Ivan Ulz grew up in a nursery school – literally. At 19, he left home to pursue a songwriting career, starting in North Beach, San Francisco. In 1980, he moved to New York City where he rediscovered his roots teaching music in local preschools. Now returned to his native California, Ivan continues to perform for families, sharing his uncanny musical connection with youngsters in person and on the radio.
When Ivan was 10 years old, his family moved from their San Fernando Valley home into what soon became Connie’s Nursery School. Ivan spent much of his time surrounded by an ever-changing cast of 2 to 5 year old children, finger paints and play equipment, and other trappings of early-childhood education. These included an extensive library of books and 78 rpm records. Ivan spent hours listening to Woody Guthrie, Frank Luther, Tom Glazer, and Marcia Berman. It wasn’t long before he began playing the guitar and writing his own songs.
In 1964, Ivan surprised everyone when his song, “A Letter to the Beatles” was recorded by the Four Preps, and listed on the Billboard Hot 100. Encouraged by this, he began writing pop music. In 1970 he released an album of his own work, “Ivan the Ice Cream Man.” Ivan collaborated with well known musicians and several of his songs were recorded by major artists. However, Ivan’s successes in adult music remained marginal.
Ivan moved to Greenwich Village, NYC in 1980, leaving behind a music scene that no longer appealed to him. Folk music was out of fashion and many of his friends had drifted away or died from drug abuse.
Looking for work in New York City, Ivan decided to play a hunch and applied for a job in a nursery school. He didn’t have a degree, but early experience in his parents’ nursery school spoke for itself. Ivan began working as an assistant teacher and quickly realized that his real expertise was in making music with children. Word got around and soon Ivan was a “music specialist,” playing and singing at a number of Village schools each week. In 2001, The New York Times featured Ivan among other rising stars of the children’s music scene. Click here to read the article.
Ivan’s reputation as a children’s songwriter, performer, educator, and purveyor of classic children’s songs continues to grow. He made his first CD for children, “Songs from the Old School,” in 1999. It contains new performances of songs that Ivan heard in his parent’s school, many of which have been forgotten for more than a generation. The featured track on the CD is Ivan’s own “Fire Truck!”. Also released as a book/CD by Scholastic, this tune is already a classic in its own right – hailed as a “preschool anthem” by The New York Times.
In 2012, Ivan returned to California, settling on the beautiful Central Coast, in the tiny hamlet of Halcyon. These days you’ll find Ivan performing in schools and libraries, at private parties, public parks, and the occasional house concert. “This Is My School,” his second CD for children, with newly written original tunes and more rediscovered ‘songs from the old school’, is now available. Ivan also hosts a weekly syndicated radio program, the Treasure Ivan Show, featuring his growing collection of children’s records from the first half of the 20th century.