Laurie Berkner (born 1969 in Neuilly-sur-Seine, France of American parents) is a musician best known for her work as a children's musical artist. Berkner plays guitar and sings in the Laurie Berkner Band, along with pianist Susie Lampert and bassist Brian Mueller, who is also Berkner's husband. (In 2006, Mueller left the band "to keep the couple.s personal and professional lives separate", and was replaced by Adam Bernstein.)
Growing up in Princeton New Jersey, Berkner was involved in choirs, bands and musical theater. As a student at Rutgers University, she toured Europe as a choir soloist and an orchestral guitar player. After working as a summer-camp music counselor, she spent several years as a children's music specialist for day care centers and preschools in the New York area.
In 1992, she began to perform as a professional rock musician, playing in an all-female cover band called Lois Lane. When she started a band that played original music, Red Onion (Berkner, Brian Mueller, Adam Bernstein and Alan Lerner), she found song-writing to be a struggle--a problem that disappeared when she started writing children's music. "Writing music for kids has not been a struggle at all," Berkner has said. "The more I started working on material for children, the more I realized that it opened up creativity in me that I never knew I had."
Some of her first performances as a children's musician were birthday party gigs at $125 a show. "Those days were intense,. she told The New York Times. .I used to arrive early and memorize every child.s name, so I could feel like I knew them..
In 1997, working with Lampert (also a member of Lois Lane) and Mueller, she put out her first album, Whaddaya Think of That? as a cassette-only release. She had been encouraged to record by the parents of the children she worked with. "The children were really responding to the music we created together," she said.The album contained original songs like "We Are the Dinosaurs" and "I Know a Chicken", along with covers of classics like "The Cat Came Back" and "Wimoweh (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)".
In 1998, Berkner formed her own independent record company, Two Tomatoes Records, to release her second album, Buzz Buzz, which includes such Berkner standards as "Pig on Her Head" and "Monster Boogie". With 1999's Victor Vito, Berkner achieved national fame, appearing on the FX network's American Baby Show and winning a Parent's Guide to Children's Media Award. Her latest album is Under a Shady Tree, which came out in 2002.
Her music is generally in a major key and in what Berkner calls the "human tempo": 100-120 beats per minute, the speed of walking or marching. Her lyrics have been called "self-effacing and occasionally confessional".
Berkner has written a children's book, Victor Vito and Freddie Vasco, based on her song "Victor Vito". She has also put out a video and a DVD; We Are...The Laurie Berkner Band, the DVD, has sold more than 400,000 copies since its 2006 release.
She regularly appears on Noggin (with Lampert and Bernstein), a television network aimed at children, in music videos played between programs and on the program Jack's Big Music Show. Berkner has also appeared in Jamarama Live!, a touring music festival for children sponsored by Noggin, and in the 2006 Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.
In 2004, Berkner and Mueller had a daughter, Lucy, and the Laurie Berkner Band cut back on performing. "Daughter Lucy is her main audience now," her website noted.
- Whaddaya Think of That? (1997)
- Buzz, Buzz (1998)
- Victor Vito (1999)
- Under a Shady Tree (2002)
- Laurie Berkner's Video Songbook (2001)
- We Are...The Laurie Berkner Band (2006)
- Victor Vito and Freddie Vasco (2004)