Two Double-Header Reviews of Album+Live Show

Within the past few weeks, two local parenting bloggers have (independently of one another) found a way to write about the whole Jungle Gym Jam experience. They first received a review copy of our CD Lollipop Motel and then attended out live show with their families. Both NJ Mommy Blog writer Nicole and Silly Fun Momma blogger Nikki took the time to share that all-around experience of first listening to the record and then taking in the live performance.

Photo by Nicole at NJMommyBlog.com

Photo by Nicole at NJMommyBlog.com

In Nicole’s case (NJ Mommy Blog), that live show was our Album Release Party/Family Beach Party at the Old Mogul Theatre in Montclair with the full band (plus a horn section!) where we put together an event that included boardwalk style games & food, face painting and crafts.

Then Nikki (Silly Fun Momma) came out to catch an acoustic performance by Amy and me at Palisades Center in West Nyack, NY as part of the mall’s Munchkin Mondays summer family concert series. Nikki’s personal story found elsewhere in her blog is particularly compelling and helpful to other parents. She’s an Afghanistan War vet who considers parenting to be therapy for her case of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Jason and Amy Didner-the acoustic Jungle Gym Jam with Bruce the Jersey Dinosaur puppet

Photo by Nikki at SillyFunMomma.com

Both bloggers took great pictures of the respective events; each offered their personal take on how their families enjoyed the experience of listening to the album together and which moments stood out when seeing those same songs performed live.

For Nicole with NJ Mommy Blog, the Jersey Shore beach references were key, tapping into memories both from her own childhood and new memories she’s making with her family today. She writes in her review of the album that “Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam really capture the golden moments of being a carefree kid having a blast at the beach.”

Nikki’s observation in Silly Fun Momma also picked up on the perk of having music the whole family could genuinely enjoy and bond over. “While listening to the album by the pool, with my son, we found ourselves bopping our heads along and giggling to the lyrics.”

In describing the live event experience, Nicole at NJ Mommy Blog showed how our intentions of creating family beach trip moments came across exactly as we’d hoped. “With help from the band and our imaginations, the historic dance hall in Montclair was transformed into a boardwalk scene with music, face painting, crafts, games, and food.” She went on to describe our “fresh, beachy beats” and illustrate in words and pictures her favorite moments from both the live show and album.

Nikki’s write-up about our acoustic live show validated for me that even when you take away the extras – the face painting, crafts and the 8-piece band, the essence of our show is there to be enjoyed by all. “With puppets, diagrams, interactive activities and lively performances, Jungle Gym Jam excites the audience.” That was very gratifying to read, and I love that we’re able to offer both the acoustic duo and full band experience and have them both delight kids and their grown-ups!

Nikki also wrote about the #SummerOfSharing fundraising efforts we’re making for good causes alongside our album sales this summer. In June, for instance we’re sharing 50% of album download proceeds with 5-year-old heart patient Xavier and family. This effort captured a significant amount of her attention in her article.

Both reviewers have also run a CD giveaway in conjunction with their review. Nikki’s giveaway will open to contestants on June 11 and run until June 24 at 11:59 PM when a winner will be selected and announced.

Thanks to both Nicole and Nikki for taking the time to focus their attention on the Lollipop Motel album and then a live Jungle Gym Jam performance and integrate them each into an interesting, insightful review of the whole Jungle Gym Jam experience!

Rocking to Heal a Young Heart

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Kid-friendly Rock Band Donates 50% of Album Downloads to 5-year-old Philly Heart Patient

5-year-old heart patient Xavier rocks his Jungle Gym Jam tie-dye shirt in physical therapy with his mom Jackie.

5-year-old heart patient Xavier rocks his Jungle Gym Jam tie-dye shirt in physical therapy.

PHILADELPHIA, PA – Five-year-old Xavier Ross has been a heart patient at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia since birth. He and his family have been on the roller coaster from intensive care to physical therapy and back again more times than a parent would ever want to think about. Xavier’s mom and dad have steeled themselves to say goodbye to their child and then witnessed the miracle of excellent medical care and a resilient child’s will to live take over. Xavier’s first heart surgery was when he was just days old. Repeated and varied health crises have sent him back to the hospital, interfering with his growth and development over the course of his young life.

North Jersey kindie rocker Jason Didner came to learn of Xavier’s story through a mutual friend “Mousey” Paula Petillo. “I’d get all choked up reading her updates about the health ups and downs of this child I didn’t know,” said Jason. “I didn’t have a lot of resources to chip in, but I wanted to help in whatever way I could, so I gave Mousey our CD and a basket of toy instruments to send to Xavier.” That CD was made by Jason’s kid-friendly rock band Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam.

Now, Jason is getting more involved, donating 50% of proceeds of his band’s newest album Lollipop Motel to Xavier’s families on all download purchases made in the month of June. Additionally, Jason will donate 10% of physical CD purchases (online orders and purchases at live concerts) made in June to the family. Jason’s goal is to donate $500 to Xavier’s family by June 30, which  could be accomplished by selling 100 album downloads in that timeframe.

Lollipop Motel is a beach-themed rock-n-roll album inspired by Jason’s family trips to North Wildwood, NJ where they stay at that exact motel, an official Doo-Wop district motel first opened in 1961. The sounds are influenced greatly by Jersey Shore rockers Bruce Springsteen and Southside Johnny, and the lyrics are filled with themes of family togetherness and oceanside delights.

You can purchase a copy of Lollipop Motel and help Xavier at junglegymjam.com/lollipop-motel-album. You can learn more about Xavier’s story by reading his family’s blog at xaviersheartjourney.blogspot.com.

For more information, contact Jason Didner. Email jason@junglegymjam.com or call 201-838-1205

Congrats Chloe’s Friendship Circle!

6-Year-Old Podcaster Raises $665 for St. Jude’s, Exceeding Her $500 Goal!

Jungle Gym Jam fans played a part!

Chloe, host of Chloe’s Friendship Circle podcast

CARLSTADT, NJ – Chloe has been surrounding herself with very good influences on her young life, with her mom and dad solidly supporting her inspiration and her efforts, resulting in a podcast that’s been running for nearly a year – Chloe’s Friendship Circle.

A trip to SiriusXM’s Kids Place Live studio in Washington, DC brought then-5-year-old Chloe face to face with Absolutely Mindy, the kids’ music program’s director and leading on-air personality. There, Mindy suggested that Chloe start her own radio show, which she could do right from home as a podcast. With the writing and production help of her parents, Chloe forged ahead with the challenge. She’s interviewed Grammy-winning children’s musicians, authors and actors. Chloe has shared a special craft or recipe idea on each episode and ended each one with a “Friendship Pledge,” which changes each time, each offering from a different angle a child’s inherent wisdom on how to be a friend.

And she selects plenty of music to include in each podcast, which is often themed in some way. Much of the music is that of the interviewed children’s musician, but other songs that fit the theme are fair game, whether they’re made by kindie artists, or whether they’re Disney standards.

One of Chloe’s recent interview guests was a particularly strong influence on her. Uncle Dox (stage name for Joseph Sullivan) is a children’s musician who donates all of his record sales proceeds to charity. After Chloe spoke with Uncle Dox, she started a Fundraise Your Way campaign for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and set a goal of $500, with a deadline of last night (May 31, 2016).

I was so moved by this child’s generosity of effort that I jumped in to help. Starting with my Lollipop Motel album release party, I donated 10% of souvenir table proceeds to Chloe’s campaign. For online album download sales I was able to pledge 50% of those proceeds (because I’m not paying for CD replication, packaging and shipping when it comes to downloads). Thanks to your generous participation in my efforts to aid Chloe’s campaign through my album launch, we were able to contribute $50 over the course of her drive.

Chloe’s final total was $665 raised for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Half of this number comes from Tom and Liz at the Full Van Fun family travel blog, who generously pledged to match all donations made to Chloe’s campaign. The couple also matched the public’s donations to St. Jude’s with an equal contribution to John Paul II Medical Research Institute.

What a great lesson for Chloe to have learned, that when she uses media such as a podcast to speak to the public, she can call for that public to make a positive difference and they will respond. This is a process that builds true confidence, not vanity or greed.

I congratulate Chloe and look forward to having her interview my family for her podcast tonight (June 1, 2016), an interview that will be published a few days later. I also look forward to a bright future for this budding mass media genius.

I was so honored to help with Chloe’s St. Jude’s fundraising campaign that I want to go right on helping kids & families. Stay tuned for an announcement of who we can help together with fundraising next.

Musically yours,

Jason

This Made Me Fall in Love with New York City All Over Again

Coney Island show produces amazing audience interaction, taps into family roots

Jason and Amy from the Jungle Gym Jam rocking out on the Coney Island Boardwalk Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Photo by Nicole Gray

BROOKLYN, NY-How is it possible for a city of 8.5 million people feel like one big family? Sometimes there are those moments when it just sort of happens. Our Jungle Gym Jam performance on the boardwalk at Coney Island over Memorial Day Weekend was one of those moments.

The first thing that jumped out at me is that our very specific genre – Jersey Shore rock for kids and families – was not limited to your typical demographic Bruce Springsteen fan that weekend. Our audience was made up of kids and grown-ups of every color and age. Many grown-ups participating (and I mean participating!) in our show were there without any kids, and joined right in with freeze-dancing, some improvising their own dances. Some were dressed in costumes outlandish, familiar and both, like when a Joker impersonator stalked across the audience, prompting several little kids to cling to their parents’ legs. Where’s Batman when you need him?

During our second set, a mystery man appeared with a trumpet (was he busking on the boardwalk when he heard what we had going on and came over?) right during our “Little Yellow Plane” song, which happens to have a sax solo (we hired a horn section for a select few tunes on our new album Lollipop Motel) so I told him the key of the tune and called out “Trumpet Solo!” and came out to where he was standing to ham up that moment with him a bit.  That was one of those moments that will stay with me.

Note: You can download the entire Lollipop Motel album here for just $9.95. Half the proceeds will go to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital until May 31. Time’s running out!

Adding to the feeling of family at the show was the presence of my parents, aunt, brother & sister-in-law and my nieces, along with some good family friends from Montclair. But then there’s our long family history with Coney Island. We used to visit my Bubbe (Yiddish for ‘grandma;’ in our case, my great grandma) in her apartment on Coney Island when I was very little. We’d see the Parachute Jump from her window and she’d promise one day it would re-open and we’d go on it. On the other side of my mom’s family, my great grandfather Charles was a friend of Nathan Handwerker (yes, that Nathan!). Both were in the New York City restaurant business in the 1910’s. Nathan had a business idea that he wanted my great grandfather to get in on – selling sausages on the beach. Great Grandfather Charles doubted the idea and declined the opportunity. What a missed opportunity it was! My first thought is, what if I could have been heir to the Nathan’s business. My next thought is, that would have altered the space-time continuum to the point where I wouldn’t have existed in the first place.

Anyway, I digress. For us, the weekend began a bit early; Amy and I gave an acoustic performance on Thursday as part of the Coney Island beach opening ceremony with the NYC Parks Department. Our daughter ‘Hoppin’ Holly’ made some bold cameos toward the end of the show, which she stole as she always does!  A crowd of pre-teens gathered around to do a freeze-dance to our tune “The Pick Song.” There was zero inhibition, no peer pressure keeping these girls “too cool” to throw themselves into the moment. We also did random drawings to give away our Lollipop Motel CD; we noticed the winners whether they were kids or adults there without kids, were very excited to receive their prizes.

Saturday was the day of the big, full-band show. Helping us ensure the success of both shows was none other than the owner of Deno’s Wonder Wheel Park – Dennis Vouderis. The famed ferris wheel and the rides around it have been in the Vouderis family since the Wonder Wheel’s first opening in 1920. We arrived plenty early and began schlepping all our equipment out of the minivan, up a ramp onto the boardwalk. It’s the most equipment I’ve ever brought to our performance before, given that we were doing a special setup out on the boardwalk and needed to make sure the passersby could hear us and that we could hear ourselves and each other. Dennis definitely met that effort partway by providing us with a drum riser, which made our band look that much more impressive to passersby. I of course loved climbing up on the riser during my solos and jumping off to retake the microphone. This made me feel like some kind of rockstar for a day!

These performances were part of our 2016 Beach Tour of the NY Metro area’s beaches. Check this calendar and our main Tour calendar page to find out where you can see our live show.

Drummer Ross Kantor and bassist Chip Moore drive the rhythms of the Jungle Gym Jam at Coney Island Boardwalk by Deno's Wonder Wheel on Memorial Day Weekend 2016

Photo by Allen Chan

Drummer ‘Rockin’ Ross’ Kantor and bassist ‘Charming Chip’ Moore created a rhythm section that rocked Coney Island that day. They lock in remarkably well with each other, Chip finding subtle, perfect little places in the beat to add rhythmic accents and squeeze a little feeling from the notes. ‘Awesome Amy’ was at her best, co-MC’ing the beach party, inviting (and getting) lots of audience participation like the call-and-response “Marco Polo” moment in the song “Stay in the Pool.”

And who can forget that a Vietnam veteran requested an encore that we dedicate to the men from the 55th Hill – a version of “Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door.” Certainly not typical song material for a rock band playing for kids & families, but on a quick 2nd thought, a song that urgently reminds us the real cost of war and the real reason we have a Memorial Day in the first place. I quickly moved from shock at the request to deep honor to perform the song to thank the vets for their extreme risks and for enduring their own trauma at watching their friends make the ultimate sacrifice. Instead of a guitar solo in the middle of the song, I addressed the audience saying “This is the true meaning of Memorial Day. And let’s honor our fallen by never sending our kids into harm’s way unless it’s absolutely necessary,” which got some knowing nods from around the audience. I’m very thankful that this moment came up in the show.

It was great to meet members of the media who were there to cover the famed beach’s opening weekend. Mike from The Coney Island Blog was on-hand; he introduced himself to us and we talked about his family’s rich Coney Island history and my own. He has a very interesting family story that I promise to share in an upcoming blog article in this space. My parents tell me that WPIX Channel 11 had a TV news crew capturing our first performance with their cameras. At the opening ceremony, a 1010 WINS/CBS news radio reporter was recording audio from our show. A reporter from Brooklyn’s Home Reporter newspaper was taking lots of photos; I really enjoyed hamming it up for him!

What moments make you fall in love with your hometown or a town that you feel especially connected to? Please share in the comments below.