I haven’t written about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary because, well, I’m not sure what to say that hasn’t been said already. What I do know is that I’m absolutely heartbroken — for the victims, for their families, and for the entire community of Newtown, Connecticut.
Earlier this week, I received a message from my friend and fellow music therapist, Julie Lindemuth. She had written a song called “You’re Unique, You Are Special” some time ago, but shared it recently with a child who has autism and was terrified to go back to school after hearing about the shooting.
She was kind enough to allow me to post the video here at Listen & Learn today; I know that many of you, like myself, work with children and adolescents who might very well benefit from a song like this.
As music therapists, we often are faced with difficult issues within our sessions and it’s not always easy to come up with appropriate ways to handle them. Thank you, Julie, for taking the time to pass this great resource along.
As a kid, I was never a crier. My mom used to say that she could count on one hand the number of times she saw me cry when I was younger, and she was probably right. Something always stopped me from letting my feelings out.
I see the same thing happen with my students quite often. Music therapy and even music lessons can be emotional at times, and I can tell when a child or young adult is on the verge of tears. They usually try to hold them back and keep themselves together, but I always encourage my students to share how they’re feeling — even if it means letting the tears fall.
I remember feeling embarrassed every time I cried as a child, even if it was just in front of my parents or best friend. But as I say in the song, everybody cries and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.
I’ve learned that crying can be cathartic…it really does help us face whatever we’re feeling sad about. I wrote this song so that we can teach that to our students and children. Choking back tears is no fun, as I know all too well!
So I told Jayla the story about a time when I felt the same way about watching and listening to my own performances, and what changed that. Here’s how it all went down, just a little over ten years ago.
One night after a rehearsal for my high school musical, our accompanist helped me make a college audition video for Emory University’s music school. I had already traveled to quite a few faraway schools for in-person auditions, and this was one of the few that accepted videos in place of actually being there.
I remember that I sang “Don’t Rain on My Parade” along with two foreign language pieces, and I also remember feeling pretty good about my performance afterward. But those good feelings didn’t last very long.
When I got home, my parents wanted to watch the video, and I was eager to see it, too. Just a couple minutes into it, though, I lost it. We’re talking hysterical sobbing here, people. My parents looked at me like I was crazy, and reassured me over and over again that I looked and sounded great.
I, however, thought just the opposite. I convinced myself that becoming a music major was a horrible mistake, because I’d never make the cut. All of my past successes as a singer just flew out the window, as far as I was concerned.
As upset as the video had made me, my mom sent it to Emory anyway. I’m sure you can imagine my surprise when a month later, I received a letter in the mail notifying me that I had been accepted to the program.
I didn’t end up choosing Emory (I went here instead), but I’m forever grateful to that school for teaching me that I needed a major attitude adjustment when it came to respecting myself as a singer. I learned to actually enjoy watching video of my performances and listening to recordings of myself singing. Instead of getting angry about mistakes, I grew from them.
And that’s why I’m so adamant about recording my students’ performances and having them watch and listen to themselves on a regular basis. They are learning from a young age to be respectful critics of themselves, and to love the sound of their own voices.
It’s funny to look back at myself, crying over an audition video, from where I am now: sending out an abundant number of recordings and videos into the universe every week.
How do you feel about watching and listening to yourself?
Poor Sydney. All he wants in life is a new nose, but for now he’s stuck with this old carrot (like so many of his snowman friends). Cute song idea, right? But don’t give me any of the credit…that goes to my friend Brian, who suggested this topic on my Facebook page.
When I first started writing this song, I had the intention of letting Sydney find the new nose for which he was searching. But then it hit me that I had an opportunity for a lesson in self-esteem (though I kept it subtle). Notice the nods to “Frosty the Snowman” — I just couldn’t resist!
Sydney the snowman had one wish, just one,
And it didn’t have anything to do
With the bright, hot sun.
His wish was for a brand new nose,
Made of anything but carrots,
Which he thought were gross.
Oh, Sydney searched high and low,
He even asked people that he didn’t know,
If they could help fill in the space,
In the middle of his face.
Watch as Sydney goes,
Over the hills and around the town
In search of a different nose.
Sydney the snowman liked most things, it’s true.
Candy canes and lollipops
And pretzels and bananas, too.
But the vegetable he did despise,
Unfortunately, was the perfect size.
Oh, Sydney couldn’t think of anything less cute
Than a nose made out of an old orange root,
And then a stranger who was kind,
Gave a compliment that changed his mind.
What a beautiful snowman face have you,
With a nose so bright and button eyes so blue.
I can tell you were made with love,
And that’s something to be proud of.
Watch as Sydney goes,
Over the hills and around the town
Proudly showing off his carrot nose.
Big props to Brian for coming up with such a clever song topic! I hope I did it justice. I received quite a few additional ideas as a result of my call for song topics, so I’m trying to decide which to tackle next. Do you have any last-minute holiday song topic suggestions? Let me know in the comments!
Welcome! I’m Rachel Rambach, board-certified music therapist and creator of Listen & Learn Music — educational songs and musical materials for children. I love sharing my work with you, along with my behind-the-scenes creative process, adventures in business ownership, and life as a mom of two little ones.
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