Monday, December 26, 2011


A warm Hanukkah blessing to all my readers from "The Seven Tribes!" Three years ago I was introduced to, not one, but two Jewish themed kids' performers, Mama Doni and Shirlala. A niche market within a niche market. It was fun to hear some new and creative music to fill that ofted joked about void in Hanukkah music (South Park and Adam Sandler come to mind). Because, honestly, how often can one sing the Dreidel Song before going slightly crazy?

I was searching for something new to offer my readers this year (though picking up a copy of either Mama Doni or Shirlala's Hanukkah albums is a good choice), and a particular YouTube video has caught my eye and ears:

With programs like "The Sing Off," a cappella singing is experiencing a surge in popularity. No longer a musical oddity heard across college campuses, groups like the Maccabeats show how slick and current this ancient style of music can be. Obviously this video, and others by The Maccabeats, are not directed specifically at kids, but the way this video is filmed to show the various singers adding their voices to the mix is something to see and enjoy. (Parents should keep an eye out for cameos by Mylim Bialik, TV's "Blossom" and Barack Obama).

Kid's Quote of the Day: (sung in a russian accent) "We'll Hanukkah play the Eskimo way. Walking in the winter wonderland." ~ Kate (age: 7)

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Update: We're on a Charity Christmas Compilation!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

A Three-peat! Hip-hop Christmas

So I guess all those months with nothing to write have left me bursting at the seams to blog. It's officially a three-peat as I sit down to write my third post in as many days. I figured I needed to bring it back home to some good old musical reviews, and I wanted to do a little trend-spotting after some recent Kindie Facebook activity. Is 2011 the year of the Hip-Hop Christmas?

Two new Christmas themed videos have been making the rounds that capture some of that "urban flava," with a very much sanitized kid-friendly slant. The first is called, "Robot For Xmas" by Westcoast family rapper Mista Cookie Jar. The video features some retro 8-bit graphics that will make today's parents nostalgic for when they opened their Nintendo NES on Christmas 1985:

In an additional layer of techno-geek nostalgia, there is a list of classic TV and movie robots that draw from everything from Star Wars to Wall-E (but sadly no Tobor or Gort... look 'em up). I also love that Santa makes a Super Mario sound while descending into the chimney and that Alvin finally gets his hula hoop! Little, clever touches like these make this one a soon-to-be-Christmas classic.

Now, just so I don't fall into an Eastcoast/Westcoast feud. I also wanted to feature a video of Atlanta based, Little Beat Chinchilla who is a puppet MC backed by human DJ Willy Wow. I met both of these artists (Mista Cookie Jar and DJ Willy Wow) at Kindiefest last spring. DJ Willy Wow was the first person I ran into even before the conference began. I saw a man climb out of the subway wearing a rainbow-colored, propeller beanie and I thought, 'This guy must be going to Kindiefest!' Little Beat and DJ Willy Wow's video is called, "The Santa Slide":

I know that the kids in my music class love any song with a dance they can follow. My favorite part of this video are the kids dancing Yo Gabba Gabba style, and the very skilled breakdancing young elves.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: I know that Hip-Hop is not for everyone. If you are not a fan of auto-tune and heavy vocal processing, you should stick with some of the more standard Christmas fare, but I know that the current generation of young parents grew up listening to Rap and Hip-Hop from it's infancy. For me Christmas is a time for fun, family and nostalgia. A little Christmas dance party might be just what the doctor ordered to work out some of that high energy Christmas excitement.

Kid's Quote of the Day: Some of my older students were debating the existence of Santa, and two camps quickly formed. One young skeptic pointed to some of the far fetched details of a rotund man navigating a chimney, "How could Santa get down the chimney with his big fat belly, and why doesn't he just come in the front door?!" ~Carson (age: 7)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Preschool Teachers are Communists!

The internet has been a buzz lately after some questionable conclusions about the latest Muppet Movie. The folks over at Fox Business News, in their infinite talent for hyperbole and fear-mongering, made claims that the movie is some sort of left-wing conspiracy to turn our nation's kids into communists. (read about it here: The Muppets Are Communist)

To most of us, these outlandish mischaracterizations seem a bit extreme, but it got me thinking. If you paint the world with this red brush, and take the time to consider the values that we teach at preschool it's clear that Preschool Teachers Are Communists!

- In preschool we are taught to share. The toys are distributed to everyone, and turns are taken to assure we all have our fair share of the fun.

- In preschool we are taught to walk in line, follow directions and go with the group. Those who strike out on their own are sent to time out (the gulag?).

- Preschool students look to a benevolent leader to provide them with the basic necessities, snacks, jobs, leisure activities. Snacks are passed out evenly to all, jobs are shared, and activities promote the virtue of the group over the individual.

- The life of a preschooler is tightly structured. They are told when and where to go, when they can eat, when they can play and how to conduct themselves while they do.

- Using songs and poetry, preschool students are indoctrinated to believe that "caring is sharing," and that we are all friends (comrades).

If you are looking for red flags (pun strongly intended), you'll find them everywhere. I was not around in the 50's, but I know enough about MacCarthyism to know how damaging this line of thinking can be when it snowballs unchecked. I did an interview project while living in Berlin about 3 generations of a family living in East Berlin from the Weimar period through the present day (well 1998). The short comings of an authoritarian communist regime were clear from their accounts. I love our democracy, and believe in capitalism when we remember that corporations are NOT people and therefore We The People need to be the moral compass driving their actions. However, I would never sacrifice the values that I teach at preschool. Can you imagine a classroom of 10-20 preschoolers acting with the "take what is mine, and do what I want" attitude that is so prized by the far right?

It may not work for a gov't (though China seems to be doing better and better), but in a preschool I'll take a socialist utopia any day!

Kids Quote of the Day: A boy came into music class wearing a U-Mass sweatshirt (a rare thing in South Florida). Pointing to his chest he exclaimed, "This means 'You go to music class.'" ~Marco (age: 4)

UPDATE: This is too good not to share:

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bathtub 2.0

I guess six months is just about long enough. I'm back baby! A lot has transpired in the time since this spring when I needed to take a break from writing Singing in the Bathtub to focus on 1) a new album release, Making Silly Faces 2) an East Coast tour 3) an appearance on WERS radio in Boston 4) an appearance on NBC 6 in Miami 5) our giant CD Release Concert Spectacular 6) and our first West Coast concert ever in Alameda CA! (but that's not what this blog is all about I have another website for that)

One great insight I have gained about the world of kids' music, the fans who love it, and the bloggers who write about it is that there is so much MORE going on out there than I could have ever imagined. At one point I might have considered myself an expert, I would have assumed that I was privy to the best of what is out there for the wee ones, or that I had some sort of unique perspective to offer my faithful readers. I hope that people find this blog informative, entertaining, and perhaps even fun to read, but I have to tip my hat to those out there who do this with much more regularity and dedication.

Working with Elizabeth Waldman Frazier of Waldmania PR to promote
Making Silly Faces showed me just how many resources there are for parents who are searching for the ever-illusive "Kids' music that parents can enjoy too." I have sat down to reboot Singing in the Bathtub many times during this hiatus only to think to myself, 'Do I really need to add my voice to the fray? Am I really creating content that benefits the world of kids' music? Am I a good blog author if I can't post weekly or daily even (as some of the faithful do)? Am I honoring those artists who slave away at their craft only to send me a submission which I, sadly, my never get to review?' At some point I needed to get over myself and JUST DO IT! That point is now.

The answer to all these questions and all this self-doubt is simple: Great, independent artists are making new music each day, and still Kidzbop LLC keeps turning out lousy CD's which parents seem to gobble up like the musical equivalent of trans-fats and corn syrup! If I can turn on one family to an alternative source of quality music it's worth my time and effort. To reinvigorate my passion for writing about and reviewing kids music I decided to write a mission statement for
Singing in the Bathtub 2.0:

Mission Statement: Singing in the Bathtub is a blog dedicated to promoting, discussing and reviewing kids' music and media from the perspective of a fellow musician, a teacher and an advocate for early childhood education in it's best form.

Goals: I will post a minimum of 2 updates a month. I will listen to all submissions that I receive, but I must be selective in the reviews that I post. Every group or artist that sends me a submission will receive an email confirmation, and every submission that I review will be notified when it goes live. I do not write bad reviews, it's a waste of everyone's time and as everyone's mother used to say, "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all!"

So there you have it. A labor of love that was started over three years ago has begun anew. I look forward to discovering all that is new and great in this industry and can't wait to share it with you all. Now, to provide you with something more than my pontificating, here is a bit of Christmas cheer from Me and Tracey (and Lucy):

Kids' Quote of the Day: During an ear-training lesson in my afterschool program, one student took pride in echoing back a five note phrase in perfect pitch, "I've got great ear-sight you know!" ~Evie (age: 5)

Thursday, May 19, 2011


To my loyal readers,

As you might have noticed, the regularity of my posts and frequency of album reviews has dwindled in the past few months. Over the past year and a half I have been steadily working on my own new album Making Silly Faces, and I am now in the final stages of production.

For that reason I am suspending album reviews and will be posting less frequently over the spring and summer months. I know the time, effort and personal sacrifice that goes into creating quality family music, and I would hate to feel like I was snubbing those groups and artists who are hoping to be reviewed by Singing in the Bathtub.

I have a lot of great new music to share, and I will be resuming my more frequent updates, likely in August when my preview tour of the East Coast for Making Silly Faces wraps up.

Kid's Quote of the Day: During my recent multi-cultural music unit at school, I was in the habit of greeting and dismissing the students using different languages. "Tschuss" I told my students as they left the classroom (the German word for "bye"). "Juice Mr. Nick," Liam said and then turning to a friend continued, "I told him juice, like Juicy Juice!" ~Liam (age: 5)

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Mudder's Day

Here's a sweet tune from David Tobocman in honor of the greatest person in our lives:

Mom is a Rockstar by David Tobocman

Kid's Quote of the Day: "Can I have a CD," one of my wee fans asked. "Well, maybe if you ask Mom and Dad, they'll let you buy one!" "I don't have a Dad!" I froze in uncomfortable silence, "He's on the boat." Thank Goodness! ~Airiana (age: 5)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Shaking It Off

In light of the depth of my last post, I thought I would lighten the mood and share this AMAZING performance from Kindiefest by Shine and The Moonbeams:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

"Deja Vu All Over Again"

Well, I've returned from the far flung land of Brooklyn and have, literally, a sack full of music to review from Kindiefest 2011. Regardless, I thought it was important to take time out from the world of kids' music to talk more seriously about how young children are effected by news stories like the recent events in Pakistan.

I am glad that more measured voices are coming to the fore, and reminding us that delighting in the death of anyone, regardless of how evil or misguided they are diminishes our connection to humanity and actually reinforces the notion that the loss of life is an acceptable price to pay for our ideology. My main emotion is a sense of relief that this chapter is finally put to bed mixed with sadness that it doesn't bring our brave service members home or stop the violence in the Middle East.

Now, on to the kids... 2001 marked my first year as a lead preschool teacher with my own classroom of three year olds. On that horrific day in September, I was struck with this feeling of scared emptiness as I was forced to return to my classroom after hearing the news and pretend that the world was not changed forever. For the sake of my young charges, I put on a brave face and their blissful innocence was of some comfort. It allowed me to escape from the reality of what was going on in the outside world and focus on that very moment (and I think that very moment was taken up by playing with trucks).

It wasn't until a few days later that the blissful innocence was shattered, and clearly troubled kids started sharing their fears and anxieties. I had parents say point blank, "Oh, she has seen the news, but she has no idea what is going on. I'm not worried about it." My message was, "Well you should be. Your child is clearly disturbed by what she has seen. She has no way to understand or deal with these fears and emotions and is continually talking about it in inappropriate ways with her peers." Kids at this age are sponges, how many parents have accidentally taught their child a swear while driving? They absorb much more than we give them credit for because most of the time we can't even get them to respond to their own name.

Granted the news of this week has a much different tinge, but the issues at the heart of the matter are nonetheless inappropriate for young kids. I had a similar feeling of strange disconnect, going through the paces of my daily routine playing and singing with kids on Monday while my head was somewhere far off. I was struck again by the fact that being in the world of preschool was a safe refuge from what was going on outside its safe, primary colored walls.

This safety and unawareness was shattered at 3:30pm when I started my first afterschool class. The oldest child (7) in my group (who just so happens to have one of those loud, piercing voices) came into the classroom quoting headlines from not one but two different news papers, then going into detail about the specifics. Thankfully the 4 and 5 y/o's just shrugged him off and didn't take much stock in his monologue. Later he drew this picture:
For a boy who was not alive on 9/11 that is a really startlingly detailed image of the twin towers (down to the 3D perspective). He could not stop talking about it, and I had to remind him several times that he was the oldest in the group, and I did not want him to scare the other children, plus this was a MUSIC class!

His attitude was one of joyful bravado, but I know from experience this is a mask. Deep down this child was wrestling with this information and he was seeking validation from his teachers and peers. Children trying to make sense of issues that are above their maturity level often obsess about them to the point where that is all they can think or talk about. Trust me, our piano lesson didn't involve a lot of playing!

As an adult, it's easy to say, "Oh, he's fine! He's not frightened or upset, he's just being a boy who likes to draw guns." We forget that once a 7 y/o takes off their cool-kid sneakers and Paul Frank skull T-shirt that they still wear footy pajamas and need a night light. Don't let Disney fool you, Elementary School kids are NOT ready for High School Musical.

I am aware that it is near impossible to shield your child from outside influence and media. I don't advocate living a sort of Amish lifestyle to protect these young minds, but I strongly urge you to limit your child's access to world events of this kind. If you have to deal with it because they have heard the news, the simplest and easiest to digest explanation is best, "A very bad man was killed by our soldiers to make our country a safer place." If they are old enough to process it and want to talk, please remind them to find an adult and not to spread it around the their friends or younger kids. If they do feel the need to express themselves through art, it can be another way to deal with uneasy feelings. If you get nothing out of this blog post, I hope it is this, keep 'em young and innocent as long as possible. Trust me they'll be watching "16 and Pregnant" on MTV before you know it!

And on a related note:

Kid Story of the Day: I had a 7 y/o arrive at my music class today toting a blackberry (yep, that's right, a blackberry). I said, "Salome, you need to put that away class is going to start." She held up an index finger without looking from the screen and my blood boiled. "You are here to make music, not to start at a tiny screen! I will not compete with a telephone for your attention. You need to put that away or you will leave my class!" You should have heard her pleas and upset when I took it and put it on a shelf for safe keeping.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day

On Earth Day Eve this year I caught a PBS documentary double feature. Nova had a film called "Power Surge" which painted a much less apocalyptic view of climate change (the basic message: if we do our part we have the tools to solve the problem), and later I saw a documentary called "Bag it" inspired by a plastic bag but covering the entire plastics industry from one consumer's perspective.

Besides making me much more aware of my daily plastic intake, my nightly TV watching left me feeling a bit more optimistic about our global future. I consider myself to be "greener" than your average American, but I recognize that I have a long way to go. Singing for kids makes me feel like I can pass on the message of environmental stewardship at an early age. Start 'em thinking green young and perhaps the next generation will do better than we have.

Kid's Quote of the Day: I was sheepishly singing "Day-o, The Banana Boat Song" with all of the Caribbean affectations ("Me say Day-O") during my recent multi-cultural music unit when a young boy commented, "Hey, You sound like Jar-Jar Binks!" (yep that's what the critics said kid!) ~Hugh (age: 5)

Friday, April 8, 2011

For The Love of Dance

This week for your listening enjoyment, I have a review of Canadian duo, Splash n' Boots' latest album, Back In Yellow.

When I reviewed Splash n' Boots last album Razoo I was struck by the theatrical quality of the music, Back In Yellow has a decidedly more rockin' feel (hence the title and the AC/DC inspired fonts). There are loads of 80's synths, dance beats, and punk rock guitar to get those wee listeners grooving.

I met Nick and Taes almost a year ago at Kindiefest 2010, and their infectious smiles and the joy that they get out of making music for kids together really comes through on this CD (you know how you can hear when someone is smiling when they sing?). I enjoy that they have really "hammed" it up on this album. They're not afraid to use goofy voices, or funny foreign accents like in "Bow Wow" (I guess in Canada, French isn't foreign). The song "Chantelle The Chicken" sounds almost like a cut from a South Park album, minus the foul language and inappropriate material.

Though they are a duo, Splash n' Boots always assembles a great team of musicians to produce rich musical arrangements. In an age of cheesy synth instruments, I like to see liner notes that include tuba, trumpet, mandolin, bodhran, accordion, banjo, harmonica... and the list goes on. I was also glad to see/hear that their cute doggie Lilly made both the cover and a cameo on "Bow Wow." I think dog people make good kids' musicians, I don't know why!

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: It's always great to review music from artists/groups I know and consider friends. I enjoy seeing people grow and improve, and Back In Yellow is a big leap forward for Splash n' Boots. All I can say is that this album is SO MUCH FUN. The lyrics are funny and creative. The music is rich and well produced. The vocal performances are off-the-cuff and irreverent, and I am left with an ear-to-ear grin after the final track "Met You" wound down. Sadly, I'll miss my good friends Nick and Taes at this year's Kindiefest because they're touring the world. This kind of success couldn't happen to two nicer people, Kudos! I'll leave you with an awesome video for the opening track "For The Love of Dance."

Kid's Quote of the Day: "Mr. Nick you got a haircut!" Sophia said as she walked into the room for music class. "Well, no, not recently," I replied. "You know what I mean, your face-hair!" she said. "Oh yes, I did trim my beard, thanks for noticing!" ~Sophia (age: 3)

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Bates Connection

The most recent Putumayo release, Acoustic Dreamland, came in the mail a few weeks back. I've reviewed other Putumayo releases, and it's a pretty safe bet that the songs they gather will be first rate.

Scanning the list of artists, I recognized some heavy hitters (like Frances England and Elizabeth Mitchell), but what made me stop and take notice was a familiar name I hadn't heard in 15 years or so...

My freshman year at Bates college in Lewiston ME, was during the heyday of mid-90's folk rock. Mark Erelli was an alum and a local hero and chances were on a Saturday night you could find Birkenstock wearing teens rocking out to his music somewhere on campus. Naturally I started by listening to his song "My Darling," and it was as good as I remembered him to be.

Though this is an acoustic album, it's not totally stripped down or bare bones. There are some lush arrangements featuring strings and winds (Like Lucy Kaplansky's title track "Dreamland" and the closer by Rick Scott (no, not that one!) "Next Time"). As a collection of "dreamy" night time music, this is a good CD to have on the bedside table.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: If you're on a hunt for songs to usher your wee ones into pleasant dreams, I highly recommend Acoustic Dreamland. The performances are strong, the voices sweet and the arrangements are soothing. Sitting here in the afternoon, listening actively to each track, I will say that I've had my fill of breathy vocals, but that's what one might expect from an album of this kind. I appreciate compilations because it allows you to discover new artists who you might not have heard of before (or old ones you haven't heard since your college days).

Kid's Quote of the Day: As we were wrapping things up in music class, Valentina was praising her beautiful singing voice, "My Dad says I have the most beautifulest voice in the world." "You do have a beautiful voice Valentina. I am so glad you helped sing," I said. From the opposite corner of the room I heard, in a wistful almost love sick voice, "And she has a beautiful name!" ~Jackson (age:4)

Friday, March 4, 2011

The Ellen Effect

It seems to happen like clockwork, but every time a daytime talk show host (like Ellen Degeneres) features a young musical prodigy, the switchboards at the schools where I teach lessons light up like Christmas. I call it the "Ellen Effect" (it has a nice ring), when parents start thinking, Maybe my kid is the next... [insert a child-prodigy musician name here].

Sadly, very few people (myself included) are blessed with these amazing talents from such a young age, and those that are often pay a price for being the "wiz-kid." I am a firm believer that anyone can learn to play an instrument, and my livelyhood depends on young minds eager to play and enjoy music.

When the "Ellen Effect" sets in, parents tend to have wildly unrealistic expectations of what their wee one can accomplish. I've consulted with many a mother who is convinced she has a budding Mozart on her hands. To be honest Mozart is "Mozart" (playing concerts at 4, writing symphonies at 6) because this type of talent comes along very rarely (If ever in W.A. Mozart's case). Most of us are destined to play moderately well. The hope is that you enjoy doing it, otherwise what's the point?

After having to talk countless parents down from these delusions of grandeur, I thought I would write a few guide lines and recommendations for parents hoping to start their kids in private music lessons.

Age Appropriate Instruments:
I can't count the number of times a parent with a 3 or 4 year old asks me to teach their child to play guitar. The proliferation of cheap student guitars is a blessing and a curse. I whole-heartedly support buying a preschooler a guitar if it's within your budget (I'd recommend a ukulele instead), but they won't be ready for structured lessons until 7 or 8. Let 'em play and have fun, make a YouTube video of them rocking out, it'll be cute. Here are my recommendations for age appropriate instruments:

Piano- 4 years old is the youngest I will consider teaching. Half hour lessons are just about all they can take, I've even done 15 minute lessons. I wouldn't recommend bumping up to an hour until they are around 10 years old. You certainly don't want to turn them off by over rehearsing them.

Guitar- I have taught kids as young as 7 on the guitar, but it was a challenge. The guitar is exceptionally difficult in the beginning. The challenges you have to overcome just to press a single string down, combined with the pain and blisters can be very discouraging. It's not the way you want to start a child's musical journey. Buy a student sized guitar, and I say go with the steel strings although every music shop in Miami loves to sell people on classical, nylon string guitars.

Ukulele- This is my consolation for parents who just can't take no for an answer when wanting their 4 or 5 y/o to play guitar. The ukulele is smaller, has fewer strings, and because of the tuning has some very simple chords that make starting off easy. There are a lot of ukuleles out there that are really just toys and can't hold a tune, so be careful and ask at your local music store for help in finding a good instrument.

Brass/Woodwinds- I started playing the saxophone when I was 9. Before then I had taken recorder lessons at summer camp. Recorder brings back such vivid memories of elementary school music classes for so many people. It's a great starter instrument, but has it's unique challenges. I have a handful of 5 year old recorder students, any younger than that and those little fingers have a hard time covering the holes. From recorder it's an easy jump to most woodwinds. There's no really warm-up instrument for brass. I recommend 8 or 9 y/o for most orchestral or band instruments.

Violin- I have heard good things about the Suzuki method starting kids off as early as 3. I can't speak from experience, I don't know the method, and though I played violin and cello in 2nd and 3rd grade, I have long since forgotten how to play. It's smaller than guitar so I can see how younger kids could be successful playing.

Practice Makes Perfect:
As a teacher it always ruffles my feathers when a parent expects marked improvement in play when they don't support their child in practicing at home. The real learning happens when the student is left to perfect what has been shown in class. I have come to expect that my students won't practice, I think the alternative is the exception.

The first road block is often a parent who says, "I can't read music, I can help them practice." I like to counter this by saying, "If you expect your 4 y/o to figure this out, why can't you?" The second road block is the battle that ensues when you ask your child to sit down and practice. I always recommend a less is more approach. Practice for short bursts everyday. You'd be amazed at how much progress a child can make with just 5-10 minutes of daily practice. It is much better than expecting your kid to play for an hour the day before the lesson to placate the teacher. They will likely forget everything from this cram session. It's all about repetition. Set an egg timer and give a big hug when they're done.

Finally, if you don't work with your child, or value their learning they will loose interest. If you send them off to their room to practice, they'll be lost. They need a little "Jiminy Cricket" sitting on their shoulder helping them along. The parent who says, "I can't help them. I can't read music," is fated to have a child who grows up to say the same thing. If it's important that your child play music, now's the time to learn with them. Show them that you care enough to learn it too, or there will be a mutiny before too long.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: Playing music can bring you a lifetime of joy. Studies show that it improves math scores and increases focus and attentiveness. It's good fine-motor practice for young fingers, but it can be hard to keep up with practice and motivate your child. At the end of the day you have to ask yourself, "What is the goal here?" If you are hoping to breed a child-genius, musical prodigy, you're in for a shock. It takes talent and hard work that 99% of us don't have or won't do. If you want your child to have fun and learn an instrument, find a teacher that is a good match for your child. If they come home saying they don't like the teacher, keep looking. Not everyone is cut out for teaching young kids how to play. I know many, many amazing musicians that make lousy teachers. I often say I spend more time redirecting behavior than actually playing in a 4 y/o lesson, but I expect that. Think about the last time you saw a 4 y/o give their undivided attention to a difficult task for a solid half hour. All in all, every child is different I have been amazed by very young students who take to music like second nature, and I have worked with high schoolers that couldn't put down their iPhone long enough to learn a chord. You get out of music what you put into it.

Kid's Quote of the Day: "Nick, Mr. Nick, what do you do in your real life?" Eryn asked during our afterschool music group. "Ah, this is my real life. What do you mean? What do I do all day while you are at school?" I replied. "Yeah that's what I mean, your real life." ~Eryn (age: 6)

Monday, February 14, 2011

Under the Wire

Here's my Valentine's greeting, in just under the wire. I hope everyone had a great day. This is a Valentine's from Didi Pop. I hope you enjoy!

Kid Quote of the Day: Preschool is all about routine (at best). I typically arrive at school with the same kids each day. Here's a daily interaction:

(outside school): "Hi, Mr. Nick!" shout Sara and Brij. "Morning!" I shout back from across the parking lot. (inside the classroom later that morning): "Hi, Mr. Nick. You know I saw you!"
Yep, I know I was there. ~Brij (age: 3)

Friday, January 21, 2011

D. all of the above

From the very start, Singing in the Bathtub has enjoyed a nice partnership with Waldmania! P.R. There was a time when I had to solicit review submissions, these days they're rolling in at a rate of 1-2 a week, and I always look forward to seeing a white, padded envelope with a blue "W" and star on the mailing label in my mailbox. I can be pretty sure that the music inside will be top notch.

Over the holiday season, I had been letting things pile up, and today I decided to bust open a few of those white, padded envelopes to find my next CD to review. *Rip* choice A: Jamie Broza's new album I Want a Dog! *Rip* choice B: Gustafer Yellowgold's new CD/DVD combo Infinity Socks. *Rip* choice C: David Weinstone and Music For Aardvarks and Other Mammals latest album All I Want! Each offering had something to catch my eye. Feeling a might bit indecisive, I decide to go for choice D, all of the above.

Choice A:
So let's kick things off with I Want a Dog by Jamie Broza. What caught my eye about this CD, even before I put it in to play it, was the focus on animal rescue and the cute promo pic of Jamie at the piano with a black dog named Dusty who has a familiar graying muzzle. Upon further research, I discovered that Jamie Broza is an Emmy winning T.V. score composer. Okay, you've got me hooked, let's listen a bit.

This album is billed as a "Latin-infused" collection of songs for the whole family. Fans of bossa nova and salsa will find a lot to love about this CD. There is a sweet rendition of Antonio Jobim's bossa classic "Waters of March" (Aguas Des Marcos) sung with his daughter(?) Carmen Broza. Fitting for an album set for release in March 2011. I am a big fan of "Turn That Phone Off" which urges parents to eschew using technology while transporting their kids. I think 90% of the parent drivers in Miami could use this reminder.

As a jazz piano player, and a film/TV composer this album is rich with great keyboard work and cinematic soundscapes. "Trick or Treat" conjures up a spooky, tango atmosphere. Interspersed with the musical tracks are brief spoken portions which keeps things interesting and amusing.

Choice B:
In the two and a half years of writing Singing in the Bathtub I've reviewed all kinds of music, so it's rare that I come across something truly unique. This DVD/CD combo is a part of a series of "Musical Moving Books" by Apple-Eye. The delightful colored pencil illustrations (with minimal animation) take the viewer through the world of Gustafer Yellowgold, a being from the sun who has moved to Minnesota. His friends are an eel named Slim who loves socks (hence the title) and some musical bees. There is no dialog, but the as the songs are sung you can read the lyrics at the bottom of the screen. True fans can even watch the video Karaoke-style! The CD that accompanies this pack is the soundtrack and songs from the video.

Gustafer Yellowgold is the brainchild of illustrator/songwriter Morgan Taylor. This is the fourth in his series, though my first foray into the world of Gustafer Yellowgold. The music is sweet and soothing. Taylor has a warm, clear voice and there are some lovely harmonies throughout. The instrumental portions of the CD are cinematic and the harmonica/acoustic guitar foundation sounds almost like music from a western. There is a unique sensibility and a wildly imaginative quality to the whole thing. It takes a special mind to come up with a funny creature from the sun who's eel friend has a sock that stretches to infinity, but again that's what makes Gustafer Yellowgold unique.

Choice C:
The final choice in our trilogy of albums is David Weinstone/Music For Aardvarks And Other Animals' album All I Want. I have heard of Music For Aardvarks, but this is my first time hearing their music. This is an album with something of a split personality. It jumps from the garage to the open range, one minute there will be banjos plucking and string bass thumping and the next minute the Marshall stacks are cranked up and you wanna trade your cowboy hat for a flannel shirt. The piece that really ties the whole album together is David Weinstone's unique voice. In the same way that, the second you turn on a Barry Louis Polisar song, you know it's him. Now that I've finally heard David Weinstone, his voice is unmistakable. Loads of personality with an almost child-like delivery is the only way I can describe it.

So with this album, what stood out in my mind was something I have never seen before from Elizabeth Waldman Frazier. When I opened the envelope, a cocktail napkin with this message fell out. For me, the genius of this album is that it sounds like David Weinstone sounds like he's having fun. By taking on the persona of a toddler at times (like in the song "Stroller Trouble," "I Want A Puppy," "Better Keep Your Eye On Me") he kept me smiling from beginning to end. His lyrics really capture the world of the smaller set well, and the music compliments this by remaining upbeat and fun.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: I've been a bit slow getting back into the swing of things this year, but I'm glad to be hitting the ground running. Whether you find yourself drawn to choice A, B or C. I guarantee you're in for some great music. The beauty of the world of kids' music is that there is so much out there to explore. If you're itching for some latin jazz, some melodic soft-rock, some good ole banjo pickin' or even some grunge rock, we've got you covered. My hope is that you'll be like me and go for D, all of the above!

Kid Quote of the Day: My teenage intern walked into the classroom with a new hairdo when one of the girls stopped and said, "Did you dye your hair?" "Yep," she replied. "Why?" "It was time for a change." "Oh, do you like someone?" ~Jade (age: 5)

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Year of The Ukulele

I dubbed 2010 "The Year of The Ukulele" on my Facebook fan page. After giving two out as gifts (one to my nephew Miles and one to the famous Shane from Coconut Groove and People, Places and Things), and consulting with several parents who were planning to do the same, it just seemed to fit. Several popular YouTube videos featuring the tiny tropical instrument were making the rounds and that just sealed the deal.

It's now 2011 and I'm finally getting around to reviewing Didi Pop's newest album "Didi Pop goes to Hawaii." With snow reported in 49 of the 50 states last week, I think we could all use a little more tropical weather in our lives (evening Miami where my heater is churning away).

This album delivers what one might expect based on the title and cover image. Lots of ukulele, slide guitar and lyrics is both English and Hawaiian. It's always a challenge with a theme album to keep things fresh while not overdoing the thematic references. Didi Pop does this well by mixing things up a bit, and some of my favorite songs on the CD like "Hop-A-Loo," and "Mango" (a funky number with an even funkier vocal performance) are the less traditional tunes. It wouldn't be a tropical beach party without a touch of the Beach Boys. I hear some hints of "Pet Sounds" on "Kapalua Bay."

I appreciate that there are some educational elements to this album. "The Hawaiian Alphabet Song" and "The Keiki Hula" are a nice way to learn a bit about the Hawaiian language. The second track on the album, "Coconut Candy" tells the tale of a dog named Lucy who learns not to sit under a coconut tree. From personal experience, I can highly recommend caution around these tropical palms. My dog Lucy was sniffing around a coconut tree last month when it let a nice large one come crashing down to the ground. It was a bit too close for comfort.

The Mike Brady Wrap-up: As I listened to the album from start to finish, it really grew on me. As I mentioned before theme albums can be a hit or a miss. There are some sweet moments with Didi Pop (Deborah Poppink) and her children, that always warms my heart. The balance of different tempos and musical styles kept the pretty consistent ukulele strumming from getting stale, and the wonderful vocal harmonies in tunes like "Way Up High" are a nice touch. As a whole the album is well produced, and packaged from the postcard on the back cover to the coconut on the CD, if you need an escape to the Islands "Didi Pop goes to Hawaii" is for you!

Grandpa John Quote of the Day: "Two vacationers are having a heated argument on a beach in Hawaii.
'It's pronounced, "Ha-Wa-Ee,"' the first man insisted.
'It's pronounced, "Ha-Va-Ee,"' the second made countered.
'Okay, we'll settle this, let's ask the next stranger who walks by...
'Excuse my sir, how to you pronounce the name of this state?'
'Ha-Va-Ee,' the stranger said.
'Thank you!' both men replied.
'You're Velcome!'"