By John Wood, NAPPA Music Judge
Children’s artists have an intrinsic love to entertain, educate and nurture their audience, still seek their niche in the entertainment pantheon and, somehow, find new ways to record “Wheels on the Bus”!
Since the age “head room” is getting lower and lower for what is considered children’s music for Baby Boomer’s kids, what are GenX and GenY’s kids listening to? It started me thinking about what kinds of music children are surrounded by these days – at home, in school, on the radio and TV.
The first thing many parents expose their children to are lullabies; whatever their babies find soothing and familiar enough to lull them to sleep. Among the NAPPA winners, you’ll find a variety of musical styles and ethnicities to be appreciated. Whether in your native tongue or not, many of these songs provide opportunities to introduce little ears to a wide range of beautiful sounds and rhythms– vocal as well as instrumental.
Next, many parents think back to what they listened to as children and now look forward to sharing with their offspring. When I was growing up, we listened to artists like Burl Ives, Danny Kaye and Patti Page who sang for an adult audience, with cross-over songs for children. Singers like Pete Seeger and Woody Guthrie kept alive the American folksong traditions. What about you?
What I realize is that what we listen to as children, stays inside us all our lives. It seeps into our very being. As Garrison Keillor quipped, he can’t remember where he left his car keys but he can remember a poem he had to learn in grammar school. That makes us think about what we would like our children to listen to now that will become an inseparable part of them.
What kind of music does your child like? All of our NAPPA winners have had to pass the same criteria that albums do for the Grammy awards. Is this children’s music? Does it appeal to children? Does it talk about issues that children can relate to? Is the quality of the performance good and does it stay consistently good throughout the recording? Is the production quality professional? Is the song selection strong and related to the theme of the album? Does the album do anything special that sets it apart from others; does it have spark?
For kids who like rock music, they are plenty of NAPPA-winning artists who can rock with the best of them. Take, for example, Here Comes Brady Rymer and the Little Band that Could (NAPPA 08); Justin Roberts’ Pop Fly (NAPPA 2008), and The Boogers Road to Rock (NAPPA 2009).
Do your kids like listening to something that’s funny? Both parents and kids love They Might Be Giants’ funny and clever way of doing the alphabet in Here Come the ABCs (NAPPA 2005). Known for his songs and storytelling, Bill Harley’s Yes to Running (NAPPA 2008) and I Wanna Play (NAPPA 2007) are as hilarious to kids as they are to parents and grandparents. The songs and patter among the artists in Trout Fishing in America’s Big Round World (NAPPA 2008) is contagiously funny. In Baby Banana (NAPPA 2009), Debi Derryberry’s set-ups to her songs are funny, especially in Freckled Faced Freddie” and “Scoops of Ice Cream.”
Do your children like to move and groove? Don’t miss cELLAbration! A Tribute to Ella Jenkins (NAPPA 2006), which features many of her most loved songs performed by a potpourri of popular children’s artists. Both Jessica Harper’s Inside Out (NAPPA 2002) and The Laurie Berkner Band’s Rocketship Run (NAPPA 2009) have great participation songs on their albums, as do most children’s artists.
After listening around to a bunch of different artists with your children, create your own playlists and CDs – download your favorite tracks from a variety of musicians and musical heritages. Those will be the songs, and family times, your children will always remember.
And let us know what you choose! As reviewers and judges, Tor Hyams (my fellow NAPPA music judge) and I want to know what you and your children enjoy listening to. Drop me an email at NAPPA@parenthood.com.
By John Wood, NAPPA Music Judge