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Big Talent … Big Heart, That’s JUDY

Judy Pancoast Interview by Jen Bush

Judy Pancoast is a singer, songwriter, recording artist, and Grammy nominee for Best Children’s Album.  She loves everything about creating songs but likes writing lyrics the most.  She wrote an exciting musical called Girl On The Moon.  Ms. Pancoast is a little bit Country and a little bit Rock and Roll!  After formal training and a degree in music she paid her dues performing different genres of music from Honky Tonk to straight up Rock. Ms. Pancoast’s Christmas spirit paid off when her one hit wonder Christmas song took the world by storm and can now be heard outside countless homes with synchronized holiday decorations.  She even spun vinyls and then discovered that writing and performing music for children brought her great joy.  She’s hoping Girl On The Moon, her youth musical geared for 10-18 year olds reaches stratospheric popularity. 

It’s typical for mothers to sing to their infants.  In Judy Pancoast’s case, it was the other way around.  “I was born musical- my mother would say that I sang before I could talk.” Ms. Pancoast feels “on top of the world” whenever she hears a Carpenter’s song.  “I began writing songs at age twelve and thought I was going to be the next Karen Carpenter. She was my idol, and The Carpenters were my main musical inspiration, along with all the top 40 hits of the 70s. My musical journey after attaining a BA in Music from the University of Maine took me through piano bars, rock bands, jazz bands, and a foray into Country in Nashville in the 80s. All this time I was working full-time as a radio deejay to support my music. In the mid-90s I decided to leave music and radio and become an elementary school teacher in order to give my daughters a more stable life, but Music had other ideas. During my studies, I began writing music for children, and by the time I earned my Master’s in Education in 1997 I had a new career as a children’s musician, which eventually led to a Grammy nomination for Best Children’s Album in 2011.”

“While focusing on children’s music I also branched out into Christmas music, and my song, “The House on Christmas Street,” became a world-wide phenomenon, playing at the houses of decorators all over the planet who synchronize their outdoor light displays to music!”

“In 2016 I was asked by the author Joe R. Lansdale to adapt his novella, “Christmas with the Dead” as a stage musical, and thus began the latest phase of my career!”

The inspiration for this musical came from Ms. Pancoast wanting to empower little girls creatively and vocationally.  “When my daughter was performing in theater in middle school I realized that there were far more girls involved than boys, and I thought I might write a piece that would have several very good leads for girls. I’d often told my two daughters how fortunate they were that they could choose any career they wanted because back when I was young things were different for girls. I used to say, “Barbie could be a teacher, a nurse, or a secretary. Never a doctor or an astronaut.” From that saying sprang the idea of a girl growing up in the 60s-70s who wanted to be an astronaut, so she invites her best friends over the watch the moon landing. I knew it would focus on the growing awareness of women at that time that changes needed to be made in the way they were treated.”

 For the premiere of Girl On The Moon Ms. Pancoast began performances locally till the pandemic had other plans.  Like much of the performing arts during the lockdown, a virtual show was possible.   Ms. Pancoast was over the moon when in-person productions began once again.  “It was slated to premiere at my local school- Mountain View Middle School in Goffstown, NH- in spring of 2020. Rehearsals were already underway when the pandemic shut everything down. We were able to pivot to a virtual show, and that premiered on YouTube in the spring of 2021. From there the show was performed by the Luminescent Moon Theater Company in Massilon, OH in August, ’21, then at Parkside Middle School in Manchester, NH in November, ’21, and at Mojave High School in California in April, 22. The show was such a success there that they are planning to present it again this fall.”

 Some productions worked better than others.  Though this is a play targeted at a youthful demographic, it’s important for the people involved to be cognizant of the historical perspective associated with this show.  “It’s really important that the actors understand a little bit about the history of women’s rights, especially during that time. I want them to feel what it was like to have their choices limited just because of their gender. Of course, the songs are very important and so the music director will need to work closely with the cast on learning the music!”

Ms. Pancoast would like to have an impact on the young ladies who come to see the show who might not be aware of the past struggles of women.  “I’m hoping the girls will have an appreciation for all those who came before them who had to fight to get equal rights, and that we aren’t even there yet. I worry sometimes that the current generation of young people doesn’t realize that people didn’t always have what they have now.”

The current political climate is having an influence on new artistic works.  It just so happens that the subject matter of Girl On The Moon addresses some of the same issues that America is dealing with right now.  “We are in a strange era where hard-won women’s rights are being threatened. Freedoms that we’ve had for generations are being taken away. It’s more important than ever that young women and girls know about what it took to get to those rights and that we need to work that fiercely once again to hold on to them.

 Ms. Pancoast gives her regards to Broadway but her ultimate goal is to share her musical with the impressionable youths of the world.  “I would love to see “Girl on the Moon” performed at every middle and high school in the country! It will be far more valuable to the school community than yet another “Jr.” version of a famous musical because it has an important message that needs to be heard now more than ever. And, of course, I’d love for youth theater groups to present it as well.”

Ms. Pancoast has some more musical delights in the works.  If you’re good, Santa may bring you a ticket to her Christmas show!  “I’m currently working on a new musical for general adult audiences, and that is going to be ready for its staged reading in early 2023. I already have plans for my fourth musical, a family Christmas show based on a song I wrote called “The House on Christmas Street.”  Whether it’s cheering children or entertaining adoring adults, Ms. Pancoast has enough music and passion to go to the moon and back!  

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