The past few months have had most of us scouring the internet for content to “engage” our kids. In fact, “engagement” seems to be the name of the game when it comes to inspiring young hearts and minds. Finding that content, however, can be a bit of a rabbit hole. Although there’s plenty to choose from in the web, a local woman has focused her energy in collecting regional stories and music, creating a weekly podcast that may be geared toward children but that will no doubt have something to teach the entire family.
Confetti Park is a children’s media workshop, weekly radio program and podcast that showcases regional children’s music, but that’s also interested in sharing local folklore and culture – particularly those that haven’t been shared before. Headed by Katy Hobgood Ray, the podcast is available online but also featured weekly at radio stations across the United States.
One of her most recent shows, for example, focuses on the Le Lutin, a trickster figure common in many traditions. However, this little French hobgoblin steeped in Cajun folklore is, as the show makes clear, perhaps the reason you cannot find your keys or one of your socks. This very specific combination of folklore, music and regional history is what makes Ray’s podcast stand out among the vast majority of music and history programming aimed at children.
Ray’s background – she has a master’s in musicology from Tulane – drives her passion for finding never-heard-before songs for kids. Born in Bogalusa and raised in Shreveport, she got her start covering live music in North Louisiana. When she had her own child in 2011 and was living in New Orleans, her interests naturally shifted to finding children’s music, leading her to produce and host her podcast, which she launched in 2015 named after the Confetti Park in her Algiers Point neighborhood.
While it’s no doubt a children’s program, Ray is clear that her focus in inherently local. She says, “It’s fun to pinpoint songs that kids love. A lot of amazing musicians – and we have tons in Louisiana – might write a few songs for kids, but never release an album of children’s songs. It’s fun to find these little gems. For example, Susan Cowsill has a great song called ‘Itty Bitty.’ Alex McMurray’s ‘Sing with Me’ is great for kids. And what kid wouldn’t love dancing the ‘Chicken Strut’ by the Meters? The show is G-rated, but I take a musicological and folklorist approach to producing the show, so I think it’s interesting for all ages.”
While the pandemic has made some elements of her show a bit more challenging – she’s had to use different software to record phone interviews, for instance – the technological limitations of not being able to interview people in person haven’t been insurmountable. Meanwhile, she has been expanding the program to include more education skits. Her recent show, “Rosemary the Garden Fairy” shares gardening tips and fun facts about nature.
In addition to directing the Confetti Park Players, an all-ages children’s chorus that has contributed to the soundscape of the show, Ray also is eager to include other creative works from local children. She encourages them to submit their original poems and short stories to the show.
While Ray has been recognized by a lot of local organizations and the Confetti Park Players have appeared at Jazz Fest, in these socially distant times there’s something to be said for a nostalgic gathering around a “radio” (or wireless speaker, if we’re honest) and listening to stories and songs that may be new to us but are strikingly familiar as well. Φ