Friday Fave: Evil Plans

Evil Plans by Hugh MacLeod

There are a few people on the internet who I look up to immensely.  Chris Guillebeau is one of them, which I’ve mentioned here before.  All of my music therapy blogger friends fall into that category, as well.  But before I discovered Chris, or met any of those music therapists, there was Hugh MacLeod.

Back in 2008, just prior to starting Listen & Learn, I came across an article on the internet called How To Be Creative.  It inspired me so much that I printed it out, and then read it over and over again.  I didn’t pay much attention to who wrote it, or where it came from, until I stumbled upon a book called Ignore Everybody at Barnes & Noble a year and a half later.

The best-selling book was based on that article, and the author was Hugh MacLeod, whose blog contains tons of other great articles and cartoons about marketing, social media, and being creative.  Needless to say, I subscribed to his daily cartoon newsletter and added his blog to my Google Reader immediately.

Hugh’s latest book is called Evil Plans, a term which he defines as “a crazy, out-there idea that allows you to ACTUALLY start doing something you love, doing something that matters.”  This is a book you open at 11 pm, tell yourself you’ll read one chapter before bed, and then before you know it, you’ve read five and don’t want to put it down.  It’s inspiring, funny, and brutally honest.

Hugh says that everyone should have an evil plan.  What’s yours?

(And yes…I have one.  A few, actually.  I promise I’ll spill the beans soon!)

Friday Fave: ‘Sing You Home’ by Jodi Picoult

Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult

There’s been a lot of buzz about this book in the music therapy world for the last few months.  Why?  Because the protagonist is a music therapist!  That doesn’t happen very often (in fact, I only know of one other book where that is the case), which is why it has caused such a stir.

So of course when the book came out, I made a mad dash to my computer to download the audio version and started listening right away.  It’s safe to say that I enjoyed it, considering I finished the book in just a few days.

Sing You Home is not just about music therapy, to be sure.  Jodi Picoult tackles several big issues, including infertility and same-sex marriage.  As with all of her other books, there are emotional highs and lows, twists and turns, and my favorite aspect of her writing — wonderful character development.

Zoe, the main character who is a music therapist, came alive for me after just a chapter or two.  I felt like I knew her, and the same went for the other characters.  It was so much fun to listen to the descriptions of her music therapy sessions — I kept forgetting I was reading a mainstream novel!

Many of the sessions she led in the book sounded similar to the kinds of things I do in my own sessions, although she worked with a wider range of populations than I.  Zoe faced many of the same struggles that we as music therapists do, including having to explain what she does repeatedly and having to stand up for music therapy as an evidence-based treatment modality.

I don’t want to include any spoilers, so I’ll leave you with this: read the book.  And not just because music therapy is involved!  It’s beautifully written, fast-paced, and makes you think.  Have you read it yet?

Friday Fave: Getting Things Done

Getting Things Done by David Allen

This book was recommended to me by the lovely Music Therapy Maven at the perfect time in my life.  Last year around this time, I was just a little stressed (and by a little, I mean so much so that I wrote this blog post).  But I listened to the audiobook version of Getting Things Done, and immediately implemented the system.

My biggest problem before reading this book was carrying my to-do list around in my head and letting it cause anxiety day in and day out.  It was a total “duh” moment for me when I read the part about getting the tasks out of my mind and down on paper.  Not a huge list, as I was used to compiling on a weekly basis, but a single action step I could take towards completing a task or project.

That’s where the tickler file comes in.  A simple concept, really: file folders for each month of the year, plus one for each week of the current month.

Getting Things Done by David Allen

That phone call I needed to make this week?  I wrote it down on a sticky note and put it in this week’s folder at the beginning of the month so that it was waiting for me.  The conference I’m presenting at next September?  All of that info is in the August folder, so when it’s time to start thinking about it, I can pull it out and do so.  No longer do random papers, forms, and bills clutter my desk’s main inbox and cause me stress on a daily basis.

There’s one more folder in my tickler file, and that’s the “Someday/Maybe” folder.  What goes in there: ideas I don’t have time for right now, information that may become useful at some point, lead sheets for songs I find that I might want to adapt and use in the future, etc.  It’s my go-to place when I have some spare time and might be able to take action on any one of those items.

It’s so much easier to look at a project as a list of steps, rather than one big scary cloud hanging over my head.  Of course, I still experience stress, but nowhere near the levels at which I once did.  And anything that can lower my stress is effective, trust me!  That’s why I always recommend Getting Things Done to everyone.

What about you?  Have you read the book, or do you have another system for getting organized and keeping your to-dos from overwhelming you?

A Sweet Singable Story

Goodnight Sweet Butterflies Children's Book

Last month’s inaugural Singable Story garnered quite a few comments and requests for more singable story ideas, so I’m excited to be back with another one today.  Good Night, Sweet Butterflies, written by Dawn Bentley, combines sensory input through touch (the butterflies on each page are 3-D and glittery, no less), sight (bright colors spill off of every page) and sound (well, assuming it is read or sung out loud).

I recorded this singable story for one of my music therapy groups yesterday, and rather than pre-compose the melody, I improvised the entire thing.  I love that the music is calm and soothing, just like the story itself.

I purchased quite a few new children’s books earlier this summer, all of which lend themselves nicely to being sung. Slowly but surely, I’ll be sharing more of those (plus some oldies but goodies). For now, enjoy this sweet, lullaby-like story and have fun making it your own!

1 Cool Bass Line = 2 Singable Stories

Down by the Station Children's Book

One of my favorite ways to engage my music therapy students is through children’s books. I have a sizable collection of what I call “singable stories” – books with words that translate nicely into sung lyrics.  Singable stories, along with the pictures that illustrate them, provide a wonderful opportunity to address goals such as identifying colors, objects, numbers, sight words, and answering “wh” questions.

A book that I find myself pulling off the shelf again and again is Down by the Station by Will Hillenbrand. The pictures are colorfully captivating, and the song is familiar to most children.

I’ve found that if I set the story to a cool beat, my students are even more apt to listen and participate.  This acoustic bass line (available in Garageband) does the trick nicely.

Another book I enjoy, and find effective in addressing the previously stated goals, is Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen.  Again, the story is familiar, and like the first book, there is quite a bit of onomatopoeia (words that imitate the sounds they represent).

We're Going on a Bear Hunt Children's Book

This book is new to my collection, and as I sat down to record it the other day, I realized that I could use the very same bass line as accompaniment!

When I want to jazz up my singable stories a little bit during a music therapy session, I actually play the accompanying bass line on my ipod as my student(s) and I explore the book. I make the track much longer than the length of the book, allowing for questions and conversation as we go through it. You are more than welcome to download it (for free) and use it in your own music therapy, classroom or home setting.

For those of you who have Garageband, this is “Cool Upright Bass 18” in the Loops section. You can adjust the tempo, key, and length to suit your needs. And of course, there are many more loops and beats to explore…I could (and sometimes do) spend hours playing around with them!