Mt. Airy resident Anya Rose, a Lower School science teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH), and Julie Be, a music therapist, teamed up for Ants on a Log.
Mt. Airy resident Anya Rose, a Lower School science teacher at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy (SCH), and Julie Be, a music therapist, met at a Philadelphia drag show and dance party in 2014 and instantly bonded over their love of quirky songs with political messages. Anya was raised on Tom Lehrer and jazz standards while Julie grew up listening to Ani DiFranco and They Might be Giants.
Rose and Be began writing together, finding harmonies and song topics that were silly, serious, environmental, feminist, gender-bending and just plain fun. Within a year, they were ready to make it official, and in 2015, they formed Ants on a Log, a local band that quickly became a favorite for children – as well as their parents. They’ve been performing their original and quirky social justice-oriented songs all over the region ever since.
They’ll be at Brandywine Creek State Park this Saturday, June 17, from 4-5 p.m. and on Thursday, June 29, they’ll be at the Pride Jam at Philadelphia City Institute Library at 4 p.m.
The name Ants on a Log, which they took “just because it is a funny image,” is also the name of a snack consisting of celery stalks filled with peanut butter and raisins. It is said to have originated in Minneapolis in 1959.
This past January, Anya and Julie added Miles Crabtree, also a music therapist, to the band. Together they’ve made four albums. And since it often happens that all three of them can’t make a daytime gig, they also offer solo, duo and trio performances.
“Our favorite performance was on ‘Kids Corner’ on May 10 of this year,” Rose said. “That was amazing. It had been a big goal of ours to get on the show. We loved it, and we hope they will have us back.” (‘Kids Corner’ on WXPN-FM is the country’s longest running daily call-in radio show for children.)
“Next was at the Walnut Street Library downtown, even though there were only eight people in the audience. We had a great time. And we love it when adults come and are just as much into it as the kids. We also loved ConsentFest in West Philly a few weeks ago.”
The Ants have performed for as many as 500 people in school auditoriums and at the Philadelphia Folk Festival and at World Cafe Live. And they created a musical, "Curious: Think Outside the Pipeline!," based on the true story of Philadelphia’s fight for clean air and inspired by the youth-led climate change movement.
In 2019, the “Curious” soundtrack won a Parents’ Choice Award, and in 2021 the Ants released the puppet-powered "Curious" movie. In 2020, Julie Be produced the "Trans & Nonbinary Kids Mix," a compilation of songs from artists all over the gender map that gained national attention as a landmark album in the world of intersectional media for children. In 2021, Julie received a Leeway Foundation Transformation Award, recognizing artists who demonstrate a long-term commitment to social change.
According to Pratima Agrawal, a Philadelphia organizer for the Sierra Club, “'Curious' was such an accessible and fun way for children of all ages and adults to engage in important environmental issues, such as poor air quality, asthma, fighting a gas plant proposal in your neighborhood and dealing with elected officials.”
Emma Eisenberg, co-founder of Blue Stoop, a Philadelphia literary hub that hosts events and workshops for local writers, has written “'Curious' is a musical about organizing for social change … and so much more, all through a queer and feminist lens. A must-have for you or the child/childlike person in your life."
According to Rose, one great thing about the music world for children is that “it is very open and friendly, not nearly as competitive as other parts of the music world and other industries. I am proud of that. We lift each other up and help each other succeed.”
On May 17, the Ants performed in a private event at Springside Chestnut Hill Academy. They will be performing Thursday, June 8, 4 p.m., at Queen Memorial Library in South Philadelphia; Saturday, June 17, 4 and 5 p.m., at Brandywine Creek State Park; and Thursday, June 29, 4 p.m., at Pride Jam at Philadelphia City Institute Library.
Follow the Ants on @AntsonaLogMusic or visit antsonalogmusic.com. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.