Johnny, America’s “Tap Dancing Aristocrat”

Once upon a time there lived a talented man.  He was born in New York City around the turn of the 20th century and was immediately given up for adoption.  As a young child, he was adopted by a sweet young family, but when the mother became ill, he was returned to the orphanage.  Several years went by and he was put on a train.  They called it the orphan train.  Strange name, but true story.  Orphans were placed on a train that traveled to the west.  When the orphans stepped off of the train, they would be examined by possible parents or families looking for a servant.  In this little boy’s case, he was chosen to be a servant.  He spent his life living with a man who beat him for everything he did wrong.  But he lucked out because this stern man had a loving sister who took care of him and gave him the love he needed.

This little boy eventually grew up and became a man.  He taught himself how to play the piano by ear.  Not only did he teach himself to play the piano, but he also became a self-taught tap dancer, winning 1st place at dance competitions and was a dance instructor.  Pretty good at it, I might add.  He was so good that he traveled around the country dancing & performing in Vaudeville shows.  After the thrill of the Vaudeville days died off, he continued to perform as a jazz pianist.  This man had it all. . . .a sweet demeanor, musical talent, and a love for everyone no matter what color!

On Valentine’s Day in 1948, he married a young lady.  He continued to perform in nightclubs all over the city and was very well known in the area.  His wife would follow him everywhere he went and tap her foot to every tune.  Eventually, this young lady and piano man had 2 children.

This little orphan boy was my granddaddy.  I never had the opportunity to meet him because he died a few months before I was born.  But in everything I do musically, I feel him there.  A person whom I never met has influenced my life in a significant way.  Oh how I would love to be able to chat with him for just an hour and get to know him, to hear him play, to watch him dance.  Introduce your children to the world of music when they’re young and see what it can do for them.  They may not grow up to be a modern Beethoven or Chopin, but they will have a gift that will never grow old.  Music is so important.  It surpasses generations.  It surpasses old age.  It is a priceless gift that you can enjoy for the rest of your life.  Never take that for granted.Image

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Take the old with the new

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It feels good to have a familiar friend in the house again.  This friend is brand new, but looks old.  She sits on a very old table that used to grace the living room of my grandmother.  My familiar friend is a turntable.  Brand new, yet she produces the sounds of old.  My records have been sorely missed.  All 100+ of them.  Can’t wait to hear how they sound on this familiar friend.  Old isn’t always a bad thing.  Old is where wisdom and knowledge live.  Old is where experience and fullness reside.  I don’t mind old.  I rather enjoy it

Would you like a little music on the side?

I have spent around 15 years of my post high school days working with children in some capacity:  as a teacher, nursery worker, music therapist and now as a mother.  This has resulted in the acquisition of a plethora of books!  My daughter will never be in want.  I have books for toddlers,  books for school age children, books about animals and Santa Claus and even books about grief.  But some of my favorite books are those that are about songs.

As if reading isn’t cool enough, there are books that you can sing to!  How cool is that?  I stumbled upon this idea back in the nineties and have been collecting them ever since.  When you add music to learning, a child retains the information.  Remember learning your ABC’s?  I bet you learned it from a song, now didnt you?  Music is an excellent tool for a music therapist to have in his or her back pocket!  Oh and for a parent, too!

Here are a few of my favorite sing along books:

Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star by Iza Trapani

Its Raining, Its Pouring by Kin Eagle and Rob Gilbert

Oh Where, Oh Where Has My Little Dog Gone?  By Iza Trapani

They are all published through whispering coyote press and have beautiful illustrations, especially those created by Iza Trapani.  The reason why I love these so much is because they don’t just follow the lyrics most of us know and stop there.  They have several verses that add to the fun of reading, I mean singing!  They also use traditional songs that most of us grew up singing.  With all of the budget cuts schools have to deal with these days, music tends to be one of th first courses to go.  This is a great way to keep music alive in your child’s life!

Check these books out and see how much fun it can be to add a little singing to your life.  And hey, you don’t have to sing well to sing to your child.  They don’t care!  They just want to spend some quality time with you.