Just a couple of years ago, Andrew Baum would never have imagined himself spending his days making music for children and their families. Today, he can’t imagine doing anything else. Baum, known to his pint-sized fans as Andy—as in Rockin’ With Andy—travels throughout New York City and the tri-state area with his guitar, bringing friends and families together through fun, lighthearted music at playgroups and birthday parties.
Music has long been a part of Baum’s life (he learned to play guitar and piano as a teenager), but he spent 16 years at a corporate job before deciding to pursue music full-time. In fact, he recalls, “One of the things I tried was singing for kids, and I was really just not good at it. I couldn’t exactly figure out why.” Yet after recording his debut album for adults, “Release,” and attending sessions with a vocal coach, Baum discovered that the key to performing for children was to sing for his audiences rather than for himself. “One day [my vocal coach] made a reference to the two types of performers in the world. One says, ‘Hey audience, how am I doing?’, and the other says ‘Hey audience, how are you doing?’ That really hit home for me.” From then on, singing for kids became much easier. “I really started to love not only what I was doing but kids in general,” he says.
With a repertoire comprising classics like “The Wheels on the Bus,” “Itsy Bitsy Spider,” “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and the “ABC’s,” Baum sings songs his infant/toddler audience is familiar with, while taking care to treat them with respect. “I think the fundamental mistake is to think if you sing a song, regardless of what song it is, in a very high-pitched, childish—not childlike—way, that kids are going to like it more and I don’t think that’s true,” Baum says. He admires Sesame Street songwriters, he adds, for their smart lyrics and strong melodies that entertain kids without being condescending.
Baum is also mindful of parents and caregivers, noting what he considers to be the inaccurate perception that “kids music is annoying and something adults have to put up with.” To entertain adults but not compromise children’s attention, Baum incorporates oldies with simple melodies. He might start with “You Are My Sunshine,” and transition into “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life.” Crossover songs like “Yellow Submarine” by The Beatles please both toddler and adult audiences, he says.
Baum also often brings props for the kids to play with as they listen— shakers, drums, scarves and puppets keep restless little ones engaged and enable them to participate in music-making. “It’s something new for them and it gives the moms something to do with the kids,” he says.
In addition to the full schedule he keeps as Rockin’ With Andy, Baum performs as part of a ‘70s cover band, plays piano at cocktail parties and writes songs. Though he hasn’t yet recorded a children’s album, he says it’s in his future. Yet at the same time, he prefers not to look too far ahead, opting instead to focus on his present goal of creating an intimate environment where children and families can enjoy music together. Ultimately, Baum says, “It’s about trying to remove myself from the equation as much as possible and let the people I play for be comfortable and happy.”
Photo by Suzanne Cohen (suzannecohenphotography.com).