Sounds Local: Children’s music series kicks off in Greenfield

  • Under the Tree Arts, led by Marcy Gregoire of Turners Falls, center, is kicking off a new Music in the Morning series for children at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center in Greenfield. Gregoire, a singer-songwriter, artist and educator, has been presenting events for children for 20 years. Contributed photo



For the Recorder
Published: 1/16/2019 11:37:41 AM

Whether you sing lullabies to your kids, play them hip children’s songs by bands like They Might Be Giants, or simply crank up your favorite tunes on the radio, children love music and research shows that it’s good for them.

Introducing children to music at a young age has proven to have long-term developmental benefits in that it can enrich their language, literacy, social development, cognition, attention span, and mathematical, motor and self-regulation skills. But the real reason to enjoy music with your children is simply that it’s fun.

If you have little ones (up to 8 years old) in your life, Under the Tree Arts has a couple of programs coming up at Hawks & Reed Performing Arts Center, 289 Main St. in Greenfield, that they will enjoy.

The first of these is Music in the Morning, a new five-week series that begins Thursday, Jan. 17, at 10:30 a.m. and will be held every Thursday morning from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. through Feb. 14. The one-hour program combines music, movement and lots of laughter. Then next month, on Saturday, Feb. 2, at 4 p.m., Under the Tree Arts will host an art and music dance party for children in conjunction with the Greenfield Winter Carnival, called the Winter Carnival Jam-boree.

Under the Tree Arts is led by Marcy Gregoire of Turners Falls, a singer-songwriter, artist and educator who has been presenting events for children for 20 years.

“I studied environmental policy at Boston University years ago, and then I ended up becoming a single mom and I was trying to be resourceful. I had played piano and guitar for years and had been on stage, so I started a weekly music series for kids in the New Bedford area,” Gregoire explained.

About 10 years ago, Gregoire moved to western Massachusetts and continued her work with children. Under the Tree Arts has presented shows at the Amherst Sustainability Festival, the annual Meltdown in Northampton and the Unifier Festival.

“Music in the Morning starts with some really quiet a cappella that we sing together,” Gregoire said of the format of the Thursday morning series, which she holds with movement specialist Hilary Lake. “Then it builds to a full-on dance party with hip- hop and reggae music, and then we get back together to sing some quiet songs, and then we say goodbye.”

The morning show will also feature puppets, costumes and musical instruments. Each week will be different and there is a discounted rate for attending all five weeks.

Much of the music will be Gregoire’s own material. She draws from her background in environmental policy and writes songs that focus on a love of the Earth and all its inhabitants. Her song “Spittin Seeds,” (soon to be available to purchase on has been receiving airplay and she was thrilled to hear it recently played next to a They Might Be Giants song on the radio. However, she does mix her own tunes in with the work of others.

“We sometimes play shows with all original songs. For the weekly music series and Jam-boree, it will be a combination. I love to bring in old songs, ones my grandmother taught to me as a child,” she said.

Gregoire, who currently works as both an art and piano teacher, first presented her programs at Hawks & Reed when she hosted a couple of Jam-borees last year.

“We were doing Saturday Jam-borees in the afternoon and they were really quite well attended,” Gregoire said. “The first hour was music, an actual instructed music show with a full band, then the second hour was kids’ music being played by a DJ while there was art going on, and then there was beer.”

Did you say beer?

“Yeah that turned out to be a key ingredient,” Gregoire said with a laugh. Social time between parents, she explained, was a primary draw of the Jam-borees, too.

“It was really special. Some kids were making art, some were dancing and the parents were talking.” (And of course, drinking some beer.) “I used to take my kids to a weekly music group, but it was mostly so I could see my friends and we could socialize.”

The Jam-boree is different from the weekly music series in that it is a two-hour event and there is more emphasis on art. There will also be a full band. In addition to Gregoire, the band will feature Hilary Lake, Wendell Rheinheimer, Jeremiah Wallack and dancer Deluxey Puvanasingam.

The band is big part of the two-hour event in that children are encouraged to do some jamming, too. They can bring their own instruments, or play some that belong to Under the Tree Arts.

Gregoire would love to see her programs become regularly scheduled events that would run throughout the year, and stressed what a positive experience the morning music series and the Jam-borees can be for both children and adults.

“It’s nice to sing and dance together and it’s a very special experience for their child, and that’s what I try and gear it toward,” Gregoire said. “It’s about memory-making.”

Admission to the Thursday morning music series is $5 per child ages 1 and up; infants and adults are free. The entire five-week series costs $20.

Admission to the Winter Carnival Jam-boree is $7 per child ages 1 and up; infants and adults are free. Advance tickets are available at For more information, called 413-774-0150.

Shokazoba returns to Wendell Full Moon Coffeehouse

When the nine-piece horn-driven funk powerhouse known as Shokazoba played the Wendell Full Moon Coffeehouse over a year ago, the group had the entire crowd up and dancing. Now, Shokazoba is back to launch the 2019 season of the coffeehouse on Saturday night at 7:30 p.m.

It will be Shokazoba’s first time at the 6 Center St. venue since its new vocalist, Mary-Kate McNutty of Wendell, came on board. Shokazoba got its start back in 2005 as a Fela Kuti tribute band, but these days the group’s emphasis is on funky fusion jazz and lyrics that address progressive positive nature.

The show is a benefit for LaunchSpace, an up-and-coming “maker space” in Orange that provides tools and education for innovators.

There will be an open mic preceding Shokazoba’s set, and there are still some openings. Those interested in performing should visit

Admission is $6 to $15 at the door. Children ages 5 and under are admitted for free, and tickets for children ages 5 to 12 are $2 to $5.

Sheryl Hunter is a music writer who lives in Easthampton. Her work has appeared in various regional and national magazines. You can contact her at


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