Concert Preview: Children's Entertainer Red Grammer Playing Free Ben's Lighthouse Event
Globe-trotting and Grammy-winning children’s entertainer Red Grammer shared a bit of a secret recently when he called in to The Newtown Bee ahead of a free November 10 appearance he’s doing locally.
Sometimes adults and even otherwise stoic teenage siblings enjoy his shows as much (or more) than the youngsters they are accompanying to his appearances, he said.
The celebrated singer/songwriter will be doing a free community concert at 3 pm Sunday afternoon in the cafetorium at Reed Intermediate School. His performance is being presented by Newtown Cultural Arts Commission and Ben’s Lighthouse.
Any freewill donations attendees offer that day are going to the nonprofit Ben’s Lighthouse, established after the 12/14 tragedy in honor of the late Ben Wheeler and his 19 Sandy Hook School classmates to promote the long-term health of the children and families in the region while nurturing an environment of non-violence and caring.
“Just looking at the mission statement of Ben’s Lighthouse on their website this morning — that’s what could be on my website,” Grammer told The Bee. “The music I created and co-wrote have all been about building these connections among all of us and helping kids be more aware of that ability in themselves. And probably what I’m known for is approaching that mission playfully.”
Described by Parent’s Magazine as “the best voice in children’s music,” Grammer is regarded as an artist setting the gold standard for writing and performing music that playfully reconnects audience members with the best qualities within themselves.
He has gained a global following from his numerous appearances on The Today Show, CBS This Morning, and on Nickelodeon, Showtime, PBS, and The Disney Channel. He was honored with a Grammy nomination for his album, Bebop Your Best: Songs to Build Character By; and was a featured artist on the 2005 Grammy-winning Best Musical Album for Children, cEllabration: A Tribute To Ella Jenkins.
His latest release — Circle of Light: Songs for Bucketfillers — is described as a vibrant collection of new songs created in collaboration with Carol McCloud, author of the best-selling children’s book, Have You Filled A Bucket Today?, that celebrates positivity and the desire to make the world a better place.
A Resonating Message
In his call, Grammer admitted these days, “I think today people are resonating more emphatically with the message I’ve [been promoting] all along.”
“I’ll go back to 9/11, which I think in no small part shifted the country from a place of optimism and trying to move the world to a more coherent place, to one of fear and vulnerability,” Grammer said. “The week after it happened, I was going to be playing a school concert right next to West Point — right up the [Hudson] River from where it happened.”
Grammer said he was contracted long before the 9/11 attacks and was asked to perform a program of material primarily from his album Teaching Peace.
“I walked into the school and asked the principal what he wanted me to do, and he said ‘I want you to do a Teaching Peace concert.’ I guess it was needed more than ever, and we had a fabulous time despite the somber background.”
Grammer believes “these messages of connection, of empathy, of understanding, of being open and making space for other people who show up with their best do resonate,” even days after the 9/11 attacks.
In many ways, Grammer said his career long before 9/11 is modeled on a style inspired by the late folk singer Pete Seeger.
“I remember seeing Pete as a college student in Chicago, and I watched him get up there in front of 5,000 people and in an instant, he had a community,” Grammer said. “As entertainers, I think we have the ability to help people experience things they may not be feeling every day. In these past few years, I think we are feeling so much disconnection, so much antipathy, and no room for anybody to show up with their best.
Presenting Our Best
Grammer believes when people are in an environment that makes that visible and possible, "it is encouraging, it’s inspiring, and it reminds us of who we are and what we’re here to do."
"For so many people — whichever side of the aisle — we want to be seen as our best," he said, "we’re all trying to do what we think is right, but so many of us feel pushed into a corner.”
To counter that, Grammer said he always endeavors to inspire his audience members and fans to exhibit “the kind of courage and strength to keep showing up with your best — from whatever position you’re coming from. Everybody has that potential. You have to be pretty disconnected from your life experience to not believe that human beings have the ability to rise above.”
Not to give away his setlist, Grammer did admit he typically does a sampling of numbers at every concert from his Grammy-nominated album Bebop Your Best: Music To Build Character By.
“It’s really fun to do the title song, but then there’s the one at the end that I love to do with older kids, which is a list of all the character traits — the virtues — it really kicks,” Grammer said. “The language and words that describes all these qualities of the human spirit, we don’t use them very much — modesty, tenacity, forgiveness — so it’s really a powerful song,”
To make a reservation to the show and learn more about Ben’s Lighthouse, visit benslighthouse.org or follow the cause on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Learn more about Red Grammer at redgrammer.com