We don’t talk too frequently about music here on Fair Play, and that’s mostly because there are so many great things to review for children, we don’t get to everything. It is probably also because we have the musical taste of a child stuck in the 1990s. You might remember Fair Play’s defense of Taylor Swift in which we revealed some personal details about our musical taste and discussed the importance of musical role models for preteens and teenagers. Today, by recommendation of our Fair Play Aunt, we have three excellent albums to review by Jessie Modic.
Jessie Modic’s work is a genre of its own. Her albums combine storytelling and song with lessons about music instruments, rhythm, scale, and theory. You could call it folk music, I suppose, and some of it is classically Celtic. The instruments are certainly Celtic folk in nature, including guitars, harps, and violins, as well as mouth music. The stories are magical folk tales. Most importantly for children’s storytelling, Modic does tailored voices for her characters, and her own sound effects. This last detail is critical, as anyone who has ever read a book to a child is well aware.
Fiddletales is Modic’s first album for children. As you might have guessed, it includes two stories about fiddles and fiddle music, punctuated by numerous short and catchy songs which strongly feature fiddles. The album is a mix of original and traditional folk music, so not all the songs will be unfamiliar either to you or your child.
Magical Tales, Modic’s second album is comprised of mostly traditional Irish, Scottish, and Welsh songs. There are two longer stories on this album, The Fiddler and the Fairies, and Hawk Story. Folk stories often feature imperfect or unlikable characters, as a lesson in working to avoid particular vices (although when these stories are sanitized a la Disney, this is sometimes lost). The Fiddler and the Fairies is about an entire cast of flawed characters. It is a lesson in valuing individuals (parents and kids!) in spite of their flaws, and in valuing family with all its challenges over the temptation of material possessions.
Saltarello is Modic’s third, and most classically Celtic album, both in terms of the music and the storytelling (although the namesake is a 14th century Italian dance). Her magical stories include classic Celtic creatures like selkies, sea creatures which take the form of seals in the water and humans on land. Pirate’s Promise is the story of two selkie children adopted by a female pirate captain. This album is also sea-themed in song and story content generally, a nod to the Celtic tunes and folklore from which it draws.
What makes these albums so Fair Play-friendly is that they feature male and female lead characters fairly equally, interchangeably in traditionally masculine and feminine roles. So much children’s media involves central male characters and supporting female characters, doing predictably masculine and feminine things. Modic’s characters refreshingly break the gender scripts so common in children’s stories. In addition, the focus on music and music education is delightfully unique. Increasingly, music is not part of elementary education and unless children are involved in music lessons themselves, they may miss the many skills music can teach. Music involves basic math, physical and mental coordination, and a great deal of attention. This could be a wonderful arena in which to develop the executive control and self-regulation skills we’ve discussed on Fair Play before, which are so critical to cognitive and emotional development.
All three albums (Fiddletales, Magical Tales, Saltarello) are available on Amazon.com in MP3 format. Fiddletales and Magical Tales are available on CD as well. These albums are great young children of all ages, with appeal to the pre-verbal baby crowd on up to your dancing and singing middle childhood group.
For their gender fair stories and songs, gender fair album packaging, and unique educational content, Fair Play gives Jessie Modic’s albums five pinwheels.