Friday, October 30, 2009

C.D. Release Weekend!

The date is set for the great big C.D. release event for People, Places and Things. I just got off the phone with the Barnacle State Historic Park. We've booked a two-day event to coincide with the Mad Hatter Arts Festival.

Sat. Nov. 14th 3:00-4:30pm
Sun. Nov. 15th 3:30-4:30pm
Free with park admission

I am very excited. The Barnacle is a beautiful setting for a concert, The weather is begrudgingly starting to break, and the C.D. elves are busily trying to get them done. I've played at the Barnacle for a Birthday, but this will be my first official concert in Coconut Grove that is open to the public (strange huh?).

Once the C.D. is available online and through iTunes, I'll be updating the greater Bathtub Nation. Tell everyone you know!

Kid Quote of the Day: "Mr. Nick you have a mustache!" "Yes Brady, I do." ~Brady (age: 4)

Happy Halloween!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Spearhead of Kids' Music

A nice little package came this week from a group called Rhythm Child. They were billed as a sort of Partridge Family with a funky, soulful vibe. I was intrigued. In an unexpected twist, the CD was accompanied by a neat little shaker with the album art on it.

The foundation for each song on this album is combo of acoustic guitar and organ set against a solid rhythm of hand drums and drum set. There is a lot of familiar material that listeners will recognize (such as Mary Had a Little Lamb or The Wheels on the Bus), but done in a unique Rhythm Child way. The closest in sound to anything I've heard or reviewed here at Singing in the Bathtub would be the Funky Kidz album. Rhythm Kid does have a bit of the New Orleans vibe, but again they add their own spin to everything they do. The completely original songs on this album are uplifting and enjoyable. It's easy to see why Rhythm Child is a John Lennon Songwriting Grand Prize Winner. As I mentioned in the title, Rhythm Child is something like the Spearhead of kids' music in my mind.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up:
It is nice to see a family working to create music together. I think the Partridge Family billing had me imaging the kids being more up front. The tracks where frontman Norm Jones' son Bailey are featured are great. He has the voice of a natural singer and I am sure he'll grow up to make some great music himself. Rhythm Child to me is a nice break from the typical music that is market for children. Eat A Bowl of Cherries offers a bit of soul, invites the listener to sing, dance and play along, and puts a smile on your face.

Kid Quote of The Day: "I'm a little coconut, sitting on my cocobutt." ~Sienna (age: 3)

Saturday, October 17, 2009

State of the Art 2-D

I have the pleasure today to review The Jimmies latest DVD of concert footage, music videos and a behind the scenes documentary, entitled Trying Funny Stuff. There is even a bonus live CD that accompanies the DVD, how can you go wrong?

I have not had the pleasure of seeing the Jimmies perform live, and this DVD is the next best thing. "On a hot summer day, The Jimmies rocked New York City," the opening titles read, but I am glad that they chose to open with "Cool to Be Uncool." I love this song, even if no one in South Florida quite gets it. If the Jimmies are coming to your town, you should definitely bring the whole family, if not the concert portion of the DVD gives a good idea of the fun and excitement that is a JImmies show.

Many of the music videos on the DVD can be seen on the Jimmies website: Directed by Michael Slavens and produced by Five Eyed Films the Jimmies music videos are top notch. There is a kooky sense of humor that runs through everything that the Jimmies do right down to the packaging of the DVD which includes little one-liners like "In State of the Art 2-D."

The real gem on this DVD to me is the behind the scenes "documentary" about the making of the music videos. It is an in-depth and humorous look at the hard work the Jimmies and Slavens put into each of their videos. In a 2 minute music video it's easy to miss all the time that went into lighting hundreds of candles to emulate firelight, making a dress out of cotton balls, or constructing a set out of candy!

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: Once again, I think DVD's are key for kids' musicians. With so many mini-vans having flip-down screens, popping in Trying Funny Stuff seems like a sure fire way to keep the little ones entertained on long trips, and the adults bopping to the music while they drive.

The Jimmies are hip, humorous and clever and Trying Funny Stuff highlights all of these qualities. As an aspiring kids' music artist, I appreciate catching a glimpse at the hard work that went into making their videos. Anyone who has made a diorama for school will enjoy the creativity of the Jimmies. Do your family a favor and pick up this DVD!

Kid Quote of the Day: "Do you want to tell me what your Halloween costume will be, or is it a surprise?" Nick asked in his music class. "It's a surprise and it's Wolverine." ~Edward (age: 4)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cough, Cough, Sniffle, Sniffle...

2009 officially marks my ninth flu season as a preschool teacher. By now I have encountered every cough, cold and flu that has run roughshod through the halls of my schools, and my immune system is ironclad. Sadly, this does not extend to my dear wife Tracey who came down with a nasty seasonal flu and then the one-two punch of conjunctivitis.

Every year it is the same story, classes dwindle as students stay home sick, and teachers cross their fingers hoping that they are spared the brunt of another year's flu outbreaks. As a specialist, I am particularly vulnerable as I come in contact with hundreds of kids on a daily basis. This year the news is a bit more alarming with the H1N1 virus in all 50 states, and especially prevalent in schools. Not just the elderly, those with respiratory illness, and/or infants are at risk. Seemingly healthy patients are winding up in the hospital or worse.

There is good news! The scientific and medical communities have been working tirelessly to come up with a vaccine that can minimize risk of contracting the H1N1 virus. Thankfully this particular strain of flu is not as virulent as predicted, and though it is common for influenza to mutate, the H1N1 strain has remained stable and this vaccine proves to be a strong hedge against rampant infection.

The biggest impediment to the success of this effort by the C.D.C. and the W.H.O. is sadly the very tools that health organizations use to spread the word about vaccination. The internet is ripe with fear-mongering, misinformation and conjecture that is focused on political interests and not the health of those of us in the trenches of the war on flu. I have received emails whooping up anxiety, directing my attention to pseudo-scientific websites, and citing anecdotal evidence about vaccinations as far back as the 1918 Spanish Flu as a means of confusing the issue.

Thankfully the knowledge of DNA, advances in vaccine production, the use of non-live virus vaccines, and sound scientific practices have given us a chance to stave off a pandemic that could cost many young lives. There is a wealth of information about vaccines at the C.D.C. website if you find yourself concerned or confused by the dyne of misinformation out there:

When in doubt, err on the side of caution and keep your child and yourself home when you may be coming down with the flu. Shots and flu mists aside, that is the best way to stop the transmission of the flu.

Kid Quote of the Day: "See, I catched my cough in my elbow." ~Halley (age: 3)

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Beyoncé Effect

If you are ever having a "terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day," and you need to have a laugh and blow off some steam, I highly recommend going to YouTube and searching for "Babies Dancing to Beyoncé's Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." It was my wife who introduced me to this, one of life's little joys. It's now a sensation and I believe one of the tiny dancers was featured on Ellen.

There are countless versions of this infant dance craze for you to enjoy. Here are my two favorites:

I have to say this next one is unbelievable and we should watch out for this young one on "So You Think You Can Dance" in a few years:

As a self-proclaimed music nerd, and a champion of all things early childhood I thought I would offer my thoughts on this phenomenon. Say what you will about Beyoncé's mind-numbingly catchy tune (I happen to like it, despite being a bit played out... such is pop music), there is something about it that gets infants grooving. The video is starkly simple, the beat is infectious, and the hooks are simple and repetitive. The dance moves are a bit suggestive and the wardrobe is a bit revealing, but the message is one of empowerment and Beyoncé is not a rail-thin waif like many of the pre-teen pop stars.

To me this is a clear example that music of all types can be enjoyable, inspirational and important for even the youngest listeners. I think parents too often feel that they have to suffer through bad music because it is packaged in bright colors and marketed to kids. Here's the alternative:

Call it sour grapes. The Wiggles are the superstars of the kids' music world. In their hay-day they out earned Russell Crowe and Nicole Kidman combined as Australia's most successful entertainers. Despite their success, I maintain that this music is lousy, unimaginative and though it may illicit kids to get up and move, so does Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)!

Do kids' artists need to wear creepy smiles? Does kids' music have to sound like a Lawrence Welk tune? When I perform I don't enact a forced, over the top persona. I treat children like human beings, and when a broad smile grows across my face it's because playing music for kids is one of the most rewarding performance experiences out there.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: Okay, so I presented two pretty extreme examples of music that gets kids' moving. I'll admit that both have their draw backs, and at the end of the day I hesitate to be too harsh a critic. Making kids' music is tough, and I admire and respect anyone who dedicates their talents to this end. I guess my real message is that there is a happy medium between grown-up music with adult themes and kids' music that makes parents want to tear their hair out after the 1,000th listening. Believe me, if it has a good beat and a catchy hook kids will dance to it. As adults if we don't care to listen to the Wiggles on repeat, we have the power to encourage different musical tastes in our kids. That has been the goal of this blog all along, and that has been a mission of my music from the first time I picked up a guitar and rocked the preschool. So what do you get when you mix the beat of Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) with the kid friendly danceability of Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes? I like to think it goes a little something like this:

Kid Quote of the Day: I think these dance moves say it all!