Frederick Ralph Cornelius "Fred" Penner, CM OM (born November 6, 1946) is a Canadian children's music performer who gives appearances throughout North America. His television show, Fred Penner's Place, aired on CBC in Canada from 1985 to 1997, and was seen in the United States on the cable channel Nickelodeon from 1989 to 1992.
Penner has received a Juno Award for Children's Album of the Year three times: in 1989, 2003 and 2015.
Life and career
Penner was born on November 6, 1946 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to Lydia Agathe Penner (née Winters, 1913-2005) and Edward W. Penner (d. 1971).
At the early age of four, Penner began making up songs while travelling on the bus with his mother. He taught himself how to play the guitar when he was in grade school, and performed in school choirs and pageants. Through his experience with his sister Susan's Down Syndrome, he recognized the therapeutic value of music.
Penner received his high school diploma at Kelvin High School, where he took lead roles in the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. After graduating from the University of Winnipeg with a Bachelor of Arts degree in economics and psychology, he spent time working with mentally and physically challenged children, using music to comfort and entertain. In 1977, he met choreographer and future wife Odette Heyn, with whom he started a children's dance theatre company. Penner accepted an offer to do a recording, which resulted in the album The Cat Came Back, which launched his career and established him as one of Canada's leading children's entertainers.
In 1984, he appeared on the children's television show, The Elephant Show, singing "The Cat Came Back". In 1991, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada for "using music and song to entertain and educate his young audience". In 2011, he was made a Member of the Order of Manitoba.
Currently, Penner splits his time between Winnipeg, Manitoba and Toronto, Ontario. He was formerly married to Odette Heyn, with whom he has four children. He remarried in 2016, to theatre director Rae Ellen Bodie.
The release date for Penner's new album, Hear the Music (available on CD and on iTunes) with some well-known "guest" singers, is April 21, 2017. He still performs occasionally. Recent dates included 26 November 2016, in Airdrie, Alberta, 21 January 2017 in Regina, Saskatchewan and February 18, 2017 in Fernie, BC. Penner is also confirmed for concerts in Toronto, Brampton and Ottawa, Ontario in April 2017 and for Calgary in May.
These (and other concerts) confirm what Penner told the Calgary Journal in March 2012. " I am not planning on retiring any time soon. I still feel engaged and connected with the audience. ... As long as I can stay healthy and creative, what is the purpose of stopping? ... There are so many lovely aspects to what I do, that it continually fills me with joy and excitement and energy. I am constantly energized by my audience — wherever I might find them."