Ann Torralba, aka Little Miss Ann, is all of 5’2”, but has a big sound – and following to match. Her folksy melodies and powerful lyrics like “Stand up, stand up for what’s in your heart” prove that children’s musical palates can be sophisticated. Ann teaches Wiggleworms classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music and has recorded two albums, Music for Tots and Clap for Love. She will be playing the summer concert circuit, including the Taste of Chicago. I caught up with Ann to chat about her life as a teacher, recording artist, and fellow mom.
How did you get started in the music industry?
My background is actually education; I was a special ed teacher for Chicago Public Schools. When I had my daughter I stopped teaching. I felt isolated the way a lot of moms do in the beginning, so I got together with six different families to play music. Then I started teaching at Old Town and really got into it. I decided to make a CD[Music for Tots]. It ended up being received really well.
Going back to your teaching, did you ever use music in the classroom?
That’s how I started playing guitar, for kids with autism. On my second CD the song “Counting by Fives” was the first song I ever wrote, and I wrote that for the kids. I get comments on that song more than any other.
What’s the songwriting process like for you? Do you come up with a catchy tune first, or the message?
My husband might disagree, but I’m not one of those people who plays guitar all the time. My main thing is that you don’t have to dumb down music at all. Kids like the “Stand Up” song… and those are messages that kids should have inside them. I think it’s great to be fun and silly, but I don’t think I will ever sing about, say, a purple monkey. Which I’m not against, and there are great songs like that! It’s just not me.
You’ve done a lot of shows, including Millenium Park, Taste of Chicago, and a podcast recording for the Land of Nod. What is one of your most memorable shows?
I love the bar shows. The dads are so happy. They’re like, “What? I can have a pint… and I can have my kids here?” I also really love doing libraries.
Is that because of the educational element?
Yes, and I like that it’s a free event. I also do a lot for the World Relief Organization [social service organization for refugees]… the kids don’t speak any English and yet the connection is there. It’s cool that you can speak a language without speaking the same language.
It’s amazing to see how music connects, even to those who don’t know what you’re saying; they connect to the heart of the songs.
And I’d like to do more of that. I am first-generation Filipina. I was born here, and my parents immigrated here, so I have a connection to that.
What kind of memories do you want your daughter to have from this time?
She’s been dragged to a lot of places. When she was three or four she sang at the Wicker Park Fest…She’s eight now, so she doesn’t want to do that anymore. She said she has a band, “The Unfortunate Vegetables”, and she’s in competition with me (laughs). She goes, “So mom, how many songs do you think you have on your Little Miss Ann CDs?” Then she says, “Oh really? Well The Unfortunate Vegetables have this many songs”. It’s hilarious.
I’m sure the business side of the industry gets taxing. Are there moments when you want to take a step back and pursue another career or something on the side?
It’s a lot to do, but I enjoy it. I’m proud of myself for always learning a lot that I had to stumble into. As far as doing something else, I think I’ll always work with kids. I went from always working a stable [teaching] job to doing this musician thing, which I never, ever ever ever, ever, planned to do…I’m glad I never thought about it, because now I’m really happy with the way things are.
check out Little Miss Ann online: http://littlemissann.com/
Be her friend: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Little-Miss-Ann/44764822172
Go to her shows: http://littlemissann.com/shows.html