Most parents want the same things for their children: to be happy, healthy and successful, however you define those terms. But above all that, don’t we want to raise our children to be aware of the bigger world beyond their own small one? How about teaching them to care for others, feel respect and responsibility for other living things and the earth, and to want to help this old world move along to a better place? Along with the best possible physical, mental and emotional states your child can achieve, how about unlocking a social consciousness, compassion and a desire to do good in the world within their little hearts and brains?
Along with other best-parenting practices, we know that one of the very best gifts you can give your children is music that not only entertains but teaches and leads them outward to become socially responsible citizens. Many of us who perform for families believe that music is an amazing positive and powerful tool for opening hearts and minds.
My own work with children and families started in 1986, about a year before my own daughter was born. There still wasn’t a whole lot of the kind of music for children that I was already writing, performing and recording for adults: songs with meaningful lyrics, where lyric content was just as important as melody and the beat. I was interested in writing about ideas and issues, not just love songs. At that time I searched, but the only artists I could find doing this kind of music were Pete, Tom Chapin, Raffi and a few more, that’s it! Just a handful. They were the only ones who wrote about weightier ideas in a fun way to appeal to kids. I wanted to stir something broader within people, especially my little daughter, using the magic tool of music. So naturally when I turned my attention (and subsequently, my whole career!) to children’s/family music, I began writing, performing and recording what I call “Music with Meaning” expressly to teach “Big Ideas.” That is the umbrella term I use for all 18+ shows I present through live concerts and recordings for schools, libraries, theatres... anywhere people gather.
In my presentation I speak not only of the need for music in children’s lives, but also the opportunity to use this art form to educate children about issues and ideas. Slowly the country and the world is discovering and recognizing “music with meaning” and its value in raising socially conscious children. The explosion of the Kindie movement—music that today’s parents grew up listening to i.e. rap, hip hop, punk and grunge—has moved to the forefront, and it too recognizes the importance of content along with contemporary musical styles.
My mission has always been the same: bring high quality, meaningful music to ears of all ages, but my most “important” work is with kids. Roger Miller said, “If you want to change the world, sing with children.” And Pete Seeger, my role model, said, “Singing with children in the schools has been the most rewarding experience of my life.” After all, if we want socially responsible adults running the world, shouldn’t we start raising them from the cradle?