Category Archives: kids music

A Brilliant Way of Sharing Music with Kids at First Roots Manville

junglegymjam-family-bow-firstrootsWhen the Jungle Gym Jam brought the house down last summer at Hillsborough, NJ Public Library and the rave reviews spread through the neighboring towns, Jennifer Esposito was paying attention. She reached out to me the next day and asked if I would perform at the grand opening of her new school location in Manville. I was happy to do the honors and even happier still that my daughter, now 4, would get to meet Frozen’s Queen Elsa at the event! My wife Amy, who co-writes lyrics with me, and our daughter, joined me on ukuleles for a performance of “Five Sea Lions.” A wonderful grand opening event and performance led to new ideas. And then Jennifer came up with something truly brilliant…

Jennifer had been learning by experience that the field of early childhood musical learning centers was a crowded one with lots of franchised regional and national programs that are delivered in a consistent way whether you’re in one location or another. She had been under such a franchise which wasn’t working for her way of doing business. So she went 100% independent, coming up with her own curriculum. It was a bold move, but Jennifer was missing a way of helping public easily understand what set her program apart.

Jennifer Esposito leading a First Roots music & movement activity at Hillsborough Public LibraryJennifer and I had a few back-and-forth discussions that lead to this breakthrough idea: Every semester of her school would feature the music of a working “kindie” band in the New York/New Jersey/Pennsylvania area. She’d give out CD’s and songbooks from that band at the start of the semester and she’d offer special music and movement activities centered around that band’s songs. Kids attending the class would hear a combination of recorded tracks by the featured band and Jennifer covering that band’s songs. Then at the end of that semester, the band would give a live, featured performance in her studio. Brilliant! This was unlike anything I’ve ever seen in an early childhood music learning center and a great distinction to offer the area’s kids & families.

I had the honor of being the first featured kindie artist over this semester that is now drawing to a close and, on Saturday afternoon March 14, I will give a performance at First Roots Music Studio.

More kindie artists will be featured over the coming semester, including Baze and His Silly Friends.

If your family lives in or around Manville, I’d love to see you there!

– Jason

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.

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!”

Imagine That!!! A Kindie Singer and an Author at Mommy-and-Me Used the Same Illustrator!

Two creators of children’s content will show off something they have in common this Tuesday at Imagine That!!! Children’s Museum in Florham Park, NJ. Kathy Lampert, the author behind “Sophie’s New School,” is set to present that book  to parents whose children are getting back into the swing of school or just starting their classroom careers. Jason from the kindie band Jungle Gym Jam will sing and play music from his award-winning kids-and-family music album “Everyone’s Invited!” The common link is that both Kathy and Jason used the same illustrator for their creative endeavors.

Sophie's New School by Kathy Lampert, Illustrated by Melissa Bailey Everyone's Invited Album Cover
Sophie’s New School
by Kathy Lampert
Everyone’s Invited!
by Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam

That artist is Melissa Bailey of Michigan, whose drawings exude both a warmth and a playful nature in the characters she depicts. When Jason and Kathy met at last year’s Imagine That!!! event, Jason was quite taken with the content and illustrations in the book he had bought for his own then-2-year-old daughter.

Both Kathy and Jason will be autographing their respective kid-friendly works on Mommy and Me Day at Imagine That!!! Children’s Museum in Florham Park on Tuesday, starting at 10 AM. Jason will give a special 35-minute acoustic performance of Jungle Gym Jam music for parents and their kids.

Imagine That!!! Children’s Museum
4 Vreeland Road
Florham Park, NJ 07932

Tickets half-price when purchased in advance at

The Jungle Gym Jam’s New Official Picture for Fall 2014

Jason Didner and the Jungle Gym Jam official picture Fall 2014

The Jungle Gym Jam is:
“Jersey Jason” Didner-Vocals, guitar
“Cross-Country Casey” McCleary-guitar, keyboards, vocals
“Amazing Alyssa” Menes-Bass guitar, vocals
“Rockin’ Ross” Kantor-drums, vocals

Pictures by David Nelson Photography

Taken at Lyndhurst Labor Day Weekend Antique & Craft Fair on 8/31/14