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Playing to the kids — Musicians say it’s an emotionally rewarding experience

SHARE Playing to the kids — Musicians say it’s an emotionally rewarding experience

Imagine playing music to a crowd made up of unpredictable kids attempting to climb on chairs and up window blinds.

For some musicians, it would be a scene to avoid. But for others, it's an audience they love to entertain.

"They are the most forgiving audience in the world," said Frances England, a children's musician from San Francisco.

The market for children's music is by no means a practical one, but entertaining kids can also be an emotionally rewarding experience, the musicians say.

Song subjects can range from jumping on the bed to eating vegetables. The rhythms can be lively and upbeat, or soft and gentle lullabies.

Meredith LeVande is a popular New York-based child's musician who not only holds undergraduate degrees in women's studies and English, but also a master's in music and law.

Despite her many career options, LeVande decided to play music for kids. Her DVD "Monkey Monkey Music: The Videos with Meredith Levande," released Dec. 1, showcases her most popular songs.

LeVande said she decided to gear her music toward children because it's a spiritual experience. LeVande's mother was mentally ill, and she had to grow up too quickly.

She hopes her music will help give children a childhood.

She avoids music that is artificial and made up, and tries to be genuine and make people happy.

Having played for more than 570 birthday parties, LeVande acknowledges it can be difficult working with children.

She has seen kids with all different kinds of personalities. She's also seen children attempting to climb on chairs and up window blinds.

Although shows can be a challenge, performing for children is still rewarding, LeVande said.

Deborah Poppink, aka DidiPop, feels the same about playing music for the young.

"Children's music allows the child to feel free in their heart and mind," she said.

"It allows the child to really see the beauty around them."

Poppink decided to enter the market because children's music is her passion. She also believes kids need a lot of structure throughout the day.

Poppink's newest CD, "DidiPop goes to Hawaii," features creative songs that have a distinctive Hawaiian rhythm. She said the rhythm, melody and lyrics are the major elements children are drawn to.

She hopes families can appreciate the authenticity in her music. Poppink doesn't talk down to children and sings to them as if they were having a conversation. She holds true to the Hawaiian saying, "A family that sways together stays together."

England has a folksy style and tries to emulate Mr. Rogers.

"He was authentic and conversational," she said. "He was a safe person and a great friend. People of the older generations knew him so well."

England seeks to incorporate family time and music. On her website, www.francesengland.com, is a blog with "Creative Family Challenges," featuring a range of assignments that inspire families to do something creative together.

They can be anything from drawing a picture of family to interviewing grandparents.

England said these activities encourage families to spend time together — something she hopes her music does as well.

A newcomer to the children's market, Keller Williams wants to see the world through a child's eyes.

His songs invite children to sing and dance along. He makes his shows appealing to kids by having confetti, bubbles and light sticks. In order to be successful in the children's market, you have to play at their level, Williams says.

His first children's CD, titled "Keller Williams Kids," has a variety of songs with titles such as "Grandma's Feather Bed" and "The Fastest Song in the World."

No matter the reason for entering the children's market, these musicians have a love and passion for music. And music, says Poppink, can help children "stay true to their passions and follow their dreams."

Shelby Scoffield is a California State University Stanislaus graduate student.