There’s an oddly memorable feeling most folks have who were born and bred in Brooklyn; it’s an ingrained love for the borough and its people . . . and we never quite lose that cherished part of us, the part that grew up sitting on stoops on sweltering summer nights and riding bicycles up and down the paved streets with the neighborhood kids. No matter where your adult life has taken you, you’ll always be a Brooklyn kid at heart.
Louie Miranda, talented children’s musician, knows the feeling well. Moving to Brooklyn at 6 months of age from Puerto Rico, Miranda grew up on the streets of Williamsburg and East New York, and managed to move around to different neighborhoods — mostly rough areas — about 25 times.
Coming from a large family (he is one of nine!), Miranda always had a fondness for music. One of his earliest memories is being in a wooden playpen plucking a plastic ukulele with a felt pic. Yet, he didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life and would often visit the local libraries, scouting out books, absorbing the world around him. As a child, he yearned for something other than what he knew, but couldn’t exactly figure out what that was.
One day at a puppet show in his grammar school, P.S. 156, everything changed. A shy kid, Miranda found himself wishing he could go up on stage and take part in the performance. From then on, he recognized that performing would play a big role in his life. Today, putting on countless shows around the country, recording CDs for children, and even writing and performing a special song for the Heads of State at the United Nations for the “Say Yes for Children” Campaign, one would never know Miranda was the timid kid from the underprivileged neighborhood who never knew what he wanted out of life. And that’s precisely the reason he does what he does. “When I play in the rough neighborhoods, I look out at these kids and they are so needy and want so much,” he observes. Miranda often has kids come up on stage to play or sing with him, and whether they bring an out-of-tune guitar or violin or even harmonica is inconsequential. What matters is that the kids become “empowered by getting up on stage. I wish someone had done that for me when I was a kid,” he says.
Prolific in his own right, in addition to composing instructional music that teaches rhythm, pitch, improvisation, and tempo, he also designs music programs for schools and museums, while playing numerous live shows all over New York City. Miranda’s musical blend of informational and entertaining music with bilingual lyrics is not the typical sound of kids’ music — but rather a mix of mostly major keys with minor elements, which means his songs don’t have the loud and brassy sound and simplistic lyrics often associated with music for kids. He has just released two new CDs: Fiesta Latina, offering a soothing family Latino style sound; and Yellow Checker Taxi Jazz Guitar, which has a very jazzy New York City feel. While the melodic tunes are always entertaining, they are also informative. The Counting Song on ‘Fiesta Latina’ teaches kids how to count in Spanish and is set to an Afro-Latin rhythm. On the same CD is the Cuban classic, Guantanamera, with new lyrics written to create a vision of peace. ‘Yellow Checker Taxi Jazz Guitar’ features Eddy Ate Donuts, a fun way to learn the guitar strings; and Crabs & Lobsters, a song written for the New York Aquarium.
Miranda’s shows are fun-filled, interactive, and uplifting experiences. Although he now plays at many fine venues, has a steady gig at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan each month, and does regular television appearances, he says he’ll still always continue to play at local libraries — trying to reach the kids who are like he was once, kids looking for more in their lives. “You may not have the power to change the world but you do have the power to do something that’s right in front of you,” he believes. And for this talented musician from Brooklyn, what’s in front of him is a whole lot.