"One week of Charity's JAMcamp reminded me of why I am raising my children in San Francisco. My 5-year-old daughter sings 'Breathe in the Love, Breathe out the Peace' to herself on a regular basis. She knows what infinity means. I have complete trust and confidence in Charity to take care of my daughter and make sure that she was not only singing, dancing and generally having a blast, but also that she was completely nurtured. The dynamics and structure of the camp ensured that my daughter made new friends instantly. Three months later, she is STILL talking about what they did at camp that week. We now spend our car trips singing together to Charity's music, and it is a great bonding time for us. While I am not a fan of "kids music," Charity is the exception. I actually enjoy it as much as my daughter and it's providing her with a great foundation of what "good music" means. I have visions of us dancing and twirling at concerts and festivals for years to come. Thank you Charity!"
Hello and Welcome!
I'm Charity Kahn -- mother, songwriter, musician, teaching artist and the founder of Charity and the JAMband, JAMboodas, and JAMcamp.
I've been singing and dancing with children and families since the inception of JAM in 2001, shortly after I became a mom.
What started in my living room as a music-and-movement playgroup for my friends and their kids has expanded into an ever-growing collection of award-winning recorded music, live performances, school & library visits, classes and camps for kids, birthday celebrations, and mindfulness offerings and music for the grown-ups who love and teach them.
The vehicles are music, movement and mindfulness, and the opportunities for growth, connection and joy are boundless.
To learn more about my intentions, inspirations and history, read on.
Thanks for visiting!
I do what I do because of the deep love, respect and awe I have for children and the families that nurture them, discovered through my own experiences as a mother, through my work with children, and from being in community with other parents and teachers.
There is nothing more pure or honest than a child, and nothing more powerful than a grown-up doing their best to respond consciously and responsibly to that being. These little souls are our finest guides, and provide our richest opportunities both to grow ourselves and also to make the world a better place.
The music of the JAMband and the dance, drama, mindfulness and art experiences I share with the children in my programs emanate from the day-to-day experience of being in relationship with children -- the opportunity in every single moment to truly LISTEN to what they are bringing us, the moments where we as grown-ups experience the infinite through our unconditional love for them and their unconditional trust in us, the hysterically funny and sometimes downright maddening ups and downs of family life, the way children can speak truth that resonates at least as powerfully as that spoken by a spiritual master (for fun, follow @preschoolgems and @DalaiLama on Twitter and I'll bet you find they inspire you equally!), and the chance to see the world anew through their unjaded, non-judgemental, accepting and open eyes and minds.
We are so profoundly lucky we have the privilege of sharing these moments with these little ones, and the fact that we have the opportunity to sing, dance, be present and create -- PLAY! -- along with them is a true gift. So let's GO!
I was raised in a small town in Wisconsin by musician/piano teacher parents. Weaned on Bach and Brahms and Mozart, the music took root in my heart at an early age and never left. In middle school, I added jazz and swing to the classical stuff, and discovered rock'n'roll soon thereafter. Many influences followed...Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell, The Grateful Dead, Zakir Hussain, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Richard Thompson, Aretha, Phish, Parliament....
Like most kids, I was always singing and making up songs as a child, and I have a little book somewhere with my first song scratchings (something about a castle and a princess). But while I immersed myself in the classical music that was traditional in my home, I didn't really "compose" during my school-age years. I guess I was too busy learning how to play other people's music (remembering all those notes takes up a lot of space in the brain).
In college, I started playing in bands, and that was the inspiration to begin writing songs for real. I graduated with a degree in mathematics (I think math is really cool!), and then spent time as a math teacher (at the Head-Royce School in Oakland, CA), a piano teacher and math tutor, a writer (Math and Music: Harmonious Connections), a software engineer, and rock-climbing traveler before "settling down" to have kids.
That decision changed EVERYTHING. (Duh.)
I recorded my first cd (firstborn) while pregnant with my now-23-year-old son, Jasper. I actually went into the studio as a last-ditch move...I thought I would NEVER find time to do any music once I became a mom. It felt to me that music and mother love came from the same place, and I didn't understand how I would be able to simultaneously mother children and songs. So, I honestly thought I was giving music up, at least for the next 18 or more years.
BUT, sure enough, the opposite happened. I tried to go back to work part-time as a software engineer when Jasper was six months old. Did it for a year and it almost killed me (really). So I threw caution to the wind and quit. I had written a bunch of children's songs, and thought maybe I'd try becoming a Music Together teacher. So I signed up for a training, but cancelled at the last minute, deciding to forge out on my own, and JAM was born (in the form of parent/child music and movement classes for wee ones), in my living room, during February of 2001, with Jasper's playgroup families.
The rest just kind of happened naturally. I recorded "JAM: Music for Movement with Children" in 2002 while pregnant with my now 20-year-old son, Silas. Then I put the JAMband together to record "Peanut Butter and JAM" in 2004, and we started gigging. Then we made "Rock Your Socks Off" in 2006, all the while performing and teaching. In 2010, we released a rather ambitious project -- a double-album, "Party Like a Twinkle Star" -- which spans the entire skill set of the JAMband, from seriously funky, rockin' stuff, to sweet, quiet, lush, acoustic love songs.
In 2006-2007, I went through a difficult divorce and experienced the unique challenge of loving and holding my children and myself while we transitioned to two families from one. It was by far the deepest experience of loss I have experienced in my life, and living with the consequences (emotional, logistical, mental) on a daily basis can be kind of nuts. In an attempt to heal and move on, I started meditating -- 30 seconds per day at first. I literally could not handle more than that! I now practice (almost ;-) daily, and the improvement in my sanity, equanimity, and ability to be present for whatever life brings is remarkable. The practice has been so helpful to me (beyond words), I have started integrating mindfulness practices, exercises and concepts into my classes, camps and music. I am very inspired to pass these tools on to as many children and families as possible, so I've taking courses offered by Mindful Schools, Spirit Rock and beyond, and now host meditation gatherings for adults as well. I also went vegan in May of 2012, a process and decision which have been hugely impactful in my work and life in general, aligned with the values of non-harming and compassion that have become essential for me.
All of this work was huge inspiration for our next two albums. "Family Values" (released Nov 2012) is a musical exploration of a set of "human family values" I have found important in my own life as a mother, artist and human being: lovingkindness, compassion, joy, equanimity, patience, understanding, generosity, community, intention, non-harming, gratitude, respect, mindfulness, waking up, truth, peace. The music itself spans from perhaps our heaviest rock'n'roll yet to some sweet and sonorous acoustic love-a-byes. The messages, I hope, speak for themselves.
The next album, "EARTH: Songs for the Earth and All Beings" (released April 2016) was inspired by my deep love for Mother Earth and all her beings, and my desire to speak (sing!) out about the urgency of caring for her and all beings. I had been involved in climate activism for some years, and wanted somehow to create an album for families that addressed this essential challenge of our time. But since it's really too scary to make an album about climate change for children, I instead went the route of making a collections of love songs for Mother Earth, and songs that talk about our responsibility to wake up and take care of this planet, our home, and all her creatures. The music is joyful, uplifting, encouraging, loving, and, as usual, spans from rock to rock-a-bye.
I took a wee break from recording family music in 2019 to work on my "grown-up" music, with my new band The Invisible Bee. Our first album, "Brokedown Palace", explores the emotional terrain of being alive during these treacherous times, and what I'm doing about it. Our next album, "Incurable Love", came out in October of 2019, and is be more of the same -- singing about the inner and outer work of being human on a changing Earth.
During the pandemic, I released another children's album called, "Creatures and Critters" (April 2021), all about animals! It even includes several animal meditation, so kids can imagine being a spider, an owl, a baby cow, a bunny, and a dog. I'm currently working on two new family music albums: one is a compilation of new and existing songs I've written inspired by the teachings of Thich Nhat Hanh, and one is a fully vegan album for kids celebrating plant-based living, animal liberation, and compassion.
I'm so excited to bring more music into the world, to have such incredible musicians to work with, and to have such an amazing community with whom I get to share the music!
I continue to offer JAMboodas classes and JAMcamps, in my neighborhood (the Sunset district of San Francisco), in addition to performing as a solo artist for libraries, schools, and the San Francisco Botanical Garden, and with the JAMband at beautiful venues like The Park Chalet, Dolores Park, the Pomeroy Center, and the Bandshell in the Music Concourse of Golden Gate Park. I am in the process of envisioning a training program for teachers and parents so JAM can move out into the world on a grander scale. My intention is to pass the music and message on to people who are inspired to share it with the children and families in their lives. I also hope it might provide a way for parents to create part-time work for themselves, doing something they love, so they can still spend time with their children and lead a balanced life.
I've also graduated from the two-year Mindfulness Meditation Teacher Certification Program with Jack Kornfield and Tara Brach, and a Qigong Teacher Training with Nick Loffree. I bring meditation and Qigong regularly to people as part of my offerings at the SF Botanical Garden.
I feel such deep gratitude for my work with children and families, and grown-ups, too! I write songs that emanate from the day-to-day experience of being in a family, from the tender connections that shine in our memories, from the moments where we as grown-ups experience the infinite through our love for these little people, from those crazy fun-filled, supreme-joy moments and also the scary, dark, confusing ones, hoping they will resonate for some of you. I have the joy of bringing these songs to families through my music, programs and performances. Thanks for joining me. Our kids are our greatest teachers, and singing, dancing, creating and sometimes just breathing along with them is one of life's greatest joys!
Feature Photo Story
To learn more about Charity's story and her two decades of work in the Bay Area supporting children and families in finding joy and peace through music, movement and mindfulness, view this feature photo story published by The Enloe Creative.