Celebrating Ella Jenkins’ 97th birthday

On “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood”; Thomas Moore on stage with Jenkins and early childhood teachers at National Association for the Education of Young Children annual conferences.

Aug. 6, 2021

Morning Bugle Productions is working to finish a video on the life and work of Ella Jenkins, who long ago was dubbed “the First Lady of the Children’s Folk Song.” In a career as a freelance musician spanning 70 years, she has been an inspiration to children, and not a few adults.

Tim Ferrin of Morning Bugle Productions also produced a video marking Jenkins’ 90th birthday. On that occasion he was quoted by Smithsonain magazine as saying, “‘She really approached making children’s music in an intelligent way, which had never really been done before,’ … incorporating Americana and folk traditions and making them accessible for children. ‘She was really trailblazing.’”

The scenes above are from a short limited-circulation “happy birthday montage” video possibly available for home viewing here. The late Fred Rogers had her on his PBS show. Dr. Thomas Moore describes the other two photos:

“Both events were within the last 10 years, at Ella Jenkins’ teaching and learning concerts/workshops before between 1,000-5,000 early childhood educators at the National Association for the Education of Young Children annual conference.

“Ella often invited her children’s music friends to join her on stage. Several decades ago, 1979, we first met. We’ve been friends since.” Dr. Moore said he first heard her music when he was a 16-year-old bus driver for Gaston County schools.

On Ella Jenkins’ stage, he wrote, “I was special because I was the one who played the saxophone and I was one who knew how to play the blues and the spirituals like the ‘old timers.’”