Saturday, April 12, 2008

Johnette Downing Brings Her Energy and Family Fun to French Quarter Festival

Here is a great feature written by Maria Montoya, Staff writer, Times-Picayune April 09, 2008 in Lagniappe.


Johnette Downing will perform her most crowd-pleasing tunes at the French Quarter Festival. Also catch her at Jazzfest to hear songs from her new CD 'Dixie Land Jazz for Children.'
No one watching singer-songwriter Johnette Downing perform for children would ever guess she was a reserved, quiet child. Even Downing, who will perform on Sunday at the 25th annual French Quarter Festival, finds it incredible how far she has come.

"My parents were performers, but I was always a really shy one," said Downing, who was raised in New Orleans and Hammond. "In college, I thought if I studied theater it might bring me out of my shell, and it did. There's nothing I love more than performing for children; who wouldn't love getting to be silly and fun all day long for a living?"

A friend jump-started Downing's career after seeing her sing at the old Penny Post (now the Neutral Ground) coffeehouse, assuring her that her high energy and mellow style would make her a perfect act for children. That energy has led Downing to release her seventh children's album, "Dixie Land Jazz for Children," which paired her with Jimmy LaRocca's Original Dixieland Jazz Band. Her third book, "My Aunt Came Back from Louisiana," will be released this fall. And, later this month she will make her 19th appearance at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival to debut the new songs.

In the course of 20 years of performing, Downing has won 18 national awards for her work, but she said her little fans' enthusiasm keeps her going. "It seems like everything's happened for me so organically," said Downing, who will perform twice on Sunday afternoon at the French Market Stage in Dutch Alley. "I only perform music that I love and I really love children. You can't fake that."

Throughout the year, Downing travels the country sharing Louisiana music with mostly pre-K to third-grade children. At this year's French Quarter Festival, she will perform songs from past CDs including "Wiggle Worms," "Today Is Monday in Louisiana," "Feliciana LeRoux," and "Ants in Your Pants" -- all songs she considers "top requests" no matter where she performs.
"Children are naturally drawn to music," Downing said. "Just watch them on the playground; someone's always singing or humming. If singing is your dreaming, I say sing, sing, sing!

Thanks Maria for the wonderful full-page feature in Lagniappe!

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