Debbie Cavalier, Dean of Continuing Education at Berklee College of Music's online extension school, Berkleemusic. Cavalier leads the development of Berklee's award-winning distance learning courses and is a frequent speaker at national distance learning conferences. A prolific author, Cavalier has penned over one hundred music education methods and arrangements and is an active children's music artist with Debbie and Friends.
What an honor it was for Debbie and Friends to participate in Berklee’s Early Childhood Symposium on April 9, 2012. The symposium was sponsored by Berklee’s Music Education Dept, under the leadership of Dr. Cecil Adderley, and included presentations and performances by Paul Reisler, Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer, and Debbie and Friends. It was a very special day with Berklee students, faculty, staff, and lots of families from the greater Boston area all focused on making music together.
Here’s a picture of Berklee’s Music Ed Majors on stage with Debbie and Friends having a great time with the kids and families in attendance. This was particularly special to me being an alumna of that program.
Debbie and Friends with Berklee’s Music Ed Majors
Berklee constantly strives to be a great place to learn, teach, and work. Events like the Early Childhood Symposium are just one more example of this.
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.
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.
Wendell finds the Toy Robot.
Wendell and the Robot flying.
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?
I’m excited to share a brand new cartoon music video from my kids/family music project, Debbie and Friends. The song is based on the classic tale of Cinderella with a few twists including a focus on friendship and self esteem for girls.
From the onset of the project, I wanted to make sure our fan families were involved in the production. We launched a “fairy selection” vote via our Debbie and Friends Facebook page and asked our fan families to help shape our version of the Cinderella story song by voting on one of the following fairies.
The fairy “Godfather” won by an overwhelming majority!
So, my producer Michael Carrera and I worked on some dialog, and then he summoned his best “Brando” voice for the recording.
We launched the new cartoon on our YouTube channel yesterday and the response has been very strong. Our fan families feel a real connection to the piece having been involved in the storyline and character selection from the beginning.
Presenting “Cinderella” by Debbie and Friends. I hope you enjoy it!
Special thanks to Planet Sunday of Wales. They are brilliant animators and add so much creativity, humor, and quality to everything they do.
I’m thrilled to tell you about a wonderful educational resource for families and education professionals called BAM Radio Network.
Bam’s co-founder and renowned educator, Rae Pica, recently invited to be part of an interview on Bam with legendary music educator Hap Palmer. Hap is an innovator in the use of music and movement to teach skills and encourage the use of imagination for kids. His music has received numerous honors. Hap’s music was always a big part of my work as an elementary music educator years ago, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with him and the host of the show, Maryann Harmon!
As a kid’s/family performing group, Debbie and Friends are always looking for new ways to actively engage our audience. A typical D&F concert includes our fan families doing everything from starting up the band with a clapping beat, to fixing rhymes, playing the “Simon Says” song game, dancing, singing, and interacting with all five members of the band.
Our good friend and booking agent for the Midwest region, Jeni Cosgrove, challenged us to find a way to to incorporate our animated cartoons into our live show format. It sounded like great fun so we decided to give it a try!
First, we created a version of one of our cartoon music videos without recorded music. Then, we added a click track. During the performance, the click track is sent to our drummer, Bill D’Agostino’s wireless earphones so that he can lock in with the click and remain in sync with the video from start to finish. The band plays along with Bill so that we are all in sync playing, singing and dancing along with the video.
The families in our audience LOVE it! And we do, too. In addition to adding a multimedia dimension to our show, we’re promoting our music video catalog and visits to our Web site, You Tube channel, and Jitterbug.tv. The cartoons all contain movement parts, so the families in our audience continue to be active participants throughout the show.
I highly recommend giving live performance with a music video a try! (Thanks Jeni!) I’d love to hear from other bands doing this sort of thing. Please share your experience.
The following is our “Little Red Riding Hood” animated music video. This is one of the animated music videos that families sing and dance along with during our shows.
I often say that in addition to being the dean of continuing education at Berkleemusic, I am also a student. I’ve learned so much from the curricula and instructors listed above, and I’ve have the good fortune to be able to apply this knowledge to my own kids/family music project, Debbie and Friends.
The most recent outgrowth of my music business education with Berkleemusic is a fan-engaging remix contest for kids and families. As our courses teach, visionary artist managers such as Terry McBride of Nettwerk have been doing this kind of things for years with mainstream artists. I’m hoping it will be successful for kids/family music and with our fan families who want to engage in musical activities beyond listening. My producer, Michael Carrera, prepared a GarageBand version of one of our new songs that was originally produced in Logic. There are a lot less tracks than the original version, but we wanted to make the GarageBand file manageable for our young producers. The contest is now live and can be found here.
The contest just launched and already we’ve been able to monitor interest and excitement from our fan families and people in the Remix world. Remix Comps not only embraced the idea that’s outside of their genre, they also made a special effort to convey this is a contest geared towards kids/family music.
It will be interesting to see how the contest unfolds. I’ll report back on April 5, to announce the winner and share the experience.
What kind of fan-engaging ideas have you been able to try with your music as a result of your studies with Berkleemusic?
Everybody goes home with Debbie and Friends’ tattoos and a free new song download card!
In honor of this new series, the Cactus Club is offering 20% off lunch entrees for anyone with a Debbie and Friends’ concert ticket! The Cactus Club is in the same building as Cafe 939, so you won’t even have to put on your coats to go to lunch!
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.
It’s an exciting time to be a musician. There are so many new channels of distribution, new formats, and new delivery options that can help you expose your music to potential fans. I have found animated music videos to be an excellent platform for reaching new fans and reconnecting with existing ones.
The three main ingredients needed to produce an animated music video are:
1. A fully produced song that lends itself to visual representation. Although the example that follows is for children/family music, animation can work for any genre or age demographic.
2. A graphic designer to create compelling characters and imagery.
3. An animator who can storyboard the project and create the animation.
The entire process can take 6 to 12 weeks.
Start with a Song
All Debbie and Friends’ animated music videos are based on the original songs that we perform from our CD, Story Songs and Sing Alongs. The final mastered version of the song is used for preproduction planning purposes only. The audio mix is somewhat different in the animated feature to best support the visuals.
Our most recent animated music video was based on our “Jack and the Beanstalk” story song.
Main Character Design
A creative brief is sent to the designer, Robert Heath at Barkley Studios who designs the main characters and elements of the story.
“Jack and the Beanstalk” main characters by Rob Heath.
Backgrounds and Scenes
Next, the designers and animators at Planet Sunday create backgrounds and scenes to support the characters and the overall storyline.
Jack and the cow.
The Giant taking a nap.
Once the characters and background scenes are developed, a storyboard movie is created putting rough action sketches to music. We typically do two or three iterations of the storyboard movie before locking it down and going into production on the final movie.
“Easter Eggs” Al Hirschfeld, the visual artist best known for his cartoon-like line renditions of musicians and actors, always hid his daughter’s name “Nina” in his artwork. Along this line, all Debbie and Friends’ music videos have a “Spider” that drops down and makes a brief cameo at some point during our cartoons. It’s become a fun activity for our fan families to “find the spider” and write to tell me where it is. This is another example of how the music videos help us stay connected with our fans.
The finished movie is uploaded to our You Tube channel and related children’s music video sites such as jitterbug.tv and totlol.com. They are promoted to our fan families via our Debbie and Friends email newsletter, Facebook posts, and blog posts, etc.
The animated music video becomes a viral marketing tool as our fan families share the links and embed codes with their friends. The videos have proven to be great market research tools as well. We are receiving lots of requests to turn the music videos into a DVD product that can be played at home or in the car. Individual music video downloads can be made available to purchase as well. And, the animated music videos can serve as licensing vehicles for film and TV placements.