WHAT IS YOUR MUSICAL BACKGROUND?
I started piano lessons at the age of 6, loved singing in elementary
school chorus concerts, started flute lessons at the age of 9, was a
member of elementary and middle school concert bands and high
school concert, jazz, pit and marching bands. Creating mix-tapes (play lists), attending live concerts, going to Broadway Shows, performing karaoke, dancing with friends/family and connecting through music
has always been “my thing”. My deepest relationships have always centered around music, movement and dance and my favorite
people love music, movement and dance as much as I do.
WHAT IS YOUR BACKGROUND IN MUSIC, MOVEMENT & DANCE EDUCATION?
I graduated from West Chester University with a Bachelor of Science in Music Education (major instrument flute, minor instrument piano) in 1995. My first job out of college, was teaching PreK-8th grade general music at Montgomery School in Chester Springs, PA. In 1997, I was hired by the North Penn School District to teach general/vocal music and 4th, 5th and 6th grade chorus at Inglewood Elementary in Lansdale, PA. I earned my Master’s Degree in Music Education, with a concentration in Orff Schulwerk, in December of 2003. It was in my graduate classes that I learned how easy it was for me to incorporate movement and dance into my music activities and that I had a knack for writing lyrics that people remember, particularly children.
HOW DID YOUR CAREER AS A CHILDREN'S PERFORMER HAPPEN?
At the age of 28, I traded in my long nails for my first Martin guitar and took formal lessons “just for fun”. Between the years 2000 to 2004, I pushed myself to perform solo by attending every open mic and music circle The Philadelphia Region had to offer. In 2005, when The World Cafe Live had just opened, I pitched my newly created Miss Scherling Sings the Hits Show to them. It wasn’t completely developed without an audience so I was cool offering it to their patrons for free and getting paid in tips. They said yes, wrote press releases about their new Saturday morning show for families and I was brought in 10 times between the months of January to May. This was the defining start to my performance career.
In 2006, when MilkBoy Coffee opened in Ardmore, I found myself drawn to the incredibly talented, motley crew of musicians who attended their open mic night. Every Tuesday evening, I’d sing “Cows, Chickens & Pickles”. I’d require our live music lovers, who were not children, to engage in active participation of vocal sound effects and swaying. After attending this open mic night for close to 18 months, I pitched the idea of a children’s variety show to Jamie & Tommy, the owners of MilkBoy. Surprisingly, they took a chance on me and suddenly, I was put into the roles of creative director, marketing manager, booking contact, performance coordinator and host of The Milk & Cookies Show. I did everything possible to promote this show; connecting with editors of online calendars, creating press releases for local papers, free performances in the craziest of places (my all-time favorite being the frozen food aisle of Trader Joe’s in Ardmore) and these promotions paid off as weekly attendance in the winter of 2007 was standing room only. It was almost as though I was creating a movement.
WHO ARE YOUR BIGGEST MUSICAL INFLUENCES?
One of my biggest musical influences was my high school band director, Carlo Vinci, Jr. I first met him in 5th grade, where he was my instructor for a 2 week music enrichment camp. I met him again in 7th and 8th grade, when he’d bring the high school bands over to the middle school for demonstrations and assemblies. It wasn’t until 9th grade that I really got to know him. He was warm, funny, super quirky and understood what the music wing meant to the music students of the high school. He supported, encouraged, listened, made us laugh and always gave the impression that what we had to say and who we were was important. He was the reason I became a music teacher. After I recorded my first CD, I went to Matawan High School to tell him what a major influence he was on my life and I sadly learned he was terminally sick. I asked the office staff to make sure he received the CD and the card that accompanied. Thankfully, he received the CD and card and left a message for me telling me how proud he was. Sadly, when I called him back, his wife shared with me that he had just passed away. I think of him often.
My parent’s tastes in music and my love of pop culture were huge musical influences as well. My childhood was summed up by songs from The Carpenters, The Beatles, Sonny & Cher, The Mamas & The Papas, Neil Diamond, John Denver, Helen Reddy, Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, the soundtracks to Grease, Fame, Flashdance, Annie, The Muppet Show and Broadway Shows of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. Radio stations out of the NYC were like good friends who understood me. I started listening to them in 4th grade and I was swept up by all-things-80’s, with a particular love for rock and rap. Things have no changed very much as these genres are still my favorites!
HOW DO THE GENRES OF POP, ROCK & RAP INFLUENCE MUSIC MONKEY JUNGLE MATERIAL?
The first song I was assigned to learn, when taking guitar lessons, was Good Riddance by Greenday. The strumming
pattern was a challenge, the number of chord progressions were a challenge, the actual chord configurations for my
fingers to move was a challenge and it took me 3 years to fit all of these pieces together, playing and singing. But,
once I got it, it stuck with me for a really long time.
“Little Music Monkeys”, “The Fabulous Feelings Song”, “Happy Birthday CHA CHA CHA” and “The Goodbye Song” were
all written using various components of “Good Riddance”. As Music Monkey Jungle Studios opens, I’m looking to
present a wider variety of these musical influences in our programs.
DO YOU REALLY WRITE ALL OF MUSIC MONKEY JUNGLE'S ORIGINAL CONTENT?
Yes, I really write all of Music Monkey Jungle’s original songs, dances and games. My brain is wired to write
for the needs of our audience members, teachers and performers. Sometimes we need an easy-to-understand
lesson, sometimes we need built-in interaction and sometimes we just simply need to laugh. Whatever the
needs are, I pay close attention and work to meet them. In addition to writing, I’ve also arranged, recorded
and produced all of our CDs, have active memberships with ASCAP, NAfME, AOSA, am a voting member of
The Recording Academy and was the original illustrator of Fifi, our purple music monkey.
HOW DID FIFI COME TO BE?
When "Little Music Monkeys" was thee hit of my elementary music room, I created Fifi as a character
for story-telling. Fifi would sing to the music monkeys and dance with the music monkeys, she would give them high-5’s and hugs for encouragement and she’d help them when they needed help. Lessons in active imagination, imagery and creative writing developed because of her. Conversations about friendship, universal values and kindness were based on Fifi’s lessons and little did the music monkeys know,
Fifi Dupree was/is my alter ego.
At the same time I created Fifi, I also created a handsome, dancing monkey named Fester McGee.
During our active imagination, imagery and story-telling lessons, kids would tell me all kinds of details
about Fifi and Fester looking for each other and their adventures. Both of these characters were
created way before Andrew and I met. After we were married, I went back to each of their songs to add
specific details that were and are parallel to our lives. And yes, Fester is Andrew.