Exciting news!

Debbie and Friends has a song on an album that was nominated for a 2011 Grammy Award in the Children’s Music Category! “Walk Away” is our song on the anti-bullying compilation called All About Bullies Big And Small. It is one of five nominees for Best Children’s Album this year! The winner will be announced at the 54th Annual Grammy Awards Ceremony on Feb. 12.

Here’s the cartoon music video version of our song that is on the nominated CD.

Debbie and Friends is working on our first-ever Christmas song called “Santa & Baby.” The song’s groove is inspired by the Spin Doctors and the song itself inspired by this picture of my friend’s dog named Baby.

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Baby! Photo by Beth Oram Photography.

Our friends at Planet Sunday are hard at work on the cartoon version while my producer, Michael Carrera and I finish up the production of the recording. Below is an “animation rough” also known as a storyboard. The finished version of this cartoon music video will be ready in time for Christmas 2011.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, we always like to give our fan families an inside view as what’s in the works with Debbie and Friends!

Enjoy the (preproduction) story of “Santa & Baby”!

Today more than ever, video is an essential way to break through the noise and reach new fans with your music. For Debbie and Friends, cartoon music videos are a great vehicle for this.

I’m always pleasantly surprised to learn that families from all over the world discover Debbie and Friends music every day through our YouTube channel and various cable outlets.

Many of our songs are based on classic tales, and therefore well suited for visual presentation. Some of our songs, however, are not based on stories and I was always convinced those songs were not good candidates for video. “Wendell,” for example, is a cumulative movement song about a boy who finds a toy Robot. The Robot adds a new physical challenge with each verse. It’s fun, but I couldn’t imagine it as a video. My amazing animator, Goichi Hirata from Planet Sunday, had another idea. He suggested that we approach it differently than the others and tell the story from the perspective of Wendell’s imagination. For children, the Robot can represent hope and a doorway to, literally and figuratively, scaling walls and overcoming life’s obstacles. Needless to say, I was thrilled with Goichi’s idea and excited to move forward with the project!

To further fan engagement and help with some decisions about the piece, we even hosted a “pick Wendell’s hair color” poll on Facebook. (Purple won) Here are some initial images Goichi designed for the cartoon.

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Wendell finds the Toy Robot.
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Wendell and the Robot flying.
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Wendell and the Robot at the Toy Fair parade.

And, here’s the storyboard version of the animation.

The “Wendell” cartoon music video will be finished in June. I feel so fortunate to be able to work with such talented and creative people as Goichi Hirata and Greg David at Planet Sunday.

How have you used video to expand the reach of your music-related projects?

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I’m happy to announce that our new CD, More Story Songs & Sing Alongs has been honored with a Parents’ Choice Award! Here’s what Parents’ Choice reviewer, Lynne Heffley had to say:

“I Think I Can” (a song version of “The Little Engine That Could”) and “Rosie Wrong Rhyme” exemplify the child-savvy, play-along spirit that singer Debbie Cavalier brings to her music for the preschool and little lunchbox set. “I Think I Can” echoes the gentle encouragement that is Cavalier’s trademark. “Rosie,” a little girl who can’t get her rhymes right, gives young listeners the comical context that allows them to anticipate the right answer. (Written by Norman Martin, “Rosie” is one of only two songs that are not Cavalier originals here). She is well-accompanied by a host of adult musicians and vocalists of all ages, including “Sesame Street’s” Bob McGrath, who helps out on the mellow, harmonic good-bye song, “Until Next Time.”

For more information, or to read about some of the other great award-winning CDs, visit the Parents’ Choice Fall 2010 Audio Awards Web site.

I’m excited to tell you that our kids/family music group “Debbie and Friends” has been nominated to the top 5 for the Nickelodeon Parents’ Pick Award for Kids’ CD of the Year! WE NEED YOUR VOTES TO WIN!

Please click the link below to register to vote. You can vote once a day through Aug. 30!

Nominated for best kids’ music cd. Vote now!

To hear the music, please visit

Thank you from all of us at Debbie and Friends!

I had the opportunity to talk about Berkleemusic on Fox Business News Live on Friday, Dec. 18. This will become part of a larger music business piece to be aired nationally soon. I’ll be sure to post the date when it becomes available.

Watch the latest video at video.foxbusiness.com

Stefan Shepherd is the man behind one of the most popular and well-regarded “kids and family music” blogs in the industry called Zooglobble. I highly recommend following Zooglobble whether you’re a parent looking for music for your family to enjoy, or a musician interested in keeping your finger on the pulse of this thriving genre. Here is recent Debbie and Friends interview on Zooglobble.

Interview: Debbie Cavalier (Debbie and Friends)

DCavalierWeb_01.jpgDebbie Cavalier leads a double life — not only is she behind Debbie and Friends, which offers a bunch of songs (and animation) squarely aimed at preschoolers (and maybe their older siblings), she’s also the Dean of Continuing Education at Berklee College of Music’s online division. So she’s got a pretty broad perspective on life as a musician, educator, and entrepreneur. (She’s also a really nice person.) Read on for her inspiration for Debbie and Friends, some music education tips, and the worst part about playing keyboards.

Zooglobble: What music did you listen to growing up?

Debbie Cavalier: My mom always played a lot of Tom Jones and Neil Diamond in the house when I was a kid. She also played my grandfather records a lot: The Marty Gold Orchestra. My grandfather has been a huge influence on my musical life. I just wrote a blog post about this.

Upon getting my own record player in elementary school in the mid 70s, my favorites rotations up were Elton John, Carole King, Billy Joel, the Bee Gees, Carly Simon, and Bruce Springsteen. Elton John definitely got more airplay in my room than anyone else.

What was the path that led you to your current job at Berklee and what does that job entail?

I was a music education major at Berklee and had a wonderful time as an elementary music teacher and choral director for a several years. During that time, I became involved with music education publishing and developed some music methods and choral arrangements for CPP/Belwin and Warner Bros. Publications. After a few years, they offered me a full-time position as an education editor to develop music education publications. I had the wonderful opportunity to develop music education publications with authors such as Shari Lewis and Buffalo Bob Smith before they passed away. I also did a lot of work with Bob McGrath from Sesame Street. Those experiences have had a tremendous impact on the work I do with Debbie and Friends.

After about five years at WB, I was hired by Berklee as the managing editor for Berklee Press. Shortly after that we started to develop plans for an online school, Berkleemusic.com. We became accredited in 2004, and now five years later we have the largest online music school in the world serving 30,000 students from more than 80 countries. Berkleemusic.com is the online continuing education division of the college. We have 100 fully-accredited online courses and certificate programs in music production, music business, songwriting, film scoring, arranging, and more. I’ve been the dean of continuing education at Berklee for the past five years. My job entails working with Berklee’s esteemed faculty in developing new online courses to serve a global community of musicians with music education opportunities. We have a team of 30 people at Berkleemusic and our enrollment is growing each semester. Our students tend to be adult learners who have a passion for music and want to further their career opportunities by studying with Berklee faculty and other students from around the globe. I love my work at Berklee and am very thankful for the flexibility it affords me with Debbie and Friends. Most of Berklee’s faculty and staff are involved in one kind of music project or another in their own musical lives. It’s a wonderful environment filled with opportunities to collaborate and grow.

What made you decide to do a kids’ CD?
As a music educator, I’ve always enjoyed sharing music with children. As my career path development and opportunities came my way, I found myself further and further removed from children. Debbie and Friends brings that back. But I have to say it was my nephew Will who inspired me to write my first children’s song just a few years ago when he was only 3. He told me the story of the Three Little Pigs one day with such enthusiasm that it sounded just like a song form. It occurred to me that the Three Little Pigs story would make a great song, and it just grew from there. I began writing “story songs” and other music for children, then performing, then recording, and I just loved it! The fact that Debbie and Friends started with my nephew Will makes it extra special to me. And whenever we play shows in Boston or Philadelphia, Will comes up on stage with his brother Ronnie and sister Rebecca to join us on a few songs. They and their brother Teddy are a constant source of inspiration for me!

I made a little Web site for Will about the inspiration he provided. (I just happened to have a handy cam while he told the story to my mother — his grandma). Here’s a link to the story and the song on Will’s site:

DebbieLogo.jpgWhat group of kids are you targeting with Debbie and Friends?
The target age is pre-school and kindergarten children ages three to six. However, we have lots of fans at our shows who are seven, eight and even nine years old. Babies and toddlers seem to enjoy themselves too. But, the songs, activities, skills, lyrics, and interactions are targeting 3-6 year olds and the grownups who love them.

Which main aspect of the music process (writing, recording, playing live) do you enjoy the most? The least?
Playing live! I love the interaction and connection I share with the kids and families through live performance, and the shared musical experience the concerts provide for families. I believe children’s music is not about performing for kids, but rather, interacting with them and I enjoy that aspect so much.

My other favorite thing is collaborating with my producer Michael Carrera and all of the wonderful musicians who contribute to the Debbie and Friends recordings. They take an idea and make it better. Making music with others is a wonderful experience.

What do I least enjoy? That’s easy… carrying equipment before and after a show. My keyboard is very heavy!

Your videos are pretty high-quality — is the video-creation process something you enjoy, or do you just have lots of talented friends?
Thank you! It’s both. I love the process and I have wonderfully talented friends who have been very generous. My dear friends Amy Schrob and Sharon Lynch made the “Hangin’ Around” movie for me as a gift. I also discovered a terrific animation company in the UK through Craigslist. The owner is Greg David and the company is Planet Sunday. They produced an animation based on the “Three Pigs and a Wolf” and just finished another one based on “I Got a Laugh.” They are starting to work on a third. The videos have been a wonderful way to reach new fans and has even opened some doors in licensing and TV placements.

Have you learned anything from making and playing the first album (Story Songs and Sing Alongs) that’s affected what you’re doing for the second album?
Oh yes! I learned that the story songs concept is a big hit with families. There is something about the familiarity of a well-known storyline set to music that makes for a fun interactive experience. The kids know where the story is going and are excited to assume the parts and roles throughout. So, there will be more familiar stories to sing about, including “I Think I Can” from The Little Engine that Could. That particular story is not in the Public Domain, but we were able to negotiate a fair license.

I also learned that stylistic variety is enjoyed by families. I feel very fortunate to have my Berklee colleagues to call upon to record and perform in a variety of styles. We recorded the rhythm section for five new songs in a Boston-based studio last week (piano, organ, bass, drums, and guitar) and I’m more excited than ever about the second album CD.

Having been a classroom music teacher and choral director for many years, there weren’t any huge surprises. Interaction and active participation for kids and their families seems to be most important and so all of the songs are written with a collective music making experience in mind.

DCavalierWeb_02.jpgIf you had one piece of advice for parents wanting their kids to develop basic music competency, what would it be?
Make music a natural part of your every day. Don’t be afraid to sing in front of your kids. Studies show that a parent’s voice is a baby’s favorite sound. Sing with your child every day, and don’t worry about how you think you might sound! The important thing is that you are modeling a love of music and a non-judgmental approach to making music.

Play music-related games such as:
– Make Up Your Own Songs (Parodies): Make up new words to familiar songs. Make up songs about a pet, friends, family, the morning routine, school, putting toys away, or anything at all.
– Name that Sound Game: Play a sound from the kitchen and have your child name it while listening from the next room. You can play sounds that are as easy as running water and as challenging as pouring cereal into a bowl.

Also, participate in Kindermusik and other early childrood-related music programs in your area. And, go to concerts, recitals and other musical performances whenever possible!

What’s next for you?
With Debbie and Friends the next step is to write, record, and make more music, play more concerts, and reach as many kids and families as possible. We’re working on new songs, booking more shows in different areas of the country, and having lots of fun!

The following is a Debbie and Friends interview from a wonderful new Boston-based children’s music blog, Boston Children’s Music by Amber Bobnar. Anyone interested in learning about children’s music artists and related information should check it out. In addition, there are weekly updates on all of the Boston-area shows. Amber is providing a wonderful service for families. I am so pleased to have Debbie and Friends included!

Interview with Debbie Cavalier of Debbie and Friends

by Amber Bobnar on April 15, 2009

We took our son, Ivan, to see a wonderful Debbie and Friends performance at the Regent Theatre in Arlington on Saturday, April 11th.

Meeting Debbie after a Debbie and Friends concert.

Meeting Debbie after a Debbie and Friends concert.

A live Debbie and Friends show is a treat for the entire family. The band plays a variety of styles, from straight-ahead pop, to country, to rock, to reggae.

Kids are part of the show as the audience becomes the Big Bad Wolf and blows the house down, fixes Rosie’s wrong rhymes, and tests their skills with the Simon Sez Song. Like everyone’s favorite teacher, Debbie connects with her audience and respects kids for the people they are, and her warmth is sincere and her radiance downright contagious.

Kids love her energy, her sunshine, and the interesting array of musicians she brings to each show, including keyboard, all sorts of hand percussion, energetic and sometimes zany backing vocalists, saxophones, banjo, fiddle, flute, whistles—you name it.

We had a great time singing along with all our favorite tunes from Story Songs and Sing Alongs and after the show we had the chance to sit and talk to Debbie Cavalier about her music.

You can learn more about Debbie’s shows and CDs by visiting her website: www.DebbieAndFriends.net.

Boston Children’s Music: I hear you’re working on a new CD? Can you tell us about it?

Debbie Cavalier: We’re very excited about it! We’ve found that the whole concept of story songs really resonates with families and children so we’re going to keep that theme going. As was the case with Story Songs and Sing Alongs, this CD will contain songs representing diverse styles and instrumentation. There will be some guest artists on there as well!

The new CD will probably be called More Story Songs and Sing Alongs and one of the songs that we’re doing is “The Little Engine that Could.” We’re very excited about that one.

There are also a couple of songs that we do in the live shows like “Simon Sez” and “Rosie Wrong Rhyme,” that will be on the new CD. “Rosie Wrong Rhyme” is actually an old Shari Lewis tune. It’s the only one I’m putting on the CD that isn’t original. I had the opportunity to work with her back in the ’90s on songbooks and she really inspired me so I wanted to include a song of hers.

BCM: Do you have a release date?

Probably late Fall. We’re doing some recording next month for the first five songs.

I’m so lucky being at Berklee College of Music with all the wonderful musicians there contributing to our CD. We had forty-five musicians on the last CD, most of them from Berklee. It was great being able to just pull in this horn player, or that banjo player at a moment’s notice.

BCM: Speaking of Berklee, I know you are the Dean of Continuing Education there. Can you talk a little about what you do?

DC: Sure. The continuing education division provides Berklee curriculum and music education opportunities to musicians all over the world who can’t enroll in a full-time degree program at the college.

We run two main activities: Berklee Press, which publishes books and DVDs based on Berklee’s curriculum, authored by Berklee faculty; and Berkleemusic.com, Berklee’s online extension school that offers fully accredited semester-long online courses taught by Berklee faculty. It’s really a wonderful thing. A lot of people say, “How can you teach music online?” but it’s amazingly effective. We have songwriting, music business, guitar, production, arranging, orchestration courses, and much more available online.

Berkleemusic is the largest online music college in the world and has been awarded the “Best Online Course Award” by the Continuing Education Association for five years running.

Eric playing guitar at a Debbie and Friends concert.

Eric Saulnier on Guitar; Photo by Samantha Broadhurst.

BCM: How does being at Berklee benefit your band? How many band members are from Berklee?

DC: Mike Carrera, my producer, and Bill D’Agostino, our drummer, are both Berklee staff; Sue Lindsay used to work there, but now is working independently; and almost everybody playing on the CD is from Berklee.

I also have some incredible musicians playing live with Debbie and Friends who are not part of Berklee, including Rory McKenzie on bass, Liz Gould on percussion, Brian O’Neill on percussion, and Eric (Saulnier) Salt on guitar. Sometimes we have Adam Olenn on bass and Jeff Muzerolle on Drums (both Berklee staff). Each one of our band members bring so much energy and wonderful musicianship to our shows!

Everyone in the band really enjoys playing Debbie and Friends shows. It’s so refreshing for them to play for children. When you play for an adult crowd, you’re often just background music and people are talking over you, but when you perform for kids, they are with you and part of the show every second.

BCM: How about the kids’ voices on your first CD? There are a lot of kids talking, singing, cheering—who are they?

DC: We live in Watertown and we just happen to live on a street with a dozen kids who were all excited to be part of the CD. So, I just paraded everybody through my home studio to record a lot of the speaking and singing parts. That was a lot of fun.

My niece and nephews are on the CD as well. I really started this whole project because of my nephew Will. He told me the story of the Three Little Pigs one day with such enthusiasm that it sounded like sections of a song. It occurred to me that the Three Little Pigs story would make a great song, and it just grew from there. I began writing story songs and other music for children and have never looked back. The fact that Debbie and Friends started with my nephew Will makes it extra special to me. (And, whenever we play shows in Boston or Philadelphia, Will comes up on stage with his brother Ronnie and sister Rebecca to join us on a few songs. They and their brother Teddy are a constant source of inspiration for me!)

The main child vocalists that are on the CD are Amber and Aubrielle. They are the great nieces of Darcel Wilson (Berklee voice faculty who is featured on Love is a Family) and are wonderful singers. We had so much fun recording with them. They would come into the studio and we’d have pizza, and we’d record them and they just sang everything perfectly the first time through because they had spent a lot of time rehearsing with their Aunt Darcel.

Kids at a Debbie and Friends concert.

Simon Sez Hand Up!; Photo by Samantha Broadhurst.

BCM: Live performances are fun, but I imagine performing in a studio and putting together a CD is a lot of fun, too. Which do you prefer?

DC: My number one favorite thing to do is perform and interact with the kids and their families because I feel like we are all doing the show together. Every single song has something for them to do. I was a classroom music teacher for years and I think that as my career progressed and all these opportunities came my way I was pulled further and further away from interacting with children. I really love performing and interacting with kids‚ whether it’s with five or five hundred!

However, recording and working with Mike, my producer, is incredible because he really gets the whole children’s music thing and he’s so creative. We started working together on Debbie and Friends by accident, really. I invited him over to help me with my home studio a few years ago. While he was there, I played Three Pigs and a Wolf for him and he surprised me the next week with the whole Brooklyn wolf narration part. That was all his idea! I knew right away that we’d make a great team!

The creative process with him is really magical. I start with a song and he just takes it to a whole new level.

BCM: And often the songs on the CD end up being very different than the songs played live.

DC: Yes. When we first recorded the songs I hadn’t played them in a live setting at all. They’ve grown. I almost wish that we could record them now. I heard Faith Hill say once, that when you play a song live people expect you to do the CD version, but the songs continue to grow and change. It’s true. So I’m glad we didn’t record Rosie or Simon Sez so we could play around with them first.

BCM: You have a wonderful website, a great blog, and are active on facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Can you talk a little bit about how you use the internet?

DC: I really enjoy leveraging all of the communication tools of the Web to stay connected with the fan families of Debbie and Friends. I’m blessed to work with the most amazing marketing and technology folks at Berklee who have advised me on Debbie and Friends’ Web presence along the way. The Vice President in charge of BerkleeMusic.com, Dave Kusek, wrote a book entitled The Future of Music and the Music Business and I’ve learned so much from him over the years. Music marketing expert Michael King has also taught me so much.

I am also really lucky to have the opportunity to work with Barkley Studios’ Robert Heath. He designed my Debbie and Friends logo (the Deb Head), built my web site and my blog, and created templates for me to work in to keep my web site content fresh and current. He always makes sure the branding is consistent and our look and feel is fun for kids.

My mentor in this is children’s music marketing guru Regina Kelland. She has advised me on the marketing side and has opened so many doors for Debbie and Friends.

BCM: Children’s music really seems to be very popular right now, why do you think that is? Why do so many parents want to share music with their kids and find music that isn’t “annoying” to adult ears?

DC: I believe that over the course of the past ten to fifteen years, parents have been more proactive in making music part of their children’s daily lives. Parents are finding ways to fill the void in schools where budget cuts have eliminated arts-related programs.

In addition, there is a tremendous amount of research readily available on music and the brain, and the important role the arts play in developing the “whole child.” These are among the factors that are driving parents to give their kids a musical experience, thereby populating children’s music concerts, music classes such as Kindermusik, and driving children’s music CD sales.

Regarding “annoying” music, I think all genres have been called that by one person or another. I think Parents are becoming more aware that sharing quality, age-appropriate music with their children is a special experience that resonates with the core of their being.

BCM: What advice would you have for someone looking to break in to the children’s music field?

DC: Go for it! But, only do it if you absolutely love children’s music and interacting with kids and family audiences. Children are the most discerning audience of all. If you are not genuine, they will know right away.

To break in, start performing locally and grow regionally, then nationally. Play at schools, libraries, festivals, and work towards theater shows. Establish a connection with your fan families from the start and nurture those relationships. Encourage families to sign up for your email list at each performance. Email newsletters are a great way to stay in touch. Make your web site a fun, dynamic destination and a place they want to frequent and explore together. Keep your concerts interactive and filled with active participatory experiences for the children and parents. Produce music that both parents and kids will enjoy.

Debbie and Friends.BCM:

Meeting with the fans; Photo by Keith Pierce.

You say it’s important to connect with your fans. How do you do that?

DC: I always try to make sure that I have a presence before and after the shows. I really like to meet the families who come to the shows. I love to hear anything they want to share, like a favorite song, and then I like to use that in the show to let them know how important they are in all of this.

They also give me wonderful ideas and remind me that it’s time for another CD! A little boy came up to me after our last show and said, “When are you coming out with another CD?‚” and I said, “Oh, very soon, we’re working on it, I think in the Fall,” and he just made a disappointed sigh. It was so adorable and great to get that kind of feedback and to know that they want more Debbie and Friends music now!

The internet is also a great way to connect. I have the email newsletter, and I always include a way for families to can email me directly. I try to encourage that kind of dialogue with parents.

Roger H. Brown, President of Berklee College of Music, shares his thoughts on the importance of music for child development, cultural awareness, communication, and family connections.

Berklee Today, Berklee’s Alumni Magazine, just published a feature story by Julie Pampinella on Children’s Music.

Check it out here.