Finding Inspiration in Curious Places
Jun 22, 2023
Michael Hearst and His Band Promise a Curious, Unusual, and Extraordinary Adventure for Families at Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods this Summer
Imagine a TED Talk for kids, but with live music. Family music artist, author, and Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods performer Michael Hearst is on a mission to captivate the hearts and minds of young audiences with educational performances dedicated to only the world’s most curious, unusual, and extraordinary wonders. His performances incorporate lessons set to the backdrop of diverse musical instruments that range from the piano, guitar, and drums to the claviola, theremin, and stylophone, to name just a few. But Hearst’s creative talent does not end at his expansive instrumental repertoire. He has also authored four children’s books that he artfully weaves into performances for an immersive musical experience unlike any other.
“It’s almost like I get to pretend I’m Leonard Bernstein with his ‘Young People’s Concerts’,” says Hearst. A Virginia native, Hearst draws clear connections from his youth to his current work. “My father is from St. Louis, which sounds like a fantastic setup for my music origin story, however, it was really my Grandpa Al, a self-taught composer, who sat at the piano with me and helped me write songs when I was just five or six,” he shares. “I also had these superhero books that came with cassettes when I was younger. I would listen to the story and turn the page at the ‘beep.’ Maybe all I’ve ever wanted was to recreate that book-audio thing.”
Hearst didn’t get involved in the world of family music until much later, and it was almost by accident. During the height of the success of his band, One Ring Zero, Hearst embarked on a solo project to create an album of songs for ice cream trucks, aptly titled “Songs for Ice Cream Trucks,” that inadvertently launched his success as a family music artist.
“I had so much fun performing the songs for kids that I caught the bug and decided to release a more intentional kids album called Songs For Unusual Creatures—odes to some of Earth’s strangest but real animals, using some of my strangest musical instruments, like the claviola, theremin, daxophone, stylophone, etc,” says Hearst.
Now, as a family music performer, Hearst is all in. He and his band have performed at famed venues like Carnegie Hall and Central Park and collaborated with distinguished guests including Margaret Atwood and Kronos Quartet. The best part? Hearst gets to share his contagious enthusiasm for mechanical octopi or ostrich-drawn race carriages.
“Most of all, I just want the audience to have fun! And it’s a bonus that they learn some crazy interesting stuff from my books and albums. After a show, I often hear, ‘My kid really loved the show, but I think I loved it even more!’” Hearst will be taking the stage at Wolf Trap’s Children’s Theatre-in-the-Woods on Thursday, Jul. 6. To purchase tickets, visit wolftrap.org/calendar. To learn more about Hearst’s music and children’s books, visit michaelhearst.com.
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