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MISTER G Is Coming to Town: Get to Know Our New Favorite Kindie Artist

Sing, dance and celebrate PJ Library at this weekend’s concert on Mercer Island

Published on: May 30, 2024

Kindie artist MISTER G smiling on stage holding a guitar
Photo:
credit Mayita Mendez, courtesy MISTER G

Is there anything more magical than watching your little one dance and sing along to their favorite song? My toddler daughter is moving and grooving the very second she hears music.

So I know a thing or two about the music that will get her to tug my hand onto the dance floor (the area rug in our living room) with a wide smile. I was overjoyed to be introduced to the music of Ben Gundersheimer, a Latin Grammy winning artist who records in multiple languages, including English, Spanish, Hebrew and Yiddish. Known as MISTER G, he has 14 albums and four children’s books, and an upcoming performance at Stroum Jewish Community Center (SJCC) to celebrate the 18th birthday of PJ Library. The concert is a partnership between SJCC, The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle, and PJ Library.

Ahead of his performance, I had a chance to ask MISTER G a few questions about what inspires him and what children (and parents) can learn from his music. Beyond the catchy tunes, MISTER G’s music shares important messages about how we can care for our families, friends, communities and planet.

Get to know MISTER G

Can you share more about the inspiration behind your multilingual performances, and how your cultural background influences your work?

As a child, I was fortunate to live and travel abroad. That experience sparked a lifelong fascination with different cultures. My father was born in Germany and came to the U.S. as a refugee from Nazi Germany, so that part of my cultural background has influenced the work I’ve done for PJ Library, which incorporates Hebrew and Yiddish. My lifelong love of Spanish has also been a major inspiration for me as a songwriter and an author.

You’re a Latin Grammy winning artist. What is a moment that stands out to you in your career in connecting with children through music?

I’ve been fortunate to tour the world playing music for children and families, and there have been countless wonderful moments connecting with kids through music. But performing in India at The International School Agra on my birthday was an experience that I’ll never forget!

You have released 14 albums, with four children’s books based on your songs. How do you choose which songs to further develop into books?

While a song can stand on its own by being catchy, a book needs a narrative arc with a beginning, middle and an end. Certain songs lend themselves to being adapted to books better than others, and it’s always an interesting process to create a narrative on the page from what originated as a piece of music. In the end, the songs that became books need to transform quite a bit to work on the page without the support of rhythm and melody.

MISTER G signing copies of his book Senorita Mariposa
Photo: Katherine Jamieson, courtesy MISTER G

How do you make your performances accessible to children from diverse backgrounds, and how do you foster connections between children from different cultures?

During my performances, I sing and speak in a variety of languages. But regardless of the musical genre or language of a particular song, I draw upon the power of music as a unifying force like no other. Time and again, I’ve looked out from the stage at crowds of children from diverse backgrounds who are happily singing and dancing together thanks to the capacity of rhythm, melody and positive energy to bring people together.

What lessons do you want children to learn from you, and how do you incorporate those lessons into your music and stories?

My philosophy is that all of us — children and adults — are more receptive to learning when we’re having fun. With that in mind, I want learning to happen seamlessly through the songs and stories. Personally, I want to instill a greater sense of environmental stewardship and cross cultural appreciation with my audience. I believe the most impactful way to do that is through creating songs and stories that are captivating in and of themselves. When a child sings a song or reads a book over and over, the message of the art will be internalized.

What do you hope parents and caregivers take away from your performance, and how do you engage with them during the show?

Our shows are very interactive, so the audience will be singing and dancing along with us from beginning to end. It’s a joyful collaboration with the crowd at every concert. We always have children, parents and grandparents at our concerts, so it’s important to me that the performances are equally engaging to audience members of all ages. My goal is that everyone who comes to a show leaves feeling happier than when they arrived.

What are you most excited about for your upcoming performance at the Stroum JCC?

I’ve performed at JCCs all over the country, but never in Washington state so I’m excited to connect with the Stroum community! The last couple of times I’ve been on tour in the Pacific Northwest, and it’s always inspiring to be in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I love hiking, so I’m hoping for some good spring weather while we’re in town.

You’ve performed all over at different festivals and historical places, ranging from Lollapalooza to the Smithsonian. Where can fans find you next?

Everywhere! We’re on tour coast to coast this year. Some of the upcoming events I’m most excited about include the premiere of my play, “Señorita Mariposa,” which is based on my children’s picture book, this September in Minneapolis, and a return to the Austin City Limits Music Festival in October.

MISTER G live performance with kids smiling on stage
Photo: courtesy MISTER G

Get to know SJCC and PJ Library

SJCC amplifies Jewish experiences across generations, serving young children and families through Early Childhood School, camps and arts programs.

PJ Library, which is celebrating its 18th birthday this weekend, sends families with young kids award-winning books celebrating Jewish values and culture. For kids ages 9 to 12, PJ Our Way selects books that foster independence. These older kids can also share book reviews online with others and connect within the PJ Our Way community.

In addition to books, PJ Library Seattle and The Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle offer Jewish families opportunities to connect with one another, explore traditions and build community across Puget Sound. You can learn more on the PJ Library website.

If you go to the MISTER G concert …

Where: Stroum Jewish Community Center is located at 3801 E. Mercer Way in Mercer Island.

When: Sunday, June 2, 2024 at 4 p.m. Doors open at 3:30 p.m.

Cost: Tickets can be purchased online and are $20 for adults; $15 for kids ages 2–12; free for kids 1 and younger. Tickets include PJ Library party favors and birthday treats. 

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