A Method to Their Melody For Tracy Bonham

It takes a village to raise a family. But it doesn’t take an entire orchestra to show children the entertainment and educational value of classical music. Former alt-rocker Tracy Bonham was touring the Blue Man Group when she decided to pivot to children’s music in 2006. She opted to use her training as a violinist and begin teaching private lessons and launched Melodeon Music House (MMH). Tracy began testing her curriculum at the Brooklyn Preschool of Science in 2015, where she shared her revelation that “This is the age before kids start believing the words ‘I can’t.’ Kids are totally game to express joy while learning about music.”
Young Maestros Volume 1

When the pandemic shut down Tracy’s tour in March 2020, she and bassist Renee Hart flew home to New York on an empty plane and made the decision to focus on MMH, making it accessible online. With Renee and former student Jasmyne Lawrence-Hart, Melodeon’s program is inspired by the 1970s children’s music convergence of The Electric CompanySesame StreetMr. Rogers’ NeighborhoodSchool House Rock, and Free To Be You and Me. Tracy created hundreds of livestreamed classes. These hours of online engagement also set the stage for her new release, Young Maestros Vol. 1.

My experience with classical music education started and ended with a well-worn double-sided LP of “Tubby the Tuba” and “Meet the Orchestra.” Tracy applies the Free To Be model of humor to distract kids from the knowledge that – hey, they’re gaining a little knowledge. For instance, have you ever thought about time signatures? Definitely important if you’re passionate about drumming but generally a factor that falls through the cracks. Tracy tackles that concept on “Beats To a Measure” and uses a similar technique with solfeggio (tones) on “I Am A Moveable Do” (as in do-re-mi). 

The packaging of Young Maestros Vol. 1 (if you go for physical CDs) comes with a lyric instruction sheet and an illustration of five blackbirds perched on groups of two and three piano keys so kids can play along on “All The Blackbirds.” If you want to avoid a sensitive conversation about cover songs, don’t mention that “I Like Big Beats” (about the rhythm section) was derived from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s 1992 “Baby Got Back” (otherwise known as “I Like Big Butts”). Then again, if your kids have been exposed to Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B, that battle’s already lost.

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For a few years, my mother pushed the Little Orchestra Society (around for 74 years) as a gateway to classical music for children. They’ve gone virtual during the past year but lack the interactive approach of MMH. As the pandemic theoretically winds down, Tracy Bonham and MMH offer a firsthand passage to an appreciation of instruments and the world of music through Young Maestros Vol. 1

On Saturday, April 24, fans may join the live-streamed album listening party, with live music and special guests. Tracy will share the stories behind the music from Young Maestros Vol. 1, play her new music videos, and interact with fans.

Young Maestros Vol. 1 is available from Amazon, and Apple Music.

Here is the Melodeon Music House video for “Beats To A Measure”:

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This post was last modified on April 18, 2021 10:53 pm

Jeffrey Cohen

Born and raised in New York (with a brief sojourn in New Jersey during his preteen years), Jeffrey Cohen lives in New York with his two sons. He has reviewed children's music for the past 11 years on his own blog. Jeff's podcast, "MrJeff2000 Explains It All" is available through iTunes.

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