“Come in and stay awhile,” Nanny Nikki sings to the attentive Creative Writing class at the beginning of period 3. “When you are here, you are family.”
Grammy-nominated Nanny Nikki is a musician who writes and performs children’s and family music and visited two Creative Writing classes at MHS on Feb. 15 to share about her creative process.
“She has a lot to offer as far as helping the students learn about an industry that relies on written word. I wanted the students to learn about her experiences,” Creative Writing Teacher Meredith Teuber said.
The song Nanny Nikki played for the class is one that’s important to her because of its message for those she cares about with lyrics such as, “No matter where we go, there’ll be an open door.”
Nanny Nikki, who worked as a nanny for several years after college, said she loved taking care of kids and that she felt music was a big part of the childcaring process.
For the past year Nanny Nikki has been working along with other children’s music artists to create new and more inclusive music for children following the issue the genre faced at last year’s Grammy awards.
In the Children’s and Family genre last year five artists were nominated for a Grammy award; however, all the nominees were white, which sparked outrage in the community about the inaccurate representation of the genre.
“The children’s music genre is much bigger than a bunch of white folks playing their guitars,” Nanny Nikki said.
Artists wanted the Grammy nominations to represent that. Three out of the five artists nominated for Best Children’s Album declined their nominations in protest of the lack of diversity. Since then, those involved in the family music genre have focused on creating a diverse community where everyone can share their art with families and their children.
“This was something that was an absolute call to action for all of us that are in this genre,” she said.
This past year, the genre has focused much more on highlighting diversity, including the album for which Nanny Nikki is nominated.
The album titled “All One Tribe” features 26 different Black children’s music artists who came together to create the album, including a collaborative song they all recorded.
“Children deserve better,” Nanny Nikki said about not only creating more positive diversity in music but also about stopping the ‘adultification’ of music. Nanny Nikki said she believes that with music like Kidz Bop changing the words, such as swapping out swear words, does not change the song into a song for kids.
“If you take a Justin Timberlake song, and you change a few of the words and try to make it something that is kid-appropriate, is it truly kid-appropriate when the meaning is still the original song?” she said.
Artists in this genre are working on creating a lot more music, especially for kids, because it is so important. It helps them learn, and it helps them channel their energy and feelings in a positive way, which is why having music written for kids is so important, Nanny Nikki said.
“We are demanding a new standard that would provide self-affirmation and representation for all children,” she added.
Nanny Nikki referenced a 1993 Swiss study of music education that demonstrated the importance of music in child development. The study showed that kids enrolled in music classes had better reading levels, less stress and better social skills.
“Music is everything,” she said.
Those in the children’s music genre are dedicated to creating more and better music for children because of its importance. Music helps them learn and engage with the world around them, Nanny Nikki added.
“If children are not introduced to music at an early age, I believe there’s something fundamental being taken away from them,” Nanny Nikki said. “Musical exploration for young children is part of their development. I find it incredibly fulfilling to see a child understand a concept or learn something through music. That’s my inspiration.”
Nanny Nikki went on to explain her creative process to the class, whose students were working on their own music project.
“The students are currently working on writing song lyrics,” Teuber said. “Prior to Nanny Nikki’s presentation, they learned about key features of songs, engaging techniques to include in songs, and they listened to and evaluated a variety of song lyrics Nanny Nikki provided the class in order to have a better understanding of what they would need to do in their own writing.”
As part of her process, Nanny Nikki carries a notebook with her everywhere, so she can write down inspiration as it strikes. She said it’s ok to get stuck– that the writing process is an “ebb and flow” of ideas.
“Creative writing is all about taking inspiration and building on it to create something to be proud of,” she added.
Her most important piece of advice to the class was to just “go for it. If there’s anything I regret, it’s waiting so long to get into this,” she said.
Senior Chris Nacion was inspired by Nanny Nikki’s career.
“Nanny Nikki didn’t start out following her dream of writing songs, and so to have the determination and decide to follow her dreams after already having a life as a nanny for kids was inspiring for me– that it’s never too late to follow my dreams,” Nacion said.
Nanny Nikki also stated children’s music has exploded over the past year and is continuing to grow. More creative voices are being heard, and Nanny Nikki herself is working on an EP.
She said, “Watch out for children’s and family music because we’ve got a lot of good stuff going on in this genre.”