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Celebrating the First Lady of Children’s Music

Chicago's Ella Jenkins has been writing and performing music for children since the 1950s. The beloved and influential musician turned 90 recently. Jay Shefsky paid Ella Jenkins a visit - and she got him singing on camera.

For more than 50 years, Ella Jenkins has been singing and was the first “folk” performer to teach fun, interactive music in schools and preschools, according to the Smithsonian Folkways. In addition to her performances in preschools, auditoriums, early childhood conferences and concerts, she has appeared on several TV shows, including “Totem Club,” “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” “Sesame Street,” and “Barney.”

“Ella Jenkins: We’ll Sing a Song Together,” is a documentary centered on the life and work of Ella Jenkins. Anyone with questions about the film, or who wants to share personal films, photos or recordings of Ella can contact Producer/Director Tim Ferrin directly at The filmmakers have started a fundraising campaign to make the film.

Watch a preview of "Ella Jenkins: We'll Sing a Song Together."

Watch Ella Jenkins perform on WTTW’s "Totem Club."


Watch Ella Jenkins perform “I Know a City Called Okeechobee.”


Watch Ella Jenkins on “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.”


Watch Ella Jenkins perform at the 2009 Smithsonian Folklife Festival.