INTERVIEW: Music and motherhood with Lah-Lah

13 September 2018

The loveable Lah-Lah (aka Tina Harris) is coming to town with her 10th birthday tour! We were thrilled to have the chance to sit down and chat to Tina about music, motherhood, and everything in between.

What inspired you to start Lah Lah?

Well, my background is singing with Opera Australia, so I’ve always enjoyed performing. But when my babies were born, like many new mums I hit that crossroad where you have to reassess your working life. A friend suggested teaching early childhood music, so I retrained and opened a class. 

At end of every term, Mark would come in and we would do a concert for the kids, which was a huge success! From there, someone suggested we should do a show… and that was how it started!

So, I feel it was something that found me. I’d always enjoyed working with children but hadn’t managed to make that connection with music. But then it all came together with Lah Lah. And now in its 10th year, it’s been a really fun adventure. Certainly a massive rollercoaster, but also an incredible journey. 

What’s your favourite thing about being Lah Lah?

Definitely the meet and greet after the show! It’s a chance to meet the kids that have come to see the show, and a chance for the kids to get their hands on musical instruments and for them to make that connection to the band off stage and off the TV screen.

I think it’s really important for pre-schoolers to have that tactile experience with music – to feel the vibrations of the double bass, to pluck the strings, to see and touch the instruments. It demystifies musical instruments and creates a critical connection with music.

That is certainly Lah Lah’s point of difference, and we always do it after every show.

What’s your favourite thing to do when you are not on stage?

Because of such a busy touring schedule and being involved with projects that require a lot of energy and focus, when we have the chance we love to become home bodies, hit the couch and enjoy the quiet! Our home is a tiny cottage, which is small and peaceful after a day of big and crazy.

How do you manage the mama juggle of career, family and home?

For years and years I tried to manage it, and then realised that I couldn’t! As mums, we need to lighten up and accept that some days one thing will work, and tomorrow it might be something else. So, I now just go from day-to-day – today I can just manage this, and that’s ok.

I also think that as mums we really need that network; having great relationships with other mums so we can all help each other out. I feel that the friends I made when my kids were Kindy to Year 2 was where I made my lifelong friends – a group where we are really there for each other. I didn’t know back then how important those first few years at school really were.

You are married to Mark, co-performer and Buzz the Bandleader! What is your secret to working and living and parenting together?

We find it very funny, we see each other more than we see the kids! But we work really well together, and can’t imagine it any other way.

Where does your inspiration for your music come from?

Lah Lah’s music comes from all different styles and genres – from rock and roll and jazz, to gypsy and classical. Mark also plays with the popular jazz band Monsieur Camembert and the other guys in Lah Lah are well-known jazz musicians, so that influence comes in too.

When we are writing, I tend to write the basics, then Mark fleshes it out and makes it amazing. It bounces around, we argue, it bounces around some more and then something pops out where we both feel it’s right.

We make sure we don’t dumb the music down for kids, so kids can absorb and develop a diverse musical palette. The lyrics are child appropriate but the music is what we would normally play.

Do your kids get involved in the show?

Yes! We always tour in school holidays and on the weekends, so we can take the kids with us and maintain family balance.

My eldest daughter is now studying tech at school so she runs the projectors and helps with the audio check. My younger daughter makes coffee and works in merchandise store. They get paid and they love it. And as a mum watching them, it’s great to see them getting life skills, such as working with adults and experience in retail. Plus, we get some wonderful family time, and they get to see a lot of Australia as we go.

We also find that school holidays are perfect for families coming to see the show. The show appeals to both primary kids and pre-schoolers, but touring during the school holidays gives mums flexibility to bring all ages and siblings to the show together.

Are your kids musical too?

I think if you have music in your life, it just absorbs into kids. We don’t want them to be musicians, but we’ve made sure that they learn a musical instrument, as we believe that it is an important part of their education – just as much as learning to swim or doing maths.

There were times when they hated music practice, but now they are in high school, it has just clicked and it’s like music has found them. They’ve discovered ensembles, and both found instruments that they love, and they do it on their own; we don’t push them.

What tips do you have for parents trying to encourage kids to learn music?

As a parent, it is just about being regular. They do swimming lessons, so they also do music lessons. It’s not always easy, and we had many tough times where they didn’t want to go to practice! But there are great cognitive advantages in learning the language of music in terms of improving brain functionality and memory. Learning an instrument is also great for teaching patience and focus. These are all skills that they will carry with them for life, and I think makes them better humans.

Unfortunately, many schools in Australia don’t currently have a dedicated music teacher or program. So, if kids aren’t learning about music at school, they need to be learning about it some other way.

What can people expect when they come to see you on the latest tour?

It’s a big birthday party! Buz and Lah-Lah go on a big adventure to create the best party.

There’s musical games written into the show narrative, plenty of interaction, sing-along fun and dancing, and at the end we wrap up with a family dance where everyone is up and singing with the band.

There’s new songs and heaps of fun, so I’m really proud of this show, it’s the best show we’ve done.

And you are currently crowdfunding for your TV show? Why?

Yes, that is part of a bigger story, I guess! A lot of parents don’t realise that Australian Children’s TV is in crisis. As households turning to platforms such as Netflix and Stan to watch TV and turning away from broadcasters, there is a real lack of funding. So, we’ve been forced to take the step to crowdfund because so far the series does not meet production costs.

A lot of preschool content on Australian screens now consists of animated shows from overseas, with funding tied to the potential for revenue from toy sales. As our show focuses on making music, we don’t really have funding coming in from toy licensing. Funding for a show like ours comes from broadcaster license fees – which are getting smaller all the time; government funding – which is getting harder to access, and angel investors – who demand large chunks of profits and merchandising rights. Therefore, we’ve chosen to tread a completely new funding path.

The fabulous Lah Lah 10th Birthday National Tour hits the region on 2 October, with shows in:

Bokarina: 2 October
Broadbeach Waters: 3 October
Manly West: 4 October
Forest Lake: 5 October
Indooroopilly: 6 October
Chermside: 7 October

For tickets and more information, head to: https://www.lah-lah.com/live-shows/

 

Written by

Angela Sutherland

After spending over 20 years on the editorial desks of some the leading magazine publishing houses of London and Sydney, Angela swapped the city frenzy for a Queensland sea change. Now owner and editor of Kids on the Coast and Kids in the City, she loves spending her days documenting and travelling the crazy road of family life alongside every mum and dad. 

When she’s not at her desk buried in magazine stories, you’ll often find her entrenched in a heated game of beach cricket, or being utterly outrun by her inventive seven-year-old and rambunctious threenager.

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