Monthly Archives: May 2014

Here’s Why the Tomorrows Children’s Fund Deserves Your Attention

As I became familiar with the story of kindie music makers and mentors Princess Katie and Racer Steve, I learned they started out performing in children’s hospitals. My travel patterns of late have been bringing me close to the Tomorrows Children’s hospital at Hackensack University Medical Center and my thoughts went to those kids who have to endure so many hours of downtime. Hearing the tunes of Alastair Moock that he had dedicated to his daughter who was drawn into a cancer battle at age 5 certainly pulled my focus that way as well.

Jason Didner from the Jungle Gym Jam at the Tomorrow's Children's Hospital at Hackensack University Medical CenterAll these influences led me to introduce myself to Sue at the Tomorrows Children’s Fund and offer a donation of my CD as well as my live performance services. Two weeks later, there I was, being led into the play room were I would share my calling with kids who could use a lift. The room was full of vibrant colors, caring adults with kind faces, more toys and games than you could imagine, even miniature foot-powered BMW replicas — and kids who had no intention of giving up their childhood to their circumstances. The unrelenting will to be a kid was apparent in the little girl who liked to “ride” on the IV dispenser she was connected to as it was wheeled around the room.  Then there were the young ones whose varying degrees of hair loss only served to make their eyes at least ten times more expressive than usual.

It was that eye contact that will stay with me in the long run. As these youngsters took in my songs, both original and traditional, the music was stripped away of all the trappings of being an entertainer, right down to its very purpose for existing – the human connection, the contact, what’s in the words of the songs and what lives between those words. I want to perform for sick kids either for the rest of my life or until the sicknesses are permanently cured for kids everywhere (I can hope for the latter, right?) and I want my daughter (healthy as a horse, knock wood!!!) to know the pure, unaltered joy of sharing her gift with those most in need.

I wrestled a little with whether I’d publicly share news of this performance – after all I’d hate to cheapen this deeply moving experience down to a publicity stunt. In the end my decision was made by two hopes: that you the reader will learn more about the Tomorrows Children’s Fund and support it; and that you will be inspired to lend your special talent to someone who could really use it, as I was.

Tell your story of how you were moved by an act of kindness (and what it inspired you to do) in the comments below.

Please visit the Tomorrows Children’s Fund web site and if you like what they do, please consider a donation of money or time.

Giveaway-Family Skype or FaceTime Concert (20 min)

The lucky winner of this giveaway will get a private concert via Skype, FaceTime or your favorite video chatting app. This will be an interactive experience where you can ask me questions, request songs and have the musical experience personalized to your family.

Jason Didner from the Jungle Gym Jam

Enter the giveaway right here; it’s free and easy! Contest ends midnight on Tuesday night 6/10. Good luck!

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Free to Be You and Me – a Bold Gender Equality Kids Album from my Childhood

Free to Be You and MeThe upbeat rhythm and big melody of the opening number stay with me from the days of my mom filling the house with these tunes and skits on the family turntable. So much so that I’m preparing to perform my own cover of that title song “Free to Be You and Me.” The excitement of liberation is electric in this song and deserves to be heard by a new generation of young listeners.

Here’s my cover of the song as a solo acoustic performance on YouTube:

In the 70s, kids needed to be freed from gender stereotypes. A boy who wanted to practice nurturing on a baby doll. A princess who insists with her father the king on her right to marry who she wants, if she wants. A poet who tells kids and parents not to believe the hype about the smiling lady on TV washing dishes with the latest and greatest detergent, but rather, to share in the housework as a family and get it over with because everybody hates housework.

William wants a doll - Free to Be You and MeI’m now a little girl’s daddy with a heart full of memories of bottle feedings, burping, diaper changing and bathing as bonding time with our baby. Flash forward three years and I’m painting my young one’s fingernails pink and purple. In turn, she’s equally comfortable dressing up Barbie dolls and pushing the lawnmower with me. I live in a time, place and family where gender equality is a living success story. Not everybody does, but it’s my normal reality.

Listening to that landmark album today brings up ways in which it participated in social changes that paved the way for my free thinking about gender equality. The energy of that opening number brings up thoughts to the freedom kids may need help experiencing these days. They need to be free to be kids, to have honest-to-goodness, unstructured, unscheduled outdoor physical play time. They need freedom from dependence on video games and gadgets to mitigate boredom.

Kids still need freedom from the fear of bullying, both in person and online. Skits like “Dudley and the Principle” paired with “It’s All Right to Cry” sung by uber-masculine football/action hero Roosevelt Grier can still be a welcome source of comfort to a child caught up in a vicious cycle of feeling persecuted, crying and then being persecuted for crying.

Fun fact: I played Dudley in a middle school production of “Free to be You and Me.” it was my job to cry over being held after school for a sand table I didn’t knock down.

Here’s a TV interview with creator Marlo Thomas about this special project she created, where she discusses why she and her friends felt the album needed to be made, and about the challenges she had in convincing TV producers to include “William Wants a Doll” in the special broadcast based on the album. Producers feared the potential emasculating effects of publicizing a message that it’s OK for boys to play with dolls.

Check out this lively and enjoyable classic kids’ album “Free to Be You and Me” on iTunes.

What are the important songs from your childhood that influenced the person you are today? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

New Song “The Ultimate Frisbee” on Storyteller Tuesday

This week on Storyteller Tuesday I introduce “The Ultimate Frisbee” and teach kids about the art of making up “tall tales” as a form of creative storytelling.

I’ve always enjoyed playing Frisbee; it was hard for me to learn to make a good throw as a kid, but I kept trying and getting better and better, a mindset that helped me get better at making music as I went along. I always loved making the running, jumping catches too.

What stories do your family share that are tall tales? Superhero stories and movies count! Do your kids make up their own tall tales? I’d love for you to comment about them below.

Storyteller Tuesday is a weekly custom at the Music Marketing Mind, the most active independent music marketing group in all of Facebook.

Here are all five YouTube videos I’ve shared on Storyteller Tuesdays if you like the format. I sure like sharing the stories behind my songs!

Jungle Gym Jam Prize Pack Giveaway – Poster, Album Download, Light Wand, Shaker

We’re giving away our biggest prize pack yet, and you have some great new ways to win! If your kids love to show their creative side by drawing, painting or coloring, you can take a picture of their artwork and post it to our Facebook page! We’ll proudly display it on our “Fan Family Fridge” and you’ll increase your chances to win the prize pack! Here are the goodies from the Jungle Gym Jam Store that are in the prize pack!

Jungle Gym Jam Poster

Jungle Gym Jam Poster 11×17

Everyone's Invited!

Everyone’s Invited! Complete Album Download

Foam light wand

Jungle Gym Jam Foam Light Wand

Jungle Gym Jam Egg shaker

Jungle Gym Jam Egg Shaker

Enter the giveaway right here! Contest ends midnight on Wednesday night 5/28. Good luck!

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