The History of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart for Kids

Close your eyes and picture that you are sitting in a grand concert hall.  The year is the 1762 and the hall is a large and beautiful hall in Europe.  It is full of wealthy people dressed in beautiful and fancy clothes. On the stage is a large orchestra of musicians, playing the most beautiful music you have ever heard.

You can’t believe how beautiful the music is.  After the orchestra is finished, everyone jumps to their feet and claps with loud applause, including you.  It is a magnificent show!  Then, to your surprise, the composer of the music comes on stage.  He is a young teenager and is only twelve years old!  His name is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Wolfgang Mozart was an Austrian composer who wrote many operas, concertos, symphonies and sonatas that shaped classical music in a very significant way.  He was one of the most talented and productive musical composers of all time.  

Wolfgang was born in the year 1756.  He was very gifted and was able to play a number of different instruments from a very young age. Wolfgang’s father Leopold was a successful composer, violinist and assistant concert-master. Wolfgang’s father introduced him and his older sister Nannerl to music at an early age.  When Wolfgang was three, he watched his seven year old sister learn piano.  He started to copy her playing and at a very young age, he started to show that he understood music and could play himself.  

Wolfgang’s father started teaching both his children how to play, even though Wolfgang was so young.  However, Wolfgang and his sister practiced a lot and worked on perfecting their playing.  Wolfgang soon showed signs of excelling beyond his father’s teachings.  He wrote his first piece of music at age five and learned how to play the harpsichord, the violin, the piano, organ and the viola.

When Wolfgang was young, Europe was divided into many small city-states which were run by the wealthy aristocrats.  Aristocrats means someone who is related to the king or queen of a country and is usually rich.  The aristocrats were so wealthy that they would pay artists and musicians to entertain and inspire them and their guests. When Wolfgang was six, his father took him and his sister across Europe to play music in these different cities for the aristocrats who paid to hear them play. Wolfgang’s first show was for the court of Bavaria in Munich.  He was only six years old! 

The Mozarts travelled to many cities and played in Paris, London, the Hague and Zurich.  These trips were long and difficult. They rode in vehicles like wagons and it was very uncomfortable.  Many times Wolfgang and other members of his family became very sick.  However, there were many good things about the time that Wolfgang spent touring as a child.  During the many tours his father took him on, Wolfgang met many musicians and got to know their music.  This included Johann Christian Bach in London, who had a big influence on Wolfgang. 

When Wolfgang was thirteen, he traveled from Salzburg to Italy where he lived with his father.  On this trip, Wolfgang’s sister stayed home with their mother, as she was at the age that she was supposed to get married.  The custom of the time was that when a girl was at the age to get married, she was not allowed to perform music in public anymore.  A custom is a traditional way of doing something.

Wolfgang and his father travelled to many cities and put on many shows during their time in Italy.  They were there for two years because they were trying to build the largest audience they could for Wolfgang’s talents.  One time, when Wolfgang was in Rome, he visited the Sistine Chapel and heard a song/concert called Miserere composed by Gregorio Allegri.  He later wrote out the entire score from memory and only had to go back and make a few small edits.  A score is the written version of music.

During the time that Mozart was in Italy, he also wrote a new opera, Mitreidate, re di Ponto for the court of Milan.  It was so beautiful that other aristocrats in Italy hired Wolfgang to write other operas. He wrote two more during that trip: Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772).  He was only a teenager at the time.

In March 1773, Mozart and his father returned home.  When they got there, Mozart was appointed assistant concertmaster of the church and he was paid a small salary.  A salary is an amount of money that someone gets paid regularly for doing a job. During this time, Mozart worked with many different types of music and wrote many amazing symphonies before he was even 21 years old. 

Even though he was successful in writing a lot of music, Mozart started feeling like he wanted to leave his hometown of Salzburg and do something greater.  He believed he could do that better somewhere else. Wolfgang traveled with his sister to Mannheim, Paris, and Munich, three large cities in Europe at the time. Unfortunately while they were on the trip, the got word that their mom had died and they returned home.

Wolfgang took on another job and continued writing a lot of music.  He also taught music and played several concerts. Around this time, Mozart met a young woman named Constanze Weber and they fell in love.  They got married and later had six children.  However, it was not a healthy time in history and only two of their children survived being babies. 

Wolfgang admired the works of other famous composers Johannes Sebastian Bach and George Frederic Handel and became obsessed with their music.  Around this time, Mozart also met another famous composer named Joseph Haydn and the two composers became friends. When Haydn visited Vienna, they sometimes performed impromptu concerts with string quartets. Between 1782 and 1785 Mozart wrote six quartets dedicated to Haydn.

Mozart was making a lot of money from his concerts and music and he was becoming even more famous throughout Europe.  He and Constanze had a very expensive lifestyle. However, because they spent so much money, they eventually found themselves poor again. Mozart decided that he wanted to get the job of court appointed musician, as it would pay him well.  However there were others that wanted this job, including his rival Antonio Salieri.

Mozart wrote two operas during this time, one called The Marriage of Figaro in 1786 and one called Don Giovanni in 1787. They were both very popular and they helped him to get the job he was seeking.  In December, 1787, Emperor Joseph II appointed Wolfgang as his “chamber composer”.

Mozart died on December 5, 1791 at age 35. He had gotten sick with rheumatic fever and did not recover.  Wolfgang died very young, even for that time period. At the time of his death, Mozart was considered one of the greatest composers of all time already. His music continues to be popular and his work has influenced many great composers that followed, most notably Beethoven.

Mozart may have been gifted, but it was his love of music and dedication to it that made him improve as a composer and musician.  Mozart’s love of music shines through his pieces, which are still loved around the world today.  

We can also learn from Mozart about the power of persistence.  He exercised persistence throughout his life and did not give up as he worked to build his fame and later to support his family through his music. 

Mozart’s life also teaches us about the importance of prudence.  Mozart became very wealthy but did not take good care of his money and so he soon found himself poor again. If you work hard to achieve something in life, make sure that you take care of it.  Be careful to save money and not spend too much so that you can enjoy your money throughout your life. 

But most importantly, Mozart demonstrates the power of loving an art form like music and dedicating your time and energy into something that you love.  Is there something that you love as much as Mozart loved music?

History of Irving Berlin for Kids

Have you ever thought about how music is made? Some of the classic hits that we all hear regularly were once ideas in someone’s head.  How do these turn into the songs we hear on the radio today?

Tonight we are going to learn about an immigrant named Irving Berlin who later became one of America’s greatest songwriters. America has always been called a “land of immigrants” because ever since the beginning of our nation, immigrants have come here to start new lives with their families.An immigrant is someone who moves from one country to another. 

Irving Berlin was born May 11, 1888 in Russia. Irving Berlin’s family were of the Jewish religion. It was not an easy thing to be Jewish in Russia when Irving was little because Jews were persecuted for their beliefs. Persecuted means to not be treated fair or nice. Some were beaten, made fun of, and even had their things taken from them and destroyed. One of Irving’s first memories is sitting on the side of the road watching his house burn down. It was a scary time, so when Irving was only 5 years old, his Mom and Dad decided to move away from persecution and move to America in 1893.

Back in those days, the only way to get across the ocean to the United States was to sail on big steamships. These journeys were very dangerous and could take several weeks. Many times they would run into big storms and the ship captains had to watch for icebergs along the way. People would get seasick on the boat and some of the passengers would even die. But Irving‘s parents knew that if they could make it to America they would have a chance for a better life; so they took the risk and took their young family across the ocean.

Irving’s family settled in the big city of New York. New York was a bustling city even back then, and had lots of people and crowded streets. Life was hard for Irving and his family. It was a new place they had never been before; they had to learn a new language because they didn’t speak English. They were very poor and lived in a basement of a small apartment. Irving’s dad had a hard time finding a job to earn money and did anything he could to earn money to support his family. Everyone in the family had to work hard just to get enough money to buy food. When Irving was only 8 years old, he went to work as a newspaper boy. He had 3 sisters that had to work too. Can you imagine having to work a real job at 8 years old?

On the way home after his first day on the job, Irving decided to go to the shipyard and look at the big ships that were getting ready to set sail. A big swinging crane that loads up the ships with cargo accidently swung around and knocked him into the water. When the men that worked at the shipyard pulled Irving out of the water, he was still holding onto the 5 pennies he had earned that day. He had worked so hard for that money, that he did not want to let it go.

When Irving was 13 years old, his father died.  He was sad but he also worried about his family.  Irving felt like he needed to move out of the home and support himself so his mom wouldn’t have to worry about taking care of him and feeding him. So at 14 years old, Irving left home and slept in a homeless shelter with other newspaper boys.

Irving always loved to sing and was taught to sing at an early age by his father. His dad was a cantor. A cantor is someone who leads the singing and prayer at a synagogue, which is the name for a Jewish church. When Irving was selling newspapers on the streets he learned lots of different songs and sometimes he would sing on the streets and in the saloons, café’s and restaurants. Customers would throw him pennies because they liked his songs. 

Irving paid close attention to the people who threw money for him and figured out what kind of songs people liked best.  He was very smart and figured out which songs would give him the most money and he would sing more of those songs. Pretty soon, Irving was singing full time as a job. He worked hard and long, and he later said one of the reasons he did was so he could buy his mother a rocking chair. He knew she didn’t have the money to buy one for herself and he thought it would make her happy.

In his spare time and when the restaurants were closed, Irving would ask the owners if he could play their pianos. Irving taught himself to play the piano, and soon was singing, playing and putting on shows in the restaurants, music halls and city squares. He also learned from others how to make up new songs and write music.

Irving’s first big hit was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. Ragtime music was very popular back then. It was music that marched and bounced. People loved his song. Irving’s music was being made into records and people loved to buy them because his music was great to dance to.  After this hit song, people knew Irving’s name and he became famous.

In 1917, America entered a big war that was going on in Europe. This war was called “the Great War” and later became known as World War I. Irving Berlin was asked to do a special mission for the United States Army; to write songs for a group that would perform for soldiers. The Army and Country’s leaders knew that music helped to keep the soldiers happy and inspired.

One of the songs he wrote at this time was a song called “God Bless America”, but he didn’t add it to the show. Not until 20 years later, he released the song to the public for the first time; It was during the Great Depression and right before World War II. A depression is a time when there are not very many jobs and lots of people are poor and hungry. “God Bless America” became very popular and it meant a lot to people who had been struggling for years. The people felt that even though they had lived through hard times, God still helped them and loved them. Today, the song is still beloved and sung at very special events like the 4th of July.

Irving Berlin loved America. To love your country is to be patriotic. He once said he owed all his success to his adopted country. He also said he wrote “God Bless America” as “an expression of my feeling toward the country to which I owe what I have and what I am.”

Irving Berlin wrote many many more very popular songs. He wrote songs for the radio, movies, musical plays, Broadway and other shows. People sang his songs everywhere. He was the most successful songwriter of his time and people still sing his songs, many not even knowing who wrote them. One of his other most famous songs is the very popular Christmas tune “White Christmas”. There are lots of beautiful versions of this song, but the one we hear most today is the version sung by the famous singer Bing Crosby.

Irving Berlin knew that music can be very powerful. Music can tell stories and music can make us feel better. It can lift us up when we are sad. It reminds us of people we love and places we want to visit. Music sparks imagination and creativity. Irving Berlin understood that music is very important and he wanted to fill the world with good and uplifting music. He won several awards for his music and many historians call Irving Berlin, “America’s Songwriter” because of how his music has changed and influenced America.

Irving Berlin died in New York City at the age of 101 years old. He had lived a long and happy life, and had blessed many lives with his music. Even though Irving became very famous and rich, he never forgot his childhood and living on the streets. He felt that having those hard experiences and not always getting what he wanted made him a better person; it made him grateful for what he had. He believed that America was the land of opportunity. From Irving Berlin we learn that with hard work and dedication you can better your life and make a difference.

Do you enjoy singing to music you hear on the radio?  Have you ever thought of writing your own songs?  These are things that Irving Berlin because he loved music and was inspired to learn how to make it himself.  He taught himself to sing and play piano and write songs.  If he taught himself to do that, you can too!  We are all capable of great things if we are dedicated to our goals and strive to reach them.

The Story of Lin-Manuel Miranda and the Making of Hamilton

Have you heard about the musical Hamilton? Maybe you’ve seen the movie on Disney Plus, listened to the music, or actually seen a live performance. My kids and I enjoy listening to the music. It’s catchy and fun to sing along, and what’s also great is we learn something new while having a good time together! The musical Hamilton has been seen on Disney Plus and Broadway millions of times and has come to be one of the most popular musicals of all time. But how did the musical come to be? Do you know who wrote the story and lyrics and music? If you guessed Lin-Manuel Miranda you were right!

Lin-Manuel Miranda was born January 16, 1980 in New York, New York. 

Lin-Manuel’s parents were from Puerto Rican. Puerto Rico is an island and U.S. territory in the Carribean. Lin-Manuel  grew up in a Hispanic neighbourhood in northern Manhattan with his family. His unique name was inspired by a poem about the Vietnam War . His father worked in politics and helped  several of the mayors of New York City, and his mother was a psychologist. They often played salsa and show tunes, which are songs from musicals, at home.. 

During childhood and his teens, Lin-Manuel spent at least one month each year with his grandparents in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. Lin-Manuel attended Hunter College Elementary School and Hunter College High School. He wrote some of his first musicals while growing up in school. 

Lin-Manuel saw his first Broadway musical, Les Misérables, when he was seven, and it made a life-long impression on him. His tastes also ran to hip-hop and R&B, and he became an excellent rapper. In high school he won the lead role in the musical The Pirates of Penzance and was very active in the school’s drama program. 

In school he met Stephen Sondheim, who later became a mentor to him, along with fellow musical-theatre legend John Kander. Lin-Manuel went on to study theatre at Wesleyan University, where he continued to perform in musicals and to write his own songs and shows.

It was there in 1999 that he wrote the first draft of his musical In the Heights, which was set in Washington Heights, a northern Manhattan neighbourhood similar to that of his own childhood. At college Lin-Manuel wrote and directed several other musicals and acted in many other productions, ranging from musicals to Shakespeare.

After graduating from college in 2002, Lin-Manuel  started an acting career, appearing in films and on television. He also performed with a hip-hop improvisation group, Freestyle Love Supreme around New York City and at festivals, including the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

At this time Lin-Manuel  continued to develop In the Heights with his friend Thomas Kail. The musical blended hip-hop and salsa. Lin-Manuel wrote the music and lyrics for the show. He also co-wrote a book with Quiara Alegría Hudes that is the complete script and all the song lyrics from the show. 

In the Heights opened Off-Broadway in February 2007 and ran until July, with Lin-Manuel in the lead role. It won two Drama Desk Awards. In the Heights had its Broadway debut in March 2008 and won four Tony Awards, including those for best musical and best original score. They also nominated the show for the Pulitzer Prize for drama, and its original-cast recording won the 2008 Grammy Award for best musical show album. 

Also, In the Heights will be available to everyone as a movie in theaters and on HBO in June 2021.

While Lin-Manuel was on vacation in 2008, he read a book about the U.S. Founding Father, Alexander Hamilton. The biography was written by Ron Chernow and told Hamilton’s life story. Lin-Manuel was inspired by Hamilton’s life, from his difficult childhood in the Caribbean island to his move to New York and the part he played in the American Revolution,  eventually becoming the U.S. secretary of the treasury. Lin-Manuel saw an important story that needed to be told and the wheels in his head started to turn. 

In Alexander Hamilton’s story, Lin-Manuel saw one that was very similar to that of the simple beginnings of many famous rappers. It inspired him to write a rap about Alexander Hamilton. In 2009 he later performed it for  the White House Evening of Poetry, Music, and the Spoken Word before President Barack Obama and others.

Lin-Manuel later said he spent a year writing the Hamilton song “My Shot”, changing it countless times for every verse to reflect Alexander Hamilton’s smarts. By 2012, Lin-Manuel was performing an extended set of pieces based on the life of Alexander Hamilton, which he then referred to as the Hamilton Mixtape. The New York Times called it “an obvious game changer”.

The resulting show, which Lin-Manuel called “Hamilton” was smart, energetic, catchy, and immediately popular with audiences, and featured a racially diverse cast, with Lin-Manuel starring in the main role of Alexander Hamilton. In January 2015 the musical opened Off-Broadway at New York City’s Public Theater. It was so successful it made an early move to Broadway in July.

In 2016 they awarded Hamilton the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and that year it received an outstanding 16 Tony nominations, which rarely happens. Lin-Manuel earned several nods, including best actor in a leading role in a musical. The production eventually won 11 Tonys, falling one short of the record. They named Hamilton best musical, and Lin-Manuel won for best book and best original score. 

On March 15, 2016, members of the cast of Hamilton performed at the White House and hosted workshops; Lin-Manuel performed freestyle rap from prompts held up by President Obama. Later In 2016, Miranda and Jeremy McCarter published Hamilton: The Revolution, a book describing Hamilton’s journey from idea to Broadway success. In July 2016 Lin-Manuel appeared for the last time in the show.

The following year the musical opened in London’s West End, where it was a critical and commercial success. It won seven Olivier Awards, including best new play. In addition, Lin-Manuel garnered the award for outstanding achievement in music. 

In 2017 Hurricane Maria hit the Carribean Islands. It was the worst recorded hurricane in history in that area of the world. Many lives and property was lost.  To help, Lin-Manuel briefly returned to his role as Alexander Hamilton in Puerto Rico and used the money made from the shows to help the people there. Lin-Manuel had been active in helping the people of Puerto Rico and the arts there over the years. 

Have you seen the Disney movie Moana? Lin-Manuel wrote the song “How Far I’ll Go” and sings parts of it. In the movie Mary Poppins Returns, he played Mary Poppins sidekick and chimney sweep, Bert. He also starred in the HBO TV series His Dark Materials. Today Lin-Manuel continues today to work on many projects with different studios, including Disney.

Lin-Manuel is an outstanding example of someone who found a talent he enjoyed and dedicated his life to improving it. Can you believe he spent a year working on the songs “Alexander Hamilton” and “My Shot”? Great things don’t come easy. Often they start off very imperfect and need to be worked on over and over until they improve with time and focus. He also wasn’t afraid to take risks by being original. Many of his close friends told him his idea for Alexander Hamilton wouldn’t work. A rap-musical about a founding father was a very unique and bold idea! But he kept working at it anyway until it was a great success!

Once Lin-Manuel reached fame and stardom, he didn’t only use the money he made for his own benefit. He has found many ways to give back to the communities he grew up in and places like Puerto Rico when it was hit by a devastating hurricane. He has also worked with charities that help children who are in foster care and are being adopted. 

What is something that you love to do? Think of what your next project might be related to your interests and set a goal. Plan out how you might work on that project each day until it becomes something better each time, so then you can share it like Lin-Manuel.

History of Chuck Berry for Kids

Imagine you are inside of a music hall.  The room is dark and a stage light is projecting down onto a red curtain.  As you sit looking at the stage, a drum beat starts up.  It’s loud and it’s fast and has a rhythm and blues beat.  Next you hear an electric guitar start in with some rocking chords.  Finally the curtain bursts open and a man in a blue suit whips around and grabs the microphone.  He starts singing the lyrics to one of the most famous rock n’ roll songs in history, “Deep down in Louisiana close to New Orleans, Way back up in the woods amongst the evergreens…”  The singer is Chuck Berry.

Chuck Berry was one of the most famous rock ‘n’ roll performers in music history. He is known for his upbeat songs including “Johnny B. Goode” and “Maybellene.”  Chuck’s music was so good that it had an influence, or impacted the behaviour, on many future musicians.  He was even given the nickname the “father of rock ‘n’ roll.”  But how did Chuck Berry become such a good musician and songwriter?

Chuck Berry was born in 1926 in St. Louis, Missouri.  His name when he was born was Charles Edward Anderson Berry.  But everyone started calling him “Chuck.”  Chuck’s parents, Martha and Henry Berry, were the grandchildren of enslaved people, which means that they used to be slaves.

Martha and Henry were some of the many African Americans who moved from the Southern United States to St. Louis to look for work during World War I. Martha was one of the few Black women of that time to go to college and earn a degree.  Henry was a carpenter, which means someone who buildings things out of wood.  Henry was also a deacon, or pastor, at a local Baptist Church.

When Chuck was born, St. Louis was a very segregated city.  Segregated means that Black and white people lived apart in different neighbourhoods from each other.  Chuck grew up in a neighbourhood in northern St. Louis that was mainly where middle-class Black people lived.  Middle-class means the group of people in society that aren’t rich but also aren’t poor.  The neighbourhood was so segregated that Chuck had never actually met a white person in real life until he was three years old. 

Chuck grew up in a big family with six children.  He was one of the youngest and he enjoyed being part of a lively crew of kids.  Chuck had a lot of interests and hobbies as a kid.  He liked helping with his dad’s carpentry work and learning how to take photographs with his uncle, who was a professional photographer.  Chuck also showed an early interest in music and was quite talented.  Talented means to have a special ability or gift.  Chuck began singing in his church choir when he was only six years old. 

When he was a teenager, Chuck applied and got into a very good private high school.   When he was in high school, Chuck continued to grow his music and performance skills.  He entered his school’s talent show and sang a song while his friend played guitar.  The performance was a huge hit with all of the students that were there listening.  The cheers and applause that they got inspired Chuck to continue with music.  He decided that he wanted to learn to play guitar himself and so he asked his parents if he could take lessons.  They said yes, and soon after that, Chuck started taking guitar lessons with a famous local jazz musician named Ira Harris.

In high school, Chuck was more interested in playing music than studying and learning.  He felt like his classes were boring and his teachers were too strict. When Chuck was only 17 years old, he and two of his friends dropped out of high school.  They decided that they were going to drive together across the country to visit California.

Unfortunately Chuck and his friends got into trouble. They robbed some stores for money and were arrested [Breck: he and his friends found a gun and robbed a couple stores before getting caught.  I didn’t think we needed to set out those details, but obviously edit as you see fit.] Chuck ended up in a prison for young men in Missouri where he spent 3 years.  He was released for good behaviour in October 1947 on his 21st birthday. 

Chuck’s parents picked him up and he headed back home to St. Louis to live with them.  Chuck got a job working at his dad’s construction business.  He helped his dad build things and he also worked part time as  a photographer and part time as a janitor, or someone who cleans up things, at a local car-making factory.

In 1948, when Chuck was 22 years old, he married Themetta Suggs, whose nickname was “Toddy”.  Chuck and Toddy were happy together and had four children.  Chuck also started playing guitar again.  In 1951, when Chuck was 25, his old school classmate Tommy Stevens asked him to join his band.  They played at local nightclubs in St. Louis that Black people visited.  Chuck said yes and he started playing in the band in the evenings. 

Chuck was very lively on stage and people liked the way he sang, danced and played music.  Every time he performed, Chuck brought a lot of energy to the stage and people just wanted to get up and dance. 

About a year later, Chuck met a local jazz pianist, Jonnie Jackson.  The two hit it off and Chuck left his first band to join Jonnie’s band, called the Sir John’s Trio.  The group played at a fancy Black nightclub in East St. Louis.  The music was so good that it started attracting, or drawing in, white customers. 

Chuck started writing some of his own songs around this time.  He knew that if he wanted to make it big, he was going to have to come up with his own material. Chuck also started taking road trips to Chicago fairly regularly.  Chicago was the main city that Black music was recorded in back then.  Chuck went up trying to meet with recording executives, or business people, in the hopes that one of them would want to make a contract to buy his music.  

In 1955, Chuck met a well-known blues musician named Muddy Waters.  Muddy heard some of Chuck’s music and thought he had a lot of talent.  He told Chuck that he should go meet with a company called Chess Records.  On Muddy’s recommendation, Chuck was able to meet with the businessmen at Chess Records.  He had quickly written and recorded a new song and played it for the Chess Records people.  The song was called “Maybellene” which is now a very famous rock and roll song.  The Chess executives loved the song and signed a contract with Chuck.  They helped the song get played on the radio stations and within a couple of months, “Maybellene” was one of the top songs in the country!

“Maybellene” was a mix of a bunch of different types of music, including a rhythm and blues drum beat and country guitar sounds as well as some blues chords and storytelling.  Because this was the first time that anyone had ever recorded this blend of sounds together, many people who study music history believe that “Maybellene” is the first true rock n’ roll song.

Chuck continued to write many famous rock n’ roll songs that you have heard before, including “Roll Over, Beethoven,” “Johnny B. Goode,” and “Sweet Little Sixteen”.  Chuck was one of the first Black artists to have white and Black fans because of his mix of sounds and the storytelling in his songs that talked about things that all teenagers felt.  Many of Chuck’s songs recorded throughout the 1950s became top songs in the country. 

Chuck continued to write and record music all the way to the 1970s.  Even his late albums are quite good, though he is always remembered for his early music in the 1950s which really changed the type of music that everyone in the country listened to. 

In 1985, Chuck was given a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and he was the first person to ever be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame when it first opened in 1986.  One of the main ways that you can tell how important Chuck’s music was is that so many other famous musicians have said that they were influenced by his music.  Famous bands that have said they loved Chuck’s music and it influenced theirs include the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys.

When Chuck was 90 years old, he announced that he was going to write and release a new album of music dedicated to his wife Toddy, whom he had been married to for 68 years.  Chuck died on March 18, 2017 at the age of 90.  

What are some things that we can learn from Chuck Berry?  He was inspired at a young age to sing through his involvement at church.  And once he had the chance to perform, he loved it.  He followed his passion and realized that if he wanted to keep performing, he needed to learn to play guitar.  Chuck showed courage in learning a new instrument as well as patience and perseverance.  This means to carry on trying at something even if it is difficult. 

Chuck also showed resilience, or the courage to continue with something even when you experience difficulties.  His years performing were tiring at times and he likely faced racism due to being Black at a time when society was not as accepting.  But Chuck carried on with his dreams and worked hard to make them a reality.  

Chuck also showed love and loyalty, to his wife Toddy, whom he was married to for 68 years, and to his music which he loved. 

Is there something that you enjoy doing and would like to get better at?  Have you ever thought of learning to write some of your own songs?  Like most things in life, it can be done with learning and practice and dedication.  

When you have some time this week, listen to some Chuck Berry songs.  You will find that there are many that you have probably heard before that will have you tapping your feet to the beat.  One of Chuck’s main messages through his songs is that it’s good to have fun and to have passion for life.  

The Story of Irving Berlin for Kids

Welcome to Bedtime History

Have you ever thought about how music is made? Some of the classic hits that we all hear regularly were once ideas in someone’s head.  How do these turn into the songs we hear on the radio today?

Tonight we are going to learn about an immigrant named Irving Berlin who later became one of America’s greatest songwriters. America has always been called a “land of immigrants” because ever since the beginning of our nation, immigrants have come here to start new lives with their families.An immigrant is someone who moves from one country to another. 

Irving Berlin was born May 11, 1888 in Russia. Irving Berlin’s family were of the Jewish religion. It was not an easy thing to be Jewish in Russia when Irving was little because Jews were persecuted for their beliefs. Persecuted means to not be treated fair or nice. Some were beaten, made fun of, and even had their things taken from them and destroyed. One of Irving’s first memories is sitting on the side of the road watching his house burn down. It was a scary time, so when Irving was only 5 years old, his Mom and Dad decided to move away from persecution and move to America in 1893.

Back in those days, the only way to get across the ocean to the United States was to sail on big steamships. These journeys were very dangerous and could take several weeks. Many times they would run into big storms and the ship captains had to watch for icebergs along the way. People would get seasick on the boat and some of the passengers would even die. But Irving‘s parents knew that if they could make it to America they would have a chance for a better life; so they took the risk and took their young family across the ocean.

Irving’s family settled in the big city of New York. New York was a bustling city even back then, and had lots of people and crowded streets. Life was hard for Irving and his family. It was a new place they had never been before; they had to learn a new language because they

didn’t speak English. They were very poor and lived in a basement of a small apartment. Irving’s dad had a hard time finding a job to earn money and did anything he could to earn money to support his family. Everyone in the family had to work hard just to get enough money to buy food. When Irving was only 8 years old, he went to work as a newspaper boy. He had 3 sisters that had to work too. Can you imagine having to work a real job at 8 years old?

On the way home after his first day on the job, Irving decided to go to the shipyard and look at the big ships that were getting ready to set sail. A big swinging crane that loads up the ships with cargo accidently swung around and knocked him into the water. When the men that worked at the shipyard pulled Irving out of the water, he was still holding onto the 5 pennies he had earned that day. He had worked so hard for that money, that he did not want to let it go.

When Irving was 13 years old, his father died.  He was sad but he also worried about his family.  Irving felt like he needed to move out of the home and support himself so his mom wouldn’t have to worry about taking care of him and feeding him. So at 14 years old, Irving left home and slept in a homeless shelter with other newspaper boys.

Irving always loved to sing and was taught to sing at an early age by his father. His dad was a cantor. A cantor is someone who leads the singing and prayer at a synagogue, which is the name for a Jewish church. When Irving was selling newspapers on the streets he learned lots of different songs and sometimes he would sing on the streets and in the saloons, café’s and restaurants. Customers would throw him pennies because they liked his songs. 

Irving paid close attention to the people who threw money for him and figured out what kind of songs people liked best.  He was very smart and figured out which songs would give him the most money and he would sing more of those songs. Pretty soon, Irving was singing full time as a job. He worked hard and long, and he later said one of the reasons he did was so he could buy his mother a rocking chair. He knew she didn’t have the money to buy one for herself and he thought it would make her happy.

In his spare time and when the restaurants were closed, Irving would ask the owners if he could play their pianos. Irving taught himself to play the piano, and soon was singing, playing and putting on shows in the restaurants, music halls and city squares. He also learned from others how to make up new songs and write music.

Irving’s first big hit was “Alexander’s Ragtime Band”. Ragtime music was very popular back then. It was music that marched and bounced. People loved his song. Irving’s music was being made into records and people loved to buy them because his music was great to dance to.  After this hit song, people knew Irving’s name and he became famous.

In 1917, America entered a big war that was going on in Europe. This war was called “the Great War” and later became known as World War I. Irving Berlin was asked to do a special mission for the United States Army; to write songs for a group that would perform for soldiers. The Army and Country’s leaders knew that music helped to keep the soldiers happy and inspired.

One of the songs he wrote at this time was a song called “God Bless America”, but he didn’t add it to the show. Not until 20 years later, he released the song to the public for the first time; It was

during the Great Depression and right before World War II. A depression is a time when there are not very many jobs and lots of people are poor and hungry. “God Bless America” became very popular and it meant a lot to people who had been struggling for years. The people felt that even though they had lived through hard times, God still helped them and loved them. Today, the song is still beloved and sung at very special events like the 4th of July.

Irving Berlin loved America. To love your country is to be patriotic. He once said he owed all his success to his adopted country. He also said he wrote “God Bless America” as “an expression of my feeling toward the country to which I owe what I have and what I am.”

Irving Berlin wrote many many more very popular songs. He wrote songs for the radio, movies, musical plays, Broadway and other shows. People sang his songs everywhere. He was the most successful songwriter of his time and people still sing his songs, many not even knowing who wrote them. One of his other most famous songs is the very popular Christmas tune “White

Christmas”. There are lots of beautiful versions of this song, but the one we hear most today is the version sung by the famous singer Bing Crosby.

Irving Berlin knew that music can be very powerful. Music can tell stories and music can make us feel better. It can lift us up when we are sad. It reminds us of people we love and places we

want to visit. Music sparks imagination and creativity. Irving Berlin understood that music is very important and he wanted to fill the world with good and uplifting music. He won several awards for his music and many historians call Irving Berlin, “America’s Songwriter” because of how his music has changed and influenced America.

Irving Berlin died in New York City at the age of 101 years old. He had lived a long and happy life, and had blessed many lives with his music. Even though Irving became very famous and rich, he never forgot his childhood and living on the streets. He felt that having those hard experiences and not always getting what he wanted made him a better person; it made him grateful for what he had. He believed that America was the land of opportunity. From Irving Berlin we learn that with hard work and dedication you can better your life and make a difference.

Do you enjoy singing to music you hear on the radio?  Have you ever thought of writing your own songs?  These are things that Irving Berlin because he loved music and was inspired to learn how to make it himself.  He taught himself to sing and play piano and write songs.  If he taught himself to do that, you can too!  We are all capable of great things if we are dedicated to our goals and strive to reach them.