
  • Keep it separate – The KIDS section is designed to fool the young’uns from getting back into the main Rhapsody catalog and revamping your playlists or cranking out some jams to a song you wouldn’t even want to play in public. Rhapsody requires users who want to return to the main app to swipe the screen in a specific direction.

Just like Netflix Kids, though, Rhapsody KIDS seems to appeal to a broad range of ages so there will be a mix of styles together, i.e. Kidz Bop with Caspar Babypants, for example. So not all of it will necessarily be tolerable but unlike YouTube or Netflix, you won’t have to moderate for tween-age drama and dialogue.

Our family still listens to our fair share of CDs, with streaming music a popular second and the radio third (50-50 between satellite and terrestrial). We are dedicated Netflix Kids users which has become a well worn resource and I plan on giving Rhapsody KIDS a whirl to see if it has the same effect.  I will be reporting my thoughts back in a Kids Can Groove future post so stay tuned.

World Premiere: “Music is Everywhere” by Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips

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“Music puts the magic in this life. You can build a castle in the sky. Close your eyes and you shall see, it’s so simple as a melody. Music puts the magic in this life.”

Over the past 12 months, CJ Pizarro (aka Mista Cookie Jar) and The Chocolate Chips, have been producing music magic with a new single each month as part of their “song-a-month” project. The topics the songs have touched upon range from up close and personal, i.e. “Mama,” “BFF Goodbye,” to more general themes like holidays (“Jelly Beans!”) and dreaming big (“Hold On to Your Dreams”). With each new effort, it has been a treat to hear the gamut of styles Pizarro has made his own (from hip-hop to singer/songwriter to Motown to a whole blend). As a kids’ music blogger, it has been wonderful to be a part of the challenge that Pizarro has taken on, and witness the creative growth that has come out of it. As a parent, and a mom, I have been touched by the heartfelt themes and relevancy of the songs’ to my experiences with Emily; But that’s the power of music, and what today’s audio premiere is all about.

As an homage to the magic of song and dance and the notion that “music is always at our fingertips,” I am proud to present “Music is Everywhere,” the penultimate single in Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips’ song-a-month marathon. Opening with a flutter of piano and lovely birdsong, “Music is Everywhere” starts off like a dream sequence and continues on with rhythmic buoyancy in a  “Sound of Music inspired, rasta-flavored wave.” The vibe of this arrangement is a perfect complement to the song’s message which celebrates the power of music and the innate connection we have to it; The notion that music exists within us and all around us, whether it’s in a poetic verse, an ocean breeze, or that one perfect note.

Stay tuned here for a follow up interview tomorrow with Pizarro who talks about his experience with the song-a-month project and some of the influences and inspiration behind it all.

You can download “Music is Everywhere,” through the Bandcamp widget below. Be sure to check out the lyrics, and additional singles by Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips at their Bandcamp page.

Interview: Amelia Robinson of Mil’s Trills

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…Most hurt and pain that culminates in violence or mistreatment stems from people not having the confidence or support that they needed as a child. It all starts with the children and giving them the love that they need to succeed in life.

Amelia Robinson aka Mil’s Trills is a Brooklyn-based singer with a long list of artistic roles such as songwriter, producer, composer, and educator whose dedication to creating a musical landscape in which everyone, regardless of race religion or anything else that deviates from “the norm,” can be a part of is admirable.

September 23, 2015 marks the official release of the second Mil’s Trills album, Now That We’re Friends…, which delivers a barrel of authentic, down home musical goodness filled with encouraging messages founded upon the notion that we are all part of the same community. We are all friends. It’s delightful and that is in no small part due to Robinson’s integrity as a musician and her dedication to providing the most meaningful experience for her audience. What comes through most clearly is Robinson’s infectious energy and positivity.

In honor of the release of Now That We’re Friends…, I am so pleased to share the following interview with you. Throughout her life, Robinson has been influenced and inspired by her surroundings. Born and raised in Brooklyn, there has been no shortage of variety from which to draw inspiration from. Robinson has also spent time traveling the globe, further feeding her artistic, creative soul.

One of the many things I really love about this interview is Robinson’s candid, honest responses. Just like her music, she presents herself unabashedly and wholeheartedly. Robinson shares about her international roots, the origin of the name “Mil’s Trills,” her time in Saudi Arabia with her ukulele, the meaning behind the “I’m in the Band” stickers she gives out at her live shows, how a tragic event and the healing power of family helped kick off the creation of Now That We’re Friends…, and how she met Jonathan Blum, the painter responsible for the beautiful work on both of her album covers. The list of interesting talking points could go on!

For now, I know you’ll enjoy getting to know “Mil” as much as I have.

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Kids Can Groove: You were born and raised in Brooklyn, and you’re very much a part of the Brooklyn community. How has that impacted you as an artist?

AR: 
Growing up in an urban culture has exposed me to a wide range of styles, cultures, religions, ethnicities, and genres. It’s allowed me to embrace who I am as an individual by respecting others around me for who they are and how they choose to live. I am somewhat obsessed with the similarities and differences we have as humans, and much of my work is based on a response to that and figuring out how we can find a uniting common ground and weave the threads that sew us together.

KCG: Why, before starting Mil’s Trills,  did you embark upon extended world travels to places like. Kazakhstan, Guatemala, Israel, and the UK?


AR: I come from an international family (my parents are Australia / NZ immigrants), so traveling has always been in my blood. We were given a lot of independence as kids and always encouraged to see the world and all it has to offer. We flew down under every other year for most of our childhood, but unfortunately I grew a serious fear of flying that grounded me for 11 years. I didn’t get to go abroad like my siblings had, so by the time I graduated college, I was chomping at the bit to get out of the country!

I went to a few “Fly Without Fear” group therapy meetings (that’s a whole other story) and worked my way up to a flight to DC, then London, and eventually back to Australia. A big part of my “recovery” was facing my deepest fear – the fear of the unknown – and building confidence to grow and develop as a young adult. A series of opportunities presented themselves to me (a medical mission to Guatemala, my brother serving in the Peace Corps in Kazakhstan), and I took on each challenge with the biggest tool my parents gave me – a great passion to live life to the fullest. They also gave me a few citizenships, so that surely helped when it came time to take a bigger jump and move to London to “find myself” as an artist and composer.

From there, I eventually got hired to play ukulele on an artificial island in Qatar, which was a crazy experience. By the time I got back to Brooklyn I had all these experiences from which to draw inspiration. I had somewhat learned what kind of person I wanted to be and how to apply my skillset to a craft in which I felt fulfilled. I think travel is the most important gift one can give oneself, especially in those years after college when you’re still figuring it all out. It teaches you how to be self-sufficient, find solutions, and see the greatness of humanity, while eliciting courage, bravery, and confidence that will enable you to take on challenges throughout the rest of your life!

KCG: You love the ukulele!  How did you get started with that, and what do you love about the instrument?

AR: 
I got started playing the ukulele around 2006, I think! A friend handed it to me and said “You’ll love this!” and he was right! He took me to an underground cabaret in the East Village, and I was hooked! I loved the community that was built around this little instrument, and its ability to make anyone smile in an instant. It was also MUCH easier to carry around than a piano (my first instrument), so I clipped it onto my backpack in all my travels. I found it a great icebreaker and made a lot of friends by whipping it out on top of mountains and on street cafes. For families, it seems like the perfect instrument because it speaks to all ages in a special way. It’s accessible, welcoming, and makes people happy! What’s not to like?

KCG: How did Mil’s Trills come to be?  What’s the source of the name?

AR: Mil’s Trills was fashioned after the musical experience I had as a child with a wonderful teacher of mine, Judy Bain. She led a tight-knit group of kids who took weekly Suzuki lessons and were involved in her choir, the Brooklyn Children’s Ensemble. She also organized numerous retreats that we’d go on every year. We were all extremely dedicated – to the music and each other (I was involved from the age of 3 through high school!). It was a really special thing, and we’re all still really close to this day. It was that kind of community that inspired me to try to recreate that same sense of belonging for the next generation.

My sister, who also shared the Judy Bain experience and had just had a baby girl, was the real inspiration for the whole project. She helped me sculpt a framework that would continue the tradition and pay it forward as best we could. 

As for the name, well my nickname is Mil (as a kid, my younger brother couldn’t say my full name, so he just called me Mil because it was easier). ‘Mil’s Trills’ actually came from my college years – that was around about the time I started writing songs as gifts (college students have to be thrifty!). My dear friend Lona, who was in an a cappella group with me, used to call my original ditties “Mil’s Trills,” and so years later when it came time to find a name for my project, she brought it back up again and it just felt right. I remember having pages and pages of scribbles with random names of all sorts and struggling to make a decision because you know you’re gonna be stuck with it for years. People always get the l’s mixed up, but that’s ok – it is a bit tricky if you don’t know the story behind it!

unnamed (5)KCG: What distinguishes Mil’s Trills?  What sets you apart?


AR: I think most children’s musicians will say that their music comes from a very personal place, most often as a response to having children in their lives in some way or another. They will also say that their music is interactive and speaks to all ages. So what makes Mil’s Trills different? Well, for lack of a better answer – ME! Haha.. In this world we are all different and beautiful in our own way. We all have our own paths, and this is mine. My music, as heard through Mil’s Trills, is a constant exchange between received experiences and creative responses. It’s an extension of my being and my perspective on this world, and it will continue to change and evolve as long as I do.

KCG: I’ve heard that at your shows you give stickers to audience members that say “I’m in the band.”  How do you help people feel that they are actually part of the performance?  Why does that matter?


AR: So much of what I do is based around community and making people feel a part of something. I suppose this stems from growing up in a large and tightknit immigrant family (I have 3 siblings), and being accustomed to / finding comfort in that type of support system.

Working with an early childhood population on various continents, made clear to me the global benefits of working as a group and being a part of a team. I would say that my role as a performer / educator is often more as a mentor than an entertainer. I often feel it’s most important to get down on one knee after a show and look a kid in the eye to acknowledge them and hear what they have to contribute. Maybe it’s the result of growing up in a big family that I feel a need to find my voice, and give other kids their individual voices as well. There’s a way for us all to be unique within ourselves and still be a cooperative part of the world as a whole!

KCG: How have you grown, as a musician, through the years?  How has this been reflected in Mil’s Trills?

AR: 
I am a classically trained pianist. I grew up memorizing pieces by Chopin and Bach. I rarely steered from the notes on the page, unless it was bashing the keys during moments of frustration as a kid. It wasn’t until years later in college where I had access to a private rehearsal room with a grand piano that I actually started to experiment and form songs. Maybe it was the classical training, but I’ve always had very strong melodies in my head, and so much of my earlier stuff has been said to sound like musical theater! But then again, I think I also subconsciously picked up a lot of styles living in the city, and so I have a tendency to default to a lot of reggae, Latin, and Caribbean beats. There’s a huge world music influence, too, because music is so intrinsically connected to the cultural experiences I’ve had around the globe. It’s not only exposed me to new instruments that I’ve learned to play, but also other musicians to play with! 

When Mil’s Trills first started out, I was scheduling 5 different musical guests for 5 different shows a week, so each time I played the same song with each of them it sounded different and was infused with a new sense of life. I still work with a rotating cast of musicians for this exact reason – to improvise, keep it fresh and explore new sounds!

KCG: You’ve performed in some amazing venues, including Lincoln Center in NYC.  Tell us about your participation in the Meet the Artist series at Lincoln Center.  What was that about?


AR: It was definitely one of the most enriching experiences with students I’ve ever had. The program spanned over six performances for school age children K-2nd grade. It was amazing because I was given quite a bit of creative freedom. I could have done the same performance at each time slot, but I opted to use it as an opportunity to expand my show into a topic that I’d been yearning to explore – ethnomusicology! At each show, we featured a different family of instruments played by a different cast of characters from all over the world. The instruments were grouped into percussion, tuned percussion, string, brass, wind, and even electronic! I created worksheets for all the teachers to complete with discussion points and activities for the children to prepare in their classrooms prior to the show. Upon arrival, many of the kids had even made their own instruments in relation to the family that we were going to learn about that day. The kids came from all over the city – and even New Jersey – bringing their own school flavor to the mix, which made for some very energized and raucous shows! There were plenty of incredible spontaneous moments, especially when we “painted” music on stage in an improvised exercise with the winds and horns!

KCG: Like many kids’ musicians, you also work as an early childhood music educator.  How has this influenced you, both personally and professionally?  How has it impacted your musical choices for Mil’s Trills?unnamed (2)
AR: Kids see the world through a lens of joy, positivity, and enthusiasm. Everything is NEW to them! And that freshness is so contagious! I feel so blessed to have the opportunity to work with children in the classroom, as it serves as a free play space that directly opens a dialogue for creative exchange.

As the teacher, I provide a safe place   – an environment in which I offer a sense of structure and framework, and the kids respond with bolts of creative ideas that then are morphed into songs, games, and activities. I have learned so much from them – from being present and open to spontaneity, to how to clearly communicate, embrace joyfulness, and channel the ability to freely express oneself. On a personal level, it’s taken me a long time to evoke this type of fluid conversation between my strategic mind and my creative soul – there has always been a very serious internal conflict. However, working with children has enabled me to embrace each facet so that I can be a good role model and my true-est self! I owe it to them to give them the best version of myself when I’m in the front of the classroom, and even when I’m on stage. My most current work is undoubtedly a reflection of that freedom to be open and expressive without inhibition.

KCG: What are your suggestions for introducing young children to music?


AR: DO IT!!! Music is an intrinsic conduit for expression and is an essential element of our natural world. Exposure to new sounds and music inspires kids to blossom and create a relationship with the world around them. It nourishes their ability to embrace their surroundings and find joy, and it’s so rewarding for the witnessing adult, too! Being exposed to music at an early age (and any age!) improves overall health, cognitive development, fine, gross and motor skills, literacy, and social emotional skills – it’s a no brainer!

KCG: Tell us about Now That We’re Friends …   What was the impetus for the album?  How does it differ from/expand upon last year’s release, Everyone Together Now!?

AR: While Everyone Together Now! serves as a sort of “We’re HEEEREEE!” album, Now That We’re Friends… furthers a moreintimate discussion about what it’s like to relate to one another: “Now that I’ve got your attention, this is what I really want to talk about…”

The album actually came out of a period of grief. In August of last year (2014) we tragically lost a close family member. I went through an existential phase of “Why are we here?” and found myself writing about pretty serious feelings of loneliness. I took a trip down to see my family in Australia / NZ for my cousin’s wedding and found the experience of being surrounded by so much family extremely cathartic and moving (I have a HUGE extended family down under). I was reinvigorated by the power of love and was inspired by the mere strength and support of family to transcend distance and time. It filled me with hope and healing, and I realized that life really comes down to LOVE. Not necessarily the romantic kind, but the appreciation for LOVING the world around you, and all that it has to offer. It’s the one thing all of us humans have in common. And the most important thing is to love yourself – because when you love yourself you have strength to grow and relate to others in a positive way that can help the world become a better place.   

This album is also very much about embracing differences and accepting cultural diversity. We are all wonderfully unique and approach our daily lives from various viewpoints and perspectives. A surefire way to get along is to practice thinking unselfishly and instead imagine what it’s like to be in each other’s shoes. This is my tribute to “peace & love, baby!” I also truly believe that every single person on this planet has something special that they bring to the table. In my opinion, most hurt and pain that culminates in violence or mistreatment stems from people not having the confidence or support that they needed as a child. It all starts with the children and giving them the love that they need to succeed in life.

KCG: Many of us are in back-to-school mode right now.  How can your music help children when they return to school, whether it’s transitioning from pre-school to kindergarten, from kindergarten to first grade, or from one school to another?


AR: It’s so funny how sometimes a side of your art shows itself after you actually make it! I started Mil’s Trills about 5 years ago when my niece was 6 months old. Now, she and her friends who inspired this whole project are starting kindergarten at brand new schools with brand new kids. It’s kind of perfect timing for this album, because these songs are purposed to help us navigate the tender moments when we first make contact with another being. It’s a tool to help build confidence within one’s self to help us emanate compassion and acceptance and be able to communicate clearly with one another. Furthermore, school transitions can be very challenging times, and knowing that someone relates to those scary feelings can help you get through it!

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KCG: Your album cover art is stunning.   How did you happen to meet the artist, Jonathan Blum?  Tell us about your relationship with him and his work.


RA: Jonathan Blum is a neighbor and friend who I met during the course of recording my first album. He is one of the only artists left in NYC with a storefront, and the intermittent hours he keeps always provokes interest from passersby! He’d been there for years, but the only time I saw him open was when I’d come home late from the studio at 2 a.m. I’d pop in and share my project with him each evening thereafter – and he came to hear each step of the process from start to finish. His art offered refuge and inspiration during the recording project and a friendship was born! After a bit of persuasion, he ended up doing my first album cover – which was really a collaboration because he let me do the collage underneath that adds the texture to the painting. It all fell into place, as his work is quite paralleled with my music – he paints playful images of such things as ostriches with strawberries on their heads that appeals to adults and kids alike – much like my songs.  It was such an organic, beautiful friendship that bloomed – or should I say, Blum’d!… After the success of the Big Blue Moose (Jonathan sold every moose he made after that album cover), it only made sense for him to do the next record, as well! His website is rabbipainter.com.

KCG: Can you share something interesting/funny that people may lot know about you? You can be as playful or as serous as you want here.


AR: When I was little, I’d chew my food and chew and chew and chew. Guests would come over and I’d still be chewing (this mostly happened with spinach). They’d smile and say “Oh what a pretty little girl,” and then I would promptly go up to them, take their hand with a smile, and proceed to spit out my food in their palm… Not so pretty now, eh? (Note: Don’t worry, I eventually grew out of this phase… )

KCG: What’s next for you?


AR: I can’t wait to find out! Whatever it is, I certainly hope to be able to continue learning, growing, expressing, being creative, and trying to inspire others to do the same.

 

“BFF Goodbye” – Mista Cookie Jar and the Chocolate Chips

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The school year has started and with that so many emotions are aflutter. Change is never easy, and this time of year really tests that notion out. Big time.

One of the big changes for Em this year was not knowing who would be in her class. Our school posts class lists a week before school begins. No email, no letter ahead of time, just a piece of paper posted outside the office window at 4pm on one specific date. The anticipation and build up, as you can imagine, was intense. The most important and oft repeated question was, “Will my best friend be in my class?”

The idea of a BFF when you’re a kid is so intense and so big. Finding someone you jive with and then spending most of your formative years with them, through all the developmental hustle and bustle, is even bigger. The trust, the intimacy, the safety of knowing someone gets you (and is going to break the rules with you…sometimes) is sacred.

But what if they move away?

In his eleventh single (from his single-a-month release series), “BFF Goodbye,” MIsta Cookie Jar expresses the poignant and deeply conflicted feelings associated with having to say goodbye to your best friend. The song has a Dylan-esque vibe which suits the nature of this real-life story – MCJ’s stepdaughter Ava Flava and her best friend, Miss Mikyla, were faced with saying goodbye when Mikyla had to move away. “BFF Goodbye” balances the raw emotion of such a spirit crushing situation with beautiful ways of coping that make this track so touching. 

Em’s best friend Bea moved away. They were BFFs since they were 2-years-old and Em still talks about her, recalling the bee sting she got the day before Bea left and how Bea put a Band-Aid on her foot and gave her a hug. Em is now 6.5 and when I played her this song she just smiled and said, “like Beatrice.”
 

 
“BFF Goodbye” succeeds once again in offering a memorable embrace during a transitional time period. Check out My Letter to First Grade, featuring MCJ’s video for the single “My My My” which got me through the first day of school last year.

Friday Fun: Songs for Survival – A Kindie Playlist for New England’s Winter 2015

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Almost survived Boston’s Winter 2015

I have been receiving reports from family and friends in New England about the crazy amounts of snow that Just. Keeps. Falling. My sister hasn’t worked on a Monday in about a month and recently remarked “This winter is no joke, Rebecca!” And if Boston-based kindie artist and event producer Karen K (for Kalafatas) is any indication, the prognosis is not good, my friends.  Not good at all.

I reached out to Karen earlier this week just to catch up, and she seemed, um, off, to say the least. Karen, the usually sunny front person to her band Karen K & the Jitterbugs and producer of the rockin’ Kids Really Rock family music festival, just didn’t seem like herself.  She spoke in short, frantic sentences as if she’d forgotten how to interact with humans, and her usual warmth was well, cold, as though it had been locked up in an icebox. I think her eye might have been twitching while she was talking to me.
Admittedly, I was a little worried about both of them, and the rest of my friends and family in the New England region. Especially after my sister sent me a photo of a 4-lane road in Boston reduced to 1 1/2 lanes. But music heals, right?  So I asked Karen to create a kindie playlist to describe her experience, and her mood – and the mood of Boston and the people of New England – since they’ve been hit by all this snow (and more is on the way!).  This was her response.
By the way, Boston is expecting more snow this weekend.  In the words of Karen herself, “God Speed, New England.  God Speed.”


A Friggin Snow-Tastic Kindie Playlist, with Love From Boston

Click on the song names below to download the music and support a kindie artist today! Especially ones that might be inside for the rest of the year.

  1. Snow Day – Justin Roberts, Jungle Gym
    Aw, Justin is right!  Snow days are so fun!  But I’m guessing a song entitled “Snow Day #416 And Counting” would have a completely different groove.  Like maybe a funeral march.  But you know. Just a guess.
  2. Salmon Song – Jazzy Ash, Home
    Because salmon reminds me of Alaska.  And Alaska reminds me that we basically live there now.
  3. S-N-O-W-M-A-N – Billy Kelly, Thank You for Joining the Happy Club
    Yeah.  It’s gotten so bad, we’re actually dreaming in S-N-O-W.
  4. Play With Me – Big Bang Boom – Songs Your Mom Will Like
    1) Play 2) With 3) Me.  The top three words uttered this winter in a household with children, next to 1) Snow Day 2) $&*&#* and 3) #(*^$@&
  5. Valentine – Laura Doherty, Shining Like a Star
    Hey, look at that!  You made so many crafty-hearty-cute-and-Pinterest-worthy Valentines over your snow days that you can send one to every person on your Holiday Card list!  Which is great, since you’ve been so busy complaining about the weather this winter, you completely forgot to mail your holidays cards.  Again.
  6. Don’t Wake the Baby – Audra Rox, I Can Do It By Myself
    Yes, whatever you do, do NOT wake the baby.  Or me. Try not to wake me.
  7. Glitter Everywhere – The Pop Ups, Appetite for Construction
    Endless inside time + crafts = of course. But not even a snowblower is gonna get that glitter out of your house. Ever. 
  8. Crayons in a Box – Steve Elci & Friends, Crayons in a Box
    Again, crayons second only to glitter.
  9. Daddy’s Snoring – Mister G, The Bossy E
    Yes. Yes, he is.  And it’s 3:00 in the afternoon.  On a Wednesday.
  10. Sippy Cup – Hullabaloo, Tall As A Tree
    Are we SURE that’s coffee in Mommy’s sippy cup?  ‘Cause it’s been snowing since October, and she seems a little off. Just sayin…
  11. Pancakes for Dinner – Karen K & the Jitterbugs, Pancakes for Dinner
    Because the key to snow day survival is a horrible, horrible diet.
  12. Who Stole the Cookies – Lucky Diaz & the Family Jam Band, A Potluck
    Seriously.  Who stole the last cookie?  Because roads are undriveable, stores are closed, and we’re stuck here with NO CHOCOLATE FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS.
  13. PJs All Day – Secret Agent 23 Skidoo, The Perfect Quirk
    “Honey, have you seen Offspring?”
    “Um, no…not in about 8 hours.” Translation: “Not since I went to work (in the dining room) and left you on the couch in the exact same position you are in now…”
  14. Time to Brush Our Teeth – Brady Rymer, Look at My Belly
    Because yes, you were snow-lucinating when you heard Michelle Obama say she is going to add teeth-brushing to the Let’s Move initiative as a legitimate form of exercise.  This totally. Does. Not. Count. 
  15. TV’s Watching Me – The Not-Its, Tag, You’re It!
    That moment you realize Peg is not really your daughter and you don’t own a Cat.  (Also, Meredith Baxter Birney is not your friend, and falling asleep on the couch watching Lifetime movies does not equal having a slumber party with her. I repeat:  This is not real and she is not your friend.  Wait, did you hear that?  What was that noise?  Ohmygodsomeone’sbreakinginandtryingtokillme… helpmeMeredithhelpme!!!!)
  16. Back to School – Joanie Leeds & the Nightlights, Bandwagon
    Did someone say school?  THERE’S SCHOOL TOMORROW????  OhmygoshOhmygoshOhmygoshBestnewseverBestnewseverBestnews…Wait a minute.  Was there homework this week?  ((*R$^%*&(*)(^&$%#$#$*&^&$%$#%^*&!!!!!!!!
  17. Snow Day – Eric Herman and the Invisible Band, Snow Day!
    BWAH HAHAHAHAHAHAHA!  Yeah, like you’re ever going back to school. Forecast says more snow.  Translation:  You’re screwed.  (But, hey, at least this song is only 42 seconds long.  Unlike the MAMMOTH snow storm on the way…)
  18. M.T.A. – Ben Rudnick & Friends, Blast Off
    Poor Charlie.  If only he’s waited for Winter 2015, when Mayor Marty Walsh CLOSED THE MBTA COMPLETELY DOWN for 2 DAYS.  Ah, one man’s fate would have been so different.  Sorry, Charlie.
  19. Mean People – Lori Henriques, Outside My Door
    Because New Englanders are friendly as long as you don’t make eye contact or speak. And that’s on a sunny day.
  20. Snow Globe – Lunch Money, Original Friend
    Because we live in one.  Because we freakin’ live in one. (And also, glitter.)
  21. Meltdown – Justin Roberts, Meltdown!
    Because when the snow won’t melt, something has to.
  22. Amen!! – Josh & the Jamtones, Amen!! Holiday Singles Collection – EP
    Because right now all we can do is pray.  And because we know Tom Brady is listening, and that he can make this madness stop.
  23. Stop Your Sobbing – Stacey Peasley, Lucky Day
    Aw, you’re so right!  We should totally stop complaining.  Until summer, when I hear it’s gonna be SUPER hot…
  24. Happy Place – Mista Cookie Jar, & the Chocolate Chips, Ultramagnetic Universal Love Revolution
    We would like to go to there.
  25. The Very Best Thing – Trout Fishing in America, The Very Best Thing – Single
    Hear that, snow?  Love wins.  It isn’t always easy, but family is everything.  And having someone to share the crazy with is the very best thing.
  26. Forever Young – Randy Kaplan, The Kids Are All Id
    Because you’re not as old as that couch has made you feel.  Because you laughed deeper than the snow while frolicking outside with your Small Human.  And because let’s face it: You just binged watched 5 seasons of Parenthood and cried the entire time.

    BONUS TRACK:
  27. It’s a Sunny Day – Boogers, Extractum Victoris
    Hoooray!!!!! It’s Spring!!!!!!

    JUST KIDDING.  HERE’S THE REAL BONUS TRACK:
  28. Snow Day – Trout Fishing in America, Merry Fishes to All
    You silly fools.  Of COURSE that’s snow falling outside.  

God speed, New England, and see you on the other side. (In other words, August.  See you in August…)  

View This: “Count Them As They Go” – Justin Roberts

Justin Roberts, known in the kindie world for his high energy shows and catchy power-pop tunes has decided to slow down the pace with a moving lullaby album.  The first track on the album, “Count Them As They Go,” was recently released with a charming video directed and animated by ALSO.

The video for “Count Them As They Go” presents a dreamscape sprinkled with fluffy sheep in a tree-lined pasture and gliding birds under a blanket of stars.  Orchestral accents complement Roberts’ soft voice as we are lulled into a more peaceful state of mind through guided imagery.

Simply beautiful.

The album is now available for purchase at Amazon and Justin’s site, along with merchandise featuring those adorable fluffy sheep.