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Listen and Learn Music: September 2009

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

CD of the Month Club

At the beginning of every month, I create a CD of the songs we will sing on a regular basis in most of the classrooms at my school. Of course, there are always add-ins depending on what concepts the teachers would like for me to address, but because routine is so important to our students, music therapy follows this basic outline:

1. Hello
2. Calendar
3. Weather
4. Instrument Play/Movement
5. Concept Songs
6. Goodbye

These CDs are approximately 30 minutes in duration and generally contain 12-15 songs. I work with fifteen classes at my school, but I usually end up making closer to 25 CDs because, inevitably, I will receive requests from parents, staff, and visitors to the school. Over the last couple of months, I've had a handful of readers ask for their own copy of my "CD of the Month", which is why I decided to start this club.

There are two options:

1) Purchase a 12-month set for $80
2) Purchase a single CD for $10 in any given month

Shipping is free, and you will receive your CD(s) in the week preceding the month for which you purchased. You can also opt to download the CD rather than receive a physical copy.

Since October begins tomorrow, the first CDs to go out will be for November. Choose option 1 or 2 below, and then proceed to join the club!

Physical CD or Download?
Note: You may join at any time. Your 12 month membership will begin in the month after you sign up.


Four Little Coins

Recognizing, counting, and using money are functional skills that every child is taught at some point in his or her education. I've been impressed so many times over the years by the creative methods that teachers use to teach the concept of money, and I can't tell you how many different songs I've heard about the penny, nickel, dime, and quarter.

So I thought to myself, why not add one more to that heaping collection? The song I'm sharing today focuses on recognizing the four main coins, and also their monetary value. I have yet to use this song in a music therapy session as it is fairly new, but hopefully it is effective. "Four Little Coins" goes like this:

Sheet Music: $1
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There are four little coins in my pocket,
Each one has its own name.
These four little coins are all money,
but their values are not the same.

A penny is copper in color.
Small, thin and round, you see.
Abraham Lincoln is the face on this coin,
One cent for you and me.


A nickel is silver in color.
Small, fat and round, you see.
Thomas Jefferson is the face on this coin,
Five cents for you and me.


A dime is silver in color.
Small, thin and round, you see.
Franklin D. Roosevelt is the face on this coin,
Ten cents for you and me.


A quarter is silver in color.
Big, thin and round, you see.
George Washington is the face on this coin,
Twenty-five cents for you and me.

There are four little coins in my pocket,
Now you know each one's name.
What it looks like and how much each one is worth,
Because their values are not the same.

I've always found that it works best to use actual coins when teaching money concepts, rather than pictures or fake money. One thing I've done in the past is put velcro on the back of each coin, and asked students to match the coin with its correct value, name, or description. I made a book for this purpose during my internship, and still pull it out from time to time. What kinds of activities or songs do you use to teach children about money?

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

The song of the week is "October", which will be here in a few short days. Subscribers can download it, and also participate in a poll asking topics they'd like to see at Listen & Learn Music Plus! in the coming months. Learn about becoming one today!


Contest: Halloween Song Topics

Some people find this hard to believe, but I am not a huge fan of Halloween. You might even remember me mentioning this last year (most likely more than once!) but I just can't help it. The decorations, costumes and everything else associated with this "holiday" give me the creepy crawlies.

Regardless of my personal feelings, most of my students are in fact big fans of Halloween and therefore enjoy activities and songs related to it. You can browse some of those songs and activities I shared last year HERE. Well now that October is upon us, I thought it might be fun to have a little contest to get into the, um, Halloween spirit.

All you have to do: suggest a Halloween song topic! Easy enough, right? It could be scary, funny, silly, whatever. Just be creative, and make sure the topic is kid-friendly. The three people who submit my favorite topics will not only receive a free Custom CD, but their topic will be turned into a song and shared here at Listen & Learn in the coming month. The deadline is October 5 (a week from today) so start brewing up some ideas. Topics can be submitted via email or in the comments section of any post. Can't wait to see what you come up with!

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Friday, September 25, 2009

CD Project Update

In case you missed it, my goal of raising $2,000 (to create a CD for kids with autism and other disabilities) was met and SURPASSED on Friday, September 4. Not only was that the day Listen & Learn Music officially turned one year old, but it was also the very day I realized that this little dream of mine was going to become a reality!

Since then, I have been hard at work planning my course of action. I found the perfect recording studio back in August, but waited until I knew the funding would be there to actually book it. I am thrilled to officially announce that I will be recording the CD at Jupiter Studios in St. Louis over my spring break, March 30-April 2.

And there's more exciting news! Kimberly Smoot, an amazingly talented local photographer, has offered to donate her services to the cause. The shoot for cover/insert photos will take place next Saturday, October 3 at her studio here in Springfield. You can check out some of her stunning work HERE.

As I've mentioned, this CD (in both physical and download form) will be given away to families of children with autism and other disabilities at no cost. While the money that you all have so graciously pledged will cover recording expenses, there won't be a whole lot leftover for production costs. So in these final 12 days remaining, I am asking for those of you who have not already pledged to consider doing so. Every extra dollar means another CD can be produced and given away to a child who can enjoy it.


Friday Fave: Inspiration

Sometimes I feel like there are so many directions I want to go in life, so many things I want to do, that I can barely keep my head on straight. When I graduated from high school, my goal in life was to perform music. I spent my college years working toward that goal, until I realized that I wanted to help people through music. I went to graduate school with the new goal of becoming a music therapist, but I never lost my passion for performance. I just sort of put it aside for awhile.

In the last year or so, though, I've had the itch to get back into it. That is not to say my passion for music therapy has diminished; in fact, quite the opposite is true. Lately I've been feeling more and more like I can do both, and though it can be overwhelming at times, I have found inspiration in so many places to keep at it. These are just a few sources of that inspiration:

Other music therapists who are in similar situations.
Last spring, I had a long conversation with a music therapist across the country who struggles with finding a balance between her music therapist-self and her performing-self. I completely identified with her, and was reassured to hear her say that it is okay to embrace both passions.

The internet.
I come across websites every day that tell stories of other performers with unconventional backgrounds, career paths, and day jobs. I am constantly reminded that people don't fit neatly into boxes labeled "singer/songwriter", "music therapist", "teacher", etc. There is a lot of overlap between all the branches of the music world.

Laurie Berker.
Okay, so I talk about her all the time, but I can't help it. Like me, she began her career using music to connect with and help children. She started writing her own songs, and with a lot of hard work, made a name for herself through her music and now reaches children all over the world. I read a great interview with her yesterday which made me look up to her even more.

Allison Weiss.
This girl knows what she wants to do, and is going after it. She makes use of all of her resources, and is, as she calls herself, a totally DIY artist. In fact, I first learned about Kickstarter through her website. She raised $7,000 to make her album, and although she doesn't work with children, she connects with people through her music in a way that any music therapist or musician in general can appreciate.

My own audience.
When I am doing music therapy, I don't think of my students as my audience. Music is merely the tool that I use to work with them on goals that are actually non-musical. But when I hear a student (or staff member!) singing one of my songs outside of the music therapy session, it makes me feel like my music is not only therapeutic, but also enjoyable. Sort of the same feeling I get when I am performing in a non-music therapy setting and people are responding to my songs.

I hope this all makes sense, not just inside my head, but to you as well. The bottom line is that I never want to stop being a music therapist, nor do I want to stop performing. The universe seems to be telling me that it is okay to do both, so I am just going to keep listening :)

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Songs For Teaching Blog

If you are a music therapist, educator, or parent and HAVEN'T heard of or visited Songs For Teaching, then you have been missing out on one of the best resources for educational children's songs and materials on the web. I discovered this amazingly comprehensive website less than a week into graduate school, as I was planning music therapy sessions for an assignment. I knew the minute I entered the site that it was a goldmine - there are thousands of songs by hundreds of artists to choose from, not to mention lyrics, lesson ideas, printables and freebies.

Last year I had the opportunity to offer my own Listen & Learn music at Songs For Teaching, and at this point there are 13 albums available for download. So I was absolutely thrilled when Songs For Teaching invited me to write for their brand new blog, which just recently went live. You can find it HERE, and there is also a link to it from the main page.

I will be blogging about many of the same topics you read here at Listen & Learn, though I go a little bit more into depth there about strategies for using music in the classroom. The goal is to spread the message that music is an extremely useful educational tool, and not only that, but it's fun. Please take the time to visit and let me know what you think!

You can also follow Songs For Teaching on Facebook and Twitter. And while you're at it, find me at Facebook and Twitter as well!


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

All About Autumn

It is officially fall! Preparations are being made at The Hope Institute for this weekend's Fall Festival, which include homemade scarecrows from each classroom (for a song about scarecrows, click here) and decorated leaves.

Though "Fall Into Fall" has been our official song of the season since last year, I wanted to add another one to the rotation. "All About Autumn" includes the major events in the coming months, and although I could have easily added several more verses, I decided that three was enough :) Take a listen:

I want to tell you all about autumn,
That’s another name for fall.
It begins at the end of September,
When the days are short and the trees are tall.

Autumn is a time to change the clocks,
We fall an hour behind.
We get an extra hour to sleep at night,
‘Cause that’s what happens when we rewind.


Autumn is a time for Halloween,
Wearing costumes while we trick-or-treat.
Walking around our neighborhood,
Collecting so much candy to eat.


Autumn is a time for Thanksgiving,
Let’s be thankful for the food on our plate.
And all of the good things in our lives,
With our family, we celebrate.


One of the things I'm looking forward to this autumn is the end of daylight savings. While I know most people would like the sun to stay up longer, I'm eager for it to rise earlier! I wake up at 4:30 am during the week in order to hit the gym, and it is always so much easier to get going when it's lighter outside. What are you looking forward to in the next few months?

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Pajamas for Your Ears

When I was a freshman in college, I fell asleep every night listening to Jane Monheit's aptly titled album, "Come Dream With Me". I found it really soothing, and it drowned out any noise created by my roommate in our very small dorm room. The only downside was the discomfort caused by the headphones on my ears, which forced me to lay on my back (I am a side-sleeper).

So when I came across sleepphones, which are headphones specifically designed for use in bed at night, I was intrigued. These headphones are neither bulky nor made of hard plastic; rather, they are adjustable and made of a soft fleece material that fits around the head, and the speakers and wire can be positioned so that they don't cause any discomfort. Take a look:

While I was definitely interested in having my own pair, another thought came to mind: these would be perfect for children with autism and other sensory issues, who enjoy music and find it soothing but are averse to wearing traditional headphones. After doing some further investigation (i.e. asking the company's owner), I found that indeed, sleepphones are often used for this purpose. He even sent some feedback from parents of children with autism who have had success with the sleepphones:

"Love your product, by the way. My autistic son has worn out the last order. He is very sensitive to sounds and these have made his nights much more peaceful. Thank you for this great invention."
- Joan S., CA

"THANK YOU! They are awesome! My daughter no longer gets out of bed multiple times at night. She gets to sleep easily now. Sleepphones = stressless nights."
- Todd, PA

The headphones can be plugged into any mp3 or CD player, which is perfect since I charge my iPod on my nightstand every night. My own pair is on its way, so I will give my full review once it arrives. But I have a feeling that not only will it be effective in drowning out "Sportscenter" (my husband's favorite bedtime show), but it might also be a useful tool in addressing sleep issues for children with and without disabilities. You can learn more about sleephone at their website.

What are your thoughts? Have you experimented with headphones of any kind with your children, and what has the outcome been?


Monday, September 21, 2009

Share Something Positive

Good morning! Another Monday is upon us, and although I had a tough time getting going today, I'm making the best of it. Just one of those days, you know?

Luckily, though, I have the perfect song for a day like today, when you just need some extra positivity to lift your spirits. This is an activity I've been using with my students recently, and they really seem to enjoy it. I'll explain more after you take a listen:

Sheet Music: $1
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Share something positive that happened this week.
It could be at home or school.
Something that you're proud about or made you smile,
or something you thought was cool.

Many times when a student has something to share with the class and myself, he or she will speak out of turn or interrupt the current activity to do so. This particular song gives each student an opportunity to tell their story or share their thoughts while everyone is listening.

In a similar fashion to the compliment song, this tune is sung before each student's turn. The positive events they share are quite diverse; one student might talk about going fishing with his grandpa, while another might tell us that she got to go home for the weekend (many of our students live at Hope, as it is a residential facility in addition to the learning center). I love learning more about the children's lives through this activity.

How about you? I'd love to hear about something positive that happened in your life this week. I shared mine yesterday, so please return the favor in the comments section!

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Sunday, September 20, 2009

Publicity, Performance, and Praise, Oh My!

On Thursday morning I got an email from my husband. It was a picture of the Illinois Times cover taken with his iPhone after he realized that I just happened to be on it! I had an idea that I might get a mention because of a show I was scheduled to play this weekend, but a picture on the cover? No clue! Needless to say, it was a nice surprise.

And then he opened up the paper to find that my picture was also featured in the article, along with a short write-up in which my songs were described as "delightfully perceptive". I couldn't think of a higher compliment, really :)

The extra publicity was much appreciated, as I had a full house for my show this weekend at a new winery near Springfield. It was a beautiful night, so I was able to play on the outdoor stage. The audience was great, but the very best part of the whole night was right after my first set, when a little girl and her parents came up to talk to me.

The man said that he had seen me in the paper, and wanted his daughter (whose name was Gracie) to see a girl playing the guitar and performing. She had just gotten a guitar for her birthday, and wanted to learn to play it. Gracie told me that her favorite song I sang was "The Climb" by Miley Cyrus. Her dad bought a copy of my CD for her (plus three more to give as gifts) and asked me to autograph it. Before they left, she thanked me for playing and said, "I loved your music!" And then my heart melted.

It was a fabulous night, and exactly the musical outlet I needed after the last several weeks of work-related stress. I can't wait to play there again in November!

Just another quick thanks to all the new visitors who have stopped by via Blogger's "Blog of Note" announcement. I am loving all the comments and feedback - please keep them coming, and I promise I will respond to everyone very soon!


Friday, September 18, 2009

The Best of Listen & Learn

In honor of being named today's "Blog of Note" by the awesome team at Blogger, I have compiled a list of the posts that I think best represent Listen & Learn Music. A Cliff Notes of sorts for first-time visitors, and a walk down memory lane for those of you who have supported this blog since it's creation in September 2008. Let's start at the very beginning...

9/4/08: An Introduction
My very first post, which tells the story behind Listen & Learn.

10/10/08: A New Friday Tradition
"Friday Faves" are still going strong. This was the inaugural one.

10/26/08: Up Close and Personal
Here, I share a little-known (non music-therapy) side of myself.

11/4/08: You Can Vote However You Like
A fun reflection on Election Day, including a fab video.

11/20/08: Turkey Dinner Dance
This song (and dance!) might just stir a Thanksgiving craving.

12/17/09: The Other Eight Reindeer
My nod to Dasher, Dancer, Prancer, Vixen, Comet, Cupid, Donner and Blitzen.

1/30/09: Three Blue Pigeons
How I was able to reach a little boy with autism through a simple song.

2/23/09: Off to School Today
An upbeat tune all about going to school. School is cool!

4/20/09: Office Space
A photo tour of my home office and studio in its beginnings.

5/28/09: Bells are for Shaking
One of the many songs I've written specifically for the instruments we play.

6/25/09: I Heart Taylor Swift
Doesn't everyone? Especially after the whole Kanye West/VMAs debacle.

7/14/09: Help Me, Help Them
A video I made to spread the word about my Kickstarter project.

8/4/09: On the Disney Channel
Hannah Montana? Check. Jonas Brothers? Check. The whole gang's here.

9/4/09: Listen & Learn Turns 1
This post rounds out the past year in review as my blog celebrates its birthday!

Do you have a favorite post you've read or song you've heard here at Listen & Learn? I'd love to know about it. In the meantime, I am still reeling from the amazing bestowment of "Blog of Note" and 1,200+ visitors I've had today! Thanks to each and every one of you for sharing a few minutes of your day with me :)

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Today's Blog of Note!

Wow, wow, wow...I don't even know what else to say. Oh, "Thank you, Blogger!" might be a good place to start. I am so thrilled and honor to be featured today as the Blog of Note, which can be found on Blogger's homepage, the Blogs of Note blog, and Blogger's Twitter page. Listen & Learn has been going strong for a little over a year now, and I couldn't be happier with the free service that Blogger provides so that I have a platform in which to share my music therapy ideas and adventures, as well as my educational children's songs for school, home, and play.

If this is your first time here, thank you so much for visiting! I hope you'll continue to come back. My name is Rachel Rambach, and I am a board-certified music therapist in central Illinois. I write this blog for everyone who has an appreciation for the power of music, and you can learn more about Listen & Learn here. If you have any questions about the site, my music, or music therapy in general, feel free to email me, and follow me on Twitter and Facebook.

Again, thank you for stopping by! And thanks,'re helping spread the word about music therapy and the role of music in education :)

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Friday Fave: Inaugural Guest Post!

Since launching Listen & Learn Music a year ago, I have been extremely fortunate to connect with so many wonderful parents, music educators, and fellow music therapists. Twitter and Facebook have also been wonderful tools for networking within the music therapy community, and I've gone from feeling completely isolated as the only music therapist in my city to having contact with colleagues across the country.

Today I'd like to introduce you to Listen & Learn's first-ever guest blogger, Kimberly Sena Moore,MM, NMT, MT-BC. I met Kimberly via Twitter, and quickly discovered that in addition to being a wonderfully nice and interesting person, she is a fountain of knowledge in the field. She is Director of
Neurosong Music Therapy Services, Inc. and blogs at Music Therapy Maven (where I recently had to opportunity to write a guest post). A Neurologic Music Therapist and Board-Certified Music Therapist, Kimberly has a keen interest in understanding how our brain is affected by music and a strong desire to educate the public about music therapy, as evidenced in her article as follows:

The 5 Most Important Things to Know About Neurodevelopment

My favorite graduate courses were the neuroscience courses. It fascinated me how the brain was organized, how it functioned, and how this incredibly complex and dynamic organism could be broken down and understood in simpler parts. Amazing.

And now that I work with trauma-influenced children, I've learned much more about neurodevelopment. I have had first-hand experience of the profound and pervasive effects their experiences have had on their ever-growing and ever-changing brains.

In that spirit, I wanted to share with you the 5 most important things you need to know about neurodevelopment. These five concepts are foundational to understanding how our brains, and how our clients, grow, develop, and learn. And here they are:

1. Neurodevelopment is Predictable. Our nervous system develops in the same order every single time. Every time. The first systems to develop are the more primitive ones - those in the spinal cord and brainstem. These structures also happen to be life-sustaining and are responsible for basic regulatory functions (e.g. heart rate, respiration, consciousness, etc.). Our brain then develops in a sequential fashion - once the primitive systems are in place, development moves to the more complex structures (e.g. the neocortex). In fact, did you know that, even though our brainstem is basically fully developed at birth, parts of our neocortex are not fully developed until our mid-20s? And it happens in the same way....every single time.

2. Neurodevelopment is Hierarchical. Our brain is organized in a hierarchical fashion. The simpler, more primitive structures are responsible, or mediate, the more basic, primitive, simpler functions (e.g. the brainstem is responsible for many of our life-sustaining functions mentioned above). The more complex structures mediate the more complex functions (e.g. the neocortex is responsible for verbal skills and abstract reasoning). And our brains are wired (no pun intended) to develop in this hierarchical fashion. The simpler, more primitive structures need to develop before the more complex ones can. Success at one stage depends on success at previous stages. We had to learn how to sit up, before we could crawl, before we could stand, before walking, then running, jumping, etc. We didn't start out running - the first step was to learn how to sit up. And it's the same with neurodevelopment. We need to learn how to breathe and pump our blood before we can talk or make moral decisions. Neurodevelopment is hierarchical.

3. Neurodevelopment is Use-Dependent. "Use-dependent" is a term Dr. Bruce Perry, a Texas-based researcher, uses. Use-dependency is a reason why we are so individualized, despite the fact that our brains develop in the same, predictable way every time. Neurons are the only cells in our body that change based on our experiences. This ability affects the whole brain. Our brain is constantly reacting to what occurs in our environment. It's a very plastic organ. It responds to what is occurring in our environment and, if needed, will change so we can adapt to our environment. So the brain of a child who grows up in neglectful, abusive, chaotic environment will need different skills that the brain of a child who grows up in a stable, loving, nurturing environment. Their two brains will develop differently because they will adapt to the needs and skills each child requires to survive. Use-dependency - how our brains develop depend on how they are used.

4. Neurodevelopment begins in the womb. We are shaped by our experiences even before we are born. Our brain is changing and adapting to the environment in utero. Scary, huh? (It was when I was pregnant!). The brain of a child whose mother experiences abuse while pregnant will be different than the brain of a child whose mother experiences love and support while pregnant. Those two children will have been exposed to their mothers' emotions, chemicals, and stress and will develop differently as a reaction to those experiences. Our in utero experiences affect our developing brain. It begins in the womb.

5. The first 3 years are the most important. The amount of learning and growing that takes place in the first three years of life is mind-boggling. Our brains will never grow as rapidly as they do when we are babies, infants, and toddlers. It's during these early childhood years that that the majority of brain development occurs. According the Dr. Perry, our brains are 90% adult size by the time we turn 4. And the learning that takes place in those early years have profound and pervasive effects throughout our lives.

If you are interested in reading more, I would recommend the articles and writings of Dr. Bruce Perry. Although he is a neuroscientist and research, you will find his writings accessible and easy-to-understand. You can find much of his work available for free on his non-profit's website, the Child Trauma Academy.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009


Several of the classes with whom I work at The Hope Institute are specially designed for children with behavioral issues and disorders. Usually those students are some of the sweetest and most enthusiastic kids I see all week, but there are times where it is very apparent why they were placed in that particular classroom.

One of the problems we often seen is disrespectful interactions with peers. Whether it is a gesture, verbal exchange, or even a look, such behavior can set off not only the involved students, but also can result in classroom-wide disruption.

Respect is a word that is spoken often around here, and I wanted to echo its importance in my music therapy sessions. One of the simplest ways to do so is to foster positive interactions between students - the goal of this song:

Sheet Music: $1
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You can help somebody feel good today,
Do you know the easiest way?
Just give a compliment to someone else.
Think of something nice to say.

The first time I led this activity, it was like pulling teeth to have students volunteer and compliment a peer of their choosing. However, after everyone had a turn, hands were going up for seconds and thirds. It is sweet to see these outgoing, outspoken kids suddenly become shy as they either give or receive a compliment, but it is apparent how much they enjoy giving them and how much it means to be on the receiving end.

This has become a weekly activity in the behavior-centered classrooms. I sing the verse, call on a volunteer to take his or her turn, and then sing the verse again before the next student goes. They know what to do, but the lyrics remind them that they are causing good feelings in their peers just by giving a simple compliment.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Music is for Ourselves, Too

I know I'm not alone in the fact that I am constantly forgetting this, and then being reminded of it every so often. Those of us in the music therapy or education field, particularly those who work with children, are so focused on how music can help our students and clients that we often lose sight of music's role in our own lives. Most of us probably went into our profession because we were positively affected by the presence of music in our lives, and wanted to share that with others. At least, I know this was the case for me. Yet very rarely do I take the time now to listen to or write music for myself.

Very recently, I experienced one of those aforementioned "reminders". I've really liked Ingrid Michaelson, an indie singer-songwriter, ever since her song "The Way I Am" was made famous in an Old Navy commercial (if you are chilly, here, take my sweater...). I checked out some of her other songs, but sort of forgot about her until recently, when her album Everybody was released. I purchased it on iTunes, and burned it to a CD so that I could listen to it in the car.

Well that was two weeks ago, and I haven't stopped listening. I really identify with several songs on the CD, particularly the title track. It's usually the last song I listen to before I get to school, and today I realized how refreshed I felt, how inspired, just by hearing that song. It was a familiar feeling; I'm easily moved by music when I actually take the time to listen. But that is the key - taking the time to really listen, and discover which music is a positive influence on our lives, our work, our sanity.

It's hard to take off my music therapy hat. In fact, I think it's glued to my head! After I finish my last session or lesson of the night, I think to myself, "What song could I write to help Susie with (insert goal here)?". A blessing that I love my job so much, but at the same time, a curse that I have a difficult time walking away from it, separating the "music" from "music therapy" every once in a while.

What music do you listen to for yourself? I'm very interested in hearing about the musical outlets that you seek outside the realm of therapy, education, and parenting, so please share.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Leaves on the Trees

As I've mentioned, oh, just a few hundred times or so before, summer is the #1 season in my book. But there's just something about the change in temperature, the beautiful colors, and the smell outside as fall approaches that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. The crisp air is so refreshing, and everything seems brand new.

Fall doesn't officially begin until next week, but I've already begun brainstorming and writing songs all about the coming season. The first of those is "The Leaves on the Trees", which imitates the process of trees shedding their leaves: slowly at first, and then faster and faster until all the leaves are on the ground.

The leaves on the trees,
They sway in the breeze,
They sway all around, all around.
Slowly first, then faster
Until all the leaves fall down.

(Repeat, gradually getting faster each time)

My students love, love, LOVE these "speeding up" songs, and no matter how fast I play, they always yell, "Faster!". Instruments that work well with this type of song include shakers, bells, tambourines, or anything that a child can play easily and quickly.

How are you and your students preparing for fall? The walls of The Hope Institute (where I work) are covered in autumn artwork, and the kids are already talking about Halloween. They are one step ahead of me!

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Tone Block Time

What a weekend! Saturday evening was the Celebrity Chef dinner at The Hope Institute, and my students did an AMAZING job singing three songs in front of an audience of over 300 people. Not only did we receive a standing ovation after the second song, but the entire audience remained standing and clapped along with our closer, an upbeat goodbye song. I received so many compliments for my students' hard work, and I have to say, it was definitely one of the best moments in my career as a music therapist so far. Oh, and the CDs we made were a huge hit, too. All in all, a very successful night!

But the fun didn't stop there. Yesterday was the first Church Mice class of the fall session, and oh my goodness, did we have an awesome turnout. Around 20 families attended, and it was so exciting to see all the kids enjoying themselves as we sang, played instruments, and danced around the room. One of the instruments that I always incorporate into the class is the resonator bell, or tone block as we call them at Church Mice. I wrote a new song especially for our tone blocks, which goes like this:

Sheet Music: $1
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Ring, ring,
Hear the chime.
Now you know it’s tone block time.
Ring, ring.
Loud and clear,
Ringing is the sound you hear.

_________ makes her tone block ring,
As we all play along and sing.

_________ makes his tone block ring,
As we all play along and sing.

Ring, ring,
Hear the chime.
Now you know it’s tone block time.
Ring, ring.
Loud and clear,
Ringing is the sound you hear.

Each child has a turn in the spotlight to play his or her tone block. It's so cute to see their faces light up as their names are sung! I love when those who are the most shy at the beginning become the most eager to play and be heard as the class goes on. Such a fun time!

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Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fave: Celebrity Chef

A couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that there was a big event coming up at The Hope Institute, where I work as the music therapist. That event is our annual Celebrity Chef gala, and it is happening tomorrow night! Chicago chefs Brian Duncan and Paul Virant will be preparing an amazing meal, and there will also be music, dancing, silent and live auctions. This year, some of our students have played an important role in preparing for the fundraiser, which will benefit Hope and the children it serves.

One of my classes has been rehearsing since school began for the performance they will give at Celebrity Chef. We will be singing three songs, one of which I wrote specifically for the event. These students have put their hearts into it, and I am so proud of their hard work! I know they will be a hit tomorrow night.

As a souvenir, each guest will receive a CD which includes several Hope Institute "hits" from music therapy, as well as the song written for the event. Several of my students lent their voices to the CD, and an entire classroom worked together to assemble all 500 of the CDs we will be giving away. I was completely blown away by their neat work and speed - they completed this task in less than three days!

I'm extremely honored and excited that our music therapy program will be highlighted at the event, but even happier that my students will have a chance to shine. We work on skills such as respectful behavior, social interaction, and teamwork on a daily basis, and they will definitely be showcasing their progress tomorrow night. I can't wait!

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Move Your Body Along

This morning as I was going through my recent posts, I realized that I haven't posted a new song in several days. Luckily, I spent some time recording a few last night, and the first of the latest batch is here today.

The song is called "Move Your Body Along" and I wrote it as I was planning for the fall session of Church Mice, which begins on Sunday. One of the components of the class is movement, and I wanted a simple song to get the kids going. I think this one will do the job!

Sheet Music: $1
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Clap, clap, clap.
We’re gonna clap, clap, clap.
We’re gonna clap our hands
And sing this song,
So move your body along.

Stomp, stomp, stomp,
We’re gonna stomp, stomp, stomp.
We’re gonna stomp our feet
And sing this song,
So move your body along.

Stretch, stretch, stretch.
We’re gonna stretch, stretch, stretch.
We’re gonna stretch our arms
And sing this song,
So move your body along.

Twist, twist, twist.
We’re gonna twist, twist, twist.
We’re gonna twist our waist
And sing this song,
So move your body along.

Jump, jump, jump,
We’re gonna jump, jump, jump.
We’re gonna jump up high
And sing this song,
So move your body along.

Sway, sway, sway,
We’re gonna sway, sway, sway.
We’re gonna sway so slow
And sing this song,
So move your body along.

Sit, sit, sit.
We’re gonna sit, sit, sit.
We’re gonna sit on down
And sing this song,
So move your body along.

This recording will be included on the CD that comes with the class, but I'm going to sing the song without my guitar so that I can move right along with the children. I might even change up the lyrics and movements to keep everyone (including myself!) on their toes, which is something that drives the staff at The Hope Institute crazy. They like to follow right along with the lyrics packet, but I constantly remind them that a little change is good from time to time :)

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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

I Love You, a Bushel and a Peck

Are you already singing this song after reading the title of this post? I am! Actually, I spent several weeks singing this song in rehearsals for a local production of "Guys & Dolls" and I haven't stopped since.

While going through my children's book collection a couple weeks ago, I came across I Love You! A Bushel and a Peck, based on the song by Frank Loesser with illustrations by Rosemary Wells. I'd picked it up last winter but had yet to use it, which has since changed. The book takes the lyrics quite literally, and the illustrations are adorable. My kids especially enjoy the "doodle-oodle-oodle" parts of the song. Just be prepared to have the tune stuck in your head for days :)

How was your weekend? Mine was mostly enjoyable; I spent a lot of time with my family, but not as much time as I spent with Sadie, my golden retriever puppy. My husband was out of town which meant I had full walking, feeding and letting-out responsibilities. It was a lot of work! By the time he returned last night, I was completely exhausted and ready for him to take over.

Anyway, hope your week is off to a great start. I have three more new songs coming in the next few days, so make sure to bookmark this site if you haven't already!

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Friday, September 4, 2009

The Best Birthday Gift Ever

I have just one word to describe what happened today: WOW. I thought maybe I'd get a few pledges toward my Kickstarter project today in honor of Listen & Learn's first birthday, but I had no idea that I would raise the remaining $400, as well as an additional $133 with 33 days to spare. There aren't enough words to fully express my gratitude toward everyone who pledged, so I'll say thank you, plain and simple.

I can't wait to get started on my project. As I mentioned last month, I've chosen a studio and producer, and the next step is deciding which songs to include on the CD. If you have any suggestions or requests, let me know.

Again, thank you for your generous support. I am blessed!

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Friday Fave: Listen & Learn Music Turns 1

I remember as if it were yesterday: sitting at this very computer, creating a blog, and writing my first post. Did I think people would read it? Maybe, maybe not. Did I think I'd still be here, one year later, writing a Top Ten list about the reasons I'm grateful for Listen & Learn Music and its readers? Not so much, but here I am, and here goes:

1. Connecting with parents who believe in the power of music and what it can do for their children.
If not for this blog, I never would have met amazing parents like Sandie, who motivates me with stories of her son, Matthew, and his love of music and the songs I share. It's one thing to touch the lives of the children with whom I work directly, but its another to know I am making a long-distance impact on others.

2. Becoming a part of the music therapy community.
As the only music therapist in my city, I felt alone and disconnected for the first year of my career. Through Listen & Learn, I have had the privelige of communicating with many MTs for whom I have great respect. Just a few from the huge list: Michelle Erfurt, Wade Richards, Amanda Ellis, Kimberly S. Moore, Brenda Papierniak, Candie Stiles...

3. Exciting collaborations.
One of the most exciting being my work with Model Me Kids, a company that creates videos modeling social skills for children and teens with autism, Asperger's, and other developmental disabilities. I wrote original music to narrate their video about faces and emotions, which is coming out very soon! You can learn more and see a clip here.

4. My presence on
I have been a fan and customer since I first began my studies in music therapy, and still am. I am so proud that since last November, my original songs have been included on their site, as well as recordings I have done for them of songs in the public domain. This would not have been possible without my blog. I am currently working with Ruth, the absolutely wonderful owner of the site, on a new project (which hopefully I'll be sharing with you soon!).

5. Overcoming my biggest fear.
Well, I haven't done this yet, but I will be facing (and hopefully overcoming) my enormous fear of public speaking in November when I present "Music Therapy in the Blogosphere" at the AMTA National Conference in San Diego. Just the thought gives me butterflies, but I'm excited, nevertheless.

6. A platform to share my songs.
As I mentioned in my very first post, the songs I was writing and using with my students were just sitting around, only heard by me and them, until I started this blog. If one person can benefit from a song I've written and shared here, I'm a happy camper :)

7. A good excuse to utilize technology.
Ever since I was in seventh grade, when the internet really took off, I have been extremely interested in all things technology. Now when I spend countless hours exploring the web and experimenting with the latest sites and trends, I can tell myself it is for the good of the blog!

8. An outlet for writing.
When I was in high school, my career goals were split between music and journalism. English was always my strongest academic subject, and in high school I wrote for my school's newspaper. When I got to college, even though my English professor asked me to become an English major, I went in the other direction. Though this is just a blog - not a novel or amazing essay or article - it is still a place where I can express myself through the written word (not to mention, the sung word!).

9. A reason to be on Twitter.
This one is silly, but kind of true, I suppose. So many people (members of my family included!) think Twitter is a pointless waste of time, but it really is a good way to connect with Listen & Learn readers on a more personal level.

10. Complete creative control.
Like for instance, making the decision to write an incredibly long-winded post dedicated to my blog's 1st birthday! There are no rules when it comes to blogging, and I like that. Of course, this is first and foremost a place to share the songs I write for educational and music therapy purposes, there isn't a rule against posting pictures of my nephew or writing about my iPhone.

So there you have it. If you've made it this far, congrats! And more importantly, thank you. Thanks for reading my blog regularly, listening to my songs, sending emails, and providing amazing support and motivation that will keep me going for another five, ten, twenty years! Oh, and if are feeling particularly generous on Listen & Learn's birthday, maybe you will consider making a pledge to my Kickstarter project (I'm raising $2,000 with which I will professionally record, produce and freely distribute a CD for kids with autism and other disabilities). I still have $400 to raise, and 33 days left in which to do it!

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An Inspiration, Indeed

If you haven't already done so, be sure to watch this video. It is really amazing. At the very end, the little girl, Emily, says, "I like inspiring kids," which inspired me to share this video with yesterday's piano students (who all just happen to be little girls under the age of 10). All of them were awestruck, and had all kinds of questions afterwards. My last student, who told me when she arrived that she didn't want to play the piano anymore, had completely changed her tune by the end of the lesson. I asked her if she still wanted to play, and she didn't hesitate in answering "Yes!". Emily has definitely accomplished her goal, and for that, I am thankful :)


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Mozart in the Making

I came across this video as I was perusing Natalie Wickham's Music Matters Blog, and I enjoyed it so much that I just had to repost it here. My favorite part is when the reporter asks, "Where does [the music] come from?" and she replies, "I don't know...probably, my heart."

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Shakers Up High!

Two songs for shakers in a row? Yep! We do a lot of shaking at the Hope Institute and in the Music Therapy Connections studio, which accounts for the plethora of such tunes in my collection. For today's song, I actually borrowed the melody I made up for "Flower, Stand Tall" since both focus on colors. It works perfectly, in my opinion, but you can decide for yourself:

Sheet Music: $1
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Yellow, red, and green, and purple, and blue,
Shakers are so colorful and sound good, too.
There are many different ways to shake ‘em around.
Up above your head, or near the ground.

Yellow shaker, up high.
Yellow shaker, up high.
Make a great big sound up in the sky!


Red shaker, up high…
Green shaker, up high…
Purple shaker, up high…
Blue shaker up high…


I use Basic Beat egg shakers and chiquitas from West Music for this activity, though any colored shakers would do just fine. You can substitute colors in the song, too. In the Church Mice class I lead, we have always used plain black egg shakers, so I'm looking forward to changing things up with some rainbow-hued ones.

Well I need to get back to my CD burning...I'm making 500 to give away as souvenirs at Hope's upcoming Celebrity Chef fundraiser. Happy Thursday!

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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Shaky Fruit

These fruit shakers are the latest addition to my studio's instrument collection, and I think I'm in love! They're extremely realistic in appearance, so my students have been surprised to find that they are actually instruments. Once they start shaking, it's hard to get them to stop.

I wrote a little tune dedicated especially to fruit shakers, cleverly and creatively titled "Shaky Fruit" (well, maybe predictably and unoriginally is more like it). Either way, it's a fun song. Listen for yourself:

Sheet Music: $1
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Doot-doot-do-doot, shaky fruit,
Apple orange, lemon and banana.
Doot-doot-do-doot, shaky fruit,
From Mississippi to Indiana.

Shaky apple, shaky apple,
Red and crunchy too.
Shaky apple, shaky apple,


Shaky orange, shaky orange,
Round and juicy too.
Shaky orange, shaky orange,


Shaky lemon, shaky lemon,
Yellow and sour too.
Shaky lemon, shaky lemon,


Shaky banana, shaky banana,
Yellow and tasty too.
Shaky banana, shaky banana,


I apologize in advance if you find yourself humming it over and over all day, as I've been doing for the last week or so! I'm already brainstorming for a song about veggies, which I'll write after I purchase the vegetable shakers...

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Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

It was almost a year ago when I originally posted my song of the month for "September". I briefly mentioned it here yesterday, and today, the lead sheet is available to download for subscribers...learn about becoming one today!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Today it is September

Can you believe it? I barely had time to get used to August, and it's already over! It has felt like September for the last few days (seriously, 40-degree temps at night), but hopefully we'll have at least a few more summery days before fall really sets in.

This is going to be one busy calendar is almost full and it's only day #1. I have several performances lined up, the start of Church Mice, a big event at the Hope Institute, and lots more to look forward to. Bring it on, September!

If you're a regular reader, then you know that I begin each month with a song all about that particular month. Since Listen & Learn made its debut almost a year ago, I have already shared my "September" song. You can refresh your memory by listening to it here. So today, in the spirit of all things fall, we're counting apples!

Counting time, it's counting time,
So let's all sing this simple rhyme.
Ten little apples 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 apples?
10 little apples,
All lined up in a row!

How are you welcoming the new month? Do you have your own September song? I'm off to go refresh my own memory (it's been a while since I've sung it!) before my first class. Have a fantastic Tuesday!

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