Families throughout Long Island and the tri-state region, have gotten to know singer-songwriter Meredith LeVande and her “Monkey Monkey Music” through her music videos that are shown throughout the day between PBS KIDS children’s programs (aired on NJTV). Now LeVande welcomes area families to join her when she visits local libraries next week for two special performances, Tuesday, Aug. 16, in Merrick, and Wednesday, Aug. 17, in Lynbrook.
“I’m so looking forward to playing for families on Long Island,” LeVande. “We’ll have fun dancing together and singing plenty of old favorites, plus lots of songs from my CD, What Are the Odds? Kids and their adults should be ready to ‘Jump High,’ play ‘Air Guitar,’ and ‘Shake it Loud.’ We’ll use instruments and bubbles, and I’ll perform my original book, In the Garden. All monkeys are welcome!”
With a clear delivery that’s filled with expression and charm, LeVande brings elements of traditional children’s music to her original songs, which range from the knock-knock joke-filled, “Who’s a Knockin?” to the wordplay and animal noises in “Silly Animal Friends” to “Guess What I Am?,” a “slowing down” song that’s jam-packed with riddles. Her “Air Guitar,” “Shake It Loud,” and “In the Garden,” are guaranteed to get kids up and moving.
Drawing from her expertise in a variety of disciplines, the singer-songwriter could well be termed a “Renaissance woman of children’s music.” She brings to her work a strong academic background, having earned a bachelor’s degree in Women’s Studies and English from the University of Rochester, a law degree from Brooklyn Law School, and a master’s degree in music from SUNY Purchase Music Conservatory.
Along the way, LeVande has pursued her love of singing and music that had shaped her life since she was young girl. After completing her education, LeVande began to play the college circuit. Along the way, she became fascinated by the role of women in popular music and her performances evolved into a multimedia lecture called “Women, Pop Music and Pornography.”
“In 2003, I noticed how many images of sexually aggressive women there were in music,” LeVande explained. “I felt it was something that needed to be addressed and I created a presentation that evolved from my performances.”
During those years, LeVande began performing for young families. She found that she enjoyed the response she would receive from the young children in her audience and their total involvement in her music that brought out a different side to her as a performer. “I felt like I was home and really wanted to pursue a career as a children’s performer. I wanted to interact with the audience rather just play my music,” LeVande said.
Her songs are joy-filled expressions of pure, childlike fun. One listening is all it takes to recognize that LeVande really loves being around children.
“I want children to be children and not learn from stereotypes,” she said. “A lot of what we see today in children’s music and media forces kids to grow up to quickly and is too sexualized, especially for young girls.”
As a child growing up in Fair Lawn, N.J., LeVande was inspired to sing to fill the emptiness and confusion due to her mother’s severe mental illness. “Nanny”, her grandmother and a Russian-Jewish immigrant, raised Meredith in an environment that was as socially unique as it was old world. When LeVande was 15, her grandmother died, and circumstances necessitated LeVande to focus on caring for her mother, work, in addition to schoolwork during her high school years.
“It was s situation that forced me to grow up quickly,” LeVande recalled. Determined to overcome her adversity, LeVande pursued her education, and then returned to her first love: her music. After living in New York City, LeVande channeled the sprit of her Nanny, and also of her own emotional struggles that she felt were inextricably linked to that of many women and the fragile human condition to create her music.
From there, LeVande turned to her attition to younger audiences, determined to bring a different sensibility to the world of children’s music, one that focused on the sheer delight of musical expression and love of learning.
“Monkey Monkey Music is a continuously evolving project that’s committed to conscious and quality-based music and media which puts the best interests of children first,” LeVande explained.
LeVande is a fixture on the birthday party circuit throughout the tri-state area, in addition to producing music videos, CDs, and performing. Monkey Monkey Music has played at such venues as the ESPN annual summer outing, Tribeca Film Festival, Victorian Gardens at Wollman Rink in Central Park, Pottery Barn Kids, Babies”R”Us, Dylan’s Candy Bar and Tarrytown Third Friday, as well as for New York City celebrities and such prominent parent groups as Big City Moms, along with area libraries, among other venues.
The live performances, along her recorded music and videos are hi-energy, interactive experiences that bring people together, both young and old, to “jump high,” “shake it loud,” and celebrate the topics that reference the lives and desires of young children while fostering connections between groups of people as a whole.
“It is fascinating to me that I now play music for families who love and value their children,” LeVande said. “It’s such a great contrast from how I grew up. I think I get to relive my childhood in a way that I didn’t experience. I’m in touch with some thing inside of me.”
“Someone told me ‘we teach what we want to learn.’ With me, it seemed that my life had become very complicated and I wanted to learn simplicity. I feel so much love when I am performing with kids and getting them to respond and share in the simple joy of music.”
For more information on Monkey Monkey Music, visit http://monkeymonkeymusic.com.