"I'm not good at balancing...I just try not to get so far behind that I have nightmares".
A statement that just about every mom feels on a daily basis. But this quote is from no ordinary mom. It was apparent in the first few minutes of our interview that Laurie Berkner is first and foremost a dedicated, down-to-earth mom. Her tales of not wanting to travel for work too much and trying to rush home from concerts in time for daughter Lucy's (6) bedtime are the same as any working mom. Except she happens to be famous.
Laurie Berkner got her start playing "grown up" music in her all-female cover band 'Lois Lane' in 1992. She was a talented musician. But she was really good with kids, too. After attending Rutgers University she worked at summer camps and then spent several years as a children's music specialist at New York area preschool and day care centers. Kids loved her. And to this day she prefers playing for a pint-sized audience. "They're so expressive, so present. Unlike adults, you can always tell if they're having a good time".
Her music is so popular with both kids and parents alike that she is often credited with launching the "kindie rock" movement. Her first CD was a creation suggested by the parents of the kids she worked with. The kids loved the music so much their parents urged her to put her songs on a cassette, which she did in 1997 with her first release Whaddaya You Think of That?. She really found fame in 1998 with her second CD, Buzz Buzz, featuring popular songs like "Pig on Her Head" and "Clean it Up" and has continued to grow a loyal following ever since.
In February, 2006, the band co-released their first DVD, We are ...The Laurie Berkner Band, produced by award-winning children's film producer Jane Startz.
Last year she released her first greatest hits compilation called The Best Of The Laurie Berkner Band. All five of the band's CDs are represented, along with special bonus tracks.
This Saturday she'll be in Pittsburgh for one of her special "Birthday Party" concerts. The concert will last a little over an hour and will feature many of her popular toe-tapping tunes. There are still seats available but not very many, so hurry up and get those tickets.
Laurie loves performing in concert because she feels like "it's such a human and precious experience to share music with a room full of people". She believes in letting kids "make their own music" by dancing, moving their body and singing out loud. Her concerts are a festival of happy expressive tots (and parents) singing and dancing along to their favorites. Heinz Hall is going to rock on Saturday afternoon. Everyone will leave with a smile, guaranteed. You can get tickets by visiting http://www.culturaldistrict.org/production/26030#tab=overview
Throughout the entire interview I felt as though I was chatting with the mom sitting next to me on the bench at the playground, not to a nationally famous recording artist who has played for the President. That's what makes Laurie Berkner's music so lovable, it's not just all for show, it's who she is. And it comes from the heart.
I had the chance to ask Laurie several questions that you all sent in and I loved hearing her answers. I think you will, too.
PittsburghMom - What do you think of Public School music education cuts?
Laurie Berkner - I think it's an awful thing, almost criminal, because for some kids it's one of the only ways they can learn easily, especially kids that have trouble in a traditional classroom. I found that sometimes my best students, the ones that loved music the most are the ones that were the most "difficult" children in their regular classrooms.
PM - Does your daughter like your music?
LB - Yes and no. She loves to come to concerts, but now that she's six she's more interested in Hannah Montana and Taylor Swift. We got her a new iPod recently and when asked if she wanted to put any of my music on there she replied "I'll have to think about it"
PM - What is your favorite song?
LB - It changes, usually my favorite song is something new. Right now it's something from my new DVD but nobody would know it yet, so I'll say that "My Family" is really my all-time favorite song. It's so simple yet it says everything it need to.
LB - I find myself listening to a lot of angst-ridden music. I particular like this singer Yael Naim (New Soul) and when I plugged it into Pandora, I got a whole plethora of angst-filled music. It's funny but I find myself listening to that Pandora channel a lot. I also like World Music, especially West African and Hawaiian melodies.
PM - Do you sing at home?
LB - Not that much actually. But we do sing at bedtime every night. I've sung Nona to my daughter every night since she was little.
PM - How do you get your hair in such perfect curls?
LB - [laughing] It's not easy! It used to take hours to get my hair perfect. They would straighten it completely, then curl it again with a curling iron. But now I do go to a special salon in New York that specialized in curly hair. They cut my hair one curl at a time and it's the best thing ever. They also have a special system for how to deal with curly hair and they wrote a Curly Girl Handbook about it. I'd highly recommend it to anyone with curly hair.
Dr. Heather Starr Fiedler is Pittsburgh Mom's founder and general manager.
She works full time as a college professor teaching multimedia communications at Point Park University in addition to running PittsburghMom.com.
She lives in Indiana Township with her husband Mike and her boys Matthew and Ben.