‘Jamming on the Job’ Podcast Gets Kids Into the Work Groove
September 7, 2023
Jamming on the Job is a new multi-generational and music-inspired PBS KIDS podcast starring Christina Sanabria and Andrés Salguero, the Latin Grammy Award-winning kids’ music duo known as 123 Andrés, and Grammy Award-nominated musician Pierce Freelon playing the role of magic BoomBox.
Each week, listeners are invited to join Christina and Andrés as they tour the country and perform songs about the world of work. Every place they go, they meet a grownup with a different job who helps them along their way. As Christina and Andrés learn about the inspiring career-of-the-day and the skills needed to be successful in that job, they compose an original song about it with help from their magic BoomBox.
Produced in partnership with PBS North Carolina, the podcast was one of six projects selected in 2021 for the inaugural RTL Podcast Accelerator, led by PRX. The accelerator was a component of the CPB-PBS Ready To Learn Initiative, funded by the U.S. Department of Education.
David Huppert, director of PBS North Carolina’s Media Innovation Lab, along with Salguero, Sanabria and Freelon, worked with podcast accelerator lead PRX to develop the podcast, and at the conclusion of the 16-week program, their pilot was selected for further Ready To Learn funding. The series launches September 14, on all podcast platforms as well as PBS KIDS digital platforms.
CPB recently caught up with members of the creative team to find out more about the podcast.
Q: What were some of the biggest things you learned from the RTL Podcast Accelerator?
Pierce Freelon, co-creator, music producer, and voice of magic BoomBox for “Jamming on the Job": The RTL Podcast Accelerator introduced us to an incredibly rich cohort of storytellers and creators. I loved hearing the podcast ideas from the other teams, and working together to make our podcast ideas come to life. It was also dope to connect with established children’s podcasters like the Tinkercast team, creators of the popular “Wow in the World” podcast. Those connections, friendships, and mentors were the best part of the accelerator to me.
David Huppert, co-creator, series EP and director of PBS North Carolina’s Media Innovation Lab: The design thinking approach really opened my eyes to the value of empathizing with your audience, and creating content that speaks to their lived experiences. The accelerator program also helped us see how valuable it is to weave entertainment with education into a story that engages and inspires your audience.
Q: How did the partnership between PBS North Carolina, 123 Andrés, and Pierce Freelon come about, and how did your collaboration work?
PF: I had the pleasure of working with PBS NC on the At-Home Learning series “Classroom Connection” during the pandemic. Around the same time, I was partnering with Christina and Andrés on transformative anti-racism work in the children’s music space, through an organization called Family Music Forward. We’d talked about collaborating creatively, so when David hit me up about the children’s podcast accelerator, I called 123 Andrés and we formed like Voltron!
Q: What has "Jamming on the Job" taught you about the world of work?
PF: I grew up with Smokey the Bear pointing at my forehead, saying “Only YOU can prevent forest fires!” So imagine my surprise, when we're researching and writing songs for the podcast and I learned that the very same Forest Service that gave us Smokey the Bear also pays a Forest Fire Inspector to set fires ... on purpose! Mind: blown. I’ve honestly been learning A LOT about different jobs and different parts of the country. Working on this podcast has been fun, informative and challenging. I’ve had a blast being part of the team!
DH: We feature characters who don’t define themselves by their work, but rather use their work to improve their lives, and the lives of those in their community. We never ask, “What do you want to be?” but rather, “How do you want to be?” Work is part of our world, and not necessarily a world unto itself.
Q: What do you hope children and family listeners take away from “Jamming on the Job?”
PF: Civil Rights and children’s rights advocate Marian Wright Edelman said, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” I hope “Jamming on the Job” helps kids see themselves! There’s a genius in every kid waiting to explore the world. I hope we spark their curiosity and lead them to discover a passion.
DH: We have big hopes in this area! We want to inspire listeners to ask questions and try new things. We want families to talk about their own career journey, and how things evolved. But mostly we want children -- especially those from underserved communities -- to realize there is a big world out there, with lots of cool jobs they could explore.
Q: How can families make the most out of listening to podcasts, such as “Jamming on the Job?"
PF: Families can make the most out of podcasts by engaging with the kids about what they’re listening to. Ask questions, dig deeper, create a safe and nurturing space for conjuring wonder. Kids are experiencing the world for the first time, so it’s our job as grown-ups to feed their curiosity, help spark their imagination. Let’s fan the flames of their burgeoning consciousness!
DH: This podcast is designed as a multi-generational show, meaning we hope adults co-listen with children. Our research and testing shows that conversations that arise during and after the podcast can advance the learning objectives to unpacking the world of work. So listening together, talking about the show, and sharing their own experiences can help children understand how and why adults do the work they do.
Q: In a case of life imitating art, you’ll be touring PBS stations – including stations developing Learning Neighborhoods through the CPB-PBS Ready To Learn initiative -- to sing about the world of work and promote the podcast. How has creating the podcast changed the way you go about “Jamming on the Job?”
PF: Life imitating art has been the theme of this podcast! The day after I finished working on the first two episodes, I was driving my son to a basketball tournament in Charleston, and on the highway, we saw smoke coming from just beyond the treeline. There were signs everywhere indicating that a controlled burn was happening, which is the “job” of our second episode. Then, when we arrived at our hotel, I noticed that it shared a parking lot with an urgent care center, which is the workplace of our first episode. There have been other instances with other members of our creative team having unlikely run-ins with the occupations we’re highlighting through the show. To me, it’s all affirmation that we’re on the right path. I absolutely love what I do. I get to travel the world and write songs that make people smile and think about the world a little differently. I grew up watching Fred Rogers and LeVar Burton, and I’m so grateful for the creativity, positivity, and substance PBS poured into me as a child. So I’m looking forward to paying it forward and sharing this podcast, our wonderful music and our amazing live show as part of a new generation of the PBS family.
DH: I love this question. And I go back to your first question about the accelerator program: Remember the audience. This is Christina, Andrés and Pierce’s world. They tour constantly, and get daily reminders (and clues!) about how and what and why certain things resonate with young audiences. We’re trying to capture their live-show energy and sense of storytelling in a format that helps families talk about work in a supportive, exciting, and empowering way.
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