Bring on da Noize
SPOTLIGHT: Cory Cullinan, Stanford Class Of ’92
by Caitlin Berka, Stanford Magazine
CORY CULLINAN has every reason to smile. His song “Banana,” the pièce de résistance of his debut children’s album The Ballad of Phineas McBoof, clinched the No. 1 spot on XM Radio’s Kids Chart last fall. The album was named one of Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Products of 2007 and received a Parents’ Choice Award.
Cullinan, a former high school music teacher, began inching toward his latest career venture after his first daughter was born five years ago. Frustrated by long hours and low pay, he quit his teaching job and began doing documentary soundtracks and writing songs for his daughter on the side.
His hobby eventually became a career. Cullinan, better known in the children’s music world as his alter-ego, “Dr. Noize,” created a mythical world of animal rock stars with names like John Lemur, Curious George Hairyson and Sing Go Far. The fabled International Band of Misunderstood Geniuses and its leader, a monkey named Phineas McBoof, work “to bring joy and inspiration to the world through song.” (Back in the real world, Cullinan played many of the instruments on the CD, and recorded much of the album at Stanford, where he used to work for the Electronic Music Department.)
Zany as it sounds, his music isn’t just for kids. “As a parent, you’re like, if I have to listen to Barney one more time, I’m gonna barbecue him and serve him for dinner,” Cullinan says. His concept, “rock-opera for kids,” combined with high-level musicianship (the album features artists who have worked with Santana and Huey Lewis, as well as opera singer Nathan Gunn) appeals to a more mature set. Cullinan, who will tour the Bay Area in May, has self-published a Phineas McBoof book and has plans for more CDs.
Cullinan’s two daughters, ages 3 and 5, remain his major inspiration. “What I do as a career now is an extension of what I’ve been doing as a parent,” he says. The hidden payoff? “I get to work with people of my maturity level, which is the 2-to-11 set.”