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  • Dan Duguay

Becoming a Children's Entertainer

My journey as a one-man band started in the spring of 1990. It was wasn't a decision based on attracting children, it based on economics. I thought if I did something unusual, I’d attract more people to my performance and thus would probably make more money.

I had no interest in children or being a children’s entertainer. Throughout my youth, I didn’t have much opportunity to be connected to people younger than me. I never babysat, never worked at a summer camp and didn’t even have friends who had siblings much younger than me. Children were not on my radar.

Dick Van Dyke as a one-man band
Bert from Mary Poppins

It surprised me, when people would assume I was a “children’s entertainer” . I would say it's Bert from Mary Poppins fault for persuading people to think that way. My retort was always, “I play Johnny Cash, The Stones, Tom Petty, I’m an adult entertainer”…

Around 10 years into my career, 2 things happened that changed my sentiment about entertaining the younger generations: Nancy Ambrahamson was the Artistic Director of the St. Albert Children’s Festival. She’d seen me performing at the Strathcona Farmers Market, and thought I’d be a great addition to the festival lineup. Prior to that, I’d never been invited to a non Street Performer Festival. I was honoured and intrigued. I attended that festival and thoroughly enjoyed it. I learned a few “children’s songs”, but discovered that children were happy to listen to anything. I could do Elvis songs and Hank Williams songs, and they’d have fun with it. I was also performing many current hits, and they liked that.

Having children and entertaining them.
Dan Duguay's a family man.

The other thing that happened was, I became a father. This drastically altered my opinion about children. Over the course of the next 5-10 years, I discovered that I prefer children to adults in many ways. I love their honesty, their no BS attitudes, their openness and their ability to have a great time without needing to be drunk! (LOL)

My wife and I have 2 offspring, and raising them was fascinating to me! I had so much fun helping to raise these humans! They changed me in many different ways. I discovered that I can relate better to children than adults. When I was growing up, I always remembered the adults that spoke to me like a person rather than a child. I wanted to be like that.

When my kids were growing up, I did things that I know children love. They love being chased, so I chased them. They love being silly, so I was silly with them. They liked playing pretend, so I played pretend with them. I challenged their imagination and I presented small tasks like they were big adventures. My children loved it, as did I.

This is a bit on an aside but...I have one piece of advice for new parents: Don’t be afraid to show vulnerability towards your children, It shows them you are human and it builds connection.

Children's music from Calgary
Foods N' Tudes

In 2019 I released my first full length children’s record called “Foods N’ Tudes. 12 songs that I wrote myself based on my experiences raising my own children. I observed the challenges and issues they faced and put songs together based on those subjects. Subjects such as bullying, screen addiction, healthy eating, healthy lifestyle…

Today, I am happy to be considered a children’s entertainer. I envision a time when I’m performing in schools and at family events and children’s festivals all year long. Who would've believed all those years ago that my favourite time of year as an entertainer would be the Xmas season when I become “Danny the One Elf Band” . It is an absolute blast performing as an elf. Every year I’m sad when the season comes to an end. The repertoire of music creates itself and there’s a buzz in the air that only Christmas believers can create.

Children's entertainer Dan the One Man Band
Dan leads the conga line!

My children are pretty much adults now. It’s the dawn of a new era. I’m happy to see my kids launching off on their own, but a part of me mourns those days of being a silly dad where every day was an adventure. They have made me a better person and a better artist. Neither of them followed me into the performing arts realm, (Many people ask me that), but that’s absolutely o.k. I know they respect me for the work that I do and they are both very creative individuals that have their own outlets.

The shut down of 2020-2021 taught me to embrace the performing arts more than I ever did. I realized that nothing makes me happier, than being in a school gymnasium with 200-300 students, listening to me sing songs and tell stories. It is an amazing job that I’m fortunate to do.

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