So I Like This Symphony Space Lineup

I don't often talk about a kids music series in a particular city, if only because, by definition, most of my readers don't live there. But New York City's Symphony Space has just announced its 2011-2012 Just Kidding lineup, and while it's worth mentioning just because of the quality of its performers, I think that other entities looking to produce kids music could draw some valuable lessons from the list: 1) Bring in the big names: Elizabeth Mitchell, Recess Monkey, and Justin Roberts are just 3 popular artists playing the series. There is value in having "name" artists who will draw sizable crowds to whom you can promote your other shows. 2) Bring in the up-and-coming names: Key Wilde & Mr. Clarke, Joanie Leeds, Gustafer Yellowgold -- names that have no small amount of popularity, whose audiences may not necessarily be aware of the broader "kindie" world (or who are very aware and are your bread-and-butter 3-or-4-concert attendees. 3) Bring in the new names: Shine and the Moonbeams, Cat and a Bird, Tim and the Space Cadets. 4) Take a chance on the out-of-towners: OK, I realize that Caspar Babypants (Chris Ballew), is probably a pretty safe bet. But, still, it's good to mix up the artists. 5) Don't have it all just be music: The "Just Kidding" series is really a "performing arts"-type lineup, not necessarily a music lineup, with folks like the Story Pirates, the Trachtenburg Family Slide Show Players, and Galumpha (who appear to be sort of a Pilobolus for kids) making appearances. (That's not even mentioning the Thalia Kids' Book Club series.) Nobody's going to be able to see everything, but the diversity of performances help cover your bets. 6) Announce everything in advance: Seriously, being able to look eight or ten months out and see a full list of concerts and performances is incredibly reassuring to a parent (and helps for planning purposes). 7) And have a bunch of performances: So you know that, pretty much every Saturday, there's gonna a performance there, and it's probably gonna be pretty good. So, anyway, it's a good lineup. Details after the jump.

Kindiefest 2011: Sunday Concert in Videos and Pictures

IMG_5313.jpgIf Kindiefest's Saturday night showcase was about introducing new(-ish) names (and one longtime favorite) to a new crowd, the Sunday afternoon public concert was more about a lineup guaranteed to draw in, you know, the public. There was indeed a nice crowd, both of conference attendees as well as local families. (It's not a coincidence that the conference is held in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Park Slope, famous (and perhaps occasionally reviled) for the sheer number of families who live around there. And unlike the showcase, with its brief 20-minute sets that may subconciously lead artists to forgo contemplation for excitement, the public concert, with 30-minute sets, and a more passive audience, allows for more variation in styles. IMG_5279.jpgFor example, the concert kicked off with a set from Oran Etkin, who tells stories (either more traditional stories or about the instruments themselves) via jazz. He was very engaging with his young audience. Most of his songs are originals, but here he is with a take on a piece Dizzy Gillespie made famous... Oran Etkin - "Salt Peanuts" [YouTube] IMG_5280.jpgNext up was the delightful Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band. The Brooklyn iteration of the band included Phillippa Thompson (who sometimes plays with Elizabeth Mitchell) and multi-instrumentalist Dean Jones. The set was similar to the one she played here in Phoenix in January, but the more enclosed nature of the performance here led to something occasionally hushed. I spoke with Elizabeth Mitchell a little bit later and she, too, enjoyed it... Heidi Swedberg and the Sukey Jump Band - "When You Get Old" [YouTube] And that was just two down...

The Ketchup Report, Vol. 5

Back with another list of random notes from around the kids music world... -- I'm a fan of Symphony Space's Just Kidding series, even 3,000 miles away, but I don't typically talk about single shows in that or any series. Having said that, I have it on good authority that Elizabeth Mitchell is planning on attending the Lunch Money Just Kidding concert on Saturday, January 29 (at 11 AM) and make a "guest appearance" for some songs. NYC fans, I expect you to be there -- not to be missed, I'm telling you. -- Continuing in the category of single shows meriting mention, if you're not tired out after the Lunch Money show (or if you're busy that morning), there's another show in NYC that afternoon. It's an event called "KIDS ROCK!" -- it's a big 'ol benefit concert for KIDS NEED A MELODY, which provides developmental music classes to young children living in the shelter system. It's also Saturday the 29th (from 1 to 4 PM) at Crash Mansion in the Bowery in NYC. It's hosted by Bob McGrath and will feature performances by Rebecca Frezza and Big Truck, Suzi Shelton with guitarist Steve Elliot, Jeremy Plays Guitar, The Fuzzy Lemons, Joanie Leeds, and Baze and His Silly Friends. Not bad, eh? -- Moving out of the city (sort of), word from Florida's Mr. Richard that he's leading David Weinstone's Music For Aardvarks classes in Orlando. Mr. Richard isn't the first kindie musicians with his own career to participate in these types of classes. Audra Tsanos has done MFA classes in NYC for years, Rebecca Frezza got her start doing Music Together, and Enzo Garcia is another. But Mr. Richard, who's definitely on the shortlist for the title of hardest-working guy in kids music, may be the first to join those types of classes after starting his own, independent kindie career. -- I noted this on Facebook yesterday, but the first video from Moona Luna is up. You can watch the currently exclusive video here (or just go straight to YouTube here). -- Frances England has a whole bunch of creative resolutions (designed very, er, creatively of course) and not only that she's pulled in a bunch of creative resolutions from folks like Caspar Babypants, Drew from Recess Monkey, Joe from the Okee Dokee Brothers and lots, lots more. Worth a perusal. -- Finally, in the category of self-promotion, Australian newspaper The Age dips its toes into the world of Australian kindie music and picks out the two best, Holly Throbsy and The Mudcakes. (It also cites this site, but not in a policeman-sort-of-way. The good way.)

Interview: Darren Critz (Symphony Space)

DarrenCritzAndDaughter.jpgDarren Critz is the Director of Performing Arts at New York City's Symphony Space. Their 2010-2011 "Just Kidding" season kicks off this weekend with "The Story Pirates," and it certainly doesn't end there -- it's a full season of kids music and entertainment. Because it's such a comprehensive season and because it's in New York City (a place where a lot of acts not from NYC still would like to play), I thought it'd be interesting to talk with Critz about the series, his goals for it, and what he looks for in acts. Even if you live far away from Manhattan, read on for the secret power of Alan Alda, what attracts Critz's ears, and how you hear Symphony Space shows... What are your musical memories from childhood? I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and got to see Ella Jenkins perform pretty regularly at our public library throughout the '70s. My mom adored her and was always on the lookout for her performances, so we were always at our library or any venue she played within a 50-mile radius. We were sort of to Ella Jenkins, what Dead Heads were to the Grateful Dead, with a Chevy Nova in place of the VW van (and without the psychedelics of course). “Did You Milk My Cow?” is still the greatest call-and-response song ever! And at the risk of sounding incredibly square, Alan Alda singing “William Wants a Doll” off the Free to Be You and Me soundtrack was my favorite song as a kid, and dominated a good year and a half of my life. I’m thinking there are only a handful of people out there who list Alan Alda as a major musical influence. How did you get into concert booking? It was something I stumbled into. I come from a theatrical background, originally as an actor (soon realizing I had neither the love nor talent for it), then as a producer, which I was much better at. I came to Symphony Space to produce our theatre events, in addition to the music, dance, and family programs. Having a young daughter, I attend a really large number of kids’ music events both here at Symphony Space and everywhere else you can imagine. As with anything else, the more you involve yourself in any given thing, the more you learn about it; the more you learn about it, the more you appreciate those things, and the more you appreciate them, the more you want to share that appreciation with others. I’m lucky that I get to do that in this role. Symphony Space has always had a few family shows -- what spurred the increase in frequency?

So What Are You Doing After Kindiefest? (The Unofficial Party Thread)

KindiefestBadge.jpgI'm excited, of course, to be attending and moderating at Kindiefest in just a couple weeks (April 30-May 2), but since coming back from SXSW, I understand better that no music conference is complete without unofficial side parties and concerts. This post, friends, is for those of you attending Kindiefest and feeling like there's not quite enough kids music (or kids music socializing) going on, and needing more. (It's also for you lucky ducks living in Brooklyn who want more than the official Sunday concert, which kicks off at noon.) Right now there are two events I know of -- if you're playing a gig in NYC that weekend, shoot me an e-mail or post something in the comments and I'll be happy to expand the list. See below for more! Anyway, Renee Stahl and Jeremy Toback are playing a Renee and Jeremy show of sorts -- they promise their solo music along with some R&J tunes. There are probably plenty of folks who play Renee & Jeremy tunes late at night -- it's just usually recorded, and in the nursery. Anyway, though details are scant on the Sullivan Hall website, it appears they're playing at 10:30 PM at the Greenwich Village venue. Tickets $10 in advance, $12 at the door. Secondly, Frances England, who's playing the industry showcase at Kindiefest Saturday night, will also be playing a public show at the 92nd Y Tribeca on Sunday, May 2 at 11 AM. NYC folks, if you can't make it to Brooklyn (or if your kids are very easy-going) -- this is a rare opportunity. Tickets are $15. NEW: Ralph Covert (Ralph's World) is doing a solo performance/signing at the Borders on Columbus Circle, Friday the 30th at 4 PM. Details here. NEW: Rhythm Child is taping a Kids Place Live Rumpus Room concert at 2 PM Friday. Send an e-mail to Mindy Thomas (Mindy AT siriusxm DOT com) for details. Also, here are a few things going on if you're not actually attending KindieFest... NEW: AudraRox will be playing the Tribeca Film Festival on Saturday, May 1 at 4 PM, presumably at the street fair. NEW: Lloyd Miller of the Deedle Deedle Dees is leading musical nature workshops for kids in Brooklyn's Prospect Park as part of NYC Wildflower Week, including Saturday morning at 10 AM for the preschoolers, 11 AM for the grade schoolers (details here). NEW Princess Katie and Racer Steve are playing the Luke's Rock 'N' Stroll fundraiser from 8:30 - 11:30 (or so) Saturday morning. Like I said, if you're performing in NYC that weekend, let me know...

House of Kids: Blah Name, Decent Series

In the second piece of news from today regarding corporate behemoths trying to cash in (more) on kids music, word this morning that LiveNation is starting the "House of Kids" music series at he Fillmore New York at Irving Plaza this fall and winter. Forget the press release text that says "House Of Kids is aimed at bringing parents and kids together through a shared appreciation of live music, as well as fun and educationally enriching activities." House of Kids is about figuring out what to do with a large venue that sits empty for a good 16 hours or more each and every day. The first 4 artists -- Justin Roberts & The Not Ready For Naptime Trio (October 17), Father Goose (November 14), The Sippy Cups (December 5) and Gustafer Yellowgold (January 9) -- are definitely promising, though $20 per ticket ($70 for the series) is a price range that could only work in New York City. (And, to be fair, each show will also feature performers from the Big Apple Circus, guest storytellers, child performers, fire safety education from FDNY, and more.) Now if only we could get Justin Roberts to record a live album so that the Irving Plaza location could join all the other Fillmores that have been graced with a Live at the Fillmore designation.