Tessarose Productions – the beginning
In 1992, Tessa Grigg was teaching nanny students at a private college in Christchurch, New Zealand. One of her specialist areas was teaching music for children. The issue arose with her students of where to find suitable music they could sing along to with the children in their care, to make sure their developmental needs were being met.
After doing some research into existing resources, Tessa decided it was worthwhile to make something specifically to meet the need. After a few false starts, she made the connection with Brian Ringrose and a lasting business partnership began.
Brian was an accomplished guitarist, singer and composer, who had been writing and recording music and jingles, and recording other musicians in his studio in Christchurch. He also happened to be on the lookout for a new musical opportunity.
Tessa says Brian's enthusiasm and willingness to take on the project appealed and she was hooked. "Brian’s studio was perfect for the job and while he took on the recording and production of the tape I was able to focus on coming up with the ideas. His outstanding ability to translate "It needs to sound like frogs, Brian." into interesting children’s music was a bonus I had not expected, but soon came to rely on."
From Tessa's perspective as an experienced early childhood educator, the most crucial part of the project was to incorporate all the important developmental components into the music.
" These things included the pace of the songs, the messages that the words conveyed, pitch, and clarity of diction. I nearly drove Brian nuts!! We recorded material that I had used extensively with children previously, so I could be reasonably sure of audience appeal."
The result of this first collaboration was that Tessa's nanny students purchased the tape, and then people started buying it for their friends and families. Brian heard the word "gift" and immediately saw that there was an opportunity to take the tape further.
After much discussion, Tessarose Productions Ltd was formed. The tape was re-mixed and anything that annoyed either of them was removed or re-recorded. Sing a Song became the title and the album cover was designed by Christchurch artist, Celia Allison. The company now had its first highly professional product.
Over the next 18 months, marketing Sing a Song then became the focus, with great results. With the first tape doing well Tessa and Brian decided to look at doing another.
Tessa had ideas of a continuing story, and Brian was keen to do something with a New Zealand flavour so that Tessarose could move into the international market. "Sing through the Seasons of New Zealand" was the result. The inclusion of original material on the ‘Seasons’ album meant there were ideas that had to have songs written about them.
The "Our Back Yard" song was put together in the studio one night from a list of words that Tessa was looking to use somehow. The words "now there’s a cabbage tree in the middle of the lawn, right next door to the sand pit..." began to flow and another original song was born.
Songs on this album had a distinctively New Zealand feel, including iconic kiwi events such as the local A and P show and summer holidays at the beach – plus a humorous twist that makes individual songs even more memorable.
The ‘Seasons’ album has a good philosophical base, with positive images being promoted through the language used and a speed and pitch that is appropriate for young children.
The next step Tessarose took was to make tapes on commission for an Early Childhood Education company. These were theme tapes and one was produced each school term. The response from these was (and still is) excellent with orders mostly from Australia.
"Sing a Song Volume 2" was next on the list, followed by the highly successful "Dancing to the Beat". The dance tape has 20 children’s dances with instructions on the cover and introductions to each dance made by Tessarose's own character, Colin the Kiwi. Colin’s involvement enabled listeners to identify the dance that was about to start - but it also launched Colin’s career on stage and video.
In 1996 Tessa and Brian did their first educational workshops, which proved highly successful. Parents and Early Childhood Educators were keen to learn how to maximise the potential of the Tessarose music. The workshop topics were extended to demonstrate the enhancement of learning that music and movement activities offer.
Being able to measure the impact of their products has always been important to Tessarose Productions. Tessa has taught sensory motor and music classes where music and activities were tested with children. She also worked with a pre-school where other teachers used the music.
Feedback from the purchasers of the tapes is considered carefully in the development of new material. Happily, a common theme of letters from customers is that when the children hear the music they want to hear it over and over again, and their focus is maintained for long periods of time. People who buy one tape often come back and buy others in the range, and then many people buy them as gifts.
Working as a team, maximising the strengths that they each have, and having lots of fun are keys to the success of the Tessarose partnership. As Brian comments, " The bottom line for both of us is that this needs to be fun. So far we have had heaps of fun and we can see that continuing."
Tessarose Productions has now produced over 25 CDs, tapes, videos and DVDs and sold more than 200,000 copies to parents, grandparents and early childhood educators worldwide (An impressive achievement considering that a Gold Record in New Zealand sells 7,500 copies). Tessa and Brian have performed in concert regularly over the last 10 years, and have successfully presented workshops at conferences as far a field as Vancouver, Seattle, St Louis, Perth, and Alice Springs.
They have created teaching manuals for teachers to assist them with the movements to accompany the music, and have released their first training DVD aimed at educators and parents, to accompany the CD "Look at me I'm Moving, Volume 3".