Ben Gundersheimer ‘94 Brings Bilingual Music to Kids
With separate releases in contention for Grammy and Latin Grammy awards, Ben Gundersheimer ’94 has found his musical stride. As the recipient of what he says was Berklee’s first-ever songwriting scholarship in 1992, Gundersheimer envisioned a career as a recording artist, touring nationally in support of his music. The reality is just that, though his audiences differ from his original dreams in that they’re somewhat...shorter.
Gundersheimer attended Berklee after first completing a bachelor’s at Amherst College, and spent the next 15 years as a bandleader and solo act. One of those bands introduced him to the world of children’s music. “We led a double life,” says Gundersheimer, “playing rock clubs until 1:00 a.m., then later that same morning performing under the cafeteria lights” at elementary schools.
Burned out on the music business and looking to make a change, Gundersheimer accepted a full fellowship to the master's in education program at Smith College with the intention of becoming a classroom teacher. He taught fourth and fifth grade as part of his training, and often found himself using music in his lesson plans. “The kids loved it, and as a new teacher, I was able to work in my comfort zone—writing songs—to help kids learn about history, science, and reading.”
His students supplied his stage name, Mister G, and inspired his first children’s album, Pizza for Breakfast. A honeymoon trip to Colombia gave Gundersheimer the idea to challenge himself by writing in Spanish. He included two Spanish-language songs on his 2011 release Bugs, which made the top 10 list from Parents magazine, won a Parents’ Choice Award, and was named one of the best children's CDs of 2011 by People magazine.
The bilingual aspect of Gundersheimer’s music has been especially popular with audiences. His second bilingual album, Chocolalala, was released at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. to kick off Hispanic Heritage Month, and was on the Latin Grammy nominating ballot for Best Children’s Recording.
Dubbed “a bilingual rock star” by The Washington Post, and similarly praised by The Boston Globe and The Los Angeles Times, Gundersheimer recently learned that his current release, ABC Fiesta, is on the Grammy-nominating ballot for Best Children’s Recording.
Gundersheimer launches a national tour in October 2013 to support ABC Fiesta, and is excited about the album’s prospects as both entertainment and a teaching aid. His music has become widely used as a Spanish-language literacy development tool, both in the United States and abroad. Recently Gundersheimer did a tour in Mexico, where he performed at venues ranging from an orphanage to a national, governmental literacy promotion event. “It’s fascinating to see how children respond so similarly to the music in all different types of settings,” he says.
Even with the challenge of building a business and maintaining a rigorous international touring schedule, Gundersheimer says he is constantly invigorated by his work with children. “Their energy and enthusiasm is amazing; I feel it as soon as I step onstage. Kids make the best fans,” he adds. “Hands down.”
To learn more about Mister G, visit his website.