Tag Archives: Rani Arbo

Mom meets musician

Rani Arbo (right) recently talked mothering and music with writer Lynn Trimble. Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem are headed to the MIM in Phoenix. (Photo: Mary Beth Meehan)

When I chatted recently with mom and musician Rani Arbo, who’ll be performing this week at the MIM, we talked first about her eight-year-old son. Arbo performs with Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem, a foursome that includes her husband Scott Kessel, so I expected to hear that their only child spent most days holed up in his room making music. Not so, says Arbo.

“We’ve been stage parents his whole life,” she shared. Seems their son had already seen thirty states by the time he was two years old. “Doing live music meant we were on stage, unavailable to him.” Though their home contains “a whole pile of percussion instruments” plus everything from ukelele to accordian, Arbo says their son has been “slow to come around to music on his own terms.”

I get it. After enjoying all sorts of live performance art with my daughter for nearly two decades, I had to step back once Lizabeth started studying theater. Her artistic journey is her own, and my “Stage Mom” musings should never interfere with that. Still, it’s lovely when children develop interests that give family members a little something in common besides their neuroses.

Nowadays, 8-year-old Quinn is playing “a bunch of piano.” Most recently, he’s been playing a Harry Potter piece by ear. Lizabeth once played the same piece, which was plenty challenging even with the help of sheet music. Seems Arbo’s son is fond of the sustain pedal and playing at top volume at around 7:30am in the morning. And, like most kids, he’s not a big fan of being told what to do. Hence adventures in Kindermusik and such didn’t quite stick.

Arbo notes that Quinn showed more early aptitude for rhythm than for singing in tune, so early Suzuki lessons in something like violin didn’t feel like a good fit — proof that she’s mastered a prime principle of good parenting. If the shoe doesn’t fit, don’t force it. Arbo describes Quinn as a late bloomer who was more ready for music lessons by age eight or so. Another pearl — timing is everything.

Arbo grew up playing cello and singing with a local chorus. The first she did alone, the latter with people — something that informed her belief that “music needs to be social for kids.” Quinn’s got that one covered after forming a Beatles cover band with two friends. Quinn plays drums while fellow musicians, blond twins, do their guitar thing. Arbo tells me one rocks the E string, while the other rocks the A string.

When I asked Arbo about music education, she quickly broadened the topic to include all the arts. “Art and music is for everybody,” says Arbo. “Kids blossom and flower in all forms of art.” She’s grateful for the hour of music Quinn gets each week in public school, but knows it’s challenging to make music with more than two dozen kids to a class. Hence the importance of experiences, like their concert at the MIM, that expose kids to additional arts offerings.

In an age that’s seeing kids increasingly isolated by “social” media, Arbo considers music “a different way for kids to interact socially.” Sure, says Arbo, music helps logic and math. But music does something more. “Music is beyond thinking,” says Arbo. “There’s not that much in schools that does that.”

“Kids need to be human,” says Arbo, “and music challenges them to do that.” The feeling of doing something together, even if it’s singing along to a recorded track, is important. Making music with others is about being “part of something bigger than you are.”

Schools tyically judge students on individual performance, observes Arbo. So “students don’t often get the joyful experience of disappearing into a hole bigger than you.” Through music, she says, kids learn to listen for things — and listen to each other. Though not from a religious family, Arbo says that “sacred space is often held by music.” It’s what they work to create in each show — a fun, uplifting and safe space for folks to think, search and feel. “Like church,” says Arbo, “but not church.”

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem perform two concerts at the MIM this week –“American roots with a suitcase drum” at 7pm on Fri, May 4 and “family-friendly folk music” at 2:30pm on Sat, May 5. Click here to enjoy a taste of their tunes, and here for ticket information.

– Lynn

Note: The Phoenix Children’s Chorus holds auditions May 4 & 5 in Phoenix and May 17 in the East Valley. They’re open to all students currently in grades one to 11, and all auditioners get a free ticket to the group’s May 19 concert at Mesa Arts Center. Click here for details. If you have an audition or event for the magazine’s online calendar, please send info to calendar@raisingarizonakids.com.

Coming up: Museum meets mental health, A “Topia” tale, Playwriting for social justice, The road to “Red”

Update: Rani just shared this great article she wrote when Quinn was just 2 1/2 years old — http://wondertime.go.com/parent-to-parent/article/music-class.html. It’s a fun read! Also note that my blog has been corrected to reflect the fact that Quinn is now 8 (he’s actually 8 1/2) rather than 9, and visited 30 states before he was two. 5/3/12

Break the habit

Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem perform May 5 at the MIM in Phoenix

I’m rocking a nasty headache these days, deep in the throws of caffeine withdrawal suffered during periodic flirtations with the coffee-free lifestyle. There wasn’t much spring in my step this morning, until I popped a new CD into my laptop and gave a listen to “Ranky Tanky” by Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem. Despite living in the “i-everything” age, I’ve no intention of breaking my CD (or album) habit.

The CD opens with Yusaf Islam’s “If You Want to Sing Out, Sing Out.” Back in the day, we knew him as Cat Stevens. The first few notes had a real Jason Mraz vibe, but soon the foursome’s original stylings and unique arrangements came through. I was waking up, and ready to dance. And why not? I was alone with my kitchen, and dishes needed washing. No harm in having a little fun along the way.

Finding a CD fit for family consumption is harder than it seems, but this baby brings the perfect balance in song selection, musical arrangement and vocal performance. Its 17 tunes include the likes of “Tennessee Wig Walk,” “Morningtown Ride” and “Wildflowers.” Several, including “Kind Kangaroo” and “Bear to the Left,” feature animal themes. My personal favorite is a sweet, slower piece about a pony named “Tinny.”

“Ranky Tanky” took me back to preschool parenting days — when my three kids, now in college, loved throwing sheets over tables to make forts or building cities out of giant boxes in the back yard. Parents eager to help their children break high-tech habits have a friend in “Ranky Tanky.” Its sing-along stylings will get your kids off the couch and into movement. Don’t be surprised if they start foraging for materials to make their own musical instruments. They’ll be eager to recreate the diversity of sounds on this CD, so let them run with it.

While listening to “Ranky Tanky,” I pictured all the ways my children might have enjoyed it years ago. Grabbing purple markers to draw their own monsters after listening to “Purple People Eater.” Running out to tend the garden after hearing “Wildflowers.” Grabbing the books “Hats of Sale” off the shelf after enjoying “Where Did You Get That Hat?”

Kids hear plenty of noise that passes for music nowadays, but “Ranky Tanky” is the real thing. It’s fun to pick out various instruments as you’re listening, even pretending to play right along. Air guitar is so yesterday. Air veggie baster is where it’s at. Turns out the daisy mayhem foursome plays more than a dozen instruments on “Ranky Tanky” — from fiddle and ukelele to kazoo, jawharp and baloon kalimba. Four “extra super extra musicians play clarinet, trombone, trumpet, tuba, resonator banjo and mandolin.

Daisy mayhem (they like the lower case vibe) is a lovely ensemble of four vocalists and musicians  — Rani Arbo, Andrew Kinsey, Scott Kessel and Anand Nayak — who’ll be performing May 5 at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. It’s hard to imagine a better venue, since the MIM is home to an “Experience Gallery” where folks can try their hand at playing instruments from around the globe.

You could break a lot of bad habits listening to “Ranky Tanky.” Too much couch time. Too much caffeine. Too much computer time. Too much remote control time. But go ahead and Häagen Dazs it every now and again. Just be sure you’re dancing while you do it.

– Lynn

Coming up: Playwright profiles, Before there was the Web