Doctor Noize and his Friend Mr. Beethoven
by Lisa Shara, North State Parent
On September 24th and 25th, 2009 award-winning children’s music artist Dr. Noize will be appearing in Chico and Redding, CA in collaboration with the North State Symphony, in two special concerts geared for youth. North State Symphony Executive Director Keith Herritt encourages all parents to attend this fun musical experience with their children.
When asked what’s special about the upcoming concert Herritt chuckled, “It’s exciting because this will be the most ambitious, fun and original youth concert we’ve done to date-it’s the first time we’ve reached out to involve a guest artist like Dr. Noize. We’ll be playing some very familiar selections like Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, and we’ll also be playing short original works written specifically for the concert by Dr. Noize. It’s a great way to introduce kids to symphonic music.”
About Dr. Noize
Dr. Noize (Cory Cullinan) performs across the country in family-oriented shows, sharing music in all its varieties with young audiences. He was raised and began his career in the San Francisco Bay Area, and more recently moved to Colorado with his wife and two young daughters.
Cullinan began composing music in junior high school, and fell in love with classical and orchestral music while attending Stanford University. Since then he has created and recorded numerous music releases, and taught many aspects of music composition and production to youth. He’s led an award-winning youth choir (winners of Disneyland’s huge Music in the Park competition) and his music has appeared in television shows, movies and documentaries.
While attending Stanford, Cullinan met Kyle Wiley Pickett, now Music Director and Conductor of the North State Symphony. The two hit it off and became friends. They sang in the Stanford Chamber Chorale together, and performed together in operas for Bay Area school kids. They’ve kept in touch and have followed each other’s careers over the years… now both fathers, they are excited to be coming together again to blend their musical talents in this very special show for kids.
The Birth of Dr. Noize
In 2007, Cullinan created his Dr. Noize character and began devoting himself to music for children and families. He released both a recording and book called The Ballad Of Phineas McBoof (the recording features the Grammy-nominated string quartet “Quartet San Francisco”). Within two months, the track Banana had become a national #1 hit on XM Kids Radio. Word quickly spread from kids to parents to college music professors, and Dr. Noize won awards ranging from the Parents Choice Award to being named one of Dr. Toy’s 100 Best Children’s Products.
Interview With Doctor Noize
We caught up with Dr. Noize himself to ask a few questions.
Who is Mr. Beethoven?
He’s probably the most accessible great composer ever. His music is both deep and instantly approachable. It’s hard to find someone of any age who’s not instantly riveted by the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, which we’re performing at the concert. (I use the term “we’re” very loosely in the previous sentence…) Also, he wrote what may be the greatest symphony ever written (his Ninth) when he was deaf. I think he did this to make all future musicians look like hacks.
Is playing with North State Symphony a dream come true?
Actually, yes. And not just because of Kyle’s “concert night cologne,” which is smashing. When I was a senior at Stanford, I had a giant stack of graduate school applications in music composition. In one of the few practical decisions I’ve ever made in my life, I decided not to apply to grad school in composition. Of all the great composition professors I knew of, almost none of them had any orchestras playing their stuff. I decided to go in directions that ensured I could personally get my music played and recorded. So it is both exciting and ironic that I am now able to perform with and compose for a fine orchestra through Doctor Noize. I am grateful for the opportunity; Kyle, the orchestra and I are going to do something truly unique in the world of family orchestra concerts.
You’ve been working diligently creating music for the upcoming show-give us a highlight!
One of the songs we are playing is an orchestral/operetta version of my hit song “Banana.” It has recitative and aria sections, but it’s played for laughs, of course. In the concert, it will be performed by the North State Symphony and sung by… Kyle and me!!! This version of the song will be included on my next cd, and the recording will feature the vocals of opera superstar Nathan Gunn, who I befriended rather fortuitously several years back. I wonder if he will sound as good as Kyle and me?
What’s your favorite thing about playing with and creating music with kids?
Kids are open to anything that is presented correctly to them. Classical, rock, jazz, John Tesh… Kids are fearless with their energy and focus. Adults are more complicated, trained by experience to always try to figure out what they SHOULD do or like; kids can still respond to their curiosity without bias. So actually, in some ways the best part about playing family music concerts is watching the kids loosen up the adults’ inhibitions, and then the next thing you know I’ve got some formerly macho dad up onstage with me singing “Mr. Roboto” (this has happened at a Dr. Noize show). Everybody has fun together.
What’s a highlight of your work with children & music?
The upcoming concerts with North State Symphony.
What do you daughters think of your shows?
They LOVE them, which is great because they were my inspiration to start Dr. Noize in the first place. As anyone with a Pixar DVD and a kid knows, kids love repetition; my kids go to tons of Dr. Noize shows and always want to go to more. The nice thing about the shows, as compared to a movie or recording, is that each one is a little different. I loop-record songs live on the spot at my shows, adding various instruments and bringing members of the audience up to record things into the loop. My daughters are always clamoring to get up onstage and do that.
What’s in store for Dr. Noize in the upcoming year?
I’m playing this show, and lots of others. I’m releasing the next Doctor Noize recording and book next year. And I’m launching an ostrich farm on the moon. (One of those claims is false.)
Any advice to parents regarding tapping children’s creativity?
Follow their lead and don’t squelch it. Let your kids open your minds to new things. Don’t be afraid to be ridiculous. Don’t think certain musical genres are too deep or serious for your child, they’re not. Remember that your child has a greater capacity for learning than us old people do, but we can get some of it back with our kids’ help.
Writer Lisa Shara makes her home in Siskiyou County, CA, and loves all things musical.