For the Younger Crowd: The McGraw-Hill Companies CarnegieKids
Designed for children ages 3–6, CarnegieKids brings the excitement of
live music to all five boroughs of New York City. These free, interactive
concerts encourage the whole family to be musically creative. The Lascivious
Biddies—comprising Deidre Rodman, Lee Ann Westover, and Saskia Lane—have
performed in Weill Music Institute community events since 2002. But as their
kid-friendly alter ego—the Itty Biddies—they have become a favorite of
CarnegieKids. Westover, the Biddies’ lead vocalist and ukulele player, recently
discussed how the trio evolved into a CarnegieKids mainstay.
Don't miss the Itty Biddies' next CarnegieKids concert, this Sunday, May 6 at the Bronx Library Center.
Photo by Caroline Voagen Nelson.
What inspired you to start performing children’s music?
We have been performing for adults for more than 10 years as the Lascivious Biddies. When Deidre and Saskia had baby girls a couple of years ago, they naturally started writing songs aimed at their kids. We fell in love with some of the songs as a group, so we would play them here and there at concerts. Several Weill Music Institute staff members heard some of those tunes and were inspired to commission a children’s show for CarnegieKids. We had performed as the Itty Biddies before, but the commission from Carnegie Hall gave us the impetus we needed to really take the time and develop that early concept into the Itty Biddies as we are today ... and it’s been so much fun.
How do you adapt your performance or your presentation for kids?
We wrote the songs specifically for an audience of little ones, with their pleasure and education in mind. That being said, authenticity is just as important with children as it is with adults. We brought the absolute best of ourselves as performers, songwriters, and musicians to the music, and we treat an audience of children with a lot of respect. We never dumb down the music. It’s an honor to have some influence on them, to bring music into their lives in a really dynamic way. But we can definitely tell if we are on the right track with a song. A kid is not going to sit and pretend to enjoy a concert to be polite.
When creating your CarnegieKids program, do you factor in the parents and how to engage them, too?
Oh, of course! If parents and teachers didn’t like the music, it would be impossible to engage the kids. Their participation deepens the experience for the children. We want an Itty Biddies show to be a wonderful musical experience for everyone. Frankly, we wouldn’t perform the songs if we didn’t love to play and sing them ourselves—and we are adults and parents, too!
What style or genre of music works best in getting kids to interact during a CarnegieKids concert?
We like to keep things primarily upbeat, but we are not picky about genre. We Biddies have never fit neatly into a genre at any point, and we have brought that variety into the children’s show. We take inspiration from almost anywhere while composing a song—’80s pop, jazz, world music. As long as you keep things fun and interesting, folks are game to come along for the ride.
Do you take advice from your own children when planning CarnegieKids concerts?
The little girls are each two and a half, and Deidre’s baby was born only about a week ago, so they are not so good with offering constructive criticism yet. Because they are growing up with so much music in the house, we think of them as our toughest audience. They hear live music all the time, so if they love what we are writing and sing along, we know it’s going to work in the show. After all, the Itty Biddies were essentially started for them.