Finding the groove: Kathy Bollinger sings for kids

Elbow-deep in peanut butter sandwiches and laundry, Cathy Bollinger sometimes looks up and thinks, What line of work am I in again?

For the past 15 years, this local music therapist and children's songwriter has been weaving her professional life around the needs of her family– teaching a class or two here, recording a CD there, and in those stolen moments between washing dishes and settling squabbles, catching on paper the songs that bubble up from the rich emotional well of motherhood.

"I was feeling so guilty," Bollinger admits about her desire to be a stay-at-home mom. "Guilty that I'm going to miss my chance. Guilty that I'm not putting more time into work. But it's funny– this year opportunities have just opened, and it's made me think I should have just relaxed."

This was the year her youngest child went off to kindergarten, and suddenly this 46-year-old mother of three is finding all sorts of new projects waiting for her.

Bollinger has been stringing words and music together for as long as she can remember. When her first son was born in 1988 and she was looking for a way to work from home, a friend suggested she record a lullaby tape. At the time, this was a novelty in the music industry.

She put together a collection of sleepytime songs and some musical musings on motherhood and marketed the tape from her living room. Local retailers like Shenanigans and others across the country still sell From a Mother's Heart, along with a second CD of lullabies and three collections of Bollinger's teaching songs. A sixth recording titled Toddling Tunes is set for release this spring.

Maybe it's the innocent and playful lyrics. Maybe it's the lively tunes. Or maybe it's all the kids who help out with the singing. Whatever the magic, Bollinger's music is very popular among local kids and their parents. Four-year-old Liam Sheehan-Dean, for example, adores her Tunes that Teach.

"He walks around the house singing, 'Manners make you feel so good...'" his mother Megan says. "And the song 'You're Learning to Read' is helping Liam figure out how letters sound."

In addition to work on the new CD, Bollinger is teaching music classes at the Village Playhouse, working with adults with physical and cognitive challenges at Innisfree, teaching songwriting to kids at her son's school and at an upcoming summer camp program, and planning a CD to help people with autism communicate better.

"I feel just so happy that I have stuff I love to do," Bollinger declares. "I feel like everyone's got the thing they can do best. Everyone is meant to do that thing, and it's too bad that so many people don't ever find it. I think the world would be a much nicer place if they did."

Cathy Bollinger