Kids’ Almanac (December 13-20)

Zylofone’s performing arts workshops for special needs kids

I stumbled on Zylofone’s website a while ago and continue to be impressed with its progress toward the creation of a dedicated performing arts facility for individuals with special needs. Single Mom, founder and chief executive officer Debbie Major raised her now-adult twins with special needs: Son Gage Johnson has cerebral palsy and Asperger’s Syndrome; son Jacob Johnson has classical autism. Drawing from her years of experience in the music field and her parenting, Major has developed sensory-friendly performing arts programming for the special needs community.

The new six-week session of weekend hourlong “fun-shops” begins this Saturday, December 15 for ages 7 through 17. Courses include: Acting/Improv; Dance/Movement; and Vocal & Instruments. Zylofone is located at 271 Quassaick Avenue in New Windsor. For more information, to register or to make a donation toward this innovative organization, call (845) 427-1906 or visit


Ratboy, Jr. CD release party at Kingston’s BSP

I think it’s cool when authors share their writing playlists, so here’s a peek at some of what I have been listening to this week during my Kids’ Almanac writing sessions: “How to Eat a Cloud,” “High-Five Your Shadow,” “Upside-Down” and “Guitar-Pickin’ Chicken.” Don’t you just love the names? Well, you’re going to love the songs even more when you get a chance to hear them, which you will if you attend Ratboy, Jr.’s CD release party this weekend!


Ratboy, Jr.’s new album is called Champions of the Universe, and it’s terrific music and fun for the whole family. And here’s another reason to attend: You don’t know when your kid will stop dancing. During the recent Ana Dooley fundraising concert at High Meadow, I realized that my son doesn’t dance anymore. I know that some children keep dancing at concerts into adulthood, but my son is not one of those kids. So what I’m saying is, if your kids love music (both of mine do), and especially if they love to dance, I invite you to come on out and celebrate that fantastic energy together, before they age out of it.

And Ratboy, Jr. makes the kind of music that adults enjoy too. It’s creative, clever and it’s just good music! Ever wonder how the band got its name? Tim Sutton, half of the Ratboy, Jr. duo, filled me in: “We have an ‘adult’ band called Ratboy. We got that name from an obscure ‘80s movie called…wait for it…Ratboy. We were asked to open for a show at Kidtopia and thought to add ‘Jr.’ to our name. This way folks would know it was us…We do love the name. It stands out and is very wacky.”

The other half of Ratboy, Jr., Matt Senzatimore, had this to say about the new album: “Recording Champions of the Universe was a lot of hard work, but also a ton of fun. It’s not easy for three guys to stand around making chicken sounds and not start laughing. If laughter is the best medicine, we will never get sick again…. I am very happy we were able to use a wide variety of instruments on the record. From trombones to tambourines to guitars to glockenspiels, this album has it all.”

This local band also made its album locally: Most of the album’s 15 songs were recorded at No Parking Studio in Rosendale and co-produced by Dog on Fleas bandleader Dean Jones, who said, “Overall, it was a truly creative and wild time. It was great bouncing ideas off each other, and of course, making chicken sounds and singing some of the more outlandish vocal parts all together. A nice bonus for me was getting reunited with Shane Kirsch,” a talented saxophonist with whom Jones has played for years.

I asked what some of the songs were about. Here’s a synopsis of the title track, “Champion of the Universe”: “This is a story about a boy who wants to be a Mexican wrestler, but his head is too big for a mask – that is, until he finds the right one.” I especially love “High-Five Your Shadow,” because while I love high-fives, my husband doesn’t. He only high-fives our friend Emma, and only to spite me. The song was inspired when “Timmy saw his son high-five his own shadow on a door. We thought, ‘Hey why don’t we try it?’ And well, it just took off!”

Times like this, I wish I could describe music as eloquently and descriptively as fellow Almanac columnist John Burdick. What I want to say is this: Get this album. Each song sounds different, full of great melodies and textures, with fun, imaginative themes born from a true childlike way of viewing the world, delivered in the form of professional musicianship.

Champions of the Universe will be available for purchase at the release party. The CD will also soon be available at select Hudson Valley stores as well as iTunes, Amazon, CDBaby and other online locations. Ratboy, Jr.’s CD release party takes place on Sunday, December 16 at the Lounge at BackStage Studio Productions (BSP). The doors open at 1 p.m., and the show begins at 2 p.m. Admission is $5 per person or $20 per family. BSP Lounge is located at 323 Wall Street in Kingston. For more information, visit, or


Community Carol Sing at Old Dutch Church

Here’s a family event that sounds like a lot of fun: a Community Carol Sing at the Old Dutch Church in Kingston with a visit from St. Nicholas. The program begins with singing and poetry readings, as well as organ and handbell renditions of seasonal music. I think that handbell performers are so cool to watch, and it’s something that you don’t get to see too often, with their constant up-and-down motions, ready to play their exact note at the exact right time. Usually an instrumentalist plays a bunch of that instrument’s own notes in a row, but bellringers only have a few notes of which they’re in charge – sometimes just one.

The children in the audience will be invited to participate in a lively presentation of “The 12 Days of Christmas.” Bring some bells to jingle along to the original, four-verse version of “Jingle Bells.” Finally, Sinterklaas will arrive to share the story of his Dutch heritage and lead everyone into Bethany Hall for some Dutch cookies and gold coins.

The Annual St. Nicholas Festival & Community Carol Sing is free and open to the public, and takes place on Sunday, December 16 at 4 p.m. The Old Dutch Church is located at 272 Wall Street in Kingston. For more information, call (845) 338-6759 or visit