In 1997, Laurie Berkner pressed 500 copies of Whaddya Think of That, her debut album for kids, and sold them out of her Manhattan apartment.Today, Berkner is the “queen of children’s music” (People Magazine), a regular on Nick Jr. and a founding member of “Kindie Rock” – progressive, kid-friendly music that isn’t saccharine or dumbed-down.
On Saturday, Oct. 20, Berkner will launch Edison’s 2012-13 ovations for young people series with a special solo acoustic show in WUSTL’s 560 Music Center.
“It was so unexpected,” Berkner says. “I’d been performing in rock bands and struggling to write original music. Writing music for kids has not been a struggle at all. The more I started working on material for children, the more I realized that it opened up creativity in me that I never knew I had.”
Raised in Princeton, N.J., Berkner studied psychology at Rutgers University and toured Europe with several choirs as a soloist and guitarist. She began performing professionally in 1992, first with Lois Lane, an all-female cover band, and later with her own band, Red Onion.
To make ends meet, Berkner worked as a children’s music specialist at New York-area preschools and daycare centers, occasionally playing birthday parties for $125 a pop.
Encouraged by supportive parents, Berkner recorded Whaddaya Think of That and 1998’s follow-up, Buzz Buzz. Both albums combine clever originals — such as “We are the Dinosaurs,” which encourages kids to release their inner T. Rex, and the call-and-response “I Know a Chicken” — with old favorites like “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad” and “The Cat Came Back.”
Berkner’s big break came in 2001, with an appearance on the Today show. In the years since, she has released four more albums on her own Two Tomatoes Records label, as well as children’s books and DVDs. A regular on Nick Jr.’s Jack’s Big Music Show, Berkner’s numerous honors include a Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award. In 2009, she was featured on Ziggy Marley’s children’s album Family Time.
“I want to create songs that matter for children,” Berkner says. “I was singing once and saw a 4-year-old girl shut her eyes and start swaying to the music.
“I thought, ‘That’s the reason I got into music.’”
Ovations for young people
The ovations for young people series will continue March 16 when Corbian Visual Arts and Dance, the innovative company known for combining puppetry and cutting-edge technology, presents The Ugly Duckling & The Tortoise and the Hare. Michel Lauziere, the James Bond of acrobatic musical comedians, will conclude the 2012-13 series May 4 as The Master of Unusual Comedy.
Tickets and sponsors
Laurie Berkner begins at 11 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 20. Tickets are $18.
Tickets are available at the Edison Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. The 560 Music Center is located in University City at 560 Trinity Ave. Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
Subscriptions to all three ovations for young people events are available for $30. In addition, Berkner will host a post-performance meet-and-greet. (UPDATE 10/4: The meet-and-greet is now sold out.)
Edison programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and private contributors.
<div/class=”caption”>Laurie Berkner, We are the Dinosaurs