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Corny, active and a little insane: What makes kids music that works for adults?

Saturday, July 27, 2013, 10:30am - 12:00pm
The Crawford Family Forum 474 South Raymond Ave. Pasadena, CA 91105 Map and directions
Three Los Angeles-based artists—Lisa Loeb, Aaron Nigel Smith, and Mista Cookie Jar (aka C.J. Pizarro)—gave us their interpretation of what kids' music should sound like. And believe it or not, you might like it too.
Three Los Angeles-based artists—Lisa Loeb, Aaron Nigel Smith, and Mista Cookie Jar (aka C.J. Pizarro)—gave us their interpretation of what kids' music should sound like. And believe it or not, you might like it too.

What makes kids music unique and appealing to adults, too?

The key to listening to kids music is the lyrics: they must be visually imaginative.

That's according to Lisa Loeb, one of three L.A.-based artists who joined moderator Alex Cohen to discuss, explore and perform their music for  kids and adults. Performer Aaron Nigel Smith, and musical mad-scientist Mista Cookie Jar (aka C.J. Pizarro) were also on hand to talk about how to engage and entertain kids and adults together.

Loeb, who is known to write about love (or lack thereof), says she's inspired to do kids music that is fun to listen to and music that's fun to play. She says activity is a big part of what she aims for: her tracks hope to inspire interactivity for her mixed-age audience.

She says motherhood and experience have influenced the way she writes music for kids so they can relate to and inspire their imagination. 

Take, for example, her "Peanut Butter and Jelly" song. It's one of the staples of her performances. She says using her hands to illustrate the making of a PB&J sandwich adds an element of play.

Smith, on the other hand, says he seeks to engage the audience. Unlike Loeb's music, Smith creates music that encourages movement and the parent-child connection. He says he knows a performance is going well when he can see engagement. 

"My goal is to see interaction between parents and children," he said. "I love to see children looking to the eyes of their parents and vice versa and them enjoying each other's time."  

Check out a selection of adult-safe kids music from Saturday's performers: 

Smith said his study of classical music has allowed him to delve into into other musical genres including kids music. 

Kids music can tend to be highly visual and easy to grasp, and Pizarro's act as Mista Cookie Jar is an example of how an artist can connect across an audience that is 20-plus years apart.

Having his step-daughter, Ava Flava, up on stage with him has helped him connect with his audience, he says.

"Kids will identify with them because they're kids on stage," he said.

Adults might find kids music a little whacky and unusual, but in the end, Pizarro says that for a musician creating that kind of music is truly just an exploration of one's talents.

"I've just loved music my whole life, and going into kids music is just the perfect outlet for me to combine all sorts of genres and every influence I've ever had, and just to mix it all up together," he said.

With contributions by Luis Gomez. This event was produced by Elaine Cha and moderated by Alex Cohen. You can view free upcoming events at KPCC's Crawford Family Forum at the forum website.

Grammy®-nominated singer/songwriter Lisa Loeb started her career with the platinum-selling Number 1 hit song “Stay (I Missed You)” from the film Reality Bites. To this day, she is still the only artist to have a Number 1 single while not signed to a recording contract, a remarkable and unparalleled feat for an unsigned artist, though perhaps not a surprising one for the Brown grad girl with the cat-eye glasses, who at the time was already making her mark in New York’s burgeoning singer-songwriter scene. @LisaLoeb


Aaron Nigel Smith's “Call To Action” is to get kids moving. In 2002 he founded FUNdamentals of Music and Movement, an arts program which is now the program of choice to over 100 early education centers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, NewYork, and Boston. His fun, inspired, and lively show is guaranteed to get the audience off their feet. @aaronnigelsmith



Mista Cookie Jar (aka C.J. Pizarro) is a children's music performer/multi-instrumentalist/music & video producer extraordinaire. With his family band, Mista Cookie Jar & the Chocolate Chips, they've toured all over the US promoting their blend of Urban-Island-Folky-Rock & Roll for the Inner Child. Fusing audio style and visual lyricism, tradition and innovation, Mista Cookie Jar unites a rockstar excitement with the warmth of family music. @MistaCookieJar