Dec 18, 2012 1:35 PM by Siera Santos,

Local instructor nominated for Grammy

It's not every day a Grammy nominee lives and teaches right in our own backyard.

But for the last three years, Steve Barta has been spotting talent at Colorado College. This year, it was his turn to be scouted.

Barta's album "JumpinJazz Kids: A Swinging Jungle Tale" is up for best children's album. The narrated audio CD is accompanied by a book or as Barta calls it an "analog," complete with lyrics and characters based off jazz icons.

Even Barta thinks the Grammy nod is pretty spectacular.

"It really doesn't get much better than this. It feels surreal to me," Barta said.

The intent of the book was to bring jazz music education to young kids. It joins a young girl, Claire, on an imaginative journey of her backyard on a search for her grandfather's "lost story." Her stuffed animal "Elephant Gerald" is an appropriate take on the legendary singer Ella Fitzgerald.

The fusion of education, a symphony orchestra and jazz quintet is one of the reasons Barta thinks the Grammys took notice. He worked with the likes of Al Jarreau on the project. The collaborative effort challenges kids to use their imaginations without computers or iPads.

"It's very, very unique. There really isn't anything in the marketplace, quite frankly, like it," Barta said.

"Especially in this time of the digital world, we have a book: a real book that you can turn pages and smell it and, you know, tear the pages and put tape on it to fix it."

As a jazz piano instructor at Colorado College, Barta teaches arranging, writing, improvisation and music theory. He gives ample kudos to his students for inspiring him.

"Teaching here, what it does for me is it gives me hope. Really, I mean the students, the young kids I see around here, they are just fabulous."

The story has also been adapted for 40-minute live performances that Barta describes as nothing short of "uncontrolled chaos." Geared toward children ages 4-8, it's an opportunity for kids to engage in a live concert with interactive movements like the "monkey swing." At a recent show, Barta says there wasn't a single kid sitting down.

"A Swinging Jungle Tale" will come to the Pikes Peak Center on May 8.

You can purchase the story on Amazon or at



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