Happy Music Business Monday! Songwriting has always been a natural way to communicate for award-winning playwright, composer, music therapist Andrea Green. Her amazing songwriting talents started in her home in Elkins Park, PA, where her supportive family provided a rich environment that valued and nurtured creativity. Green credits inspiration from both of her parents. Her mother was a music teacher and violinist, as well as a poet and songwriter. Her dad, a general practice physician in Philadelphia, encouraged young Andrea to bring along her guitar to accompany him on his rounds through nursing homes and hospitals.
It was in the intimate setting of a patient’s hospital room that Green uncovered her flair for composing songs that both entertained and had therapeutic value. She also believes her experience in “The Young Set”, a teen singing group in Cheltenham that performed in hospitals and nursing homes through the Delaware Valley, helped fuel her interest in the field of music therapy. The positive response she experienced gratified and motivated Green to dedicate her life’s work to Music Therapy, which she studied first at University of Miami School of Music in Coral Gables and later in a Creative Arts in Therapy Masters program at Hahnemann Medical School (now Drexel) in Philadelphia.
After years of jobs combining music and therapy in settings with psychiatric patients, Green began working directly with children in 1982 when she was hired by the HMS School for children with Cerebral Palsy in West Philadelphia, serving students with severe physical disabilities. It was there that Andrea was inspired to create her musicals to partner the HMS students with Germantown Friends School students. Working with GFS teacher Teresa Maebori and a host of other people, the Something Magical Musical Project. Since then, Andrea has taken the national and international children’s theatre scene with the production of her entertaining and educational Broadway-style musicals. Throughout the United States as far south as Puerto Rico and internationally in Estonia, schools and theater groups have been performing her theatrical works to cheers from crowds and appreciative fans. Her musicals make a difference in the unique way they bring people together with acceptance and respect- taking down the fences of fear and prejudice and building bridges of support, understanding, and love that last in memories for a lifetime.
Her work has been chronicled in the 2015 Emmy-Award winning documentary by Henry Nevison titled “On the Other Side of the Fence”. The film focuses on Andrea’s work as a composer/playwright & music therapist, where she uses her music as a vehicle to bring diverse groups of youngsters together in partnership. It received the Gold medal from The New York Festivals® (NYF) International Television & Film Awards, the United Nations Department of Public Information Bronze Award for extraordinary public service and the Silver Telly Award (highest honor) selected from over 12,000 entries.
Three of Andrea Green’s musicals are published by Samuel French, Inc., the renowned theatrical publishing, and licensing house. They include, “On The Other Side of the Fence,” “The Return of Halley’s Comet” and “HOMEROOM The Musical,” composed by Green and co-written with Selma Tolins-Kaufman. Andrea’s other musicals are published by Andrea Green Music.
I really appreciate Andrea’s unique contributions to the children’s music industry. For younger generations interested in pursuing a career in children’s music, Andrea provides a variety of career path options such as Music Therapy and Songwriting along with great advice on how to make an impact on young audiences. On this Music Business Monday, let’s get inspired by getting some very thoughtfuly and useful advice from the amazing Andrea Green!
Culture Queen: What’s been your most rewarding experience performing for children?
Andrea Green: My most rewarding experience was partnering children from the HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy and Germantown Friends School, both in Philadelphia. Over a period of 30 years, I created and directed a series of musicals with a specific inclusive rehearsal and performance framework that provides a musical foundation for the children to work and perform together on equal terms. Directing from the piano, my role is to inspire and facilitate musical connection and emotional interaction between the children. When the performance occurs, I remain a musical support but the youngsters are independent in their united presentation.
Culture Queen: I love that you used Music Therapy to find a way to make theatre accessible and inclusive of children with special needs. Have you ever had a challenging experience in your career? How did you recover from it?
Andrea Green: Early on, I experienced resistance to my work. I had big ideas that were unusual at the time. It took many years for other therapists, educators and parents to see and feel the power of music and music therapy and how it can heal, bring people together and transform lives. When I created and directed my first musical On the Other Side of the Fence in 1982, I was pretty much on my own. It was kind of a test. There was a call to action to find some way to bring disabled and non-disabled children together as equal partners. I believed I could create a musical and musical theater partnership experience that would meet this objective. Thirty years later, I have a team of support, including a movement therapist, art therapist, speech and physical therapists, teachers, parents and many others. And many, many schools and theaters from around the world have chosen to perform this project for a similar purpose. What I learned is the fact that things take time and that people need to experience change in order to accept and make transformative changes to their attitudes, thoughts, and feelings. I learned that people are afraid of things they do not know or have not experienced. Just as the diverse groups of children were learning about their differences and learning how to overcome their fears – the adults were learning the same thing. I am so happy I did not give up. Believe me, it was not easy but I held on and I continued to do my work and to reach out for support. This project would have never grown in scope to where it is today if I had not followed my heart.
Culture Queen: I’m so glad that you mentioned your journey to being a music therapy trailblazer. As you well know, being a trailblazer is not always easy or glamorous. In fact, it can be quite lonely when you are creating something new. I’m so glad that you never gave up on what you knew was the right thing to do for the children. I found it so interesting that you mentioned that in your work with educating children that you had to also educate the adults who were involved with them. Being able to get the adults to better understand your vision was key to not allowing them to hinder your mission. Thank you for creating such a great framework for other trailblazers in this industry to follow. If you had to do it all over again, what would you keep the same? What would you do differently?
Andrea Green: If I had to do it all over again, I would mostly keep everything the same, but I would change certain things about myself. I would trust myself more and doubt myself less. I would speak up more and stand up for what I believed in and wanted to do. I would pursue in more depth advancing my music skills on the piano, voice, and composition; and I would be more proactive and open to learning new things. I would explore the business side of music as equally as important to understand as my music and I would – create a professional support network that I could always trust and reach out to. I would reach out to everyone who could be helpful in expanding my musical and professional horizons and who could potentially be collaborators and friends along the way.
Culture Queen: Preach, Andrea! Thank you so much for your transparency. It’s so refreshing. What’s the best advice anyone has given you pertaining to music business management and why?
Andrea Green: Strangely, I think I’m the best person to give advice at this moment regarding music business management. This has been an area of weakness for me throughout my life. As creative people, we immerse ourselves in the development our music and how we want to present it, but sometimes we don’t give the same amount of effort, thought and attention that we should learn about the business side of things and what we need to grow our profession. We avoid what seems hard or foreign and sometimes we really don’t want to do what is necessary. In my early days, I never fully committed myself to the nitty-gritty of researching, reading and learning about publishing and recording. I never looked seriously at how should have created a business plan and taken myself more seriously, not just as a creative artist but as someone who has something valuable to offer. Maybe, I didn’t value myself enough.
In order to grow our music business, we need to look at the big picture. We need to look at all sides of what we are doing and what we want to do. The best advice I can give is for every person to value what they have to offer – which means they need to fully educate themselves on the business end of things – or hire the right professional support. Or do both! If you want to write songs and publish them and have your music performed, you need to understand copyright, royalties, recording, publishing, etc. If you can’t do this on your own, you need to find someone who will work with you who can handle the business end of things.
Line up a group of professionals who can advise you when you need help. Go online and learn. Go to workshops. The more you know, the better off you will be. Don’t call someone to help you until you’ve done some research beforehand. That will save time. I do think that part of the reason my work is not more widely known, is because I did not put enough time and attention into the business and marketing side of my work. We must become to understand that without a clear business plan and the support we need, we will continue to tread water with no purposeful direction.
Culture Queen: You know what? I think you have just given the best advice we have ever received in the “Music Business Monday” series. Seriously! You have dropped enough pearls to last us a lifetime! What 3 tools do you think that every professional children’s music artist should have to make life easier?
- A strong website and internet social media presence;
- A home recording system to provide optimal way to record work along with tuned instruments ready for music making & creativity;
- A Music arranger (if needed) to help get music notated in electronic or written form.
Culture Queen: The music arranger is key! That’s advice I don’t hear too many people mentioning! What are some best practices that you feel every professional children’s music artist should put into action?
- Continue to grow your musical skills through listening, learning and taking lessons;
- Network with people in the music and education world;
- Invest in a business professional or entertainment lawyer you trust who is available for consultation.
Culture Queen: You are truly on fire, Andrea! If I could give every performer I know one gift, it would be an entertainment lawyer! It’s so critical to protecting our intellectual property! Thank you for mentioning this!
Now, let’s close this interview with some very healthy daydreaming: Design your dream performance. Ready, set, GO!
Venue: A concert hall or theater for audience of children ages 4-9
Audience size: 50-150
Season: Any time of year
Dream Musicians: My band/Or orchestrated recording: Piano – Bass- Guitar- Drums/Percussion
Special Guests: Martin Charnin, John Tartaglia and Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Performers would be characters from my newest children’s character and entertainment project called SqueezeboxSqueeze- this includes musical (costumed) characters and people character performers.
Dream Set List 1) “Everybody is One of a Kind” 2) “SqueezeboxSqueeze” 3) “The Sky’s the Limit”
How Would You Celebrate Your Success: Sardi’s in New York to celebrate!
Culture Queen: Thank you, Andrea, for sharing your wisdom and expertise in such a beautifully reflective manner! You definitely have given our readers some things to think about as well as some homework to do! You are so appreciated. To hear more of Andrea’s music, visit: www.andreagreenmusic.com ! Now, let’s watch one of Andrea’s fabulous musical “The Same Sky” featured at the Sondheim Center!