Erin Lee: What would you like to communicate to others who work with children and music – therapists, teachers, parents, performers?
Joanie: For you teachers, therapists and parents out there, keep your kids’ music collection up to date. In the classes I teach, I try to mix it up as much as possible. Yes, Greg and Steve have some great movement tunes, but if you stay in the know, you’ll realize there are other musicians out there making some amazing, solid, useful tunes for kids in post 2000. Classics are classics, but please mix it up, the kids will really appreciate it and you’ll be much more musically fulfilled too!
For you performers out there, the best thing you can do is to know your worth. If we want to be successful business owners, we must be very picky about which gigs we will do for free and for low prices. Benefits and fundraisers are great examples of shows we should or could do for free but beyond that, we should all stand our ground on a fair price. Otherwise bookers will just look for the newbie who will do the gig for free. But not if all of us stand together. Of course, there will be somewhat of a sliding scale for the more experienced but I like to think of myself as an MD for the soul. We don’t ask doctors to do surgeries for free right? Certainly football players aren’t getting paid zilch for their talents, well, we should be paid what we are worth too! That’s my 2 cents!
Erin Lee: So beyond fair pay and making a credible living as a musician, what are your goals?
Joanie: My constant goals are to create music that kids and parents alike love, and songs that are timeless and produced very well. This in turn will then set my other goals in action which are: with above, I will have a thick touring schedule filled with a variety of concerts large and small at venues that reach out to wide variety of audiences. In the future when I have my own kids, my goals will likely shift, hopefully placing my music in movies and commercials so I can stay in one place a bit more. For now though, I love touring! Placement is how we musicians will stay afloat for years to come.
Erin Lee: What do you think might make The Children’s Music Network more accessible to a younger and more diverse group of children’s musicians? What might attract them to attending CMN events?
Joanie: Maybe if there was a younger contingency from the kindie world who helped planning events for conferences, that would help draw younger and more diverse artists. One thing I can say about the younger generation, they seem to be very in touch with internet/marketing side. I mean no disrespect to the older generation especially since my 88-year-old grandmother can search the Internet and post to Facebook way faster and more efficiently than I can. Having cutting edge content for conferences that appeals to all ages should be the goal!
Erin Lee: Are there any causes or ideals that you feel particularly passionate about? Any topics or themes that you feel are important in your writing?
Joanie: Environmental causes are near and dear to my heart. I wrote a song called “I Wanna Be Green” which is my anthem regarding the climate change situation. I am always trying to get kids on board with taking care of the planet; after all, they are the future and good to teach lessons like those early. I have yet to finish my song about bullying but I know this is going to be a major issue especially with texting and the Internet in kids’ lives so abundantly these days. I thought I had it bad in 7th grade with those awful mean girls. Kids today are in trouble. I’d like to help with that and am in the middle of writing a song that targets this life lesson for younger kids.
Erin Lee: How do you feel music makes a difference in children’s lives?
Joanie: I know that from the moment a child is born, music is an outlet that they respond to involuntarily. I used to teach baby music classes for kids under 6 months and it’s amazing to see how the kids wiggle and giggle at such a young age, boppin’ to the tunes. It’s in our DNA to love music. It’s the universal language after all! Music is therapeutic and as long as they are on a healthy diet (music that is appropriate for their age group and not too loud so it doesn’t damage their little ear drums) listening as much as possible is the best case scenario. This is why I do what I do. Not only do I love making music for kids and families, but selfishly, it makes ME feel good creating and performing. Win win all around!
Erin Lee Kelly is a family music songwriter, performer and early childhood music specialist based in NYC. She is currently fronting Erin Lee and the Up Past Bedtime Band and is an artist-in-residence at inner city schools teaching songwriting and storytelling.