Back to Pre-K: danna banana teaching
danna banana, dubbed ‘best party entertainer’ by New York Magazine, is a singer by training and a kid at heart. He’s done shows in venues big and small all over this land, as well as parties for everyone from Annie Liebovitz to Ernie Anastos to Rosie O’Donnell.
He began his career as founder/producer/performer at Gusto House, a late 80’s cabaret/performance space that helped launch the careers of the Blue Man Group, John Leguizamo, Steve Buscemi, and many others. His love of singing led him to pursue first musical theatre, and then a degree in vocal performance at San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he and his wife had two of their three kids as he learned operatic singing and sang baritone roles locally and nationally, from dramatic roles like Escamillo in Carmen (the ‘Toreador’ Song) and Marcello in La Boheme to the broad comedy of Pooh-Bah in Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Mikado.
His kids led him back to his cabaret roots, however, and after returning to New York,. ostensibly to further his operatic career, he began writing and performing as danna banana, honing the tunes that would become his first award-winning album, Bananappeal. He eventually gave up the operatic stage to focus on children’s music, and the result (so far) is three more widely praised albums, a boatload of awards, performances everywhere from the Issaquah (WA) Public Library to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame- and a lot of very happy kids and parents!
“A big part of what I do is for parents as well as kids,” says Banana. ” That’s why I call it ‘music for kids that parents can stand’. There’s a place for the simple, instructive music of the Wiggles and Barney, but I’ve tried to make danna banana something different. It’s not about how to brush your teeth or cross the street or share. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!” he hastens to add. He elaborates “I try to make music that’s fresh, fun, and playful for parents as well as kids. The issues and dilemmas I bring to life on songs like ‘Jungle Gym’ or ‘Dugak’ or ‘Don’t Touch the Glasses’ are all in fact about parenting. I think it’s fun for kids too, to hear these dilemmas explored by a parent in a funny, tuneful way. There are lots of real situations, in parenting and in, er, kidding, so to speak- being a kid- that are funny and true and largely unexplored, musically speaking. I’ve only scratched the surface. And I think I struck a nerve.” Pause. “Just my luck! Now I have to operate!” Ba dum bum.
Yet as time went on, he found himself writing for similar shows- and enjoying it. ‘There’s all kinds of songwriting, and different aspects of the craft come into play on each one. I like that, ” he quips. A veteran tunesmith, with credits ranging from Disney (Jojo’s Circus show and cds) to country (‘Your Reward’ on Sara Hickman’s Motherlode).
He’s been entertaining kids and families since his first cd, Bananappeal, won him a Grand Prize in the prestigious John Lennon Songwriting Contest. And he uses all that experience-as a writer, performer, husband, and father– to create his unique, hummable, hilarious songs.
The modern pop production and fresh, funny lyrics ‘make parents and kids hoot with laughter’ (New York Magazine)
‘. . .it is virtually impossible to remain at rest when listening to his music‘ (Big Apple Parent)
‘uproarious humor, unerring melodic sense. . .children’s classics. . .’ (Family Fun)