Sunday Singalong: Easter Edition

Happy Easter!  After singing with my church choir in two services this morning, I’m looking forward to relaxing with my family and enjoying some yummy food.  Maybe we’ll even dye some Easter eggs — I’m feeling inspired by this song!

I’m keeping this short today, because I know that many of us have plans on this special day that don’t involve reading blog posts :)  Whatever those plans may be, have a wonderful holiday (or just a wonderful Sunday, if you don’t celebrate Easter).

Friday Fave: Earth Day

Earth Day 2011

To tell you the truth, I’m a little bummed that Earth Day falls over Spring Break this year, because I always enjoy singing earth-related songs with my students and watching them go outside and plant trees on this day.  But it’s currently raining cats and dogs, so I doubt there would be much planting going on anyway.

So Sadie and I are having our own little Earth Day celebration at home right now, as I’ve been going through some fun YouTube videos to share while she watches over my shoulder :)  Here are a few worth checking out on this day.

  • Heal The World: I know this Michael Jackson song is a little cheesy, but I still love it.  When I was in elementary school, we put on a musical called Gonna Have an Earth Day, and this was the closing song.  It gives me the warm and fuzzies when I listen to it, exactly 20 years later.
  • The Three R’s: Jack Johnson reminds us to “reduce, reuse, recycle” in this great song, which is one that I love to sing with my students.
  • Good Green Earth: This is one of my highest-viewed YouTube videos, and it features the song “Good Green Earth” by James K.   I think this is my #1 favorite Earth Day tune.
  • Recycle With Me: The list would NOT be complete without a song from Bobs & LoLo, one of my favorite children’s singer/songwriter duos.  “Recycle With Me” is not only fun to sing, but also very educational.

Oh, and here’s a cool fact about Earth Day for you.  One of my wonderful sponsors, Susan Seale of Make Me Musical, recently wrote a blog post in which she shares that her husband, Nigel Seale, is actually the founder of Earth Day Canada.  He also served as the global chairman of Earth Day in 1991 and 1992.  How cool is that?!

Happy Earth Day to each and every one of you.  How will you celebrate and do your part to make the Earth a better place?

Building Your Personal Brand

Building Your Personal Brand

Yesterday I had the opportunity to talk to a classroom full of college students about my approach to personal branding.  The instructor just happens to be the mother of one of my piano students, so she has seen first-hand how I’ve built my own personal brand over the last couple of years, both online and locally.

I was a new professional, fresh out of graduate school, when I began building my personal brand.  I was afraid of getting lost in the sea of music therapists, and wanted to make a name for myself as I started my career.

First came Listen & Learn, where I established a presence and voice in the online world.  Soon after, I started a Facebook page so that I could further connect with people interested in my work, my blog, and me in general — in other words, my personal brand.  I joined Twitter for the same purpose.

While I was working hard to spread my message online, I was simultaneously doing so in my community.  Presenting at conferences and workshops, performing at various local venues, and being featured in newspaper articles were all ways to make my brand known.

And while I didn’t have a specific strategy at the time, as I look back, I realize that I followed a pretty simple set of self-written rules:

  • It’s never too early to begin building your personal brand.  No matter how young or inexperienced you are, just get started.  Your brand will grow as you do.
  • Be genuine in everything you write or post.  When people meet you in person, you should come across the same as you do online.
  • Be consistent.  Use the same profile picture and style across platforms.
  • Be transparent.  Don’t inflate your credentials, your numbers, or your network; just show your true colors and eventually all of those things will inflate on their own.
  • On the flip side, don’t give yourself too little credit.  If you underestimate your abilities and potential to be an authority in your niche, others will do the same.

Even though I still have a long way to go, I feel like I’ve been pretty successful in my efforts within a relatively short period of time.  So based on that success, here are the six things that, in my opinion, are essential to every personal brand:

  1. A goal. What are you working towards?  Where do you want to be a year, 5 years, 10 years from now?
  2. A resume. Always have this on hand and ready to share, and always be adding to it.  Every experience counts.
  3. A website. Even better, a blog.  Create dynamic content so that people have a reason to keep coming back.
  4. A slogan that people will remember. Mine is “helping children learn and grow through music” — which sums up all of the different kinds of work I do.
  5. Social media presence. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube…the more platforms for people to find you, the better.
  6. Business cards. I use VistaPrint to create custom cards that reflect my brand’s aesthetic and message.

Whether or not they realize it, most people are building their personal brand on a daily basis.  What are you doing to set yourself apart from everyone else?

Say Cheese! (But Only With Permission)

Music Therapy Connections Student

Each time one of my students completes a level in a lesson book, masters a particularly difficult piece, or receives an award in a competition, his or her picture goes up on the studio bulletin board — or “Wall of Fame” as I like to call it.

Only my students and their parents see the bulletin board, but what about posting pictures and videos of students on my website (as I did with Sergei above) and Facebook page?

The answer is simple: you MUST ask for parents’ permission to do so.  Each spring, I have parents fill out a yearly survey which includes the following question:

Do I have permission to feature pictures and/or videos of this student (never using last name) on my studio bulletin board, website, and/or Facebook page?

Parents then have three options: 1) Yes; 2) Please ask on a case-by-case basis; or 3) No. Once they have signed the form, I keep it on record until the following year.

Amazingly enough, I’ve not had one parent mark “no” in response to that question.  However, I never take advantage of their trust, which means I share students’ photos and videos very sparingly.  But every once in a while, it’s nice to showcase students and give them the thrill of seeing themselves in a public space.

Do you have a media release option for your students?

How I’m Spending My Spring Break

Spring Break

After two back-to-back vacations this month (first Scottsdale, then Las Vegas), I’m spending my actual spring break at home.  Because even though there’s no school, I will continue to see my private practice students as usual.

So my afternoons and evenings are booked, but there are some things I have planned for my free days.  I’ll let you know on Friday just how many of these items I was able to check off the list :)

  • Choose furniture for my new studio’s waiting room. Time’s a-ticking as my move-in date gets closer, and it would be nice for my students and their families to have a place to sit while they wait.
  • Give a talk to a college class on the topic of personal branding. I’m doing this on Wednesday, so I should probably get to work on an outline!
  • Record a couple of “Sunday Singalong” videos in advance. I always end up rushing to get my videos recorded, edited, uploaded and posted after church on Sunday mornings, so it would be nice to work ahead while I have the free time.
  • Refinish the bookcase I’m going to put in my new studio.  I’ve had it forever, and while it’s nice and sturdy, it desperately needs a new coat of paint.
  • Write my maid of honor speech for my best friend’s wedding. This is not something I want to leave for the last minute, and the wedding will be here very soon.  It shouldn’t be too tough, but I’ll feel better when it’s finished.
  • Reorganize my basement storage space.  I’m definitely not looking forward to it, but this task needs to be done.  Ugh.
  • Write some new songs.  I’m way behind on this one.  Hopefully by this time next week, I’ll have some new tunes to share with you.
  • Start planning music therapy sessions for May. How is it almost the last month of the school year?  Seriously, time is flying.

While my spring break plans may not sound too exciting — the real fun was had this past weekend in Vegas! — it will feel great to have all of these things done at the end of the week.  Do you get a spring break?  And if so, how did/will you spend yours?

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