Children's Corner: 'Sing to Your Baby' helps parents say it with music


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In the past 25 years, they've created more than two dozen CDs for kids and adults and won two Grammy Awards.

Singers/songwriters Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer have turned to a different audience: babies and their parents.

With their picture book/CD package, titled "Sing to Your Baby" (Community Music, $19.95, ages infant-4), Ms. Fink and Ms. Marxer present the ultimate answer for parents who want to use music to foster their baby's development but are insecure about their singing ability.

"We've created a program to make it easy for parents to sing and bond with their children," Ms. Fink said. "And, with the book and CD, we're offering parents -- and their kids -- a way to use this music over the course of several years."

Released last year, "Sing to Your Baby" was named a Gold Medal winner by the Parents' Choice Foundation (www.parents-choice.org).

"Cathy Fink and Marcy Marxer have, once again, enriched the world of children's music. Here, they begin at the beginning, expertly guiding new parents to sing to their infants as a way to lovingly connect and teach via song," said Claire S. Green, president of the Parents' Choice Foundation.

The "Sing to Your Baby" CD, nestled in a plastic pouch inside the book's cover, includes 11 songs, all written by Ms. Fink and Ms. Marxer. Each of the songs is played twice: once in a "Mom" key and once in a "Dad" key, offering a total of 22 tracks of music.

In the book, each song is highlighted in a two-page spread. On the left is a joyously colored illustration by artist James Nocito; the song lyrics are shown on the right side of each spread.

The songs are simple yet memorable, hewing to the style for which Ms. Fink and Ms. Marxer have won acclaim among kids' music enthusiasts over the past couple of decades.

"There are so many people today who are consumers of music, rather than participants. This gives them a place to start to be more interactive," Ms. Fink said.

But the songs are just one element of "Sing to Your Baby." Mr. Nocito's beautiful energetic illustrations add an attractive visual element that will appeal to babies and their parents.

In addition, Ms. Fink and Ms. Marxer open the book with a lighthearted guide -- ostensibly written from a baby's point of view -- about ways to use the book and CD to promote fun and learning.

The book concludes with a "parent guide," written by Laura Brown, a well-known psychologist and educator who underscores how singing to babies helps promote their mental and emotional development.

Creating music for kids and adults is second nature to Ms. Fink and Ms. Marxer, who have been writing music and performing around the country, and indeed the world, for more than 30 years. They also have produced CDs for other singers such as Tom Paxton and Patsy Montana.

In addition to their CDs for kids, they have released numerous CDs for adults. In 2006, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts commissioned them to create a multimedia theater show on the history of country music for family audiences.

Ms. Marxer, 56, grew up in Detroit in a musical family. She learned to play guitar as a child and then added mandolin, hammered dulcimer and button accordion to her repertoire while still in her teens.

After high school, she attended the Ringling Brothers Clown School and later received training at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. She said the Ringling training, in particular, has been useful in her performing career.

"It was a great grounding. I learned lots of miscellaneous skills [such as juggling] that work really well for kid audiences," she said.

Ms. Fink, 58, also grew up with lots of music. Raised in Pikesville, Md., she sang in the choir and took piano lessons before switching to guitar. She got her performing start in Canada, working as a folksinger/songwriter, learning the banjo and other instruments, and perfecting her yodeling.

She's also an expert on the "clawhammer" banjo, which requires a different technique to play the strings than on a traditional banjo. In 1980, Ms. Fink became the first woman to win a top West Virginia banjo contest, an honor she has since earned twice more.

With their years of experience, Ms. Fink said she and Ms. Marxer didn't have to take on a new project like "Sing to Your Baby."

"We have a huge body of work. But this project seemed like such a unique way to help parents learn how to bond with their babies through music. ... We're now hoping to bring up a whole new generation with music, just starting a little younger than before," Ms. Fink said.

"Sing to Your Baby" can be purchased directly from the women's website, www.cathyandmarcy.com, or from other outlets, including Amazon.com. There's also a dedicated website for the book/CD package: www.singtoyourbaby.net.

music

Karen MacPherson, the children's/teen librarian at the Takoma Park, Md., Library, can be reached at Kam.Macpherson@gmail.com.


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