Kid Pan Alley

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Kid Pan Alley started with a brilliant but obvious discovery—kids make the greatest co-writers—especially when you are writing songs for kids. Paul Reisler, songwriter, composer, master songwriting teacher and founder of Trapezoid made this discovery on the first day of an elementary school songwriting residency project in rural Rappahannock County, VA. The songs were funny, touching, goofy, gross and completely enchanting.  The songs turned out to be so good that Reisler asked a number of the county’s professional musicians—many of them nationally and internationally known—to choose one song each and record it in their own style.  The recording, Tidal Wave of Song, became an expression of the whole community—and of the power of song to inspire a true spirit of community.

Ever since, Kid Pan Alley has created a tidal wave of songs around the country. We’ve now written over 2,700 songs with over 65,000 children. We’ve recorded 5 albums featuring artists including Amy Grant, Sissy Spacek, Delbert McClinton, Cracker, Kix Brooks, Nashville Chamber Orchestra, Corey Harris, Suzy Bogguss and many others.

Just imagine what it’s like to be a child and a song you wrote gets recorded by a Grammy winning artist that you’ve heard many times on the radio. You’d be changed forever—seeing yourself as a creator and not just a consumer. You’d learn about teamwork, about embracing diversity and collaboration through the group songwriting process.  You’d be able to express your feelings through song and that just might help all the kids understand each other better.  It might help prevent some bad things happening in school as the kids write songs to express their feelings rather than striking out in anger. You’d feel really listened to.

You’d get excited about creative writing and learn about rhyme, metaphor, rhythm and melody through the process of writing your song.  You’d even learn something that was going to help you on your tests. As profits from CD sales go to more music enrichment programs, it might make it possible for you to help others find their creative voice.

 In 2005, we will be working on full CD projects in Portland, ME, Roanoke, VA and another in the Nashville area, as well as many short-term residencies throughout the country. We are also planning albums on specific themes including peace, the environment and Christmas.


Songs are generally written in two 1-hour class periods with the students working in a group process developed by Reisler. We guide the students through the songwriting process, from the creation of an original idea to finished song in a fun filled way that honors the input of the children.

The students decide what they want to write about. The subject matter is often surprising—it may be about their cat, but more often it’s likely be about a grandparent with Alzheimer’s, something they are studying in school, social issues or events in the world around them. Always the songs have a twist that can only come from the unrestrained imagination of a child.

The children come up with the melody based upon the natural pitch and rhythm of speech as melody in popular music is just speech expanded–the notes may go higher or lower, a note might be longer or shorter, but it still is informed by the spoken word. The songs come out in a wide array of styles, from country to classical, from folk to hip-hop. Projects can range from short-term residencies and concerts to full CD projects. While we’ve worked with everything from 3-year olds through adults with great success, we prefer working with 1st through 5th grades.


  • Use the songwriting process as a way of inspiring children in the creative process so that they understand that they can be creators of music and not just consumers;
  • Promote self-awareness and self-confidence by attaching value to the students’ creative impulses;
  • To help children experience creative expression as a means of embracing diversity, teamwork, and collaboration by supporting creativity as a prime skill to all critical thinking and problem-solving;
  • While Kid Pan Alley addresses many objective in the Standards of Learning in the areas of creativity, music, English, performance, and connection to other areas of learning, it most importantly helps children to learn and increases their ability to learn;
  • The prevention, intervention and/or healing of crisis situations by helping children articulate their feelings, express their grief and document what has happened within their community through song;
  • To teach children respect for intellectual property.  Children who have written their own songs have a first hand understanding of the negative effects of downloading on creators and their communities;
  • Raise funds for more arts enrichment programs through sales of the CD;
  • Create new models for musicians and songwriters to work within their own community; and to
  • To promote community awareness of the arts as essential elements of instruction in the lives of children and, to foster collaboration between students, teachers, administrators, artists, and the community through working together in a creative process and to foster partnerships among diverse organizations.

For more information visit Kid Pan Alley