The year was 1998 and Scott "Rudi" Rudicel was about to have an exciting epiphany. A longtime music lover, he remembers adoring KISS as a 12-year-old, playing in bands in high school and maturing as a guitar player while attending Ball State University. But one night while talking to a friend, the local musician felt a calling to do something totally different.
"I knew I needed to write songs for kids," he says. "As cheesy as it sounds, I just knew I needed to."
- JJ Kaplan
Rudicel's daughter Sophia holds down a full-time job as his biggest fan.
Rudicel would dive into this pursuit a couple years later when he decided to make an album of songs for his brother's two sons. With little knowledge of children's music, he recalls, "I just started putting some songs together. I didn't know if they'd be into it or not. I was like, 'Kids like monsters. They like bugs.' So I started writing songs about monsters, bugs, growing up on a farm, and animals." Rudicel would eventually begin performing these songs at the preschool where his girlfriend Emily (who became his wife) worked. More than a decade later, he's still playing children's songs under the name Ruditoonz.
Over the years, Ruditoonz has made appearances at all kinds of venues and for all manner of occasions, from birthday parties to music festivals, always holding to his motto of "Be Nice and Have Fun!" While performing he is sure to be conscious of all who are in the audience, including parents.
"My biggest goal is always writing stuff that parents wouldn't want to throw out the minivan, because the parents are ultimately in charge of what's getting played when the age range of my target market is about 2 to maybe 7 or 8," he says.
With so much experience creating children's music, Rudicel admits there are several crucial elements that he now takes into consideration when he's writing a song.
"I think the first important thing is to not underestimate their intelligence, no matter how old they are," he says. "So I don't dumb it down in the slightest, and I think some of the stuff I've heard out there does." He says there's probably a market for that for infants or 1- or 2-year-olds maybe, but he won't make such music. "I just really appreciate the intelligence of kids," he adds.
- Nathaniel Edmonds Photography
"You want the parents to beable to forget what they have to do the rest of the day and let their kids have fun," says Rudicel.
Rudicel makes sure he has as much interaction with his audience as possible, thanks in part to wireless equipment. He asserts, "When I end up at some kind of stage, I usually end up jumping off it and being in the crowd and with the kids. With this type of stuff, I just don't feel a big connection when I'm up on a stage and everyone's looking at me. I want to be right there dancing and singing with 'em."
Although his audience may be young, Rudicel ultimately hopes to light up lives just like any other rock 'n' roller might.
"You're dealing with naptimes and tantrums and parents that are already stressed from day-to-day stuff that comes with being a parent, but it's just like a big rock 'n' roll show," he says. "You want the parents to be able to forget what they have to do the rest of the day and let their kids have fun."
It's doing this that keeps him passionate about Ruditoonz after all these years.
This Saturday, Rudicel will perform a ROCKIN' holiday concert with Santa at The Fashion Mall at Keystone. For more information, visit the Ruditoonz website.