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For the love of children through A Gentle Wind

May 9, 2011

by Siera Henriquez

Hidden behind a door on South Pine Avenue, Jill Person, the founder of A Gentle Wind, operates her children’s recording line producing music and stories on CDs and for downloading. Person has spent decades successfully molding her business into more than just a job – children’s education is something Person has evolved into a vocation she is thankful for every day.

Person is inspired by the excitement of how children grow and learn; these factors hold her interest and have driven her to expand the A Gentle Wind enterprise. The business has been featured and recommended in Parents’ Magazine, The Washington Post, Entertainment Weekly, and has appeared on the The American Library Association’s Booklist. Person first recognized her interest in childhood education after taking a children’s literature course at the University at Albany. Person, who was born in the early 1950s on Hauppauge, Long Island, moved to Albany and earned her bachelor’s degree in education at the University.

Person began A Gentle Wind with a $20 desk and a $200 typewriter. “We were propelled

Jill Person at her home business on South Pine Avenue (Siera Henriquez)

out of the social justice movements of the 60s,” said Person’s longtime friend, Ruth Pelham. “The values of justice and environmental awareness, peace and compassion is woven throughout everything we do.”

Pelham, a song writer, recording artist and the President of Music Mobile, a nonprofit organization; has known Person since 1974. They two met in the early 1970s at The Albany Area Open School, an innovative, forward thinking, alternative school where both had the opportunity to spend a great deal of time teaching, and sharing their love for music and children together. The school was run by parents in the community. In 1977 Person stopped teaching and focused on her husband, Donald Person and their two children, who are now 40 and 32.

“Through the existence of Gentle Wind and all of Jill’s hard work and devotion, my songs and the songs of dozens of song writers have found their way to thousands and thousands of people; helping our songs to make a strong impact,” Pelham said.

Person has also been recording children’s songs for Scholastic for the past 12 years, along with phonics books. She said it has been important for the business to stay flexible while the world and market keep changing.

One of Jill Persons produced childrens CDs (Siera Henriquez)

A Gentle Wind began prior to the prosperity of the early childhood education industry and family music. Person was the pioneer at the forefront of the children’s industry alongside with Pelham’s Music Mobile.

Donald Person, an audio engineer, played a significant role in supporting A Gentle Wind. The couple were able to combine Jill’s love for children and Donald’s engineering career. “We are very supportive of each other. Jill has taken her interest in childhood education a step further in exploring a different aspect of children learning. You can tell she really cares about making a difference, ” her husband said.

A Gentle Wind has been around for 30 years and began in 1981 with cassettes. Person followed the transition of technology from cassettes, to CDs, to downloads. She also moved from building promotional materials using wax type layout paste-ups to less sticky work with graphic layout skills for websites. When business became steady, Person hired Michelle Arthur, a part-time employee.

“Working at A Gentle Wind has shown me that there can be a way to make a living doing something that you love, and doing it the way you want to do it. We work with great people. We enjoy talking to our customers. It is still work, of course, but it is satisfying. With a small business like AGW, the variety of tasks make it harder to get bored,” Arthur said. “Also, keeping up with the evolving music business requires creativity and continual learning.”

Aside from A Gentle Wind, Person enjoys canoeing, hiking, and spending time with her two grandchildren, a 4-year-old and an 20-month-old. There aren’t any known plans for the future but “to continue creating recordings for kids we believe in. I want to have done work I enjoyed; work I am proud of, and know that we’ve sent some fun out into the world.” -30-


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