ELMWOOD PARK, N.J. — A group of wide-eyed children surround Elmwood Park native Renae Patti-Semeraro and wait excitedly for her to sing another song.
It’s nothing out of the ordinary for the self-proclaimed musical mommy, who paired her passion for performing and parenthood as “Melody Mom” in 2013.
"I was always the one who was sent to entertain the kids,” Patti-Semeraro of Pequannock said. “Every party, every family event — eventually it became unspoken.
“Even as an adult I would be at the kiddie table,” she said.
Singing has come naturally to Patti-Semeraro, 43, ever since she was in diapers. She began performing in grade school and went on to train at several prestigious institutions including Tisch and Oxford University.
The mother of two took her career to international stages in “Grease” and the off-Broadway production of “Tony and Tina’s Wedding," and even sang at local venues through both of her pregnancies.
It wasn’t until her daughters’ preschool teachers turned to Patti-Semeraro for help increasing attendance, however, that Melody Mom came about.
“Everything just came to me so effortlessly,” Patti-Semeraro said. “I did a little open house and then they hired me for preschool graduation."
Before she knew it, Melody Mom's phone was ringing off the hook. She's since performed at hundreds of birthday parties for thousands of kids.
She wouldn't have it any other way.
“When I’m around children I get on the floor with them and I act silly,” said Patti-Semeraro, dressed in a polka-dot dress, knee-high socks and lots of bows.
“It’s something that’s in my character — it’s in my makeup.”
Business recently took a digital turn for Melody Mom, who made a YouTube video for an ill child who couldn't attend her classes.
It was only a few minutes long but was that of a "godsend" for the boy's mother, who played it for him over and over to keep him still while she fed him, Patti-Semeraro said.
Melody Mom hopes to franchise her company and one day see herself on television. Until then, she’s careful not to lose sight of her priorities.
“Life doesn’t stop because I’m a mommy or Melody Mom,” she said. “Just as long as my kids are taken care of.”