Africa’s Contribution to Christmas!

Christmas is one of the most universally recognized holidays in the world, celebrated by billions of people of different faiths and cultures.  For many, it is a time to decorate houses and trees with lights, buy gifts for family and friends, and sing holiday carols.  For many others, it is recognized as the celebration of the birth of Jesus and the foundation of the Christian faith.

But did you know that ancient Africans were the first in the world to recognize and celebrate Christmas and did so thousands of years before the birth of Jesus?  You may wonder, “How could that be?”

Sun It all starts with the physical sun.  On the 25th of December, the Sun is known to be symbolically born given that sunlight increases approximately one minute on this day.  In fact, every year between August 18 and December 21, we lose approximately one minute of sun light per day. December 21 is the shortest day of the year and the longest night of the year in the Northern Hemisphere, known as the Winter Solstice.  Ancient Africans saw this as darkness winning over the powers of Light.

On December 25, daylight begins to increase by one minute each day, which was recognized by ancient Africans as the beginning of day light over darkness, symbolically known as the “birth” of the sun.  This became an annual celebration given the importance of the sun in growing crops for food and energy.  It wasn’t until over 300 years after the death of Jesus that Roman Emperor Constantine officially declared that the birth of Jesus would be celebrated on December 25th.  But, the Africans had already been celebrating this day for thousands of years before Constantine’s edict!

Therefore, the world owes a great deal of thanks to the ancient Africans who were the first to celebrate this important day in world history.

*  “An Appeal To the African Church In America: Beware of False Profit$” by Devin L. Walker (2002)
*  “From the Browder Files,” Anthony Browder (1989)

Simply Understanding Melodic Music Enriching Relate-ability.

Summer is here!  Kids are out of school and excited about activities and spending time with their friends.   For the socially enhanced child who blossomed into a social butterfly the thought of long summer days brings excitement and great anticipation. However, for the socially awkward or overtly shy child who is more comfortable in a cocoon the angst of summer brings anxiety and may even highlight the void of  their inability to relate to their peers. Relate-ability amongst peer groups is critical.  A sense of acceptance is also vital to children. Since summer is celebrated as a time of and breaking from the day to day is a great tool for finding a child’s inner passion and building confidence.

Many parents believe that thrusting their child into yet another group situation is the best method. There are countless stories of parents who sign their child up for camp only to receive letters and phone calls from a child who is just not having the time of their life because they are not making friends.    How about attempting to build your child’s confidence and relate-ability through music.  Introducing them to a solitary activity first may be a great idea. It occupies their time, they are encouraged and renewed through self exploration and challenged by reaching new melodic highs.  A new rhythmic beat may help your child shake their shyness. Of course they may not become Duke Ellington or Mozart by the end of summer, but they will have learned a great lesson of orchestrating their creativity, develop confidence and how to maneuver different chords  which is symbolic of life’s challenges.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could take every high and low note thrown our way and turn it into symphony? Exposure to music is melodic therapy to the soul and teaches a child to be in tune with their own uniqueness and prepares them to walk in harmony with others on their life’s journey.    This new found confidence prepares a child to build new talents and desire to share them with others, increasing their social engagement.

They become the center stage to a welcoming audience of peers.  Uncle Devin uses this platform of building confidence and seeking self awareness by making an introduction to percussion instruments and beats. This approach engages and enhances a child’s music experience. Whether it is a music and arts camp or simply getting your child involved with a new musical instrument, help your child Simply  Understand Melodic Music to Enrich their Relate-ability this summer.

“Uncle Devin Drum Tales” CD Wins A 2013 Parents’ Choice Recommended Award!

Great News!

“Uncle Devin’s Drum Tales” CD has won a prestigious Parents’ Choice Recommended Award, placing it among the very best audio CD that entertain and teach with flair, stimulate imagination and inspire creativity. Parents’ Choice Foundation has been reviewing and recommending quality children’s media for more than 33 years.

According to the Parents’ Choice Foundation, “Uncle Devin’s Drum Tales takes an innovative and progressive approach to music, self-awareness, confidence and fun, and is a wonderful album that children, parents and educators will all find beneficial.”  To read the review in its entirety, please go to

We are honored to receive this award and would like to thank the Parents’ Choice Foundation for this recognition.


“Uncle” Devin Walker

Tonya, The Tambourine!

Tambourine 1

Hey Young World! I am Tonya the Tambourine. I am a notable member of the percussion family and you can hear me in many genres of music.

Within the African-American church, I am probably more recognized than the stellar names of Aundrae Crouch, Rev. Dr. James Cleveland, Mahalia Jackson, or Shirley Caesar.  All of these renowned singers have used me in their music on their way to stardom. I am as valuable to the African-American music ministry as the pulpit is to the ministerial staff.  On a given Sunday, you can find me being shaken, rattled and rolled by a musically inclined, on-time choir member. But my roots go much deeper than the church.

I was also a vital part of the Motown sound out of Detroit, MI, that mixed soul music with pop, which was responsible for such greats as The Supremes, The Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, The Four Tops and Diana Ross.  There was a group of musicians called, The Funk Brothers, who were session musicians that played the background music for most of the Motown artists.  The tambourine played a prominent role in their music and gave it a unique sound that has not since been duplicated.Tambourine 2

You can also trace me, Tonya the Tambourine, back to Mesopotamia, the Middle East, India, and the Greco-Roman empires. More often times than not, you’ll find me heavily involved in religious rites, ceremonies, and rituals. The proof of my high existence can be found drawn or etched into ancient works of art. Sometimes musicians play me with their hands, hips, arms and thighs.

My frame is circular and is made from wood or plastic with pairs of small metal jingles, referred to as “Zils,” to complete my construction.  I am strong, too!  Although the tambourine is one of the lightest percussion instruments, I am sturdy, hard to break and can withstand some of the most aggressive players out there.

The Tambourine is a sure fit in Greek, Persian and Italian music.  You’ve also heard me in many different genres, including Folk, Pop, Rock and Classical.  No matter the musical form, I brighten the mood and get your heart pumping; for it is difficult to sit calmly and still, when Tonya the Tambourine is on the bill!!!

Want to hear what I sound like?  Click Here!

It’s Xavier – The Xylophone!

xylophone_2Hey Young World! I am Xavier, the Xylophone. Strangely, I am a member of the percussion family. I say this because when most people think about percussion instruments, they think snare drum, bass drum, congas, cymbals, or the like. Nevertheless, I have a totally different sound and look, but I’m still a close member of the percussion ensemble.

I am a pleasantly satisfying instrument that dates back to Mother Africa and ancient Asia. The Greeks called me “Sematron;” in Rome, Russia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, and Serbia, I was referred to as “Xylon.” I have been used for prayer litanies and processional hymns for monasteries. Monks were drawn to the tones or the vibrations that emanated from me when played by a gifted musician.xylophone_1

Years ago, I was made of wooden bars being struck by mallets with foam endings.  Nowadays, of course, I am made of rosewood, paduk, or various synthetic materials like fiberglass or reinforced plastic, helping me to make a louder more distinct sound. I am most effective when struck precisely with very hard rubber or acrylic mallets for the louder sounds.

On the other hand, wooden mallets made from ebony or rosewood should be used for softer, more melodic tones. As I mentioned before, I am adored for my vibrational tones, which is also why the African and Asian elders built me to play the scales perfectly. Uncle Devin recalled playing me from seventh grade through his college years, totally smitten by the smooth sound that came from me no matter how hard he hit me with the mallet.

Still, my design allows elementary school music teachers to use me to teach the scales easier while the children can have fun with it. I would like to go down in history as being one of the more pleasurable sounding instruments; one that brought listeners ease and left them with a peaceful spirit. So, grab a mallet, strike a chord on me and my tone will surely sooth your soul!!!

Want to hear what I sound like?  Click here.

CMN Members Respond to CT Tragedy

The following are thoughts posted by Children’s Music Network members in the wake of the horrifying massacre at a Connecticut elementary school.

From Joanie Calem:  I think back to the years that I lived in the Middle East, when buses blew up literally once a week.  Our instruction was always to follow the children’s lead – if they brought something up, we would address it, in word or song.  If they indicated that they’d had enough of sorrow and wanted to get back to the business of being kids and having fun, we (to the best of our abilities since the adults were all in tremendous pain, understanding the implications of yet another senseless death) lightened the atmosphere and sang and danced, fun things.  Children so often have coping mechanisms that adults have lost, and we need to be sensitive to figure out how to help them heal.  Sometimes that does involve directly dealing with the situation in a calm and reassuring manner, and sometimes it involves letting them forget the situation for the time being.

From Eve Kodiak:  One message I take from this tragedy is that we need to shine our lights always, in good times and hard times. The response to tragedy creates a wave of energy – and it is up to us to find ways to maintain some current of that energy throughout the ordinary days and weeks.
One thing we can do is to start weaning our young children off of video games, cell phones, and other devices . . . and keeping the babies away from them completely. The amount of violence and dissociation practiced by children in these pursuits is hard to imagine. I am only beginning to understand it myself. I, like most people I know, have been, to some degree, in denial.  
I just posted two articles in my blog, “Murder Games Our Children Play” and “On Compassion and Forgiveness.” Please read them and pass them on if you can. There is already a wonderful comment by CMN board member Amy Conley, and dissenting view from another party. Thanks to all who keep this dialogue alive! As long as we stay involved, there will be change.
 Go to and click on JOIN BLOG. I really look forward to hearing your voices.

From Susan Salidor:  Some of you already know this story, but I feel compelled to tell it again.  I wrote “I’ve Got Peace in My Fingers” for my daughters’ preschool where I began my children’s music career twenty years ago.  The director created a week dedicated to peaceful activities in response to an effort in Chicago at that time to make the city less violent.

Our mayor offered a “turn in your gun” program that paid cash for any weapons brought into precincts around the city.  Our director thought our school should mirror that plan, so the preschoolers (along with their parents) were encouraged to turn in their “weapons” – a huge box located in the front of the school.  All week long children brought in swords, guns, water pistols, and the like.  In exchange, they received coupons from area stores (e.g. 7 Eleven, a local bakery).  The exchange was a huge success.  The box of weaponry was thrown in the garbage, toys that should never have been made in the first place finding an appropriate resting place, in my opinion.  Throughout the week teachers spoke to children about all kinds of violence, about making peace, about the meaning and practice of peace, all under the guidance of our visionary preschool director, Susan Klein.

Susan asked me to sing songs of peace during the closing ceremony at the end of the week.  In those days I was part of a group called VOICES in Chicago that sang both traditional and original music from the social justice canon.  We sang at every protest and rally in and around Chicago for any number of causes (anti-nuke, anti-war, anti-U.S. intervention in Central America, etc.), but I couldn’t find a song that I felt spoke to young children about how powerful they could be as peacemakers.  (I didn’t know about CMN at the time, obviously.)  So I wrote the song “Peace in My Fingers,” for that age group, sang it at the ceremony, and have been singing it ever since.

Last week’s tragedy has forced me to take a moment to revisit those days and my song which, because of CMN, has continued to have a life outside my small circle.  The song was created during a particularly violent period in Chicago for a decidedly peaceful environment within our preschool. As musicians we must continue to sing out against violence in all of its forms, to work to change our shameful gun laws, and to continue to comfort the children we work with in every way we can.  We must say no to the prevalence of guns in society.  More guns, more gun violence.  I apologize for my final, somewhat violent thought:  The only thing in our society that deserves to die is the Second Amendment.

From Scott Bierko: I’d like to suggest that we coordinate a fundraising and awareness raising campaign with regard to violence against children and teachers.

I have one idea, so far, that I’m going to try and implement locally for people who donate money to a gun-control group:

For $15, I’ll send them a CD

For $300, I’ll give them a free birthday party or facilitate a sing-a-long in their home

For $500, I’ll send them their choice of a ukulele or a guitar

For $800, I’ll do all of the above AND write and record a song on any subject they choose

When I posted this idea on Facebook, it occurred to me that I wouldn’t be able to provide parties to people outside my geographic area. But our network might.

Why Music? A Primer for New Parents

By Dylan Glanzer

Reprinted from Dylan’s blog at

No matter where you turn, music for children is everywhere. With the growth of programs like Mommy & Me and Music Together, major products from companies like Baby Einstein, and even programming from your local PBS station – everyone seems to agree that music is an important part of early childhood development. In this article we’re going to explore the benefits of music for children under the age of five, as well as offer tips on how you can incorporate music into your child’s life.

Building Your Baby’s Language Skills Using Music

What expectant mother hasn’t been told that playing Mozart for her unborn child will make the child smarter? In his 1991 book Pourquoi Mozart? (Why Mozart?), Dr. Alfred Tomatis presented the idea that classical music had a positive effect on learning capabilities, promoting healing and development of the brain. In 1993, a study by Rauscher et. al. showed that listening to classical music (Mozart in particular) had a positive effect on spatial-temporal reasoning; and in 1997, musician and innovator Don Campbell, popularized the term “Mozart Effect” with his book by the same name. Each of these experts arrived at the conclusion that music has a positive effect on learning, healing, and neurological development.

In the July/August 2010 issue of Scientific American Mind, Diana Deutsch pointed out that a baby begins musical training in the womb, learning to recognize the tonal qualities of the mother’s voice while still in utero. She cited a number of studies that proved infants recognized – and preferred – their own mothers’ pitch to those of other women. As pitch is an integral part of all verbal languages, these studies then went on to explain how this early tonal cognizance proves a useful tool when learning basic language skills. When paired with the repetition of song, it’s easy to see how language skills can be built faster when your child is exposed to music.

Strengthening Your Toddler’s Fine Motor Skills

In addition to helping your child build his or her vocabulary faster, music can also help children develop fine motor skills at a much earlier age. As your baby moves into the toddler stage, he is starting to explore his world in new ways, from walking to touching everything within his reach. By exposing toddlers to songs which include hand movements (The Itsy, Bitsy Spider, etc.), dancing (The Hokey Pokey, etc.), and even allowing them to play simple musical instruments, you’re helping them to develop the fine motor skills they will need in later years.

According to Cheryl Gallien of the New Hampshire Association for the Education of Young Children, music and movement aids in a child’s developing coordination. Encouraging children to dance to their favorite songs will aid them in skills we as adults take for granted, such as walking and running. Finger plays such as those found in The Itsy Bitsy Spider and Where Is Thumbkin? helps children use their fingers for more intricate activities such as coloring and using eating utensils. Encouraging children to play simple instruments such as tambourines, drums, and shakers to a rhythm will prepare them for more complicated motions.

Music Strengthens Overall Physical, Cognitive, and Emotional Health

As a whole, music has a positive impact on every aspect of a child’s early development. Dancing and finger plays accelerate your child’s physical health and development. Music can calm and soothe children, get them in the mood to be active, and take them through a wide range of emotions. In addition, programs which incorporate music help to promote social skills – what could be more fun than clapping and dancing with friends?

Last, but certainly not least, thanks to the efforts of those who have studied the “Mozart Effect” we also now know that children who listen to classical music are better listeners and retain what they learn with more ease than those who don’t. According to Psychological Science (2011), a group of Canadian scientists led by Sylvain Moreno of the Rotman Research Institute, found that just 20 days of music instruction was enough to increase the verbal and auditory processing skills of preschoolers.

Tips To Include Music In Your Child’s Life

Let’s take a look at a few ways you can incorporate music into your child’s everyday life, and how you can make listening and moving to music easy and fun!

1. Find reasons to sing – Whether it’s a wake-up song, a pick-up-our-toys songs, or even just a silly song to get the wiggles out, make a point to sing – and dance – with your child every chance you get.
2. Listen to a variety of music – You may love Mozart, but your child is set on the songs of a big, purple dinosaur. It doesn’t have to be one or the other! Introduce your child to a variety of musical styles – jazz, zydeco, classical, big band, rock & roll, etc. – to create a varied and wonderful experience for you both.
3. Invest in instruments – While your child may not yet be a concert pianist, there’s no reason why she can’t start playing music now. Simple keyboards, xylophones, shakers, drums, and tambourines will encourage your child to move and express herself through music, and will give her the confidence to try more complicated instruments in the future.
4. Join a music class with your child – Kindermusik, Gymboree, Mommy and Me classes (I teach one at Ivy League Preschool in Manalapan, NJ) - all of these groups (and more) offer music classes for parents and children. Take a class or two, allowing your child to interact with other children through music play. You’ll benefit from being able to swap ideas with other parents as well.
5. Make “mood” CDs – Want to get your child in the mood for bed? Try popping on a CD filled with his favorite lullabies and slower classical pieces. Want him to get some active, silly time? Have a disk with his favorite dancing songs. There are dozens of ways you can combine children’s favorite songs to put them in a great state of mind.

Now that you understand how important music is to your young child’s development, make sure you take time each day to sing, dance, move and play together. You’ll both be happier and healthier for it!

Dylan Glanzer is an accomplished kids’ party entertainer and singer, as well as a New Jersey certified teacher. Her company “Parties By Dylan & Company” offers quality musical entertainment for children under five – specializing in kids’ birthday parties and baby’s first birthday parties in NJ.

W.E.B. DuBois: Advice to Great-Grandson

The following was a message delivered by Sociologist, Author and Organizer Dr. W.E.B. DuBois when he was asked to make remarks at a gathering to honor his 90th birthday.  The advice he gave to his one-year old great grandson is the same advice I would like to give to all of my nephews, nieces and to all children everywhere.  It’s taken from his book entitled, “The Autobiography of W. E. B. Du Bois: A Soliloquy on Viewing My Life from the Last Decade of Its First Century,” (New York: International Publishers, 1968.)  Ask your parents or teacher to read and discuss it with you.

On my 90th birthday, my friends invited my well-wishers to a party at the Roosevelt Hotel. No body of sponsors could be found, but Angus Cameron acted as chairman, and Eslanda Robeson as treasurer. Two thousand persons were present including my own great-grandson, who behaved with exemplary decorum. I addressed my remarks to him. I quote from the National Guardian:

The most distinguished guest of this festive occasion is none other than my great-grandson, Arthur Edward McFarlane II, who was born this last Christmas Day. He had kindly consented to permit me to read to you a bit of advice which, as he remarked with a sigh of resignation, great-grandparents are supposed usually to inflict on the helpless young. This then is my word of advice.

As men go, I have had a reasonably happy and successful life, I have had enough to eat and drink, have been suitably clothed and, as you see, have had many friends. But the thing which has been the secret of whatever I have done is the fact that I have been able to earn a living by doing the work which I wanted to do and work that the world needed done.

I want to stress this. You will soon learn, my dear young man, that most human beings spend their lives doing work which they hate and work which the world does not need. It is therefore of prime importance that you early learn what you want to do; how you are fit to do it and whether or not the world needs this service. Here, in the next 20 years, your parents can be of use to you. You will soon begin to wonder just what parents are for besides interfering with your natural wishes. Let me therefore tell you: parents and their parents are inflicted upon you in order to show what kind of person you are; what sort of world you live in and what the persons who dwell here need for their happiness and well-being.

Right here, my esteemed great-grandson, may I ask you to stick a pin. You will find it the fashion in the America where eventually you will live and work to judge that life’s work by the amount of money it brings you. This is a grave mistake. The return from your work must be the satisfaction which that work brings you and the world’s need of that work. With this, life is heaven, or as near heaven as you can get. Without this–with work which you despise, which bores you and which the world does not need–this life is hell. And believe me, many a $25,000-a-year executive is living in just such a hell today.

Income is not greenbacks, it is satisfaction; it is creation; it is beauty. It is the supreme sense of a world of men going forward, lurch and stagger though it may, but slowly, inevitably going forward, and you, you yourself with your hand on the wheels. Make this choice, then, my son. Never hesitate, never falter.

And now comes the word of warning: the satisfaction with your work even at best will never be complete, since nothing on earth can be perfect. The forward pace of the world which you are pushing will be painfully slow. But what of that: the difference between a hundred and a thousand years is less than you now think. But doing what must be done, that is eternal even when it walks with poverty.

– W.E.B. DuBois


Lyrics and Music to “Tell The Truth!” – Written and Performed By Devin L. Walker

To hear the song, click Here and then click Audio. 


Uncle Devin: Brian, what was that?  Who broke my glass table?

Brian: Huh?

Uncle Devin:  You heard me, who broke that?

Brian: Um, I don’t know, it wasn’t me.

Uncle Devin:  What do you mean it wasn’t you? You’re the only one in here. You better tell me the truth, how did my table break?

Brian: Um, when I got something to drink and I walked in, it was already broke.

Uncle Devin:  Don’t play with me! You better tell me the truth. How did my table break?

Brian: Um, I think the dog did it, yeah the dog did it!

Uncle Devin:  We don’t even have a dog. How many times have I told you that if you do something wrong, just admit it? But when you lie, you only make the situation worse. Now listen, no more lies. I’m going to ask you this and I’m going to ask you one last time and this time you better:

Tell the Truth, Don’t Play With Me, No More Lies, Don’t Play With Me! 4x

Verse 1
You know the truth and nothing but the truth will set you free!
You gotta tell the truth that’s if you want to hang around me.

No more lies, No more lies
You won’t need no alibis
Tell the truth

You tell one lie and think life is better
Remember no lie can live forever
Tell the Truth – so you won’t hear you parents say:

Tell the Truth, Don’t Play With Me, No More Lies, Don’t Play With Me! 4x

Now listen to a story about a lie I told
I was in the 4th grade about 10 years old
I was in the classroom with a couple of friends
When I heard about a problem from my friend Tim

He said, “Yesterday the teacher took away my toy,
Because I wasn’t paying attention like a good boy.”
He was hoping that the teacher would cut him some slack
So he came up with this plan just to get his toy back

You see he wrote this fake letter and said it was from his mother
And then he asked me to sign it and cause I’m his play brother
Like a fool I did it, forgery’s committed
Then the teacher came over and said who signed this, admit it.

I didn’t tell the truth because I knew I was wrong
So she sent to the Principle’s office down the hall
Who asked me did I do it and I said no
Then the next thing I knew he went to the front door

When he opened the door well what did I see
But both of my parents staring right at me
They had to leave work early ’cause of the letter I signed
And with an angry look they said “We’re going to ask you one time.”

“Did you lie to the teacher,” and I said yes
Because by now I figured telling the truth was best
I got punished for a month and I saw the belt
A hurt and sore behind is what I felt

So the moral of the story is that you can never win
When you lie, so let me just tell you again
To tell the truth, is what I say
So you won’t hear your parents say

Tell the Truth, Don’t Play With Me, No More Lies, Don’t Play with me. 4x

Verse 2
Ah man, here we go again,
The lying is killing me, I just can’t win
Tell the truth

All you have in this life is your word
But when you lie, it flies away just like a bird
Tell the truth

If they catch you in a lie
Don’t be surprised
Cause truth crushed to earth
Shall always rise, Tell the Truth

If you did it, admit it, don’t make it worse
Cause when trust is gone, there’s nothing else
Tell the truth, each and every day
So you won’t hear your parents say

Tell the Truth, Don’t Play With Me, No More Lies, Don’t Play with me. 4x