As a child-free person, I was not aware of Nick Jr.’s Fresh Beat Band until my sister told me that it’s caused my 3-year-old niece to be obsessed with the drums. Apparently my niece even brings sticks in from outside and beats on her pillows. (My sister is not happy to find sticks in the bed.) When another friend said the girl she babysits is also obsessed, I sensed a trend and wanted to find out more about this show that’s having such a powerful impact on kids. The Fresh Beat Band has four characters: Twist (DJ and vocals), Shout (keys and vocals), Kiki (violin, guitar, and vocals), and Marina (percussion and vocals). They play songs during the show and solve problems together and encourage kids to dance and sing along at home. I interviewed Tara Perry, who plays the character Marina, and asked her about her experiences as a drummer and as a role model.
Tom Tom Magazine: How long have you been playing drums? How did you pick it up?
Tara Perry: I started playing drums when I was 11 years old. I always wanted to play an instrument but couldn’t decide what I wanted to pick up. I asked my dad what he thought and he said, “I always thought it would be cool to play the drums.” Well, my dad’s pretty awesome so that was enough for me! I got a Roxx Jr. set for Christmas that year and started taking lessons.
Tom Tom: Who inspired you as you learned to play the drums?
Tara: I can’t pinpoint a band or musician right now but the movie That Thing You Do had just come out and I LOVED it. That was one of the first songs I learned to play actually. That and Smash Mouth’s “Walkin’ on the Sun.” So 90s.
Tom Tom: Do you prefer electronic or acoustic drums? What is your dream drum kit?
Tara: Definitely acoustic, all the way. As far as the dream kit, it’s not my dream to own it but just to be able to play a song on Neil Peart’s kit. That thing is impressive! It wouldn’t fit in my apartment!
Tom Tom: Can you tell me about the drum set you play with The Fresh Beat Band?
Tara: It was a little tricky to get used to. It’s an electric kit that I play standing up. It has a snare drum, two toms, a kick pad with kick pedal, crash and ride cymbal pads, and a hi-hat. Pretty standard set up but it’s painted perfectly to match Marina’s signature colors, blue and purple.
Tom Tom: How alike or different are you to your character, Marina?
Tara: We’re actually pretty similar. I love to sing, dance, and play the drums and I’m great friends with the rest of the Fresh Beats! I also wear a lot of blue and purple. I’m a redhead though…we’re supposed to wear jewel tones. But I think we probably have different hobbies. I love to cook, hike, and go fishing. Although there was a camping episode so maybe we’re more alike than I think!
Tom Tom: What’s the best thing about being on the show?
Tara: I love hearing about the response it gets from the children who watch. A mother posted on my Facebook page that her daughter was asking for a drum set for Christmas and another said her daughter asked for tap lessons after she saw me clog on the Ghost Band episode. That’s so great! I’m glad we’re encouraging kids to get up and dance and inspiring them to pursue creative outlets.
Tom Tom: Do you play music outside of the show?
Tara: I wish I did! I have a lot of musician friends who tour all over so I’m usually in the audience on my time off. But I want to learn how to play the banjo. Maybe then I can be their special guest!
Tom Tom: Which band or group would you like to drum for if you could (other than The Fresh Beat Band, of course).
Tom Tom: What reaction do you get from kids? Do you get recognized when you’re out? Do you get fan mail? What’s the craziest experience you’ve had with a fan?
Tara: The reaction from kids always varies. They’re either very shy and don’t understand why or how we’re standing in front of them or they scream and just want to hug you. I get a kick out of both. Parents sometimes seem more excited than the kids. I’ve gotten drawings and pictures as fan mail. It’s all very sweet. I haven’t really had any crazy experiences as of yet, but our tour kicks off in February so maybe then!
Tom Tom: What positive effects do you think the show has on kids, and girls in particular? Do you have a personal goal in mind as a role model?
Tara: I think the show is great with diversity and showing that you can do anything you set your mind to. I think it’s just great that we have a girl drummer and a girl guitarist. We need more girl drummers out there!
I just hope the show continues to get kids excited about music. Singing, dancing, or playing an instrument is so important in childhood development and can help with all sorts of things including motor skills and concentration and confidence.
Tom Tom: What encouraging words do you have for girls learning the drums?
Tara: Stick with it! Even when it’s tough! You will get the hang of it, the rhythm will come and once you have it you’ll never lose it.
Rebecca DeRosa is a writer, musician, and cat lover who lives in Brooklyn.
Photo by Randee St. Nicholas/Nickelodeon