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Home » Features » On Spiritual Life and Children

On Spiritual Life and Children

Music with a Message: An Interview with Red Grammer
by Patricia K. Colleran

Red Grammer, an award-winning singer of inspiring music for children, brings to his audience a message of peace, cooperation and oneness–a message much needed by all audiences throughout the world today.

Back in 1981, Red began singing with the Grammy-nominated folk trio, the Limeliters, and traveled nationally and internationally with the group for 8 years. Red and his wife Kath, who coauthors much of the music Red sings, created their first album for children in 1983. Red Grammer has appeared on NBC’s TheToday Show with Katie Couric, the CBS This Morning Show with Mark McKuen, and Nickelodeon, as well as on his own Disney Channel Concert Special.

After using Red’s uplifting and hopeful music over many years as a means of teaching children principles of peaceful cooperation and mutual understanding, I was happy to meet Red at the NAEYC (National Association for the Education of Young Children) annual conference in New York City in the Fall of 2002. There I discovered the spiritual origin of many of the principles found in his music, and in the months that followed, our correspondence led to this interview for Seeds of Unfolding.

Q. You began your career as a folksinger for the well-known group, the Limeliters, and later did many albums of music for children. Can you tell us how you got interested in creating children's music?

R.G. My wife Kathy and I started writing songs together around the time our first son, David, was born. It was a natural thing for both of us to make up funny little ditties for David, and one day Kathy said that maybe we could make a cassette of these songs and sell them at Limeliter gigs. That first recording is still in print as Can You Sound Just Like Me? People really liked it and it resulted in an interview on NPR's All Things Considered. It wasn't until a couple of years later when we put out our Teaching Peace CD that we both realized that this was a major life assignment.

Q. Was music important to you as a child? Did you have a favorite singer, or a favorite group?

R.G. I began to discover music in 4th grade with school chorus, school band, church choir, and singing along with records at home. I felt comfortable and alive singing and ached to learn to play the drums and the guitar. I taught myself to play my older brother's guitar in 5th grade, and in 6th grade I got the first piece of a drum set that took me through various rock bands through Jr. and Sr. high school.

Something happened at one of the dances we played in 8th grade that I have never forgotten. I was singing the song, Get Together. For that number I had come out from behind the drums and was sitting on the edge of the stage, eyes closed, pouring my heart into that wonderful song. When it was over I looked out and was surprised to see a group of girls in the very front with tears in their eyes. They had felt the same thing I had. It was a quiet but earthshaking realization for me, that music had the power to generate love in my heart and in the hearts of others.

My favorite singers were The Beatles; Peter, Paul, and Mary; and Johnny Mathis. Looking back I see clearly how each of them touched me. From the Beatles I connected with my playfulness, rhythm, and inventiveness. From Peter, Paul, and Mary I found my desire for meaning and togetherness fulfilled. And singing along with Johnny Mathis revealed to me the astonishing beauty and flexibility of the human voice. Many thanks to each of them.

Q. What do you hope to share with children through music?

R.G. Kathy and I believe that human beings are pre-wired for positive social interaction. We have aspired to write songs that playfully remind children of that reality. It appears to work.

Q. From my experience teaching young children, I’ve seen how it does work. Kids love the songs, and at the same time they are finding models for peaceful social interaction. I’ve recognized some very clear spiritual messages in your songs, in albums such as Teaching Peace and Hello World, which express values like friendship, communicating, working out differences, living in harmony. Do your songs come from principles that you yourself strive to live?

R.G. Yes. Kathy and I have both been followers of the Bahá’í Faith for thirty years, and many of our songs have been directly inspired by the Bahá’í Writings. After reading The Promise of World Peace, a statement from the Bahá’í World Center about humanity and world peace, we went through it page by page and tried to write songs about the topics it addressed: the equality of women and men, the elimination of all kinds of prejudice, the oneness of humanity, consultation, etc. and ended up with, Teaching Peace, our signature recording. The most gratifying thing is that kids love the songs. The children of today are naturally endowed with a great capacity for oneness and are instinctively drawn to those things that truly express it. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the songs are often silly and playful.

Q. Can you tell us something about how you became interested in the Bahá’í Faith?

R.G. While being raised a Methodist in Little Silver, New Jersey, I asked a question in Sunday school: “What about the followers of other religions like Islam and Buddhism? What happens to them?” The teacher's answer about Christ being the only way felt uncomfortable to me. I instinctively sensed that the unity I was after would not leave out huge portions of the world. In college I became familiar with the profound beauty of Buddhist and Hindi writings. So when I eventually discovered the Bahá’í teachings on the oneness of God, religion, and humanity, I felt like I had been a Bahá’í all my life.


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