March 12, 2010 by Post Team
If you don’t?
The Princeton native and Rutgers grad is a superstar for the pint-sized set whose videos can be seen almost hourly on Nick Jr. — an outgrowth of the Nickelodeon cable network — where she’s a regular on “Jack’s Big Music Show” and the channel’s “Move to the Music” episodes that run between shows in lieu of ads.
Berkner, 40, performed with several tri-state area bands over the years, but she has been performing children’s music since 1997. She originally started writing children’s tunes from necessity; a would-be rock star, she supplemented her income by teaching kids’ music classes and playing birthday parties, making up her own tunes for those gigs as she went.
“I realized I could write songs for these kids,” Berkner says. She had such a knack for it that soon she was writing a new song for each class she taught — even while she continued writing for her adult band, Red Onion.
“It actually made it a lot easier to work with them because it was hard to find a song that every kid would like,” she says. “And by me writing, it allowed them to move around the room in a way that I had control over the situation without them even realizing it.”
Berkner jumped from local favorite to national phenomenon when she landed a 15-minute spot on “The Today Show” in 2001. Three years later, her popularity rocketed into the kiddie stratosphere with the arrival of the Noggin (now called Nick Jr.) cable channel.
Berkner’s style eschews revamped nursery rhymes in favor of upbeat songs that come out of the folk music tradition. Inspired by singer-songwriters such as Joni Mitchell and Paul Simon, as well as more contemporary artists like Beck, Berkner has the same aesthetic touchstones as her core audience’s parents.
Berkner, her band in tow, comes back to her home state Saturday to perform two concerts at the Count Basie Theater in Red Bank. She returns in April for more shows at the McCarter Theatre.
“I’ve been lucky that I’ve had a good following out here. .?.?. I can play the nice rooms, and I know that people will come, or I hope they will come,” she says — with more than a dash of humility. She has, after all, headlined Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and even played the White House Easter Egg Roll.
And these aren’t just any old concerts — they’re “birthday party concerts.”
While her TV appearances, DVDs and CDs have made her one of the big success stories of the children’s music revolution, she still fondly remembers her early days of playing at birthday parties — hence the theme of her tour.
“One of the nice things about doing the parties was the intimacy, and I sometimes miss that,” she says.
Her upcoming shows “are still a concert, but there will be a stage set that will help create the feeling of being at a birthday party but with lots of music.”
Accordingly, kids are invited to show up in party hats; a picture of a cake can be downloaded from Berkner’s website, to be colored in and brought to the concert.
Families can also bring new children’s books to donate to the Kids Care Clubs’ “Parties with a Purpose” program, which encourages families to ask for charitable donations rather than gifts at children’s birthday parties. The books will be given to needy New Jersey children.
Where and when: Count Basie Theater, 99 Monmouth St., Red Bank, Saturday at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.; McCarter Theater, 91 University Place, Princeton, at 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. April 17.
How much: $25-$35. For Red Bank, call (732) 842-9000 or visit countbasietheatre.org. For Princeton, call (609) 258-2787 or visit mccarter.org.
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