MAKING SWEET MUSIC TO CHILDREN'S EARS
by Jeanne Barrett (April 2012)
Welcome to our May Lime Squeeze, Tamara Maellaro! Tamara is inspiring children with a singing gorilla named Billy Gorilly…one story and one song at a time!
As Tamara looks back on her life, there are many things that led her to where she is today. She has always loved children, teaching, and music – though she didn’t realize back then that those would combine for creating a successful children’s website today.
Born and raised in Southern California, Tamara was very involved in sports and was a competitive runner. Music was also always a big part of her family life. “My father had a drum set, my brother played drums too, and I played flute and piccolo,” shares Tamara. “In junior high, I quit running and started to focus on music. In high school, I was part of a concert band that toured Europe and we even made an album at a large music studio in Sweden.”
After high school, Tamara pursued nursing and ended up working in a neo-natal/pediatrics unit. “I took care of children who came out of intensive care. I used music with my patients. I noticed that music calmed them down.” Even though Tamara wasn’t touring anymore or actively pursing a music career, she was using her musical talents with her patients and noticing a difference with their moods and healing.
At 28 years old, Tamara met her husband, John Maellaro, a music teacher and composer. “My husband has a wide variety of students. He teaches private music lessons for people ages 4 to 90,” says Tamara. Together, they decided to come up with a website and create educational, positive songs and stories for children. “We have a love for music and it’s something we can share with others. We wanted to accentuate the positive in life and use music to teach children. We like learning, too! We designed the website, and I do the graphic arts, worksheets and blog posts. John does the character’s voices, and writes the songs with a colleague, Charles Hardman. My husband also does the voice for our main character, Billy Gorilly, in an upbeat, classic style.”
The Billy Gorilly website and songs are aimed for children ages 3-7. Billy Gorilly sings songs and tells stories to kids that encourage cooperation, honesty, responsibility, and tolerance. The website is a wonderful educational tool for children – with not only music and stories, but coloring pages, puzzles, recipes for kids, and even sheet music! They offer a family newsletter and the whole website encourages reading and learning through music.
The amazing reach they’ve had worldwide makes Tamara very grateful. “We have customers ordering the music from Mexico and Canada, and they are using the songs to learn the English language. That’s the beauty of the Internet and social media. It’s such a nice feeling to know that we can help people from other countries to learn English through our music and characters. We recently received a thank you note from a library in Australia thanking us for our songs. Each year, we write a library song and donate it to libraries for free. It’s a small way we can give back,” shares Tamara. The library songs can also be downloaded for free from their website for anyone to enjoy – they just ask that you give “Billy Gorilly” the credit, and not sell the songs.
The beauty of the business is how Tamara and her husband work together. They both have full-time jobs, so they do their music business in the evenings together, when they get home from work. Tamara explains, “We both had parents who worked together. It’s natural for us to create music together in the evenings. Working together keeps us together. Billy Gorilly is a labor of love for us.”
Tamara and John are also contributing members of a charity called “Kidz Rock Inc.” Tamara explains, “This is an up-and-coming charity where we raise funds to get children involved in extracurricular activities. Our focus in on music and we provide keyboards and lessons for kids from economically-challenged backgrounds.”
Thank you, Tamara, for sharing your story, and demonstrating how healing, educational and inspiring music can be in the lives of children worldwide!
For more information and to download any of Billy Gorilly's music, stories, or activites, please check out: billygorilly.com