Fred Penner, a children’s musician creating impact

Profile photo of Fred Penner, a Canadian children's musician. Photo sourced from Fred Penner's official site.

Surrey B.C. | From playing and singing his guitar on a school bus as a young teen, to performing nationally and putting smiles on children’s faces, Fred Penner’s love for music and connection made him the beloved musician he is today.

For the upcoming year, Fred Penner has once again packed up his guitar and hit the road. He’s begun his tour travelling through the country and in early February landed in Surrey to perform at The Surrey Arts Centre.

Penner’s career as a children’s musician has earned him four Juno Awards for Children’s Album of the Year, the fourth being awarded to him in 2018.

A career singing to young children and their parents was not a career Penner had predicted.

After receiving his high school diploma, Penner attended the University of Winnipeg where he became the first in his family to receive a post-secondary education. He graduated with a major in economics and a minor in psychology.

Although, Penner had only decided to study economics because it was a good shot at finding work after graduation.

“The interesting thing is, nobody along my journey ever told me that I could make a living as a performer and nobody ever said, you’re good enough to do that.”

Despite never being told he would make a great musician one day, he still loved to sing. And had been playing his guitar since he was 15-years-old.

After the passing of his sister and his father, Penner started reflecting on what he wanted out of life.

“What is it that gives me bliss? What is it that gets inside of me? makes me feel?” he asked himself.

Music was the answer and was the only thing he had enjoyed.

Penner’s career started to grow as he worked on repertoire and skill as a performer.

He began to play in bars, lounges and began to act in the theatre.

As his career started to evolve, Penner met his, now ex-wife, who started a children’s theatre company that led to an offer for a record deal. That record was “The Cat Came Back,” a record company that had also produced for Raffi Cavoukian, a Canadian children’s singer and lyricist.

As his career took off, Penner did not settle on his skill but worked to improve.

“I was pretty self-confident. Generally, I trusted my ability to make things work. But still, I needed a lot of practice as with anything to grow into and just become a better musician, a better songwriter, a better singer.”

At the time Penner began to perform and improve his talent, he embarked on attempting to make a difference in a critical time.

“I was trying to bring forward into the family demographic, connection. Because of the post-war generation, the baby boomers had a huge demographic that were now having their own children and they really wanted quality entertainment for their kids.”

Penner says the demographic of young parents after the Second World War was prominent and that this audience was sending clear messages to create music that engaged their children.

After addressing and focusing on his target audience, this became the turning point for Penner and for many musicians at this time.

Today, Penner has produced 12 children’s albums and is dedicated to continuing to try and make a difference.

Penner’s work has impacted both children and parents, many of which reach out to him to thank him for his work.

Penner has accomplished a lot in his career as a children’s musician and in early February he had released his newest single which was made with World Vision.

The song, “Somebody Believes” was inspired by a man in the Philippines who had been rescued from poverty and injustice. As he told the story of his life it had led him to the phrase “somebody believes.”

This new chapter in Penner’s artist career has led to him to be excited about the challenges and new risk and path he is taking.

“I am to continue to try and make a difference and to improve others to be to be strong and focused and supportive to other people in this world. Because ultimately, we are in this together, that’s the bottom line.”

Nikitha Martins
Nikitha Martins' ability and love for producing: articles, films, and photos; lead to her decision to be a visual journalist, all to tell impactful stories and give voices to people that haven’t gotten the chance to. She loves the multi-platform and energy of the newsroom.