So Long, 2009!

I can’t believe that I am writing my last blog post of 2009. Where did the last twelve months go? This year seems to have flown by faster than any previous year, which I’m told happens as you get older. But as quickly as it went, 2009 was a fabulous year, in terms of both my career and personal life. Follow the links to read more about each month’s highlight:

January: One of my students had a breakthrough during music therapy.
February: I passed the joy of the Snowball Microphone on to my readers.
March: My husband and I closed on and moved into our new house.
April: We vacationed in San Diego and returned completely refreshed.
May: A new addition to the family arrived…our golden retriever, Sadie.
June: I turned 26 and got an iPhone, which did wonders for my productivity.
July: I launched my Kickstarter project, a three-month adventure.
August: My music therapy work was featured in a local news piece.
September: Listen & Learn was featured as a “Blog of Note” by Blogger.
October: The Model Me Kids DVD for which I wrote songs debuted.
November: I attended and presented at my first national conference.
December: I was featured in a radiothon for Children’s Miracle Network.

If 2010 is anywhere near as successful as 2009 was, I’m in for a great year. Thank you, everyone, for reading Listen & Learn Music, and for sending your feedback my way. I hope you’ll continue to do so in the new year. And come back tomorrow to hear a song you can sing for the next 365 days, as well as my new year’s resolutions. Cheers!

Merry Karaoke: Home for the Holidays

That is how our first holiday in our first home looked. It was certainly a white Christmas, and I was hoping to take a similar picture of our new home this year, as we get ready to celebrate our first Christmas in it. Unfortunately, we’ve only had a tiny bit of snow, and it is currently raining cats and dogs, so maybe I’ll get one later in the week.

No matter what the weather, I’m just glad to be staying home for the holidays! I feel very lucky that both of our families are nearby, which means we get to see everyone without having to drive long distances or get on an airplane. And that is why I decided that for today’s “Merry Karaoke” song should reflect this sentiment:

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,
For no matter how far away you roam –
When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,
For the holidays – you can’t beat home, sweet home!

I met a man who lives in Tennessee, and he was headin’ for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
From Pennsylvania folks are travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore;
From Atlantic to Pacific –
Gee, the traffic is terrific!


I met a man who lives in Tennessee and he was headin’ for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
From Pennsylvania folks are travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore;
From Atlantic to Pacific –
Gee, the traffic is terrific!


What are your plans for the holidays? Will you be staying home, or traveling to see friends and family? No matter what you’re doing, I hope your week is safe, fun, and full of cheer. Today is my first official day of vacation, and I am off to bake cookies. I’ll be back with at least one more installment of “Merry Karaoke” before the week is through…see you again soon!

Merry Karaoke!

There’s nothing like a little snow and an early Christmas celebration with family to put you in the holiday spirit. As we drove home from my in-laws’ house this afternoon, all I could think about was singing along to some of my favorite Christmas songs, and that is just what I did. In fact, I went one step further by recording one of them, karaoke-style. Cheesy? Yes…but tons of fun! I’ve told you before how much I love the Carpenter’s Christmas Portrait album (remember?) so you shouldn’t be surprised that the song I chose is from that very collection.

Frosted windowpanes,
Candles gleaming inside.
Painted candy canes on the trees.
Santa’s on his way,
He’s filled his sleigh with things.
Things for me and for you.

It’s that time of year
When the world falls in love.
Every song you hear seems to say,
Merry Christmas,
May your New Year dreams come true.
And this song of mine,
In three quarter time,
Wishes you and yours
The same thing, too.

Be on the lookout for one or two more installments of “Merry Karaoke” before the big day, which is quickly approaching! I had a chance to catch up on holiday preparations this weekends – not only did I finally finish my shopping, but I also did all of my wrapping. Cookies is next on the list, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I’m off to curl up on the couch and watch my favorite holiday movie, White Christmas. So long for now!

‘Tis the Season for Singalongs

One of my favorite traditions at The Hope Institute is gathering all of the students and staff for an all-school holiday singalong. We really go all out: our Hope House Band (comprised of me on guitar and vocals with three other members on guitar, drums, and bass) sets up, we pass out song packets with lyrics to all the classes, and we even invite students to perform special roles in the festivities.

This year, one of our senior classrooms has been creating their own visuals to accompany songs for each month, and December is no exception. We have been having so much fun using their creative materials for Ten Twinkling Trees and The Other Eight Reindeer that now, they are going to add their artistic talents to tomorrow’s singalong.

The class worked together to make signs for each of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, which they will hold up in the air at the appropriate times in front of the entire school when we sing the tune tomorrow. I think the staff members are more nervous than the students, to tell you the truth! We rehearsed this morning, and I know everyone will be impressed.

Singing seasonal carols is my favorite way to get into the holiday spirit, and I know I’m not the only one. I love hearing coworkers and children singing Christmas songs in the hallway outside of my office throughout the day, and next week I will be leading one of my classes as we surprise other rooms with a song or two. How does your school get into the holiday spirit? Do you put on a special program or concert? I know that many schools are not allowed to celebrate religious holidays…if this is your case, do you celebrate the season in an alternative manner? Please take a moment to share!

Friday Fave: Reindeer Games

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of leading the music portion of my church’s “Breakfast With Santa” event. This was the second year of my involvement, so I knew better what to expect and what the kids wanted (the chance to get up, dance around, and sing Christmas songs) as well as their parents (happy, occupied children and cute photo ops). I managed to combine all of these things in a ten-minute activity, and it was so much fun that I thought it deserving of “Friday Fave” attention!

Reindeer were the theme of the music room, made evident by the reindeer antlers on my head. Once all the children arrived, were seated, and commented on my headgear, I asked them if they knew who was the most famous reindeer of all. Of course, they all shouted, “Rudolph!” and we went right into the song, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Next I asked if they were aware that Rudolph isn’t Santa’s only reindeer, and told them that I would need 8 volunteers to show them what I meant. This worked out perfectly, because the groups were made up of 10-15 kids, and there were always a few who just wanted to watch. My volunteers came to the front and reached into my bag of tricks:

After all, every reindeer needs a good pair of antlers (the jinglier, the better) and a substitution for hooves (rhythm sticks, of course). I knew the props would be a hit, but I wasn’t quite ready for the excitement they would stir up. And that was fine with me!

The finishing touches were the nametags, which my “reindeer” wore around their necks. I made these by printing the names in a Christmasy font, laminating, and hole-punching so that I could string the sparkly rope through and tie it at the top.
Not all of the kids could read, so before the song, I pointed to each “reindeer” and read his/her name aloud. Then I told them to listen carefully, because when their name was called during the song, I wanted them to fly away just as the lyrics instruct.

The song that I used for this activity is one of my own, The Other Eight Reindeer. Both the kids and parents got a real kick out of it, and you should have seen those cameras flashing as each child “flew away” when it was his/her turn.

After the song, I asked the children to return to their seats for the next song, Up on the Housetop. They all clicked their “hooves” and sang along, still wearing their antlers (I’m telling you, it was a chore getting them off their heads and back into my bag). At the end of the song, it was time for the group to move on to the next station. I repeated this activity eight times that morning, and had a nice long nap when I got home :)