Jonathan Jonah and Matthew Shapiro, or Jonny and Matty, became best friends at the age of six when they started playing music together. Fast forward years later, after exploring different paths, the two found themselves spending a lot of time exploring music together and navigating parent life in L.A. It became clear to them that writing their own children’s music was the perfect way to combine their musicianship, friendship and fatherhood. They created The BeatBuds, a family-friendly music project that has grown into a fully functioning mobile and virtual international music operation, including school performances, birthday parties, charity events and, most recently, a brand-new animated preschool series on Nickelodeon “The BeatBuds, Let’s Jam!”
We got the opportunity to talk to Jonny and Matty about music, parenting and growing up in L.A.
Where in L.A. did you both grow up?
Jonny: We both grew up in L.A. We met in elementary school at the age of 6 years old at a school right in the heart of the city. L.A. has always been our home.
What is it like to raise your own kids in L.A.?
Matty: To this day I don’t see myself living anywhere else and naturally I feel the same way about where I’m raising my kiddos. L.A.’s diversity, proximity and weather is unmatched and why my wife and I chose to raise our kids just a few blocks from where we grew up. And of course, it feels great to be able to actually show them on a daily basis where we went to school, parks we played at, legendary venues that Jonny and I rocked out at, houses I’ve lived at, not to mention the incredible landmarks we have right here in our great city. L.A. just feels right.
How did you both first get involved with music?
Jonny: I started playing guitar around the age of 6, idolizing artists like Elvis Presley. My family was very musical. Both my Dad and sister played classical piano by ear, and you should hear my Mom sing “Amazing Grace.” Matty gravitated to the drums around the age of 12 and also came from a musical family. His father was a great guitar player with an awesome guitar collection and great taste in music. Almost immediately after Matty got his first drum kit, I grabbed my guitar and amp and we set up in the basement and jammed “Knocking On Heaven’s Door” for about 5 hours straight! Our poor parents and neighbors! Hahaha. And that was the start of our musical journey together, playing in bands, touring the country and later internationally as well, honing our skills and building our bond as best ‘buds.’ But even earlier than that, there’s probably evidence on a VHS tape in a dusty box in my garage where you can see video footage of Matty and me in our second grade talent show, playing air-guitar on tennis rackets and running around like maniacs to a Huey Lewis song. Our love for playing music together goes back almost as far as the beginning of our friendship.
What is the best way to introduce young kids to music?
Matty: Full immersion into the music experience at an early age is by far the best way. If they can hear it, see it, and feel it in their entire body, they quickly realize its power and become an immediate music lover. In The BeatBuds, our main goal is to introduce kids to the joys of music through fun songs and a memorable early age music experience that provides them a creative outlet that can last a lifetime. It certainly has for us.
What is the most memorable moment you’ve had performing for young audiences in L.A.? Any surprises or funny moments?
Jonny: We do these large scale concerts called “The BeatBASH” with a full band of up to seven other musicians so that we can perform the BeatBuds songs the way they’re produced and sound on our albums with a ton of instrumentation. 1,500 kids and families in a venue, all rocking out with us, followed by a giant carnival outside in the parking lot after the show. It’s just the best feeling to see so many smiles from kids and their parents as the entire family enjoys the experience together. As for funny moments, Matty and I think we’re the funniest guys in the world, so everything is funny!! But that might be a biased opinion. I do recall performing our song “The Froggy Hop” at the Palladium in L.A. to a sold-out house, when suddenly, our special guest “Frankie The Frog” (aka: our third best friend from childhood, Amir) jumped and hopped so enthusiastically that his froggy head fell off. Then when he put it back on, it was backwards! That was definitely a laugh out loud moment for us on stage where the three of us could barely contain our laughter and get through the rest of the song.
What’s your favorite way to spend a weekend in L.A. with your family?
Matty: Well, amongst all the birthday parties, classes, and events we do on the weekends, I have to be super creative to fit in family time, but I’d say a quick lunch pickup from our favorite sandwich shop, Toni’s Deli of North Hollywood, before we head over to the L.A. Zoo for some animal appreciation is a great start. We like to follow that up with a scenic hike in Fryman Canyon to work up a strong appetite for some of L.A.’s most rockin’ Mediterranean food from Pita Kitchen. If we can get all that done, amongst a visit with extended family, a trip to the home improvement store and a couple dog walks, it’s been a fun-filled weekend!
What do you do for fun around the city?
Jonny: My family does a lot of play dates right now at family and friend’s homes with the kids. We have a 3-year-old so our fun is really all about his fun. We take lots of afternoon trips to hiking trails and parks, we hit the beach whenever we can, we love the pony rides at Griffith Park and the train (when it comes back), we swim every single day, ice cream adventures to McConnell’s and Pink Berry (heavy on the toppings), and my wife and I have just recently begun getting back into dinners together every now and then.
All 10 episodes of “The BeatBuds, Let’s Jam!” are available on the Nick Jr. YouTube channels and Nick Jr. On Demand.