Smiles

Smiles and singing go a long way together. They are like a marriage. They are certainly both contagious.

I arrived Tuesday morning at one of the local dementia units to sing with the residents. One lady, Hilda, who is non-verbal, was visibly sad and crying, and her mood was affecting the entire room.

She was sitting in the front row to my left. I made sure I didn’t set the speaker too close to her, and was careful setting my volume. I knew the importance of having the music just loud enough to create engagement, but not so loud to be bothersome.

I say hello and smile to everyone. I always look around to see who is making eye contact. I can then interact easily with those residents, and create easy banter to start shifting the mood in a different direction.

I consider the mood of the room as I pick the starting songs….not too slow, yet easy to sing, usually works. Sure enough, three or four ladies are singing along with me to the first song “Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree”.

Hilda is in her own little world. I regularly glance over and hope she and I will lock eyes. But at the same time, I carefully consider not to single her out…..I only want to be there for her if she wants to engage.

A few songs go by and then we sing “Let Me Call You Sweetheart”. I sing it with all the passion I can muster.

She looks at me and I sing straight to her.

She doesn’t smile, she doesn’t sing, but she does lock eyes with me. She stays looking at me until we finish the song.

At the end of our sing-along time, she isn’t crying anymore.

Before leaving, I go to her side and touch her on the shoulder. “Hilda, have a nice day. I’ll see you again real soon”.

She really was listening….

I have told many of you my story before. I started singing for the elderly when my grandmother, who had dementia, was in a nursing home. I would regularly visit her, and we would sing our favourite songs together.

Sometimes, however, grandma was not in the mood to sing. I always felt a little disappointed, but I would sing all our favourite songs anyway.

I assumed grandma wasn’t listening. She certainly seemed to not be listening.

I would often mention to the staff, on my way out, how grandma was doing. Either “she was singing and smiling up a storm today”, or “no, she wasn’t in the mood for singing today.”

Then the nurses started noticing that actually I was wrong….she was singing today! They said that quite often on the days I would visit, she was happier and more engaged than she had been previously in the day.

This was so encouraging for me! All I really wanted was to make grandma happy. And I was, after all:)

Let’s write a song!

It’s composition time at Music for Young Children! We are learning about techniques that make writing a song easy!

Children love being creative. Whether it’s drawing a picture, pretending to be a character in a story, or writing a piece of music, children love to explore their creativity.

The Music for Young Children program presents the elements of writing a song into 4 essential components. Motive, repetition, sequence, and retrograde.

When we are finished, we have a composition recital with a treat afterwards. Every student performs their song for their class. It’s great fun!

Some students even sing and play their original song at the same time!

 

I’m not a big fan of commercial radio…..

You are not going to hear the best singers in the world on commercial radio. Oh, don’t get me wrong…there are loads of great singers making a living on commercial radio….but there are loads of mediocre singers making a fortune. It really is sad how the industry has progressed.

My concern is for the young and ill-informed singers of the future. Where are they going to hear great singing to learn and copy from?

There are great singers all over the world who work hard everyday at their craft. These singers will never sing on commercial radio. They may never make a living with their beautiful instrument.

I encourage all singers to explore and expand their thoughts about what makes a great singer. Go to coffee house, theatre productions, local concerts of all genres and styles of music. If you only listen to the radio, you are missing a world full of great singing.

And more importantly, learn from the variety of voices available. Recognize that your voice is as unique as theirs is. Explore many styles.

In the end, be yourself….be your own voice….be your authentic self. That’s great singing.

Do what you love and live a long happy life……

Don’t let other people stop you from doing what you love. If you love to sing or play an instrument then try to learn everything you can and practise diligently to be the best you can possibly be. Don’t compare yourself to others. There will always be someone who is better than you.

Playing an instrument or singing fills you will a wonderful sense of self. Take that time with yourself and enjoy. Watch this video and it will give you inspiration!! http://abcnews.go.com/WN/101-year-pianist-music-secret-long-life/story?id=10434375

Freedom to improv….

Have you ever seen an amazing pianist perform flawlessly when they are given a piece of music, but if you take the music away they are really stuck? It is very common to get carried away with the technical side of things. Let’s face it, Bach and Mozart wanted you to play their music exactly as it was written.

There is no doubt that technique is a vital component to playing music, however does technique give you the elements to be creative on your own? Here at the Bee Music Studios we teach creativity and improvisation as well.

In the Music for Young Children program, children are learning to chord as young as 5 years of age. That’s right……..they are playing Hot Crossed Buns, or Jingle Bells, or Mary Had a Little Lamb with no music!! It’s really not that difficult.

The key is learning to listen and play patterns and chords in I, IV and V with no music. Here in the Music for Young Children program, that’s exactly what they are doing, along with reading music. Both aspects are key elements in the develop of a strong foundation of music understanding.

Your comments are appreciated……..Have a great holiday! Susie