( ENSPIRE She Did That ) DARIA, Inspiring Kids To Follow Their Dreams and Adopt Their Talents
ENSPIRE Contributor: Devyn Petraglia
DARIA is an internationally known folk singer who has traveled the world for two decades sharing and making music while building communities and spreading hope to all children. She has won national awards for her CDs about children and a Parent’s Choice Award. She also received the national association for parenting publication award and the children’s music web award. Her CDs have been international teaching people in curriculums. Daria hopes to empower kids and let them explore their musical talents. Her website shares many great ways of bringing people together through music.
Her single, “Thanks To The Doctors and Nurses” is a kids pandemic tribute to health care workers where she provides eclectic multicultural tunes in many languages. Her song which was released on February 11, 2022, provides joyful lyrics and jazzy rhythms. Throughout the pandemic, she has been doing virtual music workshops with kids around the world where they can give thanks to the ones who saved their lives. In classrooms, kids can also thank doctors personally with thank-you notes, lyric sheets, and posters. She’s also released other singles like “The Earth Day Song” that have been used for social justice, inclusivity, and stewardship. She’s been an advocate for indigenous rights and civil rights and has educated many around the world.
ENSPIRE spoke with DARIA about her newest single and her plans.
What got you started in music?
I was a little girl in the 1960s and was a part of a folk song society where I lived in Bucks County, PA. That’s where I heard guitars, banjos, dulcimers, and a host of other instruments for the first time. The adults who made up this group were super-supportive of anyone who attended and encouraged us all – no matter what age – to play and sing our hearts out.
It was great to go through that awkward period of learning to play in front of others in such a supportive space and at such a young age. And the people who attended sang songs from all over the world, from Irish ditties and sea chanteys to Italian folk songs to popular folk music and even their own original works. They gave me the confidence that I could become a story-teller through my songs and could follow in the footsteps of artists who I admired who spoke up and made a difference with their music.
How did you get the idea to provide educational music?
It all happened in a very round-about way. Just as I came of age, the 60s were over and no one wanted to hear songs about ecology or social justice or going back to the land. I left the US to live in South America and later returned to once again struggle with the question of how to make a living by making music. I worked for Pete Seeger’s Sing Out! Magazine and interned at the Library of Congress Archive of Folk Music. No matter how hard I worked, this all added up to the life of the starving artist driving around in a ready-to-break-down old blue van. At that point, a local librarian asked me to come to play for the kids at her library. I brought along a host of musical instruments and told stories about the songs I sang and what they meant. I also let the kids play the world percussion and challenged them to help me create the rhythms and music together. Without really knowing it, I was recreating the community music-making that I had experienced in Peru. Because the kids got to become part of the music, it was an instant hit and I was recommended to other libraries, schools, fairs, and festivals.
As I performed here, there and everywhere, I knew I wanted my music to educate and inform as well as be entertaining. Slowly that idea has evolved along with my career and I’ve created teaching materials about songs, bilingual translations of popular folk songs, themed CDs, musical games, and lots of world cultures resources for teachers and homeschooling families. As I’ve traveled to other countries and learned new languages, I’ve been able to add these experiences to my concerts, CDs, and recordings.
Do you have a success story with the kids you’ve inspired?
Absolutely, but I usually hear it from the teachers! A few years back, I heard from a teacher that used my materials on Instruments From India in her class. Her school had just had a large group of immigrants settle there from Northern India and the kids were struggling with English, feeling left out, and withdrawing from classes. The teacher introduced a unit of music from their home country and let the new kids become the resident experts. Suddenly they felt important and wanted and needed. Their background made them special and unique not outcast or awkward. Music can be used in so many positive ways in the classroom and to teach the greater idea that all cultures have value, beauty, and dignity.
Similarly, I heard from a choir teacher who chose one of my songs: “Assalam Aleykum” for her Winter Choir Performance. The song is a simple but beautiful melody that shares the Muslim Greeting of “Peace Be Upon You”, in both English and Arabic. After the concert, the music teacher had dozens of families reach out to her to tell her that this was the first year they felt included in their school’s holiday presentation. Music can build a greater sense of community where everyone feels they belong.
How have you continued educating kids outside of your songs?
Yes! I work with my local PBS station doing live shows for PBS Kids and developing segments on world music for children. Because I have a degree in ethnomusicology, I work with a host of museums to use music and musical crafts to educate, inform and create a spirit of unity within their community.
I’m also really proud that I was asked to develop several music crafts for the Molly of Denali Premiere.
Can you tell us more about your newest single?
“Thanks To The Doctors And Nurses” came out of a workshop that I did with children who had just immigrated to Australia. We were learning songwriting by taking a familiar song and then adding words and phrases that expressed their feelings. Since this was at the start of the pandemic, I tried to steer this class away from talking about Covid or illness, hoping to make this project a break from the anxiety that most were feeling. Despite my efforts, the group wanted to tell the story of the doctors and nurses that they felt had literally saved their lives during their journey to Australia.
After we finished with the song, I realized that saying thank you to health care workers everywhere was a powerful way to support this critical work and to keep their spirits up during an extended global epidemic. There was real joy and gratitude in the phrases the kids came up with and I hope everyone can hear that in my version of the song!
DARIA is a very influential artist and is very much needed during these difficult times. Her music empowers kids, educates them, and helps them give thanks to those that save us. Doctors and nurses have struggled a lot, especially during COVID and DARIA is inspiring others to show their gratitude.