“The Land of Music,” a new animated children’s show produced by Loudoun-based arts therapy nonprofit A Place To Be, launched on the organization’s YouTube channel this week.
APTB officials describe “The Land of Music” as a program that will help children pre-K through fifth grade “process the changes brought on by COVID-19 and learn how music can help you be brave, reduce anxiety and fear, and bring people together.”
The nonprofit recently received a $10,000 Art Works award from the National Endowment for the Arts to support the production of the show, which will consist of six 10- to 14-minute episodes.
In the premiere episode, music therapist-in-training Jonathan Jacobsen portrays J.J., a young man who encounters the whimsical cartoon character Maestro Sound, voiced by APTB co-founder Tom Sweitzer.
Maestro Sound then transports J.J. to The Land of Music, an animated fantasy land with an eccentric population of musical characters who have recently emerged from a music-less blackout at the hands of the nefarious Maestro Silence.
When Maestro Silence threatens to return, Maestro Sound and the citizens of The Land of Music enlist J.J. to help harness the power of music to combat feelings of fear and isolation.
The story acts as a kid-friendly allegory for the emotional effects of the COVID-19 health crisis, which Jacobsen’s character acknowledges at the beginning of the program as a reason he’s afraid to leave the house.
A small team of artists is responsible for the show’s visual presentation, which includes hand-painted backgrounds by Leesburg artist Penny Hauffe.
Per Sweitzer, the organization plans to collaborate with surrounding school districts by providing resources to pair with the program, including discussion questions for each episode and the opportunity for classrooms to enjoy private Zoom interviews with the creators, artists and cast.
“We needed to pivot at A Place To Be during COVID and we wanted to create media that would educate, inspire and be hopeful,” Sweitzer said in a prepared statement. “Now, as a COVID survivor myself, it is even more clear we must address these issues without fear to our youngest of children.”
Famed opera singer Renée Fleming has also endorsed the new program, lauding it as “a way to creatively illuminate the challenges we face.”
“I think it’s crucial for children to have a better understanding of why things are different, to be safe but not afraid,” Fleming, a high-profile supporter of A Place To Be, said in a prepared statement. “Music plays a vital role in the healing process.”