The series will be inspired by Alexander’s first children’s book Acoustic Rooster
BOSTON (July 14, 2021) - GBH Kids, the premiere home in public media for children, today announced a new development deal with New York Times bestselling author and Newbery Medalist Kwame Alexander to create and produce a multiplatform project, including a television series based on his first children’s book Acoustic Rooster and his Barnyard Band. Alexander will serve as one of the executive producers of the show along with Executive Producer Marcy Gunther. This stellar team also includes Kay Donmyer, writer for the Emmy Award-winning children’s show CURIOUS GEORGE, who will also serve as the series’ co-creator and head writer; executive producer Angel Tyree and musical consultant Randy Preston, both from Alexander’s Big Sea Entertainment.
Acoustic Rooster will apply the principles of jazz - improvisation, collaboration, turn-taking, sharing, listening, and creativity - to face and solve everyday barnyard challenges with his friends and bandmates. As audiences watch and play along with Acoustic Rooster and his band, they’ll come away with important fundamentals of music education; from how different instruments sound, to how music can capture an emotion. They will also get an introduction to the history of jazz, which is interwoven with American and Black history. Most importantly, audiences will learn how improvisation can enrich their lives, seeing how one idea leads to another, and how giving someone their chance to solo helps them find their own voice.
“Wynton Marsalis captured it best when he said that jazz is a metaphor for democracy in America - it’s a genre where a diverse and eclectic set of instruments play together to create a melody while also giving space for individual musicians to have a solo, as the rest of the band is there as support,” said Alexander. “To partner and develop this show with GBH is an absolute dream come true. I’m looking forward to sharing critical lessons about equity and the tenets of an iconic American music genre. But what I’m really excited about is bringing this jazzy party to preschoolers the world over.”
“Kwame Alexander is one of those rare and brilliant literary minds whose work is highly respected across generations,” said Marcy Gunther, Director of Media Development and Executive Producer at GBH. “Sharing the story of Acoustic Rooster and his love of jazz will be a melodic, upbeat experience that demonstrates how music education and Black history connect to larger lessons of resiliency and problem-solving for young audiences.”
The development of this series comes at a time when many schools are being forced to cut their music education programs despite the research on the benefits music and arts enrichment has on children including language development, skill-learning, and improved test scores. Studies have also shown that the arts can lead to larger societal benefits such as civil engagement and tolerance while also benefiting mental health.
“The art of improvisation and the near magic that it generates is a process I value more than I can fully express,” said Kay Donmyer, series’ co-creator and head writer. “I could not be more excited to celebrate jazz improvisation in an animated show. Acoustic Rooster and his band will offer kids the perfect mix of musical, creative and social learning in some really fun and toe-tapping stories.”
About GBH Kids
GBH Kids is one of the top producers for public media, creating educational content for kids, parents, caregivers and teachers, including iconic PBS Kids programs such as the award-winning Arthur and Molly of Denali, digital series such as Scribbles and Ink, games, apps and podcasts. GBH Kids, based in Boston, also works closely with PBS LearningMedia, providing digital curricula for more than 2 million teachers across all 50 states. GBH Kids is committed to equity and access to educational media and the healthy development of all children. As the inventor of closed captioning and audio description, GBH is dedicated to making media accessible and inclusive. Find more information at gbh.org/kids
About Kwame Alexander
Kwame Alexander is a poet, educator, publisher, and New York Times Bestselling author of 35 books, including SWING, BECOMING MUHAMMAD ALI, co-authored with James Patterson, BOOKED, which was longlisted for the National Book Award, REBOUND, which was shortlisted for prestigious UK Carnegie Medal, The Caldecott Medal and Newbery Honor-winning picture book, THE UNDEFEATED, illustrated by Kadir Nelson, and, his NEWBERY medal-winning middle grade novel, THE CROSSOVER. A regular contributor to NPR's Morning Edition, Kwame is the recipient of numerous awards, including The Lee Bennett Hopkins Poetry Award, The Coretta Scott King Author Honor, Three NAACP Image Award Nominations, and the 2017 Inaugural Pat Conroy Legacy Award. In 2018, he founded the publishing imprint VERSIFY, and opened the Barbara E. Alexander Memorial Library and Health Clinic in Ghana, as a part of LEAP for Ghana, an international literacy program he co-founded. He is the writer and executive producer of THE CROSSOVER TV series on Disney plus.