BeatBuds On How To Teach And Entertain Kids With Music

by Carl Wiser

For better or for worse, the traditional children's birthday party has become another casualty of coronavirus, which has proven even more dangerous than the piñata (Hey, let's fill some kids with sugar, give them a stick, blindfold them, and see what happens!). There may not be any more balloon-animal blowing clowns or bounce houses at these gatherings, but there will be music.

Leaders in the field are The BeatBuds, who have done parties or music classes for the offspring of celebrities like Timberlake/Biel, Kardashian/West and Pink/Hart (ask a motocross fan about that one). Now signed with Scooter Braun, they have a deal in the works for a Nickelodeon show in 2021. Here, The BeatBuds - Jonny Jonah and Matty Shapiro - share their thoughts on how to teach and entertain kids with music.
The BeatBuds: Matty (L) and Jonny (R)

What is the best kids' song ever made?

Matty: In my opinion, the greatest children's songs or songs in general are those in which the rhythm, chord structure, melody, instrumentation, sound effects, and lyrics, all work in harmony to channel a desired mood, feeling, or sensitivity. "Under The Sea" by Alan Menken and Howard Ashman is one of those songs. It transcends the sense of sound to capture a child's full imagination.

Kids love to visualize and role play, and a well-crafted song can initiate that type of creative environment. Writing children's music is no easy task. Not only must we communicate our message to the kids in a way that's exciting, inspiring, and age appropriate, but we also have the great privilege of being their gateway into a life of music ahead. That comes with great responsibility and is something we never take for granted.

Which songs are best at entertaining kids and keeping their attention, and why?

Jonny: Songs with a strong beat and memorable lyrics keep kids' attention best. Hooky melodies. The same recipes that work for pop music work for kids.

What were your most memorable celebrity kids birthday parties?

Matty: I'd say the most memorable celebrity birthday parties are the ones where the celebs themselves forget about business for a moment and spend some quality time jamming with their kid on the floor right in front of us. It's awesome!

Obviously, celebs have tons of distractions that can take the focus away from the birthday boy or girl such as photographs and networking, but the moment they see their child having fun moving and grooving, those smiles become the ones to take pictures of.

How do you stage a children's party in the age of social distancing?

Jonny: Carefully and respectfully! Things seem to be changing weekly, but regardless, we try to maintain certain guidelines. We just recently started performing in person again. Up until then, all our gigs were virtual. Now that we're performing in person again, some clients prefer us to perform in their driveway and have their guests drive by. Nobody gets out of their cars and social distancing isn't an issue.

Other parties we've played have families on separate blankets, spaced 10 feet apart from each other, and we set up a small "stage" in front of everyone at a safe distance to make sure that everyone is respectful of each other's space during the performance while still being able to rock out, join the band interactively from their respective areas, and have a ton of fun.

It's been a balancing act and a learning curve at each event we show up to. The rules are being rewritten at every event, but we're always sure to be careful and respectful of everyone's space, and we ask that people are respectful of ours as well.

What is the children's song you most despise?

Matty: There is no children's song I despise. We are all artists trying to work with a complex demographic that is figuring out their likes and dislikes by the moment. What may not inspire me musically by another children's artist is unimportant. What is important is bringing smiles to the kids, and if another artist finds a way to do that then they deserve all my respect.

We all create and experience music through the lens of our influences and past experiences and use the musical tools we have at our disposal to be effective. What matters most is that those who pursue this "family" genre have a goal that is one and the same: the pursuit of smiles.

What's the best way to introduce music to kids?

Jonny: My wife and I like to introduce our son to new music in the car. What better way to introduce a child to new music than when they're strapped into a chair with no other choice but to listen to what you want them to listen to? Just kidding! Hahahaha.

But the car is a great place to introduce your child to new music and allow them an opportunity to let you know how they respond to different styles, beats, genres, etc. Car rides are a favorite in our family. Often, we'll get in the car to simply drive around and listen to music and have a snack.

At what age is it safe for kids to start listening to pop music?

Jonny: At any age really, as long as the content is appropriate. Our approach to producing music is no secret: It's produced for adults sonically, yet the content lyrically is for kids. It's not a special sauce or a secret recipe.

Sonically, kids are sophisticated enough at any age to listen to pop music. Music doesn't have to sound hokey, or be all acoustic, or always have a polka beat for kids to enjoy it sonically. From a content perspective, that's where it gets trickier and where each family's personal preferences and beliefs come into play. What's right for one family may not be right for another. What I consider appropriate for my child might not be considered appropriate by other parents in terms of lyrical content, so that's up to other parents to decide in the world of pop music. But as for the genre itself, kids are ready at any age to hear music of any kind in our opinion.

What's the best way to teach kids music?

Jonny: We love the interactive approach to teaching kids music. We aren't teaching kids how to play an instrument per se, rather, we are fanning the musical flame within them. To do that, we take the interactive approach with songs in our original catalog that they love. We try to stay away from nursery rhymes and the like, although we will sprinkle them in at times, and we always remember that the main reason kids and parents have connected to what we do is because of the music. So that's the driving vehicle, and from there we use interactivity to make the kids a part of our band and a part of the performance to help fan the musical flame and encourage them to be a part of creating the sound that we all make collectively to create the songs that they know and love.

June 23, 2020
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Further reading:
Macabre Mother Goose: The Dark Side of Children's Songs
Interview with Laurie Berkner

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