Growing up in the Okanagan Valley’s wooded community of Lake Country, Marnie Grey knew at a very young age that she wanted to work with children.
“As young as five years old, I loved taking care of children and knew I wanted to be around them,” she recalls. “I guess my dream kind of came true.”
She’s right. For more than 20 years, Grey has built quite a following as Music with Marnie in which she has entertained and educated thousands of babies, toddlers, and parents across Canada through her engaging classes and energetic performances with a team of different characters (I’m looking at you Milton the Mosquito). Back in the ’90s, Grey developed an innovative music program and classes to be done with infants and new parents, helping them with challenges like diapering, car rides, and language development. Soon, parents were lining up for her classes because nothing else was available at the time.
Prior to Music with Marnie, Grey was an early childhood educator who often used music as an effective, transitional tool.
“It felt very natural, connecting with children at a young age,” the pioneer explains. “And I loved being around them. I noticed that whenever I sang, the kids really paid attention and connected with me. So, if they didn’t want to do things like get ready and put their shoes on or have their diaper changed, I found that singing a song would help. Together, these musical moments became my idea behind Music with Marnie.”
These days, her renowned performances and online classes, like this one on September 19th with West Vancouver Memorial Library, are especially appreciated when similar events are no longer running because of COVID-19. She is also providing socially distanced classes on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays at a studio near 6th and Main for toddlers and babies, and will return to local community centres in October. Since COVID-19 hit, Grey has had to dramatically revise the structure of her performances from 400 to 500 audience members down to 40. But despite the new world we live in, she’s determined to continue to entertain young ones and their parents in spite of any restrictions.
“That energy of being around children brings out the child in us…it brings out that joy in us,” says Grey who has released four popular albums. “I want to help bring that out, but it also brings it out in me. It’s exhausting but I feel very lucky and blessed to do what I do.”
While communicating with babies can be a challenge, Grey has learned to speak her young audiences’ language with a lot of eye contact, body language, and empathy with their different personalities and comfort levels, adapting her behaviour as she goes along.
“I’ve also learned to be real confident in what I do,” she says. “Initially, I knew I loved children and I knew I loved my job, but I wasn’t truly confident. Now, I feel so much more comfortable and sure about what I’m doing and how it impacts my audiences – it’s a great place to be. I’ve learned that music and movement are universal languages.”