Music teachers Monica Attell and Michael Messina were at first frustrated, but later inspired by their elementary-age students’ predilection for music with inappropriate lyrics.
“Kids would bring in current but not age-appropriate music,” said Attell, a Rockville Centre native. “So we thought, ‘We’re composers, we’re songwriters…why don’t we write music that catches their attention?’”
Thus, Mike and Monica’s Music Room was born, a children’s show about music literacy that features original songs, all packaged in four-minute chunks to keep the attention of the juice-box set.
“The best thing about our show is that there’s nothing else out there like it,” said Messina, Attell’s co-star and co-developer. “Not just solely about music, at least – our show is all about music, it’s our sole focus.”
Besides providing a source of kid-friendly music and teaching students basic music concepts, the show was also created as a remedy to the dearth of music programs offered across the country, Attell said.
“We wanted to do something because music is being cut throughout the country and when schools scale back, it’s always the first program to go,” she said. “So we thought, what if we created something other teachers could use?”
“The idea was to take Mike and Monica’s classroom and put it out to a mass audience,” said two-time Emmy Award winning director Billy Fitzgerald, Attell’s husband and the show’s producer. “Some of the best things get cut when school districts need money, so we had to think of alternatives. Why shouldn’t everybody have that type of access to good teaching?”
Both Messina and Attell have a background in performance, so stepping in front of the camera was a natural step for them, Attell said.
“And we’re both music teachers which gives us credibility, I think, when we’re presenting," she said of the duo, who both teach elementary music in New Canaan, Conn. "I think kids are really engaged by teaching and the arts because it promotes creativity.”
The show’s creators hope that with short lessons and on-the-go accessibility via YouTube, children will be gain access to a music education that they might not be offered in school.
“In this day and age when kids can take an iPad and iPhone with them anywhere, there’s this opportunity to learn anywhere on the go,” Attell said. “We teach kids aged four through 10, and we found, and parents find too, that kids of that age don’t just watch things once, they watch thousands of times. And it's the same with our lessons.”
“Music is really sort of the message in the bottle for our culture,” she added. “Our culture is preserved through music and our history is preserved through music.”
Mike and Monica’s Music Room airs on NYC TV on Thursdays at 11:25 a.m. For more information, visit their Facebook page.