Grammy Nomination Season and Competition in the Arts

Last Friday the 57th Grammy nominees were announced, including my category, Best Children’s Album. Four fellow independent artists in the kids-and-family music world were nominated for albums we enjoy in our kitchen and our car with our 3-year-old:

  • The Pop Ups – “Appetite for Construction”
  • The Okee Dokee Brothers – “Through the Woods”
  • Brady Rymer and the Little Band That Could – “Just Say Hi”
  • Secret Agent 23 Skidoo – “The Perfect Quirk”

Additionally, a nonfiction audiobook “I Am Malala” by Neela Vaswani made the cut with the inspirational true story of a schoolgirl in Pakistan who literally took a bullet for her human right to her education in a culture that has been violently resitant to women’s rights.

As a new member of the Recording Industry Academy, I had submitted my debut album “Everyone’s Invited!” for consideration and was on the ballot. Knowing I was in the competition and seeing the nominee announcement got me thinking about the nature of competition in something as subjective as the arts.

Our culture has been saturated with the notion of arts being a competition since reality shows like American Idol, America’s Got Talent and Dancing with the Stars took the talent competition to a whole new level.

Jason Didner from the Jungle Gym Jam recording a demo for an upcoming 2015 children's music album

I responded to news of the Grammy nominees by recording demo tracks for a 2015 kids-and-family album.

So what does competition mean to me as an artist? Career wise, quite a bit. It’s the chance to have my creation perceived as outstanding in its field, which creates more awareness and more perception of being worth the time of a new potential family of listeners, a family that has millions of choices at its fingertips at any given moment. The “Parents’ Choice Approved” seal has resulted in thousands of dollars of sales because a large public library distributor puts approved albums in its catalogs that it sends to public libraries all over the U.S.A.

Personally and creatively, I think the most important kind of competition is competition with my own previous works. As much as I stand on the shoulders of the artists I listen to and admire, I’m also standing on the shoulders of what I’ve previously learned to create, with an ear toward making future works more valuable to my overall body of work, more valuable to society and more pleasing to ears of kids and families everywhere, especially those who are predisposed to like Jersey rock.

So, did I spend last Friday night complaining online about the Grammy voters’ choices? Resenting my colleagues’ successful nominations? Feeling sorry for myself? No, I went down into my home studio and got cracking on a demo for my 2015 album. I have thoughts about a chance to compete in next year’s 58th Grammys, but mostly I’m competing with one specific kids-and-family album I’m proud of: “Everyone’s Invited!”… and I’m enjoying the view from up on the shoulders of that project. I hope you will too.

What do you think about the role of competition in creative arts? How do you want your kids to see that relationship? Please comment below.

Tunes for Tots this Holiday Season

Jason Didner from the Jungle Gym Jam donates his Everyone's Invited album to Toys for TotsIt’s no secret that kids’ music CD’s make great holiday gifts and stocking stuffers. But this gift becomes even more meaningful when buying a copy for your loved one means that a child in need will also get one. That’s exactly what’s happening this holiday season! For every copy of the “Everyone’s Invited!” album that you buy, I will donate a copy to Toys for Tots. My friend Steve Deynes of Hullabaloo posted a challenge to fellow kindie artists to participate in what he called “Tunes for Tots.” Steve and his fans have helped hundreds of underprivileged kids get his CD since he started this program.

Many other of my kids’ musician friends are participating too, like Baze and His Silly Friends, The Zing Zangs, Karen K and the Jitterbugs, Sara Nova and more.

Thanks for taking the time to read this story. Please share it over your favorite social media so we can help lots of kids know the delight and enrichment of music meant to develop their intellect, character, and sense of fun.

Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Joyous Kwanzaa! Happy New Year!

Musically yours,

Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

New song “Summertime Santa” performed live

This is the first time the full band is playing “Summertime Santa” together at a live event:

This performance is at last Saturday’s Family Fun Day at Church of the Immaculate Conception in Montclair. Notice a familiar “snow queen” in the audience? Well, she opened up the show with fun, interactive renditions of “Let It Go” and “Winter Wonderland.”

The song is based on conversations I had with Santa at the Bergen Town Center at their “Welcome Santa” event where I’ve been performing for the past 2 years. Santa told me he likes to take his summer vacation on the Jersey Shore. I immediately felt this story could be a great song.

We’re heading into the studio in the coming weeks to record this song along with other new tunes we’ve played live since the release of our debut album “Everyone’s Invited!”

What would you do in the summertime if you were Santa? Answer in the comments below.


Cyber Monday Kids Music Blowout/Tunes for Tots

It’s Cyber Monday and we’re offering great discounts on all our products today from our own store and CD Baby! Our album “Everyone’s Invited!” makes a great Christmas or Hanukkah gift or stocking stuffer. The Parent’s Choice Foundation awarded the album its Approved seal this year, so it’s sure to please kids and parents alike!

CD Baby

Today, our physical CD is $10 on CD Baby or you can download the album for just $7. Hear the whole album below before you buy:

Tunes for Tots

Order an “Everyone’s Invited!” CD from us or CD Baby and we’ll donate another copy to Toys for Tots to benefit children whose family can’t afford nice gifts like these.

Snow day—a good day to print our coloring pages

Open and print these PDF pages for some fun and creative activities:

Free to Be...You and Me Coloring Page
Illustration by Hannah Tuohy Illustrations
Everyone's Invited! Coloring Page
Illustration by Melissa Bailey
Free to Be…You and Me Coloring Page Everyone’s Invited! Album Cover Coloring Page
The Pick Song coloring page
Illustration by Rickman Graphics
Peek-a-boo Moon Coloring Page
Illustration by Hannah Tuohy Illustrations
The Pick Song Coloring Page Peek-a-boo Moon Coloring Page
Mimi_the_Ladybug_Coloring_Page_Thumb Five Sea Lions Coloring Page
Illustration by Emily Clapham
Mimi the Ladybug Coloring Page Five Sea Lions Coloring Page
Jungle Gym Jam song title word find
Find Jungle Gym Jam song titles!
Jungle Gym Jam Maze
Help the pick find its way to the guitar!
Word Find Maze

The weather will be much better to get around this Saturday 11/29 when we host Holiday Family Fun Day at Immaculate Conception Church in Montclair. The Snow Queen from Frozen will lead a sing-along of “Let It Go” and the Jungle Gym Jam will introduce a new song. Doors open at 1PM. Music at 1:30.