Your NYC Neighbor: Laurie Berkner

Laurie Berkner

Your NYC Neighbor – is a way of introducing New Yorkers to a rich community of savvy parents. New York is a diverse City bustling with all kinds of families and personalities. We also love to grab tips and recommendations from moms and dads in certain neighborhoods and throughout the 5 Boroughs, and especially people who have created a product, service or site that helps new parents or appeals to children. Meet Laurie Berkner one of the best known musicians for families in the City!

Laurie, you’re already very well-known in NYC as a musician. Can you tell us how you got there?
I mostly grew up in Princeton, NJ.  May parents actually chose that area in part because of the reputation for great music programs – and I took full advantage of them. I was in the band, orchestra and choir as well as an after-school all girls a cappella group called The Cat’s Meow, and I took piano lessons outside of school.  Being around music was something that always made me feel good.

But when I went to college, music became something I mainly did in my non-school hours.  I did take one music theory class, but I mostly focused on Art History and Psychology.  In my free time I added playing guitar to my instruments, played in a band, and helped run the coffeehouse committee that brought small musical acts to campus. I started teaching music to young kids about a year after I graduated, at Rockefeller University’s Child and Family Center, and I learned some of what I do from the previous music teacher and the wonderful movement teacher who still worked there, as well as by taking a class in Dalcroze Eurythmics.  But most of all I learned from working with the kids themselves and paying attention to what they seemed to love and need from me.  I would literally ask them what they wanted to sing about, and then write that song for them.

Why is music so important to toddlers, even babies?
As far as I know no one has ever found a scientific reason for music to actually exist, and yet we all feel its importance in our lives.  I don’t know what the “official” answer to this question is, but I know what I have experienced.  Music brings out feelings, encourages movement and helps, kids especially, make that connection between the rhythm of their own bodies and the outside world.  Music can be a soothing familiar experience for a baby – like when they fall asleep to a lullaby – or a way to learn language and information (like their ABC’s, or that “their mommy always comes back”) through the rhythmic and melodic repetition of the words.  (I believe that the pattern of a melody and the feel of the rhythm of a song, combined, are what make it easier for our brains to retain the information in a song.)

Learning a song that is just right for a toddler can give that child a wonderful feeling of mastery and joy to be able to sing it on their own, even when speaking is something they may only have started doing mere months before.  Finally, music creates connection, and as children we are in a constant state of making sure the connections in our lives are absolutely secure.  If we don’t have secure connections with the people who care for us, we may not survive. The connections also need to be flexible though, so the child can still develop and grow.  Making music with someone else, whether it’s with the voice or another part of the body (clapping, hitting an instrument or object, dancing) is one of the most intimate and flexible connections I think people can share with each other.

Who inspired you as a child?
I was in love with Jule Andrews.  I spent many hours, days, years, learning the songs from Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music and My Fair Lady (the musical theater production, not the movie with Audrey Hepburn).  I also spent my time trying to master singing those songs with an English accent so I would sound like her.

NYC moms are looking forward to your Fall shows – what’s new? What can families look forward to?
At the Rock Till You Drop concerts, we’ll be playing songs from my recently released Laurie Berkner Lullabies, as well as greatest hits from both The Best of The Laurie Berkner Band and from my upcoming release (Oct 14th) of more classics, The Ultimate Laurie Berkner Band Collection.  Then the holiday shows start in November and we’ll be adding songs from A Laurie Berkner Christmasand songs for Hannukah.  Come to a Laurie Berkner Band show and your child does NOT have to sit and listen quietly!  They will be up moving and dancing and being a part of the experience.

What do you love most about living in NYC?
The incredible sense of community I feel in living here.  I can’t walk down the street without running into someone I know.  It’s so much like a small town in that way, and yet the diversity of the people and what NYC has to offer is so huge that I could never experience it all.

If people can’t make your classes where can they buy your music? The easiest way to buy music these days is online, Amazon, iTunes,  I also have CDs at Target and Barnes and Noble.

What’s ahead for you? (2015)
We have shows scheduled throughout the country in 2015, with more being booked all the time.  I’m really looking forward to performing and meeting fans in Concord, NH and Princeton, NJ in January,  Charlottesville, VA in March, and  San Francisco and Santa Barbara, CA in April.   Based on the excitement generated by the NYC launch of Laurie Berkner’s The Music in Me, we hope to expand these classes to other regions in 2015.  We’ll post updates on our website and social media. Stay tuned!

Catch Laurie Berkner in NYC here:

The Music In Me has partnered up with four unique locations in New York City. Do you have a budding musician? Check out The Music In Me classes offered at Third Street Music School Settlement!