Receiving letters from young children after a performance is usually sweet and can often be motivating and inspirational for adults. So does Michael De La Torre, aka Mic Dangerously, lead singer of the band Jelly of the Month Club.
“I have this beautiful box with these cute little notes, and one day I got one that said, ‘I’ve never seen anyone play a guitar in person. I think I want to play guitar now.’ And I was just amazed. Wow. You know, 50, 75 years ago there was a piano in every house and home entertainment was nowhere like it is today, right? Everyone knew at least a few songs, you know, and now some kids don’t even have instruments in their lives,” Mic said.
“I really noticed that. Not only is music lessons on the chopping block, but this kid has never actually seen a guitar [in person] before, man? Like, that’s hard. So we have to do something here.”
This made the wheels turn even more than they already did. Jelly of the Month Club is a band whose sound spans a range of genres – swing, ska, pop, hip-hop and more – and has been around since 2013. When Mic was asked to join as a guitarist and vocalist, the other band members were Dr. Todd Forman and Bud Gaugh (both from Sublime) and Bert Susanka (The Ziggens). The band’s line-up has changed throughout their 10-year journey, but as Mic says, “The music and ethos have stayed the same. ”
With their young, fun songs that celebrate messages of friendship, collaboration and music, Jelly have performed at schools, theme parks, resorts and more – even a residency at Knott’s Berry Farm. But letters like the one above and countless interactions with other educators (many in the band are or have been teachers) inspired the band to take on a new responsibility: educating children in music.
“Our efforts began a few years ago by going to schools and donating our time to put on free shows to spread enthusiasm for our cause,” Mic said. “We designed our live show with songs about musical concepts [like] Tempo, rhythm, notes, etc. Some of us were music educators as well, but we felt we just couldn’t reach enough students just going from school to school. We had to come up with something to start our message and program.”
Due to this need for expansion, the Jelly of the Month Club Music Academy (JMA) was brought online. Literally. The group has created an interactive, animated learning experience that uses colorful characters and “teacher-approved” sing-along voices to interact with children, entertain them, and teach them about music and human relationships.
“We have now worked tirelessly for almost three years to create an animated version of our show and it has now blossomed into a learning experience for children that is far greater than we ever hoped or imagined,” said Mic . “This is the music education experience I wish I had as a kid. Music lessons taught by Disney-like characters with catchy songs and video game-like features? That is the perfect recipe for success.”
And it’s a formula. The group doesn’t just sing for kids’ fun — they’ve created an entire curriculum that can be used to augment any elementary school’s existing programs. Jelly members wrote, recorded, performed and even animated their first course: JMA – Music 101. The cartoon course includes play-alongs with digital instruments such as piano, xylophone, drums and even turntables. The instruments are located in a corner of the screen and players use the keyboard to control them. It’s just another tool to get kids wanting to be creative.
“When we saw the learning tools specifically for music education – for TK [transitional kindergarten]Kindergarten, first grade, second grade – I have the feeling that it is called a bit. For these kids, there isn’t nearly as much thought, creativity and power behind it as there is when they get a little older,” Mic said.
The Jelly of the Month Club Academy hopes to expand and create even more courses. There are plans to integrate drum/effect machines and they hope to roll out the program in school districts. The band continue their beneficial concerts and will be back at Knott’s Berry Farm starting January 22nd for the park’s bi-monthly Charles Shultz Peanut Celebration.
A decade after the band’s formation, Mic and his crew are still all about caring for the kids.
“They’re smarter than we give them credit for,” Mic said. “I’m sure many parents are discovering this every day and it’s important that we give them the opportunity to have a good first impression, a first handshake to the music as we like to say.”
https://www.latimes.com/entertainment-arts/story/2022-12-20/the-smooth-and-educational-stylings-of-jelly-of-the-month-club The Jelly of the Month Club brings music to kids with an online class