JANUARY AKSELRAD AND JENNIFER YOUNG
THE CO-FOUNDERS' STORY
Once upon a time...
Sometime late in 2005, a prolific children's Playwright, Composer and Drama Teacher by the name of January Akselrad walked into a bookstore in the quaint village of Cold Spring in New York's Hudson River Valley. Browsing the shelves, she came across "The Wishful Penny - Adventures of a One-Cent Coin," a children's chapter book by Jennifer Young, an Author, Teacher and Life Skills Educator for foster care kids. As January tells the story, she stood in the back of the store and read the book from cover-to-cover as songs for a children's musical began to frolic in her mind. (Okay, she didn't use the word "frolic.") She purchased the book, brought it home and set it on her piano... almost two years later, she visited the bookstore again.
On that fateful day, Jennifer, who lived in the village, too, decided to pop into the bookstore at that very same moment to check on the sales of her book with the shopkeeper. "You're the author of The Wishful Penny?" January asked. She told Jennifer that she had an idea for a children's musical based on the book - and would she like to come over and hear some songs? For anyone who is the author of a children's book, you know that is a dream come true! Soon, Jennifer found herself in January's home, nestled in a chair by the piano, listening to the Composer bring her book's characters to life. Jennifer was amazed by January's ability to translate her story's words and themes into song. The duo quickly discovered that they had a lot in common. Both were lifelong educators and creative artists with a similar passion for using the arts to teach. Their collaboration began!
In 2009, January's full-length family musical "Jenny's Penny" - based on "The Wishful Penny" - was mounted at the Neuwirth Theater in the Bronx to a successful run and a New York Times pre-selection nod. Their story of
the adventurous Lincoln Cent caught the attention of the Executive Director of the Abraham Lincoln Bicentennial
Committee in Washington DC who wanted the book and music for hundreds of gift bags to celebrate Lincoln's
200th birthday. The new partners' first product was born: a book and CD set!
11 years later, after a decade as Co-Presidents of See The Wish - the company they formalized in 2009 to educate through entertainment - the duo would become the Creators of the 8x Broadway World Award-winning "IT'S EASY! The Friend Strong Musical" and the Co-Founders of the national non-profit that carries the show's "speak up, reach out and be a friend" message. Along the way, they published 5 award-winning book & CD Sets, produced 3 full-length original musicals, created a line of 12 Dramaterials (TM) Classroom Theater Kits and presented motivational assemblies at dozens of schools. The anti-bullying initiative and "IT'S EASY!" is now their focus as they license the 90-minute musical to schools and theater programs. Since 2018, the show has been licensed in New York, Virginia, Texas and Seoul, South Korea!
With great ceremony, the Business Partners dissolved See The Wish in December 2019, superseded by the Be A Friend Project as it came into its own as a 501c3 in August 2019. The Project carries on the educational, pro-empathy legacy begun by See The Wish with Co-Founders (again), Jennifer as Executive Director and January as a Development/Theater Consultant.
"See the wish, and the wish will come true!"
... and it DID!
"See the wish, and the wish will come true," explains an ancient coin in "The Wishful Penny - Adventures of a One-Cent Coin" to a newly-minted 1943 cent who asks how to help make a human's wish come true. In the book's derivative family musical, "Jenny's Penny" by composer, January Akselrad, the character of Mrs. Buttonbelly explains the magic of visualization through song. In this 2009 video, the "Jenny's Penny" theme song is sung by its composer, January, during one of many "Imagine, Wish and Dream" school presentations with the book's author, Jennifer Young.
At the November 3rd, 2019, Riverdale "Y" Rising Stars Broadway Gala, Honorees Jennifer Young and January Akselrad, as Co-Founders of the Be A Friend Project, were each presented with Proclamations from both the State of New York and the City of New York to honor their anti-bullying, pro-empathy work in service to the community. We are incredibly thankful for this great honor of a lifetime and validation of the mission of the Be A Friend Project.