Introducing our Founder
Hey Steve. Great to meet you. How long have you been playing music?
Well, I started playing music in 4th grade, so let’s just say it’s been a long time since I started. More than 100 years in fact! (I’m really old.)
And how did you get started teaching music to children?
I was primarily a drummer in my early career. I went to college for music, studying drums and percussion. I was teaching private drum lessons (which I still do), performing in many different groups, recording albums, and generally having a good time with it. Then my partner, Jessica, and I became parents and that sort of changed everything. Turns out you can’t practice drums while your baby is sleeping. I started playing the baritone ukulele for my son and that evolved into writing original songs for him. After I wrote a few songs, Jessica liked them and suggested I start playing my music for other children. So I started playing at my son’s preschool, followed by some other preschools, and then I formed a band called The Dilly Dallies to perform around the community. The Dilly Dallies aren’t playing anymore, but I am still out there every week having a great time entertaining the little ones.
What’s the best part of teaching music in preschools?
The children are the most amazing part of my music classes. I love the look on their faces when they are pretending to be animals or to fly on a magic carpet, and hearing their voices sing the songs along with me. I like to ask them questions and I’m always surprised at how honest and creative they are with their answers. Children are smart and they continuously inspire me to write new songs, with new content and new ideas. I’m pretty sure I get as much out of the music classes as they do.
Working with kids is always hilarious. Do you have any funny stories about things that have happened with kids when you perform?
There are a lot of funny things that happen at concerts for kids. One of the funniest stories involves a little karma. This child, probably under 2 years old (still in a diaper), kept coming up and touching the instruments. His dad was doing the right thing and gently removing him from the stage. The last time the child did it, his pants got caught on one of the instrument stands and when he went to run away his pants came down in front of the entire audience. He didn’t seem to notice, but pretty much everyone in the audience was laughing. See, that’s karma!
And now that you have kids of your own, what do they think about you playing kid’s music?
My son, who’s now 11, likes watching the little kids get crazy when I play for them. He’s a little older than my target audience, but he still likes the music, especially the funny songs like I Want To Pet An Ant. My 5-year-old loves to sing and dance along with my music. She still attends one of the preschools where I play, so she gets to see me perform every week. She’s good about telling me which songs the other kids like best, so I can make sure to play those ones more often.
Your songs talk about the experiences of kids and parents. How do you come up with the ideas?
A lot of the songs I wrote early on were ideas that came up while taking care of my son. He would say things and I’d write about them. Mystery Injury came from me asking how he got a bruise on his leg and he replied, “I don’t know daddy, it’s a mystery injury.” He loved to act like animals, so I wrote the song “Acting.” One day he wasn’t in a very good mood, and I asked him what I should sing about. He snapped back at me, “Nothing, sing about NOTHING!!” so I wrote “Song About Nothing.”
I also listen to other parents talk about their experiences. The song “Let Me Breathe You In” is about a mother carrying a child in the womb. Obviously, I didn’t get to have that experience, so I tried to capture the thoughts and feelings I’ve heard from mothers around me.
There are also songs that are about me or my family. “I Get Up” is about kids getting out of bed after their parents tuck them in and say good night, and each verse in that song is about me and my brothers. (I was the kid that snuck out of bed and fell asleep on the stairs listening to my parents talk.)
The musical themes for children and families are unlimited. The inspiration is all around us - all I do is pay attention to the children and the ideas present themselves. This is why I love playing music at preschools. It’s so important to expose our children to the fun and potential of music and Harmony Monsters Music gives me the opportunity to inspire a love of music through the classrooms.