The granddaddy of kindie rock croons about making new music, crashing his teenage daughter's concerts and playing this year's free Fourth of July concert at Battery Park.
Thu Jun 17 2010
From folk and gospel to Latin rhythms and Broadway show tunes, no single children's musician embodies the American melting pot quite like Brooklyn's own Dan Zanes. It's fitting, then, that in the shadow of Lady Liberty and Ellis Island, Dan Zanes Jam & Jubilee will rock our nation's 234th birthday party as part of the River to River Festival. Zanes recently took some time out to dish on playing this year's Fourth of July concert at Battery Park, how his approach to making family music has changed over the years and the future of his band, Dan Zanes & Friends.
Do you have anything special planned for the Fourth of July concert? Any surprise guests?
A lot of things are special about the July 4th concert in Battery Park. One is that La Cumbiamba eNeY! will be opening the show [at 2pm]. They're an incredible group of Colombian musicians who live here in New York—they're going to have their big band, which is about 13 pieces. And Father Goose, who hasn't played with us in about two years, will be there too. Plus, Stew from the Broadway musical Passing Strange, has committed—we love him.
The show is going to end with a parade: We're going to play "76 Trombones," and we're going to have as many brass players as possible—maybe 76 of them! Even amateur players are invited to join; we'll have the information online for those who want to play.
Sounds like a real party! Has your approach to making and performing family music changed as your daughter Anna has grown up?
It did get a little bit hard for a while to stay in touch with my people as my daughter was getting older. But I've been really lucky to meet new people and hang around a whole new bunch of five- and six-year-olds. It's reconnected me, and I'm thinking about babies again and new families. It's gone in a big cycle. Now that my daughter is 15, we get to talk about music. We're going to Lollapalooza together this year. I'll be playing there. She went last year and was going to go anyway. When I told her I was playing the festival she said, "No, you can't do that—it's mine!" [Laughs]
What else have you been doing to reconnect with younger audiences?
My friend Yvette Weaver and I are developing a program for children with developmental delays and autism. It's called the Sunrise Music Project, although that name may change. The program incorporates singing, dancing, artwork and snacks. It's another way to connect with the fundamental idea of what music can be and how it can bring a family together. Every other Sunday in Washington Heights, we've been getting together and making some wild music. It's given us a little sense of community. We still don't know what we're doing, which is a constant with everything I've been doing all along!
Can you give us a sneak peek into your next project?
The thing I'd really like to do is make a record with Elizabeth Mitchell, and we've started talking about that. I've also collaborated with the Pilobolus Dance company, out of New England. I wrote about ten songs for a family piece that will be at the Joyce Theater [Jul 12--Aug 7].
Last question: Your July 4th concert is on the same day as an annual New York tradition—are you worried about going up against Nathan's Famous Fourth of July Hot Dog Eating Contest?
I wish you hadn't said that. Now I'm worried!