Curt Bright and his band have toured Nebraska, from Stella to Scottsbluff, jamming out to 18 years worth of original music.
Children’s music, that is.
Bright, a broadcast specialist for the Office of University Communication, is a member of The String Beans, the Lincoln-based children’s band he created with his brother Randy and longtime friend Daniel Christian. The trio has released 13 albums with plans for the 14th in the fall. The band will tour the Cornhusker State this spring and summer — including a launch party of their new album, “Let’s Play All Day,” and a free concert, 7 p.m. April 12 at the Lied Center for Performing Arts.
The band formed loosely after Bright performed some of his original children’s songs at a teacher party in 2004. Many of the teachers approached Randy after the show asking if Curt could sing in their classrooms. Even though he had only had 10 songs at that point, Curt began playing at schools. Excitement amongst teachers continued to build and demand led Curt and Randy to form The String Beans.
“I thought it might last six months tops, and here we are 18 years later still doing it,” Curt said.
Bright has written more than 70 songs for the band, with silly subjects ranging from dinosaurs to bath time. He grew up covering John Denver songs on his mom’s guitar in junior high and eventually discovered his knack for writing children’s music. Although his songs are lighthearted, he said he writes with the intention to educate, entertain and inspire families.
One of the band’s most famous songs, “Right Here in Nebraska,” relays facts about the state’s history and quirks over an acoustic, campfire melody. The song has caught the ears of so many Nebraskans that sometimes small towns will greet The String Beans by singing their own rendition of it.
Bright writes each song through the same process. He’ll find a catchy chord progression on his guitar and then layer original lyrics on top. After finalizing each tune, he critically evaluates it before including it on an album.
“When I write a song, I think to myself ‘If The Beatles had been a children’s band, would they have recorded this song,’ Bright said. “And if the answer is no, then I keep working on it.”
The String Beans travel every spring and summer to perform at libraries, county fairs and churches in every part of Nebraska, and on occasion in Kansas. Bright said the smaller towns in more rural parts of the state are usually most excited to watch The String Beans, and they often invite the band back again. The band has built its reputation mostly through word-of-mouth recommendations from teachers and families. Bright said that in his 18 years of playing, the band has never spent more than $100 on marketing.
Bright said his most memorable performance was at the Lincoln Children’s Museum’s Music and Mozzarella concert in the late 2000s. The String Beans performed for more than 1,000 children and their families in the east parking lot on a summer evening. Curt said the mass of children seemed leery at first but eventually formed a swarm of dancing, singing and even hoola hooping.
“The kids were just exploding, they were so excited,” Bright said.
Performances like this where The String Beans get kids on their feet are part of what keeps the band motivated, Bright said. Although each giggle from a child and praise from a teacher reinforces why they should continue to follow their niche endeavor, it’s the songwriting that has kept Bright in it for so long.
“Never dumb it down for the kids,” he said. “I write music I’d actually listen to myself. For me, that’s been really rewarding.”