By Jonathan Farrell
With the stress of COVID-19 restrictions, many people have realized how important it is to spend time outdoors. This is especially so for families with children in a city like San Francisco.
Fortunately, there is someone like artist, songstress and entrepreneur Charity Kahn. She and her JAMband (short for “joy and music”) performed at the Bandshell in Golden Gate Park in September.
“Charity was the ideal performer to kick off our series of performances/events at the Bandshell this fall,” said Philip Winn, spokesperson for Parks Alliance. “We are very proud to have her perform because Charity is uniquely San Franciscan, expressing a home-grown energy that signifies that Golden Gate Park is a place for everyone.
“The free concert series was planned for Golden Gate Park’s 150th anniversary in 2020, a yearlong celebration put on by the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, Illuminate and the San Francisco Parks Alliance,” he said. “While the concert/events series kickoff was delayed by the pandemic, the Golden Gate Park Bandshell was upgraded with a new stage, built-in theatrical lighting and state-of-the-art Meyer sound system.”
“I had so much fun performing at the Bandshell and feel very honored,” Kahn said. She also said she is looking forward to more shows at the Bandshell.
For Kahn, it is all about energy, especially the revitalizing energy that nature and being outside provides.
“I am a wilderness person. Hiking, camping, hill- and rock-climbing are exhilarating to me,” she said.
Kahn emphasized the importance of health through exercise and that being outdoors is vital for everyone, especially children and families.
“Kids today spend too much time in front of a screen and being indoors,” she said.
Kahn understands the stress and grind of a 40-hour work week.
“I was a computer programmer and wrote computer code,” she said. “I enjoyed that work, especially as a mathematician. But, being indoors in a corporate setting zapped my energy. I felt imbalanced and disconnected.”
Kahn grew up in a household where music and creativity were encouraged. Both of her parents were teachers and musicians. She was always doing something creative, like writing and composing songs.
“The epiphany for me was when I became a mom,” Kahn said. Quitting her corporate job, she made songs, exercise and spending quality time outdoors with her kids her priorities.
“I started a music class in my living room overlooking the Great Highway,” she said. “That was 20 years ago, back in 2001. The idea of being outdoors at the Beach Chalet came a bit later in 2004.”
In rearranging her priorities, Kahn had to make “huge sacrifices” in terms of the comforts that a 9-to-5 type of job provided.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 71.2% of women with children under age 18 are working or looking for work.
Kahn said she recognizes the difficulties parents face, especially moms.
“I am careful not to judge parents or a family situation. Parents today are working very hard just to pay for the essentials – rent/mortgage, food, gas, etcetera,” she said.
“The culture we live in is systemic,” Kahn said. “The more moms, parents work just to make a living, the less time they have to spend with their kids.”
Kahn focuses on composing original material aimed at getting kids and families together singing and dancing outdoors.
“I’ve written more than 100 songs, putting together seven albums,” she said.
Kahn said being able to be outdoors in the fresh air has an energetic magic all its own. Adding music and dance enhances that quality time for families.
“Once they experience it, the parents, they get it,” Kahn said.
Determination and dedication over the years has paid off. Kahn has made connections with many children and parents in San Francisco and continues to make a positive impact.
“Whether she’s singing about building a tree house, playing in the mud or friendship, she joyfully gets us on our feet and moving,” said Jamae Tasker, director of Sunset Cooperative Nursery School.
“The kids can’t take their eyes off of her as they dance, sing and drum,” Tasker added. “We’ve learned so many things from Charity that we’ve incorporated into our program.”
Other schools in the Sunset District, like Kids Kollege Preschool, would agree.
“Charity’s teachings of love, respect, kindness, peace and mindfulness are integrated in everything that we do,” said Kelsi Prickril, speaking on behalf of Kids Kollege.
Teaching, coordinating, composing and performing are only a few of the many things Kahn does.
“I am like an octopus,” she said, “except with 10 or more arms reaching out, instead of just eight. Perhaps I could write a song?” she mused. “Sort of like The Beatles song … ‘an Octopus’ Garden’… only it would be an octopus playing songs with a garden near Ocean Beach in the Sunset District.”
To learn more about Charity Kahn, her JAMband and schedule of performances, visit her website at jamjamjam.com/charity-kahn.