The idea struck me on one of those rainy Sundays for which Seattle is famous. Our son David was comfortably nestled in his Exersaucer, glued to one of his many baby videos. After many sleepless nights of feeding an infant, Lisi was taking a well deserved nap, and I was on baby duty.
Lisi and I had toyed with the idea of starting a business—something that would enable her to work from home and spend more time with David. I had gotten a few ideas, but was always self-critical about the ideas’ chances for success. After all, so many new businesses fail, and they’re often expensive to launch. Besides, what idea could Lisi and I possibly have that someone hasn’t had before? What were we uniquely qualified to do that all of other aspiring work from home moms couldn’t do too?
Then it hit me, albeit in cascading stages of inspiration. David was watching a baby video—one of the many designed to stimulate young minds with bright colors, classical music, and frequent scene changes. I thought, “I do some video editing…why not do something like that?” Then my self-critical side kicked in: “There are lots of baby videos out there. Videos by big scary companies with marketing muscle and theme parks in Orlando!” I needed a hook.
What could I do that was different enough to have not been tried, but marketable enough that people would want it? Then I thought…”I wonder if someone had ever made a Jewish baby video?” After a few searches on Google and Amazon.com, I had my answer…nope. No one had created a video just for Jewish babies. There were lots of Jewish videos, but all of them were targeted at older kids. There was the Shalom Sesame, the Rugrats stuff, and some others that taught Hebrew and Holidays. They all seemed to be for children that had passed the wise old age of 3.
Ok, a good idea, I must admit. I was relatively intrigued by the idea and couldn’t immediately come up with a reason why it wouldn’t work. So I decided to wake Lisi and bounce the idea off of her. Though I was expecting to hear “you woke me up for THAT?” I got a much different response. “That’s it!” she said. “We’re totally doing it. And you know what else? I have two words for you…Stephanie Schneiderman.”
Stephanie had been a longtime friend of ours, and someone Lisi knew from her days at B’nai Brith camp in Lincoln City, Oregon. At camp, Stephanie’s beautiful voice made for magical Shabbat services and lasting Jewish memories for Lisi and her friends. Now, she’s a professional musician with several CDs to her credit. Her songs are played on radio stations throughout the Northwest and she was selected as an opening act for the Lilith Fair concert tour.
When we told Stephanie about our idea for a Jewish video and CD for babies, she loved the idea—and added a twist.
Stephanie suggested that her sisters join in the creation of OyBaby. You see, Stephanie is just one third of a talented trio of Schneiderman Sisters. Lisa, Kim, and Stephanie had sung together for years in synagogue, nursing homes, and just for fun. We had heard all three of them sing together before, and knew that they could create the exact sound we wanted for the OyBaby products.
Stephanie spent the next few weeks furiously researching Jewish music and creating new arrangements to suit her and her sisters’ voices.
The next thing we know, we’re in Portland at the deliciously named Kung Fu Bakery recording studio. Lisi and I walked into the control room the first day and couldn’t believe our ears. Even when they were just warming up their voices, the Schneiderman Sisters sounded like a chorus of angels.
As the recording session went on, Lisi and I grew increasingly thrilled with the music being created before us. Guest musicians came by to lay down some extra instrument tracks, the children’s chorus sang their little hearts out on Dayenu and David Melech Yisrael, and Doug Blauer brought the house down with his rousing rendition of Cheri Bim Bam.
After the recording session, it was time to turn our focus to the visuals. We collected the items featured in the video over several (expensive) weeks of visiting Judaica stores, toy stores, and craft fairs. We spent many weekends testing out the products, including one afternoon entirely devoted to finding the right consistency of paint to create paint splats!
We booked a studio in which to record the video, and enlisted our friends’ help to assemble the cast of OyBabies. Part of the day was devoted to filming the toys, puppets, and Judaica items you see on the video. The other part of the day was devoted to the utter mayhem of filming 16 babies at once! One can not believe how much was going on just beyond the view of the camera. There was lots of great footage of babies wandering off the set that ended up on the cutting room floor.
The most time consuming aspect of creating the video was the editing. I had about 8 hours of footage that eventually got whittled down to the 30 minute video. There were many nights when Lisi came upstairs at 2 am to remind me I had to go to work the next day. In those wee hours of the morning, I often noticed that my mouth started hurting, and eventually realized that it was from the constant ear-to-ear smile I had while watching the footage of those kids.
Growing up, our parents taught us to celebrate our Judaism, and music was always a central part of that experience. Now, as parents, we hope to do the same for our son. OyBaby will be one of the first steps in his Jewish discovery. We wish the same for the children in your life, too.