Learn More about the Music Together Recording "Family"
When Music Together coauthors Ken Guilmartin and Lili Levinowitz were organizing the formal recordings of the song collections in the early 1990s, they decided to cast the singers as a “family” in order to reinforce the importance of parents and children singing and making music together. That’s why we have Mommy, Daddy, Grandma, and Uncle Gerry singing along with the children in all of our songs.
While the singers hailed from all over the country, the recordings took place in a small studio in the Princeton, NJ, area between 1991 and 1999. The “family” first recorded nine songs—and eventually ended up with the over two hundred that now make up our nine song collections!
Here are the biographies of the children who are on the Music Together recordings, as well as Mommy, Daddy, Uncle Gerry, and Grandma.
Meggie McQuade was one of the original child singers on the Music Together recordings. At the time, young “Meggie” was singing in a children’s choir at her church in Pennington, New Jersey. The choir director was affiliated with Music Together and arranged for her to sing for (Music Together LLC Founder/Director) Ken Guilmartin. Meg can be heard on both the “Hello Song” and “Goodbye, So Long, Farewell,” as well as many other tunes. Meg is now “all grown up” and working for Johnson & Johnson.
Meg fondly recalls the songs she learned through her work with Music Together. “My favorite song was always ‘Goodbye, So Long, Farewell,’” she says. “There was another song, ‘A Ram Sam Sam,’ that … my little sister Molly sang with me, and that was a lot of fun. Another one I really liked was ‘They Come Back’ ... about having faith that your parents would always be back to get you when they had to leave you in someone else’s care for the day. That one ... meant a lot to me as a kid with two very busy working parents. I was really one of the only kids in my school at that time with a mom who worked, and that song always felt like a personal anthem in a way.”
Much to her amazement, Meg recently discovered that many of the Music Together songs are available on iTunes. “I hadn’t realized how much Music Together had expanded and grown until very recently. I just found myself on iTunes and I am in complete shock! It feels pretty cool that I am a part of these children’s lives in such a random way, but I am also still in disbelief that anyone still listens to me! If any of those children and parents met me today, they probably wouldn’t believe that I was the same person.”
In 2002, when Carly Ilvento was in third grade, she was asked by her choir director if she was interested in singing some songs for Music Together. The director, Carole Moore (who now heads up the Music Together Preschool program), arranged for her to be a part of a sample Music Together class, where she “auditioned” for Ken Guilmartin. Carly loved the experience, and for the next three years she recorded songs for Music Together.
Now in high school, Carly still loves to sing and perform and credits her experience with Music Together as a catalyst for making music an important part of her life. “The experience definitely encouraged a love of singing,” she comments. “It helped me to become a cantor in my choir and made me feel comfortable singing in front of people.”
Out of all the songs she recorded for Music Together, her favorites include “She Sells Seashells,” as well as “any that involved making animal noises!” Her voice is still recognized by family members who now have young children taking Music Together classes.
“It feels really good to be recognized for my singing, and it helps them to know how passionate I am about music,” she says.
Megan Hayes grew up around Music Together. As a child, she attended Music Together classes in Princeton, and her mother Denise also taught the program. So when Ken Guilmartin asked Megan if she’d be interested in recording some of the songs, she was happy to oblige.
The songs from the two collections she sang on, Sticks and Maracas, will always be familiar to her. Now in high school, Megan still has very fond memories of the songs she sang, particularly “Biddy Biddy” and “Dance with Me” [now in the Drum and Triangle collections, respectively].
Megan’s experience with Music Together nurtured a life-long love of music and singing. “Music Together fostered my passion greatly,” she says, “both when I attended as a child, and again when I did the recordings. I am still singing today, in school and in a community choir.”
Haley Carstensen was two years old when she first attended Music Together in Princeton with her mother Marilyn. A few years later, when her younger brother Andrew started taking classes, Ken Guilmartin asked her, “Haley, do you still have that pretty voice?” and he invited her to sing on the Bongos song collection. “Of course, I was honored and thrilled,” recalls Haley, “and I said yes!”
Haley’s experience with Music Together started her on a path to making music an integral part of her life. “From my very first class that I took with Ken, to having the opportunity to record in a professional studio, these experiences have kindled a love of music that still continues,” she says.
One of Haley’s favorite Music Together songs that she recorded is “She’ll Be Comin’ ’Round the Mountain.” The experience gave her “an appreciation for all of the hard work and coordination that goes into one song with all of its different voices and numerous verses. It was great fun working with professional singers, and I was so proud of how it turned out in the end.”
Haley is amazed at the vast number of people who know and love the Music Together recordings. “Tammy, the woman who cuts my hair, tells me that she and her son love listening to the CDs whenever they are in their car together,” she says with a smile. “And the chairman of the Theatre Program at Lawrenceville School saw my name on the Bongos CD while he was listening with his three-year-old daughter. Now his daughter considers me a rock star! It makes me happy to know that I’ve had a positive influence on so many children’s lives, and I’ve had so much fun doing it.”
Haley is now studying math and environmental studies at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. She also finds time to continue making music, as part of Sing Dynasty, a prestigious a capella group of Dartmouth student singers.
Daniel Jacobs was a fourth-grader and also a member of the Fairfield County Children’s Choir in Connecticut, when he was invited to record songs for Music Together in 2002. “My mother (Jackie Jacobs) just so happened to be the director of Music Together in Fairfield, Connecticut,” Daniel explains. “So I got to go away for a few days and miss school to record, and it was a lot of fun!”
Daniel is now in college at Soka University of America in California, where he sings in the a cappella group and plays the violin in the orchestra. In addition to the violin, which he’s played since he was in the fourth grade, Daniel also taught himself to play both the guitar and the saxophone. He has also performed extensively with a Buddhist youth band, including a performance at Lincoln Center.
Daniel’s admiration for Music Together runs deep, and he fondly remembers many of the songs he recorded, including “Hop Ol’ Squirrel,” “Frère Jacques,” and “Jumpin’ Josie.” However, when he recently listened to the recordings, he was very surprised to hear his own voice. “It was such a long time ago! I had to ask my mom, ‘who the heck is that?’”
“I have always been extremely proud of Music Together,” says Daniel. “I don’t believe you’ll find a more creative, heartfelt, and powerful way to enhance a child’s development and create a powerful bond between family members than through music. I believe that Music Together has altered not only how I view music but how I approach life in general. It makes me want to change the world in ways I might never have thought of as possible.”
Like Carly, Russell was introduced to Ken Guilmartin by his choir director, Carole Moore. Russell recorded tracks on several Music Together song collections, and his voice can be heard in Music Together favorites like “Sneak and Peek,” “Hippity, Happity, Hoppity,” and “Rocketship.” He is also the child’s voice in many different rhythm patterns.
Russell is currently a student at Piscataway High School in New Jersey, where he is an active member of the Student Government Association. Musically, Russell has contributed his talents to many school plays, Broadway workshops, and theater companies. His love for entertainment, especially theatre and singing, has continued to grow since his experience with Music Together all those years ago.
Russell says, “I would like to thank Music Together and Carole Moore for this amazing experience and for introducing me to a new way to communicate with others through music.”
About Mommy, Daddy, Uncle Gerry, and Grandma Yvette