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The Disclosures sing to enrich kids’ lives

December 1, 2017

The Disclosures

You say your 6-year-old doesn’t know the difference between loan sharks and compound interest?

Then you haven’t heard The Disclosures.

The Madison musical duo has carved a niche for itself by singing to children about a rare topic: personal finance.

With light-hearted, original songs such as “I Want, I Need,” “Captain Smartmoney vs. Dr. Greedypants” and “Thank My Piggy Bank,” The Disclosures — aka Christopher Morris and Chad Helminak — have a knack for turning boardroom jargon into catchy tunes.

It’s a message with a mission: The Disclosures aim to get kids to think about saving money. To beware of deals that sound “Too Good to Be True” (another song title). They even have a song about directing a little bit of that weekly allowance to charity.

“What we’re doing is really niche,” Helminak explains. “But we realized, wow, we can deliver these lessons that are really important for kids to understand in a new, kind of different way.”

Both Helminak and Morris work in the credit union field — Helminak, 35, as communications strategist at CUNA Mutual Group and Morris, 40, as director of communications for the National Credit Union Foundation.

The two men met in 2009 at a week-long training for credit union staff, where they struck up a friendship. Then they discovered they both played guitar and liked the same music — and that sealed the deal.

They came up with the idea for The Disclosures, first aimed at entertaining adults working in finance. Meeting in coffee shops on their off hours, Morris and Helminak penned songs that eventually they performed at events for credit union employees.

A song for colleagues might “be about a credit union pioneer and what they did to build credit unions,” Helminak said. Or it might just be funny.

“We’d cover songs like George Michael’s ‘Faith’ or ‘I Will Survive,’ and make it about credit unions,” Morris said. “It took off. It was really effective. We played coast to coast for credit unions.”

“Then we thought, ‘Let’s do something for kids,’ ” said Morris, who has two daughters, ages 11 and 14.

“Because music for kids is everything — especially that 10 and under” crowd.

And who better to learn good saving habits, they thought, than a new generation?

The Disclosures don’t just dash off tunes. Instead, they approach each song strategically.

“When we first started writing songs, our first step was really, ‘OK, what concepts should we be teaching K-5 kids about? What’s in the curriculum now, or should be?’ and framing that out first,” Helminak said. Then, “we’d build the song around that.”

The song “Save!,” for example, stresses that “saving may not be the coolest thing in the world, but it helps you do some of the coolest things in the world,” he said.

In the colorful tune “The Tale of Kidd Silver, the Savviest Pirate to Ever Sail the Seas,” The Disclosures sing how a pirate learns a lesson after spending too much on a golden peg leg and a lavish pirate ship. That overreaching caused trouble – arrrrgh!

“For a while life seemed good, but I borrowed too much,” the pirate sings. “More than I’ll ever need. But I couldn’t make payments to the old loan shark, now they’re coming after me.”

The pirate changes his ways, and “Little by little, I worked and I saved and I budgeted along the way,” he sings. “Found a wooden peg leg, found a skeleton crew, and bought a little boat by the bay.”

In 2015 Morris and Helminak, who both play and sing guitar in The Disclosures, entered their act into the Overture Center for the Arts’ annual Rising Stars talent competition. They didn’t win, but Overture staff thought they’d be a good fit for Kids in the Rotunda, Overture’s free, Saturday entertainment series geared toward children and their families.

The act appeared at KIR in April, and went over so well that The Disclosures were asked back for the 2017-18 season.

They’ll perform on Overture’s Rotunda stage on Saturday, with 45-minute shows at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

Area schools have begun inviting them to perform for their students, a trend that Morris and Helminak hope will continue, they said.

The Disclosures have several tunes on YouTube, including a charming animated version of “The Tale of Kidd Silver.” Their music CD, titled “The Secret to Being Rich,” will be available at their KIR show and can be purchased through iTunes, CDBaby and Amazon.

The CD is named after its final cut, also titled “The Secret to Being Rich.” But that song is not about financial wealth — rather, it stresses the value of a well-lived life.

“You have to augment this with, ‘Money isn’t everything,’ ” Morris said of The Disclosures’ financial literacy lessons.

“There’s much more to it: Family, friends, and having a rich, fulfilling life. Being happy.”

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