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Listen and Learn Music: October 2009

Friday, October 30, 2009

Friday Fave: Halloween!

Coming down with the flu can really set a girl back, you know? I've spent the last two days catching up on the work I should have been doing on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, when instead, I was laying in bed with a fever, cough, and headache. But thankfully, I am all better now and ready to take on this busy weekend!

And that includes, of course, HALLOWEEN. So in celebration of the spookiest day of the year, today's Friday Fave is dedicated to dressing up, trick-or-treating, and scarfing down candy. I will be doing all of the above tomorrow at a friend's costume party...what about you? Do you have any big Halloween day plans?

Oh, I also have to tell you that two of my students won our paper's local costume contest and were featured on the front page of the State Journal-Register today! Take a look at these cute little slices of pizza:

Adorable, right? The girls' mom made those costumes, and their win was well-deserved :) What are your little ones going as? I had so much fun looking at all of my students' costumes at school today, from cheerleaders to jailbirds and everything in between.

Enjoy your Halloween; stay safe and have fun! Here's a little tune to hum as you go to door-to-door with your little ghost or goblin.

<a href="">Halloween Day by Listen & Learn Music</a>

Do you know about a day
That’s not so very far away
Everywhere there’s orange and black
And chills are running up your back.

Jack-o-lanterns and ghosts and bats,
Witches and goblins and big black cats
Spooky spooks come out to play
On the thirty-first, Halloween Day.

Let’s pick a costume we can wear
And all the neighbors, we will scare
When at their door we trick or treat
And they will give us something sweet.

Jack-o-lanterns and ghosts and bats,
Witches and goblins and big black cats
Spooky spooks come out to play
On the thirty-first, Halloween Day.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Shapes are Everywhere

Shape identification is a skill I've addressed through music with countless students, and I think I've also lost count of the songs and activities I've used for this particular goal area. There are plenty of songs out there about shapes, but I decided to write my own so that I could choose which shapes I wanted to include, as well as specific examples of each.

<a href="">Shapes are Everywhere by Listen & Learn Music</a>
Sheet Music: $1
Add to Cart

Rectangle, circle, triangle, square,
Find them here and there.
In your house, and outside too,
Shapes are everywhere.

Books and doors and picture frames
Are rectangles, usually.
Two sides are short, two sides are long,
Which rectangles can you see?


Wheels and buttons and lollipops
Are circles, usually.
Circles are round and have no sides,
Which circles can you see?


Slices of pizza, cake, and pie
Are triangles, usually.
Three sides that can be short or long,
Which triangles can you see?


Blocks and cheese and checkerboards
Are squares, usually.
Four sides that are all the same,
Which squares can you see?


See what other objects your students can identify in these four different shapes...I actually had a hard time coming up with a few of them! This song just begs for pictures to accompany it, which would be a great art project. What songs or activities have you used to teach shapes? I'd love to hear your ideas!

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Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

The song download of the week is "Halloween Day" - just in time for celebrating on Saturday. Also, I share a cool new trick I learned involving YouTube with subscribers...Learn about becoming one today!


Monday, October 26, 2009

State Journal-Register: Lyrical Learning

I couldn't have asked for a better feature about music therapy than the one my local paper published in today's edition. Many, many thanks to Ann Gorman, who spent the good part of a day interviewing and observing me, and wrote the wonderful article. It is available online, but I also wanted to share it with my Listen & Learn readers right here.

Lyrical Learning:
Music therapist uses songs as teaching aid at Hope Institute

by Ann Gorman, Correspondent
The State Journal-Register
October 26, 2009

Rachel Rambach has a song for almost every occasion or teachable moment, from "Yummy Summer" and "Friendly Words" to "Fall into Fall" and "Under, Over, In and Out."

The 26-year-old Springfield native has composed more than 100 melodies, using them in her work as a music therapist for the Hope Institute for Children and Families, and in her private practice.

Since 2007, she's been employed designing and implementing a music therapy program for the Hope Institute. The institute is a nonprofit center that provides educational, residential and health services to people ages 5-21 with multiple developmental and physical disabilities, including cognitive impairment or illness, autism, cerebral palsy, neurological disorders, visual or auditory impairments, ambulatory difficulties and psychiatric or behavior disorders.

"Hands clap, feet tap. It's time to sing hello./To you and you and you and you, all of the people that we know," Rambach sang on a recent morning at Hope School Learning Center on East Hazel Dell Road in Springfield.

Grinning broadly, a young man named Ray enthusiastically joined in with Rambach as she strummed her guitar.

"So let's all come together, and sing out big and strong./Let's have a good time in music, while we dance and play along," crooned Ray, who uses a wheelchair.

Other teens in the classroom, all with special needs, chimed in on songs about the weather or calendar, their voices building as they recalled the lyrics.

"The kids really benefit from repetition and hearing the songs a lot - they can sing them by heart and feel really comfortable with them," Rambach said.

Although some students at first were reserved, when Rambach launched into "Move Your Body Along," many eagerly clapped, stomped, stretched, twisted, jumped and swayed to the peppy tune.

During her weekly half-hour sessions in various classes at Hope School, Rambach also uses picture cards, books, scarves and small percussion instruments such as rhythm sticks, hand drums, bells, jingle sticks and brightly colored shakers to reach the pupils through music.

"Music connects people on a deeper level than speaking or dialogue does, especially (those) who don't always communicate verbally as well as others," Rambach said. "They respond to music, but they don't have to do it by saying something verbally. They can clap their hands, play an instrument, sing or make sounds to communicate how they're feeling."

"It's a fun thing for them to do," teacher Jeni Sorrells said of the program. "Even if they don't sing, they can participate no matter what their cognitive or physical abilities are."

Musical healing

Rambach noted that music therapy does not entail teaching students or clients how to sing or become musically proficient.

"We're working on skills that are non-musical," she said.

She often writes songs to coincide with educational or skill-building units teachers are doing with students, such as colors, following directions or self-care.

"They're learning something (by way of music), but it's not hard. It's not something that feels like a chore or a lesson," Rambach said.

According to the American Music Therapy Association Web site, the use of music as a "healing influence" dates back to ancient times. Its power became evident in the modern era when, following World Wars I and II, doctors noticed veterans suffering physical and emotional trauma responded well when musicians performed at the hospitals.

However, musicians needed training to work in those settings, which led to the development of the first music therapy degree program at Michigan State University in 1944.

Today, music therapists are employed at medical and psychiatric hospitals, rehabilitative facilities, outpatient clinics, daycare treatment centers, agencies serving developmentally disabled people, mental-health centers, drug and alcohol programs, senior centers, nursing homes, hospice programs, correctional facilities, halfway houses, schools and private practice.

Rambach, a 2001 graduate of Springfield High School, became interested in all types of music at a young age. Studying voice at Rollins College in Winter Park, Fla., she "stumbled upon" music therapy while working on a careers-in-music project.

"I was reading about the effects that music has on not only people with Alzheimer's, but kids and really anybody," Rambach said. "I found it fascinating."

After job-shadowing a music therapist for a semester, Rambach said she "knew that that was for me." She graduated early from Rollins, earned her master's degree in music therapy at Illinois State University, and began working for Hope Institute after clinical training at Midwest Music Therapy Services in St. Louis.

Rambach also has a private practice, Music Therapy Connections, at her westside home that she shares with her husband, Zach. She hopes to offer consulting services in the future.

Twelve-year-old Ian "Rusty" Russell has been going to weekly sessions for a few months.

"He loves it," said his father, Ted Russell.

"She does a lot of music with me, because I'm a fan of music. I like the Beatles," said Rusty, who has autism.

During their time together in the studio, Rambach and Rusty take turns singing questions and answers about their day and other things.

"Rusty, do you like food that's made of apples?" Rambach asks, a lilt in her voice.

"I like apple pie. I like apples and peanut butter. I like apple juice. Oh, and I like applesauce," Rusty replies harmoniously.

They also play "Repeat After Me" on the keyboard and do other musical activities. Then there is one last song: "It's time for me to go, oh, oh, oh ..."

While some of the changes Rambach has noticed in her students since starting the music therapy program have been subtle - more attentiveness, better eye contact and greater response - others have been obvious, with more students willing to "step outside their comfort zone" and try new things.

"It's been really exciting to see that transition," she said. "It's amazing."

More about Rambach’s music

Rachel Rambach writes an Internet blog about her experiences as a music therapist, and her songs are available for download, via online subscription.

Thanks to donations, Rambach soon will professionally record, manufacture and distribute “Listen & Learn: Music for a Different Kind of Audience,” a collection of songs compiled from her extensive Listen & Learn Music collection.

For more information, see or

In addition, Rambach is featured on the Model Me Kids DVD, “Faces and Emotions.”
In the video series, children demonstrate social skills by modeling peer behavior. Learn more at Model Me Kids.

A Springfield native, Rambach has performed in local community theater productions and serves on the children’s music staff at Laurel United Methodist Church. She recently began playing at venues such as The Walnut Street Winery in Rochester and The Alamo in Springfield.

Visit, or The State Journal-Register’s A&E section each Thursday for show dates.

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Sunday, October 25, 2009

Music Therapy in the News...Again!

It has been a great year for music therapy in Springfield. Not only did our local news feature my work in August, but tomorrow, the State Journal-Register is running an article about it. As part of the interview they did with me, they also recorded a short video. I wish it included a few other portions of the session, but hey, I'll take what I can get! It's exciting that the word about music therapy is getting out in central Illinois.

I'll be back tomorrow with the article, so make sure to check it out. I hope you've all had a wonderful weekend and are not stuck in bed with the flu, like I am. I'll most likely be blogging from this very spot for the next few days :( Stay healthy, everyone!

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Friday Fave: Facebook

When I joined Facebook as a 21-year-old graduate student back in 2004, I would have laughed at you if you'd told me that one day, my mother and I would be Facebook friends. Fast-forward to five years later, when I am Facebook friends with not only my mother, but her friends, my dad, my former professors, and my students' parents. Not to mention hundreds of other people from all areas of my life.

Over the last couple of years, Facebook has transitioned from a neat way to keep in touch with friends from college, to a completely legitimate networking tool. I've befriended and exchanged ideas with other music therapists, explained music therapy to complete strangers via mutual friends' wall posts, and created a nice network of people who read Listen & Learn or use the services of my private practice, Music Therapy Connections. My Facebook page allows me to update my "fans" with new blog posts, information they might find useful, and best of all, it lets them get to know me as a person.

So thank you to everyone who has taken a moment to "become a fan" of Listen & Learn on Facebook, simply by clicking the Facebook box that appears in the left-hand sidebar of this page. (And if you haven't already, please do so!) I also wanted to share a few other Facebook pages that you might enjoy:

If you can think of any I might have left out, or you have your own Facebook page that Listen & Learn readers might enjoy, please feel free to share in the comments section or send me an email. Happy Friday, everyone!

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Thursday, October 22, 2009

On the Horizon

Beginning in January, I will be offering consultative music therapy services through my private practice, Music Therapy Connections. Consultative services, you ask? Though I go into great detail on the MTC website, I'll sum it up here in just a few sentences.

When a student comes to my studio for one-on-one or group music therapy, that is considered direct service. We work on specified goals and objectives using the songs, activities and interventions I have designed based on that student's specific needs. However, if I provide the student with those songs, activities, and interventions (as well as accompanying tools for the parent, teacher, or other professional) without meeting face-to-face on a regular basis, then that is considered consultative service.

Several factors played into my decision to offer consultative services. First of all, I love creating and providing resources (which is pretty clear, I hope, based on this blog). The fact that children all over the US and beyond are benefiting from my songs and activities simply amazes me, and I want to take that further. Consultative services allow me to provide individual therapeutic and learning experiences through music on a wider scale; in this way, I am not limited to children in central Illinois. Anyone, anywhere can receive these services as long as communication is available via phone, internet, and (seldomly) snail mail.

Secondly, my direct services are limited to the students I can see between the hours of 4 and 7 pm, as I work at a school during the day. Consultative services are not :) After all, doesn't everybody need one more way to fill their nights and weekends? The truth is, I love the work that I do and I can't wait to do even more of it.

And last but not least, I think the interest is there. I receive many emails from parents all over who want to explore music therapy for their children, but do not have a music therapist in their area. And while direct service is the ideal means of delivery, sometimes it just isn't possible.

Please visit my new Consultative Services page for a more in-depth explanation. I have also put together a list of Frequently Asked Questions, though you are certainly welcome to contact me directly for more information.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Birthday Song You Haven't Heard (Part 2)

When it comes to ending a music class or music therapy session, I have plenty of goodbye songs from which to choose. But last year for Maggie's birthday party, I wanted to do something a little different. So instead of ending the music portion of her party with a goodbye song she already knew, I sang one I wrote especially for her. Thus, the "Birthday Goodbye Song" became a tradition, and I have been using it ever since.

Now it's time for me to sing my last song.
I'm so glad you came today and sang along.
Thanks so much for joining in and listening too,
I had a wonderful time with all of you!

Music time is over but the party's just begun,
There's still so much to do so let's go have more fun.
Maggie's turning five so we're gonna celebrate,
With presents to open and ice cream and cake.

Now it's time for me to sing my last song.
I'm so glad you came today and sang along.
Thanks so much for joining in and listening too,
I had a wonderful time with all of you!

Short and sweet, because by the time the music portion of a birthday party comes to an end, the birthday girl or boy and guests are getting antsy in anticipation of sugar...lots and lots of sugar. And I don't mind having a piece of cake and some ice cream, myself!

The "Birthday Song Goodbye" is always the last song on the CDs I make for the birthday boys and girls, which means two songs (the first is the personalized "Happy Birthday" song) just for them, with their names and everything. Want one for your little guy or girl? Let me know!

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Birthday Song You Haven't Heard (Part 1)

Last year I had the pleasure of helping two of my favorite church mice, Maggie and Samantha, celebrate their birthdays. Not only did I lead music time at both girls' birthday parties, but I also made them special CDs with some of their favorite songs included.

The girls' mom has asked for birthday CDs again this year, so I decided to take it one step further. I wrote a personalized birthday song which includes both the name and age of my birthday buddy, in this case, Maggie. I combined my new words and melody with the classic "Happy Birthday" song, which resulted in this:

Doot-do-do, do-do-do
Happy birthday, Maggie!
You are turning five years old.
Celebrate yourself today,
And all the fun this year will hold.

Birthday parties, presents to open,
Cake and ice cream too.
Friends and family come together
And it's all because of you!


It's your very special day
So do what you want to do.
Laugh and smile, have a ball.
And may your birthday wish come true!


Happy birthday to you,
Happy birthday to you.
Happy birthday, dear Maggie,
Happy birthday to you!

This tune starts the CD, letting the birthday girl know that it is her very own special song collection. The rest of the playlist includes both favorites recommended by her parents and other Listen & Learn songs I think she might enjoy. There is also a special birthday goodbye song at the end, which again is personalized. Come back tomorrow to hear it :) Oh, and if you would like a birthday CD (or album download) for your little one, just holler.

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Friday, October 16, 2009

Friday Fave: Model Me Kids

Today's edition of "Friday Faves" is brought to you by Twitter, because that is how I discovered Model Me Kids. Little did I know that many of my students already knew all about Model Me Kids, and used their videos at home.

From their website:

Model Me Kids® is dedicated to producing high quality teaching tools for children, adolescents, and teenagers with Autism, Aspergers, PDD-NOS, Nonverbal Learning Disorder (NVLD or NLD), and developmental delays. The videos are used by parents, teachers, and therapists. They are also helpful for teaching children with developmental disabilities such as Down Syndrome and may be used with typically developing younger children. Model Me Kids® videos demonstrate social skills by modeling peer behavior at school, on a playdate, at a birthday party, on the playground, at a library, restaurant, and more. Real children model and narrate each skill. DVDs for ages 2-17.

Shortly after following Model Me Kids on Twitter, I received an email from Sue Klein, MMK's founder and president. She had visited Listen & Learn and thought my songwriting style might be a good match for a video they were currently producing. I loved the idea, and immediately called her to tell her so. Creating the music for Model Me Faces & Emotions™ became one of my summer projects, and it was so much fun! But the best part was receiving my copy of the finished DVD just last week. Actually, I take that back...the VERY best part was having my students receive their copies only to discover my picture on the back cover and hear my familiar voice narrating the video :)

That's me!

Model Me Kids currently offers 8 DVDs: Model Me Faces & Emotions, Time for School, Time for a Playdate, I Can Do It!, Model Me Conversation Cues, Model Me Friendship, Model Me Tips & Tricks, and Model Me Confidence. You can view samples on their website.

Teaching social skills is a huge focus for the students with whom I work, which made this collaboration truly exciting. If you work with or have children (whether they have autism, another developmental disability, or are typically developing) and want to learn more about Model Me Kids, you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, and their website.

So that does it for today's Friday Fave. This week has flown by, and I am in disbelief that it is already time for another weekend. I have sheet music to edit, two presentations to prepare, articles to write, and songs to record, but somewhere between that I am going to squeeze in some time with friends. What are your weekend plans?

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Thursday, October 15, 2009

Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

Problems related to payment are something that every small business faces from time to time, and a music therapy practice or teaching studio is no exception. In this post, titled "No Payment, No Problem? Not so Much", I share some of my tried and true tips for combating such issues with subscribers...Learn about becoming one today!


'Dem Bones, 'Dem Bones

How about a Halloween song that almost everyone knows, or at least has heard once or twice? It's actually an old spiritual, but over the years has become a staple for this time of year. Most of my students instantly recognize this when I begin singing or playing one of the many versions that has been recorded for children. My favorite is in the style of a barbershop quartet, and you can find it on the album Wee Sing for Halloween. What's great about "Dry Bones" is that it doubles as a fun way to work on body part identification.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones!
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones!
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones!
Oh see dem skeleton bones.

The foot bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the head bone,
Oh see dem skeleton bones.

Dem bones, dem bones gonna walk around,
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around,
Dem bones, dem bones, gonna walk around,
Oh see dem skeleton bones.

The head bone connected to the neck bone,
The neck bone connected to the back bone,
The back bone connected to the thigh bone,
The thigh bone connected to the knee bone,
The knee bone connected to the leg bone,
The leg bone connected to the foot bone,
Oh see dem skeleton bones.

Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones!
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones!
Dem bones, dem bones, dem dry bones!
Oh see dem skeleton bones.

I usually pass out rhythm sticks for this song, and yesterday, one of my students did the cutest, most clever thing with them. She made a "skeleton" out of an entire tub of sticks, and then pointed to each different "bone" as it was sung. Seriously, these kids never cease to amaze me.

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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Time to Say Goodbye

Goodbyes aren't easy. There's nothing fun about parting with a relative or friend, whether its for a few short days or for an extended period of time. But if saying goodbye is difficult for you, think about how it must feel for a child who has severe separation anxiety issues. Many of the children I work with must deal with this on a daily basis, and that is one of the things we can address during music therapy.

We always end our sessions with a goodbye song, and I try to stick with those that are happy and upbeat so that the transition to the next activity is hopefully a positive one. However, I wanted to address the feelings that some children associate with saying goodbye, which is why I wrote this particular song.

Sheet Music: $1
Add to Cart

In the morning when I go to school,
It's time to say goodbye.
To the people I'm leaving, like mom and dad,
It's time to say goodbye.

Goodbye means only 'til next time,
To the people I'll see again soon.
Sometimes goodbyes are hard for me,
So I'll say goodbye with a tune.

In the afternoon when I go home,
It's time to say goodbye.
To the people I'm leaving, like teacher and friends,
It's time to say goodbye.


It's important to validate the anxious or sad feeling a child may experience when he or she says goodbye, and reassure that it is only a temporary separation (except in the case of death, which is a completely different subject I will be addressing soon).

This song could be used at different transition times throughout the day; I mentioned going to school and coming home from school, but you could easily add verses about going other places or seeing off a friend or loved one for a period of time.

And now I must say goodbye to you! Wednesdays are very busy here at The Hope Institute, and my first of five group sessions begins soon. Have a wonderful day :)

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Sneak Peek

(here's a hint: click the picture for a larger view)

Two weeks ago, I spent some time in Kimberly Smoot's photography studio with my buddy, Jake. Kimberly donated her talents to my CD (the one I will be giving away to families of children with autism and other disabilities) and I just couldn't wait to give you all a sneak peek. This is the only picture I've seen so far, too; it will be so much fun to go through all of them and pick which ones will be included in the CD art. More to come later!

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Costumes on Parade

It's time to announce the third and final winner of the Halloween song topic contest. Congrats to Mrs. Gee, a fellow music educator, for her great idea! She had this to say:

One of the schools where I work used to do a parade of costumes. I think it would be neat to let kids dress up (some teachers of younger students even have dress up centers in their rooms). Then have a song that mentions the costumes as they parade by.

Come one and all,
Big and small,
Gather ‘round for the parade.
We’re dressing up,
On Halloween,
So many costumes to be seen!

Costumes on parade,
Ghosts and witches walking by,
Mummies, vampires, Frankenstein,
And Batman, me oh my!


Costumes on parade,
Clowns and cats are walking by,
Princesses and firemen,
And Elvis, me oh my!


Costumes on parade,
Frogs and monkeys walking by,
Hannah Montana and Harry Potter,
And ninjas, me oh my!


I still remember the costume parades from preschool and elementary school, and my mom even has pictures! I love the idea of using this song to accompany such a parade - it would be so easy to substitute the costumes I used for those that the students are actually wearing. And even if you aren't having a parade, you can still sing the song; just ask the students to suggest the costumes to be included. They could even draw pictures of them as an art project!

Emily, Tip Tom Tom, and Mrs. Gee: I have you to thank for three new Halloween songs, so don't forget to send me the songs you'd like included on your custom Listen & Learn CDs! And thanks to all of you who participated in the song topic contest. There are many more special days coming up, so I can guarantee that there will be a contest or two in the near future.

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All the Candy I'll Eat

When I was a kid, the best part of Halloween was coming home from trick-or-treating, dumping my bag of candy on the floor, and taking inventory of all the goodies. My brother and I would sort out our candy and make trades, and then I usually proceeded to eat way more candy than one should ever consume in a single sitting.

Well, apparently Tip Top Tom and I had a lot in common as children, because this is what he had to say:

This is a simple idea that can bring lots of cheer. Counting candy! As a kid that was one of my favorite activities on Halloween.

His simple idea just happens to be winning song topic #2! It didn't take me long to come up with a song based on it; in fact, I had to leave out a couple verses. I could feel my sweet tooth aching as I sang this:

I just got home,
It’s Halloween night.
My costume gave my neighbors a fright.
But it did the trick, because I got a treat,
Just look at all the candy I'll eat.

Ba-doop-a doo,
I see some Snickers bars,
Butterfinger, Hershey's and Mars.
So much chocolate, what’ll I do?
I guess I’m gonna share with you!


I see some lollipops,
Gummi bears and lemon drops.
So much sweet stuff, what I’ll do?
I guess I’m gonna share with you!


I see a toothbrush there,
And a lot of toothpaste to share.
I think I’ll need it and so will you,
After all the candy we’ll chew!


The third and final winner of the contest will be announced shortly. Two posts in one day! If only every day were a school holiday (just kidding, of course). See you again soon.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sound-Off: SleepPhones

Remember when I first told you about sleephones? Well I received my own pair in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and I am addicted! The picture above is a reenactment of pretty much every single night since I got my sleepphones; they are so comfortable that I completely forget I'm wearing them. I plug them into my iPhone, which charges on my nightstand while I sleep, and the music puts me to sleep almost instantly. Of course, my extremely long days working with kids might have a little something to do with that, but I'll give most of the credit to my sleepphones. Several readers have told me that they ordered a pair for themselves, and I'd love to hear what you think of them.

I can tell you that Sadie is a HUGE fan :) If you want to order a pair for yourself or your child, you can do so through their website.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a few new Halloween songs to write. The two remaining contest winners will be announced tomorrow, along with the songs they inspired. Enjoy your Sunday!

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Saturday, October 10, 2009

My Grandma

I want to thank you all for the thoughtful comments and emails I've received over the last couple of days. As I mentioned in my previous post, my grandma passed away this week. And as difficult as this has been, it really is a blessing that she is at peace now.

My grandma was diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease thirteen years ago, just as I was beginning high school. She was only in her early sixties, and had to move into a nursing home a couple years later. As time went on, her memory became worse and so did her ability to recognize me and my family. But the one thing that she never lost was her love of music.

It really was amazing how she came to life when she listened to Frank Sinatra, Neil Diamond, and anything else she'd loved before she got sick. In fact, I was so blown away with the effect music had on her that I began looking into music therapy, even though I was less than a year away from graduating college with a degree in voice performance. After shadowing a music therapist for a couple of months, I decided to graduate early so that I could get started in a music therapy graduate program. My first practicum took place in a nursing home, and I knew I was in the right place from day one.

Even though I had always planned on working with seniors (specifically, those with Alzheimer's) I ultimately decided that I wanted to specialize in music therapy with children. But I have my grandma to thank for sparking that interest in me. It was so neat being able to share that with her; I will never forget the transformation I saw when I started playing my guitar and singing familiar songs to her. She sang along to every single one of them, and knew all of the words.

I've spent a lot of time this week going through old pictures, and listening to my dad and uncle tell stories about my grandma. I'm lucky to have so many memories of her as the person she really was. As sad as I am that my grandma is gone, it's comforting to know that her disease no longer has a hold on her.

I'm ready for life to get back to normal this week, and that includes picking up where I left off here at Listen & Learn. I will announce the other two winners of the Halloween song topic contest either tomorrow or Monday (a holiday for me!) so check back in soon.

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Personal Note

I was hoping to announce the winners and share the songs that came from their topics this week, but unfortunately, that will be held off for a few days. My grandmother passed away on Tuesday, and I have been spending time with my family and preparing for the funeral and reception, which will happen tomorrow.

My grandma was the reason I decided to become a music therapist, and I am going to write a post dedicated to her in the coming days. So please continue to visit, and I look forward to connecting with you again soon.


Monday, October 5, 2009

Two Pumpkins in a Patch

Happy Monday to all of you lovely people! Today is the last day to enter the Halloween song topic contest, so I am hoping you'll do so if you haven't already. And just because I couldn't wait any longer, I've already chosen one of the three congrats to Emily! This is what she had to say:

Hi Rachel! I stumbled onto your blog and really enjoy it! I think a cute song topic would be the life of a pumpkin in the patch that gets to be a jack-o-lantern! My daughter's birthday is Halloween, so I didn't think much of it till she came along. Now I get excited because that's when my "punkin" came into the world!

I absolutely loved her idea and ended up writing the song shortly after I received her entry. She will be receiving a custom Listen & Learn CD, and you can too! Just leave a comment or send an email describing your idea for a creative Halloween song topic (kid-friendly, of course).

And now, without further ado, here is the song that came of Emily's great idea. It's called "Patrick & Polly Pumpkin" and I hope you like it!

Patrick and Polly were a pumpkin pair,
In the patch sitting side by side.
Together they grew from tiny sprouts until
They were big and round and wide.

“I wonder who is going to pick us?”
Patrick and Polly would say.
As they watched the people in the pumpkin patch
And hoped it’d be their turn someday.

Patrick and Polly were the very same size,
With skin of orange so bright,
Alone they sat while all their friends got picked
And taken out of sight.


Patrick and Polly were the last ones left
Two pumpkins in an empty patch.
When along came a boy and a girl
Looking for a perfect match.

Patrick and Polly got picked right up
By the children, laughing with glee,
“We found the best little pumpkins in the world,” they said.
“One for you and one for me.”

“I’m so happy they picked us!”
Patrick and Polly would say.
As they sat on the porch, talking happily.
Side by side on Halloween day.

Several of my students went pumpkin-picking this weekend, which of course made me think of Patrick and Polly, sitting in the patch hoping to be chosen :) Now get busy thinking of your own song topic, and share it with me ASAP!

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Friday, October 2, 2009

Finally Friday

I'm taking it easy tonight, because tomorrow morning is the photo shoot for my CD project, Listen & Learn: Music for a Different Kind of Audience. The wonderful Kimberly Smoot has donated her time and talent to the cause, and I'm really looking forward to working with her tomorrow. I might even post a few sneak peeks, so stay tuned :)

What are your plans for this first weekend of October?

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Friday Fave: An Act of Selflessness

I have some pretty amazing colleagues at The Hope Institute. From the teachers to the educational specialists to the executive staff, there is no shortage of caring, patient, and hardworking people surrounding me. One of those people is Tom LeClair, who is Hope's Chief Development Officer. He has been extremely supportive of the music therapy program since day one, and was instrumental in making sure my students' performance at the Celebrity Chef event went off without a hitch. But I realized as I watched this video that I'd only had a glimpse of Tom's generosity:

Wow. Pretty amazing, right? When I tell people what I do for a living, they almost always comment on what a special person it takes to work in this field and environment. Tom is a shining example of that fact.

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Thursday, October 1, 2009

Orange You Glad It's October?

I am! September is nice, but it is that limbo period between summer and fall, where the weather just can't seem to make up its mind. October is full-on FALL, and there's no question about that today. I am counting down the minutes before my first class this morning, when I'll be sharing a few new tunes for the new month with my students.

I've also pulled out a few old standbys, which I updated for 2009. One of those is the "October" song; it needed a bit of a facelift since I wrote the original version in 2007. New key, retooled lyrics, and voila!

<a href="">October by Listen &amp; Learn Music</a>

Today it is October,
The 10th month of the year.
Summertime is over
And autumn weather’s here.

Today it is October
We’ll decorate for fall.
Look at all the pumpkins,
And scarecrows standing tall.


Today it is October
It’s time to celebrate.
We’ll stay home on Columbus Day,
Oh, I can hardly wait!


Today it is October
It’s time for Halloween.
Candy, spooks and costumes
And all those scary things.


Oh, and speaking of Halloween: don't forget to enter the Halloween song topic contest, going on now through Monday! It's so easy; all you have to do is come up with a creative idea for a Halloween song, and submit it either via email or the comments section of any post. I'll choose three winners, who will each receive a custom Listen & Learn CD. You can read more about it here.

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