Thursday, December 3, 2015

Magical, Musical Wintertime Wishes

     Greetings of Joy, Faith, and Love to you this holiday season!  You might enjoy with me an online Advent Calendar especially for the young at heart.  You can start any time to click on the numbers for each day leading up to Christmas, then scroll down to explore links to the songs, stories, art activities and games.
                                                                 
Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracher Suite" has been a favorite since my childhood.
     Very sweet and fun, and all thanks to one of my favorite kid-based sites, Activity Village:
     Find their Advent Calendar here: .http://www.activityvillage.co.uk/advent-calendar-2015

     I'll be taking the rest of the month off, giving my attention to some health concerns and getting plenty of rest and TLC.

     Until next time,
     ♫  Lisa

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Giving Thanks

      Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving brimming with tasty treats, peaceful moments and time to enjoy the beauty all around.   ♥
                                                                                         
Daughter G's photo of the Farmstand down our road



                                                   
         
                                                                                

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

52 Days on a Freighter from L.A. to Buenos Aires

     Do you ever get a whiff of something that brings up a memory from your childhood?  My daughter, while visiting recently, suddenly exclaimed, "I smell Gramma's house right now!"  She was standing in the hall, outside our bedrooms; 550 miles from her G'ma's house.  "That's so amazing," I said, "because I sometimes smell my gramma's house here!"  Cozy, warm, happy-memories was what we were both smelling.
                                                         
My dad must have taken this of me, (nearest the water) mom, and fellow ship-mates.
     The olfactory sense can easily evoke memories.  I remember first learning about that after a childhood ocean voyage.  My family of five made up half of the passengers on a freighter bound from California to Argentina in the 60s.  We stopped at many ports along the way.  The smell of docks and diesel brings up for me, to this day, so many exotic memories of that trip.

     Sometime during that almost-2-month floating sojourn, I gained the camaraderie and confidence of the steward.  Bill Hawkins, a kind and patient man, knew I was fascinated by the ringing tones of his four-bar hand-held instrument that summoned the passengers to meals. Wherever we were on the ship, those chimes, with a pavlovian effect, would bring us hungry diners eagerly up and in to the dining room. The silver sound tubes and their charming chimes were pure magic to me.  I longed to feel the instrument in my hands and the vibrations they made.  Such power it held----to call people forth with its tonal patterns reverberating down the hall!

     Thanks to Bill, the steward, I was allowed to "help" with that part of his job.  I became the dinner bell ringer.  I struck the bars of silver that brought the happy, hungry diners to mealtimes.   My 11 year old self reveled in the pleasure and power of it all.

     When the freighter delivered us to our final port, I had to give Bill back his chimes.  It wasn't long though, until another instrument won my heart: my first guitar which my mother helped me find and buy in a music shop in Buenos Aires.   I've loved playing the guitar ever since.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to Play the "Unstick that Stuck Song" Game

     Last week I wrote about what to do when we get songs stuck in our heads.  I mentioned a couple techniques for getting them out.  I also included a link to a song that is good to have spring into your mind, "Stop, Look and Listen" for safe street-crossing, and alert readers pointed out that it's good for all ages!
                                                         
Going where no song-thinker has gone before!
     I came up with a game that is guaranteed to get a stuck song out and make it stay out.  It can be played solo or with others.  Points awarded to the player who comes up with the most songs within an agreed upon time limit.  Solo players, give yourself bonus points just for "effort", no matter the time!.  Here are the rules.

     Name a song, any song.  Take the first two notes and use those notes to think of another song that starts with those same two notes, either forwards or backwards.

     Example:  Start with the song Yesterday.  Think of the first two notes, "Yes-ter-day..."  (the second two syllables beng the same note.)  Now use those two notes to start Danke Schoen, simply reversing the two notes, "Dan-ke-schoen..." and then What a Wonderful World, "I see....".  And then In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning "In the...."

     One or both notes can be repeated, as long as it's only those two notes used to start the next song.  The key can change, depending on the song----that doesn't matter.

     It's a challenge!  It's brain exercise!  It takes some practice, but stay with me!!--- you get the hang of it and can "play" it anywhere.  I enjoy practicing this in my head, going a few rounds until, down the road, it's happened again and I've got another refrain stuck in there.  I challenge you to try it!  Take any song's first two notes, and see how many other songs you can plug into this game!

     Try it with Michele.  Those first two notes are the same as in Raindrops Keep Fallin' on my Head (remember you can duplicate one of the two main notes), and in One Hand, One Heart "Make of our hearts..." (West Side Story)

     Here are others that start with the same two notes:: Morning has Broken,  Softly as I Leave You, Shoo Fly Don't Bother Me

     What else can you come up with?  Let me know how it goes!

     


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Got a song stuck in your head? Want to make it stop?

     You know, that chorus or solo or lead line that keeps running through your mind.  It can be maddening. It happens to me all the time.  It seems that the one that gets stuck in my head is the last one I heard.  It will go round-and-round until I do something about it.  Like shout (in my head usually, but sometimes aloud) Stop!!
Stop!!  As in, get that song out of my head now!

     Another technique I've found helpful is to switch to another song.  It takes practice, and it's helpful to have a stash of songs to go to, ones that are personally spirit-lifting and inspiring.  For me, this list encompasses old hymns from my childhood, new upbeat ones found online or from friends, and silly, happy made-up verses to old familiar tunes.

      I have a third technique which I guarantee works every time. Since it takes a bit of explaining and requires some effort----all worthwhile and actually fun, I promise!---I'm going to make it the subject for my next week's music blog. In the meantime, I'll leave you with a song I wrote to help young children learn the skill of safe street-crossing, Stop, Look and Listen! My adult daughter tells me that it automatically pops into her head to this day when she's crossing a busy street. Mom's mission accomplished! :D

p.s. Thanks to Deborah Giraud on facebook for giving me the idea for my music blog post this week. :)

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Red Grammer in Concert

     And it's tomorrow, Thursday the 29th!!  If there's any chance you're in the Eureka, CA area and can take a child or a group----or just yourself-----I highly recommend it.  Oct. 29, 2015, 10:00am in the new Sequoia Center at Humboldt County Office of Education.                                                             
Red Grammer
     I've had the privilege of joining Red in concert.  He's the real deal.  An enormously gifted singer/songwriter, a dynamic advocate for children and families and just a wonderful, big-hearted person.

     We're lucky to get him in our area.   Thanks to Holly Sage and her production team!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Spontaneous Family Music Video

     Our kids aren't shy about bursting into song at the drop of a hat.  They're no strangers to the song-creating process, and it didn't take much for them to be coaxed, prodded, and bamboozled into helping out with any number of steps in the recording process..
                                             
In the kitchen, doin' our thing.  To listen, click link on first line above.
      Rick and I have been immersed in the music industry since before we met and married, and when our son and daughter came along, it was a natural progression to include them in the family business.   Along the way, we've learned much more from our kids and been introduced to ear-opening new sounds and artists.

      This week when daughter Genevieve was in town, while driving around together, she launched into the chorus of a Heart song, to which Rick automatically added a harmony.  From the back seat, I said, "Do the chorus again" and added a third part.  That night while making dinner, it was decided on the spot to record this. Son Matthew, working at the stove in charge of pasta, was asked to add another part.  Claire, daughter-in-law and a professional singer herself, was put in charge of documenting this with a smart phone.   Four takes and 15 minutes later, we were all pleased, declared it a "wrap" and sat down to eat.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Felines in the Family >>> #8 in a series on Music Mentors

     I grew up with dogs, cats, horses, pet rats and snakes.  The pet rats were all snowy white fur and pink pin eyes and were just "visiting" from my dad's lab at the university.  The snakes were collected in the fields around our house by my brother who revered them and kept them briefly in cages in his room, regularly taking them out, and eventually returning them to the wild.*    My fondest memories are of the cats, though.                                                
It's really all about the cats.
     Someone asked recently if I had a dog.  It still kind of surprises me to realize that, no, I don't have a dog, and I haven't had a dog since I was a child.  I love dogs and always assumed I would inevitably have one claim me again.  But as my children grew, in the company of assorted beloved cats, our family just never did get around to a dog.   We were busy with the cats and then, for a brief period, pet rats----three sets of two females.  Domesticated rats are actually wonderful little companions and very smart and sweet----highly recommended pets, although their life span is only 3 years.

     But back to the cats.  I've catered to cats my whole life.  I've watched some being born and I've sorrowfully parted with others at the close of one of their nine lives.  We even had a cat during my childhood year living in Argentina (where having pet cats was not de rigueur) which we named Mishi, "kitty" in English .  How it found us and what became of it when we left are secrets my parents took to their graves.

     Both my own children came into this world welcomed by Minnie who, incredibly, hung around with us through eight moves, five major career changes, two human births, and a litter of her own.  Thanks to Rick, husband/dad/fellow cat-lover, we have video proof of what an intrepid character she was, standing her ground, demanding her rightful pampering and concessions.
                                                             
Matthew with Minnie enjoying a good read in the company of twin bears.
     Who could've known that a feisty, no-nonsense, furry little ball-of-fire like Minnie would turn into a softie with the kids?  She'd let them haul her around, chase after her for hours, and erupt in frenzied squeals of delight at the mere sight of her.  Wily little Minnie's secret to success with handling her tiny adoring fans?  She had an uncanny ability to take all this devotion with kitty aplomb----when she was in the mood---and then to thumb her furry little nose at it all by shimmying and sashaying safely out of reach under cabinets or atop bookshelves.

     Minnie was our kid before we had kids.  Minnie was their first cat.  Minnie inspired the song "Tickles the Cat" that I wrote to humor kids and cats everywhere.  You can listen to a sample here, Track #15 http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/LisaMonet  I humbly thank Minnie for giving us master lessons in compassion, plus all those duck-and-cover skills.

     * except the 5' long garter snake that escaped and was "at-large" for several days, resulting in Grandpa's refusing to enter the house.

     

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!

http://www.pandora.com/station/play/2850183329049514343

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: http://www.everythingpreschool.com/songs/all.htm   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!

http://blog.asha.org/2015/09/08/from-beach-to-teach-5-tips-to-keep-your-teaching-voice-healthy-this-school-year/

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!" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HI0x0KYChq4

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."
Read more  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140624105239.htm

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Healing Power of Your Voice

     Your voice.  It's an expression of you, your beliefs, your talents; it reflects your whole life experience.  Speaking or singing, your voice matters, and can bring you joy and creative expression.  There are many helpful hints and techniques for making the most of your voice and keeping it in healthy, youthful condition.                                                      
     Click the following link to an insightful post from CD Baby (all genres----if you don't know about CD Baby yet, visit their website---they have much to offer!)
   
     From" DIY CD Baby": 7 excellent reasons for singing---no matter what you think of your voice

     Will you try some of these techniques?  It's worth it, I assure you.  And please, share your experience here?

     ♫

   

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Not Shaking Hands----A Musician's Quest to Avoid Stress

     There are so many social norms that make our lives pleasant and courteous.  Holding the door for someone right behind us, slowing down to let another driver enter the lane, murmuring a "bless you" when someone sneezes, and any number of other acts of kindness and compassion.

     But I shrink from the custom of hand-shaking.  I have become a "non-shaker".  Is it just me?.  When did we (at least in the "western world") all come to buy into the automatic clasping, grasping, clamping, thrusting, squeezing ritual of hand-shaking as a requisite act of politeness?  And why?
                                                 

      I'm considering evasive techniques to get beyond this custom and, hopefully, to practice other ways to greet each other. . The challenge is to deflect the offered hand with gentle, even apologetic directness:  "I have a tender hand" (holding my right hand protectively away), "I just put on lotion",  "Oh, let's just hug!"   So far, none of these work.  Responses have been "Well, let's shake the Other hand!"; "That's ok!"; and "Oh!  OK!! (hug)"  The majority of us seems to have become so ingrained with the expectation of this social hand-shake requirement, and adamant to complete it, that those of us who balk risk coming across as downright rude.  But with good reason!

     Consider the obvious concern about hygiene. For instance, recently a respected colleague I met  automatically put her hand out, and we shook---and then she told me how sick she was and probably shouldn't have come in to work.   Really?  Eeep.

     But what does this have to do with the music world-----my theme for this blog?  Well, in addition to making reasonable attempts to keep my own hands clean and to stay healthy, there's the interesting phenomenon of "giving a good, firm handshake" which some people---who are otherwise kind and perfectly wonderful----take very seriously.  Have you ever had your hand squeezed too hard?  Painfully? Throbbing long after the "friendly shake"?  I have. Many times.  And I know that for some, this is a matter of pride, a mark of authority and power, a game they play.  No thanks;  for me, it's a matter of avoiding pain, and to not risk being hurt by shaking hands.

     I choose to play instruments, to use my hands for making music and for the countless ways hands express kindness and beauty.  The images below show other ways, respectful and lovely ways, to greet each other:                                                                                       
                                           
Please let me know what you think?  How you avoid getting a hurt hand?  Any insights or suggestions?

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Flamenco Guy in Granada

     "I want to marry the flamenco guy who was just playing in Plaza Nueva!"  Daughter G is thoroughly enjoying revisiting Granada, Spain.   Her solo trip to Europe begins where our Mother-Daughter trip took place last year: the south of Spain.  She is enamored of this gorgeous, romantic corner of the world, feeling as if she could stay there indefinitely---forever---live there!
                                                                             
Genny leaning into the Alhambra's magic from her rooftop apartment 
     She is an enthusiastic traveler, at ease and in her stride wherever she goes----loves meeting new people, experiencing new places, immersing herself in the language, culture, history of beautiful places.

     Wandering on in the upcoming days and weeks to encounter the next welcoming adventures in new parts of Europe, this intrepid adventurer, just like her mother, will always feel right at home in "GranĂ¡".  Her heart will always embrace the spirited strains of a certain flamenco artist and the music beckoning under a full, blue moon in a much-loved magical place. 
                                                                                   
Encantada, encantadora

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Our G >>> on her way!

      First thing this morning our daughter, G, boarded a flight to Europe.  Her second; her first solo trip out of the country.  She takes after her mom and her grandma and her aunt in her love of travel.  She's been planning this for months----actually, all her life, it seems.  She's traveling light---carry-on only for four weeks visiting six countries.  Nestled in with her "essentials" is Rick Steves's current Europe guide.
                                                            
Our G: classy world traveler
      She certainly lives up to the lyrics she inspired as a six-month old >>> .she's "...on the go...on her way!"  Packing a smart phone loaded with favorite tunes, games and apps to accompany her, her plans include revisiting the families she and I stayed with last year, plus meeting new connections including musician friends.

     The "Trip of a Lifetime!"  We're so happy and grateful,  and so proud of her. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Love Your Voice

     Do you love your voice?  Your speaking voice?  I hope so!  Your voice is the natural instrument that you carry with you everywhere you go.  It's an expression of who you are, what you think, and a channel of so much creativity for you.  Vocalizing is made possible by muscles that appreciate exercise and care just like any other muscles in the body.
                                 
                                                  Flowers, like your voice, want to express their natural beauty                                                    
     Here is a link to find out more.  It's one of the many informative offerings from ASHA, of which I am an artist/musician coalition member. http://blog.asha.org/2015/06/23/hey-ive-got-a-voice-box-and-this-is-crazy-singing-speaking-similar-maybe/

     Whether you're a vocal professional or not, I invite you to enjoy these tips and simple exercises.  Give yourself the gift of a smooth, sweet, pleasing, healthy voice!


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Pause Button

     Making a commitment is always a good thing, right?  For the second half of 2015, I made a commitment to myself to commit to posting on this music blog regularly.  Once a week.  Wednesdays.  Seemed like a good idea, and so far it's going according to plan.  Before, weeks---months---would go by and I'd think, "Oh, as soon as I have a good subject, I'll post again."

                                                                       
Cat, Quien Es, enjoying his "paws"
       Just as all the "time-management" experts promise, though, as soon as I made an actual commitment, the time and ideas presented themselves.   The ideas come to me at various times and places, I jot them down, and then I feel a looking-forwardness to my next writing session.  It's a great, in-the-creative-flow feeling.

     For today's post, I'm allowing myself to deviate from my usual music theme, and like the cat in the photo, click my personal pause button and take a break.    In my mind, this counts.  As for keeping the commitment to myself----and to you, Kind Reader, paddling along with me----I think I can, I think I can....chug-chug-chug-chug...

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Genny's Gettin' Up >>> #6 in a Series: Music Mentors


     Her big brother Matthew turned our music world around and set us happily on track in the children's recording business, and then she, Genny, made her appearance---along with her joyful creative energy and formidable influence.

     Ready for action from the start, Genny inspired such lyrics as: ♫ "Genny's gettin' up, she's movin' around, she's leavin' the house, she's goin' to town!  Well, Genny's only six months but whaddaya say, she's a tiny little girl baby on her way."  (Which her friend Rose says she still sings, 25 years later. :)
                                                   
Genevieve Grace St. Charles-Monet
     Raised in a home brimming with music, our kids often became the subjects of our songs.  "Goin' to a Restaurant", "My Best Friend", "Hearts and Hands", "Stop, Look and Listen", "Shake it Up" and the above mentioned "Genny's Gettin' Up" and many others.  From her perch nestled in our arms, Genny was a keen observer of her brother---age 5+---adding his vocals and learning about sound levels, editing and mixing.
                                                     
     Genny surely knows that all those family concerts we did were especially for her and her brother----a natural consequence of feeling ever-more creatively expansive thanks to them.  And that as their parents, we've grown so much and had so much fun singing and song-writing together, that we naturally chose to share it with others----thus the family performing/recording business!
 .
     By her middle school years and beyond she was finding her own genres and artists.  That's how we came to know---and thoroughly admire and appreciate---the huge talents of Daft Punk, Weird Al Yankovich, Talking Heads, and The Decemberists, among our favorites.  When we weren't listening to recordings, our home resounded with her own playing of violin, classical piano, guitar, electric bass and percussion.

     I adore "M'ija", my amazing daughter, and the profound influence she's had and will always have on me and my creative expression.  Very well on her way now, Genny is a world traveler, professional artist, animator, cartoonist, video producer----and drummer in a rock band. ♪ ♪ ♪


   


                                                  

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Boy Launches New Career >>> #5 in a series on Music Mentors

     I'd like to share the story of how I credit our firstborn with launching a new career.  Could I ever have imagined the powerful love and creative influence a child brings into one's world?  Or foreseen that a casual request from our progeny's preschool teacher would result in a treasured music collection---AND that I would still be singing---and having fun sharing---our toddlers' songs a couple generations later?!
Matthew, continuing to inspire us always

     Before Matthew Ben was born his dad Rick and I liked to think he was enjoying the music we were always playing, both from our rehearsals and performances, and from recordings.  Classical, folk, light rock, soulful guitar leads from Dad, and my song to him written shortly before birth, "Sweetest Dream Come True".

     After making his grand appearance, he inspired songs dredged up from our own childhoods plus brand new songs we'd pull out of thin air while he taught us how to be parents, cuddling, tending and transporting him everywhere.   ♫ "Oh, Matthew Ben, we knew him when, he only weighed 8 pounds and 10; Matthew Ben with eyes so blue, he knows just what he likes to do....."  This "anthem" was sung all during his babyhood and beyond, extra playful verses added as we grew together.

     Thanks to the suggestion of Matthew's preschool teacher/director, Merilee Owen, that I record the favorite songs sung daily at "circle time", I arranged and Rick recorded 33 songs and rhymes which became Circle Time---Songs and Rhymes for the Very Young.  This was our first family album, now in its 29th + year of being a children's music worldwide best seller.

     By the time his little sister, Genevieve, 5 years his junior, came along Matthew knew well all aspects of the recording studio, and added his charming child's voice to cuts on the subsequent albums.  Both all grown up now with established media careers of their own, they too carry on the family enthusiasm for singing and producing music videos,

     And to think that that happy launch into a 30-year career producing music for families all started with the joyful influence of one little boy.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Brothers and their Music >>> #4 in a Series on Music Mentors

     My brother and I aren't twins but we have the same birthday.  Same parents, too, just two years apart to the day.  When my mother left my birthday party to go have him, I was probably too busy eating cake to notice.  It took me a few years, but, after getting over the shock of having to share my special day, I came to appreciate and brag about my little brother Brian---very best birthday gift of all, bar none.

Brian, left, with state park ranger, working to save sea otters
     We didn't stay in close touch during our college days.  Music-wise, I was singing in classical ensembles and folk and Latin groups, and he was "dead-heading" his way to rock concerts during every school break.  He got my attention big-time when he sent the song "Stairway to Heaven" to me while I was living in Spain.  Ever since then I've paid attention to the music he introduces me to and have become a grateful fellow fan of Los Lobos, Lucinda Williams, Old & In the Way, Chris Isaak, Traveling Wilburys and of course, The Grateful Dead.

     It's a long way from our childhood, sitting around the turntable in the room we shared, entranced with Prokofiev's "Peter and the Wolf", Woody Guthrie's "Chisholm Trail", and the Howdy Doody theme song. We somehow survived our early years without videos and even without television.  A radio and a record player, that was it.

     The romantic lure of the "ki yi yippee yippee yay" lyrics must have played a part in my "horse period", and Prokofiev's music, text, and accompanying illustrations may have influenced Brian's Fish and Wildlife work assignments to Russia years later!  ♫

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Music with My Soul Mate >>> #3 in a series of Music Mentors



This is my 100th post on this blog.  It is dedicated to the man I love, in the photo below, Rick St. Charles.   He is my husband, father of our children, fellow musician and songwriter, recording engineer, business partner, source of unfailing humor, and soul mate in every respect.
Rick and me at the Buenaventura, Los Angeles CA where I presented at the CTA Conference 
Because of him, albums were produced and marketed, concerts were staged with ideal sound systems, professional photos and videos were captured and created, travel arrangements were made clear and easy, hearth and home were held down snugly,  business and financial records were maintained, and every aspect of being an indie musician was enhanced, enriched and enabled for me.

My biggest fan.  My advocate.  My darling.  Loving this man is the truest and sweetest song of my life.                                                      


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Sister Music >>> #2 in a Series: Music Memories

If my big sister hadn't been out with her new boyfriend, we might be Mormons now.  Two cute missionaries from Nebraska showed up at our door bearing bibles, pamphlets and a guitar.*  My mom was thrilled to have English-speaking visitors, and I was happy to get an introduction to folk singing and guitar chords.  My family had moved to Argentina, I was 11, and those visitors, along with my sister Wendy's influence----even when she wasn't there!!---launched me on a performing career.

Wendy at my son's recent wedding
We went from Nat King Cole, Bud & Travis, and Eydie Gorme records to the Beatles' when we returned home. Weeks before this new band was to make its appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show, Wendy talked of nothing else.   The rest of the family had no idea what the big deal was, but it was obviously Very Important to her, so all five of us gathered around the set that night.  The TV was upstairs, in the parents' domain.  I remember as if it were last week, joining millions around the country in being mesmerized by that British Invasion.  I've continued to join in by doing covers of their songs ever since.

In the background, our ears were always filled with my sister's vinyl collection of Astrud Gilberto, Stan Getz, Juan Carlos Jobim, Barbra S., Miles Davis, the Beach Boys and her boogie-woogie piano playing. With my trusty guitar, a fellow singer and a growing song list, she talked me into participating in our school's music nights, called 'hootenannies'  I discovered how fun and rewarding it could be to perform for a live audience.  .
.My big sister was my first fan. I'm grateful for every ounce of her influence and encouragement along the way.

* Why Mormons? If she'd been there, she might have fallen for one--or both--of them, and I'm sure they would have loved her! 

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Mother-Daughter Music #1

Being blasted out of bed Christmas morning by Handel's Hallelujah Chorus played as loudly as Mom could crank it up on our "stereo's" turntable, is one of my earliest music memories.  A few more >>> listening to her singing lullabies and Latin pop songs, my dad's violin, sister's piano, brother's trumpet, and the five of us warbling harmonies on "Rock-a My Soul in the Bosom of Abraham" during long car trips---childhood treasures tucked away in my memory.

Thanks to Mom, I got my first guitar the year my family spent in Argentina while my microbiologist dad was on sabbatical from Cal Poly doing research on brucellosis in cattle there. (I've yet to find a musical association with the cow thing!)  I took off on the guitar, courtesy of some private classical lessons from a very patient Argentine teacher, and also of the two young Mormons who showed up at our door and taught me "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" and other popular folk songs of that 60's era.

Later, armed with some basic chord progressions, a few short and sweet sonatas, and a love of singing and accompanying myself and others, I got to spend my junior year in Granada, Spain, and immerse myself musically in the land of Don Quixote.  In retrospect, I realize my good fortune to have had that uncommonly care-free period.  I would return home to finish college, marry the greatest guy in the world, raise a son and daughter who are the light of our lives, launch my music in various venues, and try out different careers---all feeding my spirit and heart enormously--- before I would get to see that part of the world again.  Forty years.  Growing up hearing these stories and dreaming of traveling more together, my daughter Genevieve proclaimed, "Mom, we could go on forever saying we're going to do this; let's book our tickets!"


Genny with mug, and me 

And she did, and we went and, joining all those who find Travel so rewarding, our highlights included connecting with local families and sharing music, food, stories and laughter.  My favorite things.  Someday I'd like to read my daughter's stories of her first music impressions.  And yours, dear Reader----please leave a comment or two below.