Fred Penner

is a musician, children’s entertainer, and early childhood education advocate. He is known for his award-winning television series. Fred Penner’s Place, which aired internationally for more than a decade.

Fred Penner’s First Audiences


Fred Penner explains how attending numerous schools in different cities throughout his childhood, during his father’s military career, prepared him for performing in front of audiences.

Fred Penner: Well, my school years, as I said, the elementary years were volatile, just because I moved around so much. Maybe ‘volatile’ is too strong a word, but there's something about going into this many schools that I think somehow sort of set up my performing future potential, oddly enough. I've thought about this along the way, because often I would start school ... because we were moving, coming into a community, and because there was no busing back in that day, you had to go to the school in your district. So we'd move, new school. And we'd go into a school sometimes a month after all the other kids had been there. So bonds were already formed, and I remember a number of times, coming into the school, walking down the hallway of a new place, going to the principal's office - "Hello, nice to meet you, nah, nah, nah, nah. Come here, we'll go down and meet your class." I'd walk into the room. I'd stand there in front of all 20, 30 kids, were all looking at me - looking at me! And the teacher would say, "Boys and girls, this is Freddie Penner. Please make him welcome." And then I would go, "Hi, hey, nice to see you." Then the interaction would begin. But there I was in front of, I didn't think of it as an audience, but subsequently that was sort of the position I was put in. I wasn't the class clown or anything. I was a pretty sensitive young boy.

“The Ball Starts Rolling” - Fred Penner

2 min 18 s

Fred Penner explains how the deaths of his sister and father influenced him to pursue a career in mu...

Fred Penner: I was approaching a crossroads of my life. I'd done lots of extracurricular stuff, again at university, in choir and operettas, in volunteering with special needs kids, in foster homes. So I was starting to build a musical connection with children at that point. And then my sister Susie, who was a down syndrome child as I said, she passed away in the early seventies, after I had graduated. And my dad was alcoholic, and he was a heavy smoker, and he did not have the personal strength to continue in his life. So he passed away a year after my sister. So that was my major mortality check was, "What am I going to do with my life now?" Again, "I don't want to be an economist." But, I had the foresight to look into myself, look into my life at that point, and the only things that I had done that gave me any kind of personal bliss were music, and performing, and I was pretty good at guitar at that point. So I went to a local bar called The Balmoral Hotel, and their performing space and their lounge was called The Cancan Lounge. So I went to ... Why did I do that? I don't know. Somebody must have suggested it. But I went there, and I auditioned for the manager. He said, "Great. When can you play?" "Oh, whenever you'd like." So I did a Thursday, Friday, Saturday night at The Cancan Lounge at The Balmoral Hotel for 25 bucks a night, 75 dollars. "Hey, I'm on my way!" That was a beginning, and then I never turned back. I had many musical friends. We put things together. We'd do performing. I'd travel a bit. That whole ball started rolling.

Fred Penner’s Place

2 min 39 s

Fred Penner explains the thought process that went into creating the conceptual vision for his TV sh...

Fred Penner: When faced with the concept of creating a TV series, I thought, "How do I begin?" I mean, I was at a total loss of what this would mean. I had been in scouts for a while, just a couple of years, and one of the things that I learned in scouting was marking your trail. So as you're walking along, there's a branch here, well, pick up that branch and put a little arrow on the ground, make a symbol here. "What kind of a tree is that? Is there a loose piece of bark? How does that log ... " You know, looking for markers along the way so that if you lose your way, you can find your way back. So I thought, "If I'm going to do a series, I don't want it to be a knock, knock, knock, come on in." It needed to be a journey. In my boy scout training, "Okay, well where does the journey go?" You go across a field. You around that special tree a couple of times - in the original one. You go over to a fence. "Oh yeah, there's that red fence that leads over there." You jump over there. There's a red rock. You balance on the rock. You remember that. So it was a series of things that would ultimately take you to a log, a hidden log that you would lift up the branches. Nobody's watching because this is a protected, personal space. You crawl in, and that would be the opening montage. And then I'd crawl out the other side, miraculously changing my clothes, and then there we were to begin the journey. What I loved about that concept is because it was a journey, it was a metaphorical path that the viewer would have to follow, the viewer would feel, hopefully, a sense of protection because this was the only way you can get in. Through that log is the only way. The only way to know that log is if you know the path. So once you're there it's, "Hi! Great! Nice to see you. Let me get my guitar and we'll sing a song together." So it became a beautiful space for me to explore.

The Beauty of Childhood - Fred Penner

2 min 31 s

Fred Penner talks about his respect for children and how it informed his work on his TV show, “Fred ...

Fred Penner: I have absolute respect for humanity. I have great respect for the child because children are so pure, and they are so open, and it's like, "Here we are. Look at this fabulous journey that we're on and all these things that are there to discover. And what are you going to discover today? Every day's an opportunity to learn something new." And so, I often think that children are really more intelligent than adults because as adulthood comes along, the blinders come in and you become focused into little boxes. It all becomes compartmentalized and that beauty of discovery and vulnerability that is child is so much more open and full that's what I want to find out about. And so, when we began the process, doing television, it was really clear to me that that camera was the one child. I'm not talking to ... It's impossible to think of it as in a way, as going into the homes of millions, but it was that one child. So I would look at the camera. I would say, "Hi, how are you doing today? Come on, I want to show you something." So we have that bond, and as that journey unfolded, you know, sometimes we'd do many, many shows in a day. I think at the height we actually did five 15 minute shows in one day, which is insane. You know, shifting gears, new songs, all the business was pretty wacky. And sometimes, I'd get tired, and my eyes would start to drift. You could feel my energy start to drop. The director, who is up in the control room, calls the floor director, who is my main contact, and says, "Go talk to Fred." And she would walk over to me and say, "One child." "Oh yeah. Gotcha."

Making a Difference in the Life of a Child - Fred . . .

1 min 30 s

Fred Penner talks about the power of music and his awareness of how it can make a difference in the ...

Fred Penner: The respect that I have for children, and the belief in the power of music ... I'm sure you've read the philosophy is quite clear, never underestimate your ability to make a difference in the life of a child. It may be a tired phrase, but it's so true. It really is, and I take that to heart on a daily basis. Anytime I play, it goes straight to that awareness, and I just get in, and I create my music, and I do it as honestly and clearly as I can, and if if there's a place in your spirit that receives it, and takes it to heart, if the parent understands it and shares it with their kids, if it becomes a mantra for any part of your life, part of your lexicon is that a correct word? then that's beautiful. If it doesn't, that's none of my business, in a way. I do what I do to the best of my ability, and I put it out there with as much clarity and honesty and joy as I can, with the hopes that you do climb on board and share

Reflections - Fred Penner

2 min 37 s

Fred Penner talks about interacting with fans and reflects on the purpose of his music.

Fred Penner: I'm always approached with smiles, with real a little bit of gasping in a way, but a very, very deep connection. "You were my childhood. I grew up with you." And then the tears fall, and it's, "Can I hug you?" And they come in and ... So they want to feel what they felt back in that time, and it's, woah, that's very, very powerful. And then the parents come in and say, "Yours was the only show I'd let my kids watch. Thank you for what you did." And the grandparents are giving me that. So they all got it. Ultimately, they understood that I'm not playing the game. I'm honouring my sister. I'm honouring my development, my work with special needs children along the way. I'm honouring humanity. I'm honouring the beauty of life that is in every spirit that needs to be nurtured, that we all need to encourage through our act, through our word and deed, with the people around us, not just children but every human being, to be able to go up to somebody who just did something really nice and say, "That was fabulous. What you did was great. Good for you." "Oh, thanks." All of a sudden, you feel a little stronger. And benchmarks like that, over a lifetime, they can be insignificant things, where you've drawn a picture or created something, and that your mom or dad or teacher said, "Freddie, you did that?" "Yeah, I did." "It's really good, yeah. Keep it up." "Oh, okay." So those things inevitably, over a life, can be the signposts, the benchmarks, that can make a stronger, more positive human being.

Fred Penner Sings “No Secret”

2 min 25 s

Fred Penner performs his song “No Secret,” which conveys his perspective on life.

Fred Penner: So a song I want to share with you is a song about my ... It's called It's No Secret. It was done on the Moonlight Express album. It's a sensitive song about my perspective on what this life has been for me. It's no secret, it's all around you, when you listen and you learn what's true. What is thunder? Why is it loud? How does rain come out of a cloud? It all started the day you arrived, when your senses were coming alive. Hot or cold, low or high, the first time you saw a bird in the sky. Learning is something we always do. When you play, that's a time to learn something new. Measuring, building, and figuring out, and discovering what life's about. Making music is a joy for me. I'm surrounded by a symphony. Melodies floating inside my head, saying, "Come out and play before it's time for bed." Learning is something we always do. When you play, that's a time to learn something new. Measuring, building, and figuring out, and discovering what life's about. Learning is something we always do. When you play, that's a time to learn something new. Measuring, building, and figuring out, and discovering what life's about.