The following is by contributor Jennifer Brown.
Sometimes the best things in life can be found right outside of our own front doors: tonight’s special at the locally owned restaurant, the neighborhood’s annual Fall Festival, locally grown and prepared apple butter.
This month I want to share some music with you by a band I found right outside of my (virtual) front door in my hometown of Charlotte, NC.
This giveaway has ended. Thank you!
The Plaza Family Band is comprised of some talented musicians whose love for children and quality children’s music shows in their release of not one but two albums as a fundraiser project for a local area preschool program.
If you’re a parent of a preschooler there are just some kid songs you can’t escape like: “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star,” “Five Little Monkeys” and “If You’re Happy and You Know It.” And so often those tend to be the ones we want to escape. So, when I first heard “Playground Hootenanny” (album #1) I was so excited with the quality and parent friendliness of the music that I immediately went back for more with “Wee Jamboree” (album #2). Our whole family could jam with a smile and I immediately knew this band shouldn’t be local anymore.
Insert drum roll…
So, this month I am thrilled to introduce to you The Plaza Family Band with an interview with Mike Strauss, one of the band’s founders. I wanted to take this unique opportunity to give you all a little look into the world of a local grassroots music production and perhaps inspire you to support their efforts and the efforts of others like them in your communities.
SK: I’m so excited to be able to promote some local talent and give our Simple Kids readers a look behind the scenes into the world of children’s music! I have to tell you that once we received copies of your CD’s they very quickly became regular requests in our car. Tell me a little bit more about the band, who you are and how you got started, do any of you have any previous band experience?
PFB: Before the band started there was just an observation: Wow, there are a bunch of musicians here at Plaza Preschool. I would hear from a parent or teacher: Did you know Forrest’s dad plays piano or Lucy’s dad is in band too? So hanging around the playground after school while the kids played we would talk.
One day I was in a parent advisory board meeting at the school and the topic of fundraising was brought up, and I wondered if some sort of kid’s CD project would be possible. Before I approached [the director] with the idea I talked it over with a few musicians to see if they thought we could pull it off. [The director] thought it was a good idea and we went to work right away. All of the musicians donated their time and talents and all proceeds from CD sales go back to the school.
Right now, there about nine people in The Plaza Family Band…All of the performers on the CDs have children that attend the preschool (or did at one time). Some have been in bands that have recorded for major record labels and some have toured the world in professional bands. Others make their living playing music others play music part time or for fun.
SK: As a mom I particularly enjoy hearing songs I recognize from my own childhood in a format that is adult ear friendly! How did you decide what type of music/which songs to include in your repertoire? What was your inspiration to “mix up” some old favorites & sing them in new ways (such as Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star & Skip to My Lou)?
PFB: I think part of the idea was to take some familiar and traditional songs and interpret them in a way that was maybe a little different that we’ve heard them before. We tried to keep in mind that, hopefully, this would be something that families listened to together and they would have a chance to let kids know that these songs have been around a while. Parents and Grandparents probably sang these songs when they were little.
Sometimes when we looked at a song, like Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, I was surprised to learn that there were additional verses that I hadn’t heard before. A lot of these songs weren’t always labeled “kids” songs, just songs.
We also tried to incorporate a little of each style that the performers brought. There are backgrounds in old-time, Latin, Reggae, Pop, Rock and Americana in the band. They all informed the sound.
SK: The mix of different styles is something I really love about the albums! You’ve put together a really unique combination. We’ve also really enjoyed the original tracks, tell me a little bit more about how those came about.
PFB: In the band there are a number of folks who are songwriters. As the project got rolling, some folks were inspired to write some original songs for the CDs. They really add some depth to the CDs and I think they are some of the best things on there. “Frogtown” might be our most popular song with kids. Parents always enjoy “Day with Dad.”
SK: I understand you have done some live performances in addition to putting out your CD’s. Did performing in front of an audience come before or after the CD’s? How often are you able to perform and where might your fans look for you?
PFB: It’s funny; for the most part both CDs were recorded this way: drop the kids off at the preschool at 9am, head over to the studio and record until it was time to pick them up at 1pm. We’d do that three days a week and schedule the person whose part we would be working on. We did that for a couple of months. The full band didn’t perform together (at the same time) until it was time to rehearse for the CD release party! The real joy comes from playing music together, especially in front of families.
Since the CD came out we’ve managed to get together for quite a few shows. We’ve played a number of local festivals [in Charlotte, NC]. We’ve even played at other preschools! We have a website and Facebook page where we post upcoming shows.
SK: Do you currently have any plans for the future?
PFB: Since we’ve recorded the CDs a few of the kids have passed preschool age and I was wondering how that would affect things, but it seems that everyone involved is still very excited to be a part of the band. We are looking ahead to playing more shows and I hope we continue. It is fun. We did talk about recording a Christmas CD….
Also, you never know it might be that each spring a new batch of parents could come in and carry it on. We can pass it down.
SK: We have a wide variety of talented readers, if someone out there is currently or considering pursuing their own passion for music, do you have any words of wisdom for those folks?
PFB: Be patient. Music shouldn’t be a competition. Share your talent.
I hope you are inspired by this little local band with a big sound. Give them a listen on Amazon or ITunes and if you decide to buy the whole album (or both) I don’t think you’ll be disappointed. Plus you get to support a fantastic preschool program that’s nurturing potential future musicians like these.
The Plaza Family Band is also generously offering up 3 sets of their CD’s to 3 lucky Simple Kids readers!
Just leave a comment to this post telling us what song from childhood you remember as being your favorite or if you want, give a shout out to a local band in your area we’d love to see those too!
This giveaway will end at midnight EST Saturday October 29. Good luck! This giveaway has ended. Thank you!
As always happy listening!