FOX LAKE – With an extension cord and a spot on the sidewalk, Nanny Nikki brings “her happy” to neighborhoods throughout Lake County and beyond.
Otherwise known as Nikki Rung of Fox Lake, Nanny Nikki has found her niche in children’s entertainment, offering a “Socially Distant Musical Block Party,” along with other programs such as birthday videograms and live and virtual play dates.
Music, she said, is “where she finds her happy.”
Starting her business in December 2019, Rung had intended to host music classes and perform at birthdays and special events.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began, she had to pivot a bit. But she’s found the demand for her interactive musical entertainment has grown despite – or, perhaps, as a result of – today’s challenges.
“I’m just bringing a little joy, a little light, a little levity into the world during all of this,” Rung said.
When the pandemic began, Rung had yet to really develop a name for herself. She promoted her website and programs at www.nannynikkimusic.com on social media, including Instagram and Facebook, and posted videos on a YouTube channel.
“I’ve gotten such an awesome response from the community around me and all over the U.S.,” she said.
A library in Minnesota even reached out, asking her to create a video for a summer reading program.
Lehla Dannenmaier of Grayslake and her neighbors have hired Rung four times since April to perform her socially distant musical block parties.
“They were the sunshine on our quarantine,” Dannenmaier said.
Dannenmaier met Rung at a friend’s Christmas party and found her positivity infectious. Dannenmaier jokingly called her “the pied piper for children.”
With hair, makeup and the dresses she wears iconic of 1950s swing, Rung’s style matches her fun personality, Dannenmaier said. Both children and adults benefit from the shows, she said, with children needing music for social-emotional development and parents needing a bit of comic relief.
“At a time when children are unable to be together in a class or attend concerts, Nanny Nikki’s social distancing block parties bridged that gap,” Dannenmaier said. “It did more than bridge that gap. It gave the little ones and their parents that thrill of experiencing something new, a concert in your own neighborhood at a time when there were little options to experience anything new.”
Rung is now working with a producer to develop her first children’s album. She writes her own songs, some inspired by her efforts to entertain her 4-year-old daughter, Gwen.
Along with songs such as “When I Get Bigger” and “Skinnamarink,” Rung offers storytimes and crafts and often brings a friend along – Gizmo the monkey, who lives in a barrel and pops in after three knocks.
“I wanted to be approachable and interactive and high energy and a really clownish character that could come out and do some musical fun with kids and do vibrant shows and birthdays and special events,” Rung said. “It’s just kind of taken off.”
Rung grew up listening to music, attended musical theater camps, sang in a gospel choir, competed in vocal music competitions, performed in high school musicals and was the student director of her high school choir.
After college, she worked as a professional nanny for nearly 15 years, “and I sang,” she said. “All the time.”
“My nanny kids had songs that had become synonymous with me caring for them. I have never had a time in my life when I wasn’t singing children’s music,” she said. “Now that I am a mother and caring for other children, I find every excuse to have ‘music time.’
“The looks on the faces of small children when they hear a song that excites them makes my heart swell.”