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INTERVIEW: Imagination Movers Solve Our Problems

imagination-movers-photo3If anyone can knock the Wiggles off your tot’s TV rotation, it’s the Imagination Movers – four dads from New Orleans who solve idea emergencies on the Disney Channel.

The show grabbed a Daytime Emmy out of the starting gate for outstanding original song in the children’s show/animation category – and now the Movers are going back on the road for a forty-city concert tour.

We grabbed Imagination Mover Scott Durbin, father of two and former award-winning teacher in the Movers’ hometown of New Orleans, to talk about rocking out, raising kids who’ve been through Katrina and why standards-based education doesn’t work for America’s kids:

Babble: How did you get into doing music for children?

Scott Durbin: The story actually begins with television ironically enough. I guess back in 2002-03. I had taught for 10 years, early elementary education, and over the course of those 10 years, I saw a noticeable decline from year to year in the creative thought of the kids I was teaching.

That was happening in my life, and then another strand is all the Movers started having kids at the same time. And when you have kids, you’re sort of borne into this world of children’s programming and digesting children’s media whether it be books or music or what have you . . . television. That first thread coupled with that wove itself into another one —when you’re starting to evaluate kid’s television, we all noticed this lack of live action people in children’s television.

It seemed that everything was either cartoons or puppets, and while that’s great, we had all grown up with Captain Kangaroo and Mr. Rogers and we had all grown up with local, live action kid’s shows that had sort of gone the way of the dinosaur.

I had a friend at the local PBS affiliate I had done some kid’s show with . . . we pitched it to the PBS affiliate, and the reason they said no was because they didn’t have the money. So it seemed that a door had closed, but fortunately for us, all the music we wrote, our friends started saying, “can I get a copy of that song?” That really kick-started the music part, and we sort of put the TV on the backburner.

Babble: Do you guys enjoy doing the music part the most or the acting?

I think the music is such a creative venture because we’re writing and composing all the music people here and that’s one of the things we’re most proud of. It’s always been with the belief that the music that we create is to be a shared experience, that for parents it’s not something that drives you crazy.

Babble: We appreciate that!

Laughs. We all know that the younger the child, the more repetition plays an important part in their growth and so we needed to make sure that any music we wrote hopefully would not drive us crazy let alone an audience that we were sharing it with.

Babble: What are the shows like for kids?

The thing that differentiates us from a lot of other acts out there is when you come and see us; you’re going to get a rock concert. We play our musical instruments, we rock out. It’s going to be for all intents and purposes a child’s first real live rock concert experience. With that being said, there’s a narrative that runs through the concert that parallels a lot of what the children’s experience on television. There’s an idea emergency and we brainstorm, and we try out different solutions. Some work, some don’t. And hopefully we get to that place where we have another idea emergency solved.

scott-durbinBabble: How does coming from New Orleans give you a different aspect on music?

New Orleans is such a creative town; it’s very rich in its musical traditions. We’ve all the movers have experienced the hardships of Katrina with three of the four of us losing essentially everything, us as a group losing our musical instruments and Smitty who was a fireman doing search and rescue during that time. That puts a lot of things in perspective. Hopefully that’s enriched our vision. Part of what separates us is that we really do look for a balance in our personal lives. I’m a Mover, but I’m also a father, I’m also a husband, and those roles are just as important if not more important than me being a Mover. When we put together a concert, when we put together different things we try as much as we can to hold dear the outlook of the families that enjoy our music whether it be not having an intermission during our live shows so we can peddle goods. Those kinds of things don’t interest us. We prefer to look at kids as creators rather than consumers.

Babble: Having been through Katrina with your kids, how important is it that kids have outlets that are a little more fun when there’s such serious stuff in their lives?

Kids nowadays when they’re at school recess time has been cut. The opportunities to just play seems to be not as valued as it once was. I remember coming home from school and playing and so much can be learned from playing. You learn of course social skills, but you learn problem solving when you’re playing. That whole aspect of play and learning through various experiences with others or just going outside, picking up a stick and it becoming a conductor’s baton those kinds of things seem to be lacking in our society. I’m a big proponent of creative play and kids just being able to be kids. We want them to grow up so quickly; we rob them of our useful energy.

Babble: Nice to hear from a teacher.

The standards movement as much as people like it being a huge proponent of encouraging creativity in kids, I hope to encourage creativity in teachers. The standards movement just neuters creative teachers. Our kids are worse for the wear in that sense.

The forty-city tour is just getting started – check the schedule to see if the guys are moving in to a town near you.

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