Monday, August 23, 2010

Music for Little Monkeys

LeVande Is Just Grand for Youngsters

Surviving hardship gives one a different outlook on life. Not the lead you expected for a childrens CD review? Sorry...but Meredith LeVande had a rough start in life, endured, and matured to promote expressive songs for toddlers through second graders.

Meredith's father abandoned the family after she was born. Her mother subsequently became mentally incapacitated and Meredith was raised by an elderly grandmother - who died when she was 15. The teen turned to music for help her through the tough times, supporting herself and her mother. As Meredith put it, "The one thing that offered me a sense of identity and safety was singing."

Meredith's second childrens CD, "What Are The Odds?" was released this month, under the umbrella title Monkey Monkey Music, which she uses for all live performances, CDs, and DVDs. The Monkey moniker allows Meredith to differentiate from her adult singer/songwriter appearances.

Offering children a chance to monkey around through music, Meredith's songs urge kids to get up dance (Shake It Loud and Turn Your Body Around). But there is more on her agenda - such as connecting with family (Circle), the power of music (Guess What I Am), and simple math skills (the title track). And she doesn't mince words about how all creatures live, in Frogs Eat Butterflies:

Fish eat plants and seals eat fish.

Sharks eat seals but I don't want shark in my dish.

Five years is an eternity in the recording industry, especially for younger audiences, who "age out" of their favorite artists in 2-3 years. But Meredith took five years to construct her second CD, building her songs from interactions with children rather than on a set recording schedule.

And Meredith's personal and professional life took off from such soap opera beginnings, including 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.

Meredith's happy ending is getting married, living in New York, and continuing to share positive values for children through her music. Her Web site has song clips and games, as well as music videos. Kids could do worse than learn a few life lessons from someone like Meredith, who knows how to set goals and persevere.

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