A Little Mandarin is the fruit of many a seed sprinkled throughout my life. I didn’t seek it. It found me.
I was born in Shanghai to a home filled with music. My father was a conductor and classical music was a part of everyday life. My mother’s side of the family was also very musical and had a few virtuosos. My great-uncle Tan Shuzhen was the Shanghai Conservatory of Music director featured in the 1980 Academy Award winning documentary, From Mao to Mozart: Isaac Stern in China. That was the same year my father immigrated to the U.S. for his Masters in Choral Conducting. He lived in the basement apartment of the Berkners’ home in N.J., where Laurie Berkner grew up. Unbeknownst to me, she would become an inspiration later on in life. My own musical journey began with the last letter I wrote to my father before my mother and I joined him in the States a year later. In it, I proclaimed my love of singing.
Music was a constant in my school years. My fondest memories were of my high school handbell choir and musical theater, and my college a cappella group. In the years following graduation, I zigzagged between technology and music. Systems consultant. Html(!) coder. Singer/songwriter. Major label online content manager. Electronic pop band. I loved technology. But music was in my soul.
Then in 2001, I randomly turned on the Today Show to a performance by the “Queen of Kid’s Music”, Laurie Berkner. Children’s music? Hmmm…
Fast forward to 2005.- full blown mommyhood. My husband is a native French speaker from Québec. We decided from the very start that we would raise our children in a trilingual household, him speaking French to them and me, Mandarin. My mother-in-law gifted us a beautifully produced music set of French children’s classics that played over and over in our home. I searched high and low for the Mandarin equivalent, but it simply did not exist. Unfortunately, most of the CDs (and DVDs/VCDs) I found here or in China were rather poorly produced, with children singing in a way that was cute at best and, at worst, grating and inaudible.
In the beginning of 2011, at the urging of friends, my mom and I started a weekly Mandarin playgroup at our apartment for a handful of preschoolers, including my younger daughter. Music was a key component in the curriculum. To my amazement and joy, our little non-Chinese-speaking friends started singing along to one of the songs after just a few sessions and knew many more by the end of the semester. Sadly, the CD we used was one of those “bad” ones.
Then came my “Aha” moment. I have to make this Chinese children’s music myself! For my family and others. I envisioned top-notch production, adult vocals, a variety of genres and a fresh sound that doesn’t make China seem so far away.
Introducing A Little Mandarin: Chinese Children’s Classics v 1.0…and a dream that continues to sprout.
“If music be the food of love, play on” – William Shakespeare
Executive producer/Vocals: Toni Wang
Producer/Music Arrangement: Woody Pak
Art Design & Illustration: Joana Penna