Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Singing is fun

     Singing is fun?  Well, yeah!  We all know that!  But, oh the benefits, the joys, the camaraderie of singing, and singing together, in multiple genres and settings----Oh, the places it takes us!

     First 5 California, an organization dedicated to supporting everyone involved in nurturing and educating children in the first 5 years of their lives, posted on their facebook page a link showing how singing develops brain development in young children.  This brain of mine has loved it for decades, so I think this holds true for all of us, no matter what our age.
     But wait----there's more!!   First 5 has a Pandora online music station of tracks especially for families with young children, in English and Spanish.  That's my kind of music.   Happy listening!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Your Daddy's Music >>> #7 in a series on my music mentors

     Benny Goodman, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Tommy Dorsey and Glen Miller.  I have big band leaders like these to thank for some of my earliest music memories.  And my dad for playing them.
Dancing with my dad to bands like this was a special occasion.
     My own son and daughter grew up, not only listening to the music we played, but joining in on creating it with us.  Thanks to their dad, we always had a recording studio, and he was always ready to record our original songs.  Thanks to him, Rick---husband, dad, musician/recording engineer---our family created our own cottage industry, and we continue to market our albums of music.

     In my childhood home, my dad, R.C., would borrow a reel-to-reel from the university science department where he worked for 25+ years as a microbiology professor.  He'd record the family warbling out holiday tunes: my mother singing, dad playing violin, big sis on piano, little brother on trumpet and me on guitar.  None of these takes were saved.  Dad must have captured some of my choral and duet singing from high school, too, but it seems the pleasure was in capturing the moment, not in preserving and storing it.
Mom and Dad on one of our many cabin/camping/day-trip outings
      Rufus Clay Hatfield, Jr. (he went by R.C. or Clay) hailed from Kentucky, and I've cherished those Bluegrass roots, sharing with my students fun, spirited songs like Black-eyed Susie, All Around the Kitchen, This Little Light of Mine, Little Wheel a-Turnin'..  But in my youth, the vibrant folk scene and the British music invasion of the 60s and 70s, whose influence flowed into my repetoires, seemed to waft by my dad as just an amusing fluke.

     It's those Big Band greats that always bring to mind the music of my father----those dynamic, dreamy, dance-able sounds from his weighty vinyl collection of 78s spinning on the family turntable.  And that is the sound he was listening to live, at a UCLA dance when he first met---and danced with---my mom, the French Major.
My dad, Dr. R.C. Hatfield
     I was with my dad at home when he died.  I was 21; my mom was there, too.  I'll always feel fortunate that I got his spirit of adventure, humor and lively tunes. Thanks to him, along with Mom and her world-travels, my siblings and I were given a rich musical heritage.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

To Dance is to Live

     Happy Autumnal Equinox!  What better way to celebrate the changing of the seasons than to dance?
"To dance is to live; to live is to dance."

     My mother, who taught me Greek and Argentine dancing, took great pleasure in celebrating each quarter, organizing events with neighbors and friends----kite-flying on the beach, margaritas on the patio, poetry readings in the barn...Her favorite was summer equinox, with its long light-filled days.  I like them all, each with its unique balance of light and its aroma of scents and scenic splendor.

     Since today was my Line Dance Class day, I was perfectly happy to celebrate the day by dancing.  When I arrived, though, I realized I'd forgotten my special dancing shoes.  Disappointed!!  Could I make it through two hours in my street clogs?  I'd try---it was either that or go home.

     To my great relief, a classmate, Betty, hearing me whining about the shoe issue, asked what size I wore and offered me her spare pair.  They fit perfectly.  I told her she had saved the day for me and given me another reason to celebrate----the thoughtfulness and generosity of an acquaintance.  Plus a special reminder that things always somehow work out for the best.  I'll always remember her kindness.

     What do you enjoy most about the changing of each season?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Singing with Littles

     Being the Music Teacher in a Montessori Pre-K School means I get to sing while I work.  And I get to invite children to sing with me, and of course, they do.                                                           
This is how good it feels to sing and move together!
     Ages 2-6, they haven't been taught yet, as many adults were, it seems, that they "can't sing", nor have they picked up the notion that singing is only for the "stars". As all my fellow Early Childhood educators know, Littles are naturally and eagerly guided to make a joyful noise!  We have a grand time joining our voices and enjoying the musical sounds we create together.
     On this music blog, I regularly focus on the voice---about the power of our voices, the nurturing and healing aspect of singing, and how to keep our voices strong and healthy.  Singing is good for us; singing feels good.  We are born to sing, and as we join in together, the vibrations and the sounds we produce are transforming.

     Children instinctively know that singing involves the whole body: voice, hands, ears, attentive mind, belly, feet, face, lap....our whole being, at various times, is in on the enjoyable act of sound creation.  They are encouraged to know that each voice is unique, and each voice is a valuable contribution.

     I trust that "my littles", when they become "bigs", will treasure their voices and always take great pleasure in singing.  May you, kind Reader, also take much pleasure in whatever songs you choose to sing!

     Here's a great songs resource:   Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

5 Tips for Keeping Your Voice Healthy This Year

     "Losing" one's voice is the strangest feeling.  You go to speak and no sound comes out.  There's nothing to do but wait for it to return---and it's scary to think that it might not.  It's as if your voice is making it loud and clear (make that soft and obvious!) that it's time to stop activity and to rest, as much as possible.
Silent as a stone, while letting your voice heal

     I once had it so bad, and it hurt to make any attempt to talk, that I communicated with notes instead.  My family got used to it, and I came up with some shorthand, because it takes a lot longer to write than speak. During this period it struck me how much I didn't need to say, and that I generally talk WAY more than I need to.  In time, with the imposed silence,  I came to terms with the quiet and calm of slowing down, and my voice did eventually come back.  (along with my loquaciousness...)

     Last week my blog subject was "Back to School".  The link I'd like to share with you today, below, is all about keeping your voice strong and healthy throughout the school year.  Whatever your venue for talking is, I invite you to join me in trying each of the 5 tips given.   Your vocal muscles will thank you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, It's Back to School We Go

     What does a new school year mean to you?  You may be a student, teacher, staff person, parent/caregiver, or a once-upon-a-time student.  Unless you're like one of the Seven Dwarfs and living deep in the forest, there is no way to not notice the buzz in the air when a new school year rolls around.

     My kids are both out of school now, but we all recall the excitement and happy energy of many a first-day-back.  From my own childhood, I have only one clear memory of a first day of school.  It was the year my family moved from California to Argentina for my dad's sabbatical year.  At age 11, I, along with my brother and sister were deposited by our mom at our new school where not a single soul spoke English.  It was "sink-or-swim", and we all eventually got the hang of things, including wearing the all-white uniforms.                                                                              
We looked just like these children.  How did we keep them so white??
        This week, my friend Maggie reflected on her daughter's starting senior year of high school: "Today is the last first day of school. Carrie zoomed out the door but the sweet smell of her shampoo and excitement are still in the air."  Wherever you are, I wish you happy new beginnings.

Just for fun, watch those seven famous little men on this vintage Disney clip. "Heigh-ho!"

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Moving together builds bonds from the time we learn to walk

      "To live is to dance; to dance is to live".  Sounds good.  Considering myself a dancer for most of my life---folk, jazz, musical theater----I've recently joined a line dancing group, to tunes like "Marie Claire Waltz", "Zydeco Lady" and "North of Heaven".  Dancing and music.  Joy.

  From an article by Wade Hemsworth , we find that all this dancing and movement with music also has wonderful social benefits for children and their caregivers:  "...When we sing, clap, bounce or dance in time to music with our babies, these shared experiences of synchronous movement help form social bonds between us and our babies.
     ....Moving together to music with others encourages the development of altruistic helping behavior among those in a social group.  ....Music is an important part of day care and kindergarten curriculums because it helps to build a co-operative social climate."
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