This month, we caught up with family entertainer Chris Campbell. A father of two and a bi-vocational artist, Chris performs for kids in addition to his full-time accounting gig. Fortunately, the lighter and busier sides of each career complement one another. This Staunton native and JMU grad plays around seventy-five shows a year, traveling out of state occasionally, but singing and performing his fun brand of ventriloquism for Virginia audiences more often than not.
Chris knew from an early age he enjoyed music, and began playing publicly when he was just twelve. “I was a back-up musician for my dad,” says Chris, and adds that his father, now seventy-one, performs with him as a backup musician today. “We still really enjoy working together!”
When Chris first started performing professionally, his wife Tonya helped out a bit with crowd interaction and choreography, but these days, she leaves the act and the stage-life to him.
The transition from dad to entertainer is not hard for Chris, although he does label himself an introvert. “The best thing about being a performing dad is that I don’t have to be much of an actor on stage. Who and what you see on stage isn’t far removed from my living room,” says Chris. “Entertaining kids is very natural for me.”
When it comes to performing for young audiences, Chris says any chance he gets to shine a light of positivity into kids’ hearts is a gift. “It is an honor to be in front of so many kids every year sharing in the arts that I enjoy. It is all about wholesome fun, but I also view it as a way to share a positive light,” says Chris. “For many kids, my show is just another fun experience along the childhood tour. However, for some, it is a needed distraction or a connection. Whenever I perform at a children’s hospital, in a disadvantaged area, or for a charity in need, I am reminded that there is more to this than just songs and puppets.”
Keep reading to learn more about one of Richmond’s most talented children’s entertainers. And when you see Chris performing at a local mall, library, or some other family venue – tell him you saw him in RFM!
Mountains or beach?
I like both, but I am a little more John Denver than Jimmy Buffet, so I’d say mountains.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs. We have a little 16-year-old Pekingese-poodle named Casey. She is a very privileged peek-a-poo!
If you were stranded on a desert island, what food would you want to grow on trees?
Oranges. I love them. Nutritious, a fabulous scent, and I’d probably enjoy writing a good list of “orange ya gonna” knock-knock jokes while waiting for the rescue plane!
What book is on your nightstand right now?
A stack of biographies of musicians and a few ventriloquism books. I’m in the middle of Brad Paisley’s book – about music – not ventriloquism.
What podcast are you hooked on?
CMT’s Sun Records, about the birth of rock ‘n’ roll in Memphis – Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley, etc. I find music history fascinating!
What’s the last play or concert you attended in Richmond?
As a family? Nashville Live at Innsbrook After Hours. Just me? Kathy Mattea at the Tin Pan, my favorite listening room, along with the Ashland Coffee and Tea.
Favorite Richmond restaurant for the whole family?
Nick’s Roman Terrace in the near West End. We especially love the décor and special activities they roll out at Christmas and Easter.
When it’s just you and your honey?
Europa (Downtown), the Iron Horse (Ashland), or Dot’s Back Inn (Northside).
Favorite family outing in Richmond?
We probably visit the Science Museum of Virginia most often. However, my kids still haven’t grown out of CMoR next door. I hope they never do!
What is your favorite vacation spot?
Nashville, but for some reason our Honda Odyssey is programmed to only navigate toward Orlando these days!
What is your favorite way to spend a rainy Sunday?
After church and some comfort food, I like to spend a rainy Sunday afternoon writing songs and napping, but not simultaneously.
What is your energy source?
I thrive on creating and developing new ideas. To stay stimulated and motivated, I always need to have something new and different in the mix to work on.
Finish this sentence: “The absolute best thing about performing for kids is…
watching their innocent reactions to my characters. The look of wonder is priceless. Most kids don’t fully understand ventriloquism. They always ask questions and try to make sense of it all. Sometimes the parents do also!
Readers will be surprised to know…
I am an introvert. Performing is comfortable only because I have done it for so long. It wasn’t always comfortable and was never natural. People are often surprised at how quiet I am in social settings.