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Alison Gowans
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Children’s musician Tom Pease was busy one recent afternoon, tending to the maple syrup he was making in his Wisconsin kitchen. But he wasn’t too busy to talk about one of his true passions – making music, and joy, for generations of children.

Pease has been singing to Cedar Rapids kids at the library for more than 30 years. It’s long enough that he has people who saw him sing when they were children now bringing their own kids to his shows.

“It’s a real honor to be a part of their memories as children,” he said. “I can’t say enough about what that means to me.”

He’s excited to be returning to Cedar Rapids this summer after a hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic. He’ll perform at Ladd Library July 24 and the Downtown Library July 25.

“Cedar Rapids is one of my homes away from homes,” he said.

The tradition of Pease’s summer shows at the library even continued the summer of the 2008 flood. He recalled his dismay when he heard the library’s downtown building had flooded.

“I was in tears because I was so worried,” he said. “We ended up doing shows at the (Westdale) mall after that for a long time. The first one we did was right out in the middle of that mall in between two jewelry stores … We all needed it. It was quite lovely.”

He said reaching kids who are going through something hard is a large part of why he does what he does.

“At a young age, a very wise principal in Clinton, Iowa, came up to me after the first show and said, ‘Do you mind if I sit by you to look at the kids? I saw kids laugh today that I have never even see smile.’ So that’s a big part of my job – finding the joy in children’s lives,” he said.

He tries to make the message of his shows a mix of “literacy and books and kindness and tolerance.”

“My main thing is that you’re really trying to build community. I actually think that’s what I do best,” he said. “I think I’m a better entertainer than I am a musician, and I’m a better community builder than an entertainer, and music and entertainment are my vehicles for that.”

Audience collaboration is key, he added.

“It’s all participatory … it’s laughing and dancing and jumping around and a little bit of controlled chaos,” he said. “It’s about the music, yes, but really it is about the kids.”