The service for Paul Strausman drew a standing-room only crowd. The line to get inside stretched out the door.
It was a fitting tribute for a man whose music had touched scores of Capital District residents, many of counting Strausman's songs among their earliest memories.
A lot of people in this area grew up with his music, said fellow children's musician Terri Roben. "He had an amazing ability to write beautiful music. Soothing is a good word for his music. He just had this incredible sweet, gentle spirit. ... Nobody could believe he just died."
Strausman died of a heart attack on Dec. 21. He was 51. He left behind his wife, Carol Coogan, a daughter, Raina, and sons Shea and Arlen.
Roben knew Strausman long before he became a household name in the Albany area. Back in the early '70s, both were playing at political rallies and coffeehouses. They formed a friendship that continued as each married, started families and built a career around children's music.
In the spirit of that friendship, Roben, of Ballston Lake, has organized a children's concert to benefit Strausman's family. She and Andy "The Music Man" Morse, a children's musician from Delmar, will play Strausman's songs at Caffe Lena in Saratoga Springs beginning at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 23. Roben hopes other musicians and friends of Strausman's will join them on stage, but if they don't, she's not worried. She and Morse each regularly perform their own children's concerts, so filling the typical 45 minutes that such a concert lasts "won't be a challenge for us," she said with a laugh.
She and Morse both love the enthusiasm that comes from performing for kids. "Kids are just such a blast," Roben said. "It's very energizing."
Roben first started playing for children when her daughter, now 25, was in nursery school and the teacher asked Roben to perform for the class. She called it a "natural evolution," since she had been singing since she was only about 2. Today, she teaches Music Together classes for children and caregivers in addition to performing throughout the area.