From American Profile - 1/27/2007
Rita Abrams grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, where she studied ten years of classical piano and music theory at the Cleveland Institute of Music. She attended Simmons College in Boston, and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Honors English Literature from the University of Michigan. Boston University granted her a fellowship for a Masters Program in Special Education, after which she taught for two years in the Boston Public Schools.
All the while, Rita was writing poems, parodies, and songs, and, while teaching in Boston, performed in a female rock band. In 1968 the cold gray snows drove her out to California, where the chance discovery of a town called Mill Valley led her to a teaching job there. A balmy Christmas Day in 1969 inspired her to write a little song about Mill Valley for her kindergartners to sing, after which she happened to meet a producer she had heard about in Boston -- Erik Jacobsen. He liked her song enough to record her with the Strawberry Point School Third Grade Class (the kindergartners were too young); Warner Bros. gave it a standing ovation at the sales meeting, put a rush release on it, and in ten days it was out all over the world.
With a hit on the Billboard charts, Rita left teaching to pursue music, which led her in divergent creative directions ~ children's records and films, pop and novelty songs, including a long and lively collaboration with Dr. Elmo (famous for his "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer"), commercials, product naming, greeting cards, a humor book, and finally, musical theatre.
While married to filmmaker John Antonelli, Rita had a daughter, Mia, who was the muse for much of her work in children's music and humor writing. Mia is the production of which Rita is the proudest.
Rita's achievements have won her many honors and awards, including two Emmys (for I Want it All Now, and Classic Stories for Children), three Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle Awards, twenty-six ASCAP Awards, and a host of others. Her stage shows and collaborations have included Aftershocks, For Whom the Bridge Tolls, New Wrinkles, Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, and, most recently, Pride and Prejudice, The Musical.
But her newest creative endeavor is the result of all the "Mill Valley" song fan mail that has never stopped coming. While reading one of the "It has taken me over 30 years to write you" letters, Rita suddenly realized that this fairytale is ready to be told. Erik Jacobsen agrees, and, completing the circle, is embarking on the book project with her. Stay tuned for further developments.
All in all, Rita is really grateful for a life filled with creative adventures, loving friends, and the joys of motherhood. And -- she insists -- it's still too early to call her a one-hit wonder.
Electric Dreams Interview