What do you get when a father is committed to making sure his children succeed academically? The answer is Songs Of Higher Learning. I posted about this group awhile back.
After living with the CD for a few months, I have to state that unequivocally, every child needs this in their musical collection. What is Laurie Berkner teaching our children? Not much. What is Raffi teaching our children, well a little bit of something. But, the educational bang-for-the-buck I get with Songs Of Higher Learning is priceless. (I also get a side benefit. It is simply not having my nerves set afire whilst driving from Point A to Point B because I’m being infected with aesthetic diarrhoea. )
For the record, I’ve purchased these products without any kickbacks or freebies. (Heck, they’re too small for kickbacks and freebies.) So, read along and visit the website. And by all means... even if you don’t like hip hop...support.) Winston’s current favourite song is “Phases Of The Moon” from “Astronomy.” They recently released a few videos to accompany the music. You can preview those here.
CS - Who is "Songs Of Higher Learning?"
CS - Do you have children of your own? Is this how you got the idea to begin doing this important work?
SOHL - Songs Of Higher Learning are a few parents trying to make a change. We're trying to make the teachers job easier while making the kids want to learn.
SOHL - Yes. I myself have 5 kids ranging from 1 to 14. Songs Of Higher Learning began when my son had a test coming up and he couldn't remember the 7 continents, the four major oceans and which states surround Virginia. So we put them into songs and that was the beginning of Songs Of Higher Learning.CS - You are obviously a grassroots effort. I've truly appreciated how responsive you've been to me as a customer. I also very much appreciate of the fact that I can support a company which shares values that are exceptionally important to my family. How difficult has it been to get started?
SOHL - We at Songs Of Higher Learning truly appreciate you as a customer. It has been very long and very costly getting this started. The hardest part is coming home after working 12 hours, tired, body aching and then studying a topic to make a song about. I look at this as another part of life because there have been many obstacles along our path and we overcame each and every one.CS - The cd's feel as if you have either a background in education or have researched core curriculum materials for today's public schools.
SOHL - Well one of my partners is a 5th grade teacher. I myself have no prior educational background. I was actually a high school dropout and then eventually settled for a G.E.D.. But now with all the work that I do for Songs Of Higher Learning and helping my kids with their homework it puts me back in school.CS - I've got to ask. Only one song really bugs me on the CDs. No, it is not "From The Sun To Pluto.” You make it very clear in that song that Pluto is no longer considered a planet.
It is the "Nouns" song on the grammar CD. First, you ease your way into the introduction of pronouns and proper nouns.
Verse 1 quote:
"AND WE BOTH WEAR JORDANS TOO;
WE (NOUN) JORDANS (NOUNS) "
We is a pronoun. As I understand it, Jordan's is a proper noun.
Then in Verse 2, you introduce proper nouns,
"WE DRIVE A MERCEDES BENZ; MERCEDES BENZ (PROPER NOUN)"
Finally, pronouns are introduced in Verse 3. What contributed to your artistic and educational choices doing it that way. And finally - how much were you catering to an intended audience by using things like Jordan's as Mercedes Benz as proper nouns? And why would you choose to cater to this audience? Where you assuming there wouldn't be a wider interest? Are you afraid of dating yourselves by these choices?
SOHL - Yes. We is a pronoun and Jordan’s is a proper noun. I've been criticized over that line a few times. The reason why I haven't changed it is because it was done like that to show that everything is a noun. That's why the first verse is just nouns.CS - Do you do other kinds of music?
Then when you get more in depth with nouns, they get broken down into pronouns and proper nouns. That's when the second and third verses comes into play. It was set up that way because we felt that it would be easier to teach nouns, pronouns and proper nouns all in one song. If a child learns that one song they would learn 3 different topics.
We're not necessarily catering to a specific audience. I used Jordan’s and Mercedes because those are two of the most popular materials things that kids all across America would love to have. So it’s definitely universal.
Now, I was told by people who work in music industry and work with Disney that what we're doing won't work. I was told that I need to make all the music sound happier so it can cross over to a wide audience. I told them that their wrong for the simple fact that Hip Hop is not a "black thing". Hip Hop is an "everybody thing". The majority of Hip Hop fans in this country are NOT black. What we offer is Hop Hip intended for ALL kids.
As long as we can keep finding young and talented producer and writers I don't think you’ll be able to put a date on us. The key to longevity is the ability to change with time.
SOHL - Currently no. Between my regular 9 to 5, my kids and Songs Of Higher Learning, I don't have the time. But I would love to do some work with r&b and pop-rock soon.CS - Where do you see yourselves in 5 years?
SOHL - In 5 years I can see Songs Of Higher Learning in more than half of the school districts in the country. We also do songs or change songs to fit specific curriculum.CS - What other exciting projects can we look forward to seeing?
SOHL - In the very near future we'll be presenting a lot more videos to go along with all the albums. We also have a CD coming that teaches Spanish and English.CS - Awesome! I look forward to it!