Monthly Archive: February 2014


Hi Everyone! Today I want to talk about some of the benefits of playing a musical instrument–it’s important for your brain and you!

The greatest brain benefits of music happen when you actually learn a musical instrument. By doing so you are exercising the left, right, front, and back portions on the brain—and when the entire brain is being utilized—learning increases.

One of the most significant increases is in spatial reasoning or spatial intelligence. This is the ability to see pictures in the mind and to solve problems in your mind. People with spatial reasoning can “see” three-dimensionally and can see the intricate details of an object in their mind. It is the world of the pilot, the surgeon, the artist and the scientist.

56unnamedIt was the intelligence of Albert Einstein who was a genius at seeing patterns and solving problems in his mind. When he died, his brain was divided into five sections and given to the top scientists in the world to study. Dr. Marion Diamond at UC Berkeley was one of the people to receive a portion of his brain. She found that the spatial area of his brain was 25 percent larger than the normal brain. Einstein was also a violinist and played the violin when trying to solve difficult problems. It helped him to “solve all his difficulties,” his son Hans Albert reported. This type of intelligence will be important for solving difficult scientific problems in the future.

 Additionally, scientists have found that because music involves the brain at every level, the following occurs:

  • Bigger Brain: People who learn a musical instrument have larger brains—5 percent larger than non-musicians.

  • More Analytical: Musicians’ brains are more analytical and better at math.

  • Specific Brain Building: Playing a musical instrument refines the development of the brain in a way that cannot be done by any other activity.

  • Necessary for Total Brain Development: Playing a musical instrument is vital for the total development of the brain

  • Better Coordination, Memory: Those who play a musical instrument have greater coordination, concentration and better memory.

 In short, people who play a musical instrument have bigger, better brains!


Musical Suggestion: Take the plunge! Start taking music lessons; get your children taking music lessons; take music lessons together. Even if you are “older” take music lessons—it will keep you young-looking; young-feeling; young-thinking!

Sharlene 2014

Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just listen to music and have it positively affect the brain? Well, it can and does…


Years ago, a man by the name of Georgi Lozanov, (1926-2012) a Bulgarian psychiatrist studied how music affected the brain when people merely listened to it. What he discovered was rather astonishing. He found that when we listen to a specific kind of music, with a specific rhythm—the heartbeat and brain waves synchronize themselves to the beat of the music. When the heartbeat slowed down the mind was able to work more effectively and efficiently and the mind actually became more alert. Additionally, the electromagnetic frequency of the brain changed to approximately 7.5 cycles per second or what is referred to as the Schumann Resonance, the alpha mode or meditative thought in the brain. Other scientists have found similar results—music can change brain waves and when this happens—learning, memory and organization increases.


Since Lozanov’s discoveries, many scientists and educators have experimented and found similar results: Dr. Norio Owaki, a Tokyo researcher found that music can induce alpha waves; Drs. Stein, Hardy and Totten at North Texas University found that certain types of classical music can increase memorization and retention of college students.

Handel Messiah-smallAnd, when I was working on my master’s degree, I conducted a parallel study based on Lozanov’s work. I used the Water Music by George Frideric Handel—a piece studied by Lozanov for changing brain activity. I found that while lecturing, if I played this music in the background that students were able to absorb, retain and retrieve information significantly better—up to 85 percent.

 Think about it—what could be easier for increasing memory and learning than just listening to classical music?

Music Suggestion: when you are engaged in any kind of work that is strenuous, or requires your full attention, or when trying to memorize information, try listening to some of the following music suggested by Lozanov playing quietly in the background:

 Bach: Brandenburg Concertos

Handel: Water Music

Haydn: Concerto no. 1 for Violin

Mozart: Symphony no. 35 in D Major, “Haffner”

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

 **Note: it usually takes about 15-20 minutes for the mind to change to the alpha mode. 

Activity Suggestion: I played various pieces of classical music for my sons when they did their homework. I put the music on before picking them up from school so that when they walked in the door, the music was playing. By the time they were ready to begin their homework their brains had changed to the alpha mode. It was amazing how much easier it was for them to concentrate and complete their homework.


Sharlene 2014

Classical music is truly a multi-level experience.  We’ve learned that music plays a role in our universe, is found in nature and even animals respond to music. Proportionately, though, its greatest impact is on human beings—to our learning processes, brain development and the refinement of our entire neurological system.  Thousands of studies over the last two hundred years illustrate the impact music has on our ability to learn and to process information.  For example, children exposed to classical music, either through listening or playing a musical instrument, show accelerated language development, better reading skills, improved math and science skills, enhanced physical coordination, and improved memory.

 When music is taught in the schools, it increases math, science, reading, history and SAT scores. It reaches at-risk students by increasing confidence and those with learning disabilities by making the learning process easier.

 Additionally, studying a musical instrument also develops character qualities such as teamwork skills, responsibility and dependability, as well as imagination, invention and creative thinking.

 Music also speaks to our emotions. Scientists have discovered that we have three brains—one in the head, one in the heart and one in the gut. All three brains communicate with one another via a vast network of connections—biological, biophysical, neurological, etc.  The brain in our head is primarily responsible for our intellectual functions. The brain in our heart seeks intuitive understanding, yet the brain in the gut produces 95 percent of the feel-good hormone, serotonin, making this part of the body teeming with emotions. When listening to a piece of music we can appreciate it on many levels—with our head-brain we can detect the intricate and mathematical patterns of music, with our heart-brain and gut-brain we can feel the language of the music and experience an emotional attachment to the music.  Based on this data, it makes perfect sense that one of the reasons humans are so emotionally attached to music is that we feel it throughout our entire being on multiple levels. (see chapter 1 of Good Music Brighter Children for more information on this subject)


Music suggestion: Try playing a piece of music you are familiar with and love. While the music is playing ask yourself—why do I love this piece of music so much? Is it the melody? The rhythm? The harmony? A combination? What kind of feelings does it evoke within me? Do I feel happy? sad? energized? calm? peaceful? exhilarated? Get in “tune” with the music you listen to; appreciate it as a multi-level experience.

Sharlene 2014




It is Saturday and more than likely you are exhausted! So, here are some ideas for anyone wanting to de-stress, relax, and unwind using art, music and even bathing.

ITotally Tangleddea #1: Check out the book, Totally Tangled by Sandy Steen Bartholomew.  Even if you are not an artist, you can still “tangle.” It is actually a form of doodling, but it’s called “tangling,” and what you create are called “zentangles.” You will need white paper, a black sharpie pen, and some imagination. My son Brandon was doodling long before it was considered an artform (see his doodles; they are not exactly considered zentangles, but close).  Usually “zentangles” are black and white, with some gray shading, but color can be added. The idea behind tangling?—stop thinking—just doodle, unwind and have fun. And if you want to take your experience to a new level—turn on a classical music CD while “tangling,”—consider Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart, or if you want someone a little more edgy, try Stravinsky. Tangling—it’s the perfect de-stressor! (the picture above is a “tangle” that my son, Brandon did–he doesn’t follow the classic form of tangling–but it works as a de-stressor for him!)

 Idea #2: Bathe Your Cares Away. Yes, I know—taking a bath is a luxury that you don’t have time for, but it can really reduce those aches and pains if you add the right touch. For starters, purchase some bath salts or Epsom salts. I like the San Francisco Bath Salt Company—they carry everything from Himalayan bath salts to natural bath salts to Dead Sea salts. You can find Epsom salts at the grocery store. Most bath salts are made from magnesium sulfate. Magnesium is a mineral and is known to help people relax. If you don’t have a bathtub, try a foot bath—there are salts for that, too. Are you suffering from insomnia because you can’t “turn-off” your brain? If so, you need to transfer the energy from your brain to your feet. Get a flat container; fill it with very hot water and soak your feet in it until the water cools—about 20 minutes. It will take the intense thought-producing energy from your brain into your feet and you will be able to relax and fall asleep easier.  Enhance your experience by turning on some classical music. For this occasion try, “Clair de Lune” by Debussy, Adagio in G Minor by Albinoni, Morning from “Peer Gynt,” by Grieg, or everyone’s favorite: Pachelbel Canon in D. Last, dim the lights, light a soy candle and pick up your favorite book or magazine to peruse during your soak.

 Relax, Enjoy and Unwind!


Sharlene 2014


Our family loves animals, but we stick to the semi-domesticated ones for pets—dogs, cats, birds and fish. In nearly every case, our dogs and cats have enjoyed classical music and many times have curled up underneath our music system to listen and fall asleep. But many kinds of animals—domesticated or not—seem to love and respond to music.

 For instance, the late Stewart Hulse, an experimental psychologist trained in the field of animal learning at Johns Hopkins University, found that starlings can recognize simple melodies in different keys. Other researchers have trained pigeons to distinguish the music of Bach from the music of Stravinsky. Mother and father penguins communicate with their babies through their own brand of music—they trumpet at the top of their lungs and their babies come running.

Other animals use sounds and what appears to be music to communicate—dolphins use whistling and clicking to communicate with other dolphins; whales use sounds that resemble songs to communicate with other whales, and elephants use very low rumbling sounds to communicate with each other.

 The Symphony of WhalesA remarkable true story about animals responding specifically to classical music is found in the book, A Symphony of Whales by Steve Schuch. In 1985 over three thousand beluga whales were trapped under the ice in the Bering Strait. There were not enough breathing holes and they were running out of food. The Soviet icebreaker, the Moskva came to the rescue, cut a hole in the ice and attempted to draw the whales out of their plight. The whales refused to move. It wasn’t until the rescuers played classical music that the whales followed the music to the open sea and to freedom. (I first read about this story in the “National Geographic for Children” in 1986)

 In 2003, our family became foster parents to a family of five cats—a mother and her four babies. I played classical music for them several times throughout the day. About every two weeks I had to take them back to the SPCA to get checked and each time the veterinarian remarked that the kittens were much larger—by about 25 percent than their counterparts. I credited the classical music with their remarkable growth. They were also very happy, very social and engaging little guys and when they were old enough to be adopted, we included CDs of classical music for their new owners.  My suggestion—try playing classical music to your animals—you will both benefit!

 So, what have you experienced with your animals and music?

 Here are some CD and book suggestions to continue with your reading:


Music CD Suggestion: “Classical Dreams for Kids (Rhino Flashback). A great CD for kids and pets.


Book: A Symphony of Whales by Steve Schuch


For more suggestions, see the Resource Section of Good Music Brighter Children


Did you know that we live in a musical universe? Where the planets, the sun and the stars all play music? Seems impossible, until you realize that just about everything on this earth has a vibrational frequency. And when something vibrates, it produces music.


Have you ever played with a toy top? As a child I loved my toy top. I would spend hours pumping it and watching it spin around and around. I liked to spin it so fast that it created a musical “hum.” Interestingly, the same phenomenon happens with the planets in our solar system.

As far back as 1772, Johann Bode, a German astronomer discovered that each planet as it spins on its axis produces a tone created by pitch frequencies (this later became known as Bode’s Law). He stated that all of the planets possessed mean orbital distances from Mercury that become progressively greater by the ratio of 2:1 as the planets’ distance from the sun increases. The ratio 2:1 means that each planet vibrates twice as fast as its predecessor vibrates and produces a sound with a pitch one octave higher than the previous planet. This ratio is the same as that of musical tones in an octave, suggesting that the planets themselves form a chain of octaves, with each planet representing one octave. As the planets spin on their axis they have a tone created by their pitch frequencies.  It has been suggested that when the planets align themselves with one another, they produce something similar to a musical chord resonating in the universe.

 Stars also produce tones. In 1998 scientists reported a blast of an unusual star in the earth’s upper atmosphere and the star ‘rang’ in x-rays for several minutes producing an “unheard of tone in the universe.”

 Likewise, it has been discovered that our sun creates musical sound waves that sound similar to musical instruments such as guitars or pipe organs.

 Music is also found in nature. Scientists, using mathematical formulas have found that music is found in nature itself. Through a mathematical equation they have found an underlying musical structure that is found in “flicker” noise—noise found in nature. If you have ever been near the ocean, undoubtedly you have heard the sounds of the waves beating against the shore or the tide rhythmically moving back and forth along the shoreline. If you hike in the mountains, you have heard the sounds produced by the wind rustling through the trees or small animals scurrying among the leaves. The next time you are out in nature listen carefully for the many and varied beautiful and soothing sounds produced in nature…

(for more information on these subjects, see chapter one of Good Music Brighter Children)



Play a Game: Purchase a toy top for your children and teach them how to pump the top until it spins and creates a humming noise—explain to them how the planets produce a similar “hum” in the universe; and that each planet produces a different “hum” and when they all come together, they create a musical chord.


Music CD: “The Pachelbel Canon with Ocean Sounds.This is a family favorite—listen to beautiful Pachelbel’s Canon with the mixing of soothing ocean sounds in the background.  If you are trying to get a fussy baby to sleep or experience insomnia yourself—this is a must!


Music CD: “Rains Musical Massage. This CD has sounds found in nature such as thunder, wind and rain combined with violins, saxophones and cellos. These sounds in nature are very calming, gentle and restful.  If you can’t find this—look for others—they are available.


Sharlene 2014

I’m a voracious reader. Each time I pick up a book, it’s an exciting adventure; a chance to learn something new and a chance to add to my knowledge bank. In most cases, I find the author as interesting as the book. I ask myself questions such as: Who is this person? What is their background? Why did they write the book? What was their motivation? How did they formulate their ideas? How much research was required? I turn to the author page to discover anything I can about this person. Most often, it is not enough.

 I was born “before.internet” so when I was growing up and wanted to learn about an author, it required a trip to the library to search for scraps of information. Most of what I found was about dead authors. In my high school AP English class, I was required to choose an author of literary merit; read most of his/her books and compare/contrast the author’s life with what he/she wrote about. I chose Theodore Dreiser—a 19th century American novelist and author of Sister Carrie, The Financier, An American Tragedy, Jennie Gerhardt, etc., It was a fascinating journey and forever whet my appetite to not only read a book, but know and understand the author, as well.

I am an author.

Today I want to share with you things I am passionate about—mainly music and how children and people learn and process information through music.

So here is something about me and why I wrote, Good Music Brighter Children:

I was born with music in my heart. Growing up, whenever I heard music—either in nature or on the stereo—I always stopped to listen. To this day, birds are my favorite creation—why? Because they sing. My favorite piece of music is Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D. Although I’ve listened to this piece of music almost everyday for over thirty years, I never tire of it. It has enveloped my being—totally and completely. Thank you Mr. Beethoven!

I started taking piano lessons at age five. My teacher was Mrs. Robinson. She was not impressed with my musical ability. In fact, she encouraged my parents to find something else for me to do, because she was convinced I would never amount to much musically. They ignored her and found another teacher for me. In college I took lessons from Mrs. Beecham and after I was married, I took from Dorothea Alpert—one of the most influential and amazing people in my life. Today she is almost 102 years old and continues to inspire her students musically. She is a wonder!

In 1977 my husband and I started our family. We played music for our sons when they were in utero. It was not a planned thing—my husband and I listened to classical music each day and so our sons in utero listened to it.



In 1982, our third son, Brandon was born. He had a very traumatic birth (too high in the birth canal and dragged out by forceps). The result was pre-frontal cortex damage leaving him with severe learning disabilities (among other things). As I studied different ways to help Brandon learn, I discovered that he, like so many children, loved and responded to music. (For an extensive explanation on what I did with Brandon, please refer to my book, Good Music Brighter Children. In short, music became the catalyst for him to process information.


Seeing how music helped Brandon to learn, I began to seriously research the educational and brain benefits of music. It was a fifteen year journey. Then I searched for a comprehensive “how-to” book geared to parents on the far-reaching benefits of music and finding nothing under one roof, I decided to write this book.

 The book was initially published in 1999 and translated into five languages. By 2008, everything was out of print. After gentle nudging, and another ten+ years of research under my belt, I updated and revised the book which was recently published (Jan. 2014) with 63.75% new material.

Kirkus, the largest independent book reviewer in the nation described it as: “A magnum opus, fact-filled and inspiring, on the benefits of music.”

 So, that is me in a nutshell. Now, I want to hear about you—what motivated you to play a musical instrument or choose to listen to classical music? What has been YOUR musical journey?

 Music Suggestion: Listen to Beethoven, Violin Concerto in D (start with the Third Movement)

 Sharlene 2014


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