Old Songs Are New Again

by Brooke Schmidt
Atlanta Our Kids (published by United Parenting Publications Inc.), January 2003

Musician, actor and dad Harry Connick, Jr., believes that getting children to appreciate music is like getting them to appreciate vegetables. “If you give a kid [fast food] every day, that’s all they’ll be open to,” explains Connick. “If you give them broccoli, they may not like it, but they’ll know it is out there and be open to it. You have to expose kids to music – jazz, classical music, rock and roll – and they’ll be open. I’ve learned from my daughters that kids are open books, clean palates.”

Connick spent much of December trying to expose children to his funky, big-band jazz style, performing in a 10-city tour to promote the Songs I Heard album he released in October 2001. On the album, Connick transforms tunes from classic childhood films into big band style songs that appeal to listeners of all ages. The 16-tracks include a mournful version of Maybe from the movie Annie, a sweet, smooth version of The Sound of Music’s Edelweiss and lots of toe-tapping songs from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Mary Poppins, and The Wizard of Oz.

“I can’t remember exactly how I came up with the idea for Songs I Heard,” Connick says of his inspiration for the album. “You know how when you hear a song on the radio or television that you haven’t heard in awhile, you just like it. I heard a song from an older movie and got to thinking about doing a record that treated the songs the way an adult would, but also so that kids could relate. I took songs from five great movies that everyone knows about and just did it.”

Connick’s jazz sound isn’t typically considered traditional kid-fare, so his tour chose venues such as Atlanta’s SciTrek museum to hold the concerts. “Jazz isn’t the most accessible thing for kids,” says Connick. “The venues are geared toward children to help make the music more accessible.”

At his two Atlanta shows, Connick wowed an audience of children and adults who sat – or danced – not in chairs, but on the floor. “Everyone knows many of the songs on the album. I mean, the Wizard of Oz and Sound of Music are part of our history, our memories. Those movies feature music that is easy to understand for everyone. The songs, even if you’re not familiar with some of them, are tried and true kids’ hits.”

Connick says any parent can make music enjoyable for kids. “Growing up in New Orleans, music was always easy to hear; you were always exposed to it,” Connick explains. “Today, parents can buy appropriate CDs, take kids to the symphony once in awhile or just expose them to musical instruments in any capacity. Whenever kids are around any type of music, it’s pretty cool.” So what is Connick’s favorite movie featured on the album?

“Oh, probably Willy Wonka,” Connick says. “Willy Wonka is such a goofball; he’s kind of weird. Kids are always looking at him like ‘what is with this guy?’ That’s how kids look at me sometimes,” Connick says, laughing.

Brooke Schmidt is the calendar and special sections editor for Atlanta Our Kids.

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