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Andy " The Music Man" Morse: READ REVIEWS

Kid Rock Career

The long-haired rock star is in the wings, chatting briefly with the press before going on stage. But his fans can't contain themselves. They haven't heard him live in ages, and the crowd is noisy with excitement.

"Andy! Andy! Andy!" they shout as Andy "The Music Man" Morse, guitar in hand, stands backstage and smiles. He's used to the adulation.

"They chant for me," he says, stating the obvious. ("Andy! Andy! Andy!")

If they had lighters, they'd flick them. If they had smartphones, they'd hoist them in the air. ("Andy! Andy! Andy!")

But they do not own lighters and smartphones. They are 4 years old. "Backstage" is a corridor at Albany Med Kids on St. James Place, the day care that launched Morse's career — as a folk-singing troubadour specializing in the pre-K crowd — in the early 1990s. Back then it was called Kidskeller and located on Madison Avenue.

He's been at this a long time, forging a musical career alongside other regional kids' performers — Ruth Pelham and the late Paul Strausman, for instance, both of them friends and inspirations. With his light, warm tenor and gentle manner, the ponytailed Morse puts kids and adults at ease. "They love when Andy comes," says Albany Med Kids director Sharon Wood. "They get very excited."

Morse performs elsewhere, too: Upcoming gigs include the Taste of the North Country fest in Glens Falls on Sunday, Sept. 27, and the Killington Ockoberfest on Saturday and Sunday, Oct. 11 and 12, where he'll play "family hour" sets both days and perform with his jam band, the Wheel, on Sunday, Oct. 12. Add to his child-care gigs the library gigs, festival gigs, corporate gigs, school gigs, party gigs — all told, around 35-40 gigs per month.

Plus he sells his three kid-centric CDs, full of covers and Morse originals, off www.andysings.com. And he has a sideline in setting up kids' tents at rock festivals. In other words, busy guy.

But his work with day cares and pre-schools — 15 of them — provides his most regular, reliable source of income. "It's my backbone, it's my constant .... I'm really lucky that I have this," says Morse, who has a third-grader of his own. "I call it the skeleton of my business — you know, I have these day cares that I go to. Some are weekly, some are biweekly and some are monthly. And it's always this huge puzzle."

In a sunny blue room full of 3-year-olds, Morse sits in a chair on a carpet taped with X's — one per fundament. He's just about ready to start when most of the classroom suddenly departs with teachers. "They're doing a bathroom run. It happens," he says, unfazed. "Flexibility is a big part of my job." (Imagine if everyone at the Times Union Center just upped and left simultaneously to go to the restroom. Kevin Hart would not be happy.)

The kids soon return and plop on the carpet, instantly rapt. "It's so nice to be here with all my friends today," Morse sings, then turns to the kids. "Shout 'hurray!'" he says. "Hurray!" they respond. The zipper song progresses through all the joys of spending time with friends — making music, eating ice cream, playing with toys.

Voices pipe in, hands shoot up, giggles erupt. When he asks them to be quiet, they're quiet. When he tells them to clap their hands, they clap. "Awesome! You guys are great listeners!" he says. And they are.

Morse arrived at his nursery school specialty early on. The Manlius, Onondaga County, native finished high school but decided against college, crafting an education of his own devising at his own speed. Music mattered to him; that's what he studied. Moving to Albany in 1985 — his sister was here — he took various jobs and bounced around for a bit, then more than a bit when he started following the Grateful Dead tours in 1988. He made money selling tie-dye T-shirts designed by a friend.

Around 1991, he got a job at the Albany County ARC, and it was there, working with the developmentally disabled, that he began to sing on the clock. The guy he replaced used to play the guitar and left behind a thick folder of sheet music. Morse picked it up.

"It was 'Working on the Railroad,' 'You Are My Sunshine,' " he says. "Stuff along that vein. ... I pulled out my guitar, and the people — they were like sponges. They just soaked it up. And by the end of my two years there, I was slipping in Talking Heads and Grateful Dead tunes." (No, he doesn't do that with the pre-schoolers.)

After that, the job at Kidskeller. And there, over time, he morphed from infant-room caregiver to guitar-wielding minstrel for the light-up-sneakers set.

Right away, his fans gave him the nickname: "The kids dubbed me that back in '94 — 'Oh, the music man is here! The music man is here!' "

At the start of the new school year, though, the smallest ones don't know him yet. He's an unfamiliar face. In a room with toddlers — 2 years old, tops — Morse launches into "Wheels on the Bus," and a little boy in a Yankees shirt begins to cry. Morse keeps singing, and as the babies on the bus go waah, waah, waah, so does the little boy. Then a little girl. "Sometimes it's a chain reaction," the Music Man observes.

But by the time he gets to "Old MacDonald," the semicircle of wee ones is hushed and transfixed. He has them. He knows them. And he enjoys them.

"The thing I love about performing for kids — it's steady. I'm working at nine in the morning in a smokeless environment and an alcohol-free environment," he says. "And I get these hugs. And I get honesty. And if they don't like the song, they're gonna tell me. I feel really fortunate. I always wanted to be a teacher, and I always wanted to be a musician — and these two things just came together beautifully."

The chants of "Andy" don't exactly bother him, either. "It is really nice," he says. "And I do feel like a rock star."

No, he didn't plan on any of this as a young man.

"I mean, if you had asked me when I was 20 or 21, would I be singing songs in day care? I'd probably say 'no.' " But here he is, doing what he loves, and he's grateful. "I think, 'Whatever the plan is, this is what's happening.' "

Back in that hallway outside the 4-year-old room, the kids are still chanting. Morse is done chatting with the press, and he's ready to roll. Into the room he strides, greeting his fans.

The crowd goes wild.

abiancolli@timesunion.com518-454-5439@AmyBiancolli

Andy Morse, Andy's Funky ABCs—This independent recording is a splendid example of children's music performed by "big kids" with big hearts. It contains some originals, including title track and "Stop Drop & Roll," mixed in among traditional numbers including "Jenny Jenkins" and "She'll Be Coming Round the Mountain." Andy uses a kids chorus for some tunes, making the intended audience clear; otherwise the adults might get carried away with tracks like "Pizza" (it doesn't go with champagne/you have it with Coke) and "R.I.N.G.O." (There was a drummer in a band and Ringo was his name-o...R-I-N-G-O.) —
"...Andy holds the audience spellbound...
he brings so much joy to our children."
Marilyn Bonita - Day Care Director
Hi Andy,
This is Bridgette in Mrs. Moynihan's class at Centre School in Hampton. My favorite song is It's a Pizza song. You are a really good guitar player. I wish I could hear you every day. At snack time we listen to your CD on the computer. Have a nice day!
from,
Bridgette
Bridgette - 1st Grade student
My daughter and I love Andy the Music Man!
My daughter, Zoe is 6 and loves to sing along to Andy's songs. She and her friends love his original style. We can't wait for the next CD to come out!
Heidi Emmons - Teacher/Mother
MaGiC!!,

Andy's CD's are like MaGiC! I work with 4 year olds at a daycare center, and when things get crazy, Andy's CD fixes EVERYTHING!! The kids (And teachers!)LOVE it, everything from sit down kids to icky sticky! It was great addition to our classroom!
Lisa - Teacher (Feb 1, 2005)
Lots of energy, great production values, and very fun songs.

I bought Andy's CD for my grandchildren and they listen to it all the time..that's the best endorsement I can think of. A nice mix of familiar, traditional songs and Andy's own original songs. The music is engaging and fun.
Susan Pritzker - CD Buyer
The 2-3 year olds in my current class Love your CD
' Fun and Silly ...' It is played in our classroom quite frequently. Their
favorite song is what they call " the Wake Up song" ( Sleeping
Pterodactyis). I can say to the kids '.... ok Ms Andrea has had
enough... everybody go to sleep'. My group of kids will come running to our
circle area rug laughing and all lay down to do the 'wake up' song (to be
honest this is at times the only way I can get them to lay down at all!!).
My self or my assistant will sing the song until we cannot think of anymore
animals. They also love dancing to 'Won't You Sit Down Kids',are also
starting to get into 'Icky Sticky Bubble Gum' I also have shared your CD
with some Early Intervention teachers that work with children in my current
center, and others in the area. Simply put... you have a small fan base
here.
Andrea Dickinson - Teacher/Parent
Andy,
Thanks for another wonderful program. The families loved your
performance. One family told me that a father brought his child to the
program and for the rest of the week the father was humming the tune "Going
for ride in my little red wagon" at work. His coworkers were wondering
about him. The kids got a kick out of the opening part with the guitar on
backwards.

Thanks again!!

Rachel at Crandall Library
Glens Falls, NY
librarygals@hotmail.com
Rachel - Librarian
Andy's CD is terrific for kids. I got it for my niece and nephew, aged 2 and 3, who love to sing and dance. Within minutes of playing it, they were moving smiling and dancing around the house. So was I!!

When it was over, they wanted to hear it again. The songs are easy to learn and sing along to. Their favorite was "Icky Sticky Bubblegum."

I highly recommend this for kids, young and old.
Maureen Clancy - Therapist
I am a Clinical Psychologist who works exclusively with children, and this is the 2nd CD I have purchase from this artist (the first one is Fun and Silly Songs). His keen insight toward attention-grabbing songs designed explicitly for the young is truly amazing. Ive used it in therapy sessions and the children truly relate to it. Moreover, my 18 month-old son Wyatt asks to have it put on and proceeds to physically enjoy it by dancing and making a rather entertaining attempt to sing along. The children's shows on PBS such as Sesame Street etc. would benefit tremendously by having Andy Morse as a musical consultant teaching and entertaining the children of the world the fun, joy, and importance of music in our daily lives. Thanks Andy from your number one fan...Wyatt Crowther, and from a somewhat older fanME. Robert Crowther
Robert Crowther - Clinical Psycholigist
Andy is to my children as Jerry Garcia is to me!

This CD is by far my children's current favorite - I have 2 girls,ages 6 and 3. They listen to this CD over and over again. This wonderful CD has saved my husband and I much heartache on long car trips. "Dinosaur knockin' at my door" and "Icky Sticky Bubblegum" are the favorites, but the whole CD is great. We all know the words to each and every song. I highly recommend this CD for children of all ages!
Dana Ptucha - Sales Woman
Andy Morse is magic. This is CD is a great way to spend quality time with your kids. My kids can't stop singin' and dancin'. Andys enthusiasm is infectious.I want to thank Andy for making the sun shine a little brighter in the lives of my kids! Keep up the good work!
Joann Hoose - Mother
I have to tell you: last month in San Francisco, I gave "Funky ABC's" to 6 of my friends who'd recently had babies. I had given several of them your first CD with their first baby. Those folks were so excited to get the second installment! My friend Stu said something to this effect, "My girls ask to listen to Andy more than they ask for anyone else -- more than Raffi, more than Pete Seeger." And one friend who had never heard your first CD sent me a rave review last week, telling me how much his whole family (adults included) is grooving to your music.

Andy, you're the best, in so many ways!
Shellie Michaels - Mother