May 2009: Lanny Sherwin '68
Lanny Sherwin ’68 has addressed all the big issues: monsters, bullies, squashing bugs, meltdowns, lost pacifiers, gross food, and stinky feet. As a children’s singer-songwriter, he uses his guitar, a unique sense of humor, and a writer’s eye and ear for detail to craft original songs that have earned him over 30 songwriting awards.
Sherwin is President of Sandman Records in Santa Barbara, CA, and will release his fifth kids’ CD this spring. In a field that is as competitive as any other in the music market, he credits his company’s motto for focusing his energies: “DON’T DRIVE PARENTS CRAZY!”
“All of my Hotchkiss classmates with children know exactly what I’m talking about,” says Sherwin. “From Barney to Mr. Rogers, there are so many sugary, syrupy, mind-numbing children’s songs out there that drive parents nuts. I try to raise the bar a little bit.” The reviewers would agree. Sherwin has won awards from Parent’s Choice, Teacher’s Choice, the Dove Foundation, Creative Children’s Magazine, iParenting, and many others.
Sherwin says, “I spent 11 years as a songwriter in Nashville trying to get songs recorded by country artists. Then, when our son, Alec, was born in 1997, I started writing some lullabies without any real thought of marketing. I think that’s what really made the difference. I formed Sandman Records and never looked back.”
That first CD, “Dream With Me Tonight - Lullabies For All Ages,” features former Asylum recording artist Melodie Crittenden on vocals. The CD did well enough to achieve national distribution and served as incentive for Sherwin to write “Dream With Me Tonight, Vol. 2 - A Father's Lullabies,” with Gene Miller, a former Mercury Records artist, on vocals.
As Alec grew up, so did the themes of Sherwin’s songs. Released in 2006, “Turn Up the Music!” was geared toward four - nine year olds. Sherwin sang the vocals. In 2007, he wrote and sang on “I Like Being Me!” His newest CD, “Lanny Sherwin’s Meltdown,” targets a slightly older age group.
Sherwin has performed at LA Children’s Hospital and Cedars-Sinai Hospital as part of the Pickleberry Pie Very Special Hospital Concert Series. Recognizing the incredible need for bringing entertainment and comfort to kids (and their parents) in hospitals, he partnered with the Santa Barbara Bowl Foundation to fund both a similar series at Santa Barbara’s Cottage Hospital and two special education classes in a nearby elementary school. He also partnered with the SB Bowl Foundation to create a series of songwriting residencies at local elementary schools in which the students collaborate, under Sherwin’s guidance, to write their own songs.
Sherwin credits having seen The Beatles in 1966 with having sparked his musical dreams. Two years in the Blue Notes at Hotchkiss helped too. He says, “After college (Lehigh ’72), I thrilled my parents and moved to Boston to join a rock band. As it turns out, extreme mediocrity quashed that phase of my life.” He spent two years researching loggerhead sea turtles in Florida, before moving back to Cleveland to work as a writer and photographer for a newspaper. In 1977 he purchased “Gulfshore Publishing Company” in Naples, expanding the company by adding magazines in Orlando, Palm Beach, Key West, and an in-flight publication.
Sherwin married his wife, Holly in 1989, and they moved to Nashville in 1993. Once Sandman Records was established, they moved to Santa Barbara. Sherwin still thinks of himself primarily as a writer, acknowledging the positive influences of Hotchkiss English teachers like Chris Carlisle and Dick Gurney. But his love is music for kids. “They’re much more sophisticated about music than we give them credit for,” he says. “Meanwhile, being focused on what is important to 8-9-10 year olds is a great place to be, especially as I sneak up on 60. It keeps things in perspective.”