There are a few things I hope my children catch on to and hold dear in life. One is music appreciation, and even better, musical skills. We strive to expose them to all types of music and give them ample opportunity to play and experiment. I’m so grateful we live in an artistic community such as Eugene that provides multitude opportunity to learn, appreciate and enjoy music.
Recently my 6-year old son and I were invited to check out a brand new business, AllStar Rock Foundation, in downtown Eugene.
Proprietors Shane and Lisa Johnson were inspired by the franchise School of Rock. Their children were a part of the School of Rock in Dallas and they saw firsthand how it instilled confidence, poise, public-speaking ability, and self-awareness. Not all of their children continued on in music, but they all share deep gratitude for the exposure.
Caitlin Johnson, their daughter, is AllStar’s bass instructor. She is a bubbly, enthusiastic, generous soul who is so excited for the opportunity to teach Eugene her beloved instrument. She has played with some serious musicians – most recently having played bass for Dalton Rapattoni’s band, Flyaway Hero. Rapattoni is the most current third place winner from American Idol. She was sweet enough to help my three year-old with bass scales…
while my six year-old son had a one-on-one lesson with Jake…
Jake Fitzgerald has been playing music for 11 years. He started on bass at age 10 and went on to study guitar, drums, piano, ukulele, banjo, and dulcimer to name a few. His music influences span the spectrum from Punk, Rock, Folk, Jazz, Classical and beyond, creating a plethora of music styles for him to pull from to expand his own creative styles. He has had the experience of touring and recording with bands over the years. Jake has an encouraging and good-natured attitude about learning music, which his students love about him. He loves sharing his skills and knowledge of music with all his students and makes each lesson unique to that student.
What I deeply appreciate about All Star Rock is their conviction to get the students playing onstage as soon as possible, playing music they enjoy. After their first private lesson, the student will get to plug in and immediately get that experience playing on the AllStar stage. This is highly motivating for the student…my 6 year old learned some legit strumming patters and chords on the electric in just one private lesson and was super serious about his opportunity to play on stage. Now, nearly a month after that lesson, he continues to ask when he gets to go back and “plug in”!
AllStar Rock’s programs are for students age 5 through adult. Students learn how to play by rocking together with fellow peers, creating a supportive and motivating environment in which to learn. Each program is a 10-week course that culminates in at least two performances in a concert-like setting at a local venue (possibilities include Beergarden, Cozmic Pizza, and a few outdoor venues). During the 10 weeks, the student has a 1-on-1 private lesson each week with an instructor and one weekly rehearsal with their newly formed band. This integrated method inspires students to be their best, peaks their interest in the theory of music and creates a team dynamic. You can visit their website to sign up for a free lesson!
A great way to try out AllStar is to sign up for summer camp! If you sign up before June 10 you get 25% off. Camps are for 7-18 year olds, no experience necessary.
And again, this place isn't just for your kid. I seriously can't stop thinking about doing an adult program at some time. I've always wanted to learn the bass! I highly encourage you to wishlist an AllStar rock program for a much needed gift to you or your partner someday!! I'll come watch you perform at the Beergarden!
Okay, can we just take a minute to address the elephant in the playroom? Kid's music. Music for kids. It is the ABSOLUTE WORST. How many times has the following scenario happened to you:
You're in the kitchen prepping a snack for your littles. It's 3:30 in the afternoon and you are seriously wondering how you are supposed to manage staying conscious for the next few hours (So. Tired.), let alone make supper and do all of the evening things. To perk things up, you decide to turn on a little music. Pandora kicks in and instead of being energized, you immediately fall to the ground writhing in agony. Oh, the synthesized instruments! Woe is me, cheesy over-effected vocals! The level of manic energy and pure campiness - WHY?! Your only solution is to stuff your ears with Goldfish crackers and pray that one gets lodged deeply enough to rupture your eardrums.
Here are some of my favorite kid's artists - I hope they save you a hospital bill for a self inflicted ear injury.
First! Shout out to musicians that aren't specifically for children, but that children love anyway! With the exception of a few songs that need to be skipped because of coarse language or mature themes, The Beatles, Alison Krauss, Michael Jackson, Mumford and Sons, Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra, Twilight soundtracks (don't judge), Johnny Cash, Jack Johnson, Garth Brooks, and Jars of Clay are all popular at our house. We also really love show tunes, musicals, and soundtracks. The Lion King, Fiddler on the Roof, The Sound of Music, Cars - all so fun.
Musicians that make awesome kids music:
Caspar Babypants - Also known as Chris Ballew from the band The Presidents of the United States of America, this is a guy out of Seattle who will rock your socks off. The Caspar Babypants stuff is catchy, bouncy, and fun, without being obnoxious. (He's playing in Portland this coming Sunday!!)
Elizabeth Mitchell - My all time favorite. An ex-preschool teacher out of New York, her music is folksy, mellow, gentle, and happy. Love her.
They Might Be Giants - Yes, this "grownup" band does kid's stuff. And it is so good. Quirky, humorous, and a bit funky. See also: Barenaked Ladies. Similarly goofy.
Raffi - Classic. Guy with a guitar. If you were a child ever at any point, you've probably heard his stuff. It's still good. We saw him live a few weeks ago and he was excellent.
Laura Veirs - Another Seattle artist, Laura is folksy with a touch of country twang. She only has one children's album, called Tumble Bee, but I think it is really lovely. Check it out.
Justin Roberts - "Intelligent and whimsically rocking" music (I pulled that off his bio). :) He used to be a Montessori teacher, and it shows.
Laurie Berkner - A multi-instrumentalist who used to be a music specialist at a New York preschool. Truly a children's music rockstar.
Charlie Hope - Another preschool teacher (are you seeing a theme here?), Charlie has a degree in Art Therapy for children. Her music is gorgeous, and she has a lovely lullaby album.
A few good bets as far as Pandora stations go: Family Folk Songs, Disney, and Putumayo are all fun. And all of the artists I listed above have cds available to check out from the Eugene library. I'm sure the library has tons of other artists that are so great! Which leads me to...
What did I miss? I am always looking for new music to fill our daily soundtrack, so please let me know who you love listening to!