Music Holds Key to Educational Impact of Top Kids’ Programming

From hip-hop to bossa nova to Hawaiian-style ballads, “Sofia the First” draws from a hodgepodge of multicultural influences when compiling its musical soundtrack, a bevy of catchy tunes that has caught on like s’mores at a campfire with the preschool set. (Try not dancing to the bouncy rap ditty “Blue Ribbon Bunny.”)

“We try to use the different types of music as a way to provide a certain type of musical education,” says “Sofia” creator Craig Gerber. “In the first season, we ranged from doing ’50s rock and roll to swing to hip-hop and, as we move through the second season, we’re trying to push the boundaries even further to find other types of music, whether they be specific genres or from specific regions or just a type of music that kids aren’t used to hearing at that age. They keep the numbers original and surprising.”

The Disney Junior series, about a commoner (voiced by Ariel Winter) who becomes a princess overnight when her mom marries a king, has fielded six Daytime Emmy nominations this season, including for music direction and composition, original song for the ballad “I Belong” and original song for the main title and promo.

“We knew that (the song) was going to be (about) her tender search to find confidence and wanting to belong,” says “Sofia” songwriter and musical director John Kavanaugh. “We knew it was going to have a certain sort of vulnerability and hopefully, by the end, a certain triumph. Every song is different, but a lot of times the mood of the song or the style of the song comes out of the story easily and very simply.”

Per Teri Weiss, executive vice president of production and development for Nickelodeon Preschool, plot and story are a collective driving force in most children’s programming, including popular Nickelodeon skeins “Wonder Pets!,” up for music direction and composition; “Yo Gabba Gabba!” in the preschool children’s series category; and “Peter Rabbit,” which scored a nomination for peppy original song “Spring Has Sprung.”

The goal, notes Weiss, is to engage pint-sized audiences with bubbly musical numbers while reinforcing the series’ valuable educational curricula.

“We’re always looking to see how to introduce music to kids’ lives and introduce all the different ways in which you can utilize music to tell a story,” she says. “With ‘Wonder Pets,’ for example, we wanted to introduce kids to the concept of opera, where not only are (the characters) breaking into song, but they are actually singing the dialogue. A kid’s first opera is ‘Wonder Pets,’ and that was something that (creator Josh Selig) was really excited to do. We felt it was a wonderful way to kind of leap off the page with classical music.”

With music programs being axed in schools across the United States, the incorporation of scholastic-oriented songs in preschool and children’s program has never been more crucial, say Scott Kraft and Nadine van der Velde, the husband and wife executive producing team of Nickelodeon’s live-action series “The Fresh Beat Band,” nominated in the preschool children’s category.

“We’ve watched in our own kids’ school those programs being cut,” says Van der Velde. “So for us, getting music out there is really, really important. That’s something that’s near and dear to us.”
“We wanted to create a show where kids became active participants in it and we’re able to do that with the music and the characters and with the lessons on the show,” says Kraft of the series, which has spawned a series of live nationwide concerts. “It’s not just the passive situation of watching it on television. They take it in the car. They take it on their parents’ iPhones and iPads, and it becomes a much larger part of their experience.”

More TV

  • How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    How Cooking-Travel Shows Are Changing TV

    Toyo hunches over his street food stove, cooking tuna with a blow torch, stopping to light his cigarette with it and produce a cheeky grin. The Japanese chef, who owns a roadside stand in the city of Osaka, is one of many highlighted in the Netflix series “Street Food.” Over the course of 30 minutes, [...]


    SAG-AFTRA Leaders Approve Proposal for New Film-TV Contract

    The SAG-AFTRA national board has approved proposals for a successor deal to its master contract covering feature film and primetime television — a key step in the upcoming negotiations cycle with companies. The board approved the package Saturday with the performers union declining to reveal any specifics — its usual policy. The board established the wages [...]

  • Shannen Doherty'Jennie Garth: A Little Bit

    Shannen Doherty Joins 'Riverdale' Season 4 in Luke Perry Tribute

    “Riverdale” is planning to make a special tribute to Luke Perry. The show’s executive producer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa announced at Comic-Con that Shannen Doherty, Perry’s longtime friend and “Beverly Hills 90210” co-star, will guest star in the season 4 premiere. The tribute episode will “reflect Perry’s enduring legacy and the indelible imprint his character” Fred Andrews [...]

  • Supernatural CW

    'Supernatural' Team Gets Emotional Final Season Sendoff at Comic-Con

    The cast and creative team of “Supernatural” bid a fond farewell to the attendees of San Diego Comic-Con on Sunday. At the show’s final panel in the gargantuan Hall H, the team thanked the fans for all of their support over the years as the series prepares to enter its final season. “I’m trying not [...]

  • Alicia Rodis photographed by Alicia Rodis

    SAG-AFTRA Moves to Standardize Guidelines for Intimacy Coordinators

    SAG-AFTRA is moving to standardize guidelines for intimacy coordinators as part of an effort to establish policies for union members when their work involves nudity and simulated sex. “Our goal is to normalize and promote the use of intimacy coordinators within our industry,” said SAG-AFTRA president Gabrielle Carteris. “Intimacy coordinators provide an important safety net for [...]

  • SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases

    SDCC TV News Roundup: Syfy Releases 'The Magicians' Season 5 Clip (Watch)

    In today’s SDCC TV news roundup, Syfy shares a clip from “The Magicians” Season 5, and Amazon sets the Season 4 premiere of “The Expanse.” CASTING Julie Gonzalo and Staz Nair have joined the cast of “Supergirl” for its upcoming fifth season. Gonzalo will portray iconic DC character Andrea Rojas aka Acrata, a polished businesswoman [...]

  • Doom Patrol -- Ep. 101 --

    'Doom Patrol' Renewed, Season 2 to Stream on DC Universe and HBO Max

    “Doom Patrol” has been renewed for a second season and will soon be available outside of DC Universe. At San Diego Comic-Con, series executive producer Jeremy Carver and star Diane Guerrero announced not only that the show will be back for another season but also that it will be available on HBO Max, the upcoming [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content