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Jonathan Sprout

Jonathan Sprout

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Veteran's Day and Heroes

When I began writing about heroes for children in 1994, I had no idea my school concert bookings would significantly increase each year on and around Veterans Day: November 11. Learning about and singing the praises of this special day has been an unintended consequence of my mission to help children understand the nature of true heroes.

 

As we approach this important day, let's remember its origins. It began in 1926 as Armistice Day, which means Peace Day, as a result of the ending of WWI on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. That war was so bad, its survivors created a day that would remind us to do everything we can to get along with each other so we never again have to fight each other.

 

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Album Review: Jonathan Sprout - "American Heroes #4"

After releasing a full 10 albums during his career, accomplished children’s musician Jonathan Sprout has proved that he knows what he’s doing. His newest release, American Heroes #4, is further testament to that. What makes him unique is that this is not just an album of fun songs for kids; this is an informational album that’s going to teach children while they’re having fun. These are all fun, upbeat, optimistic songs that have a lesson to teach. And although they are geared toward children, they happen to be a fun listen no matter how old you might be.

In “Powerful,” for instance, Sprout explains how even the slightest choices can have a major impact on someone’s life. “Heads, Hearts, and Hands,” encourages kids to do well in school and live life respectably because after all, they are the future of the world. “Dr. Seuss” is a wacky, fun track about the famous children’s writer himself. Sprout sings in a goofy voice that is sure to be engaging for everyone listening. Although it’s a fun song, Sprout makes a point to remind listeners that every Dr. Seuss books still has an important story to tell.

“E=MC2,” is a song about Albert Einstein and the mathematic formula that made him so famous. What would be even more impressive would be if he made up an engaging song about all of the important mathematic formulas to help with the studies of high school level students.

Because this album is about this heroes of the world, it has the power to evoke inspiration from children everywhere. It’s clear that this guy has done his research for every single song. And because of this he probably has put more time into writing and composing his music than many other artists have.

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William Penn  

            William Penn was kind enough to grant me his first interview in more than 295 years! I caught up with him at Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where he spent much of his time while he was living in America.

 

Jonathan Sprout: Mr. Penn, it has been said that the one treaty that European Americans made with the Native Americans that has not been broken is the treaty you made with the natives at Shackamaxon, on the banks of the Delaware River in 1692. Is this true, sir?

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"Powerful," the Story of Samantha Smith, Now a Video

Sprout Recordings is proud to announce the release of our first video from my latest CD, American Heroes #4.

The song "Powerful," written by Dave Kinnoin and me, is the story of Samantha Smith.

AH5 Concert-Samantha Smith color book cover image

Samantha (1972-1985) was a bright and expressive schoolgirl whose optimism warmed the hearts of millions around the world. At the age of 10, when the United States and the Soviet Union appeared to be on the brink of nuclear war, she wrote a letter of peace to Soviet leader Yuri Andropov. His warm response and her two-week journey to his country inspired countless Americans and Soviets to rethink their hostile views of each other. As a powerful symbol of hope and “America's youngest ambassador for peace,” she helped create an atmosphere of love, respect, and joy. Tragically, her life was cut short at the age of 13. Samantha was starring in a TV series called Lime Street that featured Robert Wagner. After shooting their sixth episode in England, she and her dad were on their way home when their plane crashed moments before its scheduled landing in Maine. She taught the world an important lesson: If people try hard enough, they can get along. 

If you live in eastern Pennsylvania, you may remember the annual Peace Fairs in Newtown, PA in the 1980s. Samantha was a VIP guest speaker at one of the fairs. Friends Barbara Simmons, then Director of the Bucks County Peace Center, and Kathy O’Connell, host of WXPN’s Kids Corner, each met Samantha. Barbara thought she was looking at a girl who had the makings of becoming perhaps the first female president of the United States. Kathy, too, was smitten by Samantha’s poise and charisma.

You can view our video HERE

Rodney Whittenberg produced the video, which involved about 25 actors and support staff. It took us four months and numerous shoots to create. Makeup expert Julianne Ulrich spent two hours transforming me into Soviet Premiere Yuri Andropov.

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American Hero Rachel Carson and the Origins of Earth Day

            The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 at a time when Americans needed an environmental wake up call. Cars with gas guzzling V8 engines crowded the highways. Unregulated factory smoke stacks spewed tons of poisonous gases into the air and waterways.

            One of my heroes played an indirect, but important, role in the creation of Earth Day.

 File:Rachel-Carson.jpgRachel Carson (1907-1964), “Voice for the Earth,” was an author and scientist whose courage, selfless spirit, and sense of wonder inspired the modern environmental movement. Her books about nature helped people realize our interconnectedness with the world of plants and animals. In 1951, her book The Sea Around Us was published. It remained on The New York Times best-seller list for 81 weeks and was translated into 32 languages. In 1962, Carson wrote Silent Spring, a book that spoke courageously about the irresponsible use of poisonous chemicals. Though powerful chemical companies labeled her an alarmist, her book awakened millions of people to the importance of caring for the planet. In 1980, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, was awarded in her memory.

 

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Dr. Seuss & Read Across America Day

(by Jonathan Sprout)

 

            Read Across America Day was established in 1987 on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2.  Some have extended Read Across America Day into the month of March as National Reading Month. Although it was originally meant to be more about reading than about Dr. Seuss, it’s a perfect time to honor the life and accomplishments of the good Dr.

            Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), known as Dr. Seuss, is the most popular and influential name in children's literature. His 60 books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and have sold more than 222 million copies. Sixteen of them are among the top 100 best-selling children’s hardcover books of all time. His lifelong war on illiteracy earned him two Emmys®, a Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Eleven children's television specials, a Broadway musical and several feature-length movies have sprung from his books.

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     Continuing on the subject of Black History Month, here are additional African American heroes who appear on my four American Hero albums:

     Sojourner Truth (1797?-1883) suffered through slavery in state of New York until the age of 30. A spellbinding preacher with a beautiful, powerful singing voice, she was the first black woman to travel across America denouncing slavery. She was a simple, honest, and deeply religious activist who stood for freedom and women’s rights. Her poise, self-confidence, and fiery passion made her into an early national symbol for strong black women. One hot day in Akron, Ohio in 1851, Ms. Truth delivered a powerful speech still known as one of the greatest women’s liberation speeches ever given. Her exact words were not recorded, but one version of her speech includes “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together (and she glanced her eye over the platform) ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now that they are asking to do it, the men better let ‘em.”

      My song about Sojourner Truth is Aren’t I a Woman. (More American Heroes CD)

      Jackie Robinson (1919-72) broke the color barrier in 1947 when he became the first black major league baseball player. In spite of racial hostility and even death threats from players and fans, he played the game of baseball with quiet dignity and extraordinary talent. He was a daring base runner, an excellent fielder and held a career batting average of .311. He was an active spokesperson for civil rights, and in 1962 he became the first African-American elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Jackie was born in 1919 on the verge of Black History Month—January 31st.

      He said, “There is not an American in this country who is free until every one of us are free,” which my song co-writer Dave Kinnoin and I worked into the final verse of our song:

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February in America is Black History Month, when we give extra attention to our great African Americans. Carter Woodson, renowned African American scholar, is credited with having started it all on the 50th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation. In 1915, Woodson attended a national celebration in Washington, DC which highlighted the progress of blacks since the Civil War. Over time, what was first known as Negro Achievement Week morphed into Negro History Week and, in the 1960s, into Black History Month. Woodson chose February because of two heroes: Abraham Lincoln, whose birthday is February 12th, and Frederick Douglass, who celebrated his birthday on February 14th.

Abraham Lincoln’s song is All across the Land. (American Heroes CD)

Frederick Douglass (1818-95) escaped the master’s whip at the age of 20 when he fled North, disguised as a sailor. He became a powerful voice for the freedom of all blacks whose lecturing and reasoning were so impressive that opponents refused to believe he had been a slave. A beacon of morality whose vision transcended race and gender, he wrote books and published a newspaper discussing the evils of slavery and promoting the rights of women.

Legend has it that on February 20, 1895, a young black man who attended a lecture by Douglass was so inspired that he went straight to Douglass’ home just outside Washington, DC that night hoping to speak with the great man. He waited on the broad front steps of Douglass’ house. When Douglass arrived home, the young man asked what he could do to help the cause of African Americans. Douglass responded with what were evidently his last three words: “Agitate. Agitate. Agitate.” He then quietly entered his home and died of a heart attack later that night.

It was Frederick Douglass who said, “If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who favor freedom without agitation want crops without plowing... they want rain without thunder and lightning.”

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I'm very pleased to share with you that American Heroes #4 has just received the KIDS FIRST All Star Endorsement!

Read it here:  http://www.kidsfirst.org/new-endorsements/

The album will be available online on February 11, 2014.

Both Regina Kelland's To Market Kids company and Ariel Hyatt's Cyber PR (arielpublicity.com) are in the process of helping spread the word about my 10 latest heroes and their songs. I'm compiling stories of how each song was researched and written that I'll begin sharing with you soon!

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Four years ago this week, I received the shocking news that my latest album, American Heroes #3 received a Grammy nomination. Until then, I thought I'd made my last album.

Making albums, for me, is a labor of love. There's a lot of love, but there's a lot more labor, to be honest. I can't just make an album. It has to be the best possible album I can make. And with each successive album, I learn more and discover even more ways to spend my time and money taking the next album to the next level up.

That Grammy nomination assured my next album that it would, indeed, get made. And made it, I have. It took a year of research (110 books + several research expeditions), a year of song-writing (and re-writing, etc.) with Dave Kinnoin and Jimmy Hammer. It took two years of recording with Joe Mennonna, Jimmy Hammer, Leslie Chew and others who contributed their various musical gifts. And on Tuesday, February 11, 2014, American Heroes #4 will be officially released.

I have fallen in love with yet another batch of 10 amazing people - the subjects of this new album. I'll soon be introducing them to you. Stay tuned!

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