As June begins

Sparks (Photo credit: Gnal)

As June begins, I reflect back on this week. It has had some winning moments.

Professionally, I had a great time sharing at the Senior Health and Fitness event sponsored by the Center for Health Improvement here in Hays on Wednesday. I am working on a post with highlights over on Music Sparks. For now, you can access the power point slides. I am prepared for an Music Sparks Sharing group that starts Monday. Intergenerational groups are a favorite of mine. And, I completed another section on a group project. (One more section to go.) Lastly, video is prepped for a Father’s Day Blog Hop which will be up next week.

Personally, I did a major paper inbox sort. Filing is not my favorite thing to do so this is a biggy for me. I have walked the dogs each day and even played piano every day. Having that musical outlet is so important. It has been difficult dealing with the limitations of my sore shoulder and arm. But, that seems to be improving so I hope to get back to yoga and lifting this coming week. I have also spent more time in professional and pleasure reading this week. Feeding my mind is helpful.

I look forward to seeing where these sparks of acknowledgement take me as I continue to grow and develop.


Endings & Beginnings

Transition - New Beginning
Image by Mara ~earth light~ via Flickr

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end. – Semisonic

As the year draws to a close and a new year begins, I am taking some time to review the year here on Musical Gems and to plan for the year at hand.

As part of my review I looked to see what created the most interest this year.   I wish to thank you for reading my posts, for sharing them, and for leaving comments. The top five viewed posts were:

  1. What Would Life Be Like Without Music?
  2. What are your six songs?
  3. Sharing Your Story, Making a Change
  4. Reflections on Music Therapy Conference
  5. Football fields are for Marching Bands (too)

Politics, fun challenge, advocacy, music therapy, and marching band…hum, things on which I have strong views.  Providing information others find useful, informative or fun is my goal. Please take a moment to answer this poll.

We’ll see what kind of exciting ideas we can share in 2012! I wish you much joy.

11-11 Moment

On The Front Porch
Image by larrymac via Flickr

Yesterday,the social media and the news were filled with comments of how special and unique 11-11 was. Why don’t we view each day as special  & unique? What would happen if we treasured more of our days in the same way? What would happen if we treasured a minute of each day?

I am currently listening to Victor Wooten‘s ” The Music Lesson” . Here is a “timely” quote which I listened to yesterday:

“Now listen here, son. How much of your precious little time is spent really becoming who you choose to be? Do you know? Actually all of it is, but you don’t know that it’s you doing the choosing. How much of that time is spent consciously making yo’self better? Not much. We can probably count that time in weeks, or even days…If you were to look back over yo’ Life, you could find time frames when yo’ actions did produce the outcome you were looking for. For example: you spent a few weeks learning how to walk, and you succeeded; you spent a few months learning how to talk, and you succeeded; you’ve spent years learning how to play the bass guitar, and you have succeeded. All the things that you’ve held yo’ mind to, you have accomplished, or will accomplish. You can believe that! And all of these time frames can be viewed as phrases.” pg 183

I challenge you to take moment every day and make it the best moment you can. Make is a snapshot worth moment! Find a way to record those moments – a photo, a journal entry. Cherish each day for the gift it is. Then, come back in a week and share how having a special moment each day has affected your life.

Until next week….

P.S.This is a very thought provoking book. I recommend having both the audio & written versions. The audio shares some wonderful insights while the written format allows you to reflect in a different manner.

Wading into joy

Over the last couple months, I have been wading through the junk. In my last post I showed the progress with my desk. Today’s post will show the progress in my storage area.

Here’s what it looks like entering the area.

Next to that I have moved the file cabinets and surrounded them with a new shelf. There is a narrow shelf for my display board. Above that is a shelf for bags packed in preparation for sessions. It is so helpful to have an area to load & unload my bags in the area of my supplies. It keeps them from living in the middle of our music room floor. On top are containers of stuffed animals & puppets, scarves, feathers and craft items.

Next to that is the existing shelf  with my large drums live on the top shelf. My existing organizers have music books and some of my church music supplies. An empty coffee container holds my drum mallets. I have a container with my bean bags. Homemade board games (not visible in the photo) are in a container at the back. In the plastic file are various games I used – my created game I’ll share on a future post, cards for motions, & lots more! A basket holds tambourines with my omnichord and chimebars stored next to them. On the bottom shelf is a file of choral music and basket of materials yet to file. And, there are a few more other items on the floor in front of that that have the same need.

In the corner is my coat tree with empty bags, and drum bags hanging. My empty wheeled suitcase is stored there, too. Not visible is a container of folding music stands I use from time to time.

 At the end of the space is a new shelf  The basket at the top holds my paper plates for movement activities. The notebooks are ones I use to hold session materials The shelves hold much of my music collection. Now they are at eye level and easy to access. There is even space for future purchases. The plastic containers hold my egg head shakers, rhythm sticks, stickers, and other small manipulatives. My children’s books and public domain hymn books sit on the next shelf. At the bottom are my boom box and speakers for my iPod.

The fabric covers storage of home goods. A few old instruments are on top. That leaves my childhood dresser.  The blue tub is one I often use to carry materials to some groups or as an object of lots imaginary play. I can easily move the tub and use the top as a work surface. A container holds pens and paperclips. Two drawers hold personal items while the others hold instruments for safe keeping.  Next to the dresser is a trashcan holding my boomwhacker collections.

The rag rug warms up the space. I have a folding chair I can pull out for sitting to work.

So there you have it! my mostly reorganized space. It is such a joy to now enter & work in this space. One of these days I hope to add a wall behind the chest of drawers so I can hang items. Next wading post will deal with my file progress.

6 Keys to Living (with Music)

Keys - Lost and found
Image by Stewart Leiwakabessy via Flickr

Life can be complicated for many people. It sometimes seems especially so for those whose livelihood is in the arts such as music educators and music therapists. You aren’t sure what to do, how to do it, when to change. You feel lost. While I can not answer these questions for you, I have identified what I consider to be the keys to surviving and even thriving based upon my life as a music therapist and my husband’s as a music educator.

Consider  a 2-5 year plan. Where do you want to be living? What do you want to be doing? Describe a day in the life. What kind of music do you want to be creating? This information will inform the rest of the keys. It should serve as the basis of how you live your life. It is okay to “re”key from time to time. In fact, I’ll bet you plans will change with life.

Care for your body. There is an expanding body of evidence to support the importance of proper nutrition and exercise. Yet, there are other  aspects to consider. Whether  you are a music therapist, an instrumental teacher or a vocal teacher, it is important you  care for your voice. Be sure you warm-up your voice and cool it down each day. In addition, you need to be sure you are injuring yourself in rehearsals or performances. Be sure to see “Music Shouldn’t Hurt” by Susan Poliniak in Teaching Music, Vol. 19, No.2 for specifics.

Care for your environment. As much as possible, the space around you should support & encourage your work. Find a system to organize paperwork, music, recordings, instruments and equipment that works for you. Be sure you have a space for creating and enjoying your music. Include something for your sense or smell, sight, and touch in your environment. Who wants to plan classes or sessions in a chair that doesn’t feel comfortable? Who wants to spend much time in an area with a nasty smell?

Control your finances. Be aware of both your income and your expenses.  There are great resources out there to help  you learn about finances, budgeting, and saving. A few examples are David Bach, Robert T. Kiyosaki, and Suze Orman. Use your 2-5 year plan to help guide your financial plan. Live within your means. Budget money for enjoying the now. Be sure your fees for lessons and sessions cover your time for travel, preparation, and clean up. From time to time see what others are charging in your area for the same or similar services.

Consider your relationships. Create a list of who inspires you personally, professionally, musically. Realize some relationships are required – familial & work included. But, you can decide how to handle these relationships. Be aware of the people who surround you. Do you have friends? Do they have goals and interests similar or complementary to yours?  Are you setting aside time to maintain and develop these relationships? It is easy to get so “busy” with work we don’t invest quality time into relationships.  Care for your persona/brand both off and on-line. Remember, what is posted online lives on for family, employers, students/clients to see.

Care for your thoughts/mind.  Continue to learn throughout life. Find ways to “unclutter” your mind so you can focus on a thought at a time. Find ways to release the constant mental monitoring especially those of negativity. Continue to make music for yourself. Find for yourself how to balance the need to perfect your craft as a musician with your need to enjoy being in the moment with music.

Thank you to the Fort Hays State University chapter of CMENC for asking me to present. You are the inspiration for this post. I am grateful to Stephanie McWilliams of The Unstoppables for providing me a base upon which to build.

More detailed information is available in the FACETS newsletter being released on Friday, October 21st, 2011. Sign up today to get your copy.

Football Fields are for Marching Bands (Too)

Football Field Panoramic (HDR)
Image by joebiologyuni via Flickr

Football season is here. The fans are starting to wager on the winners and losers. The players are strapping on their pads. The fields are freshly lined. The rock music is being prepared to blast through the speakers. Suddenly the music is silenced and the crowd in the stands hear “Ladies & Gentleman, please welcome the Dusty High School Marching Dirt Devils. Under the field direction of ….”

Yip, it is MARCHING SEASON. One of my favorite cartoons in high school was Funky Winkerbean. Mr. Dinkel was the band director who declared “Football fields are for marching bands”. The band geek in me is willing to share the field with the team. As a member of the  Eureka High School Marching Band I attended many a football game. As a student at the University of Kansas, I was never able to king’s x the space for marching band, but I can guarantee I went to the game to see the band not the football team. (KU wasn’t winning many games in those days.) Marrying a high school band director, I have chaperoned my fair share of home and away football band trips and marching festival (which are held in football stadiums). Now I attend Hays High games to cheer on my daughter and the other members of the marching band. And, I also cheer on the Fort Hays Tiger Marching Band as my husband assists with that group.

I enjoy marching season.  Still, I have heard band directors told to stay off a field so the band doesn’t mess it up. Really? Who is going to mess it up more – someone marching or someone tackling? Football fields are for marching bands, too!

From this perspective, on and off the field, let me share a few thoughts about marching bands. (These thoughts are mine and may or may not reflect the thoughts of band directors, marching band members, the band supporters, or various education institutions.) 

Marching band is a lot of work mentally and physically. Remembering drill, proper technique for moving AND playing, playing musically, adjusting to the movement of those around you while following the person on the podium takes a few brain cells. Getting air through a horn or carrying percussion equipment while marching a 7-9 minute show is a workout. It takes hours of practice to do this. It takes dedication to do it well.

Marching bands deserve a little recognition. Think about it, there are multiple high school pep assemblies to talk about the players and the upcoming game. But, when was there last a pep rally for the band going to festival, or the debate team heading to a competition, or the theatre department putting on a play? And, how many times have you seen the band as a back drop for the homecoming festivities? Or, how many times have you seen the teams come onto the field to warm up as the band completes the half-time performance? What would happen if the band warmed up on the field while the game was in progress? These students are in a credited class that meets during the day and required to attend an extra-curricular events. Outside of other performing arts courses, how many courses extra-curricular events? I was impressed last year to see the Hays High student body sit down to watch the band at half-time instead of running to the concession stands. (HHS students, you ROCK!)  Take away: Consider watching and listening to the band as it performs – both at half time and at a concert.

Marching band season is the warm-up for the band. Once the players hang up the cleats, the band goes on to concert season. (Or if they are lucky, they are doing concert music during the football season.) This is where quality music making occurs, technique is honed, passion exists. Yes, it is a high hearing stands full of people yell when you complete a show, but for me that pales next to the highs of creating music that moves me as a player or as a listener. The take away – Don’t be upset when I don’t worry if the football team makes it to state playoffs. I’m thinking about festivals and concerts.

There is rarely a payback for the band. I mean this in several ways.

  1. While band is a class, the members are required to attend an extra-curricular event. I have yet to hear of a football team required to dress appropriately and attend a concert to hear the band.
  2. Educational institutions rarely staff a band like a football team. In Kansas many high school bands have a director maybe two. The high school football teams often have a head coach, and assistants for the offensive team and the defensive team plus several other trainers. (In their defense, our local athletic boosters foot the bill for some of the assistant coaches. ) Yet can you imagine what it would be like to have add coaches for percussion, brass, and woodwind? That rarely happens in a rural Kansas high school.
  3. It costs to have marching band. Music isn’t cheap. (The average piece of marching music is around $50 these days. So multiply that by the number of songs you hear the band play at a game in the stands and on the field.) Drill writing takes time of the director or money for a drill designer. The big thing is budget. The Hays High band music and equipment  budget for the year is $650. The money is already spent. Band boosters will be fund-raising for concert music and instrument repairs for the remainder of the year. And, remember, marching season is just the warm up, so the band costs continue.
  • The take away: If your football team makes a profit from the gate, consider sharing those funds with the band to cover those expenses. If a band member asks your financial support, please consider giving it if you are able. Every dollar helps.

Don’t get me wrong, I think our community is supportive of the band programs. I want people to know what they are supporting. I have met a lot of people through my marching experiences. I have had a lot of fun with the marching band. So, let’s keep the music going on and off the field.


Joy Is Like The Rain

rain on the window

Yesterday I was awakened by thunder. There are so many places praying for rain I viewed it as a blessing even though I would have preferred sleeping. My first thoughts were of Karen Carpenter singing “Rainy Days and Mondays”. As the day went on the song playing in my head as the sun shone was “Joy Is Like The Rain”. (If you don’t know the song you can read the lyrics and listen to a recording at : Joy is Like the Rain.) This was one of the first songs I learned to accompany myself on guitar.

There is a good chance you have created a rainstorm at one time in your life just like this choir: 

What feeling arise for you when you listen to the rain? Are they positive or negative in nature? Share your rain memories.

Happy Anniversary, Jeff!

Today my husband and I are celebrating 27 year of married life. Given that we were engaged almost three years, it feels like I have had a life time of joy with him. Jeff has been a great blessing to me as is a loving, supporting, and encouraging fellow. A talented composer and conductor, he helps expose me to a variety of music I would miss if he wasn’t in my life.

I simply love this man. This song sums up much of how I love him (and is performed by Gina Loring) – “Simple and Plain”.

Happy 27th, Jeff!

7 Link Challenge – Musical Gems Version


My friend, Michelle Erfurt put out a challenge on Music Therapy Tween for a 7 link challenge. This seemed like a simple challenge. The questions only apply to the dates of August 2010 – July 2011. So here we go!

  1. Your first post of August 2010:  Music Connections – Learning This was a part of a series. It was taken from presentations I had done.
  2. A post you enjoyed writing the most: Celebrate National Kazoo Day   Is there anything more fun than a kazoo?
  3. A post which had a great discussion: Finding Your Tempo Giusto   This was a book inspired post. I love sharing my thoughts on my reading.
  4. A post on someone else’s blog that you wish you’d written Three ideas for Musical Breaks  I wish this was a post on this blog. Rachelle is great a capturing thoughts.
  5. Your most helpful post: Help with a child’s goal Is there anything that makes you happier than helping a child meet a goal? For me there isn’t much.
  6. A post with a title that you are proud of: What are Your Six Songs?   Having a couple other blogs follow with related posts made me proud. It is a way for me to feel like I am meeting my goal of getting people to explore different facets of life.
  7. A post that you wish more people had read My Music Therapy Aha! Moment I want people to know how work, degree, employment grow out of things that bring joy to life. This is my story.

Now, it is your turn! Share your 7 links my blogging friends.

Book Review: Anything You Want

Nomination for book cover fail of alltime: &qu...
Image by Andrew-Hyde via Flickr

At the recommendation of Kat Fulton and Rachel Rambach, two amazing music therapist, I took a risk and purchased yet another book today. I managed to read all of “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers while I worked out this afternoon. Yes, an hour read or less. I downloaded the Kindle version this morning and received a gift of music to boot. I have taken a little time to listen to the downloads. Now I have a few new favorite songs!

While it is a business book it is so much more.  It has things to take into life. Here are two quotes as examples. The first is from page 11:

Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.”

And from page 51:

…it’s about what you want to be not what you want to have.

To have something…is the means, not the end.  To be something…is the real point.

The book is one I will read again. A music business model that is customer centered seems to transfer in many ways to a music therapy business – a client centered profession. Have you read this book? If so, please share them in the comments below.