Northbrook's Ben Tatar performing drive-up concert to close out Hanukkah celebrations

  • Children wave lighted toy rods as Northbrook-based children's musician Ben Tatar performs a free drive-up concert at the Lake County JCC in Lake Zurich earlier this week. He'll be performing two concerts Sunday at "Z" Frank Apachi in Northbrook to celebrate the eighth night of Hanukkah.

      Children wave lighted toy rods as Northbrook-based children's musician Ben Tatar performs a free drive-up concert at the Lake County JCC in Lake Zurich earlier this week. He'll be performing two concerts Sunday at "Z" Frank Apachi in Northbrook to celebrate the eighth night of Hanukkah. John Starks | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 12/2/2021 2:52 PM
This report has been updated to correct the date of Ben Tatar's free drive-up concerts at 'Z' Frank Apachi in Northbrook to Sunday, Dec. 5.

It's music perfect for little sprouts.

Northbrook's Ben Tatar performs, composes and arranges music, plays trombone and guitar, plus he sings and is fluent on piano, tuba, glockenspiel and bass.

 

He's shared a bill with entertainers as disparate as Bob Newhart and Ben Vereen, played in diverse Chicago rooms such as Double Door and The Green Mill.

Yet the name of his band, Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots, reveals his focus -- songs about food, meant for children of all ages.

He's got two albums out under the Tatar Tots mantle, "Food" (2014) and, naturally, "Seconds," released in November. A third yet-to-be-named album is in the works.

"I'm going to blame my Kildeer students for giving me the motor and the energy behind me," said Tatar, in his 17th year teaching music to first- through fifth-grade students in Kildeer Countryside Consolidated School District 96.

Currently he's teaching at Kildeer Countryside in Long Grove. Previously he taught at Willow Grove Early Learning Center in Buffalo Grove.

By "blame" he means credit. In the classroom, Tatar uses words and melodies associated with food to teach his young students musical building blocks such as rhythm.

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"The kids like it, and it led to writing longer pieces about food, and eventually songs and albums around food," said Tatar, a native of Highland Park.

"I think even before the first album came out -- maybe even before I was thinking about putting a kids' rock 'n' roll album out -- I was thinking about putting together food and music in the classroom."

Inspired after visiting the Kidzapalooza stage at Lollapalooza, and influenced by Glen Ellyn's Ralph Covert -- whose children's rock under the Ralph's World moniker may have gained more widespread attention than his traditional rock band, The Bad Examples -- Tatar also taught "Wiggleworms" classes at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Supported by nearly three dozen musicians, including the Low Down Brass Band and the trio Spare Parts to lend a funk or jazz feel to some selections, songs on "Seconds" include "The Chocolate Milk Song," "Jambalaya" and "Old Prune." More on Tatar's music can be found on his website, BenTatarMusic.com, as well as on social media channels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"My daughter will sing the hook to the 'Peanut Butter!' song all day long," said Tatar, who with his wife, Ilene, have two small children.

Away from home, he'll have the little critics at Kildeer screen his new material as he teaches.

However, Tatar's pair of solo drive-up concerts this Sunday at JCC Chicago's "Z" Frank Apachi in Northbrook will reflect more of his own childhood and background as a Jewish man and JCC fan.

Less food, more about the eighth night of Hanukkah celebrated through song in a family-friendly atmosphere.

"It'll be very different from the Tatar Tots gig, but it's very important personally being that I'm a Jewish person and also a part of the nearby community up in the north suburbs. I'm doing a show close to home and with like-minded people," Tatar said.

"I'm honored to be part of it. Especially given that I live in the area and I also went to preschool at the 'Z' Frank, it's sort of come full circle."

The free concerts are at 3 and 4:15 Sunday in the "Z" Frank parking lot, 3050 Woodbridge Lane. People can stay in their cars and roll down their windows to listen or, if it's warm enough, they can congregate outside.

"I'm going to do as much as my fingers cooperate with," Tatar said.

People can register for either time slot by visiting jccchicago.org, selecting the "Calendar" tab and following to the Dec. 5 listing.

Jamee Smith of the Lake County JCC, where Tatar played on Tuesday, said response for his Sunday appearance was strong with about 65 people registered entering this past weekend.

"This will be one of the bigger events that we've had. Usually we have like 20-30 (people)," she said.

Tatar, who will sing, play guitar and hopes to slip some trombone into his performance, said this summer he was a song leader for 3- and 4-year-olds at the Bernard Weinger JCC in Northbrook.

As a boy he attended many JCC programs, he said. Before moving to Northbrook, he performed Shabbat sessions at the Florence G. Heller JCC in Chicago. Tatar figures he's been a part of family programming at most JCC Chicago locations.

"It's nice, it's an honor, and I don't take it for granted," Tatar said.

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