A trio of musical performers have taken their talents — normally seen on stage with the dancing OC ska band Suburban Legends and entertaining guests at area theme parks — to a different kind of audience: children.
Aaron Bertram, Rachel Charest-Bertram and Vince Walker created Kids Imagine Nation about eight years ago as a way for Bertram, who taught preschool at the time, to bring more musical variety into his classroom.
“Vince and I started writing songs that were movement based, with concepts like swimming around the room and building a peanut butter sandwich,” explains Bertram, who also plays trumpet in Suburban Legends. “While we were recording it, we thought, wouldn’t it be fun to perform it live?”
And so the group — always dressed in red, black and white — began performing shows at preschools, libraries and children’s events. They dedicated themselves to the project more full-time in 2017 with the start of their weekly DIY YouTube series. The web show include music videos, educational vignettes and episodic story episodes.
Bertram, who also works as an entertainer at Disneyland, says Kids Imagine Nation concerts are more than just a simple children’s performance.
“Our [live] show isn’t just a concert you come to watch; it’s a moment that everyone shares together,” says Bertram, an entertainer at Disneyland. “A Kids Imagine Nation show is a mixture of an Interactive Dance Party and an episode of our web series, where everyone is a part of the show. We laugh, learn and solve problems together in a musical adventure.”
To make the show even more fun and interactive, Walker has taken on the character of Beatz, a robot who learns lessons from Bertram and Charest-Bertram and provides comic relief.
“He sort of represents a sense of naivety and innocence when it comes to the way he processes the world around him,” says Walker, who also sings in Suburban Legends. “Mostly though, he’s a goof. It’s been a fun trying to figure out his character.”
Each of the band members had prior experience working with children before creating Kids Imagine Nation, Charest-Bertram notes. She and Bertram, her husband, both have taught pre-school children, and Walker has been a teacher for Little Rockstars Music and Movement Classes, which also includes Bertram and Charest-Bertram.
“Combining our experiences within the field of early childhood education as well as our life-long mutual love for and study in music and the theatrical arts was a natural progression,” Charest-Bertram says. “We are all passionate about what we do.”
Many of the group’s sons encourage early childhood concepts, such as imagination, creativity and curiosity. Others, like “Building a Rocket” and the “Math Dance,” help children learn about STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) early on.
Charest-Bertram, who has worked in entertainment at Universal Studios and Disneyland, says by incorporating music as an educational tool, children can easily learn from the repetition of listening to and dancing to their favorite songs.
Ideally, she says, Kids Imagine Nation will inspire children to use their imaginations and live passionately.
“Throughout the first years of life, young children investigate their world and learn about what they are capable of by exploring in pretend-play,” she says. “Children cultivate their sense of self and the possibilities of their world by exploring the boundless limitations of their minds. I hope that children can be inspired to be creative and imaginative in every facet of their lives. I also hope that their world of imagination is one that is full of love and kindness for all.”
On Nov. 30, the group released its third album, Christmas Time is Here, a mix of classic and original songs aimed to get people of all ages into the holiday spirit while learning.
Kids Imagine Nation will also perform an original two-part Christmas show this month at Santa’s Village in Lake Arrowhead. Show dates are Dec. 15, Dec. 16, Dec. 19, Dec. 20, Dec. 21, Dec. 22, Dec. 23, Dec. 24, Dec. 29 and Dec. 30.
The trio will also soon release a “Circle Time CD” that will be a “soundtrack to your day” for preschool teachers, Charest-Bertram says.
She says while the group hopes it can bring its performances to theme parks or on children’s television stations, they’re enjoying the do-it-yourself aspect of Kids Imagine Nation.
“We have so many goals for Kids Imagine Nation,” she says. “But, I would say that all our goals can be summed up by saying that we’d love to spend each and every day on this project. The more we can write shows, write music, and perform live or on a taped show, the better.”
By day, Brittany covers hard-hitting city news in San Diego. By night, she’s prowling the Orange County music scene, and is usually a regular attendee of local ska and punk shows. Reporting and music have always been Brittany’s passions. She wrote for her middle school and high school newspapers and studied journalism at Cal State Long Beach, where she graduated in 2012. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her French Bulldog, watching probably too many Disney movies for someone her age and napping.