Five Questions With Music with Mandy

Music with Mandy, a Calgary jazz and family entertainment quartet, wants kids to embrace – and bop to – messages of self-love and inclusion with its sophomore record, From My Head to My Toes, out now.

Best described as Fred Penner meets Ella Fitzgerald, the project is led by Mandy Morris, a jazz singer, and educator; and consists of some of Calgary’s most notable jazz sidemen: Matt Morris (keys), Kodi Hutchinson (bass), and Jim Johnston (drums).

A distillation of kindness-based teaching and launchpad for jazz appreciation, From My Head to My Toes encourages young listeners to practice respect and empathy with one another through eight easy-on-the-ears tracks. An album that traverses universal themes of inclusivity, acceptance, and positive messages that are easy to absorb, From My Head to My Toes is a jazz soundtrack intended to arm young listeners with good habits and the ability to face the world with strength and humanity.

​​Find out more via our Five Questions segment with Music with Mandy, and stream the new album below, or purchase it from the group’s website.

Care to introduce yourself to our readers?

My name is Mandy Morris (she/her) and I’m a jazz vocalist, children’s entertainer, and arts educator based out of Calgary, Alberta. I am passionate about creating meaningful music for preschool and elementary-aged kids and their families. In my spare time, I like to paint, dance, and spend time with my friends and family.

Tell us a bit about your music and writing style.

I accidentally ended up making jazz for kids. I fell in love with jazz at the Medicine Hat Jazz Fest when I was a kid. Every year my family would go to at least one event, usually the concerts in the bus terminal (anyone who has been to the Medicine Hat Jazz Fest will know exactly what I am talking about). So when I decided to study music in post-secondary, I chose a program that focused on jazz and contemporary music. After graduating from Grant MacEwan, I still didn’t know who I was as an artist yet, so I decided to start teaching music. I found immense joy in sharing the love of music with children, and when I was pulled to start performing again, I knew that I would want to perform for young audiences. My songwriting has developed from that. I collaborate with my husband, Matt Morris, who is a composer and pianist with a minimalist style. Together we work to develop the themes and messages we want to express, then use music and lyrics together to express our intentions.

How have you been keeping creative during the pandemic?

The pandemic has given me unique opportunities to be creative. Throughout the summer, I performed at outdoor events like ArtsXpedition, Calgary Pride, and RISE UP Calgary. My team and I created a show called “Drag for Kids.” This show featured four drag performers, Aida Cupcake, Daisy, Posie Pocket, and Slamda BookDown. We created a show that combines singing, dancing, lip-syncing, and jazz to share the music from my album with audiences in Calgary and introduce kids to the art of drag.

I have also been collaborating with tap dancer, Alicia Ward, on a project called “Colour Me Sad,” which uses colour, dance, and music to explore emotion for young children. We were supposed to premiere a play at the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival, but the pandemic prevented that from happening, so we have turned that show into an album and series of videos that will be released in the coming months.

If you were asked to suggest only one of your songs for someone to hear, which would it be?

The most popular song from the album so far is “What’s Your Name?” I wrote the song to teach kids kind introductions that include name and pronoun. I have some friends who use pronouns outside the binary who are often misgendered. It frustrates me because there is a simple question that can prevent this: “What’s your pronoun?”

I would also suggest the title track, “From My Head to My Toes,” about self-love because I think kids and adults can all benefit from the reminder to love yourself unconditionally.

Canadian Beats is all about Canadian music, so who are your current favourite Canadian bands/artists?

Canada has some incredible Kindie artists who inspire me including Beppie, Ginalina, Diana Panton, and Rattle & Strum. However, as an adult without children, I spend a lot of time listening to Caity Gyorgy, Jodi Proznick, and Mallory Chipman & the Mystics.

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