Big Things Thursday: Lisa McGuigan 

#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If you know someone who's doing big things, let me know:       

Lisa McGuigan and Lucy Kalantari, after a Halloween Day performanceI admire school teachers beyond measure–it is a great responsibility and they have a direct impact on our community. In New York City, our public schools are overcrowded, underfunded and our school teachers are overworked, and yet many choose to go down this path because their intention is strong and pure.

Meet Lisa McGuigan: elementary school teacher, mom and a great friend. She's been teaching in NYC Public Schools for 10 years, and has what I deem the perfect temperament for it. Her approach is loving and warm, with a firmness that makes boundaries and expectations clear to the children she teaches. When I first met Lisa, I had a hunch that she was a great teacher. It was when I witnessed it first hand after a musical visit with her class, I thought, "Oh. Yeah. Kids NEED her. The world NEEDS her." 

Teaching primarily to minority and low income families, Lisa has made a difference in many lives. She's constantly thinking of creative ways to help children through the challenges they face with language barriers and social integration.

Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?         
A. My intention is to make the world a more respectful, empathetic, and caring place to be, one class full of students at a time.  

Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?         
A. As a teacher, I try to instill kindness, respect, empathy, and understanding in my students on a daily basis. We usually start our mornings, in the classroom, by shaking hands with one another, saying good morning, and asking how the other person is doing that day. We then share out about our weekends, the previous night, or anything that the students wish to talk about or discuss. My students practice looking one another in the eye when speaking and listening as sign of respect towards our classmates. We also try to make individual connections to what the classmate has said or is going through – teaching empathy and understanding. The students really value this time and it has helped them to become more of a family than a just a class full of students. 
Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?         
A. Many times students may be disrespectful or rude to one another in class, outside of school, or be a witness to it. A lot of this behavior stems from kids being scared or nervous about a situation or they may not have been taught how to deal with the situation and they react negatively because of it.

We deal with this individually and as a class. We role-play scenarios and think about what an appropriate reaction should be. We also discuss how certain reactions and actions make us feel. Giving students coping mechanisms and skills empowers them to be able to act appropriately and respectfully. The more we work on it, the more our students will be prepared to face life with a confidence and knowledge that they can handle almost any situation.

Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.        
“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” ― Mahatma Gandhi

Thank you Lisa for preparing our children for the future. Our world depends on them. 

Big Things Thursday: Amelia Robinson 

#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If you know someone who's doing big things, let me know:      

Meet Amelia Robinson: musician, songwriter, educator, ukulele extraordinaire with a beautiful spirit. She has a fearless way of expressing herself through music, whether it's with a 500-piece bicycle bell symphony, or releasing an album with 41 beautifully diverse instruments played by people in her community. I feel like I run into Amelia everywhere I go–sometimes I really do, in person around Brooklyn, randomly. And other times, I'll run into her album cover artwork on 5th Avenue in Park Slope, or read about her in local magazines, or in emails from Lincoln Center. There's a reason for her seemingly ubiquitous presence: she offers a loving energy that inspires people to come together. What's more, she uses her super powers for good.  

Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?        
A. My intention is to LOVE. To use music as a way to connect with others in hopes of reaching a deeper understanding of humanity. Currently, this journey has incited an onslaught of weird subconscious ideas that are looking like the backbone of the most ridiculous album I will maybe ever make.

Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?        
A. I'm making music.. a lot of it! Right now I am exploring the relationship I have with my craft by writing a song a week, practicing meditating writing, and trying to surrender to the present moment. I think it's really important to establish a healthy and sustaining ability to tap into one's creativity on a daily basis.   
Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?        
A. 1) Writing: One of my teachers once said "the hardest part of writing is the psychological trauma of doing it". Just sitting down to start is often the hardest part. But once you do it, you've done it and that's something to be proud of! Making attainable goals has helped - like "I'm going to play three notes over and over again while staring out this window...and just see what happens". 
2) The Unknown: Lately I've found it really challenging to be in the middle of a creative project and not know how it's going to take shape. There's pressure in our society to present a finished product that is shiny and glimmery and perfect and the reality is that things just don't pop out that way! You definitely have to separate your creative mind from your critical mind and allow for the ideas to flow before you think about how you're going to market something or package it. That's a hard space to be in for me sometimes, cuz my mind is so active. Running helps! 
3) Decisions: If you work for yourself as I do, it's sometimes hard to not have a team of people around you to bounce ideas off of or make decisions with, so I rely heavily on close family and friends who I trust and who can guide me towards the answers I need (which often are staring me right in the face) and remind me that things take time! (That's what I get for growing up in NYC...) 
4) Drive: There are a lot of reasons to not feel satisfied with what we have -- inside and out. It's hard to always love ourselves and trust in our abilities. Often it's because someone is telling us we need this face cream, and another is telling us our lives will not be complete without that hue of lipstick, or those beautiful suede boots. How can we feel good enough just the way we are with the gifts we were given? How can we find balances, like working to fulfill a passion while actually enjoying the ride? The key I think is to learn to love yourself–send yourself kind thoughts, and take time to do sweet things for yourself, like cook a nice meal. If you take care of yourself first, you'll be much better equipped to help others.

Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.       
"Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once we grow up." –Picasso

We love you, Amelia. Thank you for doing what you do and following that passion to connect with the world. 

Friends, you can catch her live at her Mils Trills 7th Annual Winter Bash! January 29th at ShapeShifter Lab, Brooklyn, NY. You can find out more info about Amelia and her Mils Trills project for kids & families, and more on her websites: and

And I will leave you with this beautifully creative video made by kids from 6-11! It's super cool!

Big Things Thursday: Devin L. Walker 

#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If you know someone who's doing big things, let me know:     

Meet Devin L. Walker, musician, author, activist, educator, and an incredibly BUSY and dedicated person. When we chatted about what he's been up to, I felt incredibly lazy, and when you read about it below, you'll see why. This guy is doing some stuff!

Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?       
A. I am grateful that early in life, during my college years, I was able to recognize my purpose in life. I learned it while as an active member in the student movement to end racism and discrimination for all people of color. My big intention or purpose is centered on eliminating the contradiction of Africa being the richest continent on earth in terms of natural resources; but her people (i.e., anyone of African descent living on or off the continent) are among the poorest people on earth. This unnatural state was created and is maintained by the current economic and political systems that places profits over people. Therefore, I, as one of the billions of people of African descent, have an obligation to help change this unnatural condition. This is my Big Thing or intention!

Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?       
A. Currently, I use my musical skills to help provide children with universal principles of love for self and others, which is the first step toward eradicating exploitation in the world.  My show is called, The Uncle Devin Show®, which is an interactive, musical experience for children that uses percussion instruments to cultivate their minds – a dynamic cross between Fat Albert and Schoolhouse Rock. In January, I plan on launching a music and arts organization dedicated to teaching children of color how to deal with and combat racism and other forms of bigotry.  Stay tuned! 
Also, my upcoming CD, Be Yourself, will teach children to love themselves through fun songs such as, “No Such Thing As Good or Bad Hair,” “See Yourself in the Picture,” and “The Church Usher’s Dance.”  For me, music is not an end, but a means to an end. 
Outside of music and for practically all my adult life, I have always been in an organization dedicated toward unifying and liberating Africa against exploitation and greed. I was the lead organizer against the closing of the only and last public hospital in Washington, DC (DC General Hospital) and I was a co-creator of a health care initiative entitled, “The People Before Profits Community Healthcare Project,” which was modeled after and inspired by the Cuban Healthcare System. The mission of this project was to elevate ourselves as a people through education and community empowerment by creating a project that will effectively address the healthcare concerns of residents within a five-block radius of a majority African (African-American) community in Northeast, DC, using an alternative healthcare model predicated on people not profit. 
An organization I co-founded was the Pan-African Liberation Organization (1990-2006), through which I traveled to Cuba, Panama, Venezuela and Puerto Rico, organizing in solidarity with different oppressed people, as well as working with different organizations in Azania (South Africa), Guinea, Eritrea, Zimbabwe, Haiti, Ireland, El Salvador, India, and the United States. I have also worked in solidarity with the American Indian Movement - International Indian Treaty Council.

I've also written two books that serves as appeals to the black church, where I discuss practical solutions the church can take to help eliminate inequality in the world ( 

Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?       
A. The biggest barrier I have encountered is the lack of critical thinking by those who are victims of exploitation. Much too often, many people accept information given to them by the powers that be and they accept it uncritically. Therefore, I learned early in life that it was my responsibility to help people think critically about information that is given to them, whether it be in school, church or other areas of society. 
I have dealt with this barrier by conducting painstaking research that ultimately was published in my two books and through various organizations.

Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.      
“To educate the masses politically does not mean, cannot mean, making a political speech. What it means is to try, relentlessly and passionately, to teach the masses that everything depends on them!” – Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth

Wow! Thank you, Devin for your beautiful dedication and the load of inspiration! These are truly big things. For more information on The Uncle Devin Show, visit

Check out this heart-warming video, "The Church Usher's Dance" bringing back the Soul Train with a twist and some help from the community. 

"Fantastic" wins the Independent Music Award for Best Children's Music Song 

Independent Music Awards Winner, Lucy KalantariAnd this is me with the biggest grin in the world, thanks to friend (and fellow nominee) Jeff Oster for taking this picture. 

As they were about to announce the winner for Best Children's Music Song, to say that my heart was beating fast would be an understatement. It was basically starting a whole orchestra on its own!

I'm thrilled that my song, "Fantastic" won this prestigious award. And a big thanks goes out to all of IMA judges and an even bigger thanks to everyone who made the recording of this song possible: Linus, Larry, Rich, Saro, Josh, Ryan, Denise, Alan.

You are fantastic.

IMA Ceremony: Children's Music -Song

Big Things Thursday: Steve Pullara 

#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If you know someone who's doing big things, let me know:    

Meet Steve Pullara, music maker, writer, producer and someone who makes everyone feel like they're family. His releases win awards left and right, as he sings and speaks of difficult topics while still keeping a beautiful uplifting spirit that can assuage any discordance. One of his albums, All About Bullies...Big and Small, went on to win a Grammy Award for Best Children's album. And he doesn't stop there–he also makes himself available to other artists as a mentor and advisor. 

Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?      
A. My BIG THING is to give joy, reflection and a can-do inspiration from the things in life that move me to share with others. 

Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?      
A. Through this life's talents of music, art and literature I've been achieving my mission...and it keeps growing. I want to be me. That is who I share.  

I created a company called "Cool Beans Music and Art Studio," to create many albums and perform concerts for children, families and educators. I make music and lyrics often containing a gentle awareness or challenge, reflecting on matters such as bullying, dreaming for big things, getting along, growing-up into adults/parents with kids of their own, social awareness, songs about faith, and conversations between parents with their kids. But, I also write about silliness and fun, because zany songs are part of who I am too.  

My audience ranges from 2-year-olds to 90-year-olds. As there has been continuous personal exploration and evolution outside of my comfort zone, I've been branching into other genre's such as Country and Gospel, while always simultaneously having a foot in the perspective of Family Music. 

I've also been involved in creating and developing projects as a lead producer, writer, art director, etc. that helped build a peer community for charity albums.  

Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?      
A. Sometimes people don't fully understand my motives or the goals of my recordings, but as a professional with a focus and gifts, our responsibility is to create music to be heard, art to be seen and lyrics to be read. As a tip, just do not take the word "No" for an answer, but instead hear that word "No" as a beginning to get a "Yes." There are biases and all kinds of politics even in Children's Music. If you have a talent with conviction, keep looking for ways to get heard and played. Trust me, God is testing you to make you stronger.

Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.     
"Go hunting where the ducks are!" - President, Lyndon John B. Johnson

Thank you, Steve, for helping communities feel safe and loved. For more info on Steve and Cool Beans Music, visit

I'll leave you with one of mine and my son's favorite tunes by Steve, "The More Teeth Missing." Enjoy!

Big Things Thursday: Mr. Eco 

#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If there's someone you think I should highlight, email me:   

Mr. EcoMeet Brett Edwards, aka, Mr. Eco: artist and environmental activist teaching kids all over the globe how to make sound choices and changes for the benefit of...well, ALL beings! With his love for hip-hop and wonderful word-play, he connects with his listeners while stirring enthusiasm for environmental health. 

Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?     
A. I believe monumental changes begin with youth. My intention is to spark the mind, empowering as many youth as I can to become "EcoHeroes" around environmental issues.  

Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?     
A. Through music! Specifically school assemblies and music videos on youtube. Up to this point, I have reached 140,000+ children at in person shows and my YouTube views are 785,000+. Next step is a kids television show that is in the early stages :)

Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?     
A. Far too many to mention... But the main one that is a constant is belief in myself. Because if you don't believe in yourself nobody else will. I have dealt with this by truly finding out what motivates me and always focusing on the WHY. And I feel as if I am being "pulled" not "pushed" on this mission. Gotta do soul searching! Meditation rocks:)

Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.    
“He who says he can and he who says he can't, are both usually right.” 

Thank you, Brett, for your incredible efforts and at spreading awareness and inspiring action to care for our beautiful planet. 

I'll leave you with his latest music video, "Bag Monster" from his album Renewable Rap. For more info, check out his website,

Live Show: Stone Pony - Asbury Park, NJ! 

New Jersey, we're coming to you! I'm happy to announce that I'm part of this Family event at the legendary Stone Pony in Asbury Park, NJ! My duet performance will be sandwiched between Jason Didner & The Jungle Gym Jam and Miss Nina Meets Baze. It's gonna be a wonderful time.

Get your tickets now!
Sunday, November 20th, at 2pm
913 Ocean Avenue, Asbury Park, NJ

See you there!

Big Things Thursday: Ants on a Log 

#BigThingsThursday is a weekly series of short interviews with people who are doing big things for the community and for the world. If there's someone you think I should highlight, email me:  

Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline!Meet Julie & Anya: the quirky, playful and creative force behind Ants on a Log. They made an impactful debut in the kindie world with their first family album, You Could Draw the Album Art! The Philadelphia Folksong Society describes them, "The folksy duo writes music that songfully advocates for positivity, social justice, and silliness!" And they couldn't be more accurate. Julie & Anya take this responsibility of advocating social justice seriously, and wanted to do more for their community when they found out that their local oil refinery in Philly has plans to expand.

Q. BIG THINGS begin with an intention, what is yours?    
A. Ants on a Log has received great feedback about our socially conscious and educational music, and our musical CURIOUS is a response to the demand for meaningful, progressive educational performances. We wanted to create a show that leaves the audience thinking curiously, questioning, and observing the world around them. 

Q. How are you fulfilling this intention?    
A. CURIOUS encourages kids and their families to "think outside the pipeline" and get curious about other forms of energy beyond oil. The folky feminist musical tells the story of a 12-year-old girl who sees members of her community becoming sick due to the local oil refinery. When she hears of the refinery's plans to expand, she begins to learn more and organizes her neighborhood. 

Q. What barriers have you encountered, and how have you dealt with them?    
A. Learning about the stark realities of pollution, asthma and cancer rates, and poor air quality has been difficult to sit with during this production. We have learned some very startling and discouraging statistics about Philadelphia and other cities. It has been a joyful act of hope and visioning to research the amazing alternatives to oil that are already out there and will hopefully shape our future.

Extra: Share a favorite quote that keeps you motivated.   
"Judge each day not by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant."
– Robert Louis Stevenson 

Thank you Julie & Anya for using your voice to education and move the community into action. CURIOUS has 3 showings in Philly on November 13th & November 19th. Get your tickets now!

I'd like to leave you with one of their lovely songs, "Rooting For the Flowers" off of their debut album, You Could Draw the Album Art. 

New Album!

Winner of Parents' Choice
Silver Honor Award

Independent Music Awards Winner
for Best Children's Music Song

Upcoming shows

Weekly Sing-alongs
Mondays, 11am
Lark Cafe, 1007 Church Avenue, Brooklyn
All Spanish sing-along!
$10 per family

My Elk Cafe sing-alongs are on hold for the winter!
See you next year!

Let's Connect!