Jay Sand used to be an avid traveler. He spent weeks backpacking through Europe, and exploring Vietnam, Russia, Israel and Africa.
“I wanted to get further and further away from my American home to get a better sense of the way people in other places see themselves and the world,” he said.
Then he had kids. And, like many parents, Sand’s world grew smaller – for a time, at least.
Sand started taking his first daughter to music classes, which sparked an idea: As a musician himself, he could teach his own classes using music from some of his favorite places. If he couldn’t take his daughter to remote countries, he could bring the songs and languages of those countries to her and other kids her age.
The idea grew into All Around This World, a Philadelphia-based global music and world cultures program which offers CDs, live shows, workshops online classes and more for children ages 0-9.
To get All Around This World up and running, Sand had to immerse himself in different styles of music, and create a curriculum suitable for little ones.
“It was a several-year period of intense ethnomusicology and teaching, teaching, teaching and singing, singing, singing with the kids to make sure it worked,” Sand said. “It took a long time to wrap my head around what it all meant.”
After a while, Sand wanted to record the songs he and his students were singing in class. He hired some seasoned players and put together an album of music from Mexico, South and Central America and even parts of the Caribbean. Released in October 2013, “All Around This World: Latin America” is a 23-song tour through Afro-Latin rhythms, with lyrics in Spanish and English. Sand sings a bit here and there, and plays some guitar and drums in the background. But he leaves most of the playing to other musicians. The album sounds professional, but the lyrics and melodies are simple and catchy.
“I wanted the musicians who are from these places to really take the lead,” he said. “It’s hard to find them.”
Two years later, Sand released “All Around This World: Africa,” a double album featuring 32 songs from across the continent. He recently finished another album of music from Southeast Asia, and is preparing to release it soon. Finding all these musicians in America and recruiting them to play on the record was hugely ambitious, he said.
“It’s very complicated, and that’s part of what makes it so much fun,” Sand said.
These days, when Sand performs live, his daughters – now 13, 10 and 8 – often play music with him on stage. They’ve grown up with these songs, and know them back and forth from hearing them so often in the house, he said.
“It’s much more fun for me to have a band with my kids than to hire a band,” he said. “They really hold their own. Our 8-year-old ukulele player almost always hits the right chords.”
Playing in a family band does have its complications, though, Sand admits. There are sister issues, and his daughters worry about when they’re going to finish so they can have dinner – or what snack is waiting for them at the end of the show.
“None of them have said to me, ‘I want to be a musician when I grow up,’” he said, “but it’s really satisfying.”
He’s even managed to get in some traveling with the girls. They did an eight-week trip to the west coast a couple summers ago, and last summer they took off for several weeks to tour the eastern seaboard.
“I used to love long backpacking trips and disappearing into places,” he said. “I haven’t really done that lately … but it’s on its way in that direction.”
See All Around This World with Jay Sand at WTMD on Saturday
Tickets for All Around This World With Jay Sand at WTMD’s Saturday Morning Tunes Nov. 18 are available here. The opener Uncle Devin, goes on at 9:30 AM and Jay Sand and his daughters will be on from 10 AM – 11 AM. Don’t miss the next concert in WTMD’s Saturday Morning Tunes series! Saturday Morning Tunes at the Senator Theatre is Dec. 2. Concerts are held in WTMD’s kid-friendly space, at 1 Olympic Place in Towson. Doors open at 9 a.m. and the music runs from 9:30 a.m.-11 a.m. Each performance has an opening act as well as a headliner. Snacks (organic fig bars and fruit strips) as well as drinks (Horizon milk and Honest juice) are included for all kids. The series is sponsored by Garrison Forest School, Eddie’s of Roland Park, Race Pace Bicycles, ClimbZone White Marsh and (cool) progeny. Kids under 2 are free!