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FOR THE LOVE OF KIDS’ MUSIC

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by Nathalie Covo

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He was at a crossroads in his musical career. She had great ideas about developing music for children. Luckily, they were both at the right place at the right time. When Puerto Rican-born Luis Antonio (Louie) Miranda met Joy Suarez at Cleopatra’s Needle, a jazz restaurant on the Upper West Side in 1995, “I was debating what I should do. I didn’t want to continue traveling with the band I was with, and Joy had great ideas about music for children,” Louie says. That meeting was the start of Jerry Joy Music. Louie Miranda grew up in Brooklyn, where his childhood fascination with the guitar led to formal study of the instrument at age 19. From there he studied improvisation and classical guitar, and went on to become a teaching assistant in 1970. Then, from 1981 to 1991, he was an adjunct professor at Adelphi University. He spent many years on tour with a band, experimenting with various musical styles. At the time of their first meeting, Joy was working at the Children’s Museum of Manhattan. She told Louie about a vacant position at the museum. Louie still laughs when he recalls, “So I left everything and started out as the doorman doing school groups, and I branched out from there.” His first musical opportunity at the museum came when he created the “Sounds Fun” curriculum, including sing-a-longs and rhythm circles. With help from the two other founding members of Jerry Joy Music, Bruce Moore and Jerry Coleman, the group attained its initial goal of “designing art for and with children.” They went on to produce three CD recordings: Animal Mix in 1996, Jerry Joy Halloween Music in 1998, and Louie Dis-n-Dat in 2000. The last CD is the inspiration for a bilingual, educational music television show for children, which is currently being developed in Louie’s studio. He is also making the final preparations for a Midwest tour in August. Louie is a firm believer in the benefits of early music appreciation. “There’s no real set age for enjoying music. The body responds to rhythm, even as early as in the womb,” he says. Although neither of his two daughters chose to pursue a musical career, he is certain that being around a deep love for music had much to do with their creative success. Mariel, 19, is a Bennington College student studying to become a writer, and Alexa, 28, is a segment producer for ABC’s Good Morning America. So what exactly does a Louie performance entail? Typically, the one-hour performance involves a group warm-up where Louie encourages members of the audience to shout out Spanish phrases. His love of music is contagious as parents, even those toting shy toddlers on their hips, make it to the microphone to sing along to popular hit songs. It seems as though every member of the audience gets a chance to be in the spotlight; the only time Louie is alone onstage is when he first appears. After a brief introduction, a quick “Hola! Que pasa!” gets the crowd going. His guitar rhythms draw even the shyest audience members to the stage. “We try to make it something for the whole family to enjoy,” says Joy, who recruits and assists potential performers of all ages on the stage, where many receive “tummy guitars” (bright cardboard guitar cutouts). Those who don’t are encouraged to “scratch their tummies”, mimicking rock star moves. With Louie playing the lead, the outcome is always a surefire hit. But the career moment that he says stands out the most in his mind was the performance he gave before several heads of state and celebrities during the “Change the World Through Children” campaign at the United Nations on May 9, 2002. Seeing the positive response from such a large crowd provided “an incredible music experience” for Louie. Of his career and involvement with children he says, “I want to make the world a better place through music.” Louie is a regular performer and instructor at several locations throughout the tri-state area. His music courses usually run for 10 weeks. He is also available for private children’s parties. For more information about Louie and Jerry Joy Music, visit www.jerryjoy.com or call (212) 367-8186.

 


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