I know I have mentioned this before, but the fact that there is so much music being marketed to families with children can be a blessing and a curse. We are blessed because there are so many wonderful artists who are passionately creating music for children. But this overabundance of product along with well-funded marketing efforts makes it very difficult to know which products deserve our hard-earned money.
We cannot deny that digital music sites such as iTunes and Rhapsody make it much easier to preview music before we buy.
I suspect we’re much alike in the way that we rely on the recommendations of our friends, relatives and co-workers for everything from restaurants and movies to books and even children’s music.
So this month I would like to recommend a couple CDs and one book/CD combo that deserve your attention. And since we are approaching the gift-giving season, I thought you would appreciate some suggestions for the music lovers on your list.
BEETHOVEN’S WIG 4: DANCE ALONG SYMPHONIES, by Richard Perlmutter, Rounder Records, $11.99, beethovenswig.com; all ages.
I have written glowing reviews for each of the first three Beethoven’s Wig releases, and the recently released "Dance Along Symphonies" is another winner. If you are not familiar with the premise, zany and very clever lyrics are written for orchestral masterpieces. The result is that symphonic and classical music is presented to children in a light-hearted, fun way. Will it increase their test scores? Don’t be ridiculous! But the creative song scenarios that are coupled with these musical masterworks will most certainly entertain children and adults alike.
The focus on "Dance Along Symphonies" has widened a bit to include such notable composers as Scott Joplin and John Philip Sousa, but there is plenty of Bach, Strauss and Tchaikovsky here, too. Stop by the Web site and check out all the titles in this series. I think each CD in the Beethoven’s Wig series deserves to be in every family’s music library.
SESAME STREET PLAYGROUND: SONGS AND VIDEOS FROM AROUND THE WORLD, by Various Artists, Putumayo Kids, $14.98, putumayokids.com; all ages.
This joyful musical journey features Sesame Street productions from around the world. As you know, Sesame Street is international—it is produced in many languages and is an important part of the lives of children in many countries. This two-disc set includes a CD with 13 fabulous songs from a diverse mix of cultures along with five music videos.
In a short promo video for "Sesame Street Playground," Putumayo CEO Gary Knell reminds us that "Music is one of those few connecting points that can really draw people closer and closer together," and Ginger Brown, executive producer of Sesame Workshop, tells us she believes "Music is the most effective means to carry education." I couldn’t agree more.
Some of my favorite songs are "Sesame Street Theme" from the Netherlands, "Rubber Duckie" from China, "Don’t Be Sad Song" from Tanzania and "One Small Voice" from Brazil. If your children grew up with Sesame Street, they will most certainly enjoy "Sesame Street Playground" and so will you.
Be sure to stop by putumayokids.com where you can hear clips of every song. Highly recommended.
NILE, NILE, CROCODILE, by Mary Gauthier Furlong, $18.95, MGFurlong.com; ages 3-7.
This is a book/CD combo by local musician and music educator, Mary Gauthier Furlong. It is a scrumptious story about a mean old crocodile. Though his teeth are scary and he has an evil smile, the story is cute and playful thanks to the charming artwork.
The accompanying CD takes the story and turns it into a jazzy, bluesy little song that is easy for kids to sing along with. The musicianship is stellar and I like the way the song flows so nicely when following along in the book.
Looking for a great teacher gift? This is it!
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His Web site, BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children’s music. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.