-- mother, songwriter, musician, educator and the founder of Charity and the JAMband, JAMboodas Music and Dance, and JAMcamp. I've been singing and dancing with children and families since the inception of JAM in 2001, following careers as a high school math teacher, author (Math and Music: Harmonious Connection) and web site engineer.
What started in my living room as a music-and-movement playgroup for my friends and their kids has expanded into an ever-growing collection of award-winning recorded music, regular live performances by the JAMband, classes & camps for kids, and workshops for the grown-ups who love and teach them. The themes are music, movement and mindfulness, and the oppotunities for growth, connection and joy are boundless.
I do what I do because of the deep love, respect and awe I have found for children and the families that nurture them: through my own experiences as a mother, through my work with children, and from being in community with other parents and teachers.
There is nothing more pure or honest than a child, and nothing more powerful than a grown-up doing her or his best to respond consciously and responsibly to that being. These little souls are our finest guides, and provide our richest opporutnities to both grow ourselves and also make the world a better place.
The music of the JAMband and the dance, drama, mindfulness and art experiences I share with the children in my programs emanate from the day-to-day experience of being in relationship with children -- the opportunity in every single moment to truly LISTEN to what they are bringing us; the moments where we as grown-ups experience the infinite through our unconditional love for them and their unconditional trust in us; the hysterically funny and sometimes downright maddening ups and downs of family life; the way children can speak truth that resonates at least as powerfully as that spoken by a spiritual master (for fun, follow @preschoolgems and @DalaiLama on Twitter and I'll bet you find they inspire you equally!); the chance to see the world anew through their unjaded, non-judgemental, accepting and open eyes and minds.
We are so profoundly lucky these folks chose to share these moments with us, and the fact that we have a chance to sing, dance, be present and create -- PLAY! -- along with them is a true gift.
I was raised in a small town in Wisconsin by two piano teachers. Weaned on Bach and Brahms and Mozart, the music took root in my heart at an early age and never left. In middle school, I added jazz and swing to the classical stuff, and discovered rock'n'roll soon thereafter. Many influences followed...Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell, The Grateful Dead, Zakir Hussain, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Richard Thompson, Aretha, Phish, Parliament....
Like most kids, I was always singing and making up songs as a child, and I have a little book somewhere with my first song-scratchings (something about a castle and a princess). But while I immersed myself in the classical music that was traditional in my home, I didn't really "compose" during my school-age years. I guess I was too busy learning how to play other people's music (remembering all those notes takes up a lot of space in the brain).
In college, I started playing in bands, and that was the inspiration to begin writing songs for real. I graduated with a degree in mathematics (I think math is really cool!), and then spent time as a math teacher (at the Head-Royce School in Oakland, CA), a piano teacher and math tutor, a writer (Math and Music: Harmonious Connections), a software engineer, and rock-climbing traveler before "settling down" to have kids.
That decision changed EVERYTHING. (Duh.)
I recorded my first cd (firstborn) while pregnant with my now-17-year-old son, Jasper. I actually went into the studio as a last-ditch move...I thought I would NEVER find time to do any music once I became a mom. It felt to me that music and mother love came from the same place, and I didn't understand how I would be able to simultaneously mother children and songs. So, I honestly thought I was giving music up, at least for the next 18 or more years.
BUT, sure enough, the opposite happened. I tried to go back to work part-time as a software engineer when Jasper was 6 months old. Did it for a year and it almost killed me (really). So I threw caution to the wind and quit. I had written a bunch of children's songs, and thought maybe I'd try becoming a Music Together teacher. So I signed up for a training, but cancelled at the last minute, deciding to forge out on my own, and JAM was born (in the form of parent/child music and movement classes for wee ones), in my living room, during February of 2001, with Jasper's playgroup families (a huge thank you to all of them for trusting me then!)
The rest just kind of happened naturally. I recorded JAM: Music for Movement with Children in 2002 while pregnant with my now 14-year-old son, Silas. Then I put the JAMband together to record Peanut Butter and JAM in 2004, and we started gigging. Then we made Rock Your Socks Off in 2006, all the while performing and teaching. In 2010, we released a rather ambitious project -- a double-album, Party Like a Twinkle Star -- which spans the entire skillset of the JAMband, from seriously funky, rockin' stuff, to sweet, quiet, lush, acoustic
In 2006-2007, I went through a difficult divorce and experienced the unique challenge of loving and holding my children and myself while we transitioned to two families from one. It was by far the deepest experience of loss I have experienced in my life, and living with the consequences (emotional, logistical, mental) on a daily basis can be kind of nuts. In an attempt to heal and move on, I started meditating -- 30 seconds per day at first (I literally could not handle more than that!) I now practice (almost ;-) daily, and the improvement in my sanity, equanimity, and ability to be present for whatever life brings is remarkable. The practice has been so helpful to me (beyond words), I have started integrating mindfulness practices, exercises and concepts into my classes, camps and music. I am very inspired to pass these tools on to as many children and families as possible, so I'm taking courses offered by Mindful Schools and Spirit Rock, and recently began teaching meditation to adults.
This work was huge inspiration for our latest heartchild -- Family Values (released Nov 2012). This album is a musical exploration of a set of "human family values" I have found important in my own life as a mother, artist and human being: lovingkindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, patience, understanding, generosity, community, intention, non-harming, gratitude, respect, mindfulness, waking up, truth, peace. The music itself spans from perhaps our heaviest rock'n'roll yet to some sweet and sonorous acoustic love-a-byes. The messages, I hope, speak for themselves. I'm so excited to bring another collection of songs into the world, to have such incredible musicians to work with, and to have so many families with whom to share the music!
I continue to offer JAMboodas classes and JAMcamps, in my neighborhood (the Sunset district of San Francisco), in addition to performing solo for libraries, schools, and as a full band at beautiful venues like The Park Chalet and Dolores Park. I am in the process of envisioning a training program for teachers and parents so JAM can move out into the world on a grander scale. My intention is to pass the music and message on to people who are inspired to share it with the children and families in their lives. I also hope it might provide a way for parents to create part-time work for themselves, doing something they love, so they can still spend time with their children and lead a balanced life.
I feel such deep gratitude for my work with children and families. I write songs that emanate from the day-to-day experience of being in a family, from the tender connections that shine in our memories, from the moments where we as grown-ups experience the infinite through our love for these little people, from those crazy fun-filled, supreme-joy moments and also the scary, dark, confusing ones, hoping they will resonate for some of you. I have the joy of bringing these songs to families through my music, programs and performances. Thanks for joining me. Our kids are our greatest teachers, and singing, dancing, creating and sometimes just breathing along with them is one of life's greatest joys!