Friday, October 11, 2013

Concert with Miss Julie

Some of you guys are probably familiar with Julie Jurgens.  She's a children's librarian from the Chicago area who runs the blog Hi Miss Julie and is also a musician.  In August, Julie sent out a Tweet letting people know that her band would be touring in the midwest and that she'd be happy to do library shows.  I've only been in my position since January, and because I had to immediately start weeding my collections and planning for summer reading, we hadn't really done a special program just because until now.  I contacted her and we set up a concert for the toddlers and preschoolers at my library.


I decided to have Julie for two reasons.  The first is that she plays numerous instruments, including the guitar and trumpet.  I play a tiny bit of violin and used to play the sax, and while I've never tried, I don't see either being conducive to storytime--think of all the time you'd spend getting them out and putting them away.  I thought the kids would enjoy hearing live music that isn't just vocal.  The second reason was that since summer reading, preschool storytime attendance has dropped a bit.  This is natural, as a lot of kids have started preschool or parents who teach have had to go back to work.  However, I thought having a special concert would remind people that, except for a few breaks around holidays and summer reading, we have regular programming for todddlers and preschoolers.  To promote the program, I created a Facebook event and made a simple flyer, which I circulated everywhere I could think of--preschools, a local mom group, shoe store, bookstore, grocery stores, fast food chains, local clinic, etc.  I also handsold the program to a couple of regular parents and asked them to help spread the word.  My effort paid off as we had a total of 52 people at the event, which isn't too shabby for a town of 11,000.

We held the concert Monday morning in one of our upstairs meeting rooms.  My program room currently houses many, many tables and chairs as well as a large rack of puppets in hanging bags, so it doesn't accommodate large groups very well, especially groups of easily distracted little ones.  The event started a half hour after we opened, giving families with strollers time to get up to the third floor.

Julie's program was fantastic.  She started with "I'm So Glad That You Are Here Today" and continued with lots of storytime classics.  What I loved about Julie's music was that she took a lot of songs that children and parents know really well and added extra verses. For example, after singing "The Itsy Bitsy Spider" we all sang "The Huge Enormous Spider" and she had three extra verses to add to "I'm Bringing Home A Baby Bumblebee."  Nearly every song that we did together had some kind of action which worked wonderfully in terms of keeping the audience engaged.  Julie was also a great guitarist and taught the kids about the instrument when she had it out.  She ended her performance by singing "Dream A Little Dream" while her bandmate accompanied her on guitar.  This number included a solo on her pocket trumpet, which sounded fantastic and looked adorable.

I was so pleased with Julie's performance.  Sure, I benefited from it in several ways: I got to hang out with Julie the night before and I learned some things I can incorporate into my storytimes.  However, she also used music in a way that was developmentally appropriate and fostered early literacy skills.  If you're looking for a musician to host that your kids will love, I recommend getting in touch with Julie.

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