You probably won’t hear any of Jill Jayne’s nutrition-themed dance songs in the club. But for the three-quarters-of-a-million elementary-school students who have been to a Jump With Jill concert, and who listen to her albums at home, she’s a household name.
A decade ago, Jayne, a Pittsburgh native, was studying to become a registered dietitian while performing in a rock band. One passion became an unlikely source of inspiration for the other when, she says, “What I realized was that people were coming to our concerts with unhealthy foods in their hands.” Instead of writing about breakups, she realized, “We could use our musical powers for good!”
With the idea of using the same mass-media tools that are usually used to sell unhealthy foods to kids, Jayne — then a grad student at Columbia University — began performing her new songs in Central Park. Soon she was asked to perform at schools in New York, leading to an invitation to perform at all of Philadelphia’s 130-plus city schools. “That’s when I realized I had to clone myself,” Jayne says. Now, Jump with Jill (currently based in Pittsburgh) features four casts, with four similarly high-energy Jills, that tour schools in the U.S., Canada and Europe.
The catchy dance songs on Jayne’s latest release, Boom, wouldn’t sound out of place on Top 40 radio, but includes titles like “Fiber,” “Try New Food” and “Listen to Your Body.” “The songs are really persuasive, but not in a way that’s like, ‘Don’t drink soda because it’s bad for you,’” she explains. “What we’re trying to show is … being healthy is cool!”
According to third-party research, students who’ve seen Jump with Jill shows have self-reported behavior improvements, says Jayne. That’s thanks, in part, to the quality of the music and the exciting, rock-concert feel of the live show.
But perhaps more importantly, the music offers a powerful message of ownership of one’s body. “How we start and close every show around the country is: This is your body and you’re the only one that can make the choices for it, so show your body respect,” Jayne says.
Or, as one young audience member puts it in a Jump for Jill promo video, “They trust the kids to make their own decisions.”
For more information, visit www.jumpwithjill.com.