As Dana Cohenour’s children’s music class let out, the smiles were in abundance. The students, about 4 to 5 years old, thanked their teacher and ran to their parents. Cohenour happily says goodbye to her students. “See you guys next time!”
Cohenour is a nationally recognized children’s songwriter and performer who has released six studio albums and won 20 awards so far. Her most recent release, the album “Dana’s Best Jump and Jam Tunes,” was released in April.
Cohenour’s career began in New York, doing musical theater, and then shifted to writing songs. She would perform in cabarets and piano bars. “I was singing in smoky lounge bars in the middle of the night in New York City,” she said with a laugh.
That changed when Cohenour’s first nephew was born, in 1992. “I wrote some lullabies for him,” she said, “and it evolved into my first recording for children.” Her first children’s album was called “Gather Your Dreams.” She won several awards for it, and started receiving a lot of recognition. “I was so inspired by writing for children that I felt like I had found my niche.”
Cohenour said that one of the keys to writing for children is to not condescend to them. “I don’t like to speak down to them,” she said. “I think they’re capable of taking in a lot more than we realize.” She said that when she first started, she had someone tell her that she was using too big a word in the lyrics. Rather than remove it, she looked at it as a learning opportunity. “Well, it’s a good way for them to learn that word.” She says her motto is “Real music for kids.” In fact, it was also the name of her first company.
Cohenour is not one to cut corners, either. She uses real musical instruments, for the most part, rather than the computer-produced sounds that a lot of children’s music uses. “Children deserve real music,” she said. Cohenour travels from her Blaine home to Nashville to record all her music, and uses professional musicians. She says she writes with adult ears in mind, knowing that adults will most likely be listening as well.
“I think kids can understand a lot more than we give them credit for,” Cohenour said. To that end, she tries to incorporate rhyme in her lyrics, to aid their cognitive development.
Cohenour’s focus now is to expand and promote her music. She plans to start a YouTube channel soon, and spread her music nationally and internationally. She would like to maybe look at the Bellingham music scene one day, but for now she’s focused on pushing her music to as wide an audience as possible.