This article was written by Carolyn Ross of Kindiemusicdc, promotor of musicians playing in the DC area. Alphabet Rockers will be performing on July 21 and July 22 at Wolf Trap’s Theatre-in-the-Woods and July 23 will be entertaining crowds at Frederick’s SummerFest Family Theatre.
Harvard University graduates can often be found on the short list for U.S. Attorney General, Fulbright scholar, even the Nobel Peace prize. But making independent kids music? With a down to earth intuition about what appeals to kids and the power of music and movement, Kaitlin McGaw is not your typical Harvard grad. Along with co-performers Stefanie Liang and Tommy Shepherd, the founder of the L.A. based Kindie Hip Hop troupe, Alphabet Rockers, McGaw has made quite a name for herself in a field not highly populated by ivy leaguers.
As a recent recipient of a Harvardwood Hero’s grant from Kaitlin’s alma mater, the Alphabet Rockers bring meaning to the grant program’s goal of highlighting work by graduates at the “intersection of arts and service.”
As seen in their recent web series designed for use in classrooms, a strong sense of service motivates Alphabet Rockers. In the series, the group covers three areas important to child development: health and nutrition, bullying prevention, and reading and writing.
Greatly influenced by the activist poet Nikki Giovanni, McGaw and Liang had definite ideas about building community and effecting change through their musical expression. Having met in their teens, they capitalized on their own experiences as young people and decided to focus on schools where kids spend a lot of time. “It’s amazing to me when I see how we bring a new cadence to learning and see a kid start dancing in his seat,” says McGaw.
Working with a reading specialist on their new album entitled “Go” the musicians identified with what some kids who struggle academically lack— a good sense of self-confidence. Promoting self-esteem is a part of the mission. “Having confidence in who you are is a big part of hip hop culture,” and the connection between issues like body image, academic and social adjustment is not lost on McGaw. As the lyric in a song that describes the growing cycle of a flower makes clear, “It starts with a seed and a lot of hope…we can all grow, we can all shine, we all need water, love and sunshine.”
Alphabet Rockers shows are always interactive and provide opportunities for kids to make music and get up and dance. With their large alphabet necklaces representing each of their names and fun urban dress, the Alphabet Rockers appeal immediately to their young audiences, as they show kids as well as educators and parents, we all have the “power to rock the mic.”