How I Got Here: Dan Elliott, Pointed Man Band (Graceland, the Library and Midnight Vultures)

Dan Elliott playing the accordion

Dan Elliott playing the accordion

Sometimes I see the submissions for the "How I Got Here" series by kids musicians talking about albums important in their musical and career development, and their essays are episodes of discovery to me, albums I'm knowledge of in name only.  But other times I'm much more familiar with the albums, and reading is an experience of seeing an old favorite through someone else's eyes (or, rather, hearing it through their ears).

That's the case this around, as Portland's Dan Elliott, AKA Pointed Man Band, shares a few words about Paul Simon's Graceland and Beck's Midnite Vultures, two albums I've still got sitting on my actual shelf.  And while those albums might not be the first albums that come to mind when you hear Between the Waves and the Cardoons, Elliott's latest lushly orchestral-pop opus, reading the essay, you can see where he's coming from.  So step inside his Hyundai and find out how those albums influence him.


Although the name Pointed Man Band is a direct homage to Harry Nilsson’s The Point!, well before I knew that album, I spent my most formative years with Paul Simon’s Graceland. Growing up, our household consisted of plenty of Greatest Hits records but the full album cassette of Graceland was always close at hand. I’m pretty sure we wore it through. This is an album that I know from beginning to end probably better than any other and it’s also the album that I owe much of my musical curiosity.

Graceland album cover

Graceland album cover

From the accordion opening of “Boy in the Bubble,” you know you are in for an adventure. And the songs themselves help to sing you across the vast landscapes, combining the familiar with the unknown. There is always a story being told to capture your attention and the South African band presents a new take on what you thought you were going to hear. Paul Simon changed my world with this album and he taught me to always be thirsty for ways to cross cultures, have a sense of humor, and push boundaries when creating music.

Throughout high school I was continually seeking out music from different parts of the globe. Starting with a helping hand of Ladysmith Black Mambazo being an integral part of this album, it became easier to draw paths and connections to other artists. During my late teens and well into my twenties, I was always going to the library to find the the world section which eventually lead to my love of Samba, Tango, Reggae, Indian Ragas, Jazz, Classical and the list grew on and on.

As Graceland opened my eyes and ears to the music of the world, Beck’s Midnite Vultures opened my mind to how to get over teenage angst and have a ridiculously good time while making, more often than not, no sense at all.

Midnite Vultures album cover

Midnite Vultures album cover

One night as a freshman at university, I saw the music video for the first track off of Midnite Vultures and I was hooked.  The video was as completely and perfectly nonsensical as the song it accompanies.  The album is absolutely incredible, elusive of any one genre, hysterical and a studio and headphone masterpiece.  For me this was an amazing example of a person not taking themselves too seriously, on so many levels, but making sure to pay the utmost attention to quality and challenging themselves to advance. I found and still find much comfort in that.

This album is so lush and so well produced that I can’t help but want to revisit it again and again. Lyrics would work their way into personal jokes with good friends and there’s nothing quite like turning some of these tunes up and singing along with your best raucous falsetto. Not to mention, if I can ever find the song “Debra” in a karaoke book, it’s on!

They are two vastly different artists and albums, but together they continue to inspire me to always pursue new and different paths. And above all, not to lose that desire to produce my own personal headphone masterpiece.

How I Got Here: Kaitlin McGaw / Tommy Shepherd (Alphabet Rockers)

Y'all, have I got a musical journey for you.  Kaitlin McGaw and Tommy Shepherd, the two musicians behind the Bay Area hip hop band Alphabet Rockers, have put together an epic list of songs and albums as part their entry into my "How I Got Here" series.  Soooo many cuts and classic albums to share with your kids or just enjoy by yourself, all cited as influences on their way to their latest EP, The Playground Zone.


What would make two people, one from LA and the other Boston - a “white girl from Harvard” and a “black drummer/beatboxer of 1000 stages” - come together to not only to work together, but to make music? Hip hop music - and kids music at that?

Kaitlin the star

Kaitlin the star

Tommy popping and locking

Tommy popping and locking

It was hip hop. Not just a song, or a dance. It was a statement that we both were writing in our lives.

Truth and Soul cover

Truth and Soul cover

See, the music that influenced us is actually a crate of records. Our collaboration wasn’t just Carole King meets Fishbone, or Green Day meets Mary J. Blige though it was a “Share My World” (MJB, 1997) moment. We lived in different places and gained knowledge from different lives, but we had a collective deck of riffs on lyrics, melodies, rhymes and stories from decades of music history.

Carole King Tapestry cover

Carole King Tapestry cover

This is why hip hop is not just rap. It’s a world made by everything music. And for us, hip hop was life. What’s crazy about the influences within hip hop - you have the nerdy voice of “Back in the Day” (Ahmad, 1994) with eyes on everything. You’ve got the story that needs to be told -Slick Rick’s “Children’s Story.” The sport of incredible rhyme. The majesty of hooks that you sing on a loop - even knowing they are a remix of a melody of years past. The songs with beats that are so fierce you hardly hear the message until you’ve stopped blasting it and sweating it out - and actually hear what it’s about.

Hip hop was “The Message” (Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five). It was the freedom, it was the creativity, the connection, the community, the learning about the world through someone’s eyes. It was the DJ who knew the Top 40 and the basement tapes - and could mix and create something both vaguely familiar and totally “fresh” and new. It was the moves that pushed you into expression from your soul, cracking and swerving to every turn the music took. The beats that made you stop and make a stank face because it's that good. The story that changes your entire life.

Can I Kick It album cover

Can I Kick It album cover

We started working together with a shared love of A Tribe Called Quest and the “Native Tongue” family in general. Years on the road, riffing between shows, revealed hundreds of songs that threaded together humor and wordplay, and a deck of music ranging from Christopher Cross to Kris Kross. Joni Mitchell to Janet Jackson with a Q-Tip.

The beginning of our work was about bringing hip hop to life on stage. It was about creating space for kids and parents to be who they are within this “freedom culture” and giving access to that hip hop deck of experiences while letting parents know we had the references to all the music they played out in their lives. We played out our lives in hip hop in the way we created with the kids. It led us to an incredible place in making our latest album The Playground Zone.

J Dilla Donuts cover

J Dilla Donuts cover

What was missing for us in our work was how to tell the stories that really mattered to us - our message and our truth. We went back to the drawing board of musical influences to bring out the sounds and experiences we wanted to create. We spent time with J. Dilla and The Roots  albums. We debated about old school vs. classic and pop hip hop music - and the way music and messages impacts our audience. We are a dance-driven crew of creators aiming to make kids see that they are in the center of the cypher - that everything they share changes the world around them. And the music impacted us just as it changed the way our audience related to each other, making new connections and asking us to keep going deeper with the message and the motivation.

So we are on the next wave, writing and creating with hitmaking pop/hip hop/trap producers from around the country. We’re rooted in the old school as it is our history that drives us forward. We’re riffing over the chopped up tracks thinking of our classic faves. And we’re changing cadence and timing to tell the story for today’s tomorrow.

"i" single cover

"i" single cover

We are two individuals who began on opposite coasts, in a country where our lives would be absolutely different based on the skin we’re in. The both of us, absorbing all information and influences from the diverse American and world cultures, rendering our own voices and deciding what to do with them to be of service to the world. And yes, every step of it was musical. Our future is to be a source of musical memory for all of the kids who are questioning how they fit in this America and asking, is it me? We create for them now, to clarify through music, beats, message and movement, that they belong - with us, in hip hop. And that together we will change that world that is making it tough for them to feel like this is a place they can be “Free to be You and Me” - but it’s a place they can shout “I love myself” (Kendrick Lamar, “i”).

How I Got Here: Adam Marshall, The Bazillions ("Cake" by the Trash Can Sinatras)

Adam and Kristin Marshall holding copies of the Trash Can Sinatras album "Cake"

Adam and Kristin Marshall holding copies of the Trash Can Sinatras album "Cake"

Adam Marshall and Kristin Marshall are not only the driving forces behind the Minnesota kindie-power-pop band The Bazillions, they're also married.

Now, that's not the typical way I'd introduce an essay for "How I Got Here," the series where kids musicians write about influential music.

But this essay is definitely not your typical "How I Got Here" essay.  Yes, Adam Marshall talks about the influence of the debut full-length from the Scottish band Trash Can Sinatras on life as a music fan and musician, but this is one of those times when the phrase "life-changing album" literally applies.


I was a theatre major in college. So after graduation, like many young actors, I migrated to the Big Apple to pursue my dream. It wasn’t long before I found success … in the food service industry. The year was 1989, I was fresh out of undergraduate school, and New York City was my new home – Astoria, Queens to be exact. I moved in with my best friend Rob, and we shared a nice little two-bedroom apartment.

Rob and I spent a great deal of time listening to music and eating pizza from Tony's Pizza, which was around the corner. Two bucks for a slice and a can of soda. We were poor, but we were living the dream.  Rob was/is a great actor with a Sinatra-like baritone voice. So it wasn't long before he got cast in a national tour that lasted for much of the spring and summer of 1990. I was certainly happy for Rob, but I was sad to see him go because now I was alone in the Big Apple, which can be pretty lonely.

When I wasn’t waiting tables, I spent the days listening to music, playing the guitar, writing songs and occasionally pursuing acting. The highlight of each week was Sunday night at midnight: 120 Minutes on MTV. This was the place to discover the best new music. 120 Minutes was a goldmine for me. I have always been interested in finding music that is off the beaten path. To this day, I go out, and I dig through bins of records looking for gems that are basically unknown, like an archeologist unearthing his latest discovery.

So in the spring of 1990 I was diligently watching 120 Minutes with a yellow legal pad in hand, writing down artists and songs that piqued my interest. I remember hearing G.W. McClennan's  “Easy Come Easy Go” and “There She Goes” by The La’s. I heard The Sundays, John Wesley Harding, Robyn Hitchcock… It was the music that made that show so great, and I watched it every Sunday night. A music snob’s dream come true.

One Sunday night I heard a song by a Scottish band called the Trash Can Sinatras. I had never heard of them before. The song was called “Only Tongue Can Tell” from an oddly titled album called Cake. It was a pretty nice song with a sweet melody, a bouncy beat and a very catchy chorus: my kind of song. It sounded kind of like Aztec Camera or the Housemartins or the Smiths. And in a way it didn’t sound like those bands at all. It was something completely its own. I wrote the band name and song in my yellow legal pad.

Trash Can Sinatras' Cake album cover

Trash Can Sinatras' Cake album cover

The next day I went to my small, local Astoria CD store, a little hole in the wall place with posters on the wall and a fairly limited selection. I flipped through the used CDs as usual and almost immediately I came across Cake. “Well that’s weird,” I thought. I had never heard of this band until several hours ago, and here they are all the way from Scotland in Astoria, Queens. What are the chances of that? Maybe it’s a sign. Certainly, reason enough to buy it.

I brought it home to the apartment and I popped it in the CD player. I listened to it from beginning to end. When it was finished I played it again. There was the song I had heard on 120 Minutes, but there were nine other songs, too. Songs with strange titles like “Thrupenny Tears,” “Circling The Circumference,” and “Obscurity Knocks.” There was plenty of strumming acoustic guitars, arpeggiated electric guitars augmented with occasional string sections. There was so much to listen to that it didn’t matter that it was almost impossible to decipher the lyrics through singer Frank Reader’s thick Scottish accent. By the end of the second time through I was hooked.  This was amazing music!

I spent all of the summer of 1990 listening to this CD. I would play it loud. It would fill the apartment and leak out the windows and doors. It was as if I needed to hear this music every day. It was the only music I would listen to. It was my soundtrack for the summer.  

Three years later, the Trash Can Sinatras released their second album, I’ve Seen Everything. Amazingly, it was the equal of Cake. I went to see them at The Limelight in 1993. They did not disappoint. They had become my favorite band.

By 1994, I was actually getting closer to becoming a working actor. Like Rob, much of my work was out of town. In November of that year, I went to Omaha, Nebraska for rehearsals of a touring production of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. I was cast as Young Scrooge.  I spent most of the rehearsal process working with the actress who was cast opposite me. During a break from rehearsals I found myself sitting in the theatre seats of the Omaha Playhouse several rows behind the young actress who played the oldest Cratchit daughter, Martha, and the child actor who played Peter Cratchit. They were having a casual conversation. I could tell that the actress was trying to get to know the young actor, probably to strengthen the family bond they were portraying on the stage. She asked him what kind of music he liked. I don’t remember his response, but I suppose it was a typical listing of groups a twelve-year-old from 1994 would like.

He then asked her what kind of music she liked. Her reply was, “Oh, you probably wouldn’t know any of the bands that I like.” I figured that like most musical theatre actors her tastes would be based around Sondheim, Kander & Ebb, and the like. The young actor pressed on, “Really, I want to know, what kind of music do you like?”

At this point I was pretty interested too. I leaned in a little closer to hear her response. She said, “All right. You’re not going to know them, but I’ll tell you anyway.” The first band that she mentioned was the Trash Can Sinatras. WHAT!? What did she say? Did she say the Trash Can Sinatras? No way! She also mentioned The Jayhawks and Aztec Camera! I bounded over the rows of seats between us and elbowed the young actor out of the way.  Slightly winded from hurdling over the seats, I told her I had never known anyone whose favorite bands were the ones she had just mentioned.

We spent the rest of the rehearsals talking about music, films and life. Once the tour hit the road, we would sit together on the tour bus and share music with each other. We bought one of those headphone audio adapters that allow you to plug two headphones into one portable CD player. We listened to all kinds of music, and of course we listened to Cake by the Trash Can Sinatras, the band that brought us together. This was love.

Adam Marshall and Kristin Marshall in 1994

Adam Marshall and Kristin Marshall in 1994

Her name was Kristin, and soon we were singing and writing songs together. We moved to Minneapolis in 1997. In November of 1999 we were married.  Eventually all of our singing and songwriting led us to The Bazillions. The Trash Can Sinatras are there when we write and record. You can hear their influence on many of our songs. The opening guitar to “Lookout Man” always reminds me of their song “Obscurity Knocks.” “Similes & Metaphors,” “Rainy Day Clubhouse,” “Sons & Daughters” all feel like distant cousins of their songs.

Kristin and I still listen to the Trash Can Sinatras.  We’ve gone to see them live together. We have as much of their music as you could collect. The band that brought us together is gladly still making music, still playing shows, and I’m sure, still bringing people together.

Photo credit of Adam and Kristin w/ albums: Naomi Marshall

How I Got Here: Shanti Wintergate, Play Date

Shanti Wintergate

Shanti Wintergate

Shanti Wintergate is probably best known in the kids music world as one-half of the pop-punk kindie duo Play Date, but she's also a solo musician, actor, and children's book author (I Went For a Walk).  Wintergate and her Play Date partner, husband Greg Attonito, have a new Play Date album, We All Shine, coming out later this month, and in anticipation of that, both she and Attonito have written entries for "How I Got Here," the series where kids musicians write about influential music.

Wintergate's spin on the series is a little different than most in that rather than pinpointing influential albums, she's picked out a couple specific moments -- one in utero (!) -- that indicated a life in music might be for her... 


Shanti Wintergate with mom and brother

Shanti Wintergate with mom and brother

As my mom tells it, the story begins in Hollywood, California where my mother’s family is from, where I was born, and where the beginning of my musical journey began - on stage, from inside my mom’s belly, kicking to the beat of the drums.  

I’ve been surrounded by music, since before I was born.  My parents are musicians who have performed together throughout the world since the late ‘60s, and up until the mid ‘80s the LA club circuit was their home stomping ground.  The owners of one of these LA clubs, known then as Gazzarri’s (located where the Key Club is today) wanted to throw a benefit concert featuring my parents’ band, Lightstorm, and a few other acts in support of Child’s Sunvillage Inc., a non-profit established by my parents to support arts, music and mindfulness programs to children around the world.

Although reluctant at 8 months pregnant (with me), my mom agreed to perform a set for this rock and roll event, “For the sake of the children of the world!” as she so passionately exclaims when telling the story.  As they began playing, and to my mother’s surprise and excitement, I began kicking to the beat of the drums, in utero.  This is a story that I’ve heard countless times, and as whimsical as this rock and roll fairy tale may sound, this is where it literally began for me.

Shanti's parents on a motorcycle in costume

Shanti's parents on a motorcycle in costume

Throughout my life I’ve been immersed in the creative process of music, which began by singing with my parents, listening and watching them, and eventually learning how to play a few different instruments.  I was such a shy kid that my parents never pushed performing on me at all.  Creating music was one thing but performing it was a different beast all together.  It wasn’t something I was interested in doing at all until later in my teens.  It was something my parents did, not me.  It was something I watched famous musicians do, not little ole me.  

Shanti as child, just barely taller than the guitars

Shanti as child, just barely taller than the guitars

All those silly thoughts shifted in me, the moment I saw a friend of mine pick up my dad’s guitar and perform an impromptu cover of a John Denver song in our living room.  In that moment, I was like, whoa… she just did that and it was AWESOME!  It didn’t matter how good or bad she sang or played that dang song, “Take me home, country road, to the place I belong…” but she did it!  It was so empowering to see someone who was my peer just casually pick up a guitar and accompany herself singing a song.  I was hooked!  It really took someone outside of my parents to impress this upon me even though my dad had offered to teach me guitar for years!  Ha, my damn teenager brain!  Looking back on her song choice now I almost giggle out loud because in that moment, I found my home and where I belonged… I can see that now. 

The very next morning I asked my dad to start teaching me how to compose songs and play guitar and I haven’t looked back.

In one way or another, the girl singing in my living room and the story that my mom tells me about kicking to the beat of the drum before I was born have shaped who I am today.  They’ve helped me remember how important it is to find that rhythm of life and to tune into that ever present symphony of the universe.  I believe we’re all born with this innate sense, even if we’re not the greatest dancers and even if our rhythm is so unique that it isn’t like anyone else’s on the planet.  We all just get where we are, in our own way, one step at a time. 

How I Got Here: Greg Attonito, Play Date (The Who's "I Can't Explain")

Greg Attonito

Greg Attonito

Greg Attonito wears many hats -- founding member and musician in the much-loved New Jersey-based punk band The Bouncing Souls, painter, and, with his wife Shanti Wintergate, part of the pop-punk kindie duo Play Date.  Play Date have a new Play Date album, We All Shine, coming out later this month, and in anticipation of that, both he and Wintergate have written entries for "How I Got Here," the series where kids musicians write about influential music.

Like Wintergate, Attonito writes below about a specific moment and song that played a big part in setting him down the path to becoming a musician.


“I canʼt explain” how I REALLY got here but I think if I have to choose a musical moment that played a big part in getting me to this moment... Iʼd have to go with the first time I really sang a song live with a rock band. The song was “I Canʼt Explain” by the Who.

Greg Attonito in his dad's attic, 1988

Greg Attonito in his dad's attic, 1988

I was in high school hanging out at my friend Bryanʼs house watching him, Pete, and Sean practicing in their cover band, The Switch. They asked me if I wanted to try singing a song. I had heard them play “I Canʼt Explain” a few times before and I had the cassette so I knew enough of the words to have a go at it. I nervously grabbed the microphone as I heard those guitars and drums chopping out that intro riff... "Da DaDa Da DADA... I gotta feeling inside, I CANT EXPLAIN! Itʼs a certain kind, I CANʼT EXPLAIN! I feel hot and cold, I CANʼT EXPLAIN! Yeah, down in my soul but I Canʼt Explain!”

The Who, "I Can't Explain" 45 cover

The Who, "I Can't Explain" 45 cover

WOW! What a feeling. I couldnʼt have put it into words at that moment but I had found a new form of expression that turned me upside down and inside out in the best way. Rock and Roll, baby! Not just LISTENING to rock and roll but becoming a part of the live beast that is rock and roll music. It was SO AWESOME! That was my first moment discovering an amazing language which gave me a deeper way of expressing myself. What a gift and what an opportunity! Performing and eventually writing music allowed me to access and share parts of myself that were totally incredible and I never knew existed. What a revelation!

When that first attempt at singing “I Canʼt Explain” ended, everybody was smiling. That moment was twenty-six years ago and I havenʼt stopped making music with those guys since. The feeling and positive experience we shared making music together eventually took us around the world and changed peopleʼs lives... Saved peopleʼs lives!! Including our own.

Itʼs not always easy to remember how important that “I Canʼt Explain” moment was for me. Its also not easy to remember it's really something special to have lots of opportunities to create that kind of moment for others.  Playing music for children and their families gives me those opportunities in a new and unexpected way all the time. I may lose sight of the potential magic, power and life changing possibilities of music but the sound and the feeling of hearing and performing good songs are constant reminders, and Iʼm so grateful.

Greg Attonito performing at Riot Fest.  Photo credit: DT Kindler

Greg Attonito performing at Riot Fest.  Photo credit: DT Kindler

Photo credit: DT Kindler (Attonito at Riot Fest)

How I Got Here: Jazzy Ash (Ella Jenkins and Ella Fitzgerald)

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Offstage, she's known as Ashli Christoval, but kids probably know her best as Jazzy Ash, whose music brings some of the sound of New Orleans to kids music.  She's just kicked off a PledgeMusic campaign for her new album Bon Voyage! and, yes, she's going back for another trip through the city's rich musical heritage.

So I thought it appropriate for Ashli to take a look back at her own musical heritage, and in the latest iteration of the "How I Got Here" series, she offers praises to three albums from a couple artists you may have heard of, Ella Jenkins and Ella Fitzgerald.


I had never really thought about it before, but my musical career has really been shaped by two ladies named Ella.

My childhood was surrounded by an eclectic collection of music. My mom is from New Orleans, my dad is from Trinidad, and when I was growing up my mother ran a daycare in our home. So, I was exposed to music of all kinds - music for learning, music for fun, music of tradition, and music of culture. I was really blessed - or weird, depending on how you look at it.

In the way the every home has a certain scent, that’s how music was in our house. It was always there, but not necessarily something I had a keen ear to. Although, I would find myself humming Greg & Steve tunes down the halls of my junior high school - because Greg & Steve songs are so darn catchy!

EllaJenkinsAlbum.jpg

One day, we were watching Mister Rogers. I was way too old for Mister Rogers, but remember, I practically lived in a daycare. Anyhow, my mom explained, “This episode is about Ella Jenkins. She shares songs from the African American tradition.”

I winced. “Oh, no,” I thought, “slave songs.” As far as I could figure, everything I had heard about African American history or tradition had to do with slavery or segregation or something like that. Obviously, those topics are really important to learn about, but they also can be really depressing. And, as a young black girl, it used to make me really blue when all anyone ever talked about in black history were the bad things that happened to us.

But Ella Jenkins didn’t come from that angle at all. This kind-faced woman stood on Mister Rogers’ front lawn and glanced into the camera, quite warmly. The songs she shared were, dare I say, fun! They were playful, and they had rhythm and groove and soul. I felt proud.

That moment was very monumental for me. I knew that I wanted to be part of the artist community that used art to preserve the wonderful the stories of culture.

By my freshmen in high school, I was really deep. I was too cultured for pop music, and was looking for something more…“satisfying.” Haha!

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In Target one afternoon, I stumbled up on a compilation CD called Sirens of Song and took it home. It promised to be a collection of the best voices in jazz. I had been exposed to traditional New Orleans jazz since I was a baby, but most New Orleans jazz doesn’t include a vocalist. This was something new for me entirely.

Now, everybody’s heard of Billie Holliday. But now I had Sarah Vaughn, Edith Piaf, Lena Horne, and Nina Simone. It couldn’t get better. And then, it did!

Ella Fitzgerald sauntered in on Track #4. She was singing “I’m Getting Sentimental Over You,” and it’s not overstated to say that I have never been the same. I was completely engrossed.

I had to have more, so I stepped up my game. I went to Virgin Records.

I bought Ella Fitzgerald’s albums Flying Home and Ella & Louis. Oh, Lordy. I played those CDs over and over, trying to figure out how she could make her voice sound like a sip of hot chocolate. I mean, “Moonlight in Vermont” still brings a tear to my eye. Her ballads are so effortless and smooth.  Her work with Louis Armstrong is so beautifully rough around the edges, and has that familiar New Orleans, street-side flare. And then I moved into her playful be-bop tunes, like “Air Mail Special.”  She’s a scatting genius! I spent months memorizing every phrase. Someone was finally speaking my language. 

It’s because of Ella that I become completely obsessed with jazz. My collection expanded: more Louis, Sidney Bechet, Fats Waller (love him!), and Duke Ellington, whom I named my son after.

Having children of my own re-inspired my love children’s music. In my early twenties, I developed a preschool music program, and I had the privilege of sharing the music of children’s music legends: Greg & Steve, Cathy Fink, and Hap Palmer and, of course, Ella Jenkins. Through her albums, this Ella taught me so much about how to share cultural music in a playful, engaging way.

A few years into my music program, I started writing and performing my own music for children. I was still listening to Ella Fitzgerald and other early jazz religiously, and had even purchased a record player to make my jazz appreciation appear more legit. But I never thought about bringing my love for early jazz into my songwriting.

JazzyAshEllaJenkins.jpg

Then I went to KindieFest 2013. It was magical for me in two ways. First, I got to meet - no, hug! – Ella Jenkins and tell her how much she her work meant to me. I’ll never forget that moment.

Secondly, somebody on a panel said, “Even in kid’s music, you have to find your own voice.” That stuck with me. I knew my “voice” was roots jazz, but I guess I thought it might be too heavy for kids. But then I remembered Ella Jenkins’ playful approach to traditional music. I remembered Ella Fitzgerald’s sweetness that felt like a warm hug. Well, playfulness and sweetness – what kid doesn’t love those things?? That was my aha! moment.

Since then, my music has been a gumbo pot full of the rich children’s music I grew up with and the roots jazz tunes that are so close to my heart. For me it’s the perfect combination, and I’m in heaven every time I take the stage.  Thanks Ellas!