BookwormBev (2021)

Jenn Cleary performs ten songs on her upbeat album in rock, rockabilly, blues, zydeco, and pop musical styles. Accompanied by excellent performances on guitar, banjo, mandolin, cello, upright bass, organ, piano, accordion, harmonica, drums, and tambourine, Cleary also includes an enthusiastic children’s chorus on several songs. We need wild places to make us happy and feel free, so we need to take care of “Our Wild Family.” From the viewpoint of a honeybee, “My Sisters and Me” explains how they live in community together to accomplish their tasks. “Scat’s the Word for That” is the scientists’ word for animal poo. “Clean Water” encourages listeners to gather up all sorts of trash off the streets, so it doesn’t flow into storm drains. In order to “Love Right Now,” listeners should care, share, and love one another. It is fun to pop “Bubbles” and watch the wind blow them away. On the “Backyard Farm” ducks, goats, dogs, bees, horses, and birds make all sorts of sounds. One child’s imaginary best friend is her “Dinosaur Friend.” Life would be better with “Less Gravity” because one could move more easily. “Families of All Kinds” might consist of mommy and daddy, auntie, grandparents, siblings, single parents, or foster parents. This thoughtful album will encourage listeners to make their world a better place.

Exclusive Magazine (2021)

For those unaware, Jenn Cleary is a folk-rock singer-songwriter from Boulder, Colorado, with many years experience performing on international stages.

Highlight shows include Sundance Film Festivals, Colorado Rockies games, opening for Shemekia Copeland at Etown, and several European tours.

She has a range of song styles and performs bluesy acoustic solo shows as well as rocking shows with her full electric band.

Jenn has released two albums of all original songs and one covers album, and now she is set to release her very first childrens album.

All Together Now! (due out June 4th, 2021) is that brand new album and it offers children and families messages of connection, community, and caring for each other and our environment.

  1. Our Wild Family
  2. My Sisters and Me
  3. Scats the Word for That
  4. Clean Water
  5. Love Right Now
  6. Bubbles
  7. Backyard Farm
  8. Dinosaur Friend
  9. Less Gravity
  10. Families of All Kinds
  11. Hopes Parade
  12. Archipelago

Opening on the harmonica-driven, danceable ecology number Our Wild Family and the gentle, and yet guitar-rocking, bee-inspired My Sisters and Me (Jenn is also a beekeeper), those are followed by the mid-tempo funk of Scats the Word for That (which is not about a style of jazz vocal, but, well, animal feces!), the free flowing melodies of the educational Clean Water, and then we get the mellifluent hipsway of Love Right Now.

Continuing to blend full-on fun with messages of environmental and social consciousness for kids, next up is the atmospheric blues funk of Bubbles and the accordion-imbued Backyard Farm, which are seamlessly followed by the one-two hot step of the sweet Dinosaur Friend, the album rounding out on the rhythmic piano work of Less Gravity, closing on some more harmonica-driven blues, this time within the emotional storytelling of Families of All Kinds.

For 14 years I ran a non-profit that I founded, which promoted innovative, locally sustainable health and economic sufficiency programs in Nepal, India, and Tibet, Jenn Explains.

That was a beautiful time in my life, trying to make a difference in the world. Writing a childrens album is another way to deliver a positive message and impact kids, while bringing a smile to their faces!

When I worked with children in developing countries, we could not communicate through words, so we used the universal language of music to help bring us all together.

All Together Now! takes me full-circle in my passion to make a positive difference in childrens lives.

All Kinds of Families, the emotional center of the album, is about the different kinds of families in which kids can live.

Jenn wrote the song with her adopted daughter, Dorje Dolma, who was initially raised by aunties, parents, and grandparents who were nomadic yak herders in Nepal.

Dorje was in a Nepali childrens home before Jenn brought her to America for life-saving surgeries and subsequently adopted her.

After college, Dorje went on to work in a preschool where she witnessed many different kinds of family situations.

Dorje co-wrote the song Families of All Kinds with Jenn Cleary, and her artwork, Healing Heart, is featured on the All Together Now! album cover.

She is also the author of Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal, published in 2018 by Sentient Publications.

Previous albums include Blues from the Heart (2018), Back to the Wheel (2010), and Breakin Loose (2006).


Jenn Cleary Sings the Sustainability Blues

If there was ever a time to sing the blues, it was during our shared pandemic year. Contrary to popular belief, the blues are not exclusively gloomy or unhappy. Blues is a song style that can convey many positive sentiments, such as family, environment, and community. Leading the 2021 blues brigade is Boulder, Colorado-based Jenn Cleary, with her first children’s release, ALL TOGETHER NOW!

Cleary’s journey to children’s music took a circuitous path that went through Nepal, India, and Tibet. Making a difference on that side of the planet, she founded and ran a non-profit that promoted locally sustainable health and economic sufficiency programs in those countries. During that time, Cleary became acquainted with Dorje Dolma, a girl raised by nomadic yak herders in Nepal who needed life-saving surgeries. Cleary brought Dorje to America and subsequently adopted her. After college, Dorje went to work in a preschool and the duo cowrote the song, “Families Of All Kinds,” based on Dorje’s firsthand experiences. Dorje also contributed the cover artwork, “Healing Heart,” for ALL TOGETHER NOW! (For more about Dorje’s journey, you can read her book, Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal.)

During the past two decades, Jenn Cleary has released three adult-oriented blues CDs and performed around the world, including at the Sundance Film Festival and Colorado Rockies games. Her playlist always included a handful of infectious, kid-friendly tunes, leading her to develop ALL TOGETHER NOW! for family audiences. Cleary shares flights of fantasy on songs like “Dinosaur Friend” and “Bubbles.” Similar to Tom Chapin’s “This Pretty Planet,” Cleary mixes social consciousness with traditional family interests. An avid beekeeper, the pollinating creatures make appearances on several tunes, most prominently on “My Sisters And Me” about a beehive working in harmony. The theme is crystal clear in numbers like “Clean Water,” Love Right Now,” and “Backyard Farm” (her zydeco variation on “Old MacDonald”).

Having traveled extensively and helped families in far-flung countries, Cleary doesn’t break a sweat singing about the disparity of families. What makes a family different doesn’t make it any less relevant as a family unit, she points out on “Families of All Kinds.” That also goes for the animal kingdom, on “Our Wild Family.” Thanks to technology, the pandemic showed kids that their concerns are no different from other children around the world. On ALL TOGETHER NOW!, Cleary celebrates the amazing variety of universal values that surround and sustain our civilization. That’s clear cause for upbeat blues, sunny skies, and honey bees.

Take Effect (2021)

A singer-songwriter and guitarist with a penchant for the blues, Jenn Cleary shines in both bare and full settings on this 10 track listen, where her songs for kids are an extension of her non-profit work that promotes health and economic sufficiency programs in Nepal, India and Tibet.

“Our Wild Family” starts the listen with Cleary’s playful formula reminding us to care for our earth and animals as harmonica from Mad Dog Friedman and piano from Eric Moon complement Cleary’s melodic guitar work, and “My Sisters And Me” follows with a bluesy quality as the diverse singing aligns with frisky drumming from JJ Jones and warm backing vocals from Kate Hope and Megan Burtt.

In the middle, the rhythmic “Clean Water” bounces with a striking energy as Cleary encourages us to stop pollution in her charming, even soulful way, while “Love Right Now” brings in Mai Bloomfield on cello for an organ friendly folk song. “Backyard Farm”, one of the record’s best, then displays Moon’s accordion skills as Cleary shows some grit in her pipes, in between the quirky animal noises.

Approaching the end, “Less Gravity” showcases firm piano as John McVey’s strong electric guitar prowess doesn’t disappoint in the rock’n’roll climate, and “Families Of All Kinds” exits the listen with retro approach that includes keys, harmonica and brushed percussion working together with much nostalgia.

A multi-talented artist, Cleary is also a beekeeper, and this 4th album brings her 20 years of experience to an educational, wise and delightfully fun 32 minutes.

Pop*A*Looza (2021)

Jenn Cleary’s latest, All Together Now!

“…offers children and families messages of connection, community, and caring for each other and our environment.” Considering what most of us have experienced in the last year and a half, that’s exactly what we could use more of. Love Right Now was suggested by Cleary’s mother, for that very same reason.

Continuing on in the same spirit, the pretty All Kinds Of Families acknowledges that families need not be made up of blood relatives exclusively. Considering that Cleary’s family includes an adopted daughter, this song is especially touching.

All of these songs are filled to the brim with warmth, and the hope that we may someday get to a place filled with kindness and compassion for others, as well as our natural world. That’s a sentiment that shouldn’t be hard for anyone to get on board with. Very well done.

Medium (2021)

Music Stars Making A Social Impact: Why & How Singer-Songwriter Jenn Cleary Is Helping To Change Our World

An Interview With Edward Sylvan

Although my health continues to be a daily challenge, the music lifted me back into the world with a mission to bring joy, connection and meaning to others.

This new album, All Together Now! — Rockin’ Songs for Kids of All Ages, is full of joy and fun, with a bit of positive messaging thrown in. I see this as a continuation of one of the missions of my former non-profit: to inspire others to have a positive impact in the world. I want to uplift others through music. And while I’m not the executive director of a charity anymore, I do financially support other charities doing great work out there.

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Jenn Cleary.
Jenn Cleary is a folk-rock-blues singer-songwriter from Boulder, Colorado, with many years’ experience performing on international stages. Highlight shows include Sundance Film Festival, Colorado Rockies games, opening for Shemekia Copeland, and several European tours. Jenn has released two albums of original songs and one covers album, and she’ll release her first children’s album on June 4th.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up in Sudbury, MA, just outside of Boston. When I was six, I asked Santa Claus for a piano and he really delivered! Well actually, the want-ads delivered four burly brothers and their accordion-toting mother with a big ol’ antique piano that they seemed happy to find a new home for. Somehow, they got that beast of wood and wire through the door and into our family room. They then proceeded to make themselves comfortable and jammed nonstop, with mom belting it out on the accordion. A couple of hours later, off they went, and I was left to find that the immense joy this instrument had given them was soon to be given to me.

I have always loved music. Either the radio was on or I would spin the turntable with my favorite vinyl. I remember my father listening to his record collection (Perry Como, Karen Carpenter, Frank Sinatra) and singing along. He did his best imitations of each performer and made us all laugh. My mother took us to plays and musicals and once we got into high school, one parent or the other would deliver us to rock concerts. My mother tells the story of dropping my friends and me off at a Grateful Dead concert in the late ’70s and starting to question her parental judgment. “Off they went into a sea of tie-dye, cases of beer, and smoke. Oh my, what have I done?” We returned safely to our meeting point some hours later, infused with some incredible rock n’ roll and anxious to find out who we would get to see next.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I would love to have developed my piano skills to a higher level. However, I had a piano teacher who was more interested in that horrible little metronome than inspiring a young girl to find her own path in music. I eventually got discouraged, thought that I wasn’t any good at it, and gave up. In middle school, I got excited about the guitar and imagined it would be great fun to sit around a campfire and do sing-alongs. So, I started down that path. Shortly into that experiment, I would be singing with my guitar at home and couldn’t help notice my parents cringing. I couldn’t hold a note and admittedly sounded terrible. My mother went to my school’s music teacher and asked, “What are we going to do with Jennifer’s horrible voice?” The teacher kindly explained to my mother that she should be patient and that my voice would get better in time. Knowing that I didn’t sound all that good left me very insecure. However, I was determined and I loved to sing. So, I continued on and eventually developed my voice in my early 20’s through actually taking voice lessons, something my parents didn’t even consider because they thought that either you had a good voice or you didn’t. It never occurred to them that a voice could be trained.

Now, I just love teaching both voice and guitar to children and adults and helping them find their musical expression and potential.

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I had just come out with my first album of original music. I didn’t really expect it to be anything more than a calling card of sorts to get my first band into clubs and other venues. I was mostly focused on raising my three children and enjoying my boys’ Little League games. Their Dad and I helped with coaching and loved to take them to see the Colorado Rockies. It was a joyous time of parenting. Then, out of nowhere, I got a call from a friend who said, “Were you just listening to KBCO (a major rock station in Colorado)? The coach of the Rockies, Clint Hurdle, just said in an interview that you are one of Colorado’s biggest up-and-coming artists!” I was in shock, of course, but that didn’t stop me from getting the courage up to call Coach Hurdle to thank him for his kind words. He happily took my call and invited me and my family to a couple of the games and to meet the players. How cool was Mom now? Rock star cool! It was definitely a parenting highlight to be able to share this amazing experience with my boys. Clint Hurdle played my album in the clubhouse and invited my band to perform at Rockies games, which I did for years.

Lesson? Well to not underestimate the potential — when you take risks, really amazing things can happen. Maybe not what you are expecting, but be open to the magic of what may occur.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Don’t let any negative feedback get you down. There can be something to be learned from helpful criticism, but if you are passionate about being a performer, then shrug it off and keep going when someone just isn’t into your style of performing. Practice your instrument, take lessons, read books, research online, go to live shows, and surround yourself with positive people. Immerse yourself in what gives you joy.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

“Don’t give up, no matter what life throws your way.” I was told early on that I had a terrible voice, that my guitar playing was nothing special. I have auto-immune issues that I have been told to treat with harsh chemotherapy and I have had to get steroid injections to keep from losing my vision. Sometimes I just want to curl up in a ball and not go on with the difficulties of life, but I always pick myself back up and move forward the best I can.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Well despite my mother’s doubts about my musical skills in my youth, she is now my biggest fan. She helped me financially with my second album, goes to every show possible, and is my biggest supporter.

My mother lives next door to me now and every morning we walk a mile together. One morning this past summer, she turned to me and said, “With this new album you’re working on, I think you should write a song about caring and sharing with one another because that’s what we’re all about.” I immediately liked the idea and by the time we got home I had the melody in my head. Within a few hours, I had the song written and ready to finalize with my mother. Having lost my father and my brother many years ago, I cherish each moment that I have left with my mother. For her to be able to co-write this song was an amazing gift from the universe. “Love Right Now” is one of my favorites on this new record and I hope that many others experience its beauty.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I co-created a non-profit organization called All Together Now International in 1996 that helped children with severe medical conditions in Nepal, India, Tibet, Africa and the USA for over fourteen years. When I started having health issues, I had to shutter the organization and focus on my health and my own family. While I was resigned to spending more time on the couch in between treatments to save my vision, I started picking up my guitar again and learned to play the blues. True blues. This was an intense time of facing the unknown and who I might be if I went blind. This went on for a while, but what I found is that my songwriting was getting better and better and that my songs had more soul and deeper meaning. Shortly after that, I recorded my first album and was surprised by the strong response. Although my health continues to be a daily challenge, the music lifted me back into the world with a mission to bring joy, connection and meaning to others.

This new album, All Together Now! — Rockin’ Songs for Kids of All Ages, is full of joy and fun, with a bit of positive messaging thrown in. I see this as a continuation of one of the missions of my former non-profit: to inspire others to have a positive impact in the world. I want to uplift others through music. And while I’m not the executive director of a charity anymore, I do financially support other charities doing great work out there.

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

One of the more interesting aspects of my life is the story of my adopted daughter, Dorje Dolma. I was in my third winter of volunteering with street kids in Kathmandu, Nepal. I was working in the Rokpa International medical tent when Dorje’s parents came in with their 10-year-old fatally ill child, after walking a month from their extremely remote village at 13,000 feet in the Himalayas. Dorje had a severe case of scoliosis and had about two years to live. I took her all over Kathmandu trying to find help for her, but medical care for this severe condition did not exist there. One thing led to another, and I was able to bring her to American for several life-saving surgeries. After a couple of years of medical work, her lungs were still too compromised to return to her high-altitude village, so I adopted Dorje and she became part of our family.

With my mother, Margaret Cleary, and my partner, Steven Harrison, I wanted to create a non-profit to help people in need around the world. My father died that year (1996), and we took a bit of his inheritance to start a charity. In the meantime, many people had heard Dorje’s story and were asking if we could help them too. We started All Together Now International and brought over five children from Tibet, India and Nepal for extensive life-saving scoliosis surgeries. It soon became clear that we could not sustain bringing kids to the US and we eventually helped build up a hospital in Kathmandu that can do these life-saving surgeries successfully. All Together Now International worked to make a difference in people’s lives, in a variety of ways, for over fourteen years in the USA, Nepal, India, Tibet and Africa.

When Dorje came to America, she did not speak a word of English and had zero formal education. She had been a yak herder for her family since the age of five, and of course, a successful survivalist. I mostly home-schooled Dorje, using a lot of art and music to communicate with her as she learned the English language, and eventually, she went to school and graduated from the University of Colorado with a degree in Fine Arts. Dorje then worked for eight years in a preschool, much to the delight of the children and their parents. She has an amazing gift of connecting with people of all ages.

Dorje had been making notes on scraps of paper about her past since beginning to learn to write at around age 12. That turned into many sheets of paper and eventually, she put those words into the computer. Our family friend Connie Shaw (co-writer of “Our Wild Family” and owner of Sentient Publications) helped Dorje edit her life story into a captivating book, Yak Girl: Growing Up in the Remote Dolpo Region of Nepal, published in 2018.

Up until the pandemic hit, Dorje was touring all over the world, telling her story, inspiring others, and raising funds to bring desperately needed schools and medical clinics to Dolpo, the region where she grew up. Being home this past year allowed her to get back to her art and music. Dorje co-wrote the song “Families of All Kinds” with me and her artwork “Healing Heart” was used for the CD, website and social media sites. Dorje hopes to soon get back to teaching children and giving her popular talks.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

No aha moment. My parents always demonstrated that caring about others is very important in life. They were always doing fundraisers for different charities, taking in foster children and helping others in any way they could. When I was 8, I started to hold annual backyard fundraisers for the Leukemia Society. They started small, but by the end I was raising thousands of dollars with these very festive events. We had clowns, magicians, games, BBQ, a candy store, celebrities and local politicians stumping for their campaigns. And of course, rock bands and other live entertainment that are memorable for the residents of my hometown of Sudbury, MA to this day.

Can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

In 1993, when I was volunteering in the medical tent in Nepal, I met a street kid named Ram Ballav. His father died when Ram was nine, and when his mother remarried soon thereafter, the new stepfather sent him off to a farm to do hard labor. Ram then ran away with a man who told him that he could make good money in a carpet factory. He was fooled. After several months of being imprisoned at the factory, Ram ran away again — this time to Kathmandu, where he lived on the streets with packs of other children who had similar tragic stories, begging and stealing to survive.

I ended up placing Ram in school through Rokpa International and sponsored him for many years. He worked hard and now owns a guesthouse and café in Kathmandu. Please visit Ram’s Rooms and Ramsterdam Café when you’re next in Nepal!

It’s amazing to go visit him all these years later. I continue to mentor Ram in business, and he feeds and houses me when I’m there. It’s wonderful to see that he has become a generous man who helps others in need himself when he can.

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

  1. Help others, when you can. If you’re moved to help with urgent needs for education and medical care in Dolpo, Nepal, please consider a donation to Altitude Project, an organization that both Dorje and I are happy to support. Dolpo is one of the most remote and poorest regions in the world.
  2. Understand that we are a global community and that we all need to support each other.
  3. Governments working together for the betterment of all is our only hope for long-term survival.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. “Don’t expect everyone to like your musical expression. It’s ok, we all have different tastes.” There have been shows where I felt nobody cared or was even listening. But at almost every show, somebody comes up to me and says how moved they were by a particular song. So now I never assume that people aren’t listening. And even if it’s just one person in the room who was moved, that’s enough.
  2. “If you keep with it, you might earn a living.” So many people told me I would never make any money with music and that it would always be a hobby. Well true, I haven’t gotten rich off of music, but I do have income that has grown through the years. But what’s most important to me isn’t the money anyway. It’s the connections made, the new friends, the people moved by a moment in a song and, oh, the places that I’ve traveled! It’s the gift that just keeps on giving.
  3. “It’s ok that you aren’t a musical prodigy.” I have always admired great musicians and knew that I was not one of them. Playing instruments never came easily to me, but somewhere along the way I noticed I was getting better and better with lessons and practice. Once that light went on, I felt confident in just forging ahead and doing the best I could with the time I have. And now I’m a true musician, being paid to perform and selling my music. How cool is that?
  4. “Find ways to make practice fun.” I didn’t last long with piano because my teacher didn’t inspire me to enjoy music. I encourage my students to find ways to make practice fun and to understand their goals. It really doesn’t matter if you aren’t good at keeping a beat if you don’t intend to be in a band. If it’s for your own enjoyment, who cares? But if your goal is to perform, especially with a group, then keeping a beat will be very important at some point. Try to play along to your favorite songs, play with friends, sing to your dog and be a goofball. Whatever it takes. If you can imagine what you want to be doing in the end, you will get there with practice.
  5. “Don’t assume that you can’t sing.” Take lessons! Unless you have a physical disability that affects your vocal chords or your hearing, you can learn. You may not have the same abilities as some of the greats, but most people can learn to sing and sing well. Go for it!

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I would start a movement that pairs children with those in need, whether to do a fundraising project or directly engage with people who can use their help. This would instill in children at an early age that yes, we all have our own needs, but others need our help too. We all have something to give, whether it is money, practical assistance, a hug or even a smile — we can all lift each other up. No matter our age, our disabilities, the color of our skin, or our social-economic situation, there are ways we can support each other to get through this challenging life.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂
Michelle Obama! I have admired her for years and loved reading her autobiography. She is a true inspiration. Despite all odds and pushing aside her own personal desires, she has made an incredible impact in the world by encouraging young girls to succeed, inspiring women of color, educating people about living a healthy life, and supporting her husband while he did his best to have a positive impact on the world.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

Our Friendly World With Fawn And Matt (2021)


The Family We Create – Families of All Kinds: this episode is the perfect example of family, the family that we create and showing that it really entails families of all kinds. And interestingly enough, it’s also the song title (“Families of All Kinds”) of one of the songs on Jen Cleary’s new album “All Together Now!” written and produced for children and families and celebrating environmental and social consciousness (which, by the way, our baby girl did the album cover art of!).

Listen Here

Sound Bytes with Zeb (2021)


S2E5 Jenn Cleary
This episode I met with Jenn on the gorgeous back porch of her Boulder home, and we talked about her songwriting influences and process, as well as her involvement and experiences being a Foster parent and as well as her incredible work in Nepal!

Listen Here

Westword (2021)

Jenn Cleary’s Family Album All Together Now! Envisions a Better World

Boulder blues musician Jenn Cleary created her new children’s album, All Together Now!, with her adopted daughter, Dorje Dolma, her mother, Margaret, and bluesman Mark “Mad Dog” Friedman. The LP addresses everything from environmental and social consciousness to what it means to be a family.

“I didn’t start with this intention, but these are big topics right now, and I love being out in nature,” Cleary says. “Over the years, it has been devastating to watch our environment be so compromised. I grew up playing in the woods and climbing trees, and loved swimming in the lakes and oceans. I attempted here to write with positive messaging…that we do have the ability to make a difference. I feel that mixing that in with fun, danceable music makes it easier to convey that message.”

Growing up in Boston, Cleary volunteered and held fundraisers for nonprofits since she was a child.

“I held annual backyard fairs for the Leukemia Society growing up, age seven to seventeen, that raised thousands of dollars,” she reminisces. “It was a festive event that many in the town looked forward to year after year. Creating a nonprofit to help those in need was always a goal.”

Her work eventually took her to Nepal.

“I was in my third winter of volunteering with street kids in Kathmandu, Nepal,” Cleary recalls, “and I was working in the Rokpa International medical tent when Dorje’s parents came in with their ten-year-old fatally ill child after walking a month from their extremely remote village at 13,000 feet in the Himalayas. Dorje had a severe case of scoliosis and had about two years to live. One thing led to another, and I was able to bring her to America for several life-saving surgeries. After a couple of years of medical work, her lungs were still too compromised to return to her high-altitude village, so I adopted Dorje, and she became part of our family.

“With my mother and my partner, Steven Harrison, I wanted to create a nonprofit to help people in need around the world,” she continues. After her father died in 1996, she says, “we took a bit of his inheritance to start a charity. We started All Together Now International and brought over five children from Tibet, India and Nepal for extensive life-saving scoliosis surgeries. It soon became clear that we could not sustain bringing kids to the U.S., and we eventually helped build up a hospital in Kathmandu that can do these life-saving surgeries successfully.”

All Together Now International brought sustainable-health and economic-sufficiency programs to Nepal, India and Tibet from 1996 to 2010.

Dolma recalls how she was in awe of Cleary’s compassion for others.

“I can write a whole book about how inspiring and generous my mom has been to me and so many people, particularly children,” Dolma explains. “My mom, only in her thirties, took on one of the most daunting and uncertain challenges. [She] took actions fast, because I had less than two years to live due to my severe scoliosis. She wrote endless letters to Nepal government officials pleading with them to let me go to America so I [could] get the surgeries I needed. Next, she visited many doctors and hospitals and wrote many letters in America asking them to help me.

“Through my mom’s determination and hard work, she was able to find generous and kind doctors and hospitals in Colorado that agreed to help,” she adds. “I had four major surgeries, and I remember one of the doctors saying, ‘You are lucky Jennifer brought you here soon. You had less than two years to live.’ My mom stood by me through all my surgeries, doctor visits, and welcomed me to her home and family with [an] open heart and home. She has become my teacher, mentor, adviser, friend and a wonderful travel companion. She listened to my story and took a chance on me 25 years ago so I can live longer. That is her greatest gift to me!”

Dolma and Cleary co-wrote the song “Families of All Kinds” to celebrate families outside of the norm.

“I wanted to write a song that embraces family diversity as long as the child is safe, loved and protected,” Dolma says. “For eight years, I was a preschool teacher in Boulder, and I had students that came from all kinds of families. I had students raised by mom and dad, two dads, two moms, single parents, grandparents or adopted like myself. Each child had their own unique story, and they all had loving and trustful adults caring for them at home, which to me is the most important thing.

“I was amazed how my mom was able to turn our thoughts and ideas into a musical form,” she continues. “And now I have a big appreciation for songwriters. I feel honored to be part of a special project that can be enjoyed by others. I am really happy with how ‘Families of All Kinds’ turned out.”

Cleary even used one of Dolma’s artworks, “Healing Heart,” as the All Together Now! album cover.

“‘Healing Heart’ and ‘I Am Happy’ are some of my most popular greeting cards on my Etsy shop during the pandemic,” Dolma explains. “I generally like to create artwork that symbolizes love, peace and healing, because there is so much sorrow and pain in the world at the moment. The heart represents love and compassion for humans and nature, and to me, that is the whole theme of All Together Now!”

Cleary says the song “Love Right Now” was inspired by her mom as they were taking a morning walk through the community gardens in north Boulder; the goal was to put emphasis on life’s hardships.

“Life is hard for all of us in some way or another,” Cleary declares. “There is no way around it. Whether it is emotional, physical or practical, we all have our good days and bad days. So in the midst of all that, why not try [to] also understand this mutual challenge and try and be supportive of one another?”

Cleary says the album is for people of all ages.

“My past albums have been along the lines of more adult-themed traditional folk and blues,” she says. “All Together Now! is a cohesive family album filled with positive messaging and good ol’ rock-and-roll fun that the whole family can enjoy.

“[It’s meant] to encourage people to appreciate the beautiful aspects of our lives, support one another and to take care of our planet,” she adds. “If we can do that, life can be wonderful, no matter the difficult challenges that we encounter.”

Dolma believes children, in particular, will enjoy the album.

“This is [my mom’s] fourth album, and I have been to her shows,” she says. “It is so fun to see children dancing or singing her songs. Whatever my mom does, she always finds ways to touch someone’s life, because she thinks about being supportive to one another no matter what we do, which is incredibly moving to me.”

Jenn Cleary’s All Together Now! album releases on Amazon on June 4.

Philspicks (2021)

Jenn Cleary’s Debut Family Album Is A Positive First Family Outing

Singer/songwriter/activist Jenn Cleary has spent the better part of her adult life making music and working to improve life for families in places around the world.  Now this year, she is bringing those two sides of her career together with her debut family music album, All Together Now.  Scheduled for release Friday, the self-released record blends Cleary’s socially conscious leanings with a diverse range of musical arrangements to make the general presentation appealing for her target audiences.  The sequencing of the noted content brings everything together and completes the record’s presentation.  All three noted items are important in their own way to the whole of this presentation to make the album a presentation that holds its own against the many other family music albums that have been released so far this year.

Jenn Cleary’s debut family music album (and fourth overall album) is a presentation that holds its own against this year’s current field of new family music albums.  That is proven in part through its featured lyrical themes.  From start to end, the 31-minute record’s themes range from the silly to the serious.  The more serious themes come early on in the record’s first four songs.  From understanding and appreciating the role of bees to the environment, to keeping the world’s waterways clean, to simply understanding and appreciating the diversity in the world’s ecosystems, and the need to protect them, Cleary makes the messages clear in these songs.  She also closes the album with a more serious topic in the matter of the non-nuclear family in ‘Families of All Kinds.’  This song continues the normalization of the reality that families are not just two parents and a certain number of children.  Considering that there are still those in the 21st century who stick to that stereotype, a song such as this is just as relevant and welcome as ever.  In-between all of that, Cleary inserts the more silly works, one of which is a simple work that celebrates the joy of something as simple as blowing bubbles.  There is also a celebration of using one’s imagination in ‘Dinosaur Friend.’  Between this topic, the others noted here, and those featured in the rest of the album’s works, the whole paints Cleary’s new album as an interesting lyrically diverse presentation.  That diversity in itself will help the album connect with a wide range of audiences.  It is just one of the aspects that will connect with audiences.  The album’s musical content is just as diverse as its lyrical content.

All Together Now opens with a semi-country style work in ‘Our Wild Family.’  The combination of the piano, harmonica, vocals, and drums works well to present that subtle sound and approach.  Cleary moves in a more bluesy direction in ‘Scar’s the Word For That,’ showing that diversity a little more.  ‘Clean Water’ changes things up again, taking the record is amore pop direction.  On an even more interesting note, Cleary offers up some zydeco in ‘Backyard Farm.’  ‘Dinosaur Friend’ keeps the musical diversity moving by using a bit of a folk/country hybrid approach in its musical arrangement.  ‘Less Gravity’ keeps the changes coming, this time taking listeners back to the 1960s in its danceable arrangement. Looking through all of this and the musical arrangements in the album’s other songs, the diversity in the record’s musical content becomes clearer.  Hearing that diversity will lead to full appreciation for that aspect of the album, too.

While the general content featured throughout this record does plenty to keep listeners engaged and entertained, they are only a portion of what makes the record interesting for audiences.  The sequencing of said content brings everything together and completes the album’s presentation.  A close listen to the record reveals a very deliberate approach to the sequencing.  For the most part, the sequencing keeps the album’s energy at a relatively stable mid-tempo rate.  However, there is a clear break point in the record in ‘Love Right Now.’  This song features a distinctly subdued sound and approach that is completely unlike the album’s other arrangements.  It serves as a good way for Cleary to keep listeners engaged.  From there, the record returns to its noted, more up-tempo feel that makes up the record’s first half.    In the process, the sequencing ensures the lyrical themes and musical styles and sounds change just enough to keep things interesting.  Keeping this in mind, no doubt is left as to the importance of the album’s sequencing.  When it is considered along with the album’s musical and lyrical content, the whole makes this album a successful first family outing for Cleary.

Jenn Cleary’s debut family album, All Together Now is a positive offering from the singer/songwriter/activist.  That is proven in part through the album’s musical arrangements.  The arrangements in question are somewhat diverse, offering audiences a touch of country, folk, and even some pop.  The lyrical content that accompanies the album’s musical content adds its own touch to the presentation.  That is because it is also diverse.  There are environmentally aware messages alongside messages making clear, the importance of family and familial love.  There are also lighter messages that push the importance of having simple fun.  The record’s sequencing ensures that musical and lyrical diversity is itself kept diverse throughout the album.  It changes up all of that content throughout while also keeping the album’s energy stable throughout.  Each item noted is important in its own way to the whole of the album, clearly.  All things considered, they make All Together Now a positive first family outing for Cleary.