Sunday Singalong: Winter All Around Us

I know what you’re thinking…not another song about winter!  Trust me, I don’t like winter any more than you do, but my students (and yours as well, most likely) need to hear about and understand it as it’s happening.

As I mentioned in the video, this is an older song that I don’t use very often these days.  (Here’s my latest song about winter.)  But it’s still fun to sing, and I like that it’s so short.  It’s also a great one for use during songwriting activities — it’s easy to come up with additional verses.

Who else is counting the days until spring is here?  As the midwest prepares for yet another winter storm, I’m assuming I’m not alone in my countdown.  Stay warm, stay safe, and I’ll see you back here tomorrow.

Friday Fave: Building an Empire

Empire Building Kit

A little over a year ago, the lovely and talented Kat Fulton introduced me to a guy by the name of Chris Guillebeau.  I can’t thank Kat enough, because Chris has been a huge influence on the way I live my life and build my business.

Chris’ blog is called The Art of Non-Conformity, and there he writes about how to change the world by achieving significant, personal goals while helping others at the same time.  His articles never fail to inspire me, especially since he practices what he preaches.  Talk about goal-setting: Chris plans to visit every country in the world during a five-year time period; so far he’s been to 149 out of 192 with two years remaining in which to complete his mission.

So when he debuted his Empire Building Kit last spring, I didn’t hesitate for a minute before taking the plunge.  Case studies, video interviews, transcripts, and a 365-day email series (the longest in history) designed to help me build my business in one year by doing one thing every day?  Yes, please.

That was in May.  Today marks day #255, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve hit “reply” to thank Chris for another valuable idea or nugget of information.  And you know what?  He’s responded every single time.  Amidst his world-traveling, writing a bestselling book, and generally just being awesome, he’s found the time to personally cheer me on.

I love working on my business (which is comprised of my private music therapy practice/teaching studio and Listen & Learn, of course), but what I love even more is seeing positive results.  And although I may not have achieved empire status just yet, I’m on my way.

Any other emperors out there?  I’d love to hear your thoughts on the kit.  And if you want to join us, read on.

Why Playing Music is Like Housecleaning

Why Playing Music is Like Housecleaning

I made this unexpected connection in the middle of teaching a piano lesson last week, and my nine-year-old student looked at me like I was nuts.

Honestly, though, I couldn’t blame him. I was surprised to hear the comparison come out of my mouth, but as I started to explain what I meant, it made perfect sense to both him and myself.

When you learn a song on the piano, or any instrument for that matter, the first order of business is getting the notes right. But so many of my students think that once they’ve got the notes down, their work is done. Really, though, that is just the beginning. Kind of like how picking up the clutter on the floor, counters, and tables is just the beginning of cleaning a house.

Next comes tempo and dynamics. That means going through the piece and looking for markings like crescendos, diminuendos, ritardandos, and other directions (not just playing it however you feel like playing it, another common misconception among my students). The housecleaning equivalent? Looking at which major areas need attention, like the kitchen floor or the bathroom. Of course, you want your whole house to be clean, but you’ll need to spend some extra time working on these particular areas.

Now the piece is really starting to come together, and our house is starting to look presentable, too. But we’re not quite ready for the recital or Superbowl party yet. It’s time to go through with a fine-tooth comb: that measure is being played legato but need to be stacatto, the pedal should be held down one measure earlier, play those sixteenth notes more evenly, and so on. As for the house, the end tables need to be dusted, the baseboards need to be wiped down, and the mirror could use some Windex.

But once we’ve addressed all of those issues, we’re left with a beautiful piece of music and a beautiful home. Attending not just to the big picture, but also to the small details, have made both shine. Had we stopped with learning the notes and picking up the clutter, our final product wouldn’t have been nearly as impressive.

So as my students prepare to play in the Illinois Federation of Music Clubs’ Junior Festival next month, I think I’ll share this comparison with all of them. And it doesn’t hurt to hear it a few times myself…especially when I’m having guests over to my house :)

My Insurance Agent Taught Me a Lesson

My Insurance Agent Taught Me a Lesson

My insurance agent isn’t a music therapist; he doesn’t work with children, or even play an instrument.  But he did teach me a lesson that has been extremely valuable to my private music therapy practice and teaching studio.

The fact that my insurance agent is also my husband has no bearing on this particular story…I promise!  But it does come in handy when I need business advice, considering Zach has earned the title “Agent of the Year” in his multi-state region for the past two years.  He knows his stuff, and I know where he lives :)

Anyway, back to that valuable lesson.  Not so long ago, I asked my husband/agent what sets him apart from his colleagues when it comes to sales performance.  His answer?  “I ask for referrals.”

It’s that simple.  Simple, yet often overlooked as a business strategy.  Zach doesn’t assume that people will decide to call him instead of the other hundreds of insurance agents in Illinois, and he doesn’t spend any time cold-calling prospective clients.  Instead, he asks his existing customers, those whose trust he has already earned through exceptional service, to refer their family and friends to him.

I’m no stranger to word-of-mouth marketing.  However, I’d never thought to directly ask the families with which I work to send new referrals my way.  So in preparation for my upcoming summer session, during which I’m hoping to add 20 or so new students, I took a cue from Zach and did just that.

My families jumped at the chance, and even said that they’d been hesitant to do so in the past because they knew how booked up I already was.  Now, less than a month later, I have an active waiting list of 15 (and counting) new students who are willing to wait until June to begin receiving my services.   Word of mouth is a powerful thing — especially when those mouths belong to loyal and satisfied clients!

The next time I receive an email from a fellow music therapist asking how I “advertise” my services, I’m going to respond with a link to this blog post.  Sometimes it’s the simplest things that make the biggest impact, and I have my husband (the star insurance agent) to thank for reminding me of that.

Jumping for Joy

Jumping for Joy During Music Therapy

Sometimes I wonder if I’m really making a difference.  That question ran through my head just last night, in the middle of a music therapy session.  I’ve been working with this particular child since she was 4 months old; she’ll turn 4 years old in May.  She’s making big strides, but how much of that progress can be attributed to music therapy?

Towards the end of the session, I decided that we needed to get up and move a little.  I could see that she had energy to burn, and I wanted her to use it productively.  So I sang the following song, which I adapted from the wonderful Cathy Bollinger:

I’ve got a wiggle wiggle wiggle in my feet
And I wiggle wiggle wiggle to the beat
I’ve got a wiggle in my toes, a wiggle in my knees
And when the music stops everyone freeze!

I’ve got a march march march in my feet
And I march march march to the beat
I’ve got a march in my toes, a march in my knees
And when the music stops everyone freeze!

I’ve got a jump jump jump in my feet
And I jump jump jump to the beat
I’ve got a jump in my toes, a jump in my knees
And when the music stops everyone freeze!

I’ve got a tiptoe tiptoe in my feet
And I tiptoe tiptoe to the beat
I’ve got a tiptoe in my toes, a tiptoe in my knees
And when the music stops everyone freeze!

I’ve got a tap tap tap in my feet
and I tap tap tap to the beat
I’ve got a tap in my toes, a tap in my knees
And when the music stops everyone freeze!

I’ve got a hop hop hop in my feet
And I hop hop hop to the beat
I’ve got a hop in my toes, a hop in my knees
And when the music stops everyone freeze!

My student’s big sister was participating in the session, so both girls danced, jumped and marched (and played the nearby tubano drum, which wasn’t part of the song but added a nice beat!) while I sang and modeled the movement.

After the song ended, my student motioned for her mom to bring my music stand over to our rug. (For some reason, my little ones really enjoy standing in front of it while they sing.) As I strummed my guitar and sang the goodbye song, she sang right along with me, pronouncing the words as best as she could.

After she had taken “goodbye” off of the schedule and chased after her sister into the hallway, her mom turned to me — and that’s when I realized she had tears in her eyes.

She told me that today was the first time she’d ever seen her daughter jump, which surprised me immensely, considering she’d made it look so effortless. She also told me that the way she sang the goodbye song was leaps and bounds above her usual level of word pronunciation, not to mention the length of time for which she sang. And then she told me that it was all because of music therapy.

So much for those doubtful thoughts I’d been experiencing just minutes earlier. If my next student hadn’t already been waiting for me in the next room, I might have run outside and jumped for joy myself!

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