Happy Birthday, Ella!

Staff Writer
Columbus Parent

She's the "First Lady of Children's Song." She's known by children and families throughout the world. The Smithsonian now has gathered her 30+ albums of children's songs. She has been the recipient of countless honors, too numerous to list in one column.

In this high-tech world of ours, it's easy to Google up information on Ella Jenkins and I hope you do. She is a national and world treasure! And Ella Jenkins turned 90 years old earlier this year.

Ella was born in St. Louis, Mo., but raised mostly on the South Side of Chicago in a family and neighborhoods blessed with music in the air - chants, gospel, blues, jazz, the rhythms of the street, of children's games and songs, the variety of instruments and voices. Ella was a pioneer. She honored the singing games of her childhood memories and shared them with children in community centers and schools.

Miss Mary Mack, one beloved example, is known throughout the country. She invited children to the delightful experience of "call and response" songs, where they were charmed by the words and fun. Her I'll Sing a Song and You Sing a Song became one of the most sung songs by children and teachers around the world. Her heart was/is open to the music of peoples from every country.

She shared songs with children from every continent - the mother of "multiculturalism." With every group she honored the languages spoken by participants - audiences learned how to say "I love you" in every language represented. She merrily played her harmonica, strummed her ukulele, shook her maracas and invited children and adults to join her on stages across the land.

It's been my joy and privilege to know Ella for almost 50 years and to share with her the joys of music with children and teachers. She is always Ella - warm, fun, kind, respectful, open to and interested in all who meet her.

She is a role model sorely needed in this world today. The world she wishes for our children is one in which diverse cultures and peoples are bound together by music, song, dance, stories - the sacred connections that help us learn to live side by side in harmony.

Happy birthday, Ella Jenkins! We thank you! We love YOU!

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