Monthly Archive: April 2014

Good Music039I want to introduce you to a musical CD series that combines a dramatic story of one of the classical composers, a bit of history about that composer, and excerpts from their magnificent music. It is called: “Classical Kids”—a must for every child’s musical library.

 There are eight CDs in the series and include: Vivaldi’s Ring of Mystery, Beethoven Lives Upstairs, Mr. Bach Comes to Call, Mozart’s Magic Fantasy, Hallelujah Handel, Tchaikovsky in America, Classical Kids Christmas and Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage.

One of my kids’ favorites was Mozart’s Magnificent Voyage. It is about the Dream Children who are about to be written out of Mozart’s most famous opera. In the hopes of changing their fate, they enlist the help of the composer’s young son Karl. Together the children embark on an incredible journey that takes them back in time to Mozart’s childhood and ahead to the future. Along the way, Karl comes to understand his father’s legacy of timeless music.

This CD includes more than a dozen excerpts of Mozart’s music including: Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Clarinet Quintet, Flute Quartet, Horn Concerto, Symphony No. 1, plus excerpts from Mozart’s best-loved operas.


 “Classical Kids” is fabulous as a CD series and our sons loved listening to them at night as they fell asleep, but they can also be enjoyed live. They have been reproduced as a live stage concert called, “Classical Kids LIVE.” These magically staged concerts use professional actors and acclaimed symphony orchestras that bring to life the extraordinary lives and music masterpieces of the great classical composers. For over twenty years these concerts have brought children a unique blend of music entertainment, adventure, education, and classical music. Check out their website to see if they will be performing in your area:

If you are unable to see this series live, then definitely purchase the CDs—for your kids it will be “love at first sound!”


Sharlene 2014

Did you ever play in a marching band in high school? If so, do you remember what is was like to play an instrument and march to the beat of the music at the same time? In the beginning it is like patting your head and rubbing your stomach. However, with practice it is not only fun, but an act of impressive coordination.

However, marching to the beat of the music is more than an act of coordination. Similar to what happens to a baby’s brain when learning to crawl on all fours, marching organizes the brain and gets it working in all 4 cylinders! As a result, it improves a child’s ability to focus, concentrate and organize himself.

So if you can’t get your kids up and going in the morning, or if they have trouble focusing on their homework at night, try playing marching music and have them march to the beat of the drum as they go from task to task. It is pretty amazing what can happen: it can help them “stick to their tasks;” it can help them stay focused and it will change the way your kids organize themselves.

In our family, we made it into a game. The boys woke up to marching music and whenever they moved—they marched with arms swinging and legs moving up and down—into the bathroom, making their beds, getting dressed, putting their schoolwork together and then downstairs to eat breakfast.  I know it sounds like I was running a military boot camp, but they remained organized and focused and we always left for school on time.  I have made the same suggestions to elementary school principals—play marching music five minutes before the bell rings in the morning. When the boys and girls hear that music on the playground, they must stop what they are doing and begin marching in line and to their classes. Teachers report an amazing change in organization with students and less fighting with other students while in line.

In the evening when your kids need to get their homework done—first have them march around the house to music for about ten minutes before settling down to homework. Again—this simple exercise will stimulate the brain; get it working on all 4 cylinders and make the homework process go smoother and easier. Try it—what do you have to lose?

There are many CDs available–some favorites are:

Sousa’s Greatest Hits 

Marches Sousa 1

Greatest Hits Marches; John Phillip Sousa (John Williams) Edward Elgar, etc.

Marches sousa

Forward March! Great American Marches

Marches Sousa 2

Sharlene 2014



I think most people are aware of what autism is and more than likely, you know a parent with an autistic child. Why? Because it is the fastest growing developmental disability with an astounding 1,148 percent growth rate over the last twenty years and a 10 to 17 percent annual growth rate.

It is referred to as a “spectrum” disorder because each individual on the spectrum can exhibit a range of different behaviors and no one method or approach works for all autistic children. However, music is one area of stimulus for which almost all autistic children have a particular affinity. In fact, autistic children respond more frequently to music than any other auditory stimulus and many autistic children demonstrate better music skills than cognitive skills. Because of this, music therapy is often used with autistic children.

There are five main types of music therapy, but I want to focus on one: “activity music therapy,” which involves using musical games designed by the musical therapist (or parent) that may involve the use of percussion instruments or voice.

There are many examples documented by researchers on the positive effects of music when used with autistic children. For example:

Music therapists and researchers found that a three-year old autistic girl increased her socialization and interaction with her mother after receiving “activity music therapy,” where she was actively involved with musical games, etc.

Another six-year-old autistic boy was taught a musical song to help him follow directions in school when waiting in line with fellow students. As a result, he was able to more patiently wait with other children in line.

Last, another researcher found that using musical activities that involved the use of percussion instruments helped autistic children with oral response, physical response, attention and eye contact.

A friend of mine, Bonnie Nakamoto has an autistic son who loves and responds to music. Before he was a year old, he could sing the “Happy Birthday” song in perfect pitch. They also notice that every time he sings, it is with near-perfect pitch, often after hearing the piece of music only once. He also loves to sing along when his father plays the guitar. For him, music has unlocked the door to awareness of others and has helped him with socialization.

Trenton sings with Dad

If you want to watch a heart-warming movie illustrating how music positively affects children with autism, rent, purchase, or check out from the library, Autism: The Musical. It is about the “Miracle Project”—a musical theater program that brings together a group of autistic children to perform musical theater in an atmosphere of creativity and acceptance. It is touching to see the background of each child and how they work together to create something meaningful and important. It is not a movie that focuses on the finish line, but rather the importance of taking joy in the journey.

Do you have an autistic child? If so, have you used music with your child? How effective has it been?

For more information on this subject, see chapter eight of Good Music Brighter Children.


Sharlene 2014

Being a parent certainly has many rewards, but it is not for the faint-of-heart. Parents can face many challenges with their children—physical, cognitive, mental, emotion, or behavioral. The interesting news is that with most of the challenges mentioned, music seems to help. Today, we are going to focus on learning disabilities involving cognitive delay. There are hundreds of studies demonstrating how music impacts a child’s ability to learn—here are five:

Music helps children with developmental dyslexia or autism. Researchers found that children with learning disabilities who have difficulty focusing are helped by music lessons because music training strengthens the same neural processes deficient in children with dyslexia or autism.

Music strengthens the auditory cortex. Most learning issues begin with auditory processing or the ability to process and understand what you hear. Playing a musical instrument enhances the brainstem’s sensitivity to speech sounds and thereby strengthens the auditory cortex.

Music helps learning disabled children with reading and vocabulary. Researchers found that when music is included in the reading process, students with a reading disability improved with word decoding, word knowledge, and reading comprehension


Music training helps speech and language impairments. Susan Sze at Niagara University in New York found that music helps students with language impairments and is a means of facilitating language development because it is a “sophisticated, cognitive, linguistic, social and psychological treatment.”

Music helps children with attention and concentration. Researchers found that when learning-disabled children learn a musical instrument the following functions improve: attention, concentration, impulse control, social functioning, self-expression, and memory.

As I mentioned on my first blog, my son Brandon was diagnosed with severe learning disabilities at the age of six. We were told by doctors and psychologists that he would have significant difficulty in school and to look for other alternatives than college when he was older. I ignored those “findings” and began seriously researching methods and ways of teaching him. There were many things we did, but probably the most powerful was getting him involved with music and music lessons. I created musical jingles to teach him spelling. I had him clap to a rhythm while learning addition, subtraction and multiplication facts. I made up some kind of song for everything he needed to learn. In addition, I enrolled him in group music lessons and private music lessons which also helped his ability to learn. After a long hard road, Brandon applied to college and eventually graduated with straight A’s in film and philosophy (more about this subject in chapter eight of my book, Good Music Brighter Children).


If you have a child that suffers from any learning disability, try adding music to the quotient. The problems won’t disappear overnight, but research tells us—it certainly will make the learning process easier.

Sharlene 2014 

Today, in keeping with Easter week and the discussion of choral music, I want to talk about George Frideric Handel’s famous oratorio, Messiah. First, Messiah is considered choral music and more specifically considered an oratorio because it is a large scale religious work requiring voices and orchestra, but is performed without costumes or scenery. Other famous oratorios include Haydn’s The Creation, and Bach’s Christmas Oratorio.

How Messiah came to be is an interesting story. On April 8, 1741, Handel gave what many believed to be his farewell concert. He was sick and forced to retire at the age of fifty-six. It was a discouraging time for Handel, but then a friend of his, Charles Jennens gave Handel a libretto based on the life of Christ and few days later Handel received a commission from a Dublin charity to compose a work for a benefit concert. Handel began work immediately.

In all, it took Handel twenty-four days to compose 260 pages of music—an enormous feat! Sir Newman Flower, one of Handel’s biographers said, “Considering the immensity of the work, and the short time involved, it will remain, perhaps forever, the greatest feat in the whole history of music composition.”

During the time he was composing Messiah, he was so absorbed in the task that he rarely left his room or stopped to eat. On one occasion his servant found him in his room sobbing and Handel cried out, “I did think I did see all Heaven before me, and the great God Himself.” He had just finished the movement he titled, Hallelujah Chorus

Handel Messiah 1Messiah premiered on April 13, 1742 in Dublin, Ireland. It was a charitable benefit and raised money to free 142 men from debtor’s prison. A year later, it was staged in London and when the king of England heard the first notes of the Hallelujah Chorus, he rose to his feet. Following royal protocol, everyone in the room rose to their feet. Centuries later, whenever the Hallelujah Chorus is performed, people rise to their feet. I like to think it is not only out of respect for the music, but also for the subject—the Savior.


Handel Messiah 2During the later part of his life, Handel personally conducted more than thirty performances of Messiah; many benefiting the FoundlingHospital. Because Handel gave all the money he earned for Messiah to charity, it lead one biographer to note, “Messiah has fed the hungry, clothed the naked, fostered the orphan…more than any other single musical production in this or any country.”

When I was fourteen years old I had the opportunity to sing in Messiah at our church. To this day, I distinctly remember that experience and the impact it had on my life. I have a CD of Messiah I keep in my car to listen to nearly everyday and at every time of the year. There are few pieces of music that inspire me like Messiah.

 This week, go and purchase a CD of Messiah and become immersed in the music and the message—it is “glorious to behold,” and will change your life.

See the late Walter Cronkite conduct the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Hallelujah Chorus:




On Sunday, April 20, Christian churches around the world will be celebrating Easter—the celebration commemorating the remembrance of the atoning sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus Christ. In lieu of this event, I would like to talk about sacred music; specifically choral music.

 Choral music is considered sacred or religious music. It is performed by a combination of solo singers, choruses and orchestras. One category of choral music is Gregorian Chants.

 Gregorian Chants are melodies that have been around since Pope Gregory the Great (540 to 604 AD) and legend has it that he received them from the Holy Spirit. They are unaccompanied sacred songs of the Roman Catholic Church sung by either men and boys or women and men in their religious orders.


 It is a form of singing which is sung in free rhythm and without meter or time signatures. Chants are sung mostly in Latin and the words are from scripture. They are sung in pure melody, in unison, and without accompaniment. (for more information, see chapter 8 in Good Music Brighter Children). Rather than discussing how they are musically structured into modes, reciting tones, tetrachords, hexachords, and neumes, etc, I want to tell you an interesting story about Gregorian Chants and how they positively affect the people who sing them.

 In the 1950s, the monks in a Benedictine monastery in France sang Gregorian Chants as part of their daily routine. But the second Vatican Council decided to eliminate the traditional chanting of the monks for a more constructive use of time. Over time, the monks became lethargic, slept more, and lost their motivation for work and study. After analyzing the situation, it was determined that the monks’ hearing had weakened and it was suggested that the chanting be brought back as part of the monks’ daily routine. Nine months later, the monks felt renewed and had fully returned to their vigorous lifestyle of little sleep, hard work, and vegetarian diets.

Why did the music make such a difference?

 When we sing or talk, our voice acts as a battery to the brain and brings energy to our bodies, in the same way the singing of chants affected the monks’ brains and brought energy to their bodies. Listening to Gregorian chants is also very therapeutic and can balance the body causing a person to feel peace and calm.

 Suggestion: Check out Gregorian Chants on YouTube or, purchase a CD of Gregorian Chants available through Amazon. Listen to them daily—observe your energy levels; your ability to focus better and your motivation levels. Or simply enjoy the beautiful music—chants are a beautiful introduction to choral music.

 Listening to Gregorian Chants can energize our body and our minds and balance the body bringing peace and calm

Gregorian Chants 1










Sharlene 2014

  Is there a certain food that you love and want your children to love too? Like sushi, liver, asparagus or Brussels sprouts? It has been said that if you want your child to enjoy a particular food, they need exposure to it at least eight to eleven times before they will start liking it. Just as certain foods require an “acquired taste,” classical music can also be an acquired taste.

 Here are some ideas on exposing your children and yourself to classical music that will help both you and your children develop this “acquired taste.”


 Start Early: If you want your children to love, enjoy and reap the greatest benefits from classical music, then the exposure should start early. If you wait until they are teens or older, it can be more challenging because now they are more influenced by their friends’ music choices. Start playing classical music when your child is in utero for about 20-30 minutes each day.Another perk—when they hear classical music in utero, they will recognize that music at birth.

 CD suggestion: “Nursery Rhymes” (The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra) This is an amazing CD that plays nursery rhymes in the style of classical music—a must!


Nursery Rhymes CD

Nursery Rhymes CD

Classical Music during Playtime: play classical music as background music when your children are playing—you will notice that they interact differently. There will be less fighting with siblings; they will more willing to share and they will be more content and happy.

 CD Suggestion: “Listen Learn and Grow” (for newborn through preschool). A combination of both lively and soothing music

Listen, Learn and Grow CD

Listen, Learn and Grow CD

Classical Music in the Bathtub: children and water are a happy combination—so let your child spend a little more time playing in the tub while listening to fun music.

 CD suggestion: “The Alphabet Operetta” by Mindy Manley Little—a fabulous CD in the operatic style and one your kids will love to sing-a-long to.

Great CD for the Bathtub!

Great CD for the Bathtub!


Classical Music in the Car: when driving in the car, turn on the classical music station, or even better, play a classical music CD.

 CD Suggestion: “Heigh-Ho! Mozart.” This CD is a compilation of favorite Disney tunes in the style of the great composers. Play a game and see if your kids can identify the musical period each of these songs represent.

A great CD for riding in the car

A great CD for riding in the car

Classical Music to Study by: Psychologist, Georgi Lozanov said that when we listen to certain pieces of classical music, it changes the way the brain processes information. We are able to learn facts quicker and easier plus our retention levels are better.

 CD Suggestion: Bach: Brandenburg Concertos or Mozart: Symphony no. 35 in D Major


 Classical Music at Bedtime: bedtime usually calls for calming, soothing music to take your little ones off into nighttime slumber. However, I also used bedtime as a time for my kids to listen to an amazing series about composers and their music titled, “Music Masters CD Series: The Stories of the Composers in Words and Music.” My boys loved them and they filled two purposes: they learned many facts about the lives of the composers and they were exposed to the specific music of that composer. And yes, they did fall asleep, and surprisingly, they could recall specific facts about the composer the next morning.


A Fun CD to listen to while going to sleep!


Try these suggestions and let me know how they work for you and your kids!


Sharlene 2014

When I was writing my book, I interviewed a number of adults who took music lessons as children and who were still involved in music as adults. Each one told me that the reason they didn’t quit their lessons revolved around one main thing—their mothers. Their mothers were the catalyst behind their musical success. What did these mothers do? It was simple—they sat each day with them while they practiced their instruments.

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There seems to be something magical about mothers sitting with their children while they practice. This magical “something” keeps children wedded to their instruments. For instance, Kevin Hsieh is an accomplished violinist from Rancho Palos Verdes, California. As a college graduate, he is still involved with music and when growing up his mother sat with him while he practiced.  Drummer Mikel Poulsen of Wenatchee, Washington had a similar experience. His mother did not read music, but she sat with him while he practiced. Now, he and his wife sit with their children while they practice.


And last, Grammy-nominated violinist Jenny Oaks Baker had a mother who sat with her while she practiced.


In every instance, it was the simple act of “mother presence” that kept these children (now adults) involved in music. Today, Baker has four musically talented children of her own. And her advice to motivate children to practice is the same—sit with them while they practice and offer encouraging words and little incentives along the way. She is simply passing down the legacy of what her mother did to motivate her.


Her children: Laura June is eleven years old and plays the violin. Hannah Jean is nine and plays the piano; Sarah Noelle is seven and plays the cello and Matthew Dallin is five and plays classical guitar. They accept practicing as part of their daily routine like eating or taking a bath. Baker looks for ways to keep practicing interesting and offers incentives and fun activities when it is done. And performing together helps her children witness first hand the “fruits of their labors.”


The whole act of practicing does more than enable a child to learn a musical instrument. Along the way they learn, perseverance, determination, responsibility, and many other valued traits. So, parents—DO NOT LET YOUR CHILD QUIT THEIR INSTRUMENTS! Sit with them, offer incentives, support them and encourage them. Too many valuable lessons are learned and besides—when they are old, they may not be able to run down the field with a football, but they still can enjoy playing those drums!


Question: What ways do you motivate your children to practice?

Follow this link and watch Laura, Hannah, Sarah and Matthew Baker perform: “It’s a Small World.”


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