Amy Handler, The Kids Are Alright

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The Kids Are Alright is one of my favorite programs on my favorite radio station in Atlanta, 1690 The Voice of The Arts.    Host Amy Handler’s weekly show is a cornucopia of all things fun, nostalgic, brainy, artsy and good.  I was listening to it pre-baby, and still set my clock by it every Saturday morning at 9 (replays on Sunday at noon).  I’ve always wondered where the inspiration came from, so I was thrilled that Amy shared a peak behind the curtain…

Q. Where do you find inspiration to put together such an original, wonderful radio program?

A. Aw, shucks- an thanks!  I have always worked in the field of children’s entertainment – television, theatre, radio, dance, and education. When I teach I do the same thing that I do with my show – integrate every single facet into a shiny neat little package of info and fun for the kids. Because I like everything to relate and interconnect, I use what’s around me for show ideas. Examples: For Mother’s Day I played all mummy songs.  When our best pals had their sweet baby Adelaide, all baby songs.  And for April Fool’s day, all banana songs because don’t you know how hilariously funny bananas are?  (the next week we did all monkey songs becuase the monkeys supposedly heard last week’s show and took over the radio station to get all those bananas they heard about). So, yeah, I come by it all very honestly – it’s how I live, what I do, what I love, and, suddenly most importantly, what I want my actual kids to be exposed to. Once I asked one of my student’s parents how they kept their kids from liking Barney and Brittany.  They told me  “”we all listen to the same music together””.  That really stuck with me. And that’s what I do with my family. You gotta expose your kids and lead by example.  If not, they will turn into mindless zombies swaying and singing along to Justin Bieber. If I can inspire some kids to reach past that, I have done my job.

Q. You’re in charge of creating the ultimate ‘The Kids Are Alright Weekend”” in Atlanta.  What’s on the agenda?

A. First of all, you would wake up and listen to my show that has an appropriate theme for the weekend – places to go. Then we would get on our tandem bike tour (I am imagining a huge long Dr. Seussish bike that spans the whole block) and have coffee and breakfast at Parkgrounds in Reynoldstown. It has a dog park so we can watch the dogs play while we play battleship. Then off to the new BeltLine park with the spraying water and 3 people swings and a trampoline enveloped by ropes.  Now we are tired and hot so we head to Lotta Frutta for fruit cups and smoothies. We grab some extra bags of chulpe (ecuadorian corn. a total obsession of mine) to fuel us for our hike at the Fernbank Forest. Did you know you can go to the forest in the middle of the city?  Its behind the science center, not museum, and you feel like you’ve driven far, far away. Last we stop by Antico Pizza (all other pizza is dead to me) and pick up a pie and some cannoli to take to the Starlight Drive-In.

Next morning the Grant Park Farmer’s Market, where we will and always do have the King of Pops for breakfast. Then off to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, Star Provisions for lunch (fluffernutter sandwiches- they’re are all you’ve dreamed of and more), then to the Oakhurst Community Garden to play with their chickens, hang out in their cob house, catch frogs in their pond, and wade in their stream. And then for dinner, how about a drive out to Marietta for amazing chinese food – Tasty China. Driveling messes falling asleep in car on way home if you are lucky but at least you squeezed it all in.  Well, not all, but it’s enough for now.

Q. When you’re not listening to The Kids Are Alright, what are you listening to?

A. Oh, that’s a funny one. Like I said, I do come by it honestly. I listen to my two other favorite kid shows GREASY KID STUFF from Portland, OR and SONGS FOR THE WHIPPERSNAPPERS from Claremont, CA. There are lots of kid shows out there these days, but most of them play Kindie music, which is a very specific brand of modern poppy kid stuff that’s not my thing.

Besides those shows, I listen almost exclusively to two things:  am1690 (yes, the home of my show) and our old fashioned answer to the iPod- our Wurlitzer cd-playing jukebox.

I can just leave 1690 on forever. They are so eclectic and interesting and,yes, artsy. They are The Voice Of The Arts, after all. I have been listening to them for years and years and fantasizing about what a good fit it would be for my kid’s show I’ve always wanted to do.  See, a girl CAN dream.

The jukebox has  100 cds and we just press random on it and let it fill the house. It was a huge endeavor to pick our 100 favorite cds. The process was heated. It has everything in it from Grease 2 to every single Wes Anderson movie soundtrack to the Magnetic Fields to Spike Jones to Devo to Loretta Lynn.  Just like my show!  We have never traded them out just like we never change the dial from am1690.

Q. Favorite neighborhoods?

A. My first real neighborhood in Atlanta was Cabbagetown.  I grew up at a dead end in a wooded neighborhood with few neighbors (didn’t get many friends over to play because no one wanted to drive their kid onto our two mile curvy road) so it was magical to me to be so close to neighbors, walk to the store, hang out at the park, sit on porches and chat. I loved feeling like I was simultaneously in the country and the city. We used to traipse around the yet-to-be rekindled-as-lofts mill and pretend like we were on Scooby-Doo. When I “”grew up”” we moved to Grant Park, which I love for the same reason.  It’s so neighborhoody yet so downtown. We have the park, the zoo, the cemetery, the police horses, and, now, the new farmer’s market.  I adore feeling like we live in a small town with all the big city amenities. On that note, I have huge Decatur envy because they have it even more than us – lots more places to walk to for dinner plus a frozen yogurt spot and the Dekalb Farmer’s Market, where i recently bought 3 jalapenos for 5 cents, and, yes, amazing schools.

Q. What is The Kids Are Alright, and why should everyone tune in?

A. The Kids Are Alright is a kids’ music show on am1690 The Voice of the Arts.  It’s on Saturday at 9am and sunday at noon.  Lots of people don’t really have radios anymore, and in that case, you can listen to it on your computer or on am1690’s free iphone app, so you can listen to it from anywhere.  The kids’ music part – well, it’s more than that, it’s kids’ music for everyone.  Sometimes I call it family music or pancake making music.  But it’s not just for kids, it really is for everyone.  We don’t play kiddie music where you can hear the sugary sweet singer fake smiling the whole time or pretending to be a kid (my very least favorite kind of kid music) we play fun, silly, infectious music from every genre- Louis Armstrong to Abba to Sesame Street to Woody Guthrie.  Some kid.  Some adult.  Some old.  Some new.  Great covers- yes, something borrowed, and, well, I guess something blue if you count all the Grover and Cookie Monster songs I play.  This show’s forefather, THE RUTABAGA SHOW with best buddy Dawn was once written up as “”making full grown men prance around like little girls””.  Don’t you want to do that?  Is your heart 3 sizes too small?  Then listen to my show and watch it grow out of your chest and start re-delivering those stolen holiday gifts with The Grinch.

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