In The Middle

daughters inspire folkster’s CD for kids

Briana Bryant

In the mood for a kid-friendly nature serenade? Bruce O’Brien’s album, Love Is In The Middle, was recorded in 1995, but is just now available for sale. The album is a fun listen for all ages, but it is especially intended for children. It is the third recording O’Brien has created but the first he has made into an actual CD. He decided to aim toward children and families as his audience after receiving a lot of positive feedback about his music from parents.

O’Brien, who by day is a registered nurse at Mayo Clinic Health System in Eau Claire, grew up in Chicago in a house where music was always a main event. He says his mother would sing to herself a lot when he was a boy, creating an environment prime for enjoying music. He learned to play several instruments and eventually began creating recordings.

He was inspired to create this particular album by his children, daughters Emma and Sally. He says the girls are “singing at home all the time.” On the album, O’Brien’s plays the guitar, six-string banjo, five-string banjo, little fiddle, concertina, and rhythm instruments, as well as sings most of the melodies. To create the recording, he used the musical abilities of several singers and musicians, hoping to include several generations of performers.  The album features Randy Sabin, a nationally known violinist; Tiit Raid, a retired professor of art who plays the rain stick and creates bird whistles; a kids’ chorus which includes his daughter Emma; and Georgianna Jones, a teen viola player.

O’Brien has performed the songs included on the album all over Wisconsin as well as in Illinois and Minnesota. He often performs in libraries during the summer for a sort of finale concert for children’s summer reading programs. He has also performed for elementary schools and preschools around the area.  

His favorite song on the album is “Owl Moon,” which was inspired by his daughter Sally when he read the book Owl Moon during her nap time when she was two years old. When he performs “Owl Moon,” he usually sings it a capella with sign language to accompany it. It isn’t strictly American Sign Language because he also uses other modified signs he created himself.

“When I sing and sign, the smallest kids are mesmerized because they are nonverbal and learn visual cues first,” he said.

O’Brien is strictly self-taught in music and has received no formal training.  He plays by ear and doesn’t read music, but rather learned to play the guitar and other instruments by watching people who could play and mimicking their actions. The songs on the album that aren’t originals were found through the Children’s Music Network, a group to which O’Brien belongs.

O’Brien wants to encourage everyone to sing, so he tried to make the songs very accessible. He encourages kids to make their own music because he believes that everyone can sing, even if they don’t think they can. His main message is: “You can be whatever you want to be.”

O’Brien knows kids get a lot of negative messages about who they are and who they can be, and he wants to fight against those messages. He says he raises his kids not to believe that the sky is the limit but to believe that there is no limit to what they can achieve.

Bruce O’Brien’s album, Love Is In The Middle, is available at The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St.

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