We’re the People Exhibit at the Zoo!

Jungle Gym Jam to rock Turtle Back Zoo on Sunday 10/26

The Essex County Turtle Back Zoo has been a special place to take my daughter since she was one year old. On our very first visit, the penguins swam up to her and studied her carefully through the glass. We also saw a sign posted that day that a new sea lion exhibit was being constructed. I filed these thoughts away for future use…

On Sunday October 26, the band and I will perform at Turtle Back Zoo for the second time. Last year we gave our first-ever electric performance at this zoo, marking its own 50th anniversary. Our connection with the zoo is special for another reason as well. Three of our songs were inspired by family time spent there, including “The People Exhibit at the Zoo” from the above video. Here’s the story behind the song and the full album track.

Two other songs, “Five Sea LIons” and “Window of the Train” are also inspired by this zoo. “Five Sea Lions” was written with the knowledge that the exhibit was being built combined with happy memories of a trip with Amy to San Francisco, where wild sea lions had taken over Pier 39 and were playfully barking and rolling over each other. “Window of the Train” came from the wonderful train ride around the zoo grounds where you really can “see the sun sparkle on the water out the window of the train.”

JGJ TBZ 2014 Digital Flyer Wide

Last time we performed at Turtle Back Zoo, big kids were doing cartwheels, babies were cuddling with their parents and one little boy declared “Peek-a-boo Moon” to be his favorite song. Our show and our set list have developed by leaps and bounds since then. The band and I are looking forward to making wonderful new memories with this Sunday’s performance.

This Sunday, you’ll see our official lineup:

  • “Rockin’ Ross” Kantor on drums
  • “Cross-Country Casey” McCleary on harmony vocals, keyboard, guitar, and percussion
  • “Amazing Alyssa” Menes on bass guitar and harmonies
  • Yours truly, “Jersey Jason” on lead vocals and guitar

Get Your (Name???) To Mars!

Since I was a child, I was always fascinated with space travel. Star Trek and Star Wars were one thing, but to learn that just one year before I was born, people had begun walking on the Moon…

My younger brother Matt and I used to play the Apollo 11 crew in our backyard. Of course I played Neil Armstrong and Matt was always Buzz Aldrin. My favorite Halloween costume was a very official looking NASA space suit. Speaking of Buzz, he’s originally from my current hometown of Montclair, NJ; he recently got our town’s first ever ‘key to the city.’

Now that we’ve “been there done that” with the Moon, our next sights are on Mars. Today NASA revealed a project where it will send the names of all interested parties from all over the world along on an unmanned mission to the red planet. Here’s my “boarding pass.”

Here’s where you can get your name added quickly, easily, for free.

Other favorite memories include a family trip to Kennedy Space Center in Florida, seeing an exact replica of the Lunar Lander at the Smithsonian, and launching an Estes model rocket with my dad in the school parking lot across the street from my first childhood house. The taste of that freeze-dried ice cream kind of grows on me too. I look forward to sharing these experiences with my daughter as she grows.

What are your experiences with all things space related? Is it a big part of your family’s imagination time? Have you travelled to the Kennedy Center, Smithsonian, Intrepid, Mission Control or anywhere with a space history?

Jason Didner's boarding pass to Mars in NASA's Send Your Name project

My Glasses – one minute song snippet

Now that I got my glasses
I’m ready to rock all of my classes

Here’s a quick one-minute performance (verse and chorus) of “My Glasses.” Do your kids wear glasses? Did you wear them when you were a kid?

Want more of this song? Check out the Story behind the Song, written by Amy, my wife and co-lyricist. You can also listen to the track as it appears on the award-winning album “Everyone’s Invited!”

New Song Snippet – Finder of Lost Things!

Here’s a new bit of songwriting to help your kids think about getting organized so they can find what they need when they need it. When you juggle as much as I do, that’s still a challenge for me but it helps to get this song in my head and think about putting something where I can find it again. I was inspired to start writing this song with Amy after I misplaced a really important book I needed. This is just a verse and a chorus (about 90 sec):

It captures the really frantic feeling that came over me when I couldn’t find my book. Enjoy! If you want to keep these song snippets coming to your inbox every week, sign up for my free Goodie Bag Club! I’ll never sell your address to anyone or send you junk mail – just music to delight and enrich the kids and parenting stories you can relate to!

This song is intended for our upcoming album “Little Yellow Plane” due out in early 2015. I’ll be giving you the opportunity soon to pre-order the album and even take on a larger role in its making. Stay tuned…

Kindie Music Brings Families and Friends Together!!

The weekend of  September 27-28 featured performances of kids-and-family (“kindie”) music by yours truly, two with my band and one solo. What struck me most about last weekend’s shows is the way they led to reconnecting with friends I haven’t seen in a while and to building ties within my community.

Jason Didner after a Jungle Gym Jam performance reconnecting with friend Marc Mcfeely and family.

Being Facebook friends is nice in that you get to catch up on the doings of people you once saw a lot more often, say when  you worked or went to school together. Adult life certainly has a way of dictating how often you get to see even friends you enjoyed being around and we all must make choices about how to spend the time we have.

What I learned about music created by, about and for families over this weekend is that it has tremendous power to create occasions to bring friends back together, along with their families. It was a beautiful fall day that felt every bit like the height of summer in the kids’ section of the Hoboken Fall Art and Music Festival. I had remembered that my friend and old business travel buddy Marc McFeely had been living in Hoboken and I sent him a Facebook invitation to attend the festival. As I strolled around in the audience area playing my guitar solo (acting as a locomotive of a human train), I saw a familiar smile and dozens of hilarious good times and inside jokes came back to me. After the show, I got to meet his wife Aga and their daughters who had soaked up all the joys of the festival – the rides, games, treats and face painting. Marc got to be up close and personal with my daughter who had been mostly a series of cute pictures and quotes on his end until now.

Another moment of bringing families together was the presence of a familiar girl dancing around the audience area in front of the stage enjoying the bubble machine. My mystery of why this girl appeared familiar was quickly answered when I got home from the show and saw this picture, complete with the graphic caption:

Jungle Gym Jam at Hoboken Art & Music Festival by Jennifer Esposito of First Roots Music Studio

This montage was composed by none other than Jennifer Esposito, owner of First Roots Music Studio, who had graciously invited me to perform at her wonderful Grand Opening event. It’s Jennifer’s daughter dancing in front of the bubble machine along with my own daughter, who’s been making new friends left and right at these kindie concerts — both mine and those of fellow artists.

Earlier in the day Sunday featured a birthday party hosted by a Morristown, NJ (coincidentally, my hometown when I was a kid) family that had become fans of ours at the Touch-a-Truck school fundraiser in Warren, NJ last spring. I gave a solo acoustic performance as the little ones rocked along on a blanket under a tent in the backyard. Being asked for an encore was a thrill, as was meeting former NJ Governor Richard Codey and hearing his take on the kids’ entertainment business. I felt that performance played a role in creating lasting memories between friends, brothers, sisters and parents.

Backtracking to Saturday 9/27 at Crane Park Family Festival, this was a hometown show for us, which means that my daughter would see some school friends. Just as with Marc and me, Holly was reunited with a good friend who had moved on to another school. They really enjoyed jumping up and down to the beat of the music together.

Musical and cultural events have a special way of bringing people together especially for the event. Think about fans who follow a touring band from town to town and can count on seeing each other at the shows. I would love to hear your story about how a concert, festival or tour brought you together with friends old or new. Please comment below.