For the Los Angeles alumni involved in children’s music, their careers and catalogs are anything but childish. Writing and performing simple, catchy, family-appropriate songs is not only a creative challenge, but also a way to build a viable career. Longtime friends Kyler England ’00 and Lauren “Lalo” Crane ’99 make up the award-winning duo Freckles. Their latest project, We Can All Share, is an EP focused on turning gender stereotypes upside down. Songs like “Boys Will Be Boys” and “Like a Girl” encourage kids to embrace their whole-selves, not just the messages that society says are acceptable.
The duo tapped producer Bill Lefler ’93 to marry pop grooves and instrumentation with England’s ukulele and vocals with Crane’s vibraphone and mallets. We Can All Share will be released in conjunction with a Freckles-branded YouTube channel in early 2016, featuring nine videos for the selected songs.
The two women met at Berklee when their now-husbands were roommates. Reunited in Los Angeles, they shared stories of motherhood and found their kids’ play dates turning into cowriting sessions. The songs they wrote became the basis for their debut album Be My Friend. “Before [I had] my daughter I didn’t expect to be in children’s music. But when you have kids you want to put quality stuff in their ears,” England says. Freckles continues to create family-friendly children’s music inspired by and for their toughest critics: their own children.
The trio Move N Play Music, comprises Kristen Cook ’08, Brock Pollock ’09 and David Celia ’09. Cook has released multiple EPs of children’s music including Young At Heart, Move N Play Music Live!, and most recently, Play It Forward, which includes the track “Fruit Fight” cowritten by Cook and Jesse Friedberg ’09.
“Berklee awakened my interest in kids’ music,” Cook says. While at Berklee, she secured an audition to write a kid’s musical and then won a spot to meet the children’s entertainer Raffi. Cook soon realized that children’s music wasn’t just something fun, but a serious market for her as an artist. A professional music major, she filled up her schedule with as many applicable classes as possible.
After graduation, Cook applied to Santa Monica’s community classes division. Teaching up to 12 children’s music classes per week, she built a strong community base, and her music caught the ear of a private K–6 elementary school principal, who offered to hire her. Now in her fifth year, Cook is director of the music program with freedom to teach both contemporary and traditional music. “It’s the best day job I could ever ask for,” Cook says.
Emily Dale ’12 performs as Emily Arrow and creates literature-inspired music for children. In the coming months, she’ll release a seven-song album titled Storytime Sing-A-Long: Volume One. Coining the music genre term kidlit, she wrote more than 40 book-inspired songs for the project. “I’m a crazy reader and I meet a lot of kids who are crazy readers,” Dale says. “Parents who read with their kids are an important part of my audience.” The album is produced by Nick Goldston ’12 and includes tracks cowritten by other Berklee alumni.
With a degree in professional music and a love of working with kids, teaching was a natural postgraduate option for Dale. She secured a full-time teaching position at a private elementary school, which required weekly student performances. “I started writing songs for the students to perform,” Dale says. “I could adapt and change things if something wasn’t working. It made my life easier as a teacher.” Having a catalogue of songs inspired her to start performing at story times and children’s bookstores. There she found her niche.
Recently, Dale left her teaching position to tour in support of her album and dive deeper into her songwriting. When asked what feels different about children’s music versus “adult” music, she said, “Well, you have to smile the whole time. It’s more liberating, as there aren’t as many content limitations. You are able to explore genres, styles, and arrangements. This new album has eight different sounds. Books and literacy is the thread that connects everything.”
Whether inspired by their own children, love of literature, or a vibrant approach to life, these musicians are enjoying the creative freedom of writing music for the most important (and youngest) ears in today’s music market.