Rockin’ the House with Miss Nina
by “Jersey Jason” Didner
When my daughter was about one year old and we needed to shake up our small, repetitive collection of children’s CDs, I started searching the net for a greater variety of kids’ songs and performances to share with our little one. This one very friendly children’s entertainer with a pink guitar seemed to really have Holly captivated when we happened upon her YouTube video. We saw dozens of familiar titles performed with fresh enthusiasm. I soon learned that Miss Nina lived and performed across a pair of rivers from us in Brooklyn.
Since my brother and his family also live in Brooklyn, I would play an occasional show for toddlers and their parents or caregivers as a “mommy-and-me sing-along” which is a very popular kindie entertainment format in Brooklyn. One morning, Miss Nina and I happened to be scheduled to perform back-to-back at a Brooklyn cafe, so we arranged to perform one song together as a handoff from her set to mine. We also gave away sampler CD’s with some of her songs and some of mine in hopes to commingle our audiences.
Sharing the stage with Miss Nina sure was fun; seeing Holly react to Miss Nina performing her favorite song from among those YouTube videos was a highlight for me.
Nina and I continued to support each other’s kindie music efforts online over the next year. But when she told me she’d be moving to New Jersey, I felt this was an important moment for our fair state’s kindie music scene. And I wanted to give Miss Nina a proper introduction to the local families. It was coming up on holiday season, so I thought we would put on our sing-along during the week between Christmas and New Year when families would be scrambling to fill their week with suitable activities. It was at this point that I reached out to Kim from Diva Moms, NJ–a web site where local mothers can discover new brands, things to do, and form a social circle. Kim and I had organized some successful sing-alongs in the past, right around Miss Nina’s new neck of the woods. This time, Kim recommended Pete’s Place/Yogoccino Cafe in Berkeley Heights for this event.
We planned to sell tickets to this sing-along, under the assumption that just enough families would participate to fill the downstairs party room. This turned out to be one of those times in life where I’m glad I was wrong! Our advance ticket sales were enough that we had to move our performance up to the main restaurant space.
The event was so successful and so much fun that we set up a return performance which happened just last weekend. Again the show was very well attended. This time we had a good mix of repeat audience, some new fans and some longtime friends attend.
Miss Nina and I took turns on lead vocals and on sharing each of our songs. The performer not on lead vocal for a song usually picked up the bongos and provided rhythm and some harmonies. The kids were eager to participate in all the interactivity we had planned for them.
A surreal experience happened for me when I got the inspiration to provide a “human beat box” for Miss Nina’s famous Brown Bear Rap. Back in December I had kept the beat on bongos and I was curious as to how this could work out if I did the beat box instead. It was a lot of fun and it made Kim’s son laugh during sound check so I knew it was a keeper.
Miss Nina and I will bring our “Jersey Jason and Miss Nina” sing-along into my hometown of Montclair at the Bellevue Avenue branch of the Montclair Public Library on May 23 for a special spring show. More library dates will follow into the summer.
Hear Miss Nina’s music at http://www.mymissnina.com.