The Toe Jam Puppet Band Story
Once upon a time in the year 2002, magic happened. Two big kids named Tom and Vinny decided to form a musical group called The Toe Jam Puppet Band. With diverse backgrounds spanning the areas of music, songwriting, scenic artistry and puppetry, it seemed like a natural fit for the two friends.
Tom Poitras is the plaid-suited songwriter and singer of the Toe Jam Puppet Band. He plays banjo, acoustic guitar and washboard tie. Tom says the inspiration for his songs comes from his family of 2 young boys, Hank & Jack, and his wife Donna. From throwing laundry around the house to squeakin’ like a mouse, Hank & Jack feed Tom new song ideas daily. Tom also draws from a wide variety of musical tastes in the writing of Toe Jam songs, including Jump Blues, Punk Rock, Reggae and Traditional Folk Music. Tom says, “Music is exploration and there’s a whole world of music out there to be turned on to and explored.”
Tom has been performing musically for over 25 years. Toe Jam is his first children’s music venture, which coincided with the birth of his first son. Tom has written hundreds of songs for Toe Jam and has just begun writing children’s picture book stories.
Every live show needs a live wire and for the Toe Jam Puppet Band it’s Mr. Vinny Lovegrove. Acting as emcee and resident silly man he can always be found right in the thick of it with the Kiddos. At each Toe Jam performance he directs the fun and activities with a big bag of puppet shows, storytelling, amateur acrobatics, improvisation, and well-timed shtick. Inspired by Tom’s homemade songs, Vinny, keeps the audience involved.
Vinny has 16 years of experience with children’s entertainment and education. He has been a co-founder and contributor to a number of continuing programs including: the Open Space Arts organization of Reisterstown, MD. , the New Bedford Art Museum’s “ Purple Bus “ Art Mobile program, and his own Miracle Fish Puppet Theater. Vinny has made puppets for, and performed with, The Caravan Stage Theater of St. Petersburg, FL., the University of Massachusetts in Dartmouth, MA. , the Zeiterion Theater of New Bedford, MA. and for the past eleven years - The King Richard’s Faire of Carver, MA. to name a few.
Toe Jam is frequently backed by an eclectic array of talented musicians on bass guitar, percussion, fiddle, washboard and saxophone.
Toe Jam has amassed an impressive following of little and big fans alike, with over 1500 e-newsletter fan subscribers. The band has independently sold over 5,000 CDs to date and has consistently booked over 250 live shows every year for the past 5 years, with no signs of slowing down!
Vinny Lovegrove - RingMaster, Puppeteer, Storytelling
Tom Poitras - Lead Vocals, Banjo, Guitar
Chris Waters- Bass Guitar
The First CD (2002)
Dance Party (2003)
Toe Jam in Outer Space (2008)
Up Down Round and Round
Green Light a Go Go
Don't Scare the Aliens
I've Got Laundry Everywhere
Car Wash Song
Dreams Come True
Kids- And Their Parents- JAM to the Toe Jam Puppet Band
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July 27, 2010 - Kids proved they can rock out, too, as they - and their parents - packed the meeting...July 27, 2010 - Kids proved they can rock out, too, as they - and their parents - packed the meeting room at the Millbury Public Library to watch a show by the Toe Jam Puppet Band on Tuesday evening.
With nearly 100 people cramming the room, this duo of Tom Poitras and Vinny Lovegrove had the kids spinning, jumping and twirling through a set of songs about everything from throwing away trash to farm animals to bubbles.
Photo by C. Arsenault.
An interactive show, Toe Jam combines original acoustic songs with stories, shadow puppetry and educational lyrics wrapped in a fun mix that hardly "feels" educational. Engaging and upbeat, this duo proves that you can keep a child's attention - you just have to know how. Lots of adults in the room responded enthusiastically to the show, as well.
Check out our photo gallery here, and click on the video of the show.
The Millbury Public Library hosts a variety of performances for kids and adults. You can find the listings on our calendar.
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July 25, 2008 With Jam in Your Toes and Fingers Up Your…. By Jaci Arnone Media TomvinI don’t t... July 25, 2008
With Jam in Your Toes and Fingers Up Your….
By Jaci Arnone
Media TomvinI don’t think I’m sharing anything off the “best-kept secret” list here. Actually, I’m beginning to believe that the Toe Jam Puppet Band is edging up there with the Big Blue Bug as part of Rhode Island’s popular culture. But I urge you, if you haven’t brought your little ones to a Toe Jam show, it’s time!
The Toe Jam Puppet Band will surely be a hit for kids (and adults) of all ages. Their shows are fully interactive, encouraging kids and parents to sing, dance, and participate in storytelling and finger plays. Their masterful shadow puppetry and original songs have made our family loyal followers, five years and going strong.
Their lively performances are spearheaded by fan favorites Tom & Vinny, with frequent guest musicians including bass guitarists, fiddlers, tuba players, and more. Vinny acts as emcee and directs the troupe’s impromptu shenanigans, such as misting the audience with squirt guns during The Car Wash Song. Tom, otherwise known as the Lad in Plaid, writes the band’s original music mainly inspired by his own children. Worth noting for the old-school scenesters, Tom was the bassist for the locally-based punk rock band The Gluons back in “the day.” So, don’t hesitate to request those old favorites (I highly recommend Rockaway Beach, always a hit with our kids)!
Img 0395-1 on kid o infoYou can catch the Toe Jam Puppet Band at Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford every Monday at 10:30 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. In addition, they perform at various locations around Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This summer, dates include shows in Coventry, Pawtucket, Newport, Narragansett, and elsewhere. Check out the Toe Jam Puppet Band website for a full listing of this summer’s shows.
Buttonwood Park Zoo
425 Hawthorn Street, New Bedford, MA
Shows at 10:30 a.m. & 12:30 p.m. every Monday
Cost: Zoo admission plus $5
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P&K Picks P&K staff share their best picks for books, DVDs, CDs and other goodies. This month f...P&K Picks
P&K staff share their best picks for books, DVDs, CDs and other goodies. This month features "Abracadabra to Zany" a local birthday party guide, a review of a parenting CD claiming to teach parenting advice via tunes, a new way to experience the New England Aquarium and a review of the super cool band Toe Jam!
Toe Jam: Outer Space
If your kids love getting silly, using their imagination and dancing to the beat, you have to check out the third studio CD from the local talent Toe Jam Puppet Band. There are 15 original songs spanning several musical genres that parents will dig too including rock, funk, country and blues. Here are our favorite tunes: “Don’t Scare the Alien,” “Moon Rock,” and “Go Ape in Outer Space.” ($20, www.toejampuppetband.com)
Pirates Take Over Mattapoisett School
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By Robert Chiarito January 31, 2008 The Wanderer Newspaper The Toe Jam Puppet Band made a retur...By Robert Chiarito
January 31, 2008
The Wanderer Newspaper
The Toe Jam Puppet Band made a return to the tri-town area on Saturday, January 26 as they brought their Toe Jam Pirate Show to the Center School Gymnasium. The concert was a benefit for Project GROW with proceeds aiding the organization's scholarship fund.
Band members Mr. Tom and Vinny treated the packed house to a blend of playgroup fun meets concert, with Mr. Tom singing his self-penned songs and handling most of the instrumentation on guitar and banjo while Vinny played the part of emcee. Children were invited onstage to dress up and take the part of the pirate themed songs' aquatic characters throughout the show.
The highlight of the performance, based on the volume of Beatlemania-like squeals, was Vinny leading a bunny hop style chain of several dozen children around the room as he worked his magic with a fish-shaped bubble machine. From the first song to the close of the show, the Toe Jam Puppet Band had their audience of kids and parents standing on their toes, clapping and spinning to the rhythm of the music and singing along to the band's infectious, pied piper like performance.
Project GROW is an accredited early childhood educational program that offers high quality pre-school education for three- and four-year-old Marion, Mattapoisett and Rochester children with no prior pre-school experience and also includes children with special needs. It attempts to reach a goal of affording all area children the opportunity of a pre-school experience.
Beginning in 1988 at the Sippican School in Marion, Project GROW was the first public school program in pre-school education in the Old Rochester Regional School District. This volunteer based group involves parents directly in the education of their young children through workshops and parent meetings and through the use of the Early Childhood Resource Center and participation with the Early Childhood Council.
The Toe Jam Puppet Band has been performing in Southcoast area since 2000. The group are regular performers at the Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford hosting an interactive children's playtime each Monday at 10:30 am and 12:30 pm for the past six years. Admission for the Buttonwood performances is $5 per family of any size. The band has released several CDs of their original music and has also published a coloring book that features the band. For more information about the Toe Jam Puppet Band you are encouraged to visit their website at www.toejampuppetband.com.
The happy occasion also had a somber note to it as concert goers were encouraged to contribute to a fund that will benefit the college education of Project GROW classroom assistant Sharon Thuestad's four children. Ms. Thuestad and her family recently lost their father and husband, Captain Kenneth Thuestad, as he tried to save the life a shipmate who had fallen from a fishing vessel in New Bedford Harbor on January 23. Donations can be made to The Thuestad Children College Fund through Eastern Bank, 29 County Road, PO Box 455, Mattapoisett, MA 02739, or they can be made at the Center School care of Project GROW.
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A good start, a good time Play-group mushrooms, gives rise to fun(d)-raising CD Children. As...A good start, a good time
Play-group mushrooms, gives rise to fun(d)-raising CD
Children. As Chaucer would have said, "What needeth wordes mo?"
They are the best, the purest, the most perfect part of us.
They are our heart.
They are our future.
It is up to us to protect them, to nurture them and raise them strong, both physically and mentally.
One local musical enterprise figures on doing just that.
How, you ask?
First, take a boundless love for children, then add the irreverent funning and punning of John Lennon, the visual flair of Cirque de Soleil, and the harmonic gifts of Peter, Paul and Mary, jumble them all together and what do you have?
The Toe Jam Puppet Band.
It's the evocative title of the good-time group which presents its first CD -- yes, aimed for children -- to the public Thursday during downtown New Bedford's AHA! Night.
The CD launch party will be held in the Lagoda Room of the New Bedford Whaling Museum.
Put together by The Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children's Good Start Productions, the disc features original music that attempts to replicate the wonderful weekly play-group experiences that encourage parents and teachers to interact with children in ever-more beneficial and nurturing ways.
And fun is the buzzword.
These festive, music-filled Monday afternoon sessions at New Bedford's First Unitarian Church were initiated in September 2000 with only six families participating.
Today there are more than 40.
And, at first glance the band would appear to be a three person aggregate: Tom Poitras, Amy Marsden and Vinny Lovegrove.
Tom is the singer, songwriter, guitar and banjo playing musical force behind the 14 song disc, either writing or co-writing every song, save two.
Vocalist Vinny Lovegrove, best known locally for the exciting visual presentations of his Miracle Fish Puppet Theater, wrote one song while co-writing three others.
And Amy Marsden, co-wrote one song as well as offering vocals throughout.
There is a loosey-goosey, good-timey sing-along feel to this disc -- just listen, for instance, to the assorted bits of children's chatter in between songs -- that, no doubt, belies the hours of hard work it took to put together.
And with song titles such as Sunny and Share, A Bear Named Tock and Yucky Yum, there's no doubting its target audience.
Still, listening to the words and inflections in each song, you'll hear a lot more than children's tunes. It's wry and sophisticated, albeit in a decidedly child-like way.
In any event, you better believe there were plenty of others beside the Toe Jam threesome who contributed to the success of the venture:
Vocalists Steve Alfonso, Korey Pirtle, Megan Barnes and Marcy Gregoire; bassist Chris Waters; Chris Haskell, vocals and glockenspiel; Mike Almond, vocals, slide whistle and washboard; and Brian Cass, vocals, calypso drum, wood block, and shakers.
Perhaps the unsung hero in this whole enterprise, however, is the MSPCC's SouthCoast regional director of programs, Cora-Dorothy Peirce, the person the CD's liner notes call "Toe Jam Puppet Band's biggest fan."
The music is an outgrowth of her commitment to children everywhere, says this New Bedford woman with three kids of her own.
With a background as a legal advocate in Fall River's Women's Center, Cora feels uniquely qualified to promote children's welfare, believing her work allows her to be their "voice."
"I began to see how children became the 'weapon of choice' during divorce and custody cases involving domestic violence, so after receiving my sociology degree at UMass Dartmouth I opened the first visitation center in Bristol County. "
Cora provided a program of supervised visitation and guardian services to high risk/high conflict families which was so successful that two years later she was approached by Craig Dutra of MSPCC, the oldest child welfare agency in the state.
The rest is, as they say, history.
"The home-based GoodStart Program is nationally recognized," Cora says proudly. "I oversee several programs to help parents when they are overwhelmed with parenting."
Helping parents focus on their strengths and on their children's developmental needs is what the program is all about, she emphasizes.
"We run fatherhood and motherhood groups in the local prisons, funded by the Sheriff's Department. We also provide parenting groups at three homeless shelters in Bristol County, parenting groups at a local battered women's shelter, and grandparent support groups in both Fall River and New Bedford."
Her favorite activity, however, by far, is the Creative Arts Playgroup, of which The Toe Jam Puppet Band is such an important cog.
"When I first started working for MSPCC," Cora says, "I really missed a musical play group that I had attended with a few other parents. My boss told me to write a grant ..."
Voila! The Creative Arts Playgroup.
And, as previously mentioned, it is now attended each Monday afternoon by anywhere from 40 to 80 parents, grandparents, teachers and children.
It has simply taken on a life of its own, Cora says with pride.
"We have created a community between the children and among the parents. As my mother, Maggi Peirce, did before me starting TryWorks Coffee House, I feel that I, too, am bringing music to the community."
Strengthening people's sense of self through music and helping families to bond in the community is a true gift, she's convinced. And nowhere is this more evident than in this Toe Jam Puppet Band CD, all proceeds of which will benefit the MSPCC GoodStart program.
"We don't receive state funding," she explains. "We have to rely on private donations and foundation grants to survive."
And while the CD is initially being offered locally, hopefully, it will eventually find a national audience.
That would be a dream come true for Cora-Dorothy Peirce.
"The themes are truly universal," she says.
"Children are our most important resource."
To learn more about MSPCC or to order a CD and other Shop-for-Kids products, call (617) 587-1600. Hank Seaman paints "Portraits" for you every Sunday, Tuesday and Friday. Telephone: 508 979 4504. E-mail: email@example.com
A typical setlist for a 1 hour show:
I Need a Car Wash
Bananna Splits Theme (cover)
I've Got Laundry Everywhere
Green Light A Go-Go
Don't Scare the Aliens
Up Down Round and Round
Go Ape in Outer Space
Do The Limbo
Toe Jam Theme Song
There are no upcoming dates at this time.