Meet Greg

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AlphaSongs' Greg Whitfield worked as a musician in studios and bands for a living until his early 30s. When his son was born, he wanted to be home to participate in raising him, so he chose to quit traveling, play music locally and return to college for a teaching degree. He graduated when his son was in the first grade.

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Three years later, Greg obtained early childhood certification so that he could take a kindergarten job. He found that all those years playing music paid off, in that he has a very effective teaching tool at his disposal. He still considers himself a full-time musician, and still plays for grown-ups in and around Austin, Texas, a couple of nights a week, but his primary audience has gotten shorter, and he can now work while sitting on the floor.

Greg says that AlphaSongs was born out of necessity. "I needed something to teach my kindergarteners the difference between the names of the letters and the sounds that the letters make. This is a difficult and somewhat abstract concept for most concrete-thinking 5-year-olds."

In his search for music that addressed this concept, he found lots of stuff set to the tune of Bingo or Mary Had a Little Lamb, lots of stuff that he frankly found unmemorable and lacking the substance required for a child to remember it. So he thought, "I'll write what I need."

"The first one was F," Greg recalls. "We were doing fairy tales. The kids loved it, kept wanting to hear it again, and all mastered the /f/ sound very quickly. My students, who once the precedent was set became very upset if I came to class without a new song, pretty much insisted on the remaining 25."

Over the course of the school year, Greg wrote about one song per week. He used an additional year for re-writing, and some of the songs improved greatly with the second effort.

After re-writes, he recorded the songs with guitars and voices only. The problem was they all began to sound the same to Greg when taken as a whole.

"I knew I was going to spend some time embellishing the arrangements, so I worked for about six months with Don Brewer making notes, sampling sound effects, etc. This part was really fun -- we brainstormed what we thought would sound cool for each lyric, and tried to give each song its own atmosphere. For example, Q is a dance recital, R is supposed to remind the listener of the Italian restaurant in Lady and the Tramp, S is Arabian-flavored. Can't you just see that snake rising up out of the basket?"

After half a year of playing with the arrangements, they headed into the studio, with recording lasting from November to April. Finally, AlphaSongs was a reality.

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