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A Birthday Chat with Acclaimed Childrens’ Musician Laurie Berkner

by zulily January 27th, 2012

Musician Laurie Berkner has helped change the face of children’s music with critically acclaimed songs that encourage kids to move and participate. The Laurie Berkner Band has been featured on the Today Show, Nick Jr. and nearly every episode of Jack’s Big Music Show. Her latest stop is right here on zulily where the band is debuting their most recent CD/DVD project, Party Day! She’s been kind enough to join us on our second Birthday to answer a few questions about her music, her family, and her other dream job: organic vegetable farmer!

zulily: What is it about writing music and lyrics for children that comes so naturally to you?  

Laurie Berkner: I think it’s partly that I feel very connected to the kid inside of myself. Honestly, as an adult I find I’m often still affected, at least somewhat, by many of the same things that felt important and exciting to me when I was young. Also, I like the directness and simplicity that’s called for when writing with kids in mind. 

z: We know children love to listen to your music. Do you have any tips for parents that are encouraging their little ones to take up an instrument?

LB: That’s a good question for me because my answer has changed now that I am a parent. I used to believe that just exposing kids to different instruments would be enough to inspire them to want to learn to play. But we have both a piano and many guitars around our apartment and our daughter, Lucy, has not shown much interest in learning either of those. Also I discovered that Lucy didn’t actually realize she could take lessons to learn how to play an instrument until I explicitly told her that was the case.

Parents (of young children in particular) might want to start just by talking with their kids about music lessons in general. There are also many music schools that have “instrument days” where families can come and kids have a chance to both experiment with various instruments and meet teachers. I think that can be very inspiring and gives parents (especially those who may not feel as confident about music) a chance to learn and ask questions.  

z: Before you began writing songs for kids, you played in an all-woman rock band. How important to you is your position as a role model for young girls?  

LB: It has always been very important to me. I remember growing up imagining that girls were just not really supposed to play instruments in bands. I always felt more comfortable singing than playing piano or guitar and I also didn’t see many role models of female instrumentalists in rock bands around me. This was true both of my peers (of the many rock bands in my high school, there was only one that I remember even having a girl in it, and she sang without playing an instrument) and of the popular music scene at that time. I love being a woman who fronts a band, and sings, and plays the guitar.

As my young female fans get older, I also think it’s important for them to know that I run my own business and write so many of the songs they love. I hope they will feel that it is completely natural and attainable for them to imagine themselves growing up to be composers, instrumentalists and creative leaders, musical or otherwise. 

z: In recent years, some Indie rock musicians have produced entire albums of childrens’ music. This trend has been named the “Kindie Rock” movement. Do you consider yourself a part of it? What are your thoughts on this trend?  

LB: I do see myself as a part of this movement. I think at its core, kindie music is really about making good music that kids love, in a style that is not so different from what is considered “adult music.”  The more that mainstream musicians continue to write and record great music that is meant to be specifically enjoyed by kids, the more credibility children’s music gains overall as a genre, and I love that.

z: What feelings do you hope kids and families will take away from Party Day?

LB: I have to admit I have high hopes about how people—the kids in particular—will feel when they listen to my music or watch a video, and I don’t think it’s particular to any one of my projects.  I want for them what I want for myself: Joy, a feeling that they can fly with their freedom of imagination, the pleasure of being silly with true abandon, and the feeling that they are loved, safe and acceptable as who they are.  If anyone who hears my music is able to feel at least some of that, I would be thrilled. 

z: Do you feel you’ve found your dream job? 

LB: Yes, one of my dream jobs.  Ask me again when I move out of NYC and become an organic vegetable farmer. 

What a plan! We want to thank Laurie Berkner for taking the time to chat with us. Check out her event on zulily here, then Follow @LaurieBerkner on twitter for regular updates on shows and more!