So, I was thrilled when I heard that Jimmy Osmond, the youngest of the Osmond clan, is still wonderfully successful and fulfilled today. He is committed to children’s literacy and is doing his part to further the cause. He is also on the Board of the Children’s Miracle Network, an organization started by his mother, which has to date raised more than $5 billion -- most of it, one dollar at a time -- for 170 children’s hospitals across the United States and Canada, which, in turn, use the money where it’s needed the most. And, of course, he is a world-famous recording artist and performer who touches audiences worldwide.
As the father of four children, he has put his commitment to literacy to work. In his fun new children’s book, Awesome Possum Family Band (Regnery Kids; 2014; $16.99), world-famous recording artist and performer Jimmy Osmond shares his personal quest of finding his special place in his family’s band, The Osmonds. Jimmy’s character, Possum Number Nine, sets off to discover his special musical talent when the Awesome Possum Family Band receives an invitation to make their big showbiz break on TV. Possum Number Nine uncovers many talents he doesn’t have before discovering his own. With love and patience, Mother Possum encourages Number Nine to dig deep within himself and “practice, practice practice” to find what he truly loves and make his dream come.
Following is a fascinating Q&A with Jimmy Osmond!
Q. Jimmy, your new book, Awesome Possum Family Band, features a protagonist named Possum Number Nine. Does that character's search for his talent mirror your own childhood experiences?
A. Yes, very closely. My brothers were already performing on the Andy Williams Show; however, I was the first to have a hit record. I performed with my brothers, but I also performed on my own.
Q. You had a hit record when you were nine years old. Did that change the way you felt about yourself, and the way that others treated you?
A. No, I thought every kid did what I did. I never went to public school (except for one day), so I did feel a little different from other kids I knew. But later I realized my life was pretty special.
Q. What made you decide to write a children's book, and what was your favorite thing about the creative process?
A. Work can get pretty frantic so it’s important to have an escape. For me, that is cartooning, which I have been doing for years and I love to create characters. My drawings tend to be pretty light-hearted and I like to use them to cheer people up. I take my art kit everywhere and I create my cartoons by sketching an outline with pencil on tracing paper which I then fill in with water color paints and ink.
Q. What are the big messages that you want kids to take away from your book?
A. As I looked at my life, I realized that my parents had given me the ability to feel that everyone has a part to play. In today’s world, you see a lot of kids that are lost and don’t realize how much potential they have, so I hope this book can in some small way encourage kids to go for their dreams
Q. What are the lessons that you hope parents (and grandparents) can take away from the book, and what's the greatest nugget of wisdom that Mother Possum (actually, your mother, Olive) would impart to them?
A. I hope parents and grandparents will encourage kids to develop their talents. My mother taught me so many great things, but I will always remember that she taught us to prepare ourselves and the opportunities will come; that has been a real blessing to me. My mother was a theologian, she studied all kinds of religious beliefs and she was accepting of people, never judgmental. She had a way about her that was amazing.
Q. What was it like to grow up in a huge family?
A. I think the best part is, knowing that if you’re in trouble your siblings have your back. Each one of us is so different and we have talents in different areas, so we can always help each other out. When any of us is in trouble, we all rally around each other. As we are growing older, I hope that we can continue to hold on to those things that really make us strong. We’re a family that has made it through a lot of good times and bad times, and we’re still intact. I think that’s the greatest thing to celebrate.
Q. What advice would you give to other families who are contemplating working together? Would you recommend it for every family?
A. Working together can be the best and the worst. We love each other so much and we have faced a lot of changes, we know each other so well. You can’t just tell your brother forget it, you have to work things out, and we have learned to agree to disagree on things. My brothers are my best friends and we always have fun, but it’s more about the little day-to-day experiences that happen on stage or on tour. We have a saying “tragedy plus time equals humor” and it’s really true.
Q. Are any of your children interested in performing, and what do you think about mixing children and show business?
A. My kids are all really musically talented. I did a Christmas show in Florida and had the kids sing on stage -- they hated me for it at first. Then at the end of the show they said, "Dad, we'd do that again." I think it's in their blood, but I think they're smart enough to look at doing something else for a living.
Q. How have you helped your own kids develop self-esteem, and what would you say to other parents who are trying to do the same?
A. Embrace whatever comes their the way. What’s really important is to know who you are and what you stand for. If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.
Q. How much time do you spend on the road these days, and what sustains you while you have to be away from your wife and kids?
A. My brothers and I do over 100 shows a year and on average I spend about four to five months a year in the UK, so it can be a challenge, but whenever possible my family travels with me. The truth is, I think it's important for your kids to see you work and just to be a part of it.
Q. How have you seen the music industry evolve from the time you were a child and just getting started in it?
A. Show business is different than it was when we grew up. We grew up the old Hollywood way. We didn't know what we were doing, we just kind of fell into all these amazing opportunities with all these cool mentors and you don't really see that happening in today's world. That's kind of sad to me.
Q. What is the Moon River Theater, and why does Branson, Missouri sound so familiar -- and how is it all related to Andy Williams? Is there a web site where we can get more information or buy tickets, if we're ever lucky enough to be in the area?
A. I was first introduced to Branson by our mentor and friend, Andy Williams, who had opened his Moon River Theatre, back in the 1990s. I bought my first theatre there, my wife Michelle and I made that our home and all four of our children were born in the Ozarks. My brothers and I performed for more than a decade at The Osmond Family Theatre. We continued to produce and perform other shows throughout the world, but always returned to Branson even after I sold my theatres.
Andy called me asking if I’d be interested in helping book shows for the Moon River Theatre. I told him, “No, boss, but I do love you,” because I was producing things in England and doing my own thing. In 2012, when we knew he didn’t have very long left, we were supposed to take the stage with him one last time, but he passed away the night before we got back in town. I knew he had a powerful tie to mine, and really all of our hearts, but I didn’t realize how strong that connection really was until we lost him.
My brothers and I did perform at Andy’s theatre that year, finishing out the season alongside The Lennon Sisters in the Christmas show. The following year, I was asked by members of the Williams family to help the theater in a business capacity.
The Williams family really liked the Osmonds and Lennons doing Andy’s Christmas show and helping to keep his legacy alive, so we did it again last year and it was so successful, it really became the show to see for Christmas. During last season, I was approached by members of the Williams family about the prospect of helping to keep the theatre going as a performer, as well as in a business capacity. It will always be Andy’s theatre, and I’m going to run it the way I hope he’d want it to be run.
You can find out more at www.andywilliamstheatre.com
Q. In this age of digital entertainment, how does the theater (like the Moon River Theater) or live performances (like those you do with your family) add value? What can live entertainment provide that laptops, computers, and cell phones just can't match?
A. It’s great to be able to share your music digitally, but there is nothing quite like performing live. I love performing and having a job that makes people feel good; I want them to forget their troubles for those two hours and I’m a part of that. That’s wonderful and valuable.
You have to remember these performances are not about us, they’re about the fans, the crowd. You sing the same songs and you should always try and make it fresh for yourself but mainly for them. And you’ve got to keep it real -- people can spot a phoney in a minute. You’ve got to love what you do, whether it’s a theatre or an arena, every show should be different and fresh.
Q. Is it true that your mother founded the Children's Miracle Network, and can you tell us about the organization? What does it do, and what's your role in it? Again, is there a web site where we can learn more?
A. I sit on the board of the Children’s Miracle Network, and it is an organization that was originally formed by my mother called The Osmond Foundation. Today it is known as the Children’s Miracle Network and it helps over 17 million children each year -- having raised close to $5 billion for kids. I love to contribute to the cause in any way I can, as it is close to my heart. Learn more about CMN at www.childrensmiraclenetworkhospitals.org
About Jimmy Osmond
Jimmy Osmond is a multi-faceted entrepreneur, who has obtained success both on and off stage. Through his vast experience and knowledge in the entertainment industry, he has produced and promoted record-breaking worldwide concert tours, ice extravaganzas, a variety of commercials and coordinated celebrity commercial endorsements.
Before the age of 15, Jimmy had developed and supervised most of the Osmonds’ merchandising business. Soon after, he launched a successful advertising agency that handled production services and campaigns for larger corporations, such as Yamaha and Coca-Cola, as well as an elite portfolio of other high-profile clients. Also, during this same time, he starred in his first motion picture entitled The Great Brain and went on to star in two award-winning episodes of the TV show Fame; and, starred in his own show to sell-out crowds in Madison Square Garden. You can read a review of his recent UK Royal Concert Hall show here. Visit Jimmy Osmond online at http://jimmyosmond.com/ and his book publisher at www.regnerykids.com.
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