Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Beats of Cochlea Festival

 Recently I had the opportunity to participate in the 5th annual Beats of Cochlea festival in Warsaw, Poland. It is a festival that celebrates the achievements of musicians with cochlear implants from all over the world. The festival is held at the World Hearing Center. It features the big Gala concert held at the Palladium Theater in Warsaw.  Out of 19 participants, 10 were chosen to perform at the Gala. I was not selected to perform but that gave me the opportunity to support my friends while sitting in the front row. 

We also had a series of classes and activities. My favorite of them were the world folk dances. They are similar to Sufi dancing where everyone dances together in a circle holding hands and using simple movements and gestures. Our other workshop was an interactive jam session where we were all given percussion instruments and we all sang and played together.  It was a good feeling to sing and play music with people from all over the world. We may not have been able to speak well in each other’s native language, but music said more than any words could express. 

This was my second time participating in the Beats of Cochlea festival and I"m so grateful I got to have this experience. If you are a musician with a cochlear implant, I recommend auditioning to participate! 

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Bird Songs

There is a man I visit at a nursing home who loves birds more than anything in the world. He spends most of his days building bird houses. On weekends, when the Activity room is closed and his woodshop is unavailable, he sits in his wheelchair by the window waiting for the Cardinals (his favorite) to go by.

He is also very hard of hearing and most times non compliant in wearing his hearing aids. I got the idea to bring in this book pictured above which would give him good reason to want to hear something. The book features recordings of hundreds of birds around the world.

I wish you could have seen the smile on his face. The stunned expression of awe and heard his laughter. He said many times, "That's amazing!" He was so happy. We listened to all of the birds from Africa. He loved how colorful they are too.

This is the first step in getting him to listen to some music. Maybe I can try to play some bird song calls on my guitar? What do you think?

In any case, it was wonderful to find a way to bring some happiness to someone who has no family nearby and is unable due to disability to go outside to see and hear the birds first hand.

What's your favorite bird?  I can't say I have a favorite, but I like the low sounds of the mourning doves.

Friday, May 31, 2019

Where the music takes you

I play music for a man who lives in a mission home.   The other day when I arrived, he was confused and did not remember me. I tried singing some of the songs that were a hit last time like, “Stand by Me,”  “Under the Boardwalk, “ “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay,” but none of them made a connection. He kept leaving the room and the nurse kept bringing him back. 

Finally, I got the idea to just improvise on my guitar in a bluesy style. He closed his eyes as he listened. At one point, I thought he was falling asleep.  When I finally finished, he brightened up and said, “Wow! I really enjoyed myself!” It showed me that he can listen to instrumental music and let it take him somewhere.  That he enjoys engaging his imagination. Many people get bored with instrumental music. Not him!  It is true that he is a bit of an abstract thinker and so I can understand why improvisation would appeal to him. 

When I arrived to see him, he was confused and disengaged. When I left him, he was happy and excited for me to come back again and play for him. I learned a lot from this experience and I look forward to what will happen next time. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

A child's joy of dancing

Today I played my guitar in the lobby at my gym. It’s always interesting who stops to listen or chat. Today a little girl (about age 5) came and started dancing. She twirled around gracefully and it looked as though she was a natural at ballet. A crowd gathered to watch her as she twirled and danced. Everyone was smiling as they watched her, but she was oblivious to her growing audience. Her proud mother stood next to me, taking in the joy her daughter was bringing us.

In her grand finale, the little girl spun around so many times, she fell to the floor. She did not seem to notice - she got up and danced more 🙂 such a good moment.

With all the bad news going on each day, it was so good to experience this joy.
Thanks for reading!


Monday, March 4, 2019

Do fish hear music?

There is a big fish tank at one of the nursing homes where I play.  I joined an elderly resident in watching them before it was time for me to play.  Delighted by the colorful creatures, the woman asked, "I wonder if they can hear the music?" I said, "Let's watch and see. "

And so we did. :) And it appeared that they can hear music.  Of course that is likely no surprise to you but I had never thought of it before. I noticed they came closer to the glass during the song, "Singing in the Rain."  I turned to my fish loving friend and said, "Hey they liked that song!"

Always a lot of fun to get to know the residents. Music brings out the best in people and now I want to see next time what songs the fish noticed. Someone suggested I play, "Beyond the Sea." for them.

what song do you suggest? :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Happy Songs for Winter Blues

Hello everyone! We're all in the midst of the coldest time of year and spring is a long way off  still. Today I thought of something you might try to pick up your spirits.

Think back to your earliest happiest musical memories. Make a list of songs you associate with a happy time in your life.   Once you have your list, download the songs onto a CD or mp3 file and listen. You'll be surprised how all that happiness comes right back to you!

Here are some of the songs on my list:

"Daydream Believer" by The Monkees. As a child, my sister and I watched their TV show all the time and we had all of their albums. Listening to them brings back such fond memories of my childhood in Chicago.

"I Think We're Alone Now" - Tommy James and The Shondells. I love so many of their songs, like, "Crimson and Cover" but this one stands out because it's one I remember hearing when I was learning to roller skate at The Hub in Chicago. Do you remember some old roller skating songs?

"Alley Cat," - it's an old piano rag that I did a tap dance routine to as a young girl. I didn't stay in dance classes long but I remember having fun with this dance.

"Classical Gas," Mason Williams. This was a big hit in 1968 and it's still a top standard guitar song. I love the dramatic orchestral accompaniment and it's still being played by many of the top guitarists.

"For Once in My Life, " - Stevie Wonder. Just about any song by Stevie Wonder I love but this one was maybe the first I heard and it's got such a happy feeling about it, you can't possibly stay down and listen to this song!

"Love Child" by the Supremes - again, anything by the Supreme's I love but this song is a great one to dance to.

"I Want You Back," Jackson 5 - Same goes with Jackson 5 - love them all but this is another great one you cannot sit still and listen to.

How about you? What songs do you remember from your childhood?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Farewell to 2018

2018 was a year of experimentation and growth and it brought me many new opportunities.

Some of the things I did were a lot of fun and new and interesting.  In the spring, I enjoyed presenting songs on nature and environmental themes to children at Wildrock in Crozet, Virginia.

Over the summer, I rented a saxophone and tried my hand at playing a new instrument.  My ultimate goal was to learn an instrument to play in a band. I learned that there was a beginning band (wind and percussion ensemble) at the local senior center. I went one day in July to watch their rehearsal. I found out I knew one of the percussion players and she invited me to join their team. It turns out, I used to play percussion in high school band, so it would be a good fit for me. I came home knowing that would be a better choice for me since my saxophone studies were going so slowly, it would take months to be good enough to play in a band. I joined the band's percussion team in September and I played my first concert with them in December (see previous post about this).

In August, I was selected to be a panelist at the Music & Cochlear Implants Symposium in Montreal.   As one of the panelists, I met with some of the leading researchers and developers of cochlear implants to help ensure the continuing improvement of musical satisfaction and proficiency for CI recipients. It was a great experience and one I will never forget!

I closed out the year working in the county schools teaching songwriting to two classrooms of 5th graders.

Of course, December was filled with holiday concerts and sing alongs with many groups.

I am full of optimism for this new year of 2019 and I wish you all a very good year!

Thanks as always for stopping by!

The picture above is from my travels up north for the holidays when I went up to the Ashokan Reservoir. It was beautiful!