Fueling the Creative Flame

Laurie Berkner

The acclaimed children's musician plays guitar and sings in the Laurie Berkner Band. Her albums include, Under a Shady Tree, We Are...The Laurie Berkner Band, and Buzz, Buzz. She is the mother of a 2-year-old daughter.

What did your parents do to encourage creativity?

I had time to myself that was not structured. I had this game called the Daisy Dream, which was a hotel chain. I was really into it. We had these big pillar candles and I used them as phones. I made a logo. I was 9 or so, and I would cut things out of magazines like pictures of rooms. There was the Coach Room, which was supposed to be really special. I would also come up with acts so you could come and see performances while you stayed at the hotel. It was really detailed. I played that for a really long time. And sometimes my brother Chris would play with me, but I think he got bored with it.

Who were the adults in your life who most encouraged your creativity?

My parents were both-at different times and in different ways-encouraging of my creativity. As I got older, they were more than supportive about my trying to make music my career. When I graduated from college, my dad and mom said if I wanted to move to New York for a year and try to figure out how I could get someone to pay me to do music, they would pay my rent. After that I would be on my own, but at least I could see if I wanted to stay or if I wanted to do something else. By the end of that year, I got my job teaching preschool music and that's what led me to writing music for kids. It's important to feel that it's okay to choose something that might not traditionally be a good way to make money in a career. I felt like I had that support. It helped me get to the point where I got paid to play my guitar and sing with kids.

Which books and other materials inspired you most as a child?

I listened a lot to Free to Be You and Me. I remember making up a lot of songs. I put on shows for the neighborhood parents. We would make popcorn and put it in the bags and sell it. I would teach my friends the dances or they would make up dances.

If you could share one piece of advice with a child about being creative, what would that be?

Don't be afraid to let whatever comes out come out. And if you don't like it, you can change. If you love it, you have something beautiful that's yours and it can change with you. Remember, your creativity is a gift that you have to give. Hiding it-especially if it's because you're afraid you might not be accepted or it won't be good enough-is holding back a gift both to yourself and other people.

What do you see as your most creative accomplishment?

Making my first album, Whaddaya Think of That?, was a pretty big deal. I had been writing rock music and had made a demo, but I had never made a complete album. I can be very judgmental about how I sound and what I like. I can be a perfectionist to a negative degree. So what was great about that was that I accepted the way I sang. We can forever change, fix, and try to make something better. But I just gave in to making the album and that allowed me to continue making more albums. I love my first album for what it is. And that felt really freeing.

Why do you think encouraging creativity is important?

Encouraging creativity is really encouraging people to be themselves. It's also a way that people and kids connect to their feelings. As we get older, it's harder and harder to do that because being creative becomes something that's relegated to the arts or being a child. But being creative is an essential part of being human.

How do you keep yourself creative?

I have a notebook in my bag, and if I'm really excited about something I write it down. Instead of flipping on the television when I'm exhausted, I pull out a sketchbook and draw. Also another thing I do is let myself be inspired. I do that by listening to music, seeing performances, and going to see art.

How do you encourage your child's creativity?

I give her the space to imagine and make things up herself. I noticed the other day that she started pretending she was cooking something. She had a container that used to have bubbles in it, and she was like, "I'm making yogurt and I'm making soup and I'm putting it on the stove. I'm cooking it." She reached up really high on this shelf and I thought, "Oh my god, she's going to fall over." I kept thinking, "I wish I had a play stove." And then I thought, "Okay, I'm sure she would have fun with a play stove, but she just made that shelf into a stove– she's using her imagination and having fun. As long as I'm here to make sure she doesn't hurt herself by reaching up too far, it's good. It's great that she made it up-she created an environment for herself."

What do you think are the ideal toys, games, books, activities, and art supplies for promoting creativity?

You have to follow your kid on that. We're talking about being creative, and creativity is unique to every person. There's something really positive about giving support to your child, just letting her know that whatever comes out of her is okay.

Parents Are Talking

Add a Comment