Ella Jenkins

Biography

Ella Jenkins is just what a good children's musician should be: motherly, wise, a relentless enunciator -- and strict in that crisp, Mary Poppins way. A tireless advocate for children and an entertainer who draws upon diverse cultures to enrich her repertoire, Jenkins grew up in the Chicago of the 1930 and '40s. While a child, she developed a love for music, particularly the blues, and she also became a sponge of sorts, soaking up all the children's rhymes and games in her neighborhood. After a stint at junior college, Jenkins studied sociology, child psychology and recreation at San Francisco State University. When she returned to Chicago, she accepted a job working with teenagers at the local YMCA. That job led to a gig performing on achildren's TV show, and pretty soon her performing career took off, so she quit the Y to devote herself to music full-time. For the next 50 years, Jenkins performed almost nonstop, recording children's songs and games from around the world, as well as a host of African American children's songs. Jenkins emphasizes participation in her performances, drawing on the global tradition of call-and-response to bring children into the performance. The performer won a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2004, in acknowledgement of her significant contribution to enriching children's music.

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