Ella's Open Road


    Team BNE


    Chicago, IL


    Public Television: Season 9

  • ON DVD:


Children's Songwriter

“You can't be discouraged…whatever you do, [make sure] it's something worthwhile. That's what you're sharing.”




Chance Family Hobbies & Pastimes Negativity Struggle Values Self-Reflection


Helping People Being Creative


civil rights movement, criticism, critique, dance, discouragement, feeling it, growing, harmonica, helping others, history, impact, instrument, learning, martin luther king, music, prejudice, progress, Rosa Parks, slavery, solving problems


Grammy-award-winning folk singer Ella Jenkins never received formal musical training. But she didn't need a degree from Juilliard to create melodious tunes from the soul. Instead, Ella's musical education consisted of sitting on the floor as a child, bopping her head while her uncle played the harmonica after dinner. And as it turns out, that was exactly the well-rounded schooling she needed to pick up the art of rhythm, composition and songwriting. Ella went on to spend her formative years listening to blues and gospel, and these genres influenced her as she began making up songs and teaching them to youth at the YWCA where she worked. Her tunes were a hit with the young girls, and soon Ella was recording her original children’s songs for record companies and traveling around the world to perform in schools. Now, 6 decades later, Ella is still at it, and her celebrated career has gained her the moniker of "First Lady of Children’s Music.” Ella has impacted children around the world with her multicultural and communicative songs, but her road to success hasn't been without obstacles. She’s dealt racism, poverty, and plenty of ridicule from people who told her music was just silly children’s songs. But Ella never let the negative Noise discourage her—she stuck with her passion and now has multiple Grammys on her fire place! Her advice? “Keep-on-keepin’-on!”

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