Alex Mitnick’s songs are guaranteed to get your kids dancing, clapping and shouting. He knows so because he has three himself, ages 4, 8 and 10.
“I definitely test my songs out on them,” Mitnick said in a phone conversation with the Local last Wednesday. Mitnick’s band, Alex & the Kaleidoscope, is scheduled to headline the first date of the Chestnut Hill Community Association’s 2023 summer concert series in Pastorius Park on June 14 at 6:30 p.m. The presenting sponsor is Temple Health – Chestnut Hill Hospital, and admission is free.
Alex & the Kaleidoscope started as a band after Mitnick graduated from the University of the Arts, where he studied jazz guitar, in 1999. After graduating, he quickly realized that he’d be competing for the same jazz gigs as his professors.
“The life of a working musician is tough,” he said. “I got some fun part-time teaching jobs in my twenties that could support my music jobs. Since then, I’ve gotten married, had three kids, and I’ve always had a balance with teaching jobs and performing and writing and teaching.”
Today, Mitnick only teaches one day a week at a music school in Princeton, N.J. His main gig, Alex & the Kaleidoscope, plays shows across the region. The goal of Mitnick’s music isn’t necessarily to teach children new things; he prefers his concerts to simply be a fun experience for children and their parents.
“But if they learn anything it’s that getting together and making music is fun and awesome,” he said. “I think having that big music experience early is good in and of itself.”
Mitnick’s songs are written, he said, to get children interested in important topics like community, diversity and inclusion – but also fun topics to get them excited, like Superman and dinosaurs.
“I don’t expect people to walk away having learned something they didn’t know before,” Mitnick said, “but I want them to be excited about dinosaurs.”
Mitnick doesn’t have much of an explanation for how he ended up writing music for children. “It’s just the genre I gravitated towards,” he said. But he does consider himself to be an artist. He has a degree in jazz guitar after all, so there has to be some sort of variety to the music to keep him interested.
“I have a pretty broad library of musical knowledge to draw from, which makes it fun and easier to write hundreds of songs,” he said. “The simplest songs are sometimes the best ones and most difficult to actually write, but yes there has to be a degree of variety, style-wise, chord changes.”
For that reason, it’s music many parents might find bopping along to themselves.
In his spare time, Mitnick also writes music for a children’s YouTube Channel called Cocomelon and for Toniebox, which is a screen-free audio device Mitnick described as a “fancy sleep noise machine for kids that streams audio stories.”
But concerts are still Mitnick’s forte, and he’s performed a number of them in Philadelphia, including at Penn’s Landing, the Philadelphia Zoo and the Please Touch Museum.
“We love playing in Philly,” Mitnick said, who called the city his hometown. “I would love for people to come out and expect to sing and dance with their kids. The more people we have the more fun it is.”