Fred Penner brings out the child in college students


Not many performers in their late 60s can fill a venue of young people singing along and screaming, “I love you.”

But Fred Penner can.

The Sheridan Student Union hosted Fred Penner in the Marquee on Tuesday, Jan. 14.

Students were engaged during Penner’s performance. “You can see certain people singing and dancing a little bit,” said Rebekah Vermeulen, a General Arts and Science student. ““He has this energy about him, just always happy. I don’t know – everything about him is awesome.”

“Many songs I remember from being a kid,” said Mackenzie Salhany, a student in the Musical Theatre Program who opened for Penner. “This was some crazy dream when I was a kid.”

After the show Penner took pictures with fans and signed merchandise.

Penner began his career as a musician in the ’60s, but in the late ’70s his career changed dramatically. He went from performing folk songs at bars and universities to making children’s music.

His job as a musician and actor is to connect with all levels of the audience, whether its children, parents or even grandparents. “I like to think the songs that I write relate to human energy,” said Penner.

Penner has been performing children’s music since 1979. “Once you make a record, then your life takes on a different meaning because you’re presenting a part of your world into the hands of another, into the ears of another,” said Penner. “That turned my life around.”

Penner’s first album, The Cat Came Back, led to performing across Canada and ultimately it led to an offer from CBC to host a show. Fred Penner’s Place aired for 13 years.

Penner is back to touring colleges and universities across Canada. “Playing for universities is really interesting for me because these are the young people who grew up with me through my music,” said Penner.

“As soon as he came down the stairs I honestly started crying a little bit,” said Vermeulen. “I cried quite a bit during the show.”

Salhany’s parents played Fred Penner’s tape every night when she was young. She described standing alongside Penner as coming “full circle.”

“The songs that I write right now are about values,” said Penner. “They’re about being proud of yourself.”

Penner enjoys being on stage performing and has been doing it for more than 40 years.  “I have a career that doesn’t seem to show any signs of stopping anytime soon,” said Penner. “The ‘R’ word, ‘retirement,’ is not part of my vocabulary.”

Fred Penner performed to a crowd of adoring fans at the Marquee Tuesday Jan. 14.

Fred Penner performing in the Marquee Tuesday Jan. 14.

Fred Penner performing live at the Marquee with Mackenzie Salhany, Music Theatre student

Fred Penner performing live at the Marquee with Music Theatre student, Mackenzie Salhany

Fred Penner performing live at the Marquee with Music Theatre student, Mackenzie Salhany