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Listen and Learn Music: May 2010

Friday, May 28, 2010

Friday Fave: Memorial Day Weekend

This weekend is, first and foremost, a time to honor the men and women who died while serving in the military.  But for many people (including me), it is also the unofficial kick-off of summer.  Even though I have two days of school left next week, it still feels like summer begins tomorrow.

That might just be because I'm going on a mini-vacation this weekend!  The destination is New York City, and it will actually be my second trip to the Big Apple already this year (read about my first one here).  But this time I'm leaving the hubby behind and meeting up with my best friend Katie for a girls' weekend.  She's getting married next year, and since I'm the Maid of Honor, I have the privilege of helping her find a wedding gown and bridesmaid dresses.

So that will be our top priority, but we also have a few other fun plans.  Those include seeing Sean Hayes (of Will & Grace fame) and Kristin Chenoweth in the Broadway musical Promises, Promises, hitting up a few tourist destinations, and meeting up with another good friend who lives in the city.  I'll have a full report when I return on Tuesday!

What are your plans for Memorial Day weekend?  I hope you're doing something fun, exciting, and/or restful, depending on your mood.  Be safe and enjoy!

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Thursday, May 27, 2010

The End is Near...

The end of the school year, that is!  There are a few big events at the school where I work which signify that summer break is upon us.  One of those events happened just yesterday and is my very favorite of the whole year. 


It doesn't get much better than having all of the students faculty, and staff gathered in one place, singing the songs we've been working on in music therapy all year. And better yet, I have a full band! With Mike on bass, Joe on guitar, and Jayne (who unfortunately is not pictured; she is to the right of me) on drums, our songs get quite the rock 'n roll treatment.

But the fun's not over yet.  Tomorrow morning, our graduation ceremony will be held in the very same room.  Graduation is always a bittersweet event; as happy as I am for the students, I'm still sad to see them go.  This year I'll be singing "For Good" (from the musical Wicked) during the ceremony.

Next Wednesday is our last day of school, and in the afternoon we'll have our annual talent show.  It's always so entertaining to watch not only students and entire classes, but also various faculty and staff, get up on stage and show off their dancing, singing, and instrument-playing talents.  A couple of classrooms will be performing music therapy "hits" - an awesome choice of repertoire, if you ask me :)

So that's what is going on around here.  Now I must get to something I've been putting off all month...creating summer song packets and CDs for each class.  Although there will be a sub (not a music therapist, but a music teacher who is very skilled in working with my student population) taking over for the summer, I still like to leave materials behind so that the teachers can continue reinforcing the skills and concepts we've spent all year learning.  Plus, I don't want everyone to forget me while I'm away!

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Anywhere, Anytime

I've been working closely with one of my school's speech therapists for the last couple of months, and the other day she came to me with a new song idea. She told me that she was sitting in church, singing the African American spiritual "I'm Gonna Live So God Can Use Me" with the rest of the congregation, when she realized that it would make a great tune for our students.

The three things she always reminds the kids to do are: listen, work, and practice.  Those three words are the basis of this adapted song, and they really do apply to most things in our kids' lives.  Whether it's a skill they are learning at school, a chore they are responsible for at home, or even a fun new experience such as riding a bike, all of those things require listening, working, and practicing.

<a href="">Anywhere, Anytime by Listen &amp; Learn Music</a>

I'm gonna listen so I can learn more,
Anywhere and anytime.
I'm gonna listen, so I can learn more,
Anywhere and anytime.

I'm gonna work so I can do more,
Anywhere and anytime.
I'm gonna work so I can do more,
Anywhere and anytime.

I'm gonna practice so I can be more,
Anywhere and anytime.
I'm gonna practice so I can be more,
Anywhere and anytime.

How could you apply this song to your own students' lives?  I'm thinking of singing it with my piano students at the end of each lesson, especially those who often "forget" to practice!

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Music Therapy Round Table: Join the Team!

As you probably know, I'm one of three hosts of the Music Therapy Round Table podcast. Kimberly, Michelle, and I are now accepting applicants for an assistant position, open to any current music therapy student or intern.

Duties include:

1. Listening to each podcast episode (one per month).
2. Accurately typing a transcription of the audio file, including adding hyperlinks.
3. Completing and submitting the transcript within 3 days of receiving the audio file.

It's a simple yet important part of the Music Therapy Round Table, and it is a paid position. The deadline for applications is June 7, 2010.  You can apply by filling out this form:

Music Therapy Round Table: Assistant Application

If you have any questions at all, please don't hesitate to contact me.  We're looking forward to adding a member to our could be you!

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday Singalong: Ready, Set, Wait!

Instant Sheet Music Download: $1
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I really wanted to film this week's video outside, but unfortunately my cameraman (aka my husband) was taking a nap after a long day of yard work and soccer.  My usual studio setting will have to do for today, but there will be more outdoor videos in the near future!

I chose "Ready, Set, Wait!" (read more and download it here) as this week's song because first of all, it's been awhile since I actually sang one of my own Listen & Learn songs in a Sunday Singalong video.  Second, I've been singing it a lot lately with my kiddos, and I always get such a positive response.  Third, I just really like it!  Hope you do, too. 

If you have a song in mind for next week's video, let me know.  If I choose your suggestion, you get a free album download of your choice. 

Tomorrow begins the last full week of school before...summer break!  It's also my last full week of music therapy and lessons for my private practice, after which we'll have a two-week break.  I'm kicking off my mini-vacation with a Memorial Day weekend trip to New York City, but before I get to that, I have a very busy five days ahead.  Ready, set, GO!

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Friday, May 21, 2010

Friday Fave: Episode 4 of Our Podcast

The Music Therapy Round Table is a monthly podcast series hosted by myself, Kimberly S. Moore, and Michelle Erfurt.  In case you haven't already read the back-story, here's a recap: Michelle and I met back in 2008 after she visited my blog.  Kimberly and I met in mid-2009 through Twitter.  The three of us came together for the first time at the AMTA national conference in San Diego last year, and decided to collaborate on a new podcast centered around music therapy.  We recorded our first episode via Skype back in February, and now here we are, three months (and three episodes) later.

In Episode 4, we discuss a topic every single therapist will have to deal with: change. Whether moving to a new studio, moving out-of-town, or going on maternity leave, what's the most appropriate way to handle these major life transitions with your clients? Listen in as we share stories of how we handled change and discuss things that helped us and our clients.  You can either listen directly on our blog, or find us on iTunes and download the episodes to your iPod or iPhone.

We make this announcement in the episode, but I also thought I'd share with you here that at this year's AMTA national conference, the three of us will be presenting a 5-hour CMTE (that stands for "continuing music therapy education" for you non-MTs) course on the topic of using the internet and social media for business and advocacy.  We're super excited about this opportunity - it's a big one!

So if you haven't already, check out our podcast.  Oh, and while we're on the subject of podcasts, I should mention two others that I'd recommend.  Janice Harris' Music Therapy Show and Wade Richards' Time for Music Podcast are excellent, so check them out as well!

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Thursday, May 20, 2010

Introducing Single Song Downloads

Many of you have asked, and I listened! Whereas previously only full album downloads were available, now you can purchase only the Listen & Learn songs you really want.  Of course, you still have the option to download the entire album, but your feedback has made it apparent that single song downloads are your preference.


I use Bandcamp (as seen in the screenshot above) to manage my downloads and handle transactions, and luckily for both me and you, they make it super simple to purchase both albums and single songs.  To view the  entire album and hear the rest of the songs on it, just click the album art for any song here at Listen & Learn.  Or, if you hear a song here and you want to purchase it, click "download" just below the player.  This window will appear:


As you can see, you can use either a credit card or PayPal to purchase a song or album.  When you import your new music into iTunes, all of the info (song title, album, artist) will appear.  Pretty cool, right?  I'm a big fan of Bandcamp; I've even convinced several other music therapist friends to use it, too...not that it took much convincing :)

Oh, and I'm going to be re-recording some of my older tunes in the coming weeks!  Now that I have much higher quality recording equipment than when I first started, you can definitely tell the difference between the old and the new.  So that's the latest news around here - happy listening and downloading!


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stop, Think and Do

The teachers at my school often ask me to write very specific songs to enhance their classroom lessons.  After all, my job as a music therapist is to support each classroom's progress toward established goals and objectives.  Last month I was asked to write a song featuring the phrase "stop, think and do".  This is a motto in our classroom for students with behavioral issues; they are encouraged to go through this process in any situation which could possibly result in making a bad decision.

I wanted this song to be an interactive experience for the students; not only does it remind them to follow those three steps, but I also provide opportunities to share situations in which the process was successful for them.  I'll explain further after you have a chance to listen and read the lyrics:

<a href="">Stop, Think and Do by Listen &amp; Learn Music</a>

Well there are three little words I wanna say to you:
Stop, think and do.
Before you take action, every time, it’s true,
Stop, think and do.
Stop moving and pause, and think it through,
And then you can do (doot-do-doot-do).

When you’re angry, you need to make a good choice.
Stop, think and do.
When you’re angry, you need to use your voice.
Stop, think and do.


When you’re upset, you need to make a good choice.
Stop, think and do.
When you’re upset, you need to use your voice.
Stop, think and do.


When you’re hurting, you need to make a good choice.
Stop, think and do.
When you’re hurting, you need to use your voice.
Stop, think and do.


Situations in which a student is feeling angry, upset, or hurt are the most important times to "stop, think and do".  After each verse, I invite the class to share a time when they felt that particular emotion, followed he steps, and made a good decision.  This is a group of students that love to talk, so I give them plenty of time to do so in a structured manner.  (We begin each music therapy session with "Share Something Positive" and wrap it up with "Compliments" just before the goodbye song.)

I think turning these types of phrases into songs increases their effectiveness, especially if children listen to and sing them on a regular basis.  Do you have any phrases similar to "stop, think, and do" that are frequently used in your classroom, therapy sessions, or your own home?  It just might be my next song topic - so please share!

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday Singalong: You Belong With Me

Last summer, I wrote a post about Taylor Swift and explained why I'm such a big fan.  Almost a year later, my feelings haven't changed, and neither have my voice students'.  In addition to classical, Broadway, and art songs, I always sneak in a pop or country song here and there.  Taylor is usually at the top of the list, which is why I chose "You Belong With Me" as this week's featured song.  

Do you think pop music has a place in voice, piano, and guitar lessons?  I know that many studio teachers disagree with this practice.  But I think that it is important for students to sing the songs they want to learn in addition to those they should learn.  It's all about striking a balance between the two. 

Well another weekend has slipped by, and tomorrow will mark the beginning of my second-to-last full week of school before summer break.  Crazy.  Those 12 remaining days are jam packed with activity, including the all-school singalong, graduation, and planning for summer music therapy classes and sessions.  I'm going to relax this evening before the chaos sets in tomorrow...hope you'll do the same!

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Saturday, May 15, 2010

Today at Listen & Learn Music Plus!

One of my favorite Listen & Learn songs - "That Yellow Bus" - is fun, simple and effective when it comes to easing the transition on and off the school bus.  The sheet music for this song is now available to subscribers...learn about becoming one today!


Friday, May 14, 2010

Friday Fave: Champions for Children

I write frequently about children with special needs and the work I (and all of you professionals and parents) do to make their lives better.  But today I want to talk about another group of children: those who have been sexually and physically abused.  This is somewhat of a taboo topic in our society, because people don't want to think about the fact that this kind of abuse happens.  But the sad reality is that it does, and all too often.

April was National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and the Children's Advocacy Centers of Illinois is carrying that awareness into May with with weekend's Champions for Children Walk.  Tomorrow morning, people in 27 cities throughout Illinois will walk in support of the 10,500 abused children that Children's Advocacy Centers (CACs) serve every year.

Working with law enforcement, medical professionals, and other agencies, CACs offer a safe, child-friendly environment for forensic interviews and medical evaluations of the child victim, and on-going support for children who have been abused, as well as their families.  My mom opened the Sangamon County Child Advocacy Center here in Springfield just over 20 years ago, and my stepdad is the current executive director.  This year, in honor of the Champions for Children Walk, my mom and I collaborated on a song which will serve as the event's theme.  You can listen below, and follow the link to download it for free:

<a href="">Rise Up by Rachel Rambach</a>

Sometimes I wonder if it matters what I do
Is there anyone who’ll listen, or am I among the few
Who see the pain and hear the cry
And stop to question why?

Rise up and take a stand
Raise your voice, reach out a hand
Be a champion for a child
Speak the words she cannot say
Be the light that she’s been searching for
and give her strength to help her find her way

For a moment stop and wonder
How a child can live in fear
What are they telling us that we cannot hear?
What do they need to ease their pain
the tears that flow like rain?


Just think of the changes that we could make
how different our world could be
when silence is broken and their voices are heard
when we open our eyes to see


And even though you most likely don't live in Springfield, or even Illinois, you can "rise up" and be a Champion for Children.  How?  By sponsoring me in tomorrow's walk, if you feel so inclined.  Any pledge amount, from $1 on up, will go towards the child abuse prevention, education, and direct service to children who have experienced physical and sexual abuse.  Pledges can be made by clicking the "make a donation to this group" link at the very bottom of this page.

Although it's been raining all week, we've been blessed with a beautiful forecast for tomorrow's walk!  I'll be singing "Rise Up" to kick things off, and then it'll be time to get moving.  I can't wait.  Hope you all have a fantastic Friday and a wonderful weekend!  See you back here on Sunday for this week's Sunday Singalong video.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

Kappa Delta Recognizes Music Therapy


When I found out I was going to be featured in my sorority's national alumnae magazine a few months back, I couldn't believe it.   I've been reading the Angelos of Kappa Delta since I graduated from Rollins College in 2004, and am always amazed by the wonderful things that Kappa Delta women across the country are doing. To be amongst such company is a pretty huge honor, if you ask me!

"Bridging the Communication Gap" highlights the work I do as a music therapist here in Springfield, along with another KD alum who uses sign language to help children with disabilities learn to communicate.  The article doesn't mention it, but the picture above was taken during my local alumnae chapter's Founders Day dinner, for which I wrote and performed an original song.

A special thank you to Kimberly S. Moore, who sent me the article in PDF format.  Her mom is a KD alum as well, saw the article, and emailed it to Kimberly.  (Small world, huh?)  You can download and read it via this link:

Download: Rachel in the Angelos Magazine

Kappa Delta also published a Q&A with me, which covers lots of topics (from my education to my experiences as a KD in college).  You can read that here.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Before & After

One of the best decisions I ever made was moving my private practice from "the road" (traveling to my students' homes) into my own home-based studio.  This has allowed me to work with many more students on a daily basis, because no longer do I need to build commute time into my schedule.  I can honestly admit that I don't miss packing my car every morning with the necessary equipment, hauling it in and out of my trunk, and spending all of that extra money on gas.

I love that I have everything I need at my fingertips, especially when an idea strikes in the middle of a music therapy session. I also love that I can neatly organize my materials in advance of my students' arrival, as evidenced in these photos taken before a recent session:


But as anyone who spends time with children knows all too well, neatness isn't high on their list of priorities. I'm a self-admitted neat freak, but that flies out the window when I'm working with a child. Half the time, I'm creating most of the mess by bringing out different instruments, visual aides, and other items during our session. I was glad I captured the "before" shots on that particular day, because the "after" scene was just too funny not to document:


My favorite part is the opened drawers...I couldn't have staged it this well!  My student and I used every last one of those instruments and items, and ended up running out of time at the end of our session.  Otherwise we'd have put everything back in its place while singing this song :)  My next student was a few minutes late, which gave me just enough time to tidy up before his piano lesson.  Good thing, because I doubt he'd have appreciated this mess as much as I did!

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Monday, May 10, 2010

Time to Rhyme!

Children are surrounded by rhyme: they're in picture books, songs, nursery rhymes, and on the television shows they watch.  And although rhyming comes naturally to lots of kids, the concept itself can seem somewhat foreign.

This was the case with one classroom in particular at my school; a speech therapist came to me looking for song ideas that teach rhyming. I'm sure there are many great ones out there already, but in my usual fashion, I saw this as the perfect opportunity to write a new song.

<a href="">Time to Rhyme by Listen &amp; Learn Music</a>

A rhyme is when you repeat a sound again,
It usually happens at the end
Of a line in a song or poetry,
Now let’s try it, you and me.
Time to rhyme, fill in the blanks if you know
The missing word, ready, set, go!

During class we sit in our seat,
We do not stand up on our (pause) feet.
We brush our teeth before we go to bed,
Then on the pillow we rest our (pause) head.


In the winter, snow will fall,
We can make a round snow- (pause) ball.
In the spring, a flower grows,
We can smell it with our (pause) nose.


Look outside and see the sun,
Shining down on every- (pause) one.
Following all the rules is cool,
When we’re swimming in the (pause) pool.

A rhyme is when you repeat a sound again,
It usually happens at the end
Of a line in a song or poetry,
Thanks for rhyming along with me.

Not only does this song explain (very briefly and basically) the definition of a rhyme, but it gives the students several opportunities for correctly rhyming given words.  The sentences give a context for the missing word, and most of my verbal students have been successful at completing the rhymes so far.

The fun thing about this song is that you can always change the sentences in each verse to appeal to your own students, or to make the rhymes easier or harder as needed.  Better yet, let the kids write new sentences!  Coming up with rhymes is one of my favorite aspects of songwriting; it's a challenge, but a fun one.

Do you know of any other songs that teach rhyming?  One of my favorites for flexing my students' rhyming muscles is "Down by the Bay" - I'd love to hear about yours!

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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Sunday Singalong: Mother's Day Edition

When I started brainstorming for this week's "Sunday Singalong" video, I knew I wanted to do something special for Mother's Day.  I just wasn't sure what, exactly.  Then I remembered a song that I wrote for my mom last April on her 50th birthday, and I had a plan.  I chose some of my favorite photos of my mom, and used the song to narrate this slideshow:

I have a lot of people in my life to celebrate today. There's my mom, of course, but then I also have my stepmom, aunt, grandma, mother-in-law, grandmother-in-law, and all of the moms and moms-to-be I know (like my sisters and friends). If you're a mom, I hope you're doing something nice for yourself - or even better, being spoiled by those who love you. Enjoy your special day!

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Friday, May 7, 2010

Friday Fave: Boomwhackers & Black Eyed Peas

Today's "Friday Fave" comes to you courtesy of fellow music therapist Kat Fulton, who lives and works in San Diego.  I had the pleasure of meeting her at last year's AMTA Conference, and we've since stayed connected through Facebook and Twitter.  Kat is an expert drum circle facilitator and is truly an innovator when it comes to the use of percussion in music therapy, as you will see in a moment.

But first, are you familiar with boomwhackers?  These are plastic tubes that can be played either with a mallet or by "whacking" them against a hard surface.  They come in several different sets, including C Major Diatonic Scale, C Major Pentatonic Scale, a Chromatics set, and more.  You can see (and hear!) all of them here.
Boomwhackers might just have the silliest name of any instrument, but they  are quite possibly the most popular in my studio.  In one particular music therapy group, my young clients run for my boomwhacker basket every week and spend the first few minutes of our session playing them.

But now back to Kat, who wins the award for the coolest use of boomwhackers yet.  In this video, she plays the Black Eyed Peas song "I Gotta Feeling" using only - you guessed it - boomwhackers. Prepare to be impressed:

You can read more about why Kat made this video, and how she'll be using it, here. I was actually planning to feature this song in my upcoming "Sunday Singalong" video (showing how I teach my students to play it on the piano) but after seeing Kat's video?  No way - mine would pale in comparison!

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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Summer

As soon as warm weather sets in, I know I can count on lots of outdoor music therapy sessions with my classes at The Hope Institute.  In fact, I came in from one just now!  That is one of my favorite things about spring; the sunshine and warm breeze motivate my students to sing a little louder and smile a little wider.  In the 20 days that remain of this school year, I'm looking forward to many more music therapy sessions with kids gathered on picnic tables, as they were today.

And boy, do we have a lot to talk and sing about in these last 20 days.  With summer break on the horizon, my students will undergo all kinds of changes in schedule and life transitions.  Many of the senior classes will say goodbye to those students who are graduating on May 28, and other classes will shift and change as new students arrive and current students move to a different classroom or school altogether.  Change is tough around here, which is why we try to make it a little easier with social stories, songs, and lots of preparation.

One song I wrote specifically to help ease into summer was actually the brainchild of a classroom teacher here at Hope.  She suggested that I include a song about graduation, schedule changes, summer school and camp in my May music therapy packet, and mentioned that the line "it's beginning to look a lot like summer" came to mind.  I took her idea and ran, and this is how the song turned out:

<a href="">A Lot Like Summer by Listen &amp; Learn Music</a>

It’s beginning to look a lot like summer,
Everywhere we go.
We have to wear sunscreen,
Outside where the trees are green,
Because the sun shines down on us below.
It’s beginning to look a lot like summer,
Our break is coming soon.
And after we come back
We’ll have summer school and camp
When we meet again in June.

Graduation’s coming up,
For some of us and our friends,
Who have finished school, and this is when
Their time at Hope ends.
We’ll clap for them at graduation, everyone attends.


Our schedules might change,
When we come back to school,
And our class might be different, too.
It’s a time to adjust and get used to new things,
For both me and you.
There’s so much fun for us to have when summer comes,
It’s true.


There's a little bit of everything here...some of those words were hard to squeeze in!  But of course, when I sing it with my students, I'll slow it WAY down so that each line is nice and clear.  This song also presents a great songwriting opportunity; I know some of my students will have lots of fun adding verses about other summer plans and activities.

How are YOU helping your students prepare for summer?  It's an exciting time for everyone - teachers included! - but it can also be very overwhelming.  More conversation (both sung and spoken) leads to less anxiety when the clock hits 2:30 pm on June 2.

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Sunday, May 2, 2010

Have Passport, Will Travel

A Fender Passport 500 Pro, that is, which will hit the road with me for gigs and performances from now on.  I was so excited for it to arrive that I immediately took it out of the box and tried it out.  My new sound system has completely taken over one of our spare bedrooms, as you can see:

The sound is a little overwhelming in this space, but it's perfect for the bigger venues in which I perform around Springfield. The Passport is quite an upgrade from my little Ibanez amp (which I actually featured as my first-ever Friday Fave).  Here's my previous set-up:

It looks so very sad in comparison!   But there really is no comparing the sound output of the two systems, not to mention the capabilities of each.  The Passport has an eight-channel mixer, CD-quality .wav and mp3 file playback, and even a port that lets me record my performances with CD quality (.wav) straight to a USB flash drive. How cool is that?  The best part is that the speakers attach to the mixer, which makes it super easy (and surprisingly light!) to transport:

I'll be posting a few more pics on my Facebook page, so be sure to stop by and check them out.  My next gig just happens to be next weekend, and I can't wait to put my new sound system to use.  Speaking of, I'd better go rehearse (in my newly converted rehearsal space).  Ciao!

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