Category Archives: Holidays

A Very Jersey Christmas! – Spotify playlist

Jason Didner from the Jungle Gym Jam welcomes Santa to The Outlets at Bergen Town CenterAn article in the Asbury Park Press by the paper’s chief music critic Chris Jordan gave me a great idea. He listed New Jersey’s Top 10 Christmas Songs of All Time. Most of those tracks were unfamiliar to me, but I totally agreed with his #1 pick: “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street band!

So I set out to create a Spotify playlist that contained as many of those listed songs as I could find in the catalog. Then I added my own entry, “Summertime Santa,” those of my fellow NJ children’s musicians, and some by the Garden State’s notable rockers – both household names and local heroes – and jazz artists.

Please leave a comment if there’s more NJ holiday music I should know about (in the Spotify library)!

Musically yours,


Montclair, NJ – Ringing in the New Year as a Creative Community

When I was in my early 20s and took my first real steps as a singer-songwriter, Montclair was the place to go and join a creative community. The open mic nights in Montclair were the most engaged and supportive. This love for Montclair would stay in mind, so when Amy and I had the opportunity to move to this town 10 years ago we jumped at the chance!

Izabelle the Amazing entertains the capacity crowd at the Old Mogul Theatre in Montclair at the Family New Year's Rock-n-roll Ball.One of my great memories of Montclair and the arts was their annual New Year’s Eve celebration, First Night Montclair, full of entertainment for all ages and a very festive community atmosphere. When Holly came into the picture, First Night was cancelled, never to return. What would have been a great, festive New Year’s celebration for our little girl, was not to be.

So imagine my excitement when Joann Smalls, who I’d worked with before to perform at Crane Park Family Festival, announced that she was opening a perfectly-sized 300-400 seat venue – The Old Mogul Theatre, along with business partner Kazim Mirza. I immediately thought of ways we could perform in the new theatre and my mind went to a way to give Montclair Families (including my own) that First Night kind of experience. As with our 2014 CD Release party and some of the Family Fun Day events we had done before, we wanted to combine multiple kinds of arts and entertainment to give kids a variety.

Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam entertain at Family New Year's Rock-n-Roll Ball in Montclair, NJPutting on this event meant renting the theatre, investing an amount of money that was unprecedented for us. We’d be taking a risk of a huge loss we couldn’t afford if not enough families showed for the event. So before committing to this, I decided to ask fellow parents in the Montclair community, in Facebook groups like Montclair Watercooler Connections, Share Montclair, and Montclair Mommies and Daddies, if this would be an event they would come to if we held it. The answer we got was a very enthusiastic “yes” and we went for it.

Last night, New Year’s Eve 2016, the Montclair community of families did not let us down! The theatre was filled to capacity with revelers of all ages looking to celebrate the New Year together in a meaningful way. And they got a variety of experiences: Izabelle the Amazing worked her hula hoop magic, building hula hoop sculptures with the kids first, and then putting on a dazzling show with a grand finale of light-up hoops.

Anne from Painted Faces and Other Places works her artistry on a child at Family New Year's Rock-n-Roll Ball in MontclairKids got a transformative moment with Anne from Painted Faces and Other Places; she painted intricate and wonderful designs on the children’s faces and arms. With Sally from Artsy & Craftsy, young ones were able to collaborate as a community, decorating a large ball that we would drop at the stroke of 6PM after the Jungle Gym Jam show. They also made masks and crowns. They were so engrossed in this activity that even when the house lights came down for the rock-n-roll show, kids continued decorating their projects in the low light!

Jason and Amy Didner perform "Peek-a-boo Moon."In our performance we introduced for the first time as a band member “Charming Chip” Moore, who is also in the band Rainbow Fresh, a group with deep ties to Montclair. “Magnificent Miguel” Rodriguez filled in admirably for Ross, who was traveling during holiday vacation. “Cowgirl Casey” sang her always sweet harmonies and added great textures with her keyboard and acoustic guitar parts. And of course “Awesome Amy” took our show up a notch by animating our many puppets and accenting our sound on a variety of percussion instruments.

The ball drops at 6PM to celebrate a "Happy New Year" moment at Old Mogul Theatre - designed by Artsy & CraftsyMy dad, Bob Didner took these great pictures you see in this article; I’ve also seen some fine pics show up online from house photographer Armando Diaz and Stephanie Ferrante, a photographer and blogger. Kristin at Baristanet Family contributed some pictures as well, placing them on the web site’s slideshow gallery. My mom Linda was in full “kvelling” mode over the success of the event and Holly’s lovely interplay with her friends from our many circles.

Young Teddy Goldman worked the merchandise table alongside our go-to person on merch, MarieElena Guidry. We sold over 100 light-up LED foam wands, adding to the festive nature of the event. More than a dozen families entered a random drawing to win our CD, Skype concert and free enrollment in classes at Montclair’s L3 Academy.

Izabelle the Amazing dazzles the crowd with her light-up hula hoops.We got great help in the press from our friends at Macaroni Kid Jersey City, NJ Family, Mommy Poppins NJ, Baristanet Family, The Montclair Times and

Our friends in the community went above and beyond to help us make sure this event wouldn’t be Montclair’s best-kept secret. Nicole Gray volunteered her time to hang flyers around Upper Montclair and many friends kept up a steady stream of shares and comments on Facebook to get the word out. Montclair Playgroup meetup group also drummed up some excitement for this New Year’s Eve ball among its members.

Thank you all for making this Montclair dream come true; have a great 2016 and I look forward to doing it again next year! Were you there? Or were you inspired by this story? Share your experience in the comments below.


Tunes for Tots 2015

Give my Kid-Friendly Rock-n-Roll CD as a Gift to a Loved One…and I’ll Donate a Matching Copy to Toys for Tots!

Jason Didner from the Jungle Gym Jam donating his album "Everyone's Invited!" to Toys for Tots as part of the Tunes for Tots program.During last year’s holiday season, my friend Steve Denyes form Hullabaloo inspired me to participate in his “Tunes for Tots” program – to donate a copy of my album “Everyone’s Invited!” to Toys for Tots for every copy sold – just as he was doing with his kid-friendly albums. It felt great to give my creations to such a worthy cause and also to participate in this way with my friends who make kids’ music.

To order a physical copy of the album to give as a holiday gift or grab a download, click the shopping cart below.

Either way, I’ll donate a physical copy of “Everyone’s Invited!” to Toys for Tots to match your CD or download purchase. I make my donation drop-offs at Babies R Us on Rt. 22 in Springfield, NJ.

Toys for Tots logo

Bring food donations to Family Fun Day Montclair Saturday

Holiday Family Fun Day at Immaculate Conception Church Montclair 11/29/14

Please bring a nonperishable food item to Family Fun Day at Immaculate Conception Church Montclair. You’ll get a chance to win a prize pack from the Jungle Gym Jam and help out families in your community.

The Snow Queen of Frozen fame will lead a “Let it Go” sing-along, teaching your kids the dance moves from that iconic movie scene. The Jungle Gym Jam will perform a fun, new Christmas-themed song “Summertime Santa” as part of its dynamic family friendly rock show.

Kids can get their faces painted or have their favorite balloon animal made before their eyes. There will be popcorn/light refreshments available for purchase and great holiday spirits all around!

Weather update: The forecast for Saturday is sunny with a high of 41 degrees F. Conditions should be fine for Family Fun Day!

Flag Day Video and Coloring Page

Happy Flag Day (Sat 6/14) from the Jungle Gym Jam!

Here’s a little patriotic number I had learned when preparing to perform at a school where Amy was on the staff some years ago: “You’re a Grand Old Flag” by George M. Cohan!

And here’s a coloring page for your little patriot! Take a picture of your colored-in flag page and post it to so we can celebrate Flag Day together!

You're a Grand Old Flag Coloring Page

Flag Day and Father’s Day are back-to-back this year, so Happy Flag Day and Happy Father’s Day from us to you!

How are you honoring the flag and the Dad in your life this coming weekend? Use the comments below to tell us.

Happy Flag Day from Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

History: On this date in 1977, Continental Congress approved the first United States Flag.