I was chatting with a co-worker the other day when she asked me what articles I have been working on for Saratoga Weekly. I mentioned I was working on a piece about children’s musical artist, Laurie Berkner. My co-worker, a mother to children in high school, interrupted me. “You are doing an article on Laurie Berkner?” she asked with raised eyebrows. I nodded. “You’ve heard of her?” My co-worker went on for about five minutes. Laurie was a favorite in her household when her children were younger. “You know she is known as “The Queen of Children’s Music?”
On April 21, The Beagle School will welcome “The Queen of Children’s Music,” Laurie Berkner, to Saratoga Springs High School for a solo concert.
Berkner, a bestselling award-wining children’s recording artist, is well-known by families from her appearances on the children focused television channels. She has released twelve albums, most recently Laurie Berkner: the Dance Remixes. Music is instrumental in Laurie’s life and she is dedicated to sharing her passion with children all over the world. She believes that music can have a positive impact on children. “I may be biased, but I think it plays a huge role. Among other things, music is a way for kids to express themselves, create a connection with another person, learn something new, feel safety, experience joy, sadness and a whole range of feelings, and connect their physical movements to sounds they hear. For many children, especially those who may struggle to learn in a more traditional way, I think it’s an irreplaceable part of development,” she said.
Berkner is appreciative to the children that have influenced her music over the years, especially the children she taught as a preschool music specialist early in her career. “About a year after I graduated from college (psychology major, art history minor) I got a job as a pre-school music specialist in New York City. I really felt as though I had no idea what I was doing, but eventually the kids there taught me a lot about what they liked and didn’t like, once I actually started listening,” she said. It was around this time Berkner started writing children songs. “I like to find topics and themes that I think would feel relevant to kids. I’m often inspired by things that I hear kids say or memories that I have of my own childhood,” she said. It was inspiring for Berkner to see the children respond so positively to music. “It made sense to me to start writing songs for them based on what they were sharing with me, and then work in whatever I was trying to teach them in the class,” she said. “I found it fun and rewarding to see them respond so positively to the music I was bringing in, and it seemed like an incredible opportunity to open the door for kids to realize that they loved singing, playing and moving to music.”
Jessica Todtenhagen, director of The Beagle School in Saratoga Springs, echoes Berkner’s opinion that children learning through music and play is best. “Laurie’s catchy and fun music is not only entertaining to children and their parents, but has been used as a learning tool for us this year,” she said. “Our teachers have incorporated her music into their lessons, teaching sounds, rhyming, music and movement.”
The Beagle School, started in 1972 by a group of local parents who had a special vision for early childhood education, is more than a school. It is a community. “The Beagle School prides itself not only on creating a positive first school experience and getting children ready for Kindergarten, but also on our ability to create a welcoming community among our families. For many families, lifelong friendships are started right here on our playground,” Todtenhagen said. Last year The Beagle School partnered with Go Kids to bring the Saratoga Day of Play to the State Park. Over 250 children from the community participated in the event. With the success of last year’s community event Todtenhagen and board members of The Beagle School were determined to “share our love of Beagle.” Todtenhagen credits Kate Fitzpatrick, a dedicated board member, with the idea of pursing Berkner for a concert in Saratoga Springs. “She felt that Laurie’s music echoes the same philosophies that we practice- learning is best done through play,” Todtenhagen said. “She has been tirelessly organizing this concert and without her efforts, Laurie would not be coming here.”
The Beagle School, with the help of local businesses, are securing tickets for preschoolers that wouldn’t normally have the means to attend the Berkner concert. “We live in such a wonderful city and anything that we can do to bring people together, we want to do! With the Laurie Berkner concert, we have been contacting local businesses to purchase tickets to help send preschoolers who would normally not have the means to attend a concert,” she said. “We want as many preschoolers as possible to be able to enjoy this experience. So far we have been able to purchase enough tickets to send one Head Start class and their parents to the concert! We are working on sending another.”
Todtenhagen credits The Beagle School’s longevity in Saratoga Springs to its teachers, students and families. “For over 40 years, we have had dedicated staff and board members who have put our children’s best interest first and always worked to improve our programs,” she said. “Our amazing teachers, both past and present, become a part of their students’ lives, preparing them for kindergarten and helping them to develop a lifelong love of learning.” The biggest testament to The Beagle School is that second generations are now attending as students. “Early students of The Beagle School are now sending their children here and many new families come to us because we were recommended by family and friends. That is the highest praise that anyone could give us,” Todtenhagen said.
Berkner promises a fun concert for children and parents in Saratoga Springs. Although it is hard for her to choose, her favorite song to sing might be “My Family.” She says the song has special meaning for her. “It’s also one that seems to inspire people to hug, to dance, and to think about how much they love each other,” she said. “Seeing the expressions on people’s faces when I sing that song in a concert makes me feel really happy.”
For more information on The Beagle School please visit the school’s website: http://beagleschool.com/. For more information on the
April 21 Laurie Berkner concert visit the website:
For more information on Laurie Berkner please visit her on social media: YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/TheLaurieBerknerBand;
Emily Marcason-Tolmie, a Saratoga native, is a writer, researcher, wife and mother. Emily and her husband, Ryan, are the parents to two wonderful little boys, ages 4 and 1.