Finding Jazz In Mister Rogers' Neighborhood

Jun 6, 2018

Although Fred Rogers died in 2003, he’s been getting plenty of attention lately. This year marks the 90th anniversary of his birth and the 50th anniversary of his long-running children’s public television program, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.  A new film documentary, Won’t You Be My Neighbor, opens at select theaters on Friday. And later this summer bookstores will have the first full-length biography of the American icon, Maxwell King’s The Good Neighbor: The Life and Work of Fred Rogers. 

There’s also a new album by Chicago vocalist Keri Johnsrud and Atlanta pianist Kevin Bales titled Beyond the Neighborhood.  It features jazz interpretations of Fred Rogers’ songs. Although the music was written for children, the sophisticated arrangements tailored for the album convey deeper meanings in Rogers' lyrics, making the songs especially relatable to adults.

Johnsrud and Bales said the project began two years ago after a conversation they had about how the music they heard on children’s television shows as kids influenced them to become musicians. They discovered they both had mutual love and admiration for Fred Rogers.