Written by: Nick Rokicki
You’ve never experienced true terror until you’ve stood in front of a group of children, with the expectation that you’ll entertain them. Believe me, your heart races. If there’s such a thing as an honest audience, children would be it. After having read my books for children to over 100,000 kids in 25 states, I should know. Which is why I hold local band The Wanna Bees in such high regard.
I first ran into The Wanna Bees in 2012 at The Toledo Zoo’s wintertime festival for families. I had met up with family friends from South Lyon, Michigan. The Porters, like so many throughout the region, are big fans of our zoo. In between hot chocolates and quick stops inside to stay warm, we saw a sign advertising a concert for kids. As the music started, and I saw kids getting up in aisles to dance, and parents actually clapping along, I knew these guys were the real deal.
The concept of The Wanna Bees originated in 2002, when Chuck Riepenhoff was watching, “The Wiggles” with his two sons. Being a parent who also happened to love writing and performing music, he thought to himself, “I could do that.” Using the character of Doctor Dan, Riepenhoff began writing music for children that adults wouldn’t wrinkle their noses at, in the style of Barenaked Ladies, Weezer and The Cars. In 2011, The Wanna Bees released debut album Work Together and have been touring schools and area festivals, performing for children and their parents.
Three years ago, Rob Donaldson joined in for live concert events. His character? Builder Brad. “What do you wanna bee when you grow up?” is a recurring theme in some of the music offered by The Wanna Bees. So the character of Doctor Dan was chosen because that’s one of the most common answers children give. And a builder? Well, what child hasn’t sat down with some toys and tried to build something?
2014 is shaping up to be a big year for the group. Not only have they held a full schedule of events throughout the summer and fall, Riepenhoff and Donaldson have been hard at work polishing a new album. Their sophomore effort, Dream Big, will be released worldwide on November 11th via http://www.TheWannaBeesBand.com, cdbaby,com, iTunes,com and Amazon.com. Locally, the album may be purchased at Culture Clash Records or Friendly Beaver Records.
Dream Big is geared for children aged 1-8, but is sure to be enjoyed by the whole family with 14 tracks of, “fun, funky, rockin’ and poppin’ music.” I was lucky enough to catch a bit of The Wanna Bees live performance at the Perrysburg OctoBOOfest… and let me tell you, these descriptive words are spot-on. The opening song, We Are The Wanna Bees, can only be described as a rock anthem suited for the toddler set. And yes, adults, you will sing along. Other tracks on the new album include, Valerie Vet, Stephanie Stethoscope, Fireman Freddy and more.
Local music venue and eatery Martini N’ Nuzzi’s is playing host to a Kids Concert Series this winter, on the first Sunday of every month, from November 2nd through February 1st. To kick things off, The Wanna Bees will be performing for the first Sunday, which is this weekend, November 2nd. Serving as a CD release party for Dream Big, the concert will be from 11:30 AM until 12:30 PM. Martini N’ Nuzzi’s will be offering a pizza buffet, the new CD will be available for purchase, there will be giveaways for Wanna Bees merchandise— and more. I’ll even be there, reading one of my books to open the show.
This weekend’s event is a perfect opportunity to support local music talent, while getting your children out to have some fun. Chuck Riepenhoff is clearly excited about the way his music has reached children all over the region and the world, saying, “one neat thing over the last couple of years was getting a message from a lady in Taiwan, who teaches English to elementary-aged children there. She was planning lessons about careers, so searched music online and The Wanna Bees came up. She purchased a few tracks online, but also reached out to me for the lyrics so that we could sing along with the school kids. Always thought that was kinda cool.”
The Wanna Bees are just one more example of the Toledo area’s vast community of artists, writers and musicians who are making their mark on the world… and bringing Toledo with them. Hope to see you all this Sunday from 11:30-12:30 at Martini N’ Nuzzis, 6023 Manley Road, Maumee, Ohio 43537.