From The Annapolis Capital
Turning Science Into Song
Oceanographer turns her love of the sea into a children's CD
By Theresa Winslow
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to put out a CD of children's music, but maybe it does take an ocean scientist.
At least that's the case when it comes to Bridgette Michaels of Annapolis, who has a doctorate in oceanography and has just released her first CD, "By the Sea."
The collection of 10 songs features educational tidbits about all kinds of sea creatures, from jellyfish to dolphins, a couple pirate ditties, and catchy reflections on positive self-image and being a kid. It's available on her Web site and at Pirate Adventures on the Chesapeake.
"She's great," said Emily Tomasini, who plays a couple of the songs on her company's pirate cruises for children. "What I love about the CD is that it's the same thing we do - it's for kids, but adults like it, too."
Even so, children's music is just a sideline for Dr. Michaels at this point, though she wouldn't mind if it became something more.
The 35-year-old is primarily a stay-at-home mom to two daughters, 2 and 6 months old, but also teaches online science classes for the University of Maryland University College. Her husband of five years, Brian, is head of the outdoor education department at Key School in Annapolis. He helped with recording the CD and added some "arrghs" and "walk the planks" to one of the pirate songs.
"Every time I hear it, I think of things I could have done better, but you always second-guess yourself," Dr. Michaels said. "I think it's good."
Noted children's performer Kidsinger Jim (aka Jim Hossick of Bowie) certainly thinks she has potential as a performer, inviting her to play at two of his gigs, a charity concert earlier this week at an Annapolis church and at Kids Club at Westfield Annapolis next month.
"I'm happy to help her in any way I can," Mr. Hossick said. "She's just getting started."
He praised her vocal skills and the fact that most of her songs have an educational component. Speaking about her CD, he said several songs grabbed him, and several didn't, but "not many of us can write an album full of hits."
Navigating a new career
Although Dr. Michaels has played the guitar for 20 years, she never intended to be a singing star.
The CD came about simply as a byproduct of playing for her children, older daughter Dana's preschool class, and then for a neighborhood playgroup.
"I wanted to make it fun, but I also wanted to make it so she'd learn something from it," Dr. Michaels said.
Her songs were always well-received, and, looking for a way to make a little extra money in tight financial times, she decided to put out a CD. In a nod to her children, all of the instruments used besides her guitar are toy versions, like a drum and a maraca.
"Looking for a Lime" is neighbor Julie Nogueira's favorite, although her son Jack, 2½, prefers the pirate-themed songs. "I like the fact that (the CD) teaches about the sea," said Mrs. Noguiera, who designed the CD cover, which features palm trees. "All of the songs have a nice message."
Dr. Michaels, who did oceanographic research for many years, said singing is a nice change of pace. But she's just as passionate about it as she is about the sea. She was born in Jamaica and grew up in Trinidad, going to the beach frequently to surf, water-ski and dive. A few of the songs on the CD have a nod to her heritage by featuring a Caribbean flavor, most notably the final number, "Coconut."
She and her husband put the CD together in a matter of weeks, usually working at night after their children were asleep. "I love the ocean and I like explaining stuff to kids," she said. "It's just all falling into place for us. We haven't pushed at all. It's cool how things are coming out."