Blaine woman’s career gets kids jumping around
By Tara Nelson
Blaine resident Dana Cohenour is not a sit-in-your-seat kind of woman.
Cohenour, a nationally acclaimed children’s musician and performer, is known for her unique style of jumping, dancing, singing and moving during her performances to get her audience motivated and is scheduled to perform from noon to 1 p.m. this Friday in the lawn at the Bellingham Public Library.
“Kids literally jump into the music,” she said. “I keep the kids involved and singing or stomping with every performance. It’s definitely a high energy performance. And they seem to enjoy it, so that makes it fun.”
The performance is part of an ongoing series of the Bellingham Parks and Recreation children’s performance concert series from now until the end of August.
Cohenour started taking piano lessons at the age of seven in her hometown of Denver, Colorado, and was involved in music and theater at her high school.
“My first starring role was Julie in the musical Carousel,” she said. “After that, I realized I was a hambone through and through and knew what I was going to attempt to do as a career.”
After high school, she earned her bachelor of arts degree in music and theater from University of Northern Colorado in Denver.
“After that, I became more of a singer/songwriter and I would play in cabarets and nightclubs in New York,” she said. “Everything from Broadway to country and pop to rock and roll. It was a very good training ground, I really did learn a lot.”
She and her husband Jason, moved to Semiahmoo from New York City four years ago to be closer to his company, which is based in Richmond, B.C.
“It was a huge change,” she said. “We also became parents at the same time so it was quite the change in life. But we love it here. We truly have met a lot of wonderful families in the area. We love the area and the beauty and all the people who live here.”
A ‘lucky thing’
It wasn’t until the birth of her first nephew, Tyler, in 1994 that she became inspired to work as a full-time children’s recording artist, focusing her songwriting and talent exclusively on the young audiences of which she said she always felt a “special connection.”
“I’d always been writing songs for all sorts of occasions, especially for family,” she said. “So when our first nephew was born and I thought I would write some lullabies for him as a gift and I did and then I thought I should record them.
And through the process, I realized that I loved writing music for children and it came very easily to me so I decided to record more and that turned into my first recording which was called ‘Gather Your Dreams.’”
Gather Your Dreams was Cohenour’s debut album and featured six morning songs and six lullabies. The album later earned her a gold award from the National Parenting Publications (NAPPA) and made her the list of “Top 5 Kids’ Singers You Should Know” by Child magazine.
After her debut, she continued to release new albums, including “Sing & Play-A-Long Tunes!” in 1995, “Travelin’ Tunes” in 1996, and “Dana’s Best: Classic & Cool Jazz for Kids” in 1997, each of which won a consecutive gold award from NAPPA.
“I was really lucky to win that one four years in a row,” she said. “It gave me a little bit of publicity and credibility. I decided then that I was enjoying it so much that I decided to focus my entire career on children’s music.”
In 1996, Cohenour hired a publicist, which helped her receive more publicity, earning her performances with national children’s stores Zany Brainy, Noodle Kidoodle and Borders, during their opening celebrations across the U.S.
“It was a whole new audience, instead of singing in the dark in smoky night clubs and bars, I was singing in the sunshine to all these smiling little faces who were responding and participating,” she said. “I just feel like I’m really lucky to find this niche because I’ve always loved kids and fortunately – I don’t know how it happened but – they seem to respond to my music. So it’s a really lucky thing.”
As a parent to Jack, her 4-year-old son, Cohenour said she wanted to make children’s music that was high quality enough that parents could tolerate it – or even enjoy it.
“I know as a parent, how it is when a kid likes a song and they listen to it over and over again,” she said. “But also I wanted to make real, high quality music for children because I think children appreciate it and deserve it. And so do their parents. So much of children’s music in the ‘90s sounded like it was made by people who recorded in their bedrooms with their synthesizers, and that was not really a good thing.”
To accomplish that, Cohenour said she hired her producer Clay Mills, a grammy-nominated singer/songwriter and record producer from Nashville, Tennessee, who helped her select from top Nashville musicians.
“I try to make really fun, upbeat, participation music that is also adult friendly and won’t drive them crazy after awhile,” she said. “I also use really great musicians.”
She is also scheduled to tell children’s stories during the Toddler Time story hour at the Blaine Library this September.
Her music can be purchased at Wild Blueberries children’s clothing in Fairhaven, Bellingham Bay Gymnastics and online at www.swiggleditties.com.
For more information about the library concert series, call Bellingham Parks and Rec at 360/676-6985.