KID-PAN ALLEY: A Non-Profit Organization Dedicated to Empowering Children to Create Their Own Music!
Posted On 30 Jun 2015
Tag: Across The Ages, American Visionary Art Museum, Amy Grant, Cole Porter, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corey Harris, Cracker, Delbert McClinton, Director of Licensing & Creative, George Gershwin, Grammy, Interview, Irving Berlin, Jerome Kern, Kid Pan Alley, Kid Pan Alley Band, Kix Brooks, Montpelier Chamber Orchestra, Music of Art, Nashville Chamber Orchestra, National Symphony, Non-Profit Organization, One Little Song Can Change The World, Patreon, Paul Reisler, Ryan Benyo, Scary Things, Sissy Spacek, Songwriting Residencies, Stand Up and Be Heard, Stockton Symphony, Strike Up The Band, Suzy Bogguss, Tidal Wave of Song, Tin Pan Alley, Trapezoid, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts
Learn more about the non-profit organization, Kid Pan Alley in the following interview with their Director of Licensing & Creative, Ryan Benyo here:
How did you first get involved with Kid Pan Alley?
Well, I had originally met Paul Reisler, the Artistic Director and Founder of Kid Pan Alley, about 9 years ago while I was a student in High School. Paul has been a wonderful mentor to me since the beginning so we’ve been working together on things off and on in one capacity or another. However, formally, about a year ago Paul called me looking for someone to help record/produce and pitch the Kid Pan Alley catalog of songs with the goal of finding various opportunities in Film/TV licensing, as well as finding established and emerging artists to record the songs, etc.
Essentially, they were looking to find someone to be a resource for all things west-coast related. It would be the most ideal situation to use the extensive catalog of songs Kid Pan Alley has accumulated (and continues to accumulate) over the years as a primary source of funding for Kid Pan Alley which has historically relied on generous donations from supporters. Long story short, we decided I would be a good fit for that role.
Can you describe exactly what the organization is all about?
Kid Pan Alley is a non-profit organization with a mission to inspire and empower children to work together to become creators of their own music and to rekindle creativity as a core value in education through the group songwriting process. We typically work in a school setting, with a classroom full of kids who have never written a song before, and guide them through the songwriting process in a few short sessions with the end result being the creation of an original song and a life changing experience!
With over 2,500 songs written and with over 35,000 children across the U.S., Kid Pan Alley songs have been recorded by artists including Amy Grant, Sissy Spacek, Delbert McClinton, Cracker, Kix Brooks, Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Corey Harris, Suzy Bogguss and many others. Kid Pan Alley’s recorded work has earned many accolades from all corners of the industry, including a GRAMMY® nomination.
I am the Director of Licensing & Creative, so my main priorities at this time are recording, producing, organizing, and pitching our catalog of songs while being a resource for all things audio and music industry related. Kid Pan Alley is based in Virginia, so me being in Los Angeles also helps us cover more ground in terms of creating residency opportunities with schools and media opportunities (like with All Access!!) That said, we are a very small staff doing very big things so we end up helping each other with pretty much everything.
Kid Pan Alley writes amazing songs in every possible genre you could imagine! We have orchestral work, we have a musical, we have pop songs, rock songs, country songs, funk songs, blues songs, and everything in-between. I have a pretty diverse background in recording, producing, and arranging many different styles of music. Sometimes we get to collaborate with incredible musicians right on the spot, other times, we have to sequence things and imagine what it’s going to sound like when we bring those folks in. So I would say that’s probably my biggest tool in the toolbox—the ability to work in different styles and both collaborate and work entirely independently. (Fortunately, we always have Paul who is an incredible guitarist, composer and arranger).
What are some of the different programs within Kid Pan Alley?
Kid Pan Alley programs revolve around the art of songwriting. As we can write songs about virtually every subject, we’ve developed some interesting partnerships that have led to a variety of programs that focus on different interests and populations. Here is a list of our major programs:
Songwriting Residencies in the schools: In one of our typical programs, we go into a school for 5 days and write 8 songs with 8 different classes. On the last day, we rehearse with the children in the morning and then have an afternoon concert for the school and an evening concert for the community. We record the afternoon concert and have CD’s available at the evening concert. We also have a 2-day version of the residency program.
Variations on Songwriting Residencies:
Music of Art programs take the children to a museum where they choose a work of visual art as inspiration for their songs. After the children have written the songs, they do their own artwork inspired by the songs. Art inspiring song….song inspiring art. It’s a great integrative arts program for the children and a good way to bring new audiences into the museum through a concert and other events. A few of our partners include the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Corcoran Gallery of Art, the American Visionary Art Museum as well as smaller museums and galleries.
Across the Ages intergenerational Kid Pan Alley residencies brings the generations together—elders and elementary students sharing life stories and creating original songs based on these stories.
Strike Up the Band—partnerships with orchestras: After writing the songs, we bring in a quartet from the orchestra and work with the children on arranging their songs. It’s inspiring for the children as they experience the instruments of the orchestra being used in service of their music. We then arrange selected songs for full orchestra and perform them with the symphony. We’ve worked with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra, National Symphony, Stockton Symphony, Montpelier Chamber Orchestra and others.
Assembly Programs and concerts:
Stand Up and Be Heard, One Little Song Can Change the World, is a character development/bullying prevention assembly program focusing on respect — respect for each other, the community, the environment and oneself, featuring songs written by the children. In the morning, the children have an opportunity to write extra verses for 4 songs. In the afternoon, they will “stand up and be heard” with their verses and voices as we present the assembly program.
Concerts: Kid Pan Alley is available for concerts in formats ranging from a duo to the full 7-piece Kid Pan Alley Band with horn section.
Songwriting workshops for adults: Our founder, Paul Reisler is one of the most popular songwriting teachers in the country and offers workshops as well as week-long songwriting camps.
How long has Kid Pan Alley been around? How do you see it growing in the years to come?
Kid Pan Alley started in 1999 with a brilliant but obvious discovery—kids make the greatest co-writers—especially when you are writing songs for kids. Paul Reisler, songwriter, composer, master songwriting teacher and founder of Trapezoid, learned this during an elementary school songwriting residency project in rural Rappahannock County, VA. Inspired by the 50 songs he wrote with over 600 children, he invited a diverse group of the community’s professional musicians to record one song each for Tidal Wave of Song.
Our goal is to reach as many children as possible with a meaningful creative experience so that they know they can be creators of their own culture. Towards that, we are always developing new programs and partnerships. We’re also working to get more of our vast catalog of songs recorded so that the creative output of the children can be heard and appreciated.
I read that the organization was nominated for a Grammy! When was that and what was it for specifically?
It was for Best Vocal Performance with Orchestral Accompaniment for our song “Scary Things” on our 2006 album with the Nashville Chamber Orchestra.
Where did the name come from?
From the 1890s through the mid-1950s, Tin Pan Alley was the nickname of a street in New York City where many of our nation’s most popular songwriters-including such legendary artists as Irving Berlin, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern and George Gershwin all set up shop. The street was W. 28th Street, between 5th & 6th Avenues. These diverse artists impacted American music forever, developing musical styles including blues, jazz and ragtime, not to mention, musical scores, that ultimately it all collectively became known as a distinct new musical form: Americana. Kid Pan Alley builds on that tradition, inspiring the next generation of great American songwriters.
Is there anything else that you would like our readers to know about Kid Pan Alley?
We recently launched a profile with an online platform called Patreon. It’s a crowd-funding platform similar to Kickstarter or IndieGoGo but it’s more subscription based where patrons can give $5 or more a month and support the creation of new recordings of Kid Pan Alley songs. Instead of it being one final goal, it’s a series of small goals that our Patrons help us achieve. We’ve been posting a few songs a month and we encourage readers to check it out. www.patreon.com/kidpanalley