I sit, shoeless, in a circle of babies and toddlers adorned with ruffles, pigtails, and diapers. “Every day’s a party!” cheers Melissa Levis, an upbeat musician accompanied by a pink sparkly guitar and an array of interactive kid-friendly props. Affectionately known by her following of youngsters as Moey, she encourages the eager audience to jingle their bells in time with the strumming of her guitar. And since we’re celebrating President’s Day, she leads a group of about a dozen boys and girls in a rendition of Happy Birthday (to the President), a floppy birthday cake hat teetering on her head.
Levis is the leading lady of Moey’s Music Party, a children’s band that sings of fairytales, responsibility, and fun with a kid-power theme. The award-winning Off-Broadway songwriter traded in her notepad for a tiara and a pink sparkly dress in 2005 when she created her lively alter-ego, Moey. The musical maven and her band have received several awards for their “kidspirational” DVD and CDs, including a Parent’s Choice award. Today, we’re at one of her weekly classes for little ones and their caregivers, at the Upper East Side’s Museum of Motherhood, which proves to be just as fun and stimulating as the concerts and birthday parties the band holds around the city.
After a morning of singing, jumping, and bopping around the room with all her students, I caught up with Levis after her class to find out exactly what keeps her going and what’s in store for Moey’s Music Party.
What inspired you to begin a career as a “mommy rocker?”
[My child was] going through the phases…I thought ‘How can I celebrate these moments and capture these wonderful years?’ Every time my son would delight or frustrate me, I’d write a song about it. Then I started as a preschool music teacher, and I could try [the songs] out on children. It was a really great opportunity because I was singing for 300 kids every week.
Has your son, Monty, been an inspiration for any specific songs?
Tremendously, especially on the first album, which is all songs that were inspired by washing your hair, going potty, and listening to mommy. My upcoming album is called “Playground Rock Star,” and there’s a song called “I Want It.” When my son would watch TV, he’d see the commercials and be like “I want it, I want it!”
What have you learned from having such a young audience?
Being a children’s entertainer is really satisfying because children are so honest, and so when they jump, they are jumping for joy because you’ve engaged them and you’ve reached their spark. The kids are all so full of innocence and excitement and enthusiasm and sweetness…I just love their energy and their goodness.
You are branching out and getting a lot of recognition as of late. What’s the next step for Moey’s Music Party?
I’ve been approached by some companies to turn my songs into E-books. Because I have so many fairytale songs and storytelling is such a part of what I do, it’s a natural fit. I’m working with a Tony Award-winning Broadway producer named Stewart Lane, who is developing my fairytale songs into a musical, so that’s really fun. After eight years of becoming one of New York’s most well-recognized children’s performers, we’re now going national…and we now have a YouTube preschool show that’s in development and hopefully a show on TV. I’ve written a catalogue of over 150 kid’s songs, so I’d love for my songs to be used in commercials, and I’m so excited to find other outlets in addition to live performances.