More Than Just Noize
Lone Tree resident makes kids’ music enjoyable for all ages
by Stephanie Thompson, Lone Tree Voice
Lone Tree resident Cory Cullinan, also known as Doctor Noize, is as passionate as he is creative. The children’s musician and author is an involved parent and former teacher. Cullinan has successfully merged his enthusiasm for educating kids and producing music.
Cullinan released his first children’s CD and gave his first performance in July and now has the number one song on XM Kids radio, “Banana.” His first children’s book, following the same story as the CD, is due out by the end of the year.
“The CD has production value and wit,” Cullinan said. “I partnered with other musicians to do a kids CD that has musicianship that adults can appreciate. It’s about friendship and marching to your own beat, but no one ever turns to the audience and says ‘that’s what we learned about sharing.’”
The CD was partially recorded in Cullinan’s spacious RidgeGate home nestled in the foothills. The house is equipped with a recording studio and a basement designed to be converted into a larger recording studio someday.
Cullinan moved to Lone Tree with his wife and two young daughters less than a year ago. Since the release of his CD, “The Ballad Of Phineas McBoof,” he’s focused on performances.
Cullinan brings 20 bags of instruments to each performance and invites the audience to join in making music. Through his Macintosh Powerbook, he records different instruments and loops the sounds over each other. Cullinan moves quickly between the saxophone, keyboard, guitar and vocals during performances.
“With kids you have to move quickly because of the short attention span,” Cullinan said. “here’s how music is made on the spot — it’s always a little different.”
Kids learn to recognize the different instrument sounds and are invited to add their own sound to the track. At each performance, a new song is created, then posted on his Web site the next day for free download.
“Kids are so much more open-minded than adults,” Cullinan said. “They know [the importance of] playing, friendship, honesty, and showing and receiving love. They have energy and their whole lives in front of them.”
After performances, kids often ask Cullinan questions about learning to play different instruments. His goal is to get them interested in different styles of music and learn “the joy of exploring creativity.”
This fall, Cullinan will go on his first tour as Doctor Noize in California.
“Playing live is where you really get to connect with kids,” Cullinan said. “I have adults come up to me and say ‘that was a kids’ show, but I dug it.’”
Cullinan graduated from Stanford University in 1992 with degrees in music and political science. Following graduation, he ran the electronic music studio at Stanford, worked in music technology and publishing and taught high school.
At Stanford, Cullinan met his wife, Janette Cullinan, director of content design for San Francisco-based Ninth House Networks.
“My wife is my hero, she’s a butt-kicker,” Cullinan said.
After the birth of his first daughter in 2002, Cullinan decided to leave the long hours of his position as the department head of arts, communication and technology at Pinewood School in California. He spent three years caring for his daughters and producing music from his home studio, including music for documentary and television shows.
The Cullinans moved from the San Francisco Bay area to Lone Tree for its convenience to nearby Sky Ridge Medical Center, the Lone Tree Recreation Center and SuperTarget. Janette Cullinan is legally blind and being able to walk to nearby amenities was essential.
When Cullinan began to consider being a children’s musician, he called up several of the industry’s big names for advice: Raffi, Zak Morgan, Yosi, Andy Z and Tom Chapin.
“This is an industry of nice people,” Cullinan said. “Zak Morgan runs a smart business and was forthcoming on how to run the business and about income streams. He even gave me exact numbers on how much he made on CDs and how much he made doing shows.”
Cullinan was shocked that almost all the musicians called him back and were willing to take time to talk.
“I decided to skip a few years of making bad decisions,” Cullinan said. “The best answer I got was what I wanted to hear: Always put together a top-notch professional product.”
Next, Cullinan called in favors from his days as a documentary composer and at Stanford. He assembled a team of talent with world-renowned and Grammy-nominated musicians, including Herschel Yatovich, guitar, a childhood friend who also plays for Chris Isaak; Nathan Gunn, world-renowned opera singer; and the Grammy-nominated Quartet San Francisco.
“The Ballad of Phineas McBoof” was released on July 7 and celebrated with Doctor Noize’s first performance at The Soiled Dove in Denver.
A couple of days before the official release, XM Kids Radio played the CD in its entirety four times. Since then, “Banana” has climbed to the top of the most requested songs on XM kids.
The 15-track CD tells the story of a pop star, Phineas McBoof, a monkey whose stardom is so great, that he can’t focus on his true love — music. So he leaves in the night, taking all of his instruments with him on a row boat and sets sail to write the perfect song. Along the way, he meets a variety of characters, each playing a different instrument, and grows his band, “The International Band Of Misunderstood Geniuses.”
Cullinan laughs as he describes his characters. Backbone the Octopus is named for and played by Janette Cullinan. He also has a character named after each of his daughters, Riley the Robot and Sidney the Beak. Lenny Long Tail is a lizard who fiddles with his tail, the Ooh Gah Boo Gus are monsters who play the horns but go unnoticed as they repeatedly scare away any potential crowd, and Bottomus the Hip Popotamus is a deep-voiced ladies man.
Throughout the duration of the CD, kids learn to match the sound of the instrument with each character and are able to pick out instruments in songs.
The story is similar to the Beatles, and Phineas McBoof has the same initials as the basis of his character, Paul McCartney.
A book with the storyline of the CD will be released by the end of this year.
For more information on Doctor Noize, visit doctornoize.wpstagecoach.com.