Rainbow Rock Band hails from the DC metro area kids’ music scene and have been presented with a Parents’ Choice Award. The group performs more than 120 live shows each year and fans of all ages around the country are eagerly awaiting the appearance of the band’s second album, “Total Eclipse of the Rainbow,” which is set for release on September 14, 2018.
Since 2012, guided by the hand of singer/songwriter/educator Dr. Kate Moran, Rainbow Rock Band has been praised for its positive, joyful, high-energy music, which engages young listeners and gets them moving to an irresistible beat while also enhancing their learning and social development. Rainbow Rock Band’s thoughtful lyrics emphasize being kind to one another, as well as sharing a wonder and appreciation of the beautiful and fascinating.
The songs are often inspired by educational content and the melodies are influenced by American folk, country, and pop music. Like Woody Guthrie’s children’s tunes, Kate’s songs incorporate a musical language that draws upon and relates to the types of melodies that children actually sing and incorporate into their play.
Dr. Kate Moran’s lifelong enjoyment of singing and her numerous musical projects have provided a backdrop to her scholarly work in education. Kate studied theater at the Catholic University of America and then went on to earn a Master’s in Teaching (Special Education) from the University of Virginia. She gained practical, hands-on experience running a behavior program for the Loudoun County public schools and also served as a special education coordinator with the Alexandria City public schools. In 2014 Kate received her Doctorate in Special Education from George Mason University. When she’s not rockin’ the rainbow, Dr. Kate works at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Special Education Programs.
The flip side of Kate Moran’s intriguing resume resounds with her artistic achievements, for in addition to her career in education, Kate is a well-established singer/songwriter in the DC/MD/VA area. Always on the go, she founded a successful local music festival, the Del Ray Music Festival, in 2007 and has performed extensively in and around the DMV with her pop band, the Kate Moran Band.
Dr. Kate recently discussed her band and more via an exclusive interview.
Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you initially get interested in music and how did you create your defining sound?
Kate Moran (KM): I basically came out singing! I was always humming and singing, even as a lil one. My cousin Elizabeth and I would always create plays and productions for our family members to watch, but as I grew older I focused more on the acting instead of the singing. I didn’t see myself as a singer, although I would sing at home, in the car, whenever asked, I would sing. I guess that’s how you can say I began to define my sound. I sang whenever asked and without going into the whole story, I sang at a service when my aunt passed away, and after that, I knew I needed to keep singing. Being an educator and an AUNT now myself, I found that I was drawn to writing music for children after a few years of singing regular pop music. Growing up, I loved working with children, as a babysitter, camp counselor, teaching assistant, but I also loved acting, so when I headed off to college for undergrad I chose theater. When I went for my masters and doctorate I focused again on working with children and teaching. And, finally, after a long time all of my interests have come together in the Rainbow Rock Band. It’s a mix of everything that I am, and love, and musically I think it reflects that as well. A little bit of pop, a little bit of country, a little bit of rock and a whole lot of fun!
MM: Do you typically write lyrics or melodies first?
KM: Most times I get a few word combinations that I will think about or like, and then a melody will come, so for instance with “Crazy Cakes,” a friend of mine said something was, “Crazy Cakes!” and I really thought that was a funny word combination. So, I had that in my head. At the same time, I also wanted to write a song about numbers and counting, so I combined the two ideas. For that particular song the chorus lyrics and melody came first, and then our producer Kurtis and I worked out the verses together. I have a lot of melody and lyric lines that I write out or record on my phone, some I get back to, some I haven’t written yet, but if something is sticking in my head, typically I will map out a rough lyric and melody and then work with one of my co-writers on the instrumentation.
MM: Most of your songs are inspired by educational content so what subjects do you find most inspiring?
KM: Many of my song ideas actually come from events, or things folks have said, or stories I have been told. I think being an educator, learning is always on my mind. I found that I was writing about teachable content, like shapes, colors and numbers. For this album, having worked in the classroom, I wanted something that teachers could use in school. My background and specialty area is Special Education, and I know how important early learning and intervention are for infants and toddlers. Since most Early Intervention Programs are about working in the home with parents and teaching the parents strategies they can use at home, I wanted to create an album that could help parents be their child’s teacher. The songs all have easy movements that go with the words, and at each show we model how they can be used by anyone, making the songs an excellent learning tool. I think, though, my most special songs are “Little One~Henry’s Song,” and “Rainbow Lullaby,” because of the softness and imagery within both of them.
MM: You are an academic with a PhD, so what subjects do you primarily teach and/or research?
KM: I have worked in the field of Special Education for over 25 years and specialized in working with students with behavioral exceptionalities. My degree is in K-12 Special Education, so I have a wide array of experience with all abilities and learning exceptionalities. I keep inclusion and accessibility in the forefront of my work and performances. I feel that all children have the capacity to learn. It is our job as educators to tap in to how to help make that happen, and music is an excellent tool in the giant special education tool box.
MM: How much value do you feel entertainment-education has on people’s ability to retain knowledge?
KM: There have been a number of studies that have documented the positive academic outcomes that can occur using music and education. Studies have demonstrated that movement makes students less fidgety and increases focus in the classroom. My study demonstrated the benefits of using movement and fitness with students with disabilities (which extends to typical aged peers). When you combine the music and movement, when working with students you have created a recipe for success. By linking movement into our songs, we are stimulating the frontal lobe with the music, which develops language and motor development. The children are retaining the lyrics and content information, with the help of the movement. Our songs work on fine and gross motor skills and balance and coordination skills in an all-out Rainbow Rock Band party of high energy moves and tunes.
MM: Of all your songs, which are your favorites and fan favorites?
KM: The kids really like “Superhero,” from our first album, because they get to be the Superhero with climbing, flying, freezing and speedy movements. They also enjoy the call and response that we have on “Lee Lee the Lizard,” on our current album, and they like waving their ribbons around during the song. And not to keep harping on “Crazy Cakes,” but I do a “mouth trumpet” in “Crazy Cakes,” and I teach the kids how to do it during the show, and they love it. I have gotten quite a few messages from parents, letting me know that their son or daughter hasn’t stopped mouth trumpeting since the show!
MM: What experiences with fans have been most memorable to you and why?
KM: All of our rainbow rockers are so sweet, they always come up and tell me their special stories from the week, or ask me questions about my rainbow rock hair, and just the high-fives and hugs after every show, they are all such amazing little lights! There are so many little moments, like when one of the kids in the audience is just lost in the wiggles and movement, or when I ask them who their favorite Superhero is and they say their brother or sister, but one of my favorite moments was when I was babysitting my nephew and he said this, “Aunt Kate, you know who my favorite rock band is?” “No Hen, who is your favorite rock band?” (me thinking he was going to say Bruce Springsteen or some other rocker;) Henry says, “My favorite rock band is the Rainbow Rock Band.” My heart melted!
MM: Overall, what are your biggest goals for the future?
KM: My biggest goal is to be able to Rock the Rainbow to kids in need all over the world! I would love to be able to be at a level that we could travel to more places abroad, like we did when we went to Haiti, and perform for kids in need. I worked in Puerto Rico this past year with FEMA for 45 days and I would love to be able to head there to perform a show, to bring the Rainbow Rock Band to places that might need a little sunshine and light. My goal is to be in a position that Rainbow Rock is performing nationwide, so much so that we could fund some not-for-profit trips to other places and perhaps bring along needed items in the process.
MM: Is there anything else that you would like to mention?
KM: I am extremely grateful for all of the rainbow rockers and their parents that we have gotten to meet over the years. Their support and friendship (yes, many of these parents have become our friends) has put some serious sparkle in my life. I am also honored to get to play with some of the best musicians in the DMV area, Brendan Biondi (Rockin Pupstar, BV, Guitar), Matthew Berry (Bassious Berry, Bass, Guitar) Kevin DeSouza (Captain Toe Tappin, BV, Drums, Guitar, Bass), and Ryan Walker (Prince Pop & Walk, Guitar, Piano, Bass), are all full time working musicians, with bands of their own, and Patty Moran (PattyCake Patty, My Mom and Party Patrol) they each bring their talent to Rainbow Rock, and I am so lucky to get to work with them! The path to becoming a children’s performer wasn’t always clear, but I think once I let go of the where it was that I thought I was supposed to go with my regular pop band or theater or whatever, and just followed the steps that were being put in front of me, the direction became crystal clear, and I just keep following that rainbow road!
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Total Eclipse of the Rainbow will be available at all digital retailers, including iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, CDBaby, and more. To learn more, visit their official website, Facebook. Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube.
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