In 2017, Tara Drouin (TD) was a musician, teacher, and parent. In 2018, she added another identity to that list: author. Using the lyrics from one of her songs as the words, she wrote the picture book One Heart. Drouin spoke with Picture This Post (PTP) about her life, the book, and what she hopes children—and parents—can learn from it.
(PTP) When did you start playing music?
(TD) I started playing music in the early 90’s. When I was really young my mom would play lots of cool music around the house. She played the guitar and wrote her own songs. I took a guitar class in college, and I started writing poetry which turned into lyrics. I had friends who were in a band, and my cousin had a band with my brother. I really wanted to play the bass, and I was determined to start my own band. Once my brother and I met our friend Rob and started writing songs together, we just clicked. Rich, my husband was the last member to join. He was the missing link. We called our band iRideSense, because it was a blend of sounds, just like iRideSense is a blend of colors.
I feel like music is the best form of expression. You can make people feel happy, sad, excited, and relate to anything you are feeling. It’s always been my therapy, and a way to promote a positive message.
What inspired ONE HEART?
I have been teaching for over 12 years, and I have worked in areas of Brooklyn, Queens, and Long Island. I have worked with a diverse population of students, of all different ethnicities and religions. I wanted to teach my students and the children of the world that even though we are different, we have more similarities than you think. First and foremost, we are all human beings who can live together in harmony. I wanted to promote the idea that when we work together, love each other, and show kindness and respect for one another, is when we as a society succeed.
One Heart started out as a song, and the idea was to create a song about how we all look different on the outside, different hair color, eye color, and skin color but on the inside we are all the same. The lyrics came together pretty quickly. The chorus “Inside Everybody’s Got One Heart” was the hook. Then I added the part “When you wake up, each day is a brand new start,” to show that we have a chance each day to make a difference, and make a change. When I went into the studio with my producer David Caggiano, we worked on the arrangement, and that’s when we wrote the bridge: “If you want to make things happen you want to live in a better world. Recreate love and unity, look inside and find out who you are.” It was my intention to make a difference, and teach unity through my music. Being a teacher I am always looking for opportunities to inspire and educate my students. I knew this song would not only impact students, but adults too.
I knew that if there was a book that would accompany the song, it would be an added bonus. Children are also visual learners, and seeing pictures to go along with the lyrics would help them to understand the message even more.
When I worked in the Bethpage School District I became friendly with the art teacher Nancy Noskewicz. She knew I was a musician, and I told her about my song One Heart and how I would love to turn it into a book. I asked her if she would be interested in illustrating it, and she said yes. We collaborated about what each image looked like, and I loved her ideas. She really brought the lyrics to life, and the final product came out awesome. The part of the story where the children are singing, and all the colors are intertwined together, really depicts the words “when voices come together there’s nothing better!” All the illustrations are adorable but two of my favorites are when Nancy used telescopes to show different eye colors, and then the two children standing beside each other created a heart shape with their arms.
How did your roles as a mother and teacher play into the creation of ONE HEART?
My daughter is the sweetest girl, and I wanted her to see herself the way I see her. I also care for my students and try to build up their self esteem. I think being a teacher and a mother makes me super aware of children and their feelings, how they view themselves and the world. They want to be accepted and loved for who they are. They want to be appreciated for their unique qualities but also feel connected to the people around them. I knew that through One Heart I could teach children about the diversity that exists, while teaching them acceptance, unity, kindness, and love for each other.
How do you see the book fitting into the current conversation about race in America?
Children need to see themselves represented in picture books, and see kids who look like them. Picture books are the perfect way to teach about our multicultural world, and there are lots of books on that subject. Classroom libraries should be filled with lots of books showing the different parts of the world, as well books about important historical figures. Opening up the conversation about race with kids is so important.
Racism is taught, and we need to help children understand that our differences are what make us unique, not separate.
In school kids learn about Martin Luther King. Jr. and what an important person he was in the Civil Rights Movement. He helped to promote change, and helped fight against racism. It’s important to discuss equality, and how no one should ever be judged by the color of their skin. Through acceptance, kindness, and love—we will be able to rise above racism. One Heart is meant to bring people together. We need unity and solidarity to be the glue, and music to be the healing potion that helps to take us to lasting equality and peace.
In light of everything that has happened with race relations in America; most recently with George Floyd and in other similar situations over the years that are too numerous to mention, I feel a responsibility as a mom, a teacher and a musician to speak out against this systemic racism. We need to change the narrative for our future. We cannot change the past but we must change our future. Our children need to be taught that acceptance, kindness, unity and love are all important to making this work. Our lives are all intertwined. We all can live on this planet together in harmony. Like it says in One Heart, "When voices come together there's nothing better! Inside everybody's got One Heart!" I do believe we are all alike more than we are different. I think it is possible to come together in peace and unity.
The phrase “Everybody's Got One Heart”... has actually become more meaningful to me now because of the recent events happening in the world around us. One Heart is an anthem to bring about change, starting with our children, but in our entire society. It's theme and message is universal; that we are one race, the human race.
What’s next for you?
I have been writing songs for over 25 years. I decided I wanted to be an author in 2018 when I first published One Heart. Right now I have two more books/songs in the works. It’s really exciting to see the whole process come to fruition.
Editor’s Note — Stay tuned to these pages to read an upcoming review of the book ONE HEART