Sometimes the choices that we make in life lead to a kind of organic unfolding of our future selves. For singer/songwriter/musician Bari Koral, years of touring on the college circuit as a folk and pop singer eventually led to her success in family music, after a friend suggested that she’d be well-suited to writing songs for children. Before long, Koral’s catchy original tunes were getting regular airplay on Sirius/XM Radio’s Kids’ Place Live and Bari Koral Family Rock Band recordings were receiving national recognition from parents’ groups. Her music even got a nod from People Magazine, who named her 2012 release Anna and the Cupcakes as one of that year’s “coolest albums for kids.”
And that led to Koral’s involvement in the kids’ yoga movement. Her live shows had always had the kids up and dancing around, but as a longtime yoga practitioner and certified teacher of yoga, she saw a way to channel all that energy that the kids expended into yoga movements. “Music and yoga naturally go together,” Koral says, “and it seemed like the next logical step.”
While it may seem contradictory to ask a child to hold still long enough to maintain a yoga pose, Koral says that with kids, they are still “very much about play, but they’re also forming these shapes, which are very challenging. They’re working on their balance and their coordination.” And beyond that, yoga helps them to tell stories and to understand their world, she says.
For example, take the concept of spring. Koral explains that kids will understand intellectually that a seed in the ground will grow if it gets rain and sun, but in learning the same concepts through yoga, they might start out in child pose listening to a song like her “Apple Tree” and act out being the seed. As they get rain and sun and grow, they’ll move into bigger poses, maybe downward-facing dog. “Eventually, when the seed gets enough sun and rain, it grows into a tree, and then they’ll do tree pose,” Koral says. “Not only are they learning the poses, but they’re learning sequence and how to put the natural world into their bodies. And if they put their whole bodies into it with yoga, then they’re learning from a place of multiple intelligences.”
Koral will soon be seen as host of the first yoga-based movement-and-music TV show for kids on the Veria Living Network, a 24/7 health and wellness channel (not yet available locally, but seen in millions of homes worldwide). She has produced a yoga activity book with CDs for kids, and recently filmed a series of kids’ yoga videos in Woodstock for release on YouTube.
The videos feature 20 or so kids from Saugerties, where Koral now makes her home with husband Danny Melnick, president and director of Absolutely Live Entertainment, which produces festivals, concerts, tours and events. Among his numerous affiliations in the jazz world, Melnick is artistic director of Carnegie Hall’s “The Shape of Jazz” series and is producing partner and artistic director of the Saratoga Jazz Festival in Saratoga Springs.
Moving to Saugerties is something that both halves of the couple wanted to do. Many of the musicians with whom Melnick works live in the area, says Koral; and as for herself, she came to love the Hudson Valley through her sessions as an artist-in-residence at the Byrdcliffe Art Colony over a long period of years. “I’ve probably written most of my songs at Byrdcliffe,” she says. “It was always a dream of mine to have a house up here. I was constantly so productive when I was there and inspired, so I just wanted to be in it all the time. But I never could have predicted that those songs actually helped make that dream come true.”
Koral and Melnick almost saw the dream derailed when Hurricane Sandy hit Long Island right after they’d put their home there up for sale. But in the end, they sold their apartment and found what Koral calls a “magical place” with a pond in Saugerties, where they began settling in just a few months ago.
In May, Koral will release her fourth album, The Apple Tree & the Honey Bee, recorded in Nashville with noted producer Brad Jones. For more information, visit www.barikoral.com.