If you were a primary school student between 1993 and now, it is quite likely that you've come in contact with the music of Glenn Colton, a local children's music icon. Colton has been performing in schools for nearly 20 years, influencing and teaching children with catchy melodies, amusing lyrics and dances that get everyone in the audience moving. But Colton has decided to retire.
Colton's passion for music started at a young age; he started playing guitar in 1973 but it wasn't until 1976 that he met a man who greatly influenced his life. Tom Lorentz, a student teacher from a local college, agreed to teach Colton to play guitar and by 1977 he was playing live with Lorentz. Soon, he dreamed of playing the local bar scene all the time. However, once he met that goal, he found that most of the joy was in striving to get there; the journey was more important than the destination.
When Colton wanted more, he brainstormed where to go next, always keeping in mind the impact Lorentz had on him. "The power of finding someone who you can say ‘Wow, he's doing what I would love to do. Now I'm going to do it' is amazing," Colton said.
The transition from the bar scene to children's music wasn't an obvious choice for him, though.
"The end result, children's music, was a byproduct of many twists and turns," he said. "It wasn't necessarily because I'm a great singer or a phenomenal musician but because I worked smart and was very deliberate." Colton saw a need and filled it.
His determination definitely paid off. Over the years he has performed in more than 6,000 concerts for kids, released many CDs and even a book. In 2009 Colton was inducted into the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame. His concerts encourage students to laugh and sing as they learn vital lessons about the environment, character development and social skills in an energetic, upbeat way.
"His ability to involve the entire crowd is great," said Katie Wilkinson, a prekindergarten teacher at Truman Elementary School in Lackawanna. "He has the teachers up and moving and the kids singing along! It's awesome!"
That is exactly what Colton aims for with his music. He never set out to only entertain youngsters; he wants everyone to enjoy his music.
"I remember listening to children's music and I didn't like it, not even when I was a kid!" he said. "I thought, ‘Well maybe if the parents can tolerate the music and it's playful for the kids, then maybe it will bring parents and their children together and create a bonding experience for them.' "
While Colton wanted to stay away from music that sounded "babyish," he does have one song that is exactly that. "Mr. Ducky Wucky" from his "Character Collection" album is now a well-known character in his shows and the main character of Colton's book "Mr. Ducky Wucky – The Wonderful Secret."
"I actually created Mr. Ducky Wucky for my nephew, who is now 19, as a gift when he was born," Colton said. "I was just getting into kids' music and getting a feel for what's out there and what others were doing. I wanted to write a song and I thought I could, as a joke on myself, write a baby song that was exactly what I didn't want to do." And Mr. Ducky Wucky was born. When the song took off, however, Colton didn't want to fight it. Instead, he used Mr. Ducky Wucky to help teach lessons and deliver his message to kids.
Colton always does just that, and his music will continue to teach children even if he's not performing live. But why is he retiring? Colton says he's just simply moving on. He loved the journey to get to where he is and all of the people he's met along the way, but he thrives on "moving forward and building new things." Just as he strived to follow in Lorentz's footsteps and then needed to move on, he set a goal in children's music, which he met and exceeded.
"I'm looking forward to my next venture rather than focusing on the ending of this one," said Colton.
If you haven't had a chance to see Colton live, or you want to catch him one last time, he will perform a holiday concert at 6 p.m. Dec. 23 at the Lancaster Opera House, 21 Central Ave., Lancaster. His website, www.glenncolton.com, will be up and running for people to read his story and purchase any merchandise.
" It's funny how coming into this career and leaving it is taking the same leap of faith, and to think this all began as a simple idea," he said. "But that's what everything begins with, a thought, and once you've tasted that, then why can't anything be possible?"