Caspar Babypants at Tumwater High School

by Alec Clayton for OLY ARTS

For the third year, Caspar Babypants is back to perform at a fundraiser for Apple Tree Productions’s acting class for special needs students of all ages and abilities. Proceeds from the concert benefit the students of the Showcase program. Apple Tree hosts the showcase every summer. Casper Babypants, now well known as a children’s entertainer, is the stage name for Chris Ballew, former lead singer for the Seattle-based alt-rock band The Presidents of the United States of America, which called it quits in the summer of 2015 after 23 years. “It was just time to pack up that circus,” says Ballew, “and trade it in for the other circus that I have been working on, which is Caspar Babypants. After 12 records as Caspar I am really riding high on a wave of pure creativity and mastery of my craft. This is the best time of my life for making music and I am supremely happy.”

Ballew says what he learned from The Presidents was that “shouting my face off at a rock show was not sustainable.” When he plays live as Caspar Babypants, he says, “I sit and I put the songs in keys that are easier for me to sing. Also, not shouting over a loud drum kit and a loud distorted guitar makes performing up to three times a day as Caspar possible.” He goes on to say, “Although I loved what we achieved as the Presidents, ultimately what I really learned is that I’m not supposed to be in a band. I’m supposed to work alone, more like a sculptor or painter.”

His music is for kids up to six years old “and their parents. I keep the vocals up front and paced for the most part in such a way that a little child can get something out of it, but not so repetitive and simple that a parent can’t be satisfied to hear the song over and over either.” The music is drawn from old folk, blues, work and traditional songs from long ago and mixed in with originals “so that you might feel like you know the music already when you hear it.” Ballew says performing as Casper Babypants was
inspired by his first and second wives. “My first wife made up a song to keep my son happy in the car when he was little and I took note of how effective and useful that technique was. That became the cornerstone of my purpose in making children’s music. My second wife, Katie, is an artist whose artwork inspired me to make tons of music for kids and to make music that was innocent and simple and bright and cheerful and well-crafted just like her artwork.” He further states, “Being a father was definitely a big inspiration for doing this music. I’m still adapting and finishing and rewriting songs that I made up about them when they were little.”

Apple Tree Productions invites students of every need and ability to a free summer performing arts
program taught by Heidi Fredericks. Students learn about acting, singing and movement through group
activities, games and exercises designed for special needs students. Suitable for all ages and ability
levels, the program ends with one final performance for family and friends. Students don’t need any prior experience. Several experienced teachers and volunteers are on hand to help Fredericks guide students through fun acting and singing lessons. Apple Tree is adding to the event this year, making it a vendors’ fair for therapists, support groups and those selling items for special-needs folks, with tables and information in the lobby.

What: Caspar Babypants

Where: Tumwater High School Performing Arts Center,
700 Israel Rd. SW, Tumwater

When: 2 p.m. Sunday, March 26

How much: free – $5

Learn more: Caspar Babypants

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