Culture | Child entertainment legend Fred Penner makes a comeback…at Gert’s

For all you Canadians who grew up with “The Cat Came Back” and “Happy Feet,” Fred Penner’s Place is a childhood memory that will no doubt bring back that warm fuzzy feeling that you experienced when you listened to his tunes. Fred Penner is a children’s entertainer and educator who first arrived in children’s hearts and homes on television in 1985. After Penner finished singing and talking about his career at Gert’s last Friday afternoon, The Daily asked him a few questions that he was more than happy to answer.

The McGill Daily: When you talk to university students, what do you expect?

Fred Penner: Well, they’re asking me to come because there was a connection with them as children. These are young adults, and that’s the span of humanity that I connected with in my career, so what I’m expecting is recognition. My job on the stage is to affirm those connections and take them to the next level. The reason you remember me is because I respected you as a viewer. I did not condescend to you. I spoke to you as a fellow human being.

MD: Why do you think music should be a standard part of a child’s education?

FP: That’s a huge question, and it shouldn’t even be a question. But it is. A lot of schools put music – generally the arts – on the back burner. The arts in North American schools are gathering more and more momentum, where the early childhood education system is realizing, after numerous studies that have been done on every aspect of it, that music has value in the learning process for the child. Ultimately, if you discover that creative energy that comes from the arts, then that makes you a stronger person, and that strength allows you to be a better student and absorb more, because it’s the spectrum of life that is displayed within the arts world as well. Economically, they have proven that for every dollar that’s invested in early childhood education in the arts, you realize a $17 return as the child reaches adulthood, and that mean less residual classes, less special needs, less of other resources that are needed to compensate for the work that wasn’t done earlier.

MD: You must realize, now, the extent of the impact that music in childhood can have on the adult later on.

FP: Yes, my philosophy is: never underestimate the difference you can make in the life of a child. I mean it very seriously, and that is the way I have always approached it. To see the completion of this phase is completely overwhelming. It validates my legacy. [It was overwhelming] many times today. You’ve matured, but there’s always that part, the inner child. Discovering your inner child is a part of that process of maturity.

MD: Would you ever consider writing an autobiography?

FP: I have a couple of people who I have connections with who are really good writers who are prepared to build those experiences into book form. But who would want to read a book about me? I’m just a regular guy. I’m just a regular guy who’s got a really good philosophy and some really good songs and good approach to getting up there and connecting. I love doing this.

– compiled by Anna Graham


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