Your Toddler Would Ditch the Rattle for an Hour with This Musical Toy

by Francesca Farruggio

Rock babies deserve to benefit from most innovative music technology out there in order to help them improve sensual skills and increase brain development, which is why we want to show you to this weird-looking, but apparently super-powerful new toy in development.

Introducing… The Magical Musical Thingy-Majigger!musical thing

Yep, Dr. Seuss Fans. Feast your eyes on this beauty. Unfortunately, it’s not available yet (but you can see prototypes here), but we’re hoping it gets the crowdfunding it needs soon.

Invented by Australian entrepreneur and rockdaddy Stuart McArthur, with the help of his four-year-old son Kai, this new toy reintroduces traditional, hands-on sensory activities and creates an opportunity for children to be more imaginative and inventive.

The backstory: Stuart watched his son day after day have the time of his life forming all sorts of shapes out of the most simple household items. Kai referred to his experimental creations as “Magical Musical Thingy-Majiggers,” and Stuart instantly fell in love with the idea. He saw the amount of potential the concept could have in the toy industry and decided to turn Kai’s thingy-majiggers into a reality.

For budding engineers, scientists, musicians, actors, dancers and entrepreneurs, ages 3 and up, there are no rules for building and playing with The Magical Musical Thingy-Majigger.

Its magical, vibrant, tactile, stimulates curiosity, which leads to the fun of exploring, the excitement of discovery and the marvel of creation.

Your rockin’ toddler can select how many pieces and color combinations she’d like to use and connect them together. Then, twist and turn the creations into all sorts of Magical Musical Thingy-Majiggers.

Best of all, this toy is designed to ensure it clips together and separates easily and is still robust enough to stay together when changing shapes, adding pieces and playing.

We’re hoping it comes out of the crowdfunding phase and into boutique kiddie stores soon.

Francesca Farruggio is a contributing writer for Rockmommy.

My Kid Doesn’t Want to Be a Rockstar

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom 

He’s only 6, but my oldest child, Nathan, has made it quite clear he doesn’t want to play guitar, piano or drums. He doesn’t want to sing either, or be in any kind of musical group or glee club. 

Nate

My little rockstar Nathan (who doesn’t want to be a rockstar) 

Part of me is a kind of bummed about this. Since I was a little girl, I dreamed of making music, and when I finally joined my first band in my early 20s, couldn’t wait till my first gig. I loved singing and writing songs. Even poetry, my truest love and most intimate artistic expression, was a gateway to songwriting and music. 

So of course I assumed I’d pass on this love. I keep my collection of guitars and amps in the play room, with instruments of all sizes scattered about. There’s a drum kit and a piano in the basement. I’m not unlike other musician parents — like Julie Rustad, Trish and Chris of The Natch!, or rockdaddy Philip Dickey — who have played instruments or formed bands with their kids. I envisioned days spent making tracks on Garage Band with my special guy. 

[RELATED: ‘I Started a Band with My Toddler’: The Nap Skippers’ Julie Rustad on Life and Gigging with a Wee One]

But aside from singing a few little lyrics here and there, Nathan shows no urge to play along with me. Like most little dudes, he identifies with my his dada — a baseball lover. He wants to play all sports all the time. I love sports too, but still: I can’t help but envy other parents whose minis want to be in their bands. 

As I navigate his instrument-free, singing-free life, I hope to remember that the most important thing I can do is encourage my child to try new things. Maybe my little guy’s destined to be a painter, computer programmer or an engineer. Maybe he needs another mentor who isn’t his mother, to guide him into a life of gigging or playing. 

Maybe I shouldn’t spend so much time thinking about these things. 

There’s still time for him to come around, to pick up a microphone or a guitar and fall in love.

He’s only six, after all. 

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

The Most Danceable Kiddie Record for Ska- and Punk-Loving Parents is Coming in September

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Kids Imagine Nation — an Orange County-based, three-piece kids’ music group with members from ska band Suburban Legends — is releasing its second album, a cheerful party record that should be played while your 6-year-old frolics about in a bouncy house (or in the kitchen). The record, simply titled Kids Imagine Nation Two,  comes out in September. I’ve already listened and can attest that it’s loaded with lots of super high-energy tunes — my favorites are “Rock Party” and the hilarious kiddie workout accompaniment “Exercise.” 

TWO album artwork

The album is the perfect anthem for Southern California parents who skate or listen to lots of ska, surf rock or West Coast punk fans. Preschoolers will vibe on the good energy. Think of it this way: If Gwen Stefani launched a kiddie music side project, this is what it would sound like. 

Speaking of which, if you’re in Los Angeles, check out the group’s early morning performance at The Grove on October 4, filled with more original songs and stories that entertain and inspire kids. 

Cheri Magill’s ‘Tour Guide’ Chronicles Day-to-Day Adventures in Motherhood

Cheri Magill and I have nothing in common.

That was my first impression when I encountered the songstress mama of three with the sunniest disposition and pretty retro dresses. Sure, we’re both breeders who write our own music. But I’m the blonde bad girl in a miniskirt — not the wholesome angel-in-a-coffeehouse with a voice that takes me back to Sarah McLachlan’s “Fumbling Towards Ecstasy” days. There’s no way her new album about moms is going to relate to my me, right? 

As it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong. 

Cheri Magill’s latest record “Tour Guide” — which she wrote to fill the void of songs about moms — is insanely on point. And while I’m a work-at-home mom with just two kids in tow who doesn’t go to church, this album resonates with my mother experience in so many unexpected ways. 

Literally every lyric on this album had me going “yes, yes!” My favorites included “Crazy” — I slave away to make a meal that you refuse to eat/When I put it all away you tell me you’re starving — and “Still,” which reminds me that even though I’m imperfect and say the worst things to my kids once in a while, I’m still human and my little ones love me. 

Cheri Magill_3_ photo credit Brianne Heiner

Cheri Magill (Photo credit: Brianne Heiner)

Lesson learned? Don’t judge a book by its cover (or a mom of three by her headshot). 

Rockmommy recently sat down to chat with Cheri about her new album, which drops May 4 — just in time for Mother’s Day. 

Rockmommy: You’ve been a musician all your life and a mom for 12 years! How did this album come about? 

Cheri Magill: Once I had my first baby I took him to a gig, but I didn’t feel like I could do a lot of performing and gigs when he was little, so I stopped doing music. I just pulled away for a while. It was kind of sad, and when I went to a concert it would make me a little sad that I’m not doing it anymore. But after I had my third child and she got a little older, I started having more windows of time. So when I started writing again, I wanted to write about motherhood — there are 50 billion songs about love, but there are so few songs about mothers and their kids.

Rockmommy: How old are they? Boys? Girls? 

Cheri Magill: I have two boys and a girl —10, 8, and 4. The no-diaper thing is incredible.


Rockmommy: How do you find the time to make music now? 

Cheri Magill: For a while I would try to squeeze things in, but really nothing was happening. So I really had to say, ‘OK I’m going to get a sitter for a couple of hours a week. This is a real thing and important to me and I’m going to do it.’

Rockmommy: But do you still play in your house? 

Cheri Magill: If the sitter is at my house, I’ll go to the library or go to our church even. 

Rockmommy: Can you tell me about your music time with your kids? Do you jam with them? 

Cheri Magill: I’m just starting to get into that. My kids — my sons — aren’t super into music — my second kind of is. But my daughter, she loves it. She’s always like, ‘mom, can you teach me some piano?’

Rockmommy: Any plans to tour with this album? 

Cheri Magill: I just did a big concert for everyone in my church and that was fun. I really love house concerts. I’d much rather play to 20 or 30 people in a home and talk more and share more personal things. 

Rockmommy: What’s your favorite track on this album? 

Cheri Magill: My favorite is probably ‘Tour Guide’ itself — I love the idea that I get to show my kids the world. When I get down about something, I think about how I get to show them what cookie dough tastes like, show them a place they’ve never been.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

Learning The Imperial March for my Little Sith Lord

One of the coolest things about being a mom is sharing parts of yourself with your kid. For me, that’s a love of writing, music, and running. I take my kids to the track, let them play my instruments and tell them stories I make up in my head every night.

Every year, I get to play a cool gig for my sons’ preschool. Now that Nathan’s in elementary, I only played one set for Logan’s school this year, but it was perhaps the most fun I’ve ever had.

I handed out shakers and kicked off my set with “The Wheels on the Bus,” followed by the theme song for “Paw Patrol.” But the best part had to be putting on a stormtrooper mask and rocking out to the “Imperial March” with Logan wearing his Darth Vadar mask and sitting right beside me.

IMG_0200

A true mommy & me moment, if I may say so myself .

I can’t take complete credit for this idea, however. I learned how to play this song from Andy at the Andy Guitar YouTube Channel. Rock on, Andy! And thanks for the great lesson.

6 Ideas for Getting Your Kids to Practice Guitar Between Lessons

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

The word “practice” is like the word “homework” in terms of how kids will sometimes bristle when a teacher says it, no matter how the teacher says it. But while every guitar student I’ve ever taught wants to sound amazing and impress their family and friends, very few — save for a few teenage prodigies who are now better players than me! — naturally want to put in the amount of work that’s required to make meaningful improvements.

If I had a dollar for every kid who promised to practice an hour a day, and then couldn’t even get motivated to break out their guitar for five minutes between weekly lessons, I’d be able to put a down payment on a new home.

So if you’re a parent, is there anything you can do to get them to pick up their instrument when a teacher isn’t around? Do you need to go the Tiger Mom route and not let your tiny musician in training use the potty until she hits all her notes perfectly?

(We’re kidding about that last suggestion.)

Like any extracurricular activity, playing music is supposed to be an enjoyable endeavor.

With that in mind, here are a few ideas that I know have worked, which will help motivate your young ones to strum when their teacher isn’t around:

  1. Keep things consistent: As you probably know, structure is good for kids, whether they’re 3 and need a consistent bedtime every night in order to wake up well-rested, or they’re 12 and need to get their homework done before 8 p.m., because they’re less productive at night. “It’s easier for kids to settle into a routine when they have a consistent, daily time to practice,” says Michelangelo Quirinale, a guitar instructor at Brooklyn Guitar School, and father of one. “I often recommend practicing right before or after dinner since most kids’ have a lot of homework and after-school activities.”
  2. Have your teacher make a video: It’s easy to forget what you learned after your teacher leaves, whether you’re 6 or 60. I’ve found that one of the best ways to engage kids is to make a short, two-minute video that recaps what I taught during a lesson. I’ll have my students film these videos with my phone, and then send them to their parents. This keeps the lesson fresh in kids’ minds and ensures they’re practicing the right techniques.
  3. Set clear, attainable goals for practice: Sometimes parents expect their children to master an entire Beatles song after just two lessons, while other parents don’t know what to expect. Teachers have a better idea of what’s possible and can work with you to help kids set the right goals. “I usually give most kids three or for key areas to work on that usually include a warmup, a review song, and couple of new songs or techniques,” says Quirinale. “This allows them to cover all the key concepts whether they have five or 45 minutes.”
  4.  Have your teacher give them choices: If students are forced to strum the chords to a song they don’t like, they will start to think of playing their instrument as a chore — not a fun activity. To make sure your kid doesn’t get burned out, check to make sure his or her teacher is assigning them stuff they’ll enjoy doing. Of course, a little nudging might be necessary (they’re kids, after all), but practice should be somewhat fun — not just hard work. “I find that my students that practice the most take an active role with me in planning the practice routine,” says Quirinale.
  5. Try not to apply too much pressure: Maybe your little one is destined to be the next Jimi Hendrix. Or, perhaps he’ll get bored of playing guitar in a year or two. Pushing your child too hard to practice might make him resentful. So if all of these other techniques aren’t working, it may be time to revisit whether guitar is the right choice for an extracurricular activity — or if your kid needs a break for a while!
  6. Buy a guitar stand: If an instrument is stuffed away in a case, it might not occur to a child to pick it up and strum. Buying a guitar stand at a local music shop (or on Amazon Prime, etc.) will give your child a place to put their instrument when they’re done with practice — and reach for it when the mood strikes.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

For Trophy Wife’s Katy Otto, Motherhood Inspires New Creative Endeavors — and an Appreciation for Free Time

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

As any new parent will tell you, having a baby shifts your world in unimaginable ways.

Yet there are some new moms, between diapers and deadlines and sleepless nights, who seem truly unstoppable in continuing their life’s journey, babe on their hip, embracing motherhood while strengthening their purpose, motivated to find new meaning in their life, work, and service.

Katy Otto is one of these women.

IMG_2801

Katy Otto with her son David, now 1.

When Otto, the drummer and singer of Trophy Wife, the band she shares with co-collaborator/musician friend Diane Foglizzo, isn’t busy raising her one-year-old son David with her partner, she’s busy creating art and continuing her activism for numerous issues — such as LGBT rights, gender equality, and a focus on parenting that is less about what you have and more about what you do and how you choose to live.

We interviewed Otto recently to learn more about her quest to balance working (at Planned Parenthood Southeastern Pennsylvania!), music (she also has her own label, Exotic Fever), and motherhood.

Check out our full Q&A  — especially if you’re a rocker mom looking for some good, gritty inspiration on getting your groove back.

Rockmommy: You’ve been a mom for a little more than a year and recently you played your first show in a while. What was the experience like?

Katy Otto: The first show I played post-birth was with my band Trophy Wife in Durham, N.C., at the Pinhook on December 11. My son David was just over six months old. The show was a bit of a drive from where my band lives in Philly, so we took David with us and dropped him off on the way at my parents’ house in Bowie, Maryland. He stayed with my folks overnight for the evening of the show.

The Pinhook was celebrating its seventh anniversary. The space is a queer punk club in the south, and it means a great deal to our band. We were honored that they invited us to play, and while we had thought about waiting a bit more to get out and play a show, this seemed like the right time to do it. I was still nursing at the time, so I pumped in the club (with a cover on) basically just in the middle of the room. It was pretty intense but felt like one of the most punk things I’ve ever done, actually. The sound guy looked a little surprised but rolled with it. Everyone was very accommodating — I stored my milk under the bar by a keg.

The show itself was incredible. We were overwhelmed by the amount of support people in Durham showed us, some even knowing our lyrics. I think it had been the longest stretch in my life I had gone not playing music in front of people since I started as a teenager. I was very nervous, but once our set started, that all evaporated. I felt very whole and like myself being able to be in my element like that, particularly with my bandmate Diane.

IMG_2846

Katy and David

Rockmommy: Are you still creating new music with Trophy Wife, and Diane Foglizzo?

Katy Otto: Yup! Diane and I have written four songs since our last album: two while I was pregnant and two since David’s birth. We’ve been playing out and even traveling here and there for shows. It’s been great. I’ve also been grateful for the support of my partner, family, and friends in helping to provide childcare so I can rehearse and play out. I also play in a four-piece band in Philly called Callowhill that is finalizing songs for our first full length. We have a seven inch/digital EP out.

Rockmommy: Do you think it is more challenging to keep up with the Philly rock scene you were an active participant in now that you are a parent?

Katy Otto: I am not able to go out to shows I am not playing as much, but I still feel very connected to Philly’s underground music community. I moved to Philly six years ago after living in the D.C. metro area my whole life. I am so glad I made that decision. Philadelphia is extraordinary in terms of the music, art, and activism people are involved in. I also know a number of other creative parents and recently did a series of interviews while I was on maternity leave with people on balancing parenting and creative practice. If you are interested in reading them they are here: http://www.fvckthemedia.com/issue63/frontpage

Rockmommy: Do you think mom musicians, in general, have it harder than other musicians (e.g., single men, dads, etc.)? In what ways?

Katy Otto: I don’t think anything is that cut and dry. I don’t think gender is binary. I think there are many factors at play, including the support networks people have, as well as other resources such as money. I have been fortunate in weaving together a strong web of support to allow me to continue my musical practice. I also have very understanding band mates in both of my active bands. There are some aspects of societal gender roles that have meant that, in general, I think there are more challenges for a mother even just perceptually when she is away from her child and out in the world doing things. For example, I’ve had even “progressive” male friends ask me when I’ve been at a show I am about to play if my partner Chris is “babysitting.” It really is mind boggling. I think one time I said, “Who would he be babysitting?” Dads parent their children. They don’t babysit their own children. This is an annoying kind of question, but I also think any single parent is going to obviously have a host of different challenges that I don’t have as a co-parent managing childcare and an outside life, regardless of gender.

I will say that I know a number of cis men in hetero relationships who are musicians who I have seen have a very different experience than I have. They have said to me that becoming a parent didn’t vastly impact their ability to tour, etc., or the activity of their band, but in a lot of these cases I’ve seen that that is because their female partner bears the brunt of child rearing duties. When I did my interview series, I did interview men who play in bands, but I specifically chose to speak with men who I knew where playing a very active role in their children’s lives — including some single fathers. I think the question you pose is complex and I don’t think there is a clearcut answer.

Rockmommy: How has motherhood influenced your music, or creativity in general?

Katy Otto: I view the time I have to play music now as more precious than ever, and I value it as sacred. I feel drive to be out and present in the world, doing the thing that has meant the most to me since I was a teen. I want to have both – motherhood and a creative life. I think there are also all kinds of ways to be a mother, and we can challenge that definition all the time. My bandmate recently got me an awesome book called Revolutionary Mothering. It provides a lot of excellent conversations on motherhood as experienced by queer women, women of color, and low income women. It really has challenged a lot of stereotypes I’ve seen and absorbed in the dominant culture about motherhood since I was a child. I am incredibly grateful for this book and can’t recommend it enough.

I am also only just learning how motherhood will affect my creativity, since I am new to this. It’s been hard to eke out the same space and time to create, but again I feel so grateful when I have it that I think I pour a lot into it. I am interested in building networks and relationships with other mothers and parents so we can pitch in and help each other out with child care and support as we all continue to create in the world. I want my child to be part of a beloved community of mutuality, and working towards that also seems like its own kind of creative practice. I have always felt like community organizing and social justice work, indeed political imagination in general, were urgent forms of creative practice.

I also think my interest in heavy, dissonant music has only continued to grow the older I get. So far I think motherhood has only added to that.

Rockmommy: We always like to ask rockmommies about balance — have you found a way to balance your motherhood, work, and other endeavors? Or is it something you’re still working toward?

Katy Otto: This is a constant work in progress, and I know many other mothers know much more than I do. I have not been afraid to reach out and ask for support, and I’ve been humbled and lucky to receive it. I have a partner who is very committed to an equitable sharing of childcare and other domestic work. We both work full time too, so we’re continuing to negotiate what that looks like. He is very dedicated to jiu jitsu practice, and I try to make sure he has enough time out of the house for that, too. We check in about scheduling regularly. It’s a lot to balance work, creative life, parenting, and time for our relationship with each other. A key has been the help of friends and family. David, my son, has a beautiful array of other people in his life. This feels really positive to me and right for our family.

Recently Trophy Wife played a benefit show for Decarcerate PA in Pittsburgh that offered childcare on site, in a room with sound protection. That was an incredible experience — David’s first trip as a roadie. Part of how it worked was the combination of a supportive partner who understands my need to drive across the state and play music in DIY venues, a bandmate who is incredibly accommodating to a person with a child, and a community that actively supports and welcomes parents. The show was a release for the second edition of the zine “Women in Sound” by Madeleine Campbell. She is a phenomenal human being and you should definitely check her zine out here.

Rockmommy: What is the best motherhood advice you’ve received, which is worthy of being passed along?

Katy Otto: I hold on to something that Ian MacKaye of all people told me, when I had a lengthy conversation with him while pregnant. He basically shared the idea that the single best way for me to parent was to continue being my authentic self. It’s been important for me to know that when I am living in the world as the person I’ve worked hard to be, that will help me be who my child needs. The instinct to parent is in our bones. We can make the roads by walking, as the book I mentioned Revolutionary Mothering emphasizes. We can reject blueprints and paradigms that aren’t right for us, some of which reinforce dangerous binaries and stereotypes. I continue to be inspired by so many of my friends who parent and create with beauty, imagination, and courage — and I’m particularly grateful for all the folks who allowed me to interview them for the series I mentioned before. I hope to keep adding to it, and I hope it can be part of ongoing conversations.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is a writer, guitar teacher, mom, and the founder of Rockmommy