How Family Music Artists Evolved Since COVID

Children’s music artists turn to new technologies to reach eager audiences during the pandemic.

Life as we knew it changed forever in March 2020. For family music artists, musicians who create music for children, each library and school closure came with performance cancellations. In a matter of days, schedules that had been filled with bookings were completely empty. Like so many of us, these performers taught themselves new technologies and reimagined how to deliver their craft to eager audiences. For family music artists though, the evolution was just beginning.


Family Music Forward

The changes that started with the shutdowns due to the pandemic were also galvanized as social justice burst into the national spotlight. In July 2020, 13 children’s artists of diverse backgrounds founded Family Music Forward (FMF) in direct response to the murder of George Floyd. The organization seeks to transform the family music industry by supporting Black artists, children, and communities. According to founding member Ann Torralba (Little Miss Ann), since its formation, “FMF has been instrumental in promoting and fostering a more inclusive climate of Black and BIPOC artists in the family music scene.” A prime example of this is FMF’s response to the 2021 GRAMMY awards. All the nominees in the Best Children's Album category in a year rich with diverse performers were white. FMF countered with a national campaign to shed light on that and the inequities involved in the nomination process.


Virtual family concerts

FMF was also a leader in creating virtual family concerts that featured performers from marginalized backgrounds. By April 2020, family music concerts and festivals started appearing online. From one-time, one-hour concerts to the two-day FMF-produced Kukuza Fest, the first ever Black family music festival in the country, the organization amplified inclusive children’s music in big and small ways. In addition to performances highlighting BIPOC artists, two concerts shined a light on the wonderful women making music for families. The second Kukuza Fest featured Black women in family music, and the All the Ladies Music Festival was a lineup of 14 diverse female children’s artists who appeared on the GRAMMY-winning album of the same name.


Expanding awareness

This virtual setting wasn’t just a way for performers to get their music out to families; it also provided the unexpected opportunity to expand the children’s music community’s own knowledge. For Esther Crow, a New York–based children’s musician who is relatively new to the genre, this digital landscape brought an awareness of BIPOC artists, such as Pierce Freelon, Jazzy Ash, SaulPaul, and Culture Queen, whom she had not heard before the pandemic. Crow notes that while things are improving, many schools, libraries, and event venues continue to struggle with this lack of awareness. “It's up to all of us to play an active part in listening more closely and paying attention to the bevvy of culturally diverse voices in this genre,” Crow acknowledges.

For New Zealand musician Claudia Robin Gunn, the last 18 months “have opened up her eyes and ears to a world of new musicians who have brought their work online. “From a New Zealand perspective, the connections and shared ‘virtual stages’ that pandemic livestreams and online collaboration have brought from around the world is immeasurable,” she says. Like so many family artists, Gunn and Crow are taking advantage of these new connections to partner with musicians they otherwise may never have met.


New ways to reach fans

In addition to virtual concerts, the pandemic also gave veteran musicians time to explore new ways to reach their fans, including developing virtual enrichment activities and publishing books based on their music. For Oakland, CA-based hip-hop group Alphabet Rockers, whose mission is to “make music that makes change,” the pandemic presented opportunities to take a deeper dive into some of the themes present in their music, notably, creating their online anti-racism video course for families, “We Got Work to Do.”


The impact of social media

While the pandemic offered innovative opportunities for established members of the children’s music community, social media had the biggest impact for those just starting out. For Nikki Rung (Nanny Nikki), these circumstances provided the motivation to make an online push and move beyond the Chicago region to a national platform. “Through social media and online networking, I was able to connect with artists around the country and establish myself as a legitimate musician—something I thought was only a dream.”

Harold Simmons (Fyűtch) was a newcomer on the children’s music scene in October 2020, and social media gave him a needed boost when two of his songs went viral with the teacher audience. “I met Latin GRAMMY–winners 123 Andrés through Instagram,” Simmons says. “They introduced me to other BIPOC artists making songs about social justice, body positivity, and celebrating culture. I knew then that my songs about racial equity and liberation had a place.”

COVID may have taken a lot away, but it also gave family music a new, louder voice that will continue to evolve and grow. As Alphabet Rocker founder Kaitlin McGaw reminds us, “We must stay nimble, connected, and persistent in our roles as performers and educators. The work is never done.”


Veronica De Fazio is head of youth services at the Plainfield (IL) Public Library District. You may find her views and reviews of children’s music at

Be the first reader to comment.

Comment Policy:
  • Be respectful, and do not attack the author, people mentioned in the article, or other commenters. Take on the idea, not the messenger.
  • Don't use obscene, profane, or vulgar language.
  • Stay on point. Comments that stray from the topic at hand may be deleted.
  • Comments may be republished in print, online, or other forms of media.
  • If you see something objectionable, please let us know. Once a comment has been flagged, a staff member will investigate.



We are currently offering this content for free. Sign up now to activate your personal profile, where you can save articles for future viewing