Jeff Mondak, author of the 2016 poetry collection The Toy Box Ate My Brother, has been discussing and performing his poems in schools for over fifteen years. A native of Cleveland, Jeff also has lived in Florida, Indiana, Michigan and Pennsylvania, and he now lives with his wife and two sons in Champaign, IL. Jeff is a professor at the University of Illinois. Jeff has published a large body of academic research, including three books and over sixty articles and chapters. When visiting schools, Jeff's meetings with advanced writing students include discussion of how and why writing poetry helps improve academic writing.
Jeff's humorous poems and songs have appeared in numerous magazines, anthologies, songbooks, and more. As a tremendous fan of music, but one utterly lacking in musical ability, Jeff has been especially happy to write songs with several well-known musicians, including folk music icon Christine Lavin, and to hear his songs played on NPR's "All Things Considered," the Dr. Demento Show, and on lots and lots of children's music and folks music programs. In recent years, Jeff has greatly enjoyed the opportunity to incorporate music in his school programs, which he does when he is joined by musician Jordan Kaye or Sergio Wals. In 2015, ten songs Jeff co-wrote appeared on the CD Sounds Familiar, by the rock band NxT. This was an especially fun project for Jeff, because NxT's bass player and primary musical composer is Jeff's son Chris, who also performed in the 2015 Jazz Band of America, and who has worked with such renowned musicians as Wynton Marsalis and Wycliffe Gordon.
Jordan Kaye has taught guitar and early jazz at the college level, at Parkland College in Champaign, Illinois. A singer and multi-instrumentalist, Jordan currently fronts the incredibly fun bluegrass band The Prairie Dogs, appearing throughout central Illinois. Jordan is also a veteran of the 392nd Army Band.
Sergio Wals is a native of Mexico, but is now settled in as a professor in America's heartland. With a huge smile and bubbling enthusiasm, Sergio quickly wins over every crowd. Since recording his children's music CD Michael Closed the Bathroom Door, Sergio has been honored to be invited for numerous live appearances on radio programs, and to share the stage with some of his favorite musical artists, such as Christine Lavin, Butch Morgan and Don White.
Jeff, Jordan and Sergio have an absolute blast visiting schools. All are both educators and entertainers. They love to teach students about writing poetry and composing and performing songs, especially while getting the students laughing, dancing and singing along.
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