Ella Jenkins: 'The First Lady of Children's Music'

February 16, 2011 (CHICAGO)

Her goal is to teach children about other cultures through song, by transcending language and cultural barriers. She uses music from diverse cultures and has said, "Songs from foreign languages and cultures have such interesting rhythmic patterns that children like to play."

Jenkins She has worked with children for four decades, traveling to all seven continents to do so.

Jenkins grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and it was when she volunteered at a Chicago recreation center that she began to write songs for children.

She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the first Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award for a children's music artist. She will again be honored on April 1 as part of Urban Gateways 50th Anniversary Gala event in Chicago.

Jenkins will release her 29th album titled, "A Life of Song," on February 22.

In certain songs, children from Chicago's Donoghue Elementary and Horace Greely Elementary sing-along in a call-and-response fashion.

Her inspiration for the album is her experience growing up in multicultural Chicago as an African American child.

Upcoming Chicagoland performances:

Feb. 20th
4:00 pm
$10.00 members $14.00 non members
Wonder Works, 6445 West North Avenue, Oak Park, IL
Tickets: 708-383-4815

Upcoming Awards:
April 1st, 50th Anniversary Honoree
Urban Gateways, Chicago
Feb. 26th
2011 Living Legends Awards for Service to Humanity, Ashton, MD


Songs of GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Winner's Chicago Childhood Out IN February 2011 as part of Smithsonian Folkways' African American Legacy Series

On February 22, 2011, the African American Legacy recording series, a joint production of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture and Smithsonian Folkways Recordings, will release 'A Life of Song' from musician and educator Ella Jenkins, known as "The First Lady of Children's Music."

On 'A Life of Song,' her 29th release for the label since 1957, Jenkins offers stories and songs that speak to her years growing up as an African American child in multicultural Chicago. Children from Chicago's Donoghue Elementary and Horace Greeley Elementary schools join her in call-and-response singing on well-known songs including "Pick a Bale of Cotton" and "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands," a world that in Jenkins' version includes Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Sacajawea, and John F. Kennedy. The album's 21 tracks also include songs from Ella's 1920s Chicago childhood such as "One Two Three O'Leary," which in this rendition is sung both in English and Spanish.

Jenkins also sings on her own and accompanied by Rita Ruby's guitar and vocals on affecting tracks including the spirituals "I Want to Be Ready" and "Sing Low, Sweet Chariot"; plays "Milk Cow Blues" on harmonica; and, accompanied by her own drumming, chants a litany of "Black Royalty," including Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Nat King Cole, Queen Latifah and empress of the blues Bessie Smith.

Ella Jenkins has received many awards over her long career, including a 2004 GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award and nominated for the 2005 GRAMMY Award for Best Musical Album for Children. The CD, cELLAbration which was a collaboration of musicians including; Sweet Honey and The Rock, Riders In The Sky, Cathy and Marcy, Pete Seeger, Tom Chapin covered Ella Jenkins songs and won the Grammy in 2005. She was the first woman and first children's musician to receive the ASCAP Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, earned a 2009 United States Artists award, and her films; 'The Me Too Series' has been shown numerous times on "Sesame Street," and she has appeared multiple times on "Barney and Friends" and "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood." Her 1966 album 'You'll Sing a Song and I'll Sing a Song' is the best-selling title in the history of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings and is in the Library of Congress.

Parenting magazine has said that Jenkins' "simple but irresistible songs, poems, and mini-language lessons... reflect the beauty of diverse cultures." 'A Life of Song' tells Ella Jenkins' musical story as entrancingly as she has told stories in song to children for half a century.

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