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Sing-Along Superstar

His career came full circle—to circle time

Stay-at-home dad Gabe Hutter ’88 was surfing job sites at a café when inspiration struck: From the next room, he overheard a children’s music performance.

“It was terrible,” he says with a laugh, “but it also made me think, maybe I should give this a try.”

After all, he’d spent years delighting his children, Sarah and Jacob, with his own rocking renditions of kids’ songs, and had performed as a guitarist while a history major at Swarthmore.

Armed with a few songs and his witty, easygoing charm, Hutter booked a circle-time slot at the public library in his town in Maryland. When his act proved a hit—praising his “dexterous guitar-playing” and “cheerful arrangements,” the librarian dubbed him “the Pied Piper of Takoma Park”—a (twinkle, twinkle little) star was born.

And so, with the support of his wife, Jenny Ruark ’87, Hutter ended his job search to pursue a path as Mr. Gabe, children’s musician.

Gigs grew to include D.C.-area festivals, and he added a violinist and bassist to his band, the Circle Time All-Stars. His two CDs—2012’s Play Date and 2015’s Metro Train—each won a Parents’ Choice Award and include sing-along standbys as well as original material like “Brian the Lazy Lion,” “I Wanna Be a Garbage Man,” and “That’s the Way It Goes,” a stirring celebration of family in any form it may take.

Mr. Gabe’s catchy songs, many of which draw on his experiences as a stay-at-home parent, have been a hit with kids and grown-ups alike, giving his CDs staying power in car stereos and his act standing-room-only sales. His success reflects his service to and respect for his audience, who deserve the very best, he believes.

“I’m not the world’s most proficient musician, but I take the songs very seriously,” Hutter says. “You can have fun with kids’ music. Why shouldn’t it be as good as any other kind?”

+ SING ALONG with Mr. Gabe: