For 25 years, best-selling children’s musician Laurie Berkner has toured the country and played for thousands of children at live shows. But she’s never played in Findlay, as she will on Saturday, August 27 at the Marathon Center for the Performing Arts. In fact, until earlier this summer, Berkner hadn’t played in Ohio in years, despite many requests from fans on social media.
“I’ve always had a great time in the past, specifically in Ohio. For some reason I hadn’t played there in a number of years until it just so happened that I played in Cleveland a couple weeks ago. So this summer sort of opened up that opportunity again,” Berkner said.
Of course, Berkner hasn’t had much of a chance to play anywhere since 2020. In the years since the COVID shutdown, she had only played a couple of outdoor performances in 2021 until she finally returned to indoor stage shows this past May. But that doesn’t mean she had stopped performing. Berkner frequently hosted Facebook Live shows where she sang for families— the first few months, she performed every weekday.
“It became kind of a comfortable, good feeling, safe space, I think, for a lot of families— and certainly for me,” Berkner said. “There was a lot of emotion and connection, things that were happening during those shows, because people were going through so much hardship, you know?”
This latest tour not only serves as Berkner’s return to live performances, but also as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of her first kids’ album, Whaddya Think of That? Released in 1997, the album acted as a launching pad for her career as a children’s entertainer.
“There’s a part of me that also feels just good about having created music for so long, and just to be able to mark that and say, ‘Oh, that’s good, I did something that affected people positively for the last 25 years of my life.’ That definitely feels really good and makes me want to keep doing it.”
Berkner doesn’t remember a time in her life where she didn’t love to sing. Some of her earliest memories from her childhood in Princeton, New Jersey are of dancing around her room, singing at the top of her lungs, listening to music on an old Fisher Price record player (The Sound of Music was an early favorite).
“I just always loved singing. I kind of…played different instruments in middle school and high school. I was always in choir, in the musical in high school I had the lead [role] the last couple of years,” she said.
Finding her path
About a year after graduating college, Berkner got a job as a preschool music teacher. She played in cover bands during her off hours, but it was during her time with her class that she discovered how much joy she gained from writing and performing her own songs.
“I realized that I like making up songs that other people want to hear. So, the kids’ songs were the songs that the families were asking me to play when I was doing a birthday party or something.
“I loved seeing that there was a kind of music that I wrote that people really seemed to respond to positively. So it felt good to be singing those songs, so I kind of followed that.”
14 best selling albums and millions of CD’s and DVD’s later, it’s clear that Berkner’s writing has had an impact on young audiences. Berkner admits that she doesn’t 100% know why her songs have garnered such a consistent audience over the years, but she speculates that it’s because she doesn’t condescend to children in her work.
“I do have a feeling of my inner child being about four, so I think I often really think about writing songs from a child’s perspective. A lot of them are ‘I’ songs. And I think there’s something about, for the kids, having music that allows them to move, it encourages them to move, there’s a lot of movement in the songs. It also sort of encourages their imagination, but from a feeling of ownership. Like, the music is theirs.
“They’re not being sung at or sung to, mostly, with the songs that I write. There may be a story, but in the story they can embody the characters. I think it feels like it’s for them in a way that some other kids’ music might not.”
All musicians have had to adapt to an ever-shifting musical landscape. Whaddya Think of That? was originally released only as a cassette. As her primary media shifted to CDs, then streaming and online video, Berkner said she’s tried to keep up with the times.
“I still make actual CDs, but not that many people buy them anymore. But being able to get my music out to streaming services, to get on playlists, and to start [a YouTube channel]…I was almost a little bit late to that party. But it’s just a place where kids experience music now, very differently than having a children’s music hour on the radio or something.”
Berkner also recently released the second season of Laurie Berkner Song and Story Kitchen, a podcast-like children’s show available on Audible, and is currently working on a new Christmas album scheduled to be released in October. But for now, she’s simply enjoying the experience of being able to sing to her young audiences in person once more.
“First and foremost, I just hope they have fun,” she said of the Findlay show. “One of the things that I’ve noticed is, from being a parent myself but also the feedback from families, is that coming to a show feels like it’s inspiring for the kids musically, and it’s a beautiful memory for the family.”
Saturday, August 27
Ticket with Meet and Greet: $50.
Adult general admission: $25.
Children 12 and Under: $20.
Marathon Center for the Performing Arts
200 W. Cross St.
419-423-2787, ext. 100