Wayne from Maine works his magic

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More than 200 Youngsters at Show at Hampton Academy

By Lisa Tetrault-Zhe

Hampton Union, Tuesday, August 10, 2010

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
Wayne with Hannah and Chloe Hatfield.
[Lisa Tetrault-Zhe photo]

HAMPTON -- More than 200 children were on hand at Hampton Academy on Wednesday morning, singing about monkeys, a moose that got lost in Massachusetts and counting beans with children's musician Wayne from Maine.

A local children's favorite, he was on hand courtesy of the Lane Library's summer entertainment program.

"He has an outstanding reputation for being a great performer," said Paulina Shadowens, Lane Library head of children's services, who organized the event. "The kids really appreciate him."

Instead of only singing to his audience, Wayne put on an interactive show. He and his drummer, Jimmy James -- "The Koonga Boonga man" -- invited kids up on stage to help with the percussion. They were given instruments to play during a couple of the songs, including one fan favorite, "The Jungle Song."

"I really like it," said 5-year-old Emily Currie of Hampton. "I went up on stage with a shaker for 'The Jungle Song,' which is my favorite. I wasn't nervous, as I've been on stage before for dancing."

After 17 years as a children's musician, Wayne, whose full name is Wayne Read, has developed a cult following. He even has self-professed groupies. One mom said her two children -- 6-year-old Hannah and 3-year-old Chloe Hatfield -- have been following his schedule, going to as many public appearances as they can. The girls stood in line to get an autograph from him after the show.

"I started writing music when my children were born, (in) 1986," said Wayne. "One thing led to another, then I had enough songs to put an album out. But I figured if I wanted to put an album out, I'd better start performing."

In addition to bringing kids up on stage to sing and play percussion instruments, Wayne also holds dance contests at all of his shows. He gives the winner a CD or audio tape.

"My daughter (Claire, age 4) won the dance contest today," said John Mooney of Hampton. "But she'd won it the last time we saw him too. I was proud of her -- she did the right thing and gave the prize away to another child. ...; Wayne is just fabulous. The kids love him."

He started out at libraries, and now travels throughout New England with James. While they do a lot of performances in Maine and New Hampshire, the bulk of their shows are in Massachusetts. Locally, they performed at Prescott Park in Portsmouth as part of Kids Fest and will again on Aug. 21. They also have nearby performances on the calendar for Kingston (Aug. 8), Epping (Sept. 11) and Kittery, Maine (Sept. 16).

Being a dad is an inspiration to Wayne, who wrote a song for each of his now-grown children. "I Love You Two" is a counting song inspired by his daughter, Jordan. "Little Boy Blue" was inspired by his son, Tyler.

Even local hospitals are fans. Both Portsmouth Regional Hospital and Frisbie Memorial Hospital in Rochester give new moms "The Softer Side of Wayne" CDs in their going-home packages.

For Wayne, the best part of his job is the children.

"The best thing is what happens at the end of my shows," Wayne said. "Getting a hug from a little kid. The love is so pure, so innocent. It's huge, that feeling."

James wholeheartedly agreed.

"I second that -- the kids are just wonderful," James said.

Their next local performance is slated for Saturday, Aug. 8, at the Kingston Fair. Fans can also purchase CDs on their Web site.

[Lisa Tetrault-Zhe photo]
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