This week, I buried two of my favorite heroes in a quiet country cemetery deep in the heart of central Pennsylvania.
My parents, John and Carol Sprout, died within six weeks of each other. They’d been married a week shy of 67 years. They were devoted to each other, their family, their church, their schools, and numerous charitable organizations. They were remarkably honest, fair, smart, grounded, and generous people. Dozens of their friends and former students attest to that. Mom was an elementary school teacher and an artist. Dad was a high school math teacher and a mentor to hundreds of students. Their modest, civic-minded, unassuming lives were quiet examples of the power of steadfast love. They were models of good Character.
For 22 years I’ve visited thousands of schools singing my songs about men and women of good Character who made the right choices and became heroes. My intent has been to inspire children and their grown-ups by showing how possible it is to become a real hero. I tell my audiences to imagine living the best versions of their lives, never letting go of lofty dreams. I’ve made it one of my missions to point out the differences between most heroes and celebrities. Unfortunately, many Americans are obsessed with celebrities and gossip “news” programs where the rich, the beautiful, the crass, and the noisy are rewarded with attention.
Although some of my heroes were passionate politicians, I’ve steered clear of present day politics in my school concerts, in part because of what Mom and Dad would say: “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything.” But, Mom and Dad also exemplified how important it is to have good Character and to stand up for our beliefs....
My music and heroes were recently featured on Good Stuff Kids Podcast. Host Michael Mason and I had a lively 30 plus minute conversation about my research, Susan B. Anthony, Dr. Seuss, and others.
Here's the link to the show: http://goodstuffpod.com/episode-64-jonathan-sprout/
How two heroes helped a nation protect our environment
by Jonathan Sprout and Regina Kelland
Earth Day turns 48 on April 22. As old as Mother Earth is, we have been officially celebrating her for less than five decades. Two of the environmental heroes we have to thank for this increased awareness are John Muir and Rachel Carson. In standing up for Mother Nature, they helped to transform public perception, encourage new laws and generally let Americans, and the world, know we need to pay more attention and take better care of our home.
Here's an article that appeared in The Bucks County Courier Times and the Doylestown Intelligencer, both Bucks County, PA, USA newspapers:
Making a Living: Bucks musician combines history, music in children's 'edu-tainment'
By Amanda Cregan, correspondent | Posted: Tuesday, April 5, 2016 3:30 am
Grammy-nominated musician and children's educator Jonathan Sprout holds his guitar at his home Friday, April 1, 2016, in Upper Southampton. He brings his "edu-tainment" to elementary schools in the region using his American Heroes series of CDs, concerts and study guides.
Bucks County musician Jonathan Sprout combines music and storytelling to put kids in tune with America’s historical heroes.
April 2016: Amelia, Eleanor, and their April Night Flight
A year after Amelia Earhart became an international celebrity as the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, she and her husband, George Putnam, experienced an unforgettable evening in Washington, DC. They’d been invited to a formal dinner party at the White House with Eleanor Roosevelt and her brother, Hall, while President/husband Franklin was away. It was April 20, 1933.
Amelia and Eleanor were birds of a feather. Amelia was “First Lady of the Air.” Eleanor was “First Lady” of America. Each was determined, outspoken, passionate, and strong-minded. They were becoming two of the most famous and adventurous women in the world. And they were friends, having met in 1932 when Eleanor helped introduce the pilot before one of her speeches. Amelia agreed to help teach Eleanor how to fly. Eleanor earned a student’s pilot license. Although Eleanor wouldn’t become a pilot (she and Franklin couldn’t afford a plane and Franklin considered her piloting too risky), she flew more passenger miles than any other woman in the 1920s and 1930s.
That clear and starry night, after dinner and before desert, Amelia and Eleanor spontaneously stole away for a special flight together over Washington, DC. Regulations required that two Eastern Air pilots fly the twin-engine plane, but both Amelia and Eleanor took turns at the controls above the lights of the city below.
After they landed and were driven by the Secret Service back to the White House, it’s believed Eleanor may then have piloted Amelia out on the town in her beloved and much-used automobile.
When the two finally returned to the White House, dessert was served. It may well have been Eleanor’s favorite, fitting for their recent uplifting adventure—angel food cake.
Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962), shy and insecure as a child, emerged as a public figure when her husband Franklin was elected president of the United States in 1932. She brought her great compassion and concern to the world’s neediest people. As United States representative to the United Nations, she helped create the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and became a champion of equal rights for minorities. The most active and influential — and sometimes controversial — of all United States presidents’ wives, she became so respected and admired, she was often called “First Lady of the World.”
The night Amelia and Eleanor flew over Washington, Eleanor has been First Lady for only a month and a half. She was just beginning to leave her mark on the world. A quarter of a century later, Eleanor was a major figure. In 1959, after a Gallup Poll indicated she was “most admired woman in the world” for the 11th consecutive year, Frank Sinatra asked her, “if you had one minute to leave one word with the world, what would that word be?”
“That one word would be ‘hope,’” replied Eleanor Roosevelt. “It’s the most neglected word in our language.”
You can watch this conversation here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r0-IaIWwHCk
Amelia Earhart (1897-1937), American Aviator, is famous for her flights across the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and her attempt to fly around the world. She often used her fame to speak out against war and for women's rights. One of the most intriguing mysteries of the twentieth century is: What happened to Amelia Earhart? In June 1937, she left Miami, Florida, on an around-the-world flight attempt. On July 2, her plane vanished over the South Pacific. The world waited with fascination as search teams from the United States and Japan converged on the scene. But neither she, nor her navigator Fred Noonan, or the plane was ever found.
I’m indebted to author Pam Munoz Ryan (author) and Brian Selznick (illustrator) for their book Amelia and Eleanor go for a Ride published by Scholastic in 1999.
March 2016: Juliette Gordon Low and the Little Stars
It’s March—Women’s History Month, and Juliette Gordon Low (1860-1927) comes to mind. She founded Girl Scouts of the USA. Daisy, as she was known to her friends, was an artistic, courageous, and energetic world traveler who thrived on instilling in “her girls” a sense of responsible citizenship. Her charming eccentricities made her the center of attention at every party. Unstoppable in her enthusiasm for scouting and generous to a fault, she was loved and admired by countless people the world over for the ways she helped people help themselves.
But there was a time before the Girl Scouts when Daisy thought herself a failure, ashamed of the way her life was unraveling.
February 2016: Martin Luther King, Jr. & Mahatma Gandhi -- A Journey to India
The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr. was one of America’s greatest African American leaders, and February is Black History Month. But there two additional significant reasons for honoring King this month. On February 25, 1948, he was ordained as a Baptist minister at the young age of 19.
And then there was his life-changing spiritual journey to India…
While studying to become a minister, King attended a Sunday sermon in Philadelphia by Dr. Mordecai Johnson. “Dr. Johnson had just returned from a trip to India,” wrote King, “and, to my great interest, he spoke of the life and teachings of Mahatma Gandhi. His message was so profound and electrifying that I left the meeting and bought a half-dozen books on Gandhi’s life and works.”
On February 3, 1959, the 30-year old and his wife Coretta embarked on a month-long mission to India to walk in the footsteps of his hero, Mahatma Gandhi. The American Friends Service Committee helped arrange the tour.
In India, King travelled to institutions associated with the life and work of Gandhi, saw some of the leading centers of academic learning, and met with Gandhi’s spiritual successor, Acharya Vinoba Bhave. He also met with India’s Prime Minister, Nehru.
King returned to the United States more determined than ever to preach nonviolence, believing it is “one of the most potent weapons available to oppressed people in their quest for social justice.”
It was the writings of Gandhi that inspired King to believe it is possible to resist evil without resorting to violence. King learned how he could be most effective by nonviolently working to end racial discrimination and war. He wrote, “My study of Gandhi convinced me that true pacifism is not nonresistance to evil, but nonviolent (my italics) resistance to evil. Between the two positions, there is a world of difference. Gandhi resisted evil with as much vigor and power as the violent resister, but he resisted with love instead of hate.”
After arriving home, in his first sermon at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, he noted that Abraham Lincoln and Gandhi had each been assassinated attempting “to heal the wounds of a divided nation.” He concluded, “God grant that we shall choose the high way. Even if it will mean assassination, even if it will mean crucifixion, for by going this way we will discover that death will be only the beginning of our influence.”
Could Martin Luther King, Jr. have known that day that his own life’s work would someday be compared to both men?
January 2016: Elizabeth Blackwell
Today, more than one-third of the doctors in the United States and nearly one-half of recent medical school graduates are women. Yet 167 years ago, there were no women doctors in the United States....
November 2015: Abraham Lincoln
Funny how we honor our great 16th president Abraham Lincoln in the month of February for something he had very little to do with – being born. My favorite Lincoln month is actually November. Here’s why:
The Gettysburg Address...
PRESIDENT'S DAY IN PHILADELPHIA WITH WXPN'S KATHY O'CONNELL
Monday, February 16th, is President's Day. Listen to WXPN.org (88.5 FM in PA, DE and NJ) where I'll be a guest on Kids Corner at 7:00 p.m. EST. You'll hear rare live acoustic versions of "What He Wrote" (Thomas Jefferson) and "Man in the Arena" (Theodore Roosevelt).
Host Kathy O'Connell and I will discuss some of our great presidents. We may get to "Eleanor" (Eleanor Roosevelt) and "Powerful" (Samantha Smith), two females who SHOULD have been President!
Join Kathy and me this President's Day as we laugh, reminisce, and celebrate. Who was the president wrote 36,000 letters? Which president's good sportsmanship inspired the first teddy bear? Who was the "man of many firsts?" Which president is the subject of more books than anyone else the past 2,000 years? Who was the president known as America's first wine connoisseur? Which of my heroes did Kathy O'Connell meet and interview live on her radio show?...
My interview of Valerie first appeared as a guest blog post at In Bed With Books, a blog site that reviews books (http://inbedwithbooks.blogspot.com/)
Fern Michonski is a fellow children's recording artist who recently interviewed me for her website.
Jonathan, your American Heroes Series is educational, fun and inspiring! The lyrics on these CD’s teach children about our many heroes, both past and present.
Obviously teachers have a wealth of information they can glean from your heroes songs that will reinforce lessons they are teaching the children about our heroes. And, it is a fact that when a concept that is being taught to children is put to music, it has a deeper impact and will be remembered more easily. I think it would be awesome to combine your heroes’ music with the spirit of giving and the Holidays!
Jonathan: There were a number of variables that came into play that enticed me to pivot my career and gradually transform from a “regular” children’s singer-songwriter recording artist into an educational heroes proponent. Twenty years ago I reached a point in my life where I wanted to leave more of a mark in this world and be of more service to humanity. In 1994, I read about a nation-wide survey in which children were asked who their heroes were. Their top-10 list included cartoon characters and obnoxious athletes. You’ve heard: “Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” Entertaining and making children laugh was good, but not good enough for my purpose-driven life. Stephen Covey and his inspiring book “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People” was motivating me to study successful people. I always loved reading biographies. All of these things clicked into place for me when I came up with the idea to research, write, perform and record children’s music about heroes.
2. Right now we are in the midst of the Holiday Season. For many children, the holidays becomes a time where their focus is on gifts and what they would like to receive. Could you think of a way to help children come up with ideas as to how THEY could be a hero during the Holidays?...
Veteran's Day and Heroes
When I began writing about heroes for children in 1994, I had no idea my school concert bookings would significantly increase each year on and around Veterans Day: November 11. Learning about and singing the praises of this special day has been an unintended consequence of my mission to help children understand the nature of true heroes.
As we approach this important day, let's remember its origins. It began in 1926 as Armistice Day, which means Peace Day, as a result of the ending of WWI on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918. That war was so bad, its survivors created a day that would remind us to do everything we can to get along with each other so we never again have to fight each other.
After releasing a full 10 albums during his career, accomplished children’s musician Jonathan Sprout has proved that he knows what he’s doing. His newest release, American Heroes #4, is further testament to that. What makes him unique is that this is not just an album of fun songs for kids; this is an informational album that’s going to teach children while they’re having fun. These are all fun, upbeat, optimistic songs that have a lesson to teach. And although they are geared toward children, they happen to be a fun listen no matter how old you might be.
In “Powerful,” for instance, Sprout explains how even the slightest choices can have a major impact on someone’s life. “Heads, Hearts, and Hands,” encourages kids to do well in school and live life respectably because after all, they are the future of the world. “Dr. Seuss” is a wacky, fun track about the famous children’s writer himself. Sprout sings in a goofy voice that is sure to be engaging for everyone listening. Although it’s a fun song, Sprout makes a point to remind listeners that every Dr. Seuss books still has an important story to tell.
“E=MC2,” is a song about Albert Einstein and the mathematic formula that made him so famous. What would be even more impressive would be if he made up an engaging song about all of the important mathematic formulas to help with the studies of high school level students.
Because this album is about this heroes of the world, it has the power to evoke inspiration from children everywhere. It’s clear that this guy has done his research for every single song. And because of this he probably has put more time into writing and composing his music than many other artists have.
William Penn was kind enough to grant me his first interview in more than 295 years! I caught up with him at Pennsbury Manor in Morrisville, Pennsylvania, where he spent much of his time while he was living in America.
Jonathan Sprout: Mr. Penn, it has been said that the one treaty that European Americans made with the Native Americans that has not been broken is the treaty you made with the natives at Shackamaxon, on the banks of the Delaware River in 1692. Is this true, sir?...
Sprout Recordings is proud to announce the release of our first video from my latest CD, American Heroes #4.
The song "Powerful," written by Dave Kinnoin and me, is the story of Samantha Smith.
You can view our video HERE
Rodney Whittenberg produced the video, which involved about 25 actors and support staff. It took us four months and numerous shoots to create. Makeup expert Julianne Ulrich spent two hours transforming me into Soviet Premiere Yuri Andropov....
American Hero Rachel Carson and the Origins of Earth Day
The first Earth Day was celebrated on April 22, 1970 at a time when Americans needed an environmental wake up call. Cars with gas guzzling V8 engines crowded the highways. Unregulated factory smoke stacks spewed tons of poisonous gases into the air and waterways.
One of my heroes played an indirect, but important, role in the creation of Earth Day.
Rachel Carson (1907-1964), “Voice for the Earth,” was an author and scientist whose courage, selfless spirit, and sense of wonder inspired the modern environmental movement. Her books about nature helped people realize our interconnectedness with the world of plants and animals. In 1951, her book The Sea Around Us was published. It remained on The New York Times best-seller list for 81 weeks and was translated into 32 languages. In 1962, Carson wrote Silent Spring, a book that spoke courageously about the irresponsible use of poisonous chemicals. Though powerful chemical companies labeled her an alarmist, her book awakened millions of people to the importance of caring for the planet. In 1980, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor in the United States, was awarded in her memory.
Dr. Seuss & Read Across America Day
(by Jonathan Sprout)
Read Across America Day was established in 1987 on Dr. Seuss’ birthday, March 2. Some have extended Read Across America Day into the month of March as National Reading Month. Although it was originally meant to be more about reading than about Dr. Seuss, it’s a perfect time to honor the life and accomplishments of the good Dr.
Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), known as Dr. Seuss, is the most popular and influential name in children's literature. His 60 books have been translated into more than 15 languages, and have sold more than 222 million copies. Sixteen of them are among the top 100 best-selling children’s hardcover books of all time. His lifelong war on illiteracy earned him two Emmys®, a Peabody Award and the Pulitzer Prize. Eleven children's television specials, a Broadway musical and several feature-length movies have sprung from his books....
Continuing on the subject of Black History Month, here are additional African American heroes who appear on my four American Hero albums:
Sojourner Truth (1797?-1883) suffered through slavery in state of New York until the age of 30. A spellbinding preacher with a beautiful, powerful singing voice, she was the first black woman to travel across America denouncing slavery. She was a simple, honest, and deeply religious activist who stood for freedom and women’s rights. Her poise, self-confidence, and fiery passion made her into an early national symbol for strong black women. One hot day in Akron, Ohio in 1851, Ms. Truth delivered a powerful speech still known as one of the greatest women’s liberation speeches ever given. Her exact words were not recorded, but one version of her speech includes “If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together (and she glanced her eye over the platform) ought to be able to turn it back, and get it right side up again! And now that they are asking to do it, the men better let ‘em.”
Jackie Robinson (1919-72) broke the color barrier in 1947 when he became the first black major league baseball player. In spite of racial hostility and even death threats from players and fans, he played the game of baseball with quiet dignity and extraordinary talent. He was a daring base runner, an excellent fielder and held a career batting average of .311. He was an active spokesperson for civil rights, and in 1962 he became the first African-American elected to baseball’s Hall of Fame. Jackie was born in 1919 on the verge of Black History Month—January 31st.
He said, “There is not an American in this country who is free until every one of us are free,” which my song co-writer Dave Kinnoin and I worked into the final verse of our song:...