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Listen and Learn Music: December 2009

Thursday, December 31, 2009

So Long, 2009!

I can't believe that I am writing my last blog post of 2009. Where did the last twelve months go? This year seems to have flown by faster than any previous year, which I'm told happens as you get older. But as quickly as it went, 2009 was a fabulous year, in terms of both my career and personal life. Follow the links to read more about each month's highlight:

January: One of my students had a breakthrough during music therapy.
February: I passed the joy of the Snowball Microphone on to my readers.
March: My husband and I closed on and moved into our new house.
April: We vacationed in San Diego and returned completely refreshed.
May: A new addition to the family arrived...our golden retriever, Sadie.
June: I turned 26 and got an iPhone, which did wonders for my productivity.
July: I launched my Kickstarter project, a three-month adventure.
August: My music therapy work was featured in a local news piece.
September: Listen & Learn was featured as a "Blog of Note" by Blogger.
October: The Model Me Kids DVD for which I wrote songs debuted.
November: I attended and presented at my first national conference.
December: I was featured in a radiothon for Children's Miracle Network.

If 2010 is anywhere near as successful as 2009 was, I'm in for a great year. Thank you, everyone, for reading Listen & Learn Music, and for sending your feedback my way. I hope you'll continue to do so in the new year. And come back tomorrow to hear a song you can sing for the next 365 days, as well as my new year's resolutions. Cheers!

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Ahh, Winter Break

In my last post, I was anxiously awaiting snow...and it came! We got our white Christmas here in central Illinois, so I just had to share a picture of our current house covered in it. As you can see, we haven't quite gotten around to shoveling the walkways, but what can I say - we've been busy! Family and friends have taken priority over all else this past week, but now that Christmas is over, I'm ready to get back to blogging. I'll leave the shoveling to Zach :)

In all of the holiday shuffle, I think I forgot to acknowledge the fact that winter officially began last week. While that might not be a big deal to most people, it is to me. I include a song for the current season in each of my group music therapy sessions at school, and "Fall into Fall" and "All About Autumn" started to get really old after three long months. My students and the staff agreed; they were excited to sing "Winter All Around Us" for the first time last Monday!

<a href="">Winter All Around Us by Listen &amp; Learn Music</a>

Winter, winter, all around us
Cold out there, cold out there.
Coats and hats and scarves and mittens
I will wear, I will wear.

Winter, winter, all around us
Wind will blow, wind will blow,
Weather makes us want to stay inside
Ice and snow, ice and snow.

Winter, winter, all around us
Sing a song, sing a song,
As we count the days ‘til spring’s here
Won’t be long, won’t be long.

I will indeed be counting the days until spring is here. I'm not one for enjoying the outdoors during the winter months, so if you happen to drive past my house, you will most likely see me holed up in my office, probably with a blanket wrapped around me.

Yep, right through there! In fact, that is where I am right now, typing this blog post. After which I have songs to record and sessions to plan, so it's time to wrap this up. I hope you are enjoying winter break (or winter working, if you are back already) and I'll catch you later!

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Karaoke: Home for the Holidays

That is how our first holiday in our first home looked. It was certainly a white Christmas, and I was hoping to take a similar picture of our new home this year, as we get ready to celebrate our first Christmas in it. Unfortunately, we've only had a tiny bit of snow, and it is currently raining cats and dogs, so maybe I'll get one later in the week.

No matter what the weather, I'm just glad to be staying home for the holidays! I feel very lucky that both of our families are nearby, which means we get to see everyone without having to drive long distances or get on an airplane. And that is why I decided that for today's "Merry Karaoke" song should reflect this sentiment:

<a href="">Home for the Holidays by Listen &amp; Learn Music</a>

Oh, there’s no place like home for the holidays,
For no matter how far away you roam -
When you long for the sunshine of a friendly gaze,
For the holidays - you can’t beat home, sweet home!

I met a man who lives in Tennessee, and he was headin’ for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
From Pennsylvania folks are travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore;
From Atlantic to Pacific -
Gee, the traffic is terrific!


I met a man who lives in Tennessee and he was headin’ for
Pennsylvania and some homemade pumpkin pie;
From Pennsylvania folks are travelin’ down to Dixie’s sunny shore;
From Atlantic to Pacific -
Gee, the traffic is terrific!


What are your plans for the holidays? Will you be staying home, or traveling to see friends and family? No matter what you're doing, I hope your week is safe, fun, and full of cheer. Today is my first official day of vacation, and I am off to bake cookies. I'll be back with at least one more installment of "Merry Karaoke" before the week is through...see you again soon!

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Let the Festivities Begin

Well, maybe not quite yet...but how about in 7 hours, when school is out? Today is our last day before Christmas break officially begins, and I'm wasting no time getting the party started. Zach and I are celebrating tonight by heading down to St. Louis for dinner, and then we get to see Allison Weiss (one of my favorite singer/songwriters) in concert.

And that is just the beginning. Tomorrow, my sister-in-law and I are going to bake and decorate cookies, and then we have a fun double date planned with friends. Christmas Eve is the same every year: singing in church, party at Zach's uncle and aunt's house, and then on to my uncle and aunt's for their annual party. On Christmas, we'll open gifts with my family and eat our traditional spaghetti dinner, and then head over to my in-laws' house to open gifts with them. We'll end the evening with my family, opening more gifts and just hanging out. As if that wasn't enough, Zach decided we should host a party on the 26th, so the fun will just keep on going. Or I will collapse from exhaustion...either way, a good time will be had by all :)

But back to today. Everyone is a little giddy at school today (teachers and students!) with the anticipation of Christmas break. I'm looking forward to going caroling from room to room with one of my classes later this morning and getting my last fix of the December songs before I retire them until next year. See you in 2010, Hope Institute!

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Karaoke!

There's nothing like a little snow and an early Christmas celebration with family to put you in the holiday spirit. As we drove home from my in-laws' house this afternoon, all I could think about was singing along to some of my favorite Christmas songs, and that is just what I did. In fact, I went one step further by recording one of them, karaoke-style. Cheesy? Yes...but tons of fun! I've told you before how much I love the Carpenter's Christmas Portrait album (remember?) so you shouldn't be surprised that the song I chose is from that very collection.

<a href="">The Christmas Waltz by Listen &amp; Learn Music</a>

Frosted windowpanes,
Candles gleaming inside.
Painted candy canes on the trees.
Santa's on his way,
He's filled his sleigh with things.
Things for me and for you.

It's that time of year
When the world falls in love.
Every song you hear seems to say,
Merry Christmas,
May your New Year dreams come true.
And this song of mine,
In three quarter time,
Wishes you and yours
The same thing, too.

Be on the lookout for one or two more installments of "Merry Karaoke" before the big day, which is quickly approaching! I had a chance to catch up on holiday preparations this weekends - not only did I finally finish my shopping, but I also did all of my wrapping. Cookies is next on the list, but that will have to wait until tomorrow. I'm off to curl up on the couch and watch my favorite holiday movie, White Christmas. So long for now!

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Friday Fave: My Guitar

This week, I've been thinking a lot about my career thus far as a music therapist. Since graduating from college with a performance degree and making the decision to pursue music therapy back in 2004, I've had quite a journey! I have experienced a lot of change - three different cities, many settings, countless new friends and mentors - but through it all, one thing has been by my side: my guitar.

I had never picked up a guitar, nor had any interest in doing so, before my mom and I ventured into the Guitar Center in Winter Park, Florida, just days before taking my last undergraduate final and heading back to Illinois. I fell in love with a nylon-stringed beauty, and it made the long trip home with us. I learned my first chords on that guitar. But when I met my guitar teacher at my first lesson, he recommended that I buy a steel-string guitar with pick-ups so that I could be a more versatile player. He showed me a Dean acoustic-electric right there in the store, and immediately, I knew I had to have it.

That guitar went to graduate school with me, where I used it through all four practicums. I used it during my internship, too, even though one of my supervisors offered to let me use hers. When I started my first (and current) job as the music therapist at The Hope Institute, the school purchased a new guitar for me. But my old Dean was always in my trunk, traveling with me after school to my clients' homes.

Now that I see clients in my home studio, I don't have to subject my guitar to the elements every day. Well, the outdoor elements. I have to be honest: it has seen a beating or two from my students, most of whom have no ill intentions. There are a couple nicks and scratches on the body, but I'd say that is pretty impressive, considering all that it has been through.

My guitar (which I used for the very first gig I played and every one since) has a rich, gorgeous sound, looks pretty, and feels like an extension of me. My journey as a music therapist will continue, and things will change, but I don't plan on going anywhere without it. I will be forever grateful to that guitar teacher; he only gave me four lessons (I decided I could teach myself) but he introduced me to one of my most favorite possessions in the world.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

'Tis the Season for Singalongs

One of my favorite traditions at The Hope Institute is gathering all of the students and staff for an all-school holiday singalong. We really go all out: our Hope House Band (comprised of me on guitar and vocals with three other members on guitar, drums, and bass) sets up, we pass out song packets with lyrics to all the classes, and we even invite students to perform special roles in the festivities.

This year, one of our senior classrooms has been creating their own visuals to accompany songs for each month, and December is no exception. We have been having so much fun using their creative materials for Ten Twinkling Trees and The Other Eight Reindeer that now, they are going to add their artistic talents to tomorrow's singalong.

The class worked together to make signs for each of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", which they will hold up in the air at the appropriate times in front of the entire school when we sing the tune tomorrow. I think the staff members are more nervous than the students, to tell you the truth! We rehearsed this morning, and I know everyone will be impressed.

Singing seasonal carols is my favorite way to get into the holiday spirit, and I know I'm not the only one. I love hearing coworkers and children singing Christmas songs in the hallway outside of my office throughout the day, and next week I will be leading one of my classes as we surprise other rooms with a song or two.

How does your school get into the holiday spirit? Do you put on a special program or concert? I know that many schools are not allowed to celebrate religious holidays...if this is your case, do you celebrate the season in an alternative manner? Please take a moment to share!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

Friday Fave: Reindeer Games

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of leading the music portion of my church's "Breakfast With Santa" event. This was the second year of my involvement, so I knew better what to expect and what the kids wanted (the chance to get up, dance around, and sing Christmas songs) as well as their parents (happy, occupied children and cute photo ops). I managed to combine all of these things in a ten-minute activity, and it was so much fun that I thought it deserving of "Friday Fave" attention!

Reindeer were the theme of the music room, made evident by the reindeer antlers on my head. Once all the children arrived, were seated, and commented on my headgear, I asked them if they knew who was the most famous reindeer of all. Of course, they all shouted, "Rudolph!" and we went right into the song, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Next I asked if they were aware that Rudolph isn't Santa's only reindeer, and told them that I would need 8 volunteers to show them what I meant. This worked out perfectly, because the groups were made up of 10-15 kids, and there were always a few who just wanted to watch. My volunteers came to the front and reached into my bag of tricks:

After all, every reindeer needs a good pair of antlers (the jinglier, the better) and a substitution for hooves (rhythm sticks, of course). I knew the props would be a hit, but I wasn't quite ready for the excitement they would stir up. And that was fine with me!

The finishing touches were the nametags, which my "reindeer" wore around their necks. I made these by printing the names in a Christmasy font, laminating, and hole-punching so that I could string the sparkly rope through and tie it at the top.

Not all of the kids could read, so before the song, I pointed to each "reindeer" and read his/her name aloud. Then I told them to listen carefully, because when their name was called during the song, I wanted them to fly away just as the lyrics instruct.

The song that I used for this activity is one of my own, The Other Eight Reindeer. Both the kids and parents got a real kick out of it, and you should have seen those cameras flashing as each child "flew away" when it was his/her turn.

After the song, I asked the children to return to their seats for the next song, Up on the Housetop. They all clicked their "hooves" and sang along, still wearing their antlers (I'm telling you, it was a chore getting them off their heads and back into my bag). At the end of the song, it was time for the group to move on to the next station. I repeated this activity eight times that morning, and had a nice long nap when I got home :)

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Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Ways to Spend Holiday Break

There's a certain electricity in the air, now that the holiday season is upon us and winter is creeping in. Today in Springfield, that air is freezing cold, gusting, and carrying snow showers, but electric nonetheless. Most kids are counting down the days until their much-anticipated holiday break, and truth be told, so are many of us educators! Those two weeks are a wonderful time to relax, recharge our batteries, and prepare for the coming winter months. It's the perfect amount of time, in my opinion, because usually by the end of the break, I'm ready to get back to my students and into the swing of things.

I've been hearing all about the fun things my students have planned over the holidays, which inspired me to write a song on this topic. The song can be used as a conversation starter, and a base for coming up with new and fun ideas that will keep kids busy during their time off. This is bound to please parents, who sometimes struggle to keep their children occupied and out of trouble for two weeks!

&amp;amp;amp;lt;a href=""&amp;amp;amp;gt;Holiday Break by Listen &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp; Learn Music&amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;gt;

This time of the year, when winter is here,
And the schools are closed across the nation.
There’s so much you can do,
Why don’t we name just a few,
Ways to spend our holiday vacation.

If it snows, you can go outside,
Hop on a sled, and take a ride.
Put on your ice skates and take
A trip around the lake.
What a way to spend your holiday break.


If you’re tired, you can sleep in late,
Or get up early if you’re feeling great.
There are nights to stay awake,
And naps to take.
What a way to spend your holiday break.


If you’re bored, you can read a book,
Watch TV or learn to cook.
Maybe even help bake
A chocolate cake.
What a way to spend your holiday break.


What are your plans for winter vacation (if you're lucky enough to have one)? Will you go out of town, or stay close to home? I'm looking forward to being home, spending time with my family, and maybe even getting ahead on some projects I have in the works. Oh, and I can't forget the parties, food, and presents (giving and receiving). After all, what would the holidays be without those things?

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Monday, December 7, 2009

Red, Yellow, and Green

Teaching functional skills and real-world concepts are high on my list of priorities, since the ultimate goal for my students is independence. The Hope Institute uses a Skills Assessment to determine whether or not each student is reaching goals such as dressing, eating properly, interacting with peers appropriately, and so on. Included on this list is personal safety, which encompasses crossing the street, using the crosswalk, and identifying traffic signals.

That is the topic of today's song: learning the meaning of red, yellow, and green as related to the traffic lights. Many teachers use this concept in their classroom or when traveling with students from one place to another, using colored signs to indicate whether students should stop, slow down, or go. Learning and practicing this in a protected environment is the first step in transferring such knowledge to a real-world situation.

Sheet Music: $1
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Stop when the light is red.
Go when it's green.
Slow down when the light turns yellow,
That's the color in between.
The traffic lights are red, yellow and green.

Red, red, is at the top,
Of the traffic light.
If you stop when you see red,
Then you know you're doing it right.


Yellow, yellow is in the middle,
Of the traffic light.
If you slow down when you see yellow,
Then you know you're doing it right.


Green, green is at the bottom,
Of the traffic light.
If you go when you see green,
Then you know you're doing it right.


Although the songs I've written cover many of the topics included on my school's Skills Assessment, there are many more opportunities for new tunes to cover this exhaustive list. Of course, I'll be posting them as I write them - an ongoing process that will take me well into the summer, I'm sure!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

Friday Fave: Springfield's Own Magazine

The Hope Institute has been featured in several local publications recently, and I feel honored that our music therapy program has been mentioned in a few of those articles. Today's cover story in Springfield's Own Magazine highlights many aspects of Hope, including music therapy.

Another way Hope is thinking outward is by employing innovative teaching and therapy methods that will help students master daily tasks and help them express their feelings and communicate. In 2006, Nyre helped Hope obtain a grant for a music therapist, and Rachel Rambach was a perfect fit.

"I got really lucky," she says. "I was finishing up my graduate school internship (for music therapy), and Hope had received a grant for music therapy."

By allowing students to learn by singing and playing instruments, Rachel Rambach is able to connect with the children in a different way and reinforce what their teachers are working on with them, she says. She writes her own songs and creates CDs for both parents and teachers so students can keep learning through music even on the days she does not meet with them. While teaching youths of varying learning levels and abilities can be difficult, she says her job is more fun than anything else.

"My job is so much fun," she says. "Music helps to create a level playing field for the kids; its universal, and it's something that everyone can relate to, no matter what their ability."

Teaching handicapped and disabled children involves a large commitment from Hope's teachers and staff, but what is most evident among them is their dedication, faith and love for their students, and the hope that Hope will help the children have satisfying and fulfilling lives.

Read the entire article (written by Nicole Harbour) for a better understanding of what The Hope Institute is all about, and just how many children it benefits in so many different ways. You can do so here.

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Thursday, December 3, 2009

Green Money

With the holidays just around the corner, buying gifts for friends and family is on just about everyone's to-do list. Many of you probably include your children in this activity, and they may even use some of their own money to purchase presents. Although the concept of exchanging money can be foreign to little ones, there's no harm in teaching it early.

You may remember the Four Little Coins song I shared several months back. In today's song, we address paper bills - the green stuff. Although I'm thinking that I should probably write a new money song about plastic, since credit and debit cards are becoming then norm these days. But we'll keep it old-school for the time being; take a listen.

Sheet Music: $1
Add to Cart

Green money, green money,
Paper bills are green.
Starting with one to one hundred dollars,
And those that come between.

One dollar,
Two dollars,
Ten and twenty,
Bills in each amount.
Also fifty and one hundred
Dollar bills to count.

Green money, green money,
Paper bills are green.
Starting with one to one hundred dollars,
And those that come between.

Use this tune as an opportunity to explain that paper bills come in different amounts, and use a real (or real-looking) bill to show your child or student how to tell the difference between each. Emphasize that even though a dollar bill and one hundred dollar bill may look very similar, the latter is worth MUCH more than the former. You can also discuss making change, if you're feeling extra ambitious!

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Listen & Learn: Christmas

It's that time of year time, of course! Although I have been listening to Christmas tunes since the beginning of November, the rest of the world seems to accept Thanksgiving as the official kick-off to the holiday season. And now that it is December, many classrooms are taking part in seasonal activities and lessons. So today I'm sharing my holiday-centered album with you, just in case you need any last-minute inspiration or songs to accompany your own lesson and session plans.

This Listen & Learn album contains 7 songs, all of which I wrote about in detail last December. The first track, "Holiday Time", is a great way to introduce the topic and start conversations about not only Christmas, but all of the other winter holidays your students may celebrate.

It's holiday time, so here is a rhyme,
For us all to sing together.
Spreading joy and good cheer,
This time of the year,
No matter how cold the weather.

It's time for giving,
Helping others and being kind.
It's time for sharing,
Which will make you feel good inside.


It's time for music,
Come on and ring your bell.
It's time for carols,
Silent Night and The First Noel.


It's time for parties,
Spending time with your family and friends.
It's time for celebration,
Hope the laughter never ends.


And of course, I keep all the traditional Christmas songs on hand just in case a student should request one (as has happened in each class this week!) during a music therapy session. In fact, I am putting together a Christmas Singalong for the students of The Hope Institute in a couple of weeks, filled with all of their favorite holiday tunes. Which begs the question: what are your personal favorites?

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

On the Radio

My experience as being a part of the WDBR Cares for Kids Radiothon was amazing from start to finish, but I'd have to say that the best moment of all was when they announced the total amount raised for the Children's Miracle Network: $92, 365. Incredible, right? I just had to have my picture taken with the grand total, as well as Dave and Dina, the DJs who hosted all 31 hours of the radiothon.

So today I'd like to share the songs I contributed to the cause, which Dave so seamlessly weaved with the stories told by the Children's Miracle Network families.

First is Hollie's story, told in her very own words.

Beautiful, and strong,
On the outside.
Unsure and scared,
Smiling through the pain,
That held her back from feeling good,
In her own skin.

Beautiful, and strong,
On the outside.
Unsure and scared,
Faced with a choice,
She knew what she had to do,
To be herself again.

She had a hand to hold,
And heroes on her side.
Stood by her through the pain,
And gave her back her pride.
They changed her life, above all,
And now she’s standing tall.

Beautiful, and strong,
On the outside.
Beautiful, and strong,
Confidence gained,
And nothing to hide,
She was herself, again.


She gave up something she loved
But it was well worth the trade.
As the hurt disappeared,
She was no longer afraid.
And through it all...


Next is Sam's Story, so beautifully told by his parents, Katie and Gene.

They followed the rules, they went by the book,
From the food that she ate, to the classes they took.
Smooth sailing, the doctors said.
But God had other plans, instead.

They wondered if it was time, it was hard to know.
Could have waited, but instinct told them to go.
The calm before the storm.
As the tidal wave took form.

Like the blink of an eye,
It all happened so fast and they didn’t know why.
A moment frozen in time,
No explanation at all, no reason or rhyme.
Their faith placed in the hands,
That knew what to do,
To make a miracle come true.

She was whisked away, and he paced the floor.
He knew it was bad, they couldn’t tell him much more,
All he had was hope and prayer,
For his family in there.


A life was saved, but the storm hadn’t passed,
A long road ahead, each day better than the last,
Couldn’t hold him, but they knew,
They were doing all that they could do.

They called him a miracle,
Tears of joy for their baby boy.


I'm already looking forward to being involved with the radiothon and the Children's Miracle Network again next year. And you know what else I'm looking forward to? This wonderful month of December! Today is the kick-off of what is sure to be a busy but fun 31 days, all of which are represented in my "December" song. Hear it here, and read what I had to say about it over on the Songs For Teaching blog.

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