Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Introducing Laura Doherty

It is with great pleasure that I introduce to you musician Laura Doherty.  Based in Chicago, Laura has been with the Old Town School of Folk Music for ten years and currently is the director of and a teacher for the popular Wiggleworms program which offers music classes geared for early childhood.  Laura offers concerts in the Chicago area - check out her show calendar here which includes also dates for shows on the east coast this fall.  Her songs for children are filled with lively rhythms, easy to sing along with melodies and child-centered themes.  Her latest CD, Kids in the City, was released in May of this year and she has also contributed to the two Wiggleworm CD's.  All of three CD's are featured below.  

Children's music can play an important role in literacy development.  It's another way to play with and to explore language, words, rhythms, and story in an energetic and active environment.  Music opens up the avenue for dance, movement and play.  It also taps into all the different ways that children learn and builds on children's experiences and understanding of their own world. Additionally, songs can also support or complement books when matched up by theme as seen in a previous post

Recently, Laura shared some of her thoughts and ideas about the important role that music can play in child development as well as in literacy development.  Please read further for the interview and enjoy the music of Laura Doherty.

1. Why do you think children's music is important for children and their families? What impact have you seen in the children's development (social, emotional, motor skills, etc)?
I have been teaching and making music for children for 10 years and I believe it is an very important part of a child's development. It's great to expose children to all kinds of music, but music specifically written for kids has proven to build a child's language, motor and social skills, and can be something enjoyed by the whole family. When specifically working with babies and toddlers, I use melodies that are simple and easy for kids to learn, at that time in their life when they are learning to walk and talk. Also, songs that have body motions that accompany the song are memorable for children. I mainly teach children between the ages of 6 months and 3 years and it's amazing to watch what happens in the classroom. Even before they can talk, I'll see an almost one year old
doing the hand motions for Itsy-Bitsy spider or clapping on cue during "Happy and You Know it".

2. Do you see a role that music plays in children's literacy development?
I love children's songs that are created as books. The illustrations come alive and reinforce the lyrics to the songs. There's a ton of them out there. My favorite is a book I have on "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star". And for learning about jazz music there's a great book called "Charlie Park played Be-Bop" by Chris Raschka.

3. What or who is your inspiration for your children's music?
Chicago and the city in general was my inspiration for the songs on my debut kids CD "Kid in the City". I love living in the city and I wanted to write about it as seen through the eyes of a child. Chicago is a city rich in history. When you see the El train, you think Chicago. When you hear the blues, you think Chicago, and always a city that stands on its own, Chicago has it's own version of a hot dog. All these themes are explored in my songs.

I also wanted to make a record that used all acoustic instruments so that you can really hear the words and it gives it a more homey feel, like I'm on the back porch strumming some tunes! I teamed up again with producer Rich Rankin of Mosaic Music in Chicago to record the CD; we co-produced "Wiggleworms Love You" released on Bloodshot Records in 2005.

I moved to Chicago from New York in 1992 and got into children's music in 1998, when I started teaching at the Old Town School of Folk Music. There I met Ralph Covert, whom I consider one of the masters of children's music! He produced by first grownup record (Days Without Maps c2000) and he has been an inspiration to me over the years. He has a way of crafting the perfect song, of engaging children, and he really knows the ins and outs of the business of music.

Another Chicagoan whom I'd admire greatly is Ella Jenkins, a children's music legend! I've had the opportunity to meet her and see her perform at the Old Town School of Folk Music several times. I love the way she can take a simple song and have a crowd of several hundreds singing along with her, call and response, completely engaged. Keeping it simple is what I learned from her. And she really has command of the stage, or classroom. I love that her music explores many cultures as well.

4. Do you have any favorite children's books or authors from your
childhood that you would like to share?
One of my favorite children's authors from my childhood is Richard Scarry. I loved the busy-ness on all the pages learning about all the different kinds of automobiles, for example. And recently, I've been really into books by Todd Parr. I love his bold illustrations and his books all have a message, with a focus on diversity. I especially like "The Family Book" and "The Peace book".

You can catch Laura on these CD's.  Check out the songs by clicking on the links.

Songs for Wiggleworms 
(Full bibliographic info: Songs for Wiggleworms. Old Town School of Music, 2000.)

Wiggleworms Love You
(Full bibliographic info: Wiggleworms Love You. Old Town School of Music, 2005.)

Kids in the City by Laura Doherty
(Full bibliographic info: Doherty, Laura. Kids in the City. CD Baby, 2009.) 

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