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Coming to the Wiltsie Center in Hazleton

Award-winning children’s recording artist Laurie Berkner will bring her music to Hazleton when the Laurie Berkner Band performs at the Wiltsie Center at the Historic Castle on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 2 p.m. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 23.
Award-winning children’s recording artist Laurie Berkner will bring her music to Hazleton when the Laurie Berkner Band performs at the Wiltsie Center at the Historic Castle on Saturday, Nov. 23, at 2 p.m. Doors open at 12:30 p.m. on Nov. 23.
Tickets for the event, which is sponsored by the Greater Hazleton Health Alliance and the Luzerne Foundation, will go on sale to Castle Club members on Wednesday, Sept. 25, and to the public at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept 28. Tickets may be purchased through the Wiltsie Center’s website at www.wiltsiecenter.org or at Ticketmaster retail outlets, including select Boscov’s and Walmart locations. Tickets range in price from $19 to $39.
A limited number of VIP meet-and-greet packages will be available on a first-come, first-served basis for a guest to have a photo taken with Laurie Berkner or get a signature on merchandise purchased at the event. The meet-and-greet package can be purchased on Ticketmaster for $25 per child, with no charge for the child’s parents or accompanying ticketholder. Only 50 meet-and-greet packages will be sold.
Laurie Berkner is widely recognized as a groundbreaker in the progressive children’s music movement. Berkner was the first recording artist to perform regularly on Nick Jr. and can also be seen on the preschool network Sprout. Berkner had been dubbed “the queen of children's music” by People magazine and her best-selling CDs and DVDs appeal to young and old alike. Time magazine declared, “Berkner inhabits a kid’s curious perspective in her lyrics and pens folk-pop melodies that bear repeated – very repeated – listenings.” The Los Angeles Times asserted, “Laurie Berkner does what Fred Rogers did: respect, validate and reassure young children.”
The Laurie Berkner Band consists of Berkner, who plays guitar and sings, along with pianist Susie Lampert, bassist Brady Rymer and drummer Bob Golden.
Berkner has been a professional musician since 1992, but her success as a children’s recording artist was a surprise to her. “It was so unexpected,” she said. “I’d been performing in rock bands and struggling to write original music. Writing music for kids has not been a struggle at all. The more I started working on material for children, the more I realized that it opened up creativity in me that I never knew I had.”
These days, critics widely acknowledge Berkner’s major contribution toward launching what is now dubbed the progressive “kindie rock” movement – i.e. less saccharine, more rocking music that is not dumbed down for children. But it wasn’t simply an enormous amount of talent that helped create an entire genre: It was an ability to gain parents’ enthusiasm for the songs as well.  According to Berkner, “When I’m writing a song, I’m thinking about whether the kids will like it and whether I’m going to connect to them through it. I’m also thinking about whether I want to sing it over and over again, so I guess that’s the part that connects with adults. ‘Old MacDonald Had A Farm’ is a great song for kids, but I couldn’t sing it 100 times!” 
While Berkner never planned to be a children’s performer, looking back on her career, it almost seems inevitable. While growing up in Princeton, N.J., she was always involved in music, whether singing in choirs, playing in bands, or performing in musical theater. In high school and throughout college (at Rutgers University), she toured Europe with several choirs and orchestras as a soloist and guitarist. After graduation, Berkner worked at summer camps and then spent several years as a children’s music specialist at New York area preschool and day care centers.  Working with children became the perfect creative outlet for her to express her talents and create something that, she says, “has turned out to be incredibly rewarding.” 
Berkner has released five CDs, Whaddaya Think Of That? (2007); Buzz Buzz (1998); Victor Vito (1999); Under A Shady Tree (2002); and Rocketship Run (2008), as well as a greatest-hits collection. Her Two Tomatoes Records has also co-released (with Razor & Tie Entertainment) two DVDs, We are … The Laurie Berkner Band (2006) and Party Day! (2011). Berkner recently authored Barnes & Noble’s first-ever original NOOK Kids™ Read and Play™ NOOK Kids™ Book, based on the title track from Party Day!.
Berkner continues to be inspired by her audience. “I want to create songs that matter for children,” she said. “I was singing once and saw a 4-year-old girl shut her eyes and start swaying to the music. I thought, ‘That’s the reason I got into music.’ It keeps me wanting to do more.”
The Wiltsie Center at the Historic Castle is located at the Alice C. Wiltsie Performing Arts Center at Hazleton Elementary/Middle School, 700 N. Wyoming St. in Hazleton.
For more information, visit www.wiltsiecenter.org or www.facebook.com/wiltsiecenter or call toll-free 1-855-WILTSIE (1-855-945-8743).

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