Ten years ago, Will Stroet left his job as a music teacher to pursue his dream to become a children’s entertainer. To mark the milestone, the prolific singer-songwriter will launch his tenth album “Rocks and Roots” at this year’s Vancouver International Children’s Festival.
A Juno-nominated musician and the star of Will’s Jams on CBC Kids and Universal Kids in the U.S., Stroet’s journey to children’s entertainer actually began long before he decided to leave his teaching position.
“I started writing my first songs for kids when I was studying to become a teacher at UBC,” says Stroet by phone during a recent tour stop.
Landing a job at a French immersion school in Vancouver out of university, it would be while Stroet was teaching where he further honed his skills both as both musician and working with children.
“I really found that, especially with teaching a second language, music was a really powerful tool,” says Stroet.
It would be another five years before he would quit his job to pursue music full-time though, initially gaining experience by performing close to 100 performances in the Vancouver area during his final year as he taught part-time.
“I knew that there was at least enough work that I could make a good go of it for a year, and I wanted to try to tour, which of course you can’t do when you’ve got to be at school every week,” he says. “It was a calculated risk, and one that we didn’t make lightly. But it was before I had kids, and there was a bit more freedom to take the chance.”
Helping Stroet along the way has been the support of his wife, Kim who also manages his career. And while he admits there have been challenges in separating family and work life, the husband-wife duo have obviously found a balance that works.
“We’ve found a really nice working relationship that very much has to do with the fact that we have very different skills and abilities, but are focused on a common goal,” he says. “As long as we stay focused on what our strengths are, we find that it’s generally a really positive working relationship.”
And while Stroet may have first started his career without the added responsibility of his own children, he now has two young daughters who he says are not only huge inspirations for his music, but are also becoming more involved in what has turned into a real family affair.
“I wouldn’t say they’re my biggest fans because a lot of the time when I’m off playing shows I think they just as soon I’d be home with them,” says Stroet with a laugh. “On this latest album though I manage to get them in to do a little singing in the background. I mean, when it comes down to it, the music is really for them.”
Joining Stroet and his daughters on his tenth anniversary album “Rocks & Roots” are a number of other special guests including fellow children’s entertainer Charlotte Diamond, and gospel singers Marcus Mosely and Krystle Dos Santos.
“I’ve also got the ukulelist James Hill, who is originally from the Lower Mainland although he lives on the east coast now,” he says. “And Steve Dawson who’s also the producer and an incredible guitar player originally from Vancouver although he lives in Nashville now.”
A mix of musical styles, “Rocks & Roots” has two central themes: getting outside with your family and trying new things.
“Even the album itself, I’d like to think that I’m trying new things with different musical styles,” says Stroet.
More than a simple diversity of musical styles on “Rocks & Roots” though, Stroet also sees it as a good reminder for kids and parents to shake things up a bit from time-to-time.
“You find that kids can be really particular around eating or being comfortable with certain things, but really nervous to try other things,” he says. “It’s also a great reminder for parents and adults too, because even I get into a routine, and it’s good to stir things up every once in a while.”
“Rocks & Roots” is now available for digital download and compact disc at willsjams.com. You can catch Stroet live in concert as he performs songs from his latest album at this year’s Vancouver International Children’s Festival on June 1 and 2 at the Red Gate Revue Stage on Granville Island. Visit childrensfestival.ca for tickets and information.