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seatbeltsFasten your seat belts for the first collaboration between award-winning children’s music artist Ilene (Leeny) Altman and New York City singer/songwriter Tamara Hey. Sharing the Same Stars (2009) by Leeny and Tamara is poised to become a kids’ music classic, already being dubbed by parents as the new Free To Be You and Me for the next generation. The CD features 14 original, funny, intelligent, and catchy songs about topics including ladybugs, seat belt safety, the epidermis, shyness, the USA, and kindness. Tamara says, “It’s an album about feelings, about respect for yourself and the world around you, and…” Leeny interjects, “It totally rocks!”

Keep an eye out for live performances by Leeny and Tamara in the northeast where they are based (Leeny in MA and Tamara in NY). “The thing that parents like most about our live shows is that the kids become a big part of the performance,” says Tamara. “We get the kids involved, asking questions and teaching them vocals right there to sing along.” Leeny adds, “It helps make the songs and the shows even more memorable and special for everyone. And the parents end up having as much fun as the kids!” Leeny and Tamara are also available for school and educational programs, and writing custom songs for special projects.

Leeny’s debut CD, Be Nice (2008) by Leeny and Steve, garnered several honors including a Parents’ Choice Award and a Children’s Music Web Award as Best Recording for Preschoolers, and was named to the Best Music of 2008 Recommended List for Your Family from Common Sense Media. Tamara has released three albums – Miserably Happy (2008), Right This Minute (2005), and A Little Space Left (1998) – independently under her own name and label, and has been hailed by NY critics as “one of the best songwriters in town.” The pair first met at Berklee College of Music in Boston as songwriting students in the early 90s. Sharing the Same Stars reunites Tamara with producer, multi-instrumentalist, and arranger Art Hays, who produced her previous two albums. Leeny lives in Gloucester, MA with her big bald husband Nick, and Tamara resides in New York City with her husband, keyboard player, producer, and composer Henry Hey.

making of headline
“Don’t worry, nothing happened to Steve!” Leeny (Ilene Altman) replies when asked about her previous musical partner. Leeny and Steve’s debut children’s CD, Be Nice, garnered several honors in 2008, including a Parents’ Choice Award and a Children’s Music Web Award as Best Recording for Preschoolers. “As we were releasing the first album, I just couldn’t stop writing new songs, so I figured I better take full advantage of this boon of creative juices (not from concentrate). Since Steve was up to his ankles crushing grapes, pursuing his dream to be a winemaker, I thought it would be fun to try to write with another longtime friend, Tamara Hey.”

Called “one of the best songwriters in town,” NYC singer/songwriter Tamara jumped at the opportunity. “When Ilene asked me if I would be interested in writing kids’ tunes, I thought it would be a cool challenge,” Tamara says. “I really liked Leeny and Steve’s album – the sense of humor, the lyrics that were educational while still being fun. The music seemed like it would a blast to perform, and appeal to adults as well as kids. Plus, I learned new things from those songs!” “I was looking forward to recording duets because I thought our unique vocal styles would sound interesting together,” Leeny says. “As I was coming up with new songs, I was writing some of them with Tamara’s voice in mind, and with riffs and melodies that I knew she would dig.”

"We are all just people who are different, but all of us
are sharing the same stars."

The result is Leeny’s sophomore release, Sharing the Same Stars by Leeny and Tamara, an album of duets and shared lead vocal duties. “The title comes from a lyric in our song, ‘It’s Cool To Be You,’” Tamara says. “‘We are all just people who are different, but all of us are sharing the same stars. How we treat people who are different makes us the kind of people who we are.’ That pretty much sums up what we were trying to get across with that song and this record in general. We weren’t trying to make a political statement or anything like that...” Leeny continues “...but really just to convey a message of acceptance. Different is good, so just be yourself. It all starts when we’re kids – learning social behavior, figuring out right from wrong. But it’s also about respecting animals and the Earth, appreciating what you have and sharing. We’re all in this world together so we’d better make the best of it!”
park waffle
The pair first met when they attended Berklee College of Music in the early 90s as songwriting students. Tamara recalls their initial meeting: “I introduced myself, and I must say, she totally blew me off!” “So not true!” Leeny counters. “Tamara doesn’t know this, but I may have been a little intimidated by her. Oh man, now I’ll never hear the end of it!” Tamara adds, “We shared a love of the Odd Couple and Seinfeld, The Beatles, and Raising Arizona. We were fast friends and admired each other’s different songwriting styles.” Leeny continues, “And it turned out that Tamara had gone to high school (The School of Performing Arts in NYC) with one of my cousins. I love ‘small world’ stuff like that. Funny, it only took 20 years for us to write together again!”

“Art has so many great ideas about arrangements, background vocals,
and parts, and he hears things that nobody else picks up."

Leeny and Tamara enlisted the help of friend, producer, multi-instrumentalist, and arranger, Art Hays, who produced Tamara’s previous CDs, Miserably Happy (2008) and Right This Minute (2005). The two positively gush when speaking about Hays. Tamara says, “Art has so many great ideas about arrangements, background vocals, and parts, and he hears things that nobody else picks up. He also comes from the same era as we do and appreciates Sesame Street, The Electric Company, and Schoolhouse Rock and understands why they were so special.” Leeny notes, “It seems like he knows every single song ever recorded. Art really wanted to make sure he captured the sound of specific genres very authentically (i.e. reggae, 60s girl groups) – you mention a style and he just gets it. And he can play so many instruments so well – sax, guitar, bass, flute, clarinet, and all the drum programming. I think if we’d given him time, he probably could have learned to play the fiddle!”
front cover 283

“We were also very fortunate that an amazing pianist and trumpeter just happened to be married to Tamara, and added his handiwork to a few tracks,” says Leeny about Henry Hey, who has toured and recorded with artists including Rod Stewart and Harry Belafonte. Virtuoso contemporary violinist Christian Howes (Les Paul, Bill Evans) played fiddle on “Across the USA” and the talented Colton Weatherston (Hot Club of Detroit) played electric guitar on “Put On My Seat Belt.” Key Wilde created the artwork and design for the album. “Key is an incredible artist and children’s musician, and his illustrations are like little perfect works of art for each song,” says Tamara. “And mastering engineer Duncan Stanbury (formerly of the legendary Frankford Wayne in NYC) gave our album the clean, vibrant sound we were looking for.”

"Snow is good luck."

Leeny recounts the first day of recording at Art’s studio in New York on January 15: “I remember how peaceful and beautiful it was waking up that morning with snow falling. Tamara was a little bummed out about the snow and frigid temperatures, but I said, ‘Snow is good luck!’ At our recording session that afternoon, we heard that a plane had crash-landed into the Hudson River, just a couple of miles from us. Later we discovered the heroic story of Captain Chesley B. ‘Sully’ Sullenberger III and the miracle of US Air Flight #1549. It felt like this album would be inextricably tied to that event.”

"There are songs that kids
can enjoy today and others
that they can grow into."

The songs are geared toward children ages 12 months to 10 years. But Tamara mentions that, “Even infants as young as five months in my Bouncing Baby Music class react positively to the music, and parents appreciate stuff that’s cool musically and lyrically. Because we decided not to focus on a specific age, Sharing the Same Stars will last longer through a child’s life. There are songs that kids can enjoy today and others that they can grow into. We all sang songs when we were kids that made little sense to us then, but we didn’t care because they were catchy and fun to sing – we didn’t even realize we were learning anything! That’s the kind of record we wanted to make.” “And we’ve used a lot of our own childhood experiences, about overcoming shyness or dealing with an incorrigible little sister, to relate to what kids are going through,” Leeny says. “One of the most important songs on the CD is ‘Put On My Seat Belt.’ If we can help increase child passenger safety, and maybe even get kids to be a part of improving adults’ seat belt usage, then we really can’t ask for much more than that.”


One of the more ambitious songs on the CD is “Across the USA,” a marathon of a song with lyrics that include facts about every state. “I had this vision that next July 4th, Tamara and I would kick off a ‘50 States In 50 Days Tour!’” Leeny says. “It’s always been a little dream of mine to visit all 50 states and this seems like the perfect opportunity!” Tamara chimes in, “Maybe for the next album we should do a song about Italy or Paris… I’ll sign up for that tour right now!” In the meantime, keep an eye out for live performances in the northeast where they are based (Leeny in MA and Tamara in NY). They are also available for school and educational programs, and writing custom songs for special projects. orange star

LeenyMore about Leeny (Ilene Altman)

It may have taken Leeny (Ilene Altman) until middle age, but this late bloomer finally figured out what she wants to do when she grows up… write and perform kids’ music! And now she’s making up for lost time. Leeny’s 2008 debut children’s music CD, Be Nice by Leeny and Steve, garnered several honors including a Parents’ Choice Award and a Children’s Music Web Award as Best Recording for Preschoolers, and was named to the Best Music of 2008 Recommended List for Your Family from Common Sense Media. Her 2009 sophomore release, Sharing the Same Stars by Leeny and Tamara, teams her with longtime friend, NYC singer/songwriter Tamara Hey.

young leeny Proud to be born and raised in the great state of New Jersey (Exit 135 on the Garden State Parkway), Leeny was the only kid in the neighborhood that would have to ask her Brooklynite parents to turn down their stereo because they were blasting opera... again. A classically trained pianist from age six, she grew up listening to the music of her three older brothers – The Beatles, Billy Joel, and Dr. Demento (those were not her brothers, that was their music) – and putting up with her incorrigible little sister, whose misdeeds would one day become immortalized in song. Leeny overcame what was sometimes debilitating shyness in her childhood to become an exceptional classical pianist, All-County softball third baseman, and National Honor Society student.

Torn between a love for music, sports, and writing, Leeny wasn’t sure what to do next… she attended Cornell University and received a B.S. in Communication, while also DJ’ing at the college radio station, and playing keyboards and singing in an angst-ridden rock band. She still wasn’t sure what to do, so she attended Berklee College of Music in Boston for a couple of years (where she would meet Tamara) and earned a B.M. in Songwriting. Still not sure what to do, Leeny joined her friends and moved to Nashville for a few years. leeny and nickShe kept writing music for fun, including two Christmas songs with fellow Berklee alum and folk artist, Gillian Welch, but with no interest in getting involved in the music business. Instead, she dove into the film/video industry and became a production coordinator, DJ’d part time at a country music radio station, and performed on a few friends’ albums and commercial jingles. Still not sure what to do, Leeny followed her heart and moved back to the Boston area. She met her big bald husband Nick playing Frisbee at Singing Beach (now also immortalized in song). Leeny started writing corporate music and scripts, and learned that she could create fun, catchy songs about absolutely anything, and enjoy it! Then her little sister Hilary, who lived in the Bay Area, had a baby, so Leeny and Nick went west. Hilary’s persuasive son Zak finally helped Leeny figure out what to do... write songs to entertain and educate him!

Leeny is back on the east coast now and lives with Nick in Gloucester, MA. When she’s not writing songs about ladybugs or stinky diapers, Leeny likes to mountain bike, act like a goofy Boston sports fan, and pick berries.

tamara heyMore about Tamara (Tamara Hey)


New York City has the tendency to shape one’s character. This is certainly true of singer and songwriter Tamara Hey. Born and raised in the Bronx, and now residing in the East Village, the fabric and soul of NYC weaves in and out of Tamara’s music. Critics have hailed her as “one of the best songwriters in town” with a “sweet voice just quirky enough to be instantly memorable/recognizable.” Tamara has released three albums – Miserably Happy (2008), Right This Minute (2005), and A Little Space Left (1998) – independently under her own name and label, the first produced by Henry Hey, the second and third produced by Art Hays. Her foray into children’s music, Sharing the Same Stars (2009) by Leeny and Tamara, reunites Tamara with producer Hays and is her first collaboration with longtime friend, award-winning children’s musician, Ilene (Leeny) Altman.

tamara headphonesTamara’s parents had mostly classical LPs, but squeezed in between them were The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and the original Hair soundtrack, which became her obsession. Tamara studied classical piano and violin during her youth and graduated from New York City’s High School of Performing Arts. Totally abandoning music after high school – for a whole two months – Tamara started out as a Drama major at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. But her discovery of Suzanne Vega, Bob Dylan, and Joni Mitchell quickly drew Tamara towards her new instrument, the guitar, and her ultimate passions, singing and songwriting. After two years of performing around campus, Tamara made the switch to Berklee College of Music in Boston to study songwriting (where she would meet Leeny).

After moving back to New York City, Tamara worked at The Goodman Group, where she learned the ins and outs of music publishing as well as how to use a computer! She fell seamlessly into the songwriting circles in town, including the infamous Sidewalk Café “Antifolk” scene and the Fast Folk crowd (Tamara appears on three Fast Folk Musical Magazine compilations, now maintained by Smithsonian Folkways Recordings). In those early days, Tamara opened up for the legendary Jack Hardy and Ellis Paul, and honed her craft writing about her strange neighbors and life as a twenty-something in New York City.

tamara at Arlene's GroceryTamara has been playing live with and without her band on the NYC scene for years, continuously testing new material and putting together the players who make up her core band (featured on Miserably Happy): Brian Delaney on drums, Tim Lefebvre on bass, Art Hays on electric guitar, and husband Henry Hey on keyboards. Shows without the band are just as much fun, with Tamara often premiering new material at intimate music spots. She has written and sung on jingle demos for television and has co-writers in Nashville and NYC, including legendary producer Phil Ramone, with whom she recently wrote a song for a PBS television special, singing on the recording as well. On the side, Tamara teaches guitar and songwriting to students of all ages, and performs children’s music in her “Bouncing Baby Music” classes to children as young as five months (see her website: BouncingBabyMusic.com).

About our producer, Art Hays

artArt Hays has been performing and writing music professionally since 1989. While at University of North Texas on a jazz music scholarship, he toured Texas and the South, playing sax with funk band Goodfoot and also led his own three-piece rock band, Fletcher. After moving to New York, Art toured US, UK, Canada, and Australia with Matchbox Twenty playing sax and guitar on the Mad Season Tour from 2000-01. He also performed with them on Jay Leno, David Letterman, VH1, and Rosie O’Donnell. Art was also a member of Carbondale, who signed with RCA in 2001. Their CD, ’cause 7 ate 9, was produced by John Fields in 2002.

Since then Art has produced independent singer-songwriters in the New York area and has written music for commercials and industrial spots. His music was also featured as part of the ‘08 Beijing Olympics broadcast on NBC as well as The Oxygen Network and Access Hollywood. Two songs that he co-wrote will be part of the soundtrack for the upcoming documentary “FEAT.” In 2007, he performed music for the films “Meet The Spartans” and “Lost Boys II” and has recorded music for the EA video games “Boogie” and “American Idol.”

Art keeps a healthy songwriting schedule. Collaborators include Jeff Franzel, Alex Forbes, Toby Lightman, Steven McMorran, Matt Stamm, Carly Greenberg, Rachel Platten, Lynne Timmes, Tom Kimmel, Sally Barris, Henry Hey, Tamara Hey, and David Browning. Some other notable names Art has worked with include Eddie Kramer, Bobby Caldwell, Myron Floren, Shawn Pelton, Mark Rivera, and Ann Hampton Callaway.

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art gnomeShort Interview with Art Hays:
Producer, arranger, multi-instrumentalist,
cool dude

How was producing a children’s music album different from what you have done before?
“No different because of the simple fact that I have never fully grown up myself! To be more specific, I’ve always remained creative to a degree that I don’t think I would have if I was working outside of the arts. Younger humans seem to create more than their more mature counterparts. Music is a place where you can continue to tap into that part of your brain. I really think that kids like music, period! If it’s labeled ‘music for children’ then so be it, but in the end, they seem to react to stimuli and process in their own way. Take the lyrics away from the instrumental backing of these song and you are left with music that is pretty universal. That being said, I think that writing and producing for kids forces you to be more creative than usual. With this project, songs were kept fairly short and things are always going on musically to keep those shorter attention spans locked in. Keeping the clarity of the production was key as well, so that there was a clear focus, which was usually the vocals. A lot of these things are not much different from making music for everyone else, except we kept the lewd comments to a minimum.”

What did you enjoy about the creation of this album, and the music?
“It’s nice knowing that hopefully this audience is not as rigid or judgmental as older audiences. Having an open mind is one of the great blessings of being a kid. I also really enjoyed the fact that Leeny and Tamara tapped into their memories of kids’ music from our generation, which is music that holds up so well. My favorite records were Nilsson’s The Point, Free To Be You and Me, the first Sesame Street album, Mary Poppins and other Disney classics, as well as The Muppet Show album and the Muppet Movie soundtrack. All of those records are just pure music with lyrics that kids can relate to and spark their imagination. I really loved hearing the basic rough sketch of these songs and imagining the arrangement and what great sounds and textures I could apply to them and places I could go with them. Each song feels like a little amusement park ride to me. We have the crazy spinning rides like ‘Vitamin C’ and ‘Your Epidermis Is Showing’ as well as the sedate rides like ‘My Baby’ and ‘It’s Cool To Be You’ and stuff in between. I feel proud to have contributed to this record and am very excited to hear kids’ and parents’ reactions.

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