The Heights Kids’ Day of Music is a much-anticipated event each year that inspires children to develop a meaningful engagement with music and the arts. This year, the sixth annual event was supposed to happen in person at Love Park on March 28.
Then the City of Houston shut down city-permitted events on March 11 to help stop the spread of COVID-19.
“We had to pivot quickly,” said Christi Gell, president of the Heights Kids’ Music Festival, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
This year’s festival will be held virtually and can be accessed online from http://heightskidsdayofmusic.org, with live events starting Saturday, July 11. The complete lineup for this year’s festival is available at http://heightskidsdayofmusic.org/2020-virtual-lineup. Events can be viewed at http://heightskidsdayofmusic.org/upcoming-events.
In previous years, the festival offered two stages of performances, a “singing station” with Opera in The Heights, an instrument petting zoo, and a Creative Zone with 25 arts organizations ranging from large ones like the Houston Symphony and Houston Grand Opera to smaller groups like The Ensemble Theatre and Institute of Contemporary Dance.
Last year a grant from the City of Houston and Houston Arts Alliance allowed the festival to add two new activities: The Just Add Beats tent, where kids use the Audio Design Process to create, record and edit sound effects, podcasts or stories, and beats with a smartphone or tablet; and the Joy of Drumming tent, where the group Joy of Djembe Drumming guided attendees in hands-on drumming lessons and short performances.
“We were expanding in 2020 to also include the ‘Music Moves Me’ dance tent, showcasing dance performances from local dance organizations,” Gell said.
For this year’s festival, the board has worked hard to put together some engaging events as well as a virtual lineup of arts and music that participants can enjoy at their leisure. Many groups and performers who would have been participating in HKDM 2020 live have shifted to move their offerings online.
One festival favorite that was maintained this year was the Lyrics Contest.
“Each year we invite third- through fifth-graders in Houston to submit lyrics on a particular topic,” Gell said. “We pick three winners, and their words are put to a song. Our guest emcee this year was going to be SaulPaul, so he created songs from our winners.”
London Casser from The WIDE School in Missouri City, Eiana Dykes from Sinclair Elementary and homeschool student Caroline Staten are the students who have songs featured at http://heightskidsdayofmusic.org/lyrics-contest.
The first event is a free virtual musical performance with Uncle Jumbo, Tom’s Fun Band and AndyRoo & The AndyRooniverse.
“Andy and Tom have been around Houston for several years and are beloved children’s music musicians,” Gell said. “James Pendelton, aka Uncle Jumbo, is Houston’s newest children’s music artist and will trade songs with Andy and Tom on July 11 at 10 a.m. This will be live-streamed on Facebook or people can also access via Zoom.”
There will also be two free virtual Learn to Djembe Drum classes with Jebada from the local group Joy of Djembe Drumming.
“They were a huge hit (last year) so it made sense to try to do something online with them,” Gell said. “The first class is July 28 at 11 a.m., and the second one is on July 30 at 11 a.m. The second one builds on the first, but even people who miss the first class will be able to follow along.”
A “How to make your own djembe drum” video will be posted the week before to the festival’s Facebook page and to the HKDM website. Otherwise Gell says a plastic container, bucket or kitchen pot would be great substitutes.
“We had plans to do some smaller in-person events around the city starting this summer and going into fall,” Gell said. “However, all of that is put on hold now with the recent uptick in (COVID-19) cases. We are hoping that we can start up our smaller in-person ‘Beats and Sweets’ performances later in the fall when groups of people can start to get together again.”