Laurie Berkner (bio)
Laurie Berkner has been a professional musician since 1992, but her success as a children’s recording artist was a surprise to her. “It was so unexpected,” says Laurie. “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.”
These days critics widely acknowledge Laurie’s major contribution toward launching what is now dubbed the progressive “kindie rock” movement – i.e. less saccharine, more rocking music that is not dumbed down for children. But it wasn’t simply an enormous amount of talent that helped create an entire genre and skyrocketed Laurie to her current position as “the queen of children’s music” (People Magazine). It was an ability to gain parents’ enthusiasm for the songs as well. According to Laurie, “When I’m writing a song, I’m thinking about whether the kids will like it and whether I’m going to connect to them through it. I’m also thinking about whether I want to sing it over and over again, so I guess that’s the part that connects with adults. Old MacDonald Had A Farm is a great song for kids, but I couldn’t sing it 100 times!”
While Laurie never planned to be a children’s performer, looking back on her career it almost seems inevitable. While growing up in Princeton, New Jersey, Laurie was always involved in music, whether singing in choirs, playing in bands, or performing in musical theater. In high school and throughout college (at Rutgers University), she toured Europe with several choirs and orchestras as a soloist and guitarist. After graduation, Laurie spent several years as a children’s music specialist at New York area preschool and day care centers. Working with children became the perfect creative outlet for Laurie to express her talents and create something that, she says, “has turned out to be incredibly rewarding.”
Laurie was the first recording artist ever to perform in music videos on Nick Jr. and appeared regularly on the network’s series Jack’s Big Music Show. Her latest television project is a short-form animated musical preschool series, Sing It, Laurie!, which debuted in the spring of 2013 on 24-hour preschool television channel Sprout. Sing It, Laurie! stars Laurie’s voice and features her original music written for the series.
Laurie has released nine best selling, award winning albums: Whaddaya Think Of That (1997); Buzz Buzz (1998); Victor Vito (1999); Under A Shady Tree (2002); Rocketship Run (2008); The Best Of The Laurie Berkner Band (2010); A Laurie Berkner Christmas (2012); Laurie Berkner Lullabies (2014); and The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection (2014). Her Two Tomatoes Records has also co-released (with Razor & Tie Entertainment) two DVDs: We are . . . The Laurie Berkner Band (2006) and Party Day! (2011). Laurie has authored four books based on her songs, including two Barnes & Noble NOOK Kids™ e-books.
Venturing into the world of the theater in 2013, Laurie wrote the music and lyrics for an Off-Broadway children’s musical, Wanda’s Monster, produced by Making Books Sing. Her second children’s musical theater collaboration with Making Books Sing will be The Amazing Adventures of Harvey and the Princess, set to open in November 2014 at Theater 3 in NYC.
Also new in 2014 was the NYC launch of Laurie Berkner’s The Music in Me, a “Me and My Grown-up” style program of preschool music classes designed by Laurie Berkner, with teachers personally trained by Laurie.
Laurie continues to be inspired by her audience. “I want to create songs that matter for children,” she says. “I was singing once and saw a four-year-old girl shut her eyes and start swaying to the music. I thought, ‘That’s the reason I got into music.’ It keeps me wanting to do more.”
When she’s not making music, Laurie enjoys visiting the farmer’s market for organic produce, knitting, biking and spending time with her husband, Brian, and their daughter, Lucy. They live in New York City.