Fred’s music exchange


First of all, thank you for responding to my request in November’s column to let me know what music you are listening to with your children.

Like a good cup of simmering eggnog on a cold day, your responses warmed my heart. Yes, you are out there reading and enjoying this column. But most importantly, you are passionate and articulate about the musical diet you want to provide your children.

In true Chicago style, your musical recommendations are diverse and eclectic. And this is exactly what I feel we should be feeding our children—a tasty and varied smorgasbord of music.

Here are few of your suggestions:

From Tracy of Merrionette Park:

“Sesame Street CDs have long been a favorite. The one we listen to most frequently is‘Songs From the Street: 35 Years of Music.’ The tunes are catchy, educational and always fun. My son really enjoys the music and my husband is in complete awe of the songs’ ability to become instantaneous ear worms!

“My son never really equated the songs with the actual Sesame Street characters (to him they are just songs!), which may be a benefit to parents who do not expose their children to television before the age of 2.

“A current favorite of ours is‘Putumayo Kids Presents: New Orleans Playground.’ This CD is a wonderful introduction to the very unique sounds of one of America’s most musical cities.

“A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the CD are donated to the Louisiana Children’s Museum in New Orleans which I can tell you from personal experience is an absolutely delightful place for a child to visit.

“With many places being overlooked in a still very-much struggling-to-recover New Orleans (and Gulf area in general), this is an easy, yet effective, way to help more than monetarily—introducing your child to the upbeat, exhilarating sounds of New Orleans may have a lifelong impact on them, and in turn, maybe someday on the entire area through them.”

Fred says: Thanks, Tracy. I, too, am a big fan of the wonderful music compilations produced by Putumayo and hope more families support this social initiative by buying the CD. And the three-CD box set"Songs From the Street” is a classic. Both recordings are great recommendations.

From Rod of Chicago

“Westbound on Montrose at 6 in the evening, there’s no one my kids and I would rather be stuck in traffic with than the Wee Hairy Beasties (‘Animal Crackers’). Every song on this album is a hit with us.

“The other way we share music is a bit more spontaneous. Some nights between dinner and bath, I momentarily quit feeling bone-dead tired and want to dance. Felix and Coco join me in the kitchen. I turn the volume up on the boom box way past where I should, put on a song whose content is decidedly non-toddler and then we do it: We jump, spin, skip and slide on the patch of hardwood that is our kitchen floor.”

Fred says: One of the best ways for us to show our kids that we value music is by showing it, so keep on dancing. I’m also happy to see that our readers are supporting our local recording artists such as Wee Hairy Beasties.

From Laurie of Chicago

“We like‘We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions’ by Bruce Springsteen. It is like a grownup Dan Zanes album with fabulous back-up musicians. We also like‘The Vienna I Love, Waltzes From My Heart’ by André Rieu. My daughter never listened to classical music, but when she started band I played her‘The Radetsky March’ (first track) and she was hooked.‘The William Tell Overture’ follows, then‘The Can Can’ and then so many beautiful waltzes…”

Fred says: I’m with you on The Seeger Sessions—great songs performed with great energy. And I support any means possible for getting our children"hooked” on classical music.

As you can tell just from these three responses, parents are dedicated to bringing a wide variety of music into their children’s lives. I also heard from parents who make sure their children are exposed to the"adult” music that the parents enjoy. As one parent put it, their son"listens to everything from Frank Sinatra and Johnny Cash to The Beatles and Meatloaf, just like we do.”

As I see it, our goal as parents is to expose our children to a wide spectrum of music styles and artists, not just to show them that it exists, but also to help them start to see that music is at the heart of our human culture and existence.

Final note: I did a quick search at and was able to find all the CDs mentioned in this article.

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,, helps parents, teachers and librarians select quality children’s music. E-mail him at

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