Off to School!

Off to School

It’s that time again: most of my students are off to school today! So in honor of this momentous occasion, I decided to give one of my older songs a bit of a facelift.

I wrote “Off to School” way back in 2009, and you can read the original blog post here. It’s been a staple at this time of year ever since, and I figured that because I get so much use out of it, many of you probably can too.

Feelings are mixed amongst my students about returning to school. While many of them are excited to see their friends again, some are struggling with academic and social anxiety. These feelings are completely normal, and will hopefully dissipate over the first few days and weeks.

While my kiddos are off to school today, I’m enjoying another beautiful day in Italy! Make sure to stop my by personal blog for a daily recap (with photos) of my travels.

Friday Fave: Blessed by Brenna

Blessed by Brenna

Brenna Westlake was born in December with with a rare skin condition called Harlequin Ichthyosis. Brenna’s skin lacks a certain protein which helps it form correctly, and instead it was formed as thick, white scales with ridges all over. Since her birth, Brenna has proved to be a fighter and won the hearts of my entire community.

Brenna’s mom, Courtney, has kept an almost daily blog since December, which you can find here.  In honor of Rare Disease Day on February 29th, Courtney shared a special project she’s been involved with and asked for help as the project moves into the final stage. She wrote:

When Brenna was a couple of weeks old, a friend shared on twitter about an organization called MarbleRoad, which raises awareness about rare diseases, and a “contest” they were doing called the Rare Children’s Storybook Project. The focus of the project was to compose a story involving a rare disease…and then chosen finalists would be asked to create an accompanying video.

At first, I didn’t think I had time to devote to writing a story in a matter of days. But one afternoon, I spent a few hours alone with Brenna at the hospital, and when I came home, the story just poured out of me. I wanted to write something for her and to her, so that she would know how we felt about her birth and her presence in our lives.

The winner for this project (who receives some money for medical costs and is considered for publication) is chosen based on the number of views, comments and “likes” on the video, so I would really appreciate you all taking the time to watch my video and read my story about our sweet girl!

Please take a few minutes to watch this touching video and help Brenna and her family win by liking the video here.

Friday Fave: My New Middle School Friends

Interview with Middle School Students

I had the pleasure of spending Wednesday morning with a great group of middle school students (I’m the non-student wearing stripes in the middle) from Lincoln Magnet School.  They contacted me last month about interviewing me for a project in their video journalism class, and of course I said yes!

These kids were pros, let me tell you.  I had reserved the board room at The Hope Institute for our interview, and as soon as we walked into the room, they began discussing the best placement for their video camera and me as the interview subject.  They had already sent me a list of questions, so I looked over those as they finished setting up.

Middle School Interview Questions

This was just page one of the excellent questions they had for me.  It was interesting to listen to their reactions as I explained what music therapy is all about, and how my students benefit from it.  They came up with some fabulous on-the-spot questions, as well.

After the interview was over, I took the students and their guidance counselor (who I had as a teacher when I was in middle school!) on a tour of the building.  They had the chance to meet some of my students, chat with my principal, see lots of cool aspects of our facility, and get an idea of all the kinds of services an organization like Hope has to offer.

The students will be editing their video into a short piece that will be shown at their class’s end-of-the-year movie screening, and I can’t wait to see the final product.  Not only was this a fun opportunity for me, but it’s one more way to get the word out about music therapy in my community.

WDBR Cares for Kids, and So Do I!

WDBR Cares for Kids Radiothon

Do you remember that scene in the movie That Thing You Do! when the band hears their song on the radio for the first time?  And they get out of their car (in the middle of the street) and jump around screaming and singing?  Well that was me last year when I heard my songs playing on my favorite radio station during the WDBR Cares for Kids Radiothon.

The Radiothon is a three day event during which money is raised for the Children’s Miracle Network and St. John’s Childrens’ Hospital, right in my hometown of Springfield, Illinois.  Throughout the radiothon, Dave & Dina (the awesome hosts of WBDR’s morning show) interview patients who have received treatment along with their families, and they play songs that accompany several childrens’ stories as they (or their parents) tell them in their own words.

Last year I had the huge privilege of writing two original songs to accompany the stories of Hollie and Sam, which you can hear right here.  I jumped at the chance to do it again; this time around I wrote songs for Will & Cookie, who talk about their brother Jack’s experience as a patient at St. John’s, and another song about the doctors from a patient’s perspective.

I will share my songs here at Listen & Learn after the radiothon is over…but until then, you can hear them either by tuning in to 103.7 WDBR (either on the radio if you’re in Springfield or streaming online).  The radiothon started yesterday and will go through tomorrow.  If you would like to make a donation, you can do so by calling 217-544-KIDS.  Last year, over $92,000 was raised, and I’m hoping that can be topped this year!

The bummer part is that I’m in Cleveland for the AMTA national music therapy conference until Sunday, so I won’t actually get to hear my songs played live on the radio.  But just knowing they are, and that they are part of such an awesome cause, makes up for it :)

People You Do & Don’t Know

I very distinctly remember my mom sitting my brother and I down and telling us all about stranger danger.  She explained who we could trust to stay with us, take us places, and even made up a code word for adults to let us know that it was okay to go with them in the case of an emergency situation.  Now, over twenty years later, I still get lectures about stranger danger from my mom, but I guess I can’t blame her.  After all, the world can be a scary place, as we are too often reminded by the stories in newspapers and on television.

The song that I wrote to address this topic identifies three different categories of adults:

  1. Safe Side Adults
  2. People You Kind of Know
  3. Strangers

Today’s song identifies and defines the three categories, and also determines whether or not it is safe to go with people from each.  The term “Safe Side Adult” came from a consult client who uses this word with her children (a benefit of custom-written songs – incorporating your own phrases and terminology).

The world is full of people,
Some you’ll know and some you won’t.
I wanna tell you ’bout three
Kinds of people you see,
Some you can go with, some you don’t.

A safe side adult is a person that you know.
With a safe side adult it’s okay to go.
Because it’s your grandma, grandpa, mom or dad,
Or someone that you’ve been told:
Is a safe side adult, a person you know,
With whom it’s okay to go.

There are also people that you kind of know.
With those people you shouldn’t go,
Unless a safe side adult has told you for sure,
That a person, specifically,
Is someone you can trust and know,
With whom it’s okay to go.

A stranger is a person that you don’t know.
With a stranger you should never go.
Because it’s someone that you’ve never seen before,
Or someone that you’ve been told,
Is a stranger, a person you don’t know,
With whom you should not go.

The world is full of people,
Some you’ll know and some you won’t.
I told you ’bout three
Kinds of people you see,
Some you can go with, some you don’t.

I’m sure you noticed that the tone is a little heavier than my other songs; I wrote the melody this way on purpose. Children need to realize how serious the topic of strangers really is, and I wanted this song to reflect that seriousness. What methods have you used to approach this subject with your children or students? Know of any other stranger danger songs? I’d love to hear about them!