Interview with John Jacobson

John Jacobson has been trust into the spotlight since his YouTube video “Double Dream Hands” has exploded on YouTube. John has worked for kids for many years with his company “America Sings” and through his teachings of music and dancing. Media Mikes had a chance to chat with John about his rise to stardom and what he has planned for 2012.

Mike Gencarelli: What inspires you most to work with kids through music?
John Jacobson: I have always been kid oriented and I have been singing and dancing since I was a kid myself. Apparently I never got the memo that I was supposed to quit. Through my experience of being a performer and later as I teaching I know what it does for kids. I know it’s a really positive and wonderful thing in their lives. It helps the kids become better, healthier people. That’s a contribution I really want to make.

MG: How did you actually start “America Sings”?
JJ: I used to judge a lot of choir competitions. I was never a real fan of the competitive nature of those. I feel like the arts are the one place in a kid’s life where everyone can be a winner. I think it’s good to learn about winning and losing but there are other areas where you can learn to do that. I would watch 40 choirs in a competition and one would go home feeling great while the other thirty nine went home feeling like losers. That’s not the contribution I wanted to make to music and education. We came up with the idea for a non-competitive choral festival. I thought kids would become just as motivated by helping others as they would if they were to win a big trophy. We put the festival together where the kids are doing community service projects and getting to sing and dance. This was done on a whim twenty five years ago thinking I would be lucky if one choir from every state would show up. The first year we had 435 choirs and 15,000 kids show up. We knew we were on to something very positive.

MG: How did you come up with Double Dream Hands! And tell us about its road to pop-culture?
JJ: It’s kind of wild as you couldn’t plan this if you wanted to. I work on a magazine called “John Jacobson’s Music Express”. It’s a magazine where I write lessons and music for teachers to use. For all the songs we make video tapes of me showing a dance that corresponds with the song. We have around 3 million kids use this program around the world. Someone took one of those songs of our website and put it on YouTube. They called in Double Dream Hands because there was one move in the dance that I had no other idea as to what to call it so that’s what I called it. The video ended up being labeled that on YouTube. I got a call from my publishing company stating my dance was overdubbed with LMFAO’s song “Planet Rock” and that the video had gotten 36 thousand hits. By 5 o’clock that same night we were up to 100 thousand hits. I think now it’s up to around 5.2 million hits. We originally made this dance video for our target audience which is 3rd-6th grades. Those aren’t the people watching YouTube. That demographic is the 18-35 year old male. It was really surprised that many people in that age range wanted to learn the Double Dream Hands dance.

MG: Double Dream Hands! Is now also available on the iPhone, tell us about that?
JJ: I write for a publishing company by the name of Hal Leonard Publishing Company. One of the app companies came to them and asked if it was ok to make an app out of the video. I thought it was kind of funny. People have started to do funny things to the app like putting their own head on my body and things like that. People are having a lot of fun with it. It’s harmless and no one is getting hurt.

MG: Tell us about how you got involved with AMC Theater’s Sprint Commercial?
JJ: I had gotten a call about the YouTube clip being used in a commercial. Honestly I have been asked by quite a few companies to use the video but they didn’t fit my message of promoting kids health and fitness. When I was contacted by Sprint I reallyliked their idea of bringing people together through technology. They were great and I think they did a classy job. I was glad to be a part of it.

MG: What would you say has been the most interesting thing to happen since becoming a YouTube sensation?
JJ: The most surprising thing for me is how it has opened up a whole new audience for me. I have always gone around the country teaching however a whole new audience is knowing about things like my books “A Place in the Choir” and “Double Dream Hands”. More people seem to be reading those which have really allowed me to spread my message about kid’s health and adult fitness. I get messages from all over the world about people using Double Dream Hands which is great.

MG: What other projects do you have planned for 2012?
JJ: I have been doing this for a long time and we have always had a lot of good feedback from young people. When we started getting feedback from other ages about Double Dream Hands we put together a 30 minute video of songs like that for a work out DVD. It’s called “Double Dream Hands: Work-Out Songs for Fun and Fitness”. It’s a really neat thing that is fun and a good work out. I have an inspiration book out called “Double Dreams” that I am really excited about. There also will be some new YouTube videos coming out as well. We are going to be tailoring those more to our YouTube audience. I am having a lot of fun with all of this and other people are as well so why not!

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