We spoke with Nancy Kopman, educational children’s music songwriter, performer, and recording artist. We found out why music is so helpful and important for children’s learning, what gave her the push to move from teacher to recording artist, and what makes her laugh when she’s on stage performing.
Why children’s music?
There are so many reasons why I write children’s music. As an educator, I have seen, time and time again, how musical patterns and rhythms naturally grab/keep children’s attention. Lyrics are absorbed quickly when children enjoy the music behind them. This is true for both simple and complex musical patterns. Music is the perfect memory device for learning and remembering specific information…. so it just makes sense for me to use music as a vehicle to teach what I feel are important and necessary concepts, skills and information to children!
What inspired you to turn your art into your business?
It was more of a “who” that inspired me to make the move from preschool/Kindergarten teacher to recording artist. About 15 years ago, a teacher told me that I “owed it to other teachers” to share my music as a teaching resource. She encouraged me to record an album and sell it. That was a turning point, but the true inspiration to focusing solely on developing/sharing my music as an educational tool has always been the positive responses I see in children when they are learning from my songs.
When do you know when you’re “in the zone”?
When I’m performing, I can always tell I’m “in the zone” when I see a certain look on children’s faces. You’d think it would be smiles or looks of excitement, but it looks, more accurately, like a fish: Open mouths, wide eyes, motionless, listening… absorbing as much as they possibly can. I see it in all age groups—especially babies. I always have to hold my own laughter back when I see that expression. I love it…and I know I’m reaching them in a very deep, meaningful way.
Where do you find your inspiration for new songs?
When I am surrounded by nature, the sounds I hear inspire me. From the time I was a child, walking quietly usually resulted in making up a tune to go with the rhythm of my footsteps. The lyrics that I match with my music are usually inspired by what I hear other teachers saying they “wish there was a song about”, or by my own teaching experience.
How do you get teachers to play your songs in their classrooms?
My music has found its way into some pretty amazing classrooms. There are many highly respected educators who have blogged about my music, and who continue to share it as a resource with their online communities—which consist mainly of preschool and Kindergarten teachers.* Teachers also enjoy using my “Follow Nancy” musical videos on my YouTube channel, “Music With Nancy”. It’s an easy way to incorporate music into programming without needing any musical experience or knowledge.
What is your favourite song to perform, and why?
My favourite song to perform is “I Wrote This Song”, from “I Know I’ll Grow….”, which is a song that explores letter sounds and alliteration. We sing, “la, la, la, lee lee”, then change the initial letter sound to “t”, “s”, “r”, etc…then, inevitably, a child will catch on and suggest we use the letter “P”. You can put the rest together. The kids always react with hysterical, mischievous laughter, and I act really embarrassed. It’s hilarious and a lot of fun for the adults AND children.
Do you get the most feedback from parents or children?
While I mostly get feedback from parents and teachers online (emails, comments, videos sent of children singing my songs), my favourite feedback is the hugs, the drawings, the misspelled comments on my YouTube channel and especially the looks of disbelief when I meet a child in person, who only knows me from my songs/videos. That’s always the funniest thing.
Where do people discover your music?
My music is usually automated to be suggested to users on online music platforms like CD Baby, iTunes, Apple Music, Amazon and Spotify. My videos from my YouTube channel also pop up in searches for “children’s music” and for specific topics my songs cover.
How do you balance being a musician with running a business?
Running a business can become all-consuming, but I always make time to work on my music. I need to. I also find playing music/creating music very relaxing and fulfilling, so my “down time” is often music creation. It’s a great deal of hard work, though, balancing the two.
*Here are some of my influential colleagues who have written about and used my music in early childhood education:
Preschool Inspirations – The world is their playground
Pre-K Pages: Printables and Activities for Preschool Teachers
Teaching 2 and 3 Year Olds – Playful Learning Ideas for Toddlers and Preschoolers
Happy Hooligans – Crafts and Activities for Toddlers and Preschoolers