“Up down side to side/Flap your wings/Do the dragonfly.” These are the lines of a new track found in the third album of Sean’s Music Factory’s “Love and Music,” produced by Terry Carleton at the Bones and Knives studio. The album was released on Thursday, May 12 on the Internet and is available for purchase at San Jose’s Hicklebee’s bookstore and at live performances. The music video for “Dragonfly,” found on “Sean’s Music Factory” YouTube Channel has been receiving plenty of positive responses. The chorus is easy for a child to sing along to, the educational lyrics tell about the complexities of dragonflies and the playful chords inspire movement.
“I was having a tough time naming the album. I threw out the track list with my sister-in-law and she suggested naming the album ‘Love and Music,’” says Sean Mendelson, the lead vocalist and musician behind Sean’s Music Factory. “The song ‘Love and Music’ is my way of inspiring future generations to combat any darkness that is in the world. When I was finishing the album, the attack on Paris occurred. So I decided to seize the souls of my listeners and introduce the idea of love, an idea that’s in a lot of music.”
Some of the album tracks have contrasts; some tunes speed up and slow down and some tunes move from loud to soft. For example, “Two Little Blackbirds” is a traditional song that Mendelson wrote a new melody for and rearranged so he could show a contrast between high and low notes. While teaching, Mendelson demonstrates these high and low notes by raising his hand high or dipping it low.
“I’ve discovered over the years teaching children that the biggest effect of drawing children in with music is with contrast,” Mendelson says. “Stretching the boundaries even further by stopping the music entirely or speeding up completely out of rhythm is also a fun way to keep children’s attention.”
Both of Mendelson’s children performed backup vocals on four of the eleven tracks on “Love and Music.” For example, Mendelson’s son, Logan, did a comedy bit on “Open and Shut Them.” Mendelson explains how the song “Kindergarten Shoes” came about.
“Literally, the day before kindergarten, my daughter Jillian started singing ‘I got my kindergarten shoes and I’m ready to move,’” Mendelson says. “I turned to my wife and I said ‘stop everything.’ I pulled out my guitar at the breakfast table. Then Jillian wrote the three verses that are in the song.”
Mendelson will be performing at San Jose State University’s King Library on May 21 at 3 p.m. in the children’s section. Follow Sean’s Music Factory on Facebook for details about other upcoming shows.
Children dance under a raised rainbow parachute to the song, “What Child is This.” They manage instruments to the piano tune of “Linus and Lucy.” And they let their parents cuddle with them in a dimmed room to “Silent Night.” These activities are part of Teacher Sean’s Holiday Jingle Jam. Santa Clara’s Parks and Recreation Department has offered this two-week holiday class for the last six years. This year’s classes run throughout December.
“I grew up in a school where there would always be holiday caroling around the class, and I think it’s important that kids experience that festive feeling,” says Sean Mendelson, who also teaches the department’s year-round Music Factory classes. “Also, because of the Park and Recreation Department’s schedule, there would be a two month void of my music classes if I didn’t offer the holiday class.”
In the holiday class, children and parents enjoy dancing, movement, and instrument play while singing songs to further engage them in cheery seasonal music. The lesson plans include dancing to the Nutcracker march and performing the traditional jingle bell rock.
“I try to have an eclectic mix of songs, much like what I do in the Music Together program and in my albums,” Mendelson says. “I have the standards, like ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.’ I also do a few Hanukkah songs, including the ‘Dreidel Song’ and ‘Rise Up Oh Flame.’ We also do one Kwanzaa song.” Mendelson feels that learning music from different cultures can help participants learn about people from other backgrounds.
“Although the majority of the songs are secular or mainstream holiday songs, the advantage of teaching the ‘Dreidel Song,’ for example, is that a child who celebrates Christmas can learn how people who celebrate Hanukkah have fun with their holidays as well,” he says.
Mendelson is enthusiastic about the song selection for his Jingle Jam classes. “Every song is upbeat,” he says. “They are all timeless melodies. And they’re easy to learn on the fly.” Irene Saranteas Bassalee’s two-year-old twin girls, Sophia and Eleni, are enrolled in the class.
“We’ve been attending Teacher Sean’s other class, and he mentioned this holiday music class,” Bassalee says. “So we decided to come here and practice our Christmas songs with other families. My kids are having fun.”
When Sean Mendelson, the singer-songwriter behind the music of Sean's Music Factory, graduated from Santa Clara University, he had aspirations. "Initially, the goal was to be a rock star," Mendelson said. After some years the goal changed, he said.
While he may not be rocking out in front of capacity crowds in arenas worldwide, Mendelson has a crowd of his own: infants to 6-year-olds and their families. "Working with kids was the right thing for me," he said.
Mendelson, a Campbell resident with a 4-year-old daughter and 6-year-old son, is releasing his second children's album, unnamed as of now, and is having an informal album release party at the Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival on Sept. 13.
The official release of the album is scheduled for October, he said, but those who attend the festival will get an early listen. Mendelson started his music career at the age of 9 when he picked up the guitar. He's been a songwriter for years, but there was someone else to sing the songs in the band he was in after graduation. Now he sings his songs himself.
"I write these songs in a child's range so they can sing along," Mendelson said.
Mendelson said he hopes to become the next Raffi, a singer-songwriter popular in the 1970s and '80s, or a "less cheesy" version of the modern-day Wiggles. Mendelson estimates he's taught between 3,000 and 4,000 kids in the last 12 years and was inspired by that to record and release both albums. He has performed at the Campbell Library, among other venues, and taught at the Campbell Community Center. He now runs his own Music Together Center in Santa Clara.
There isn't anything like the innocence and enjoyment on the kids' faces when they're at his performances, he said. And they're never too shy to hit the dance floor. "I'm child-like but not childish," Mendelson said of pursuing a career in children's music.
Interaction is a keystone for Mendelson's performances. He said almost half the show is spent dancing, but he stops sometimes to get audience feedback on song ideas--such as asking what animal is next during "Old McDonald"--having the audience echo lines or make up rhymes. "We're all making music together," he said of the kids and parents.
More information about Sean's Music Factory (his musical group) or Teacher Sean's Music Factory (his Music Together Center) can be found at seansmusicfactory.com or Teacher Sean's Music Factory page on Facebook.
Imagine listening to an audio interpretation of “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” where the playful song launches with primitive beats, veers into Native American rhythms, and then travels through the many different periods of American music. Such is “Time Travel Twinkle,” a new track in Sean’s Music Factory’s second children’s music album, “High Five.” Many pieces on this album mingle fresh, kid-friendly tunes with upbeat alternative rock.
On Saturday, September 13 at 1 p.m., Sean’s Music Factory’s lead vocalist Sean Mendelson will perform with a band at the Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival’s Kids Kingdom stage, where he’ll showcase music from his first and second albums. Mendelson is also the composer behind Sean’s Music Factory, and owner of Teacher Sean’s Music Factory. “Although my second album, ‘High Five,’ officially goes on sale October 1,” he says, “I plan to make my second album available at the festival performance.
“For my second album, I did a variety of different songs. I have several songs that are super simple with just two sections, an A section and B section, and these songs easily cater to the age 0 to 8 crowd,” continues Mendelson, covering album highlights. “The song I’m most excited about is the title track called ‘High Five.’ The way I say ‘hi’ and ‘goodbye’ to kids I’ve been teaching for the last 12 years has been with a high five. So I wrote this song that’s intended to be inclusive of people from all walks of life. I also have a song without words called ‘Roll, Pop, Click.’ This song uses a dozen different sounds you can make with your mouth to a simple melody, like the rolling of the tongue against your lip or the ‘burring’ of the lips together to make a helicopter sound.”
A Kickstarter campaign raising $4,000 helped finance “High Five.” Community contributions and some sales earned from Mendelson’s first album also went into the campaign.
“I can’t thank people enough,” Mendelson says. “The Silicon Valley community has helped me realize one of my dreams. Also, a gentleman who played piano in one of my songs is a dad in one of my Music Together classes. Another mom from one of my classes worked on the layout and design of the whole album.”
The release of Mendelson’s first album, “Crank Out the Music,” helped cultivate brand recognition for him and his music. When he performs at libraries and other public spaces, fans and audience members frequently sing along. Mendelson has been keeping his fingers crossed since he recently submitted his first album to be considered for a Grammy in the best children’s album category.
“Crank Out the Music” can be purchased at Hicklebees in San Jose, and both of Mendelson’s albums can be purchased through PayPal at www.seansmusicfactory.comand at all major Internet outlets.
Many local parents and children know Sean Mendelson as Teacher Sean, the smiling, guitar toting teacher who leads music classes offered through Santa Clara’s Parks & Recreation Department. Mendelson is also a recording artist who just finished producing his first children’s music album, titled "Crank Out the Music.” The music is vibrant and fresh with an engaging alternative vibe, a nod to Mendelson’s history of playing in rock bands.
“I played all the guitar and bass on 11 of the 14 tracks, and I did all the lead vocals,” says Mendelson, whose official artist name is Sean's Music Factory. Friends, family, and musical colleagues performed other instrumentals, such as the percussions, saxophone, violin, and backup vocals.
Mendelson, a Santa Clara University graduate, composed 12 songs in just three days.
“I wrote a song called ‘Crooked House’ based on the opening of a crooked house at Happy Hollow Zoo,” Mendelson says. ‘When I Grow Up’ is for my son, my daughter, and the kids of the world. ‘Shades’ was inspired by the adorable kids in my classes who wear glittery or oversized sunglasses to class.”
Mendelson approached his song writing by reflecting on what he likes about music and listening to his children’s favorite music. He also drew on his experiences as a music teacher.
“In the 12 years that I’ve been teaching, I learned a lot about how you can use music to interact with the listener,” Mendelson says. “[On the album], there are songs where I’d sing and then leave spaces for children to fill in the blanks with their own words.”
Mendelson is grateful to the 93 backers who helped him raise over $5,000 on Kickstarter to cover his album’s production and recording costs.
Mendelson will be performing at two CD release parties on Saturday, September 14th at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. at the Kids Kingdom Stage during the Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival. CDs will be on sale for $12 each.