Dr Christobel Llewellyn founded KINDERJAZZ, an Australian based big swing band for little kids, in 1997 with her husband Composer & Lyricist David Llewellyn. A specialist in music education Christobel set up the band with the aim of giving all children the opportunity to learn music from birth. The music on each of KINDERJAZZ’s albums is specifically written to engage young children and stimulate their developing minds.
As well as being an award winning music educator Christobel is also a professional pianist and conductor.
1. What inspired you to start KINDERJAZZ and when did it begin?
The inspiration came from our children and our passion for music. We wanted to share our love of live music with our children and found out this was more difficult than we could imagine. Most children’s music is not live and the quality was not what we wanted for our own children. A Big Band seemed the perfect medium to introduce children to the world of music and it’s instruments. With it’s fresh improvisations and variety of rhythms and harmony, it really engages small children and their families.
2. Why do you think it is important to educate children through live music?
Live music is a multi-sensory experience and with children on screens most of their day, we need multi-sensory experiences more than ever. KINDERJAZZ’s horn section literally hits you in the face with sound. It’s physical as well as emotional. Your brain subdivides the beat simultaneously anticipating the next phrase. You body moves to the rhythm and melody. The songs sing in your mind long after the concert. Children’s brains hate to be bored but with electronic devices taking over most of our thinking, their brains are being starved of real life experiences. The feel of sand, air pressure constantly changing in an outdoor environment, swimming in the ocean, depth cues from the horizon. All of these things help our attention span. Put in a square carpeted room with artificial lighting, our attention turns off. You turn off a growing brain and it gets used to it very quickly. Music works both hemispheres of our brain as well as our central nervous system. In fact music affects every part of our being. Mind, body and soul. It’s the easiest way to grown happy, healthy children. I think we have forgotten just how powerful it is.
3. We understand you have a special interest in working with children on the autistic spectrum. Can you tell us a little bit about the special needs choir you are starting this year?
For the last 15 years, KINDERJAZZ has been invited to perform at the Lord Mayor’s Picnic in Sydney on New Year’s Eve. This picnic is a chance for 2000 special needs kids and their families to experience the Royal Botanic Gardens on the harbour and see the fireworks on this special night. It’s blown my mind how brave these children are and how little they expect of others. They sing their hearts out and dance in the mosh pit to KINDERJAZZ wheelchairs and all. It’s a reality check to see how much joy they get out of expressing themselves musically. Something us able bodies take for granted. There is no choir in the country they can join and I want to address this as soon as possible. I have so much experience in teaching children in the spectrum and I can use 40 years of my own experience to develop their minds and bodies through music. It’s the Royal Botanic Garden’s 200th birthday and our choir is going to sing a specially commissioned song in Aboriginal language for the occasion. Quite an honour. I’m excited! Hopefully we can inspire other musicians to get involved.
4. KINDERJAZZ performed at the Lord Mayor’s Picnic in Sydney, Australia, on New Year’s Eve last year to a TV audience of 1 billion people. How did you prepare for that and were you nervous?
Nervous? Not a bit. KINDERJAZZ is made up of seasoned professionals. This is what they do every day. Performing is something they get up early in the morning for and stay up late for. It’s a passion.
5. What is next for KINDERJAZZ and where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Next on the list is a USA tour. Our dream is to perform live on Sesame Street in New York City.
And just for fun…
6. What song title would you choose for the story of your life?
OMG This is like choosing between my children! I would love to hear Samuel Barber’s Allegro For Strings. It was used in the Apollo 13 film. It just goes so indescribably deep.
7. You get to be a superhero for the day, which one do you choose and why?
Ironman. He’s a creative genius and Robert Downey Jnr has done such a great job in convincing me.
8. Who is your favourite Jazz Musician?
At the moment it’s 12 year old jazz pianist Joey Alexander.
9. Can you tell us something that will surprise us?
I can’t swim. Shocking considering I live in Australia!
10. What is your favourite quote?
I have two!
If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.
” There’s no use trying, ” said Alice. “One can’t believe in impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice.” said the Queen. “When I was your age I used to practice for half an hour a day. Why sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.” – Lewis Carroll, from ‘Alice in Wonderland‘
Find out more…
You can find out more about KINDERJAZZ, download a free song and buy one of their Children’s Music CD’s (recommended by Sesame Street) on their website www.kinderjazz.com
Follow KINDERJAZZ on Facebook
Follow on Twitter – @kinderjazz