Friday Fave: Kids Sing Studio

Kids Sing Studio

After almost three years of blogging (and over 700 posts), it still amazes me that some people think of me as an “expert” on certain topics related to studio teaching, songwriting, and music therapy.  Yet I continue to receive emails and comments from people thanking me for my resources and advice.  (Not that I’m complaining — each one of them truly makes my day!)

But I have a list of go-to people that I consider to be the true experts.  Lisa Casciola of Kids Sing Studio is one of those people.  I first met Lisa on the second day of my music therapy internship, since she was one of my supervisors.  I got to spend almost nine months learning from someone with whom I shared many of the same interests and goals.  Not only did she help me become a better music therapist, but I also got the bonus of learning about running a teaching studio.

Lisa is the kind of teacher I aspire to be.  Her studio holds masterclasses (with famous Broadway performers, no less!), yearly recitals, holiday parties, and offers all kinds of cool classes and summer programs related to music technology and performance.  Like me, she teaches students of all abilities.

Just this week, I emailed Lisa and asked for some new repertoire suggestions.  She replied almost immediately with a huge list of songs and resources for me.  Looking back over the last four years of teaching, I think I owe Lisa for all the songs that have been the biggest hits amongst my students.

So now that I’ve sung Lisa’s praises, I want to know…who is your go-to expert, or the person you look up to as a role model in your field?

Getting Flashy

USB flash drive for lessons

When I was growing up, my voice teacher would have me bring cassette tapes to my voice lessons.  We would record warmups, new songs, and sometimes even full lessons so that I could practice more effectively at home throughout the week.

In college, I bought a handheld voice recorder for the same purpose, thought not the modern kind that allows you to download mp3 files from it.

When I started teaching lessons, and even up until this past school year, I made CD after CD for my students — each time they learned or recorded a new song.  I was going through so many CDs each month that I finally decided I needed to find an alternative.

I experimented with a few different options.  I tried out Dropbox as a method of sharing mp3 files with my students, but that took up too much space in my already full account.  I also tried sending mp3s as download links, but that wasn’t very convenient for either of us.

And then I had a “duh” moment.  I used a USB flash drive to transfer new songs from my home computer to my work computer, so why couldn’t my voice students do the same thing?  I suggested it to just a few students at first, and now almost all of them bring a flash drive to each of their lessons.

No more wasted CDs or excuses about not being able to practice.  Most of my students are very good with computers and know how to use iTunes, YouTube, and so on…this is just one more excuse for them to use the computer, and I’m okay with that :)  Parents are happy too, because they get to hear what we’ve been working on in our lessons.

How do you share music with your students and encourage them to practice throughout the week?

MusicNotes App for iPad

Musicnotes iPad App

I’ve been using to purchase instant sheet music downloads for over five years now.  In fact, I’m a member of the MusicNotes Digital Club, which means I save 10% on every piece of music I purchase.  (That may not sound like much, but when you buy as much as I do, it adds up.)

The only bummer about buying sheet music from MusicNotes is that once you’ve printed your allotted single copy, you can no longer access that piece of music.

Enter the MusicNotes app for iPad.  I discovered this last week when I was downloading yet another song, and saw on the sidebar of my screen that it was “iPad compatible”.  So I clicked on the link to read more, and found that if you have an iPad, you can access your account and then view all of the compatible songs (most of which are) right on the screen.  Not only that, but you can annotate and transpose the score right on your iPad.

This app has opened up an entire collection of music for use with my students, and also just for my own personal use.  It even works with my new wireless foot pedal-controlled page turner, the AirTurn BT-105.

There are a couple of other music-related iPad apps that are currently rocking my world, but each deserves its own blog post.  More to come soon!  Which apps have you been digging lately?

June Sponsor Shout-Outs!

It’s time once again to give you the run-down of all of the wonderful Listen & Learn sponsors.  After compiling this shout-out, it’s hard to believe that just a few short years ago, resources for music therapists were few and far between.  Please be sure to check out all of sites below.

Online Piano Chords

Our newest sponsor is OnlinePianist.  OnlinePianist is the only animated piano tutorial online, where you can find the biggest index of piano lessons for piano music of all genres.  It is also the only online piano website which enables its users to choose the piano songs which they desire to know how to play.  Every piano tutorial includes free piano sheet music and notes, piano chords table, lyrics and more.  You can browse all the latest popular songs by category or just search for the one you want — it’s most likely there!  Be sure also to visit the OnlinePianist blog.

Listen & Learn also welcomes Theta Music Trainer to our circle of sponsors.  This unique website will help train your ear with fun music games, sharpen your sense of pitch and tone, unlock the hidden patterns in music, and strengthen your music theory skills.  Games such as Vocal Match and Speed Pitch will keep students entertained while teaching the fundamentals.  Music teachers and students receive special discounts for full-access subscriptions to Theta Music Trainer.

Music Therapy Tunes

Margie La Bella, a music therapist and educator, manages Music Therapy Tunes. Margie offers countless resources on her blog, including music therapy songs to teach language skills, social skills, and conceptual skills. There are over 100 lesson plans to read and use in your own practice, lyrics and chords for all of her songs, and useful info for parents, teachers, student music therapists and professionals. Be sure to check out Margie’s free download, her YouTube channel, and connect with her on Twitter.

Make Me Musical

Susan Seale of Make Me Musical, a blog filled with songs,games, child-friendly orchestrations, research and planning info is getting ready to head off to Salzburg, Austria soon.  If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to study at the Mozarteum surrounded by the beauty of the Austrian Alps in the town where the Sound of Music was filmed, check in at Make Me Musical throughout July.  Susan will be sharing her stories and European teaching goodies on her blog.


Have you heard about the Soundbeam? This seriously cool system detects the distance, direction and velocity of body movements in a defined space, and translates these body gestures into control signals for creating electronic music or manipulating multimedia. It’s being used in special education, music therapy, the music classroom, museums, and science centers…and you can learn all about it at the website of our wonderful sponsor, SoundTree.

Involve Me Music Shout-Out

Jen Sokira, the music therapist who provides valuable music education information at Involve Me Music, has this to share: “I have begun my new Involve Me Music newsletter and am hoping that everyone will want to subscribe :-)  New subscribers will receive a free audio course called Music Education Inclusion Success in Five Steps where they will have a chance to review the school year that just ended and get their juices flowing for next year.  Also, newsletter subscribers will get the first peek into my new programs and products being launched this summer!”

More With Music

Here’s what music therapist and songwriting extraordinaire Amanda Ellis of More With Music had to say this month: “I’m finishing up my last days of my first year as Music Therapist with Pitt County school system in Greenville, NC.  I was hired in August 2010 as their first, full-time music therapist.  In spite of a huge caseload (serving 35 low incidence classrooms via direct service and consult model), I feel it was a great year and I was able to infuse a lot of academic topics with music.  Several of the teachers gave great feedback about how the music therapy activities motivated their students and they now use music and music therapy activities daily in their classrooms!  I’m looking forward to a summer of taking some time off, working on more songs (of course), more blogging and a little traveling here and there.” Thanks Amanda, and keep up the helpful songs and blog posts.

Stefanie Anderson Eckert, MM, MT-BC is the owner of A-Z Music Therapy Services, which provides services to individuals with disabilities in San Antonio and South Central Texas. Stefanie works in many different settings, including schools for children with autism and assisted living facilities. Her website offers additional resources and contact information for individuals interested in her services.

Music Therapy Maven Shout-Out

Kimberly Sena Moore, better known around the internet as the Music Therapy Maven, is the go-to music therapist for business and private practice advice.  Just last week she revealed her #1 business mistake, and how you can avoid making it, too.  Learn more about Kimberly by reading her article, My Life in 6 Songs, and be sure to subscribe to her newsletter for tips on running a private practice, plus her free productivity primer e-book.

Rhythm Ring

Rhythm Ring rocks! If you haven’t picked up your own Rhythm Ring yet (they are only $5 each!) then you need to drop everything and get one. I love mine, and use it all the time with my students, at gigs, and even in my “Sunday Singalong” videos. Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest news and announcements.

Joyfull Cup

Joyfull Cup is a company run by Stephanie Shehan, a fellow music therapist who I first “met” via Twitter.  Her tagline is “Where music therapy, wellness, and coffee blend” — clever, no?!  In addition to her music therapy practice, Stephanie offers a healthy alternative to regular coffee that has me intrigued.  To learn more, visit her informative website.

Music Therapy Tween

The Music Therapy Tween is Michelle Erfurt, a music therapist and self-admitted hobby addict who has channeled her love of crafts into a successful business.  Have you visited Michelle’s Etsy store yet and browsed her helpful items for other traveling music therapists?  Most recently, Michelle has shared blog posts about her most-used websites, a television show that helps with her work, and tips for driving in gated communities.

Music Therapy Connections

Music Therapy Connections started its summer music therapy and music education session recently, and was thrilled to welcome over 30 new families to the studio!  If you haven’t already, please be sure to stop by the website and take a look at the new studio overview, or better yet, visit Music Therapy Connections’ Facebook page to check out the complete photo tour.

Interested in becoming a Listen & Learn sponsor?

You can get the full scoop on sponsorship, including all the perks, right here. (Bonus: I’ll even create your ad graphic.) Sign up now and get your first shout-out in July!

My Biggest Misconception About Private Practice

My Biggest Misconception About Private Practice

It’s after 10 pm, and I’m just now getting around to writing today’s blog post.  So much for having more spare time now that I’m completely self-employed.  Looking back just a few weeks, I was naive to think that owning a full-time private practice was going to allow for a more flexible schedule.

It’s one thing to run a part-time business, but doing so full-time is a completely different ballgame.  And as thrilled as I am with my decision to leave my former job, I find myself thinking nostalgically about a time when I actually had a few extra minutes to catch up on my Google Reader, write blog posts in advance, reply to non-work-related email, etc.

Giving lessons and providing music therapy to an average of 13 students per day is the easy part of my business.  It’s the administrative and prep work — choosing repertoire, responding to billing inquiries, managing schedules, sending out nightly lesson and session notes, studio upkeep — that leaves me completely exhausted at the end of the day.

But then I remember that I’m 100% in control of my days and my private practice; there is no handbook.  I’m writing it as I go, and I’m appreciative of all the lessons I’m learning along the way. I’m also appreciative of my incredibly comfortable bed, which is where I’m headed right now.

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