On Saturday morning, March 24, Debbie and Friends performed a show at the Regent Theatre in Arlington, MA (just outside of Boston). Our five-piece band performed songs and had a great time interacting with the kids and families in the audience; including many Berkleemusic families.

Many of you know Berkleemusic as the award-winning online school where you study with musicians from all around the world, learn from Berklee faculty, and connect with our advisors and customer service folks for support. You may not be aware that Berkleemusic is comprised of a staff of nearly 50 people, all of whom are passionate about music and the work we do to provide music education opportunities to musicians all over the world. And, most of the staff are musicians, too.

The show on Saturday included guest performances by two of my Berkleemusic colleagues: Milan Kovacev and Luke Stevens.

The following is a picture of Milan Kovacev—Berkleemusic’s Director of Interactive Marketing—joining us on bass. Milan is also the creative force behind Hipson Music and Clash of Civilizations.

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Milan Kovacev with Debbie & Friends

Also joining Debbie and Friends that morning was Luke Stevens, our Web Software Developer. Luke plays a mean Ukelele (among other things) and has been known to lead office jam sessions from time to time when he’s not working on improving the online learning environment for our students.

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Luke Stevens with Debbie and Friends

Berklee really is a great place to learn, teach and work. I’m happy to introduce you to some of the many folks who help to make it so.

Following up on the previous post… here is the “Wendell” cartoon by Debbie and Friends.

Debbie and Friends is hard at work on our new DVD to be released on March 29, 2011.

On December 18, we performed a live action concert shoot for the DVD at Berklee’s CAFE 939 with 100 of our fan families. The following is a fun “Outtakes Video” featuring some special moments from that day.

The families that were part of the shoot are thrilled to be part of our new release, and I couldn’t be happier to have them included. Making your fans part of your products is just another level of fan engagement. Do you have examples of engaging your fan in this way? Please post your stories and ideas.

Happy Holidays!

I’m pleased to share a piano method booklet for children that I developed with my Grandfather, Marty Gold. Marty is a wonderful musician who has enjoyed an amazing career in music. In fact, he’s the reason I became a musician. Recently, he told me about a piano “tent” he created to help kids learn the names of notes on a music staff. The story goes that Nabisco was going to put one in every cereal box back in the 1950s, and then pulled the project for fear there were not enough pianos in US homes. We decided to do the project together and make it available to friends of “Debbie and Friends.”

The following widget has a download link for a free copy of the Learning to Play Piano book and piano tent PDF files. A printed version of the book will be available soon. In the meantime, please let me know how the tent and method book are for your children!

Special thanks to Robert Heath of Barkley Studios for designing the keyboard tent, Greg David of Planet Sunday for the cover art image, and Shawn Girsberger for the book layout and design. What a dream team!!!

And, for the adults out there interested in learning to play the piano, I highly recommend the Berklee Keyboard Method online. Classes start Jan. 8.

All the best,

-Debbie

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Debbie and Friends Remix Contest Site

Berkleemusic is THE place to learn about what’s happening in the music industry and how to effectively leverage the tools available to today’s musician to market music both online and via traditional outlets. We have courses on the Future of Music and the Music Business with Dave Kusek, Online Music Marketing with Mike King, Concert Touring with Jeff Dorenfeld and John Czajkowski, Music Industry Entrepreneurship with George Howard, and the list goes on and on.

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?

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Berklee College of Music is kicking off a brand new a Kids/Family Concert Series beginning this Saturday, January 9th with Debbie and Friends!

The shows will be held in Berklee’s newest performance venue, The Red Room at Cafe 939 located at 939 Boylston Street, Boston, MA.

Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for kids, and can be purchased online via Ticketmaster or by calling 1-800-745-3000.

Buy 10:00am show tickets here.

Buy 11:30am show tickets here.

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!

The band and I hope to see you on Saturday!

- Debbie

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Debbie and Friends

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!

I feel like the luckiest person in the world when performing a Debbie and Friends concert. Last weekend, my trio had the great honor to perform for 300+ kids, parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends at the Needham Public Library in Needham, MA. It was an incredibly moving experience! Everyone was singing and clapping and making music together. Here is a link to some pictures from the day.

Music is important part of a child’s development, and sharing a musical experience provides a powerful bonding connection between parent and child.

I really do feel lucky to be able to share in those musical experiences with children and their families through Debbie and Friends!

Those of you involved in music for young children, please share your experiences here.

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Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

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

Check it out here.

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

Check it out here.