It happened one Sunday in February, 1994. Jonathan Sprout was reading a feature highlighting his career as a children’s singer-songwriter-recording artist in the Philadelphia Inquirer for which he had recently been interviewed, when he noticed an article about heroes in an adjacent column.
A nation-wide poll among the youth of America had asked, “Who is your hero?” The results of the poll startled Sprout. Among America’s top-10 kids’ heroes were Bart Simpson, Beavis & Butthead and several celebrity athletes whose off the field antics were anything but heroic.
“Who are our real heroes?” Sprout remembers thinking, “Why aren’t they on this list and how can we get them on this list?” That’s when his idea of writing and recording songs about real heroes was born.
Fifteen years later, the psychology major from Bucknell University has performed thousands of concerts in elementary schools across the eastern United States. Jonathan Sprout has written thirty songs about some of the most remarkable men and women in American history, ranging chronologically from Pocahontas to Neil Armstrong. His list of heroes includes politicians (George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson), athletes (Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph), scientists (Jonas Salk, Thomas Edison), feminists (Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Blackwell), civil rights leaders (Martin Luther King, Jr., Frederick Douglass, Cesar Chavez) and others. He has created three American heroes albums; the latest, American Heroes #3, was released January 13.
With the help of author-lecturer Dr. Dennis Denenberg, a noted heroes specialist, Sprout “chose people who were heroes day after day, who lived and breathed elements of good character, who are good examples that children can understand and emulate.”
“Having this unique career is a bit of a blessing and a curse,” says Sprout. “The downside is: having carved out such a specialized niche for myself, my records are sometimes overlooked in the broader musical landscape. And people who don’t know me see my name—it really is Sprout--and think I sing baby songs about the Jolly Green Giant. In addition, 95% of my concerts are performed in elementary schools, usually under the media radar.”
If there’s any lingering illusion that children’s music is juvenile, one need only listen to American Heroes #3. It’s a stunning collection of highly produced pop rock tunes that sound a bit like Bon Jovi and The Jonas Brothers meet James Taylor. His sophisticated sound is rich with intricate, interweaving counter melodies and a full assortment of instruments, including walls of electric and acoustic guitars, pop synth sounds, banjos, mandolins, accordions, horns and various keyboards.
“I’ve always loved learning about amazing people,” says Sprout. “Now I have a professional excuse to learn and write about some of the best. Who else do you know who gets to sing his own songs about real heroes for captive, star-struck audiences? Having grown up among parent and grandparent educators, teaching is in my blood. The particular combination of entertainment and education that comes from singing about heroes gives me a sense of fulfillment and joy I’d only dreamed of in my early days when I was performing in nightclubs and coffeehouses.”
Highlights: 6,126 lifetime performances * 5,099 children’s concerts * 787 Songwriting Workshops * Nine albums * iParenting "Best Product of 2009" Winner * 3 Parents’ Choice Awards * 2 NAPPA Gold Awards * 2 Film Advisory Board Awards of Excellence * Dove Foundation "Family-Approved" Seal