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Listen and Learn Music: July 2009

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Music Therapy as a Career

One of the most fun aspects of writing this blog is the feedback I get from readers via email. I absolutely love hearing from you, whether you're sharing a success story or asking a question. One of the questions that I get asked the most is "how do I become a music therapist?". I receive one of these at least twice a week, with people wanting to know what kind of education and training are required, how long it takes, where a music therapist can work, etc.

So I was thrilled when I came across a blog post by one of my Twitter friends, fellow music therapist Kimberly Moore, addressing this very topic. For those of you who are curious about the path that leads to a music therapy career, please take a moment and read How to Become a Music Therapist. And keep the emails and comments coming!

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Ten Little Suns

I know I'm always complaining about our crazy midwest weather, but in these last few days, I haven't had much to complain about. We had a beautiful weekend with temperatures in the low 80s, and of course, lots of sunshine. All of these sunny days got me thinking that it is time to do a little counting...summer style!

Counting time, it's counting time,
So let's all sing this simple rhyme.
Ten little suns in a row,
Now let's count them nice and slow:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

How many suns?
Ten little suns.
All lined up in a row!

I've been so busy this summer that I haven't taken complete advantage of the summer sun; I wish I could stockpile a few days for the winter months, when I really need them :) August will be here before we know it - go out and enjoy the last few days of July!

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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Music that Motivates

Believe it or not, I'm one of those crazy people that gets up and goes to the gym at 5 am. It sounds completely awful, I know; but I love getting a jump start on my day and having my workout finished before most people are even out of bed. Besides a really loud alarm clock placed strategically out of my reach, there is only one thing that keeps me going every day: music.

I have filled my little iPod shuffle with songs that I know will keep me moving from the second I step onto the treadmill, through all of my strength training reps, to my cardio cool-down at the end. A few current favorites are the Black Eyed Peas, Michael Jackson, All American Rejects, and Kelly Clarkson.

Music is a great way to motivate my students and keep them moving, as well. As a music therapist, I always forget how useful recorded music can be - in fact, I was just having this conversation with another music therapist recently. I have been trying to use it to my advantage more lately, and I am being reminded that it can really give my students the push to do their work and meet their goals.

So here is a little list of the songs on my iPod that my students are digging, and that they will work extra hard to hear at the end of their session:

The Jungle Book - "Bare Necessities"
High School Musical - "We're All in This Together"
High School Musical 2 - "You are the Music in Me"
Laurie Berkner Band - "Bumblebee (Buzz Buzz)"
Alvin & the Chipmunks - "Witch Doctor"
Smashmouth - "All Star"
Jonas Brothers - "Live to Party"
The Lion King - "Hakuna Matata"
Justin Roberts - "Hey Hippopotamus"
Lou Bega - "Disney Mambo # 5"

This is just a short list of the many songs that I find myself humming after a long day of music therapy! Are there any others you can add to the list? If so, I'd love to hear them.

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Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

Remember the cabasa song I shared with you a couple of weeks ago? Well today, the lead sheet (lyrics and chords) is available to download for subscribers...learn about becoming one today!


Friday, July 24, 2009

Friday Fave: My Grandma

This is my grandma and I this past spring at my brother's graduation party. She is coming home today (she lives in Naples, FL) to celebrate her 80th birthday, and our family is throwing a party for her. My mom and I wanted to do something really special for her, so we decided to write a song. The song is called "Legacy" and as I mentioned in last week's Friday Fave, we utilized the wonderful GarageBand to record it.

A legacy is measured in many, many ways
It’s not the wealth you leave behind,
Or the number of your days.
The little things that mean the most
You won’t read about in the evening post
They’re in a knowing smile,
And the laughter of a child.


The music of your life
Will never cease to play,
The wisdom of your lyrics
Shaped who we are today.
The melody is familiar,
We’ve known it all along.
Your legacy is in this gift of song

The hands of time fly quickly and every moment counts
You must leave your mark and give your love
In unlimited amounts.
For all the hearts you’ve held so dear
Even those no longer here
Know this one thing’s true,
Our lives were blessed because of you.


Let’s spend this day in celebration
As we tell you how we feel.
We may not have the words we need,
But the sentiments are real.


We put a picture slideshow together, and this song is the soundtrack to it. I can't wait for my grandma to see it at her party on Saturday!

I also want to throw in a Kickstarter update: I have surpassed $1,000, meaning I am more than halfway to my goal of $2,000!! It has been amazing to witness the generosity of the people you see listed in the left-hand column, and I have no doubt that it will continue until I reach (or even pass) my goal. If you have made a pledge, THANK YOU so much. If not, you can read more about my project HERE.

Thanks for stopping by today. I hope you have a great Friday, and a wonderful weekend! See you next week :)

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

The last of the bonus scenes from my video studio tour. Meet Sadie, the official mascot of Music Therapy Connections, and even see her newest trick! This and more is available to subscribers...learn about becoming one today!


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Learning Left and Right

This concept is just plain hard. I struggled with this as a young child, and even today when giving someone directions, I have to stop and think before I decide whether it's a left or right turn. Maybe this is due to the fact that I am left-handed; us lefties have it rough ;) It's hard to explain left and right to a child, so in this song I describe the same method I used so long ago:

Sheet Music: $1
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The sky is up,
The ground is down,
But if you take a look around
There are other ways to go,
Left and right are what you need to know.

Hold up your hands
And reach your fingers to the sky,
Point your thumbs in,
Do you wanna know why?
Well the hand that makes an L
Is the left one.
The other is the right,
And now you’re halfway done.

Stretch your arms to your sides
As far as they can go.
Look at your left hand
And you will know,
That this way is left,
And the other way is right,
You are learning your directions,
And that is outta sight!

Do you have a better way for teaching left or right? If so, please share! You can never have enough tools in the box when it comes to teaching skills like this one.

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Monday, July 20, 2009

Ten and Back

I know I just posted a counting song yesterday, but you can never have too many...right? This one focuses on counting to ten and back. Many of my students don't have much difficulty with the first part, but most of them struggle when it comes to counting backwards.

Sheet Music: $1
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It’s time for a ten and back counting song
And I’d love it if you’d help me sing along.
It’s easy and fun, beginning with one,
Now let’s all give it a try:

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine,
Ten is the end - let’s go backwards, my friend,
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one,
We’ve counted to ten and back so now we’re done.

It’s time for a ten and back counting song
And I’d love it if you’d help me sing along.
It’s easy and fun, beginning with one,
Now let’s give it another try:

One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine,
Ten is the end - let’s go backwards, my friend,
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one,
We’ve counted to ten and back so now we’re done.

There's nothing like a new counting song to kick off a Monday morning :) I'm feeling a little groggy on this particular one, despite an early workout and a cup of coffee sitting next to me. Hopefully I'll feel a little more awake by the time my first student arrives. Have a great day!

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Sunday, July 19, 2009

Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

The winners of the song topic contest have been announced! Stay tuned to hear the songs I'm writing using the top three song topics. Also, I've added bonus scenes from my video studio tour only available to Listen & Learn Plus! subscribers...learn about becoming one today!


Count by Five Jive

As I was going through my computer files this weekend - I'm running out of room on my hard drive and need to do some purging - I came across a folder of songs I wrote during my internship. I couldn't believe I'd let these songs go unused for the past two years, so I immediately rescued, reworked, and recorded them.

The first song I'm going to share is called "Count by Five Jive". I remember using this song with a little boy named Alex who was working on this particular skill at the time. It goes like this:

Sheet Music: $1
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When you want to count by five,
Just sing the words to this jazzy jive.
Start at five instead of one
Count to one-hundred, and then your done.

Five, Ten, Fifteen, Twenty,
Twenty-five, Thirty, Thirty-five, Forty,
Forty-five, Fifty, Fifty-five, Sixty,
Sixty-five, Seventy, Seventy-five, Eighty,
Eighty-five, Ninety, Ninety-five, One-hundred.

It’s not so hard to count by five
When you know this jazzy jive.
Now we’ll end our clever rhyme
By counting by five just one more time.

I found several counting songs, actually, and I'll be sharing them over the next few days. Another fun file I came across in my internship folder was the journal I kept for the entire nine months. It was so interesting to read the first few entries, which really brought back memories of how nervous and excited I was to be actually practicing music therapy. The funny thing is that even now, three years later, I still get that nervous and excited feeling with each new client. Every child is different and presents his or her own unique challenges. I love that this job constantly keeps me on my toes and forces the creative juices to flow 24/7.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Friday Fave: GarageBand

As much as I write about my iPhone, Macbook, and other gadgets, you might think I work for Apple (or at least get paid to promote their products). Well neither is the case; I just happen to really, really love these pieces of technology. Even harder to believe is that up until two years ago, I was a total PC person. My husband made the switch in 2006, and I followed him after listening to a year's worth of gloating about his superior machine.

Now I don't know what I'd do without my Mac (and more recently, my iPhone). I do all of my recording using GarageBand, a music editing program that comes with every Apple computer. It allows me to record several different tracks either via a microphone or MIDI source, and then edit them to my heart's content. It is integrated with iTunes so that once my recording is finished, I can import it into my iTunes library and then either burn it to a CD or post it to my blog. How convenient!

Today my mom and I recorded a song that we wrote for my grandma's 80th birthday, and of course, we used GarageBand. She was amazed that I could easily add strings and other instruments, manipulate each track to make it perfect, and then email it off to her once it was completed.

I remember the first time my husband showed me the program; my exact words were "what would I ever do with this?". Now I can't imagine my life without it, since so much of it is spent writing and recording music for work and for fun. My newest GarageBand project? Creating custom ringtones using songs in my iTunes library for my iPhone...even Zach has joined in this action :)

I could probably go on and on all afternoon about the wonders of GarageBand, but I'll stop here. Enjoy the rest of your Friday, and hopefully I'll be back over the weekend with a new song or two.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

On the Inside

Today's post is one I think (or at least, I hope) you'll like. I've been having so much fun experimenting with the video camera feature on my iPhone that I thought I'd put it to good use. So I'm going to take you on a tour of my home studio, where all of the Music Therapy Connections magic happens. Please pardon my lack of camera skills - I'm still new at this, and I need some more work on holding it steady :)

Please feel free to ask questions about any of the things you saw in the video. I am always more than happy to share my resources with you, my wonderful readers. Oh, and I also would like to mention that my Kickstarter Project, "Listen & Learn: Music for a Different Kind of Audience" has almost reached the quarter mark thanks to you! Currently, you have pledged $456 out of the $2,000 goal. I can't wait to see who brings it to the $500 mark...could it be you?

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Help Me, Help Them

This is a song I wrote about my Kickstarter project:

Hi there, I'm Rachel,
Thanks for stopping by.
I wrote this song and made this video
To explain the reasons why
You should make a pledge and be a part
Of this project that I hope to start
It's called Listen & Learn and its for
A different kind of audience who needs more

Autism presents itself
In more than one way,
It's a disorder that affects how children learn,
And communicate and play.
But music is a bridge that can reach inside
It lets a child connect instead of hide
And that's why I do what I do,
Why I'm asking support from you.

Help me, help them
Give my gift of song.
Even if you pledge one dollar
You'll move this project along.
I write the songs but I need a hand,
To follow through with my grander plan
Which is recording a CD
Just for them, and sung by me.

I wanted to reach out,
So I started a blog to share
My music and thoughts with the people
Who could benefit out there.
They said my songs were part of the solution
So I want to make a bigger contribution
So please, if you feel inclined,
I hope that you will find that you can.

For more information, simply click on the Kickstarter box in the left-hand column of this page. As always, thanks for your support of Listen & Learn Music!

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Cabasa is Boss

I've been neglecting this little beauty, otherwise known as the cabasa, since I purchased it back in early June. I really wanted to use it; I just never got around to it. Well I decided this week that it is time to put my newest instrument to good use, and I figured I may as well write a song about it, too.

Sheet Music: $1
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Twist, twist, use your wrist,
That’s how you play the cabasa.
Twist, twist, use your wrist,
And play the cabasa for the whole wide world to hear.

The cabasa was born in Africa
Before it came to the USA
The cabasa’s a percussion instrument
And you’re playing it today.
Now pass it to your neighbor, that’s the way!


I'm going to try out this song this afternoon with one of my music therapy groups. The kids will sit in a circle, and I'll have them take turns playing the cabasa and then pass it to their neighbor as indicated in the song. This is a great instrument not only because it sounds cool, but because it is visually and tactilely interesting. I am looking forward to seeing my students' reactions today, because as far I know, they've never seen, heard or played a cabasa before. We'll see how it goes!

Oh, one more thing. I want to give you an update on my Kickstarter project, which you can learn more about by reading my previous post or following the link in the left sidebar. In the first three days since launching my project, I've had five people pledge a total of $141, which is 7% of my $2,000 goal. Thank you to those of you who have pledged...and I'd like to invite everyone else to get on board, too. Listen & Learn Music has grown because of you, but it hasn't reached its full potential yet. Let's make it happen!

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Friday Fave: Kickstarter

Hi friends. I'm feeling exceptionally happy today, and not just because it is Friday. Also, not just because I'm drinking a huge mug of delicious coffee. The real reason is that I have something exciting to write about today, and this could quite possibly be my favorite "Friday Fave" to date. I hope you'll read on.

I discovered Kickstarter while reading one of my favorite blogs. The girl who writes the blog (her name is Lindsey Markel) also wrote a publication for girls with the goal of "empowerment through advice, education and encouragement regarding everything from school to credit cards, and heartbreak to living a life of wonder". Lindsey was seeking to self-publish her work in book format and distribute it to women's shelters, Planned Parenthoods, and after-school programs nationwide, which is why she turned to Kickstarter.

Curious, I clicked the link from her blog and was led to a site which calls itself a "a funding platform for artists, designers, filmmakers, musicians, journalists, inventors, explorers...". I could become a backer of Lindsey's project by pledging any amount of money (from as little as $1) and if her goal amount was reached (which it was - twice over, actually), my pledge would be collected via an Amazon payment.

After I made my pledge, I began exploring some of the other projects on Kickstarter. There were all sorts of creative types hoping to turn their projects into a reality, which got me thinking about Listen & Learn. I have lots of goals for my song collection and website, one of which is to professionally record a compilation CD which can be widely distributed to those who it could possibly benefit. My current set-up, which consists of recording and editing each song on my laptop and burning CDs one by one, is funtional but not ideal. As my horizons have expanded, I'm ready for the next level!

So today is the official launch of my very own Kickstarter project, titled "Listen & Learn: Songs for a Different Kind of Audience". My hope is that if one of my songs or ideas has positively affected a child in someone's life, that person will become a backer. After all, backers get cool stuff in return (did I mention that part earlier?). I could keep writing, but instead I'll just give you the link to my project - HERE IT IS!!

Thanks for reading this super-long post, and for being a regular visitor. Have a beautiful Friday and a wonderful weekend!

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Thursday, July 9, 2009

Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

I need a little inspiration in my life right now, and I've turned to the fine folks at Listen & Learn Music Plus! to supply it. The readers who supply the three most creative, silly, and off-the-wall song topics will receive a free Custom CD and a shout-out when I post the finished songs here later this month. Join in the contest by becoming a subscriber...learn more today!


Tuesday, July 7, 2009

In Memory of Michael Jackson

There's not much left to be said about Michael Jackson that hasn't been said already in the wake of his death. When I heard the news, I - like most people - found it hard to digest. MJ is an American icon, but he was human, too...something we tend to forget when it comes to ultra celebrities like him. No matter how he lived his personal life, nothing can change the fact that he was a phenomenal entertainer whose fame and influence spanned multiple generations.

I've been listening to a lot of Michael Jackson's music over the past two weeks, and it's been fun revisiting the songs that I loved so much as a child. I caught the last hour or so of his memorial service today, and I just have to share with you what I thought was the most emotionally moving musical performance of all:

I'll never forget performing "Heal the World" as a third grader in my elementary school musical, We're Gonna Have an Earth Day. The show itself was cheesy, but the feeling that I had when we sang that as a choir came rushing back as I watched today's rendition during the memorial. There's no questioning Michael Jackson's profound effect on the world, and the fact that he will be missed.

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Sunday, July 5, 2009

Counting Time: Fireworks

I know the Fourth of July has passed, but I decided to write this post anyway. After all, the holiday weekend isn't over yet and next to celebrating our country's independence and those who protect it, fireworks are a central feature of the Fourth. In fact, I can't recall a single Independence Day when I didn't attend at least one patriotic display. You can find them all over our city, from the park to downtown to neighbor's front yards, and despite the inclement weather, this year was no exception.

I think fireworks deserve their own place in the "Counting Time" collection, and my students agree. We have been counting them for the last week or so, along with flags, suns and ice cream comes. You know the tune by now, so go ahead and sing along:

Counting time, it's counting time,
So let's all sing this simple rhyme.
Ten little fireworks in a row,
Now let's count them nice and slow:

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.
1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.

How many fireworks?
Ten little fireworks.
All lined up in a row!

Hope you had the chance to enjoy some fireworks in your neck of the woods, and that you have the opportunity to relax on this lazy Sunday (which is exactly what I'm doing). Bye for now!

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Friday, July 3, 2009

Friday Fave: Community Support

Today's Friday Fave is a little different from those I've posted in the past. Before I get to the "fave" part, there are some not-so-pleasant facts I need to goes.

The state of Illinois is facing some pretty devastating budget cuts that would drastically reduce or eliminate many statewide social services. The long list of agencies and organizations that would be affected provide services for millions of people, many of whom are children with disabilities.

The Hope Institute for Children and Families provides residential and educational services to children with multiple disabilities, and it is on that list. I have been ensured that my job as music therapist is not in danger, but some of the children at our school might not be so lucky. It these cuts are not restored, services for many of our students may not be funded and they might be sent home. An incredibly alarming scenario, not just for Hope but for the parents and students who depend on the care that Hope provides.

But everyone at Hope, and those involved with the other social service agencies in Illinois, has faith that doors will not be shut and children will not be denied the support upon which they depend. And that brings me to the "fave" part of this otherwise somber post, which is community support.

I have been amazed at the efforts of our community here in Springfield and across the state to stop these devastating cuts from ocurring. Two weeks ago a huge rally at the capitol building was organized, and many social service organizations united to show our legislators just how dedicated they are to what they do, and how far they are willing to go to keep doing it.

Letter-writing and telephone campaigns have been in effect since the budget cuts were announced, and through the beauty of email, Facebook, and Twitter, I've watched as people have responded and participated in such campaigns, whether or not they are affiliated with an affected social service agency. What a beautiful thing.

The legislators won't be in session again for another two weeks, so it could be a while before we have any definite answers about the future of Illinois. But I am sure that in the meantime, the community will continue to write letters to the editor, email and call their representatives and senators, and so on. And that makes me proud to be a part of it, despite our sad political state.

For more information about the Hope Institute and how it could be affected by the budget crisis, visit their Facebook page.

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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

By now you've most likely had a chance to listen to my song of the month for July. Over at Listen & Learn Plus!, the lead sheet (guitar chords and lyrics) for "July" is available to download for subscribers...learn about becoming one today!


Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Clap Your Hands 'Cause it's July!

Holy cow, already? It still feels as though summer is just getting started. Regardless, the beginning of July is one of the highlights of the summer, and the fun begins today with a brand-new song of the month. (Actually, I wrote it last July...but it's new to you!)

Picnics, ice cream, apple pie,
Clap your hands ‘cause it’s July!
The seventh month of the year,
For thirty one days July is here.

Wave your flag, way up high,
Celebrate the fourth of July.
Let’s all wear red, white, and blue,
Fireworks for me and you!


Independence is the word,
Patriotic songs are heard.
Let’s join in and sing out loud,
For our country we are proud.


Summer’s coming to a peak,
It gets hotter every week.
Hear the crickets chirp at night,
Until the morning sun shines bright.


What are your plans for the 4th of July? And do you have any festive songs to go along with this patriotic holiday? If so, please share :) July is already off to a busy start for me - my best friend is coming to town today, I'm playing at a new venue on Friday, and of course, Saturday will be filled with food, fun, and fireworks. The perfect trifecta, if you ask me.

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