Our family trip to Philadelphia last weekend was all about kids-and-family music, my chosen artistic field. I knew from previous online interactions with many of my fellow kindie artists we had that great balance of having a lot in common and bringing our own unique perspectives that there’d be the basis for lively discussions, exchanging of stories and relating strongly to one another.
The event brought that and more. A strong opening speech by Kathy O’Connell, host of “Kids Corner” on WXPN Radio in Philadelphia really told us that she “got” us! That she got what it is to be a kindie artist, that she got the variety of ways we find our way to this very specific way of life.
Having kindie pioneer Dan Zanes then insist from the stage that we overgrown kids tickle each other (whether we know each other or not) really helped set the tone for the time to follow. I was reminded of the ways in which our music frequently tickles each other when it comes to the lively humor and emotion that’s right out there in our movement.
Day one of KindieComm was really intended for the music makers and not their kids, so we arranged a fun day for Holly with an awesome caregiver who took her to the zoo and then swimming, but brought her by on lunch break. Holly is very familiar with the kindie community; breakfast time is usually kindie listening time in our house, and she got to meet her rock stars – Lucky Diaz & Alisha Gaddis, Marsha Goodman-Wood, Jazzy Ash, Little Miss Ann, Uncle Devin, Jennifer Gasoi, Justin Roberts (2nd time meeting him; he had come to our home state of New Jersey last fall), Steve from Hullaballoo (we drove to the showcase event together) and Dean Jones.
One of the more fascinating stories was the handwritten note placed on my windshield by none other than Joanie Leeds on the way down to KindieComm. We had pulled into a rest stop off the NJ Turnpike for dinner after a tough grind in summer weekend traffic. We came out of the rest stop to find a note saying that Joanie was parked next to us and looking for us inside the building. How did she know it was our car, you might ask? Well, I drive around with a magnetic sign advertising our band. It also had my cell number so it turns out she texted me too. Of course Holly wanted to meet Joanie, but she was back on the road by the time we got the note. So we did the next best thing and listened to her album a 2nd time! When Holly and Joanie finally met it was that much more exciting for the little fan (and for the 2 big fans with her).
It was way cool chatting with the Not-Its, who were instantly recognizable in their stage wear; Amy got to tell them how the song and video “Busy” really resonates with our often frenetic household. Sharing with Brady Rymer my experience with his larger-than-life album “Just Say Hi” on the ride to Philly was cool. The opening track sends Rosalita-level energy tumbling out of the speakers and seeing his face light up to those words was a fine moment for all.
A truly magical moment occurred when Holly met Shelly, creator (and singer/actor) of the character Elska, who lives among the Arctic glaciers and inspires great wonder toward her surroundings and the friendly creatures who share them . Elska has an exceptional way with children, which showed within seconds of her speaking softly and sweetly to Holly, who was overcome with a mesmerized smile and a soft, sweet whisper back to Elska. This encounter went the same way the next day when they met again.
Marc Bazerman (leader of Baze and His Silly Friends and Suzi Shelton’s producer), practically a neighbor of mine in northern New Jersey, made Holly laugh with his easygoing humor, as his sister Laura Bazerman Swanson added to the sunny vibe of the gathering. It was cool to meet Yosi Levin (Yosi and the Superdads) from the far southern reaches of my state. His fun CD powered our car ride home from Philly.
Conversing with the kindie writers and broadcasters was great as well – informal, low-key, talking about life at least as much as talking shop. With Jeff Cohen (Mr. Jeff 2000) our time was especially nice because he had brought his family on the trip as well; his youngest son is 3 like Holly and they hit it off especially well. Jeff’s older son is kind, friendly and a kindie expert like his dad!
It was particularly sweet meeting my colleagues from Children’s Music Network, the first organization for kids music that I got to know as I was first deciding to take the plunge into kids’ music on a professional level. David and Jenny from Two of a Kind, who were very active in the group were there, along with Lisa Heintz, Liz Buchanan and Katherine Dines. Katherine has a special relationship with Amy and me; we had chosen her to critique “Peek-a-boo Moon” as we were developing the song; she challenged us to elevate the song to its potential. The result: it was singled out as a standout song on our album for the Parents’ Choice Awards review.
I had seen the name Lena Penino-Smith around the social networks, but when Amy said hello to Lena’s little 1-year-old daughter, things quickly took on a new dimension; it turns out that Lena and her husband Brian (both singers in their act) have found my music industry insights helpful along the way; this was powerful encouragement for me to step up what I share for the good of the kindie community. A CD swap resulted in a really enjoyable family listen to “Songs by Lena” on Sunday morning.
Much of the Saturday conference of KindieComm focused on breakout sessions on various aspects of the kindie industry with lively discussion between panel and audience, covering everything from how to make a difference and promote healing with your music to how to successfully raise funds with fan participation in the making of your album or other big project to even how to run your own kids music festival in your hometown.
I’ve chronicled my professional takeaways from the conference in this podcast, the pilot episode of a new series I call “Making Kindie Happen.” I plan to interview movers and shakers in this musical community as we explore and share ideas in a way that’s unique to enriching and delighting kids and their families.
This radio station had organized the event with program directors/DJ’s Robert Drake and Kathy keeping things moving smoothly and pouring their personalities into it. The enthusiasm of Spark, the radio station’s photographer was contagious as well. I loved the complex that contained both WXPN and the World Café Live nightclub, which has both an upstairs and a downstairs stage.
In part 2 of this blog post I’ll share my impressions of the remarkable performances my family saw and heard at KindieComm 2014.