Here's an article that appeared in The Bucks County Courier Times and the Doylestown Intelligencer, both Bucks County, PA, USA newspapers:
Making a Living: Bucks musician combines history, music in children's 'edu-tainment'
By Amanda Cregan, correspondent | Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 3:30 am
Grammy-nominated musician and children's educator Jonathan Sprout holds his guitar at his home Friday, April 1, 2016, in Upper Southampton. He brings his "edu-tainment" to elementary schools in the region using his American Heroes series of CDs, concerts and study guides.
Bucks County musician Jonathan Sprout combines music and storytelling to put kids in tune with America’s historical heroes.
From his home studio in Upper Southampton, Sprout researches, writes lyrics and composes original children’s songs highlighting the achievements of inspiring figures like Amelia Earhart, Wilma Rudolph and Thomas Edison.
The singer-songwriter performs at elementary schools up and down the East Coast, hoping to inspire children with fun, vibrant tunes that get them singing, dancing and excited about the people he considers to be real heroes.
“For 20 years, I’ve been trying to tell kids there’s a difference between heroes and celebrities," he said. "Just because you’re famous doesn’t mean you’re a hero."
As a junior in high school, Sprout was inspired by a college a capella group that performed at his school. It would change the course of his life.
“I feel like my life just went from two dimensional to three dimensional,” said Sprout, 63. “It was the right moment for me and the right time. I’ll never forget. I had my eyes opened to a part of life that I didn’t know.”
Musical ability did not come easily, and Sprout admits he was no prodigy.
“I started taking guitar lessons as a kid, but I was remarkably average,” he said. “I wasn’t born with a lot of talent, but I’ve learned how to work it and develop it.
“I’ve been studying Beethoven and Mozart. They were child prodigies. When they were in single-digit numbers people knew these guys were amazing and knew they had futures. I didn’t have any of that. I didn’t particularly have definable dreams. I grew up in a regular family as an average kid.”
Sprout’s ability, rather, was in the art of practice and persistence.
After graduating with honors from the prestigious Peddie School in Mercer County, New Jersey, he earned a degree in psychology from Bucknell University. At age 22, he devoted his efforts to becoming a musician.
“I was so focused on playing guitar and singing, I didn’t realize I was living in poverty," he said. "While my friends were becoming dentists, doctors and lawyers and getting married, I was focused on making this crazy dream come true.”
As time passed, Sprout found success as a singer-songwriter. He released his first album, "Angels Everywhere," in 1978. In 1981, his mother, who was an elementary teacher, persuaded her son to do a concert at her school.
“I remember walking off the stage feeling like a rock star and saying, ‘This is it. This is what I want to do,’” he said. Five years later, he released his first children's album, "On the Radio."
Since then, Sprout has performed nearly 5,500 children's concerts. In 2010, his "American Heroes #3" was nominated for a Grammy for Best Musical Album for Children. He has made 10 albums and is beginning to write children’s chapter books.
Carving out a career in music is challenging, Sprout said. Musicians once made their money by selling records, and then they went on tour to boost those record sales. Now, the opposite is true. Most musicians make a living from doing performances, he said.
Sprout has put together a team of consultants, including a marketing specialist, recording engineer and vocal recording engineer, to help keep his business operating. He focuses his effort on creating the songs and shows and pitching to school leaders. His performances include lessons on social studies, character building, instruments and how to make songs.
“In the early '80s, the goal was to make kids happy,” he said of his school performances. “The whole notion that time is money really took hold with schools. Now, if you’re going to get in there and take an hour of time, you better be teaching something. It’s not just about making kids happy.”
Finding a niche as a singer-songwriter has been critical to his success in business.
“If you’re unique enough and good enough artistically you can make a living at it,” he said.