Judy's Tune RoomJudy's Tune Room

 Manchester, NH
 Aug. 19-25, 2004

Kids' music that doesn't scare adults

On Thursday, August 19, the City Library hosts the return of kids' favorite Judy Pancoast at Victory Park. For Pancoast, who lives in Londonderry, the performance is a homecoming after spending the better part of the summer tour out of state.

"I always love the shows at Victory Park," she said in a telephone call from a concert date in Bangor, Maine. "Everybody feels like they know me there. It's such a great outdoor atmosphere, with the Farmers' Market right next door."

Pancoast's concerts are a family affair: her two daughters, ages 15 and 10, are part of the act. Her younger daughter, Louisa, has even appeared on the cover of one of her CDs. And, while Pancoast has always been a musician, it was the birth of her own kids that drew her into becoming a children's performer.

"I've been singing pretty much since birth, and play the piano since I was 10," she said. "I got my B.A. in music at the University of Maine, and after that I was in a few different bands. But it wasn't until I had my own kids that I started writing songs for children"

Pancoast was planning to become a teacher when her kids were small, but the pull of being a performer was too strong for her to ignore. What started out as a hobby has now become Pancoast's full time gig.

"I do this year-round," she said. "It's a lot of work, getting my name out there nationally, but this is what I do. When I'm not performing or writing, I'm on the phone booking the next concert."

With so many children's performers out there, Pancoast says that what makes her music stand out is the clever lyrics and sense of humor that appeals not only to kids, but to their parents.

"As a parent myself, I've been through that experience of having to listen to the same kids' tape in the car over and over again and wanting to pull my hair out," she said. "There are a lot of performers who tend to talk down to kids, and their music reflects that. I'm conscious about talking to kids like they are people, with brains, and I think it shows in the music."

At the same time, Pancoast says her mission is to provide entertainment for kids who are too old for Barney and too young for Britney.

"It seems like we're in such a hurry for our kids to grow up these days," she said. "sometimes I'm appalled at what passes for children's music. We are sexualizing kids at a younger and younger age. It's scary for parents. They don't want their six-year-olds singing about 'my booty,' or worse. I think I fill a need there."

Many of Pancoast's songs are based on her own memories of childhood.

"I don't think I ever stopped thinking like a child," she said. "I still remember how much fun it was to go bug hunting, or how it felt to be stuck in the car on a long trip. Those are the things that all kids can relate to, and that's what I sing about."

—Michelle Satureley


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