AMERICAN HEROES #3, by Jonathan Sprout, Sprout Recordings, $13.99,
Teachers and parents often ask children to name someone they
would consider a hero. Television reporters often cite public
servants who have gone above and beyond the call of duty to help
fellow citizens. And on Jan. 15, the world witnessed the heroic
work of Captain Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who saved countless
lives as he masterfully piloted his crippled US Airways airplane
into the Hudson River.
But too often children think of celebrities as their heroes. As
parents and teachers, we need to help children differentiate
between stardom and heroism. We look up to celebrities for their
talent. Heroes we look up to because of their deeds.
Jonathan Sprout has made it his mission to educate children
about some of America's heroes. Sprout has just released the third
CD in his American Heroes series, another collection of
awe-inspiring songs designed to inspire children.
Sprout follows the same format for "American Heroes #3" as he
did on his critically acclaimed projects, "American Heroes" and
"More American Heroes." Once again Sprout collaborated with Dave
Kinnoin (another outstanding children's songwriter and musician).
Once again they crafted a collection of exceptional songs that
spotlight such outstanding Americans as Jane Addams (Nobel Peace
Prize), Elizabeth Blackwell (first U.S. female doctor), George
Washington Carver (agricultural scientist), Cesar Chavez (civil
rights activist), Milton Hershey (chocolate king/philanthropist),
Thomas Jefferson (third president), John Muir (conservationist),
Pocahontas (peacemaker), Wilma Rudolph (Olympic gold medalist) and
Jonas Salk (polio vaccine).
You know some of their stories of pain and struggle, heartache
and perseverance. But these musical biographies are also filled
with the power of imagination, selfless acts and remind us of the
courage it takes to be true to your heart and passionately follow
I have written many times about what separates good children's
music from great children's music. It is in the subtle and
often-unseen musical artistry present in a well-crafted project.
"American Heroes #3" is another fine example.
Take the first song, "Chocolate King," for example. "Believe and
never stop/Keep your eyes on the mountaintop. /A little bump in the
road doesn't mean a thing/To the Chocolate King." Pretty simple and
even somewhat clichéd, right? But the magic comes when Sprout links
the lyrics with a melody and accompaniment that support and propel
the song into rock anthem status. This song reminds me of the old
Fleetwood Mac song, "Don't Stop Thinking About Tomorrow."
Each song is a self-contained lesson that soars well beyond what
we might think "educational" music for children might be. Again,
the reason is Sprout makes these stories come to life by
judiciously and strategically using the magic of melody and the
power of brilliant musical arrangements to support each song. You
will also appreciate the fact that the liner notes contain an
informative summary about each American hero.
In addition to all of the fabulous musical biographies contained
in "American Heroes #3," there are two "bonus" songs. My favorite,
"Good For Me," could be interpreted from several points of view
(child to parent, citizen to hero), but I see the song as a
soundtrack to a teacher's end-of-the-year slide show about her
class. Here's the chorus: "It's good for me that I found you/To be
that special someone I can look up to/You're with me now, and
you'll always be/Yes, you'll always be good for me." This powerful
song is a perfect culminating sentiment for such a magnificent
collection of songs about individuals who started out as regular
people and ended up as heroes.
I would be remiss if I didn't remind you to buy Sprout's first
two CDs, "American Heroes" and "More American Heroes." Be sure to
go to his Web site (www.jonsprout.com) for more
information. Look for the link to CD Baby (www.cdbaby.com) where you can
hear 30-second clips of each song.
And remember, you too can be a hero to a kid!
Fred Koch lives in Lake Bluff with his wife and son and is an
award-winning music educator, recording artist and producer. His
Web site, BestChildrensMusic.com, helps parents, teachers and
librarians select quality children's music. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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