Ralph Rinzler co-founded the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in 1967 and a decade later parlayed it into what is now the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage. The annual Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert showcases and offers tribute to artists who, like Rinzler, have wielded major cultural influence. The 2009 Rinzler Concert saluted Smithsonian Folkways artist Ella Jenkins.
Jenkins earned her reputation as “The First Lady of Children’s Music” through her fifty-plus years of creating and performing groundbreaking music for young children. She published the first of her nearly forty albums for children (and parents) in 1957 on the Folkways Records label in New York City. She went on to become the role model and inspiration for most of the renowned leaders of children’s music who followed. In 2004, she became the first children’s artist to receive the music industry’s highest honor, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Lifetime Achievement GRAMMY award. Similarly, the ASCAP Foundation honored her with its Lifetime Achievement Award in 1999, making her the first woman and the first children’s artist to be recognized with this national prize. Ella Jenkins has won dozens of other awards. In 2006, Strathmore Hall in Bethesda, Maryland, produced a sold-out tribute concert to Jenkins, featuring marquee-name artists Pete Seeger, Bill Harley, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, Mariachi Los Camperos, and Sweet Honey in the Rock. For the 2009 Rinzler Concert, Ella was joined by Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer.
Daniel Sheehy was Curatorial Advisor and Rebecca Smerling Marcus and Alana Pryor Ackerman were Coordinators.