Woodsongs Kids TV and radio program goes nationwide

WoodSongs Kids has hit radio air waves and is set to be broadcast on public television this month. Folksinger, Michael Johnathon, and his 8-year-old daughter, Makayla, host the new 30-minute spin-off of his popular Woodsongs Old Time Radio Hour series.

“It’s Mr. Rogers meets the Grand Ole Opry,” explained Johnathon. “Mr. Rogers said it best. He said, ‘Listening is where love begins.’ And there’s no better listening than when parents listen to their own children. Your living room couch can be the biggest, best stage in the world.”

“We’re celebrating the front porch world as celebrated by kids from all over North America. We tell them, ‘you don’t have to be perfect. You just have to have fun.’ It’s a lot of bluegrass and mandolin, and banjo pickers and kids who play the fiddle. It’s so adorable. The cute quotient is amazing with these kids, and I’m so glad we were able to pull it off.”

Makayla opens and closes the live audience program alongside her dad. “I just like it,” she shared. Her twin brother, Caleb, is involved in technical support, rolling cables and turning on stage lights.

“I wanted it to be like a family project,” Michael explained. “When you’re doing a show about kids, you can’t leave your own kids out.”

“The series on PBS is made up of 13 episodes (per season),” Johnathon outlined. “We’re filming it in between WoodSongs broadcasts. We tape two 30 minute shows in one evening.”

The first episode featured three Kentucky youth: the Singleton Brothers, 13-year-old Cash and 16-year-old Cutter, along with 12-year-old yodeler/multi-instrumentalist Candice Gunn. The young artists performed three songs each on the premier of WoodSongs Kids.

Johnathon further offered, “It’s already on the radio from New Zealand to Oregon, Wisconsin to Florida. It just got picked up by a network in South Africa. The first season feeds to PBS stations on May 15.”

The other 12 shows have been completed and will feature young talents 6-16 years old, such as bands New Found Gap and Cotton Pickin’ Kids; duos the Spencer Boys and the Sullivan Sisters; and individuals Ashlyn Smith, Reese Carroll, and Alex Davis, just to name a few.

Another performer, 12-year-old Ohio banjoist, Owen Brockman, said, “I felt very honored to be a part of this program. I’m thankful that Michael Johnathon and the bluegrass community create opportunities that encourage kids like me that have a love for this music. I find it to be a great way to learn by sharing with others. I’ve been lucky to meet kids all over the country that love this music just like I do. And I was fortunate enough to meet with my friends the night of the WoodSongs Kids taping. We put together a song that Michael Johnathon included as an encore. I love that bluegrass music brings people together. The whole experience was a special memory for me that I’ll never forget.”

Also appearing this season will be a 13-year-old Kentucky country singer and keyboard player, Reed Elliotte. His mom, Larrietta, shared. “We absolutely LOVE WoodSongs! It is always a special time when Reed gets to perform there. Michael Johnathon is great and has such a heart for performers and kids! His staff is great as well! There’s just something special about WoodSongs. Reed has made great friends there!”

Filmed on Monday evenings before a live audience at the Lyric Theatre in Lexington, KY, Johnathon is actively seeking young talent to feature on the next season.

“If you’ve got a youngster that you think belongs on our broadcast, we hope the parents and guardians of these kids would send us a little YouTube clip.”

Clips of youth performances may be sent to radio@woodsongs.com.

Here’s a link to two of WoodSongs Kids episodes. Episode 9 features 13-year-old Tennessee mandolinist Wyatt Ellis, and a Tennessee duo called She’s My Sister comprised of 14-year-old guitarist Amelia Brown and her 12-year-old mandolin playing sister Reagan. The next installment highlights banjoist Brockman and 16-year-old singer/songwriter/guitarist Ian Shaw from Wisconsin.

More information plus all the shows of season one are posted on their website, WoodSongsKids.org.

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About the Author

Sandy Hatley

Sandy Chrisco Hatley is a free lance writer for several NC newspapers and Bluegrass Unlimited magazine. As a teenager, she picked banjo with an all girl band called the Happy Hollow String Band. Today, she plays dobro with her husband's band, the Hatley Family.