Milkshake and Cartoons at WTMD Radio – Perfect!

I love when kids color outside the lines. It’s like when adults think outside the box or have a lightbulb turn on in their head, and usually leads to something special and more interesting. My friend Sam Sessa, a music-loving DJ at WTMD radio who is dedicated to the Baltimore music scene, is one of those adults. Sam emailed one day in March and said he had an idea. Talking to some of his listeners, he discovered they couldn’t get out to many of the WTMD events and shows at the station because the shows happened at night and they had kids. It just wasn’t as easy for them as it was for the teens and twenty-somethings who also tune in to this great indie rock station. So Sam thought: what if they had a show on a Saturday morning, something family-friendly that kids and parents could both groove to. Well, Milkshake has always thought that hearing and seeing live music together was family time well-spent. I loved the idea, and was honored he thought of Milkshake. WTMD hosts over 75 live concerts a year, but this would be the very first event geared especially for families.

We settled on Saturday, April 30th at 10 AM, and the show quickly sold out. I visited the station to do an interview,  and Sam and I chose some favorite cartoons to play – Sam liked Duck Tales and My Little Pony and I brought along Schoolhouse Rocks and Yellow Submarine. These were great to watch with the band playing. In fact, after the show Tom and Cord sat watching Schoolhouse Rocks and singing the songs even though the sound was off! Classic stuff is never forgotten.

We arrived at WTMD at 8 AM and loaded in. If you haven’t been to the WTMD Performance Studio to see a show, well, you should try. The station moved to new facilities in September 2013 and now have an inviting place to hear live music. The studios themselves are gorgeous. Soundman extraordinaire Donnie Carlo met us and set about getting the sound just right. This would be broadcast live over the radio, and things had to be as perfect as possible. Doing live radio is a trip – we were told whatever you do, don’t leave any dead space between songs. So when Cord’s wireless battery needed changing, Tom said “Well, kids. Here’s a teachable moment – always be prepared,” and luckily, Milkshake always has plenty to talk about and share with the kids. Before the concert, I asked the crowd to note the “Secret Word” in Pee Wee Herman-esque fashion. It was of course, WTMD. So every time we said “WTMD,” they screamed. So funny! Even the jokes during “Happy Place” were funny. One little girl said “What is a deer’s favorite food? Deeritos!” Excellent.

image1To say everyone had great time is an understatement, and it was wonderful to see so many young families, both new and familiar faces. The Walters Art Gallery and Garrison Forest School sponsored the event, and set up a station to do crafts. This, along with snacks and balloons, kept everyone happy before the band started. Really, the morning was perfect.

Sam says the station definitely plans on doing more Saturday Morning Cartoon shows in the fall. For now, take the family outside to one of WTMD’s First Thursday FREE concerts down in Canton. I recommend June 2nd if the weather’s nice. Baltimore great Andy Bopp will be on the bill, along with Boy and Bear and Basia Bulat.



Caring. Giving.

I love this season. Milkshake is always so busy. In early November, I pull out the big box of holiday gear: Santa hats, sleigh bells, garland, reindeer antlers and bags and bags of white confetti to snow down on our audiences. The band comes together to go over all those songs we only do at this time of year, including our own “Christmas In Baltimore.” We add and subtract songs depending on our mood. This year,”Jingle Bells” was out and “Blue Christmas” (the Elvis version) was in, complete with high-pitched Oooo’s. Lovely. The Festival of Trees is an annual event we play every Black Friday – that day after Thanksgiving when people lose their minds and go power shopping. I’m much happier testing my endurance by getting to the Cow Palace at Timonium Fairgrounds at 7 AM and playing three shows until 5 PM. This year, I was asked to also read a holiday book after our last performance. I chose a little story I used to read to my daughter around this time of year. Snow Family is by Daniel Kirk, and simply presents the idea and the importance of caring for each other. In this case, the mother and father care for a child, who in turn, makes snow parents for all the snow children he has built. I loved sitting by my cardboard fire, surrounded by kids listening intently. I loved even more chatting about the story afterwards with the kids, and hearing how they “got it” – they understood the importance of caring for each other, and how much better life is when we do.


Just before the second show. 

Milkshake has been playing the Festival of Trees for the past eight years, not just because it’s a great time and signals the start of the holiday season, but because much of the money raised from the Festival goes to helping kids with special needs through the Kennedy Krieger Foundation. All proceeds from Ticket sales, Designer Item sales (trees, wreaths & gingerbreads), Raffle Tickets, Silent Auction, and Children activities directly benefit the Institute. All donations made to the wishing well and online to the Happy Holidays Fund are fully tax deductible.

The Happy Holidays Fund is still open through the end of the year. This fund provides support to Kennedy Krieger children and families with special needs during the holiday season. Kennedy Krieger cares for kids all the time. Please consider helping them at this time of year – caring by giving.

Here’s a video clip by friend Heidi Sheppard, taken with her cell phone during “Bottle of Sunshine” – thanks Heidi!

And my mom took this with her cell phone – thanks mom! The Festival of Trees is a family and friend affair I’m happy to be part of.

Hoping your holidays are merry and bright.





Oh, To Be A Buddy

A few Sundays ago, Milkshake performed at the Chesapeake Down Syndrome Parent Group’s annual Buddy Walk at Rash Field. It was an incredible morning full of love and happiness, and that warm-and-fuzzy feeling one gets from doing something good and worthwhile. The Buddy Walk raises money for the programs the CDSPG offers, including education programs and medical outreach/First Call programs, among many others.  The group was founded in 1982 by eight sets of parents looking to share information and network in order to serve their children with Down syndrome. Currently, the group consists of over 400 families, individuals, and organizations with an interest in the well-being of persons with Down syndrome.

The Oriole Bird joins in for a game during "Baseball."

The Oriole Bird joins in for a game during “Baseball.”

For this year’s Buddy Walk, people came together to walk or run for this great cause. It was such a vibrant, happy community of people. I had so much fun playing with the crowd when they finished their walk. It was a hour of smiles, songs, dancing and yes, even the Oriole Bird.

A few days before the Walk, I happened upon a video posted on Upworthy, a great site featuring videos reflecting all aspects of human life. The video was created by CoorDown, an Italian Down Syndrome advocacy group. In the video, 15 people with Down Syndrome, tell an expecting mom what kind of life her child will have.

One out of every 691 babies are born with the condition (in which a person has an extra chromosome), making it one of the most common genetic conditions in the U.S. Approximately 400,000 Americans have Down syndrome. But like these signs at the Buddy Walk point out, people with Down Syndrome are capable of having what we consider a “normal” life. (click the pictures to view larger formats).

I especially love the pictures about reading. It reminds me of my friend Michael Rachap, a prolific musician who set about creating a series to help kids learn how to read. It’s called Readeez, and features original “bite-sized” videos that “impart reading skills with every syllable.” Michael says “Readeez are health food for growing minds,” and he likes to think his series is “Learning disguised as smiling.” Michael has been getting videos from parents of children with Down Syndrome, praising the Readeez format and it’s ability to help their children read.

Michael includes some great music in his Readeez, and through the 15 years of playing in Milkshake and making original music for kids, I know the transcendent power of music to move minds and touch souls in positive ways. Sometimes I think about stopping the band and doing something else. But then I play a show like the Buddy Walk and think no…maybe not now…

Here’s a gallery of pictures from the CDSPG’s Buddy Walk, November 1, 2015. Thanks to Stacy Geis and Ruut for these pictures.


Another Summer Speeds By

I love Fall. I love the change of seasons we have here in Baltimore. Not only do the windows re-open, and the closets seem all new, I get a burst of energy I just thrive on. It’s different from summer’s slowed-down pace. But looking back, this summer seemed to speed by.

As usual for Milkshake, not one of our outdoor shows were canceled due to rain. This always amazes me, but so far, it’s true. July 4th at the Columbia Lakefront in Columbia, MD came close, but no, the sun came out as we started playing. I look back fondly on our summer shows. Many were unexpectedly moving, like a private show the band played at the Children’s Inn at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, MD. The Children’s Inn meets the needs of children and families participating in groundbreaking research at the National Institutes of Health. Other shows were simply perfect, like when the weather cooled for our show at the Freeman Stage in Delaware and no one got sunburned or melty. A private show at the Mt. Washington Pediatric Hospital was hot but very happy, as kids gathered together for a reunion of sorts, thanks to the hospital’s efforts. MWPH works on improving the health and well-being of all children who are ill, injured, or in need of help. Most recently, at summer’s end, we played (cool) Progeny’s Superhero Social, with proceeds going to the Little Lion Challenge Fund. It really was a summer that gave me pause, and made me thankful at the simple human nature of caring.

Looking to Fall, there are more shows on the Milkshake calendar that make me happy we do what we do.

The band will be at Rash Field at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor for the The Chesapeake Down Syndrome Parents Group (CDSPG) and the National Down Syndrome Society (NDSS) 2nd annual Buddy Walk and 5k Race on Sunday, Oct. 4 at Rash Field at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor Promenade from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. And of course, for our 8th year, the Milkshake Band will play the Annual Festival Of Trees, benefitting the Kennedy Krieger Foundation. For other dates, check our calendar.

Here’s a few pictures from some of my favorite summer shows.

Joke Blog #2

It’s time for our latest Joke Blog, in which we share some of our favorite jokes heard when we perform “Happy Place” during Milkshake concerts, or sent in to us via emails and letters.

“Why did the bee want to get married?” So he could meet his huni.”

“Knock Knock. Who’s there? Hello. HELLO WHO? Hello kitty.”

“Why was the baby ant confused? Because all his uncles were ants.”

“What do you call a dinosaur wearing eyeglasses? Youthinkhesaurus.”

“What do you call a cow with no legs? Ground beef.”

Cord: Hey Mikel, you look pretty dirty.
Mikel: Why thank you Cord. I look pretty when I’m clean too.

James - creator of jokes and music!

James – creator of jokes and music!

I love hearing jokes and one day I hope to actually be good at telling them, but one special Milkshake fan trumps all the joke-tellers I know right now. James Burrows has been a Milkshake fan for most of his young life. Now he’s 13 and creating his own interesting beat-based music. Here’s a link to a recent piece on WYPR’s The Signal featuring James and his workJames not only tells jokes – he makes them up, and his mother Nancy says there’ll be times when it’s a “Joke-A-Day” feature in their lives. We’re thinking James might add this to his many potentially lucrative talents. Here’s a few of his mother’s favorites that she sent to us by email the other day:

“What’s a vehicle that runs around? A tractor!”

“What did the Mexican cloud say? Let’s Taco ’bout the weather.”

“What happened when the engine got tired? It was exhausted!!”

“Where do Baltimore penguins go when they’re cold? The inner harbrrrrr”

“What did the sheep say?  Rub my baaaaack”

“Who opens a cage? A zoo KEYper”

“What might you worry when you brush your teeth? The toothbrush might sink!”

“Why did the sick boy fly? He had the flu!”

“What fruit can you drink from? A strawberry.”

“What kind of shoes should you wear at the beach? SANDals!”

“What’s a part of your body that rings? Your bell-y!”

“What do you say when you drop your meat on the ground? I made a miSTEAK!”

“What kind of storm do you go fast in? a HuRRYcane!”

“What town has a lot of bruises? sCARSdale!”

“What’s a criminal’s fav food? JAIL-O.”

“What’s a balloon’s fav food? A popsicle.”

Great stuff – thanks for sharing, friends! We’ll post another joke blog soon.

Talking About Arts In Education

On April 24 & 25 Mikel and I spent some time in Ocean City, MD doing a lot of talking, singing and sharing. We were invited by the Maryland State Child Care Association to present at its annual Conference By the Sea. This was an unusual event for us, since Milkshake in its various forms usually goes to just entertain with our music when we’re invited somewhere. But the MSCCA really wanted us to do more than that, and present “The Educational Importance Of Arts In the Classroom.” Well, we’re all over that, so doing a keynote on the subject seemed perfect. We talked about our experiences in schools, showed a few of the videos we did for PBS KIDS and Nick Jr., and performed some of our songs. It was really fun getting all the teachers singing a rousing version of “Happy Songs.”

Mikel and I doing the Keynote at MSCCA's conference.

Mikel and I doing the Keynote at MSCCA’s conference.

I talked about how creativity can be kept alive, despite all the teaching to test, simply by incorporating arts strategies within the curriculum and keeping an open mind. The next day, I taught a 90 minute class on using various arts strategies that I’ve learned as a Wolftrap Teaching Artist. It was exhilarating and exhausting teaching over 100 early childhood educators at once!

Besides performing with the Milkshake Band, Mikel and I are artists with the non-profit Young Audiences of Maryland. YAMD sends us out to do assemblies for schools in Maryland, and we love it. Here’s a recent video of me talking about some of the reasons why for Young Audiences’ Arts For Learning Week. I feel like going into the schools – especially Baltimore City schools – keeps us grounded.

I visit the schools in Baltimore City on my own through the Wolftrap Teaching Artist program. It’s a very different thing from doing assemblies or Milkshake shows. As a Teaching Artist, I go into the classroom and even though I’m singing and doing things with the kids, I’m really there to show the teacher different arts strategies to enhance his or her teaching. It’s a lot of work but it’s always so gratifying at the end of the 8-week program, when the teacher does two lessons incorporating the things I’ve showed him or her. I’ve been doing this for 2 years, now, and more often than not, there’s this big moment when it all comes together and the teacher and the kids are a team, enjoying learning through a shared arts-based experience. And there are those times when we see a previously non-responsive kid plugging in and being involved. I remember a little girl who was albino and losing her sight. She was very quiet, but I felt she was really paying attention. After telling the story of Bear Snores Onwe acted it out, adding a simple song and dramatic arts. At one point, the bears (three very animated boys), wake up and growl fiercely. All the other kids run to the far side of the classroom. I say “No, no, it’s cold outside! Come back inside the lair!” And as they slowly make their way back to the carpet, the little albino girl, (who was playing the mouse in the story), kneels down beside the boys and gently says “Don’t worry bears. We can pop more corn. We can brew more tea,” just like in the story. I hear the teacher gasp and watch her get all teary. This tiny moment was huge in the teacher’s eyes.

I can’t think of a harder and more important job than being a teacher and there are so many times I’m leaving a school and wondering how a teacher manages to teach a class full-time. I’m just an artist, and I stay a while and then I leave. But the teacher stays all day, going through all sorts of things. I can only hope adding music and drama to their day enhances it in positive ways.


Going Through a Photo Disc.

I am always happy when I receive a photo disc in the mail from our good friend Bill Auth. Bill has documented Milkshake’s life since the beginning in 2002, trying to go where we go, whether it’s glamorous (the Grammys, Austin City Limits, SiriusXM) or not (schools, libraries, backyards). Bill has been at the event, taking pictures, and helping when he can. We love him and are so thankful he’s there.

Our friend photographer Bill Auth.

Our friend, photographer Bill Auth.

It’s hard to keep up with all the photos sometimes and inevitably, some discs get misplaced in the train wreck that is my office. But thanks to the long weekend and indoor sports like cleaning, I came across two somewhat recent discs of amazing photos, one from our Annual Midnite Noon New Year’s Eve show at the Maryland Science Center, the other from our somewhat Annual Valentine’s Spectacular.

This was our 6th year performing at Midnite Noon and the Science Center is a great venue for big fun. Bill and new helper Joe hoist the confetti cannon to the top stairs and at noon, (or close to it!), Bill sets it off and yellow bits of confetti drift down on the audience. It’s really quite magical and a great way to start the new year a bit early. The folks at the Science Center are incredibly gung ho and accommodating and said the Earth Ball during “Travel Far” would be fine. I was a bit concerned but thought we were far enough away from the dinosaur exhibit. Still, we cut the song short because the Earth Ball was crashing into the cashiers and going in all kinds of potentially disastrous directions.

Our Valentine’s Spectacular is another favorite of mine, since I love saying “I love you” a lot and this gives me reason to celebrate that fact with rose petals and tulips and chocolate kisses. I always buy too much of these, but the kids love them. This was our fourth Spectacular, and we opened the show with “Tiptoe Through the Tulips.” It took mere seconds for the little girls to take all the tulips I placed on the stage and give them to their moms, but I hoped that would happen anyway. Moo passed out most of the chocolate kisses and took photos with many fans. During “I Love You,” I sat down and tossed rose petals. Mushy? Maybe. But again, the kids love it and we do, too.

I’ve picked a few of my favorite pictures to share with you. Thanks to Heidi Sheppard for snapping some of the Midnite Noon shots while Bill was manning the confetti cannon. Always so much fun!