Growing up, Beth Blenz-Clucas and Regina Kelland didn't have the same opportunities to see kids musicians that our kids have today. When I asked the two of them what memories they had of seeing concerts when they were kids, they couldn't really come up with a good answer. Sure, they took some music lessons, listened to music on the radio, did arts activities in school. There's definitely a shared history of Disney soundtracks -- both mentioned Mary Poppins. They went to a few classical music concerts with their parents or a school field trip. But a concert meant just for them as kids? Not really.
Fast forward a number of years, and Blenz-Clucas and Kelland are couple of the best-known publicists for the children's music genre, Blenz-Clucas with Sugar Mountain PR and Kelland with To Market Kids. And in addition to promoting individual artists' musical efforts, for the past several years they've produced a benefit concert held the same weekend as the Grammy Awards.
This year's nominees for the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Children's Recording feature five first-time nominees, all of them independent artists (with Jose-Luis Orozco nominated for his very first album with Smithsonian Folkways). And for the seventh straight year, the benefit concert will feature the children's album nominees.
On Saturday, February 13, all five nominees -- Orozco, Tim Kubart, Molly Ledford and Billy Kelly, Lori Henriques, and Morgan Taylor (aka Gustafer Yellowgold -- will perform at this year's concert, held at Lucky Strike Live in Hollywood. It's a unique opportunity to see these five artists performing separately and, perhaps, together. When asked about favorite memories from past concerts, Blenz-Clucas and Kelland both remembered the group singalongs -- Brady Rymer and everyone singing "Mony Mony" last year, the group including Elizabeth Mitchell and Alastair Moock singing Pete Seeger the year before.
Beyond the special nature of the performances, the concert is notable also for its benefit nature. Because it's a volunteer-run enterprise, Blenz-Clucas, Kelland, and the other producers (which have included Karen Rapaport McHugh, musician Cathy Fink, producer Tor Hyams and booker and current event co-producer KC Mancebo, with Mancebo's husband David Tobocman providing a lot of assistance) have always charged money for the show to at least cover the cost of facility rental and the technical crew. Beyond the expenses, ticket revenues go to benefit a group that works with the age range that the nominated artists typically target -- that is, kids roughly 10 and under.
In past years, the proceeds have been donated to Mr. Holland's Opus (one year the monies went to help the organization buy harps) and Little Kids Rock. This year's beneficiary is the Symphonic Jazz Orchestra's Music in the Schools program. And while the SJO was founded in 2001 dedicated to "perpetuating the uniquely American genre of symphonic jazz," its Music in the Schools program has a much broader focus of providing year-long sequential, comprehensive music education in Los Angeles County schools to more than 3,000 students per week. SJO founder and music director Mitch Glickman says he's "thrilled" that they'll be the beneficiary of this year's concert, which will help them further expand the residencies the Music in the School program provides.
In any case, the concert starts at 11 AM on the 13th, and tickets for the concert ($15 in advance, $20 the day of show) are available here. And while I certainly recommend attending the show if you're in the L.A. area with kids that weekend, if you're not around, Sirius-XM's Kids Place Live, whose fearless leaders Mindy Thomas and Kenny Curtis are emceeing the concert, will be broadcasting the show a couple times that weekend.
Perhaps the concert isn't quite as exciting as seeing Queen (Kelland's favorite group) in concert, but look at this shot from last year's show, which included the Pop Ups. It will be celebratory.
Beyond the concert, the weekend also features an adults-only, industry-only luncheon afterwards close by to the concert. The concert, in fact, grew out of a luncheon organized in 2005 by Lynn Orman to celebrate Ella Jenkins' Lifetime Achievement Award and a networking event coordinated by Karen Rapaport McHugh a couple years later. While in past years they've had speakers (John Simpson's talk on SoundExchange and Bill Harley discussing Artists for Sake Kids were a couple highlights Kelland and Blenz-Clucas recall), this year they've decided to forgo the guest speakers so as to maximize the one-on-one networking time for the attendees. As Blenz-Clucas noted, even the Los Angeles artists don't get together too often given the size of the region, so it's an opportunity for them to get together. And as great as events like KindieComm and Hootenanny are, their East Coast setting can make it harder for some West Coast artists to attend, so hopefully this provides them more of an opportunity to network.
It, too, should be a lot of fun, and I'll be there to join in the festivities. If you're in "the biz" and want to join, drop Blenz-Clucas, Kelland, or Mancebo a line, and they'll direct you where you need to go.
Photo credits: Pop Ups in concert (McCarthy Photo Studio); Alastair Moock and Elizabeth Mitchell in concert, KC Mancebo, Cathy Fink, Regina Kelland, and Beth Blenz-Clucas (Jodye Alcon)