- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 1, 2006

The Music Center at Strathmore is celebrating its first birthday Sunday at 2 p.m. with cELLAbration LIVE, a performance by artists featured on the 2005 Grammy-winning children’s CD “cELLAbration: A Tribute to Ella Jenkins.”

“It’s very exciting,” says the 81-year-old Miss Jenkins, the Chicago-based songstress whose 28 recordings on Smithsonian Folkways since 1957 have delighted generations of children. “If it’s going to be anything like the recording, it’s going to be very exciting.”

Scheduled to appear with Ella Jenkins are Pete Seeger, Tom Paxton, Tom Chapin, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Riders in the Sky, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Red Grammer, Bill Harley, Michelle Valeri and Mariachi Los Camperos.

“I’ll probably sing a couple of songs,” Miss Jenkins says, “but I’m looking forward to sitting back and enjoying some of the singing and getting into the spirit of the event.”

Miss Jenkins says children change “from one era to another, they change like clothes, like slogans change. But there are some basic things that are the same. It depends on how we relate to children, if we don’t destroy the imagination they already have.”

She worries that children spend too much time watching television or playing video games, and that parents spend too much of their time on cell phones, not relating to their children.

“It’s good we have technology, but I think if we expose children to too much of that, these children might just be viewers, imitators and not creators,” she says.

Mr. Seeger also says he has noted a change in our culture away from live music in general.

There is a smaller “percentage of mothers who sing lullabies to their children,” he says, adding he thinks that people don’t sing in public places the way they used to — preferring to watch television. “People don’t sing ‘Happy Birthday’ they way they used to,” he says.

Still, “a lot of parents take children’s music seriously,” he says, “and I’m glad they’re listening to Ella’s songs.”

Mr. Seeger, 86, who has recorded some 60 titles on Folkways himself, has, like Miss Jenkins, earned a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award — his came in 1983, hers in 2004.

The performers in the Strathmore program have won nine Grammys and received 26 Grammy nominations among them. Three of the acts — Miss Fink and Miss Marxer, Mr. Grammer, and Mr. Chapin — are current nominees in the children’s music category. The Strathmore event will be staged just days before the 48th annual Grammy ceremonies Wednesday in Los Angeles.

• • •

More than 40 years after they were catapulted to national fame, Rodney and Doug Dillard — The Dillards — are still performing their eclectic blend of bluegrass and pop music.

At 63, Rodney Dillard continues to work in entertainment and says with a note of authority, “I have done nothing else all my life.”

The band will perform Friday at the Birchmere at 7:30 p.m. with the Seldom Scene. The Dillards band will also feature George Giddons on fiddle and mandolin.

The Dillards — brothers Doug, now 68, and Rodney, and former band members Mitch Jayne and Dean Webb — appeared on three episodes of “The Andy Griffith Show” in 1963 and 1964 as “The Darlings,” a circumspect mountain family who knew their way around stringed instruments.

“Humor endeared us to people who ordinarily wouldn’t listen to bluegrass music,” Rodney Dillard says. The Dillards pushed the bluegrass envelope, adding rock and folk-rock songs to their repertoire and some orchestration to their recordings. They recorded 19 albums between 1963 and 1999.

The band appeared on television with Judy Garland and Tennessee Ernie Ford, and performed on college campuses and at the Newport Folk Festival.

“We crossed those borders of being ‘just country music people,’ ” says Mr. Dillard. The band toured with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Byrds and Elton John and contributed mightily to the late 1960s country-rock boom in Southern California.

Rodney Dillard has lived in Branson, Mo., for the past 25 years — a good place to raise a family, he says. Lately, between performances with the band, he has worked in production and television. For seven years, he wrote and performed an Ozarks-themed show with his wife, claw hammer banjo player Beverly Cotton-Dillard, and daughter, Rachel, in Branson.

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