Children’s performers are a unique breed in themselves – ones that criss-cross, hop, skip, and leap from one genre to the next. Even though there are no rules about style, one rule still remains unspoken. Unlike any other singer/songwriter, if a children’s artist wants to be taken seriously, they need to understand their audience.
Written by Lorrie Holmes
What could be a more powerful foundation to learn about these young music listeners then that of an early childhood educator? After all, she/he is the one who program plans and selects songs for Circle Time, Story Time, Music & Movement Time, and Free Play where some kids enjoy spending time in the music area. I mean, if you gained your material for writing these sorts of songs in the trenches of the classroom, down on your knees, eye-level to this young and discriminating audience, then how could you possibly go wrong? It sounds like a pretty solid focus group to me!
Today we are speaking to a very talented lady who did just that and started off her career as an early childhood educator. This is where she discovered how musical she really was as her self-created tunes and songs just started to naturally come out of her as her preferred form of communication between her and her young students. What a beautiful discovery this was! Realizing how naturally music worked into her daily plan, and not just at Circle Time, but also during all those daily transitions, and even when there was no need for communication. Music is that unspoken connection that is reflective, relaxing and can also just be fun and exciting. All in all, it’s a perfect bridge of connection between adults and children and one that Marnie began to use more often than not in her classroom. It was a beautiful transition from preschool teacher to full-time children’s music performer. Let’s see what Marnie has to say about her experiences of beginning her career as musical early childhood educator which has since then, grown into a 20-year career as a successful children’s performer.
Q & A WITH MARNIE GREY of MUSIC WITH MARNIE
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: Can you tell us about this journey of yours, starting off in the early years of your career as an early childhood educator.
MARNIE: I was working as an Early Childhood Educator in a toddler daycare downtown. I noticed that whenever I sang, the children reacted. In general, they loved circle time, and during outdoor playtime, I would naturally include music and movement activities with them. Although I wasn’t a musician, I always found that music was a big part of my day. I was constantly making up songs to help children through transitions like getting out of their raingear and even when one of them might have been having a meltdown. Or while potty training, and even when out on an adventure. I also used music as a way to comfort children through separation anxiety, at naptime, or during those tough transitions that come up regularly for young children. I had worked as an early childhood educator for seven years and knew how much I enjoyed being around children, but I also held onto something that my Dad had once told me, which was to find a career that I could grow in. So I did just that. In 1999, my husband and I bought or first home. We were getting married, and I knew that I wanted to make a change. I sat down one night and started to write out a bunch of ideas. That’s where my music and movement based classes for infants came from. At that time, parents only had six months for maternity leave. I wanted to create something for new parents to do with their child in that short period of time, and this is what I came up with.
Within one semester of music classes, I was contacted by five more community centres. By then, I was teaching 4-6 classes per day, and traveling to 8 different community centres every week. Within one year, I was recording my first album, singing on stage in front of hundreds of people. Parents were even lining up at 2:30 a.m. to register for one of my programs, and over 300 children that couldn’t get into a class were on a waitlist!
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: Do you remember any special life-changing moment when you realized you were actually a children’s performer?
MARNIE: Good Question. I remember I started teaching in September and was asked to sing at a Breakfast with Santa community event where 300 children were present. I had never sung into a microphone before, nor had I heard myself sing. The first time I heard my voice was when I recorded my first album in early 2000. Shortly after the debut of my 1st album, I was contacted by the Vancouver International Children’s Festival to perform on their Granville Island Stage. That same year, Charlotte Diamond was at the Festival. I remember so many Music with Marnie families came out to see me. I started to cry on stage, and thank them for coming. That night, a few hours after the show, my husband said to me, “You’re a performer now. You should try not to cry when you see people. Instead, be the confident talent that you are.” – Maybe that was my moment?
KIDS NEWS & REVIEWS: Being a children’s singer/songwriter is such a unique career choice. You are a super talented lady and can you tell me why you’ve chosen to continue using your talents in this way?
It really is great – isn’t it! Even though The Music with Marnie classes originally started as a way for parents to have a special weekly activity to do with their child(ren), during their short mat leave, over time, I realized how much my connection with each child and parent had grown. Writing songs and singing with children is one thing – but the intimacy and bond that I feel with each child and their parent takes it to a whole other level. I have some old students that are now in their twenties, that still remember ‘Marnie Classes’, and still stay in contact with me. I think it goes beyond music, beyond community – it’s a strong heart connection that keeps happening over and over again. Music and my true authentic love for children is what keeps me going, and inspires me to continue growing my business.
MARNIE: With regard to songwriting, everything I have done is based on what children like. I take their interests and make them fun. If I’m trying to teach a lesson, rather than making it moralistic, I will include a fun element – like action or repetition. To me, authenticity, PLAY, and child centeredness are the keys to success. My years of being an early childhood educator, and of just being around children, makes songwriting come pretty easy. I have 200 students and 200 adults per week to try my songs out on. I usually know if they are a hit or a miss, within a week of classes.
KIDS N & R: Can you tell us what a day in the life of a children’s singer/songwriter performer looks like?
MARNIE: A lot of smiling! I truly think I have the best job ever. I don’t want to undermine the amount of work that I put into it though, and I know that it’s not for everyone. I teach 13 classes per week and an average of 15 – 16 children per class. I am ‘on’ all day. I can’t stop and check a text message or leave to go to the washroom. I have to make sure that the space is safe for the children. I also have to plan each class to make sure it’s age-appropriate, interactive, and most importantly, FUN! Keeping a group of 2-year-olds connected for 45 minutes straight isn’t everyone’s cup of tea – but I think my love for what I do, my 20 years of doing it, as well as my formal teaching experience, has all been a big help in my small success.
When Music with Marnie started, there weren’t any other competing programs for infants and babies out there. Now there are so many programs out there, plus marketing has changed. there was no Youtube for me to source songs, and there were no newsletter companies or parenting blogs, Facebook, or Instagram. Everything was done through word of mouth. When I’m not teaching, I’m planning classes, booking shows, creating schedules (class schedules are all planned 6 months in advance) communicating with parents, trying to do my bookwork (it always seems to be last) and doing all my own marketing – Word of mouth is likely still the best – but social media can take up a lot of time.
KIDS N & R: Tell us about some of the most special moments you’ve experienced in your career and why.
MARNIE: Hands down – connecting with the kids. Whether in class or on stage, those connections happen. It’s the REAL moments that I love the MOST and what makes all the moving parts a whole. There are far too many moments with children, to even think of one or two would be a huge challenge. Each day something is said or done, that I wish I would have recorded. The highs of my job are limitless. Some highlights from touring are when I performed my first out-of-town show at the Saskatoon International Children’s Festival, and went out for dinner with Sharon and Bram. That was in 2003. I also remember touring from Vancouver to Penticton, Calgary and Winnipeg, with Harry Wong, a famous magician from Hong Kong. We went out for dinner at a restaurant, and he enthralled the entire crowd in the restaurant with his magic. The owner of the restaurant came out and bought us all a round of drinks, and I think covered Harry’s meal. The Taiwanese Acrobats were also on Tour with us. They ended up stacking three chairs on the dinner table and doing handstands on the chair. It was quite an unforgettable spectacle.
KIDS N & R: What’s next for Marnie?
MARNIE: The SHINDIGGY Dance Party!
I really feel that this will be a NEW level of Music with Marnie. Something that hasn’t been done in the city yet for families. It’s an opportunity for EVERYONE to get out and dance, like new parents who are dying to let loose and cut a rug, and tweens who have perhaps outgrown my music, but are still my ‘buddies’ and of course, my specialty babies to 5-year-olds! I want it to be an event for EVERYONE. Adults, Infants, Toddlers, Preschoolers, and Tweens. My friend Lee Ann Steyns of Signing Babies just asked me tonight, how I can measure my level of success from this event. I told her that if people get a glimpse or a taste of the connection between community and music, then it will be a success. I want it to be FUN for EVERYONE (Moms, Dads, Kids – Everyone). I want it to be Waste Free & Ethical, and to Support the Community that has been there for me. I want to give back with the gift of my music, and my appreciation for all the support that I have received. I think this event fills all those gaps. There will be vegan food served in edible bowls, collections for Baby Go Round, Ethical Vendors, Kidpreneurs, a Silent Auction filled with goods from local Mompreneurs and Kidpreneurs (100% of silent auction proceeds will go to Baby Go Round) Face Painting, Chillout/playdough zone, photo wall and more – Basically an evening centered around EVERYONE, and a DJ pumping out a GREAT Mix of Music from Electronic, ’80s and 90’s, Latin, Hip Hop, and more.
‘SHINDIGGY’ Means ‘Best Ever’ I want it to be Vancouver’s Best Ever All Ages Family Event, supporting local entrepreneurs and giving back to the community.
Music with Marnie SHINDIGGY Dance Party Details:
SATURDAY NOV 16TH
5 p.m. – 8 p.m.
316 West 5th Ave
Tickets $9.50 ea. in advance/$12 ea. at Door
Babies 6 months & Under Free
Doors open at 5, and the party ends at 8, just in time for you to tuck your kiddos into bed, and settle into your favourite Episode. Arrive early, as the 1st 20 Moms at the door, will receive a gift bag from the Oh So Awesome Mama, and Generous Contributor, Suji Moon of Ink and Hair.
Items you can bring to the event and donate to Baby Go Round Include: Blankets, Winter Outerwear Size 0 – 2T, Sleepers 0-12months, Crib bedding and Diaper Bags. Cost includes Entry & Entertainment.
Delicious Food & Drinks are Extra.
A BIG Thanks to our Silent Auction Contributors:
Ink and Hair, Luli Designs, Rusty Roof Pottery, Petits Villains, Periwinkle Paper Designs, Petit Tembo, Kokopelli Hair Salon (Brenna Abbey), Ktone Designs, Peaceful Sleepers, Juice Truck, The Joy of Style, Gawagani Artworks, North West Felts, Kiddo Naturals, Blingja, Little Wagon Co, Wanna Be Yogi and More.
5 p.m. Doors Open
5:15 p.m. Emcee Arlene Deptuck of Gawagani Artworks
5:30 – 6:15 Music with Marnie
6:15 – 7:45 DJ Mario
5 p.m. – 7:45 p.m. Eat the Dishes
5-730 Face Painting
5-745 Photo Wall
Silent Auction 5 – 7
Celebrating 20 Years of #MusicThatMakesYouMOVE with Lots of Fun and Fabulous Events, including an All Ages #ShindiggyDanceParty on Nov 16th. Visit www.MusicwithMarnie.com/Concerts for Details
Get the Scoop & Stay in the Musical Loop – Sign Up for the Music with Marnie Newsletter at www.MusicwithMarnie.com
WINNER of 8 West Coast Family Magazine Readers Choice GOLD Awards for Best Performer, Best Music Classes, and Best Children’s Band, 2012, 2013 2014 & 2017
– Thanks for Your Votes!