Kid Pan Alley started with a brilliant but obvious discovery—kids make the greatest co-writers—especially when you are writing songs for kids. Paul Reisler, songwriter, composer, master songwriting teacher and founder of Trapezoid, learned this during an elementary school songwriting residency project in rural Rappahannock County, VA. There, he co-wrote over 50 songs with all 600 children in the county. The songs were funny, touching, goofy, gross—and completely enchanting. They turned out to be so good that Reisler asked a number of the county’s professional musicians—many of them nationally and internationally known—to record one song each in their own style. The recording, Tidal Wave of Song, became an expression of the whole community—and of the power of song to inspire the spirit of community. Ever since, Kid Pan Alley has created a tidal wave of songs around the country. We’ve now written over 1,500 songs with more than 25,000 children.
We’ve finished two more CD projects, including Kid Pan Alley Nashville in partnership with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, which features some of the city’s top recording artists, including Amy Grant, Delbert McClinton, Kix Brooks, Raul Malo and Kix Brooks recording songs we wrote with the kids. That album received a Grammy nomination as well as a number of other awards including a Parents’ Choice Gold Award.
Last year, we produced a full CD project in Charlottesville, VA, I Used to Know the Names of All the Stars, featuring a number of world-class performing artists—including Jesse Winchester and Sissy Spacek—who call Charlottesville home. Paul Reisler and Terri Allard wrote songs with children during 8 week-long residencies at 8 schools in Charlottesville. Future plans include albums on specific themes including peace, nature, love, history as seen through the eyes of our elders, and holidays.
Kids love music. With their unrestrained imaginations, they make great co-writers. Imagine what Kid Pan Alley could do in your community or in other communities around the country with your help. Imagine how different life will be for the children who get the chance to see themselves as creators. That can make all the difference.
We’d like to tell you about a couple of children who were affected by Kid Pan Alley, Cecila and Tyrone. Cecila is a 2nd grader in an English as a 2nd language class in Nashville. One day, Paul Reisler brought a Kid Pan Alley workshop to her class. The resulting song, “Whispering in Spanish” combined English verses with a Spanish chorus to create a magical love song joining child-like imagination with the craft of a songwriter who has written over 3000 songs. Not only did Cecila have a lot of great ideas for the song but she also translated for the other kids as they worked back and forth in English and Spanish. A week later, Paul came back with some musicians from the Nashville Chamber Orchestra and they arranged the song. All the kids got see how the instruments from the orchestra could be used to play their music. Then, Raul Malo of the Mavericks recorded their song, and Cecila and her class got to add their own voices to the recording for a nationally released CD.
Tyrone never did well in school until they day he got to write a song with world-class songwriters Bill Lloyd and Paul Reisler. His teacher couldn’t believe it. She called the principal in to watch through the window as Tyrone inspired the whole class with his ideas and his command of rhyme. Perhaps it was his one chance to experience himself in such a positive way. Maybe it was the beginning of seeing himself as a creative force rather than destructive one. Tyrone was changed in the eyes of his classmates, his teacher, his principal, and most importantly, himself.
Just imagine you are one of these children. You’re changed forever—seeing yourself as a creator and not just a consumer. You learn about teamwork, embracing diversity and collaboration through the group songwriting process. You’re able to express your feelings through song and that just might help all the kids understand each other better. You feel really listened to. And imagine the almost unimaginable—a song you wrote is recorded by a Grammy winning artist that you’ve heard on the radio. You get excited about creative writing and learn about rhyme, metaphor, rhythm and melody through the process of writing your song. You even learn something that might help you on your tests. And since profits from Kid Pan Alley CD sales go to more music enrichment programs, it might make it possible for you to learn more about music.
Kid Pan Alley uses the group songwriting process to inspire and empower children to become creators of their own music, not just consumers of popular culture. Kid Pan Alley’s songwriting residencies and character development assemblies give children the opportunity to express their creativity and learn how thinking creatively can lead to future success, and:
Promote self-awareness and self-confidence by attaching value to the students’ creative impulses;
Help children experience creative expression as a means of embracing diversity, teamwork, and collaboration by supporting creativity as a prime skill to all critical thinking and problem-solving;
Help children learn and increase their ability to learn. Kid Pan Alley addresses national learning standards in the areas of creativity, music, English, performance, and connects to other areas of learning including History, Civics, Science, and Health. We think this is one of the most important outcomes of our program.
Promote community awareness of the arts as essential elements of instruction in the lives of children; foster collaboration between students, teachers, administrators, artists, and the community through working together in a creative process.
Teach respect for intellectual property. Children who have written their own songs have a first-hand understanding of the negative effects of “pirating” on creators and their communities;
Raise funds for more arts enrichment programs through sales of professional CDs of Kid Pan Alley songs.
HOW IT WORKS: Songs are generally written in one or two class periods with the students working in a group process developed by Paul Reisler. We guide the students through the songwriting process, from the creation of an original idea to finished song in a fun filled way that honors the input of the children. The students decide what they want to write about. The subject matter is often surprising—it may be about their cat, but often it’s likely be about a grandparent with Alzheimer’s, something they are studying in school, social issues or events in the world around them. Always the songs have a twist that can only come from the unrestrained imagination of a child. The songwriter and class work together to craft the children’s ideas into a song. The songwriter asks for a tune to go with the words and writes the music to match a child's suggestion - it’s always original. The songs come out in a wide array of styles, from country to classical, from folk to hip-hop. At the end of the class, we record the song and burn a CD for the class. A concert of the songs ends the residency. We suggest both an assembly for the entire school as well as an evening program for the community.
Projects can range from short-term residencies and concerts to full CD projects. While we’ve worked with everything from 3-year olds through adults with great success, we prefer working with 2nd-5th grades. Please give us a call to discuss how we might bring a Kid Pan Alley project to your community.
BRING KID PAN ALLEY TO YOUR COMMUNITY Because each KPA project is tailored to the community, we need you! We need your enthusiasm, support, ideas, and fundraising efforts. In Tennessee , our project was hosted by the Nashville Chamber Orchestra. We were brought to Patrick County, VA by a community effort funded by The Reynolds Homestead. Kid Pan Alley projects happen because people like you step up and get involved. PTAs, symphonies, generous individuals, art museums, teachers, and supporters of the arts of all kinds are helping to bring Kid Pan Alley home to their communities. We can help you design a project that is right for you and partner with you to make it happen. Please contact us to find out more.