Q&A: Kids' music icon Laurie Berkner dishes on decades in the business and new virtual concerts

Staff Writer
Baystateparent Magazine

She’s been called the “queen of kids’ music” and the “Adele of the preschool crowd.” Beloved singer-songwriter Laurie Berkner has been entertaining little ones for more than two decades with her cheerful, upbeat songs. With more than a dozen children’s albums to her name, Berkner has starred on Nick Jr. and Sprout, appeared on The Tonight Show, and performed at Carnegie Hall and the White House. This month, she’ll be playing right in her fans’ living rooms in her "Dinosaur Beach Party," an interactive virtual family concert she’ll perform live on Aug. 9. She’ll take kids and families marching down to a virtual beach, bringing them the real Laurie Berkner show experience, with lights, camera, and paleolithic action. Family tickets, $20, and a limited number of virtual meet and greets are available at laurieberkner.com.

What were your earliest musical influences? 

I listened to a lot of musicals like “My Fair Lady,” “Peter Pan,” “The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins.” I also listened to Peter, Paul and Mary’s album “Peter, Paul and Mommy” as well as Hap Palmer and Burl Ives.

What drew you to children’s music? 

I got a job as a music specialist a year after I graduated from college. I was interested because I loved music, and I loved being around kids. It seemed like a natural fit - although I was pretty terrible at my job when I first started!

What’s one piece of parenting advice you wish someone had told you? 

Hmm, I actually got the advice I really needed, which was: “Don’t listen to anybody else’s advice!” I guess one thing I did learn on my own was that it’s really worthwhile to try to sometimes live at the same pace as your child. My daughter had a much slower and quieter way of moving through the world than I did when she was little, and I learned a lot from her - and about her - when I consciously moved slowly along with her.

Kids say the funniest things. Is there anything surprising or hilarious a fan has said to you? 

Most of the funny things kids say to me I try to turn into songs, like when a boy in one of my music classes once said to me, “Laurie Berkner, I have a song in my tummy and it wants to come out!” I wrote “Song in my Tummy” after that. I also had a three-year-old recently say, ”Please write a song called ‘It’s Hard to be Three!’ because it is!” It took me a while but I finally wrote that song, too. It’s not released yet, but it will be at some point soon. 

How has your daughter influenced your work, and how has that changed over the years as she’s gotten older? 

I used to write a lot of songs with her in mind, then she started asking me If she could help write my songs, then I started asking her toplease help me write my songs!  Now she mostly just tolerates me talking about them.

If you weren’t a children’s musician, what would you be?

I’d run a retreat center for artists and people trying to support their physical and mental health.  Or I’d have a food truck. 

You’ve streamed live on your Facebook page throughout the pandemic and stay-at-home orders. How else have you stayed busy during quarantine?  

Do I need to do anything else!? I’ve been gardening, learning how to cut hair (my own included!) writing music, recording, and filming lots of videos. We also watched all three seasons of Avatar the last Airbender as a family. It was awesome.

You’re hosting a live virtual family concert, “Dinosaur Beach Party,” on Aug. 9. Tell us about performing virtually -- it must feel pretty different than what you’re used to? 

Yes, in some ways it’s really different. There is no real feeling of actually being with my audience when I do them; it’s more like filming something. But in other ways, it really is like doing a concert because it’s still live. I have one chance to get what I’m doing right, and I’m singing my songs and thinking about the kids who are watching - like I always do.