By Ted Simpson –
Derek McKinley is a Westboro-based entertainer who will be bringing his high-energy and interactive musical children’s entertainment show, Sing Song Party Time, to the Westfest stage this year as part of the festival’s first ever Fam Jam night.
Derek is still a bit new to the musical game, having left his job in the public service one year ago to concentrate on his passion for the arts. He’s been making his way as a children’s entertainer since then, taking on everything from daycare performances to birthdays to music festivals. “This is much more fun and more me,” he says of the drastic career change.
Of course his favourite audience are his two sons, Francis and Oscar, who know dad’s set list inside and out. “They got me into this whole thing,” says Derek. “I started playing music for them, and noticing how they would react and get into it, then someone asked me to do a birthday party for the family and it all just snowballed from there.”
Derek’s musical journey started out in the grunge rock 90’s, with dyed blonde hair and moody lyrics. He even moved out West to chase a dream of singing and acting. But he soon left that behind to cross the ocean and take up work in Japan, teaching English at a kindergarten. “I guess that’s where I got my knack with children, realizing that I have a way with them, to teach and have fun.”
When you put those experiences together, as a teacher, a father, an actor and a musician, you get the Sing Song Party Time – a show that Derek wants to be upbeat and fun, while still teaching his audience good values. He sings about playing outside, going to the park, riding bikes and enjoying nature with family.
“I have a song called Veggie Beard, about how I make vegetable stew to share with everyone, and this wonderful woman who lives down the street knit me an actual veggie beard that I wear,” says Derek. “We do the Earth Dance and everyone gets to bounce around my big earth ball, I just throw it out there, hopefully it comes back.”
Sing Song Party Time is one of six Fam Jam performances taking place on Friday night at Westfest. Festival organizer, Elaina Martin, is continuing her mission to make an event that includes all, by taking a night to recognize our youngest neighbours, and making sure they get a party too.
“Westfest has always been very family friendly, but with our entire park to use and the three day format, making a family night was an easy decision,” says Martin. “The Mechanicsville area is full of kids and young families. Since Westfest is about everyone we had a great opportunity to focus on the kids for an evening.”
Derek McKinley takes the Westfest stage at 5:30 p.m. on June 3, and he will be sharing the stage that evening with festival regular, Dr. Lee and his Tam Tam drum circle, Rock the Arts Puppet Show, Magic With an Edge by Rynestone, Giants of Junk and Prairie Fire: the Metis family dance troupe.
In the meantime, you can keep up to date with Derek’s work on Facebook.