With young children at home, Ontario-based singer-songwriters Caroline Marie Brooks and Ben Kunder know the struggles of balancing a career and raising a family. They also know it can be tough to stretch the family budget, especially when it comes to discretionary spending. That is why the two are offering free tickets to children under twelve as they close out The Stage at St. Andrew’s season with a concert on June 23.
Music is for everybody and should be as inclusive as possible. And as someone who has toured with my kids so much, I know how difficult it can be for parents sometimes.
“There have been times through my band, The Good Lovelies, that we get emails asking if they can bring their babies to see the show, and I say yes, please bring them,” says Brooks. “Music is for everybody and should be as inclusive as possible. And as someone who has toured with my kids so much, I know how difficult it can be for parents sometimes.”
While Brooks and Kunder have known each other in the Toronto music scene for some time, family ironically would bring them together for the first time.
“We both have small kids around the same age and when the pandemic hit, I gravitated towards Caroline, who was part of this community of musical parents supporting each other,” says Kunder. “I think that created a stronger bond between us, which helped us as we planned the tour.”
Usually touring with her group The Good Lovelies, when Brooks began planning this solo tour, her immediate inclination was to find a touring mate. “I’ve been a big fan of Ben’s for a long time, and so Ben and I got to talking, and that’s how the tour happened,” she says.
As a solo artist, Kunder also appreciates the practical side of touring with another musician and as a way to introduce fans to each other’s music. “It’s an equal opportunity to share in audiences as well,” he says. “It is a way to introduce your fans to an artist you respect and vice versa.”
Calling their sounds complimentary, while the two will play individually during their show, the plan is to join each other’s set and then come together again at the end for the tentatively titled Broken Computer, a song they have been working on together for the tour.
“We have a song in the works, and we’re almost there,” says Brooks. “And maybe I’m letting the cat out of the bag, but we’re going to do it.”
With her own two children playing such an important role in her musical life, Brooks knows how essential music can be in the lives of children. So, in addition to their all-ages show, Brooks will lead a songwriting workshop for students at Gorsebrook Junior High in Halifax’s South End.
“I’ve done a bunch of songwriting programs with kids in the past, so we’re going to get in there and talk to middle schoolers about songwriting,” she says.
The planned outcome of the workshop is to walk away with the creation of at least one song. “The group might be small enough that we’ll work and create a single song together,” says Brooks. “I only have two hours with them, so it will be a snappy little piece, but I’m hoping we can make it work.”
Engaging with kids and middle schoolers can be hard sometimes, but when you meet them at their level, it’s so fun.
Conducting the workshop is vital to Brooks as she knows firsthand that arts funding is one of the first things to get cut when schools face budget constraints. “Engaging with kids and middle schoolers can be hard sometimes, but when you meet them at their level, it’s so fun,” she says.
“At this time of year, the kids are almost disengaged from school,” adds Kunder. “They’ve been so entrenched in the routine of it all, and they’re ready for summer, and this allows them to be creative in a different way and have fun during school. It’s such a huge benefit any time of year, but it’s even more important near the end of the school year.”
The fun will continue for the kids after the workshop as Brook and Kunder will host the students at their evening concert as VIPs, with the possibility of performing the song created earlier in the day. “We’ll see how many kids end up coming, but that would be really fun,” says Brooks.
While being able to perform the song created during the workshop will be a bonus, Kunder promises that, regardless, audiences can expect an intimate show from two artists who love what they do.
“Carolyn and I are storytellers, and we bring all of ourselves to our shows,” he says. “Caroline is one of the more passionate and generous artists I’ve known and worked with, and I give what I have to each of my shows. You will not leave disappointed.”