Our Own New Orleans Jazzfest, in NYC

As Jazzfest gets underway today, I’m a bit sad that we weren’t able to take peanut down there this year (next year!!).  But in the mean time, we have done a few things to get us into the spirit of the saints right here in NYC.  First was a night out for mom & dad to enjoy one the sessions of Dr. John’s Residency at BAM, and another was the “What is New Orleans Jazz?” family concert at Jazz at Lincoln Center last weekend.  “Dr. John: Insides Out: Funky But It’s Nu Awlins” was a a good show and a fab way to spend our new Thursday night out, but the family concert was just plain amazing and surpassed all expectations.

At 14 months, I wasn’t quite sure how she’d react, and was prepared to leave early or at least head to the back with her if she got restless, but she surprised me and remained entertained almost the whole time (the only exception when she wanted to go play with the girl a few empty seats over for a minute).

I can’t be sure that it helped keep her engaged, but I did take the time to try and get her excited for the event by playing more New Orleans jazz stuff in the days leading up to it, pointing out and mimicking all the instruments in the pics on her wall, and watching a few YouTube videos the day before so I could point out the instruments and pretend to play along.  Speaking of, I just have to take a moment to share our new favorite song “Put Down the Duckie.” Definitely go check it out!


Catchy song and impressive string of guests, right?!  Anyway, so back to the show… she danced, clapped, pointed at the instruments she recognized, acknowledged all the men wearing “HATTTs” admired the lights and decor by pointing and giving us a little Indian headshake that means “yes, it’s nice,” played with the mardi gras beads they gave out, made friends with the people close by, and danced, danced, danced some more.

You can have a listen to the songs they played on the JALC learning/listening site here.  She recognized many of the songs because one of her favorite albums is the Putomayo New Orleans Children’s Playground CD (not sure why it’s not listed on the Putumayo site, but Amazon carries it).  Say what you will about Putumayo series, but I’ve found a few gems which have become family favorites and this is one of them.

There was also a pre-concert activity beforehand that was nice, but that actually wasn’t what I was expecting.  We only went into the “non-instrument” session (I was told kids without instruments went there), so I’m not sure what the other session was about.  In ours, the kids colored and were supposed to draw their house along a long strip of paper taped to the floor that was meant to be the parade route.  There were also pics of some jazz greats and some instruments around, but there wasn’t a cohesive activity (unless we missed something by being a few minutes late).  Seeing the layout I was initially disappointed but perked up thinking that perhaps they’d have the kids do a bit of a parade or second line… maybe even with (non-pointy) umbrellas? – but actually it ended up just being the drawing/coloring.  It was fine, and peanut had a good time watching the other kids draw, and mimicking their laughs, but I saw it as a missed opportunity.  In any event, minutes later the actual concert made up for it by blowing us away.

We’ve not yet taken our daughter to music classes though it’s a pretty big thing in the city.  I haven’t really felt compelled to pay for anything in terms of formal, regular music exposure because we enjoy all sorts of music at home, we have a full size and a kid’s keyboard, and we sing lots of fun kids songs (especially those with motions right now because she loves joining in).   I’m all about “real” concerts though, and plan to do lots more outdoor shows with her this year.

For us, the experience of enjoying amazing music in this “real” setting (with a bit of a music lesson tastefully blended in) is what I’m excited to expose peanut to early on.  I suppose sitting (or dancing) around in a music class with other kids has it’s own benefit, but I really prefer this, and hope to find lots more events like it.  I’m sure there are more elsewhere I need to find, but for now here’s a few more at JALC that we’re excited about: coming up on June 10th at 3pm is a Sweet and Low Down: Family Matinee,” which I think we’ll try, but I’m even more excited for the “What is Latin Jazz?” and “Who is John Coltrane” family concerts next year.

I’ll close with a video from Jazzfest 2010.  It’s Paul Simon doing “That Was Your Mother,” and hubby and I were actually there for it!!  Great song, and appropriate for this post on a few levels.

That was your mother… that was your father… before you were born dude.. when life was great…

One Thought to “Our Own New Orleans Jazzfest, in NYC”

  1. RMOB

    Jazzfest now has a YouTube channel! Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/jazzfest. This morning peanut and I had a fun time watching, dancing and pointing out the instruments. Her favorite was Marcia Ball doing “Party’s Still Going On.”

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