Numerous studies have demonstrated the positive effect that music can have on children, helping to stimulate parts of the brain related to memory, creativity and emotional development.
With this in mind, 12-piece Australian musical collective Kinderjazz has been composing blues, ragtime, jazz and swing music for children since Christobel Llewellyn founded the group in 1997, releasing nine albums along the way and performing in some of the most prestigious venues in the world, including the Sydney Opera House, Daring Harbour, Parramatta Stadium, Stadium Australia and many more.
In April of 2016, Kinderjazz’s song “Do the Latin Alphabet” was named Best Children’s Song at the Akademia Music Awards. The song appears on the group’s 2015 album, Teddy Bear’s Picnic.
How did you first become interested in playing music and performing?
Christobel: We were introduced to music at a very young age always being taken to live concerts and learning instruments. It’s definitely a passion.
Who have been your biggest musical influences over the course of your life?
Christobel: It’s so diverse. There’s no one artist, but a whole range from Beethoven to John Williams to Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong, Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, John Coltrane, Julie Andrews, The Beatles to Sesame Street.
What inspired the creation of Kinderjazz?
Christobel: It was a response to a crisis. When we had children, we went looking for live music for children and there wasn’t any. Kinderjazz is a something that fills this gap. It’s not just for our own children, but their entire generation.
How has the music of Kinderjazz changed or evolved from 1997 through today?
Christobel: We started with a 10-piece and then a chance meeting with a Latin Percussionist at Billy Hyde’s music store in Sydney led to a huge Latin influence and Aykho Akhrif played congas with the band. We then added a second trumpet to beef up the harmony. We’re aiming high by hiring professional musicians at the top of their field and the sound has pretty much stayed constant although we try and vary the influences on jazz each album.
What is the most rewarding aspect of performing music for children?
Christobel: They listen with their entire bodies. We were at the Sydney Opera House once and a group of about five little boys stood in front of the horns with their eyes closed and their hands held out in front, feeling the music hit them in the face. Children get that sound is physical and it connects our whole central nervous system. You would never get this kind of intensity with an adult audience. It’s really special.
Are there any contemporary musicians that you particularly admire?
Christobel: James Morrison, Australian jazz trumpet player and musician and educator. He would have to be at the top. I also love what Herbie Hancock is doing with International Jazz Day and everything Quincy Jones does. I also admire the entire Kinderjazz team, George Washingmachine, Jessica O’Donoghue, Kevin Hunt, David Groves, Martin Highland, Aykho Akhrif, Al Davey, Mike Kenny, Mark Barnsley, Jason Morphett, Glenn Henrich and Vanessa Patterson. They are all true legends.
Are you superstitious?
Christobel: No, not at all.
What was your favorite TV show when you were growing up?
Christobel: Didn’t have a TV growing up, but we loved all the Disney cartoons like Jungle Book which was on at the movies. We also watched Sound of Music and Mary Poppins and the music was played on cassette in the car endlessly.
What’s next for Kinderjazz?
Christobel: Kinderjazz is old enough to leave home so I think the next stop will be a U.S. tour and then onto Europe.