Good Music, Brighter Children Blog

Cymbeline - May 2014-6On Saturday, May 17, 2014 my husband and I went to Hobart Elementary school in downtown Los Angeles to watch Shakespeare’s play, “Cymbeline,” presented by a group of fourth and fifth grade students from Room 56 who call themselves, “The Hobart Shakespeareans.

 I’m sure you are thinking—“Fourth graders—what watered-down version of “Cymbeline” did they perform at that age?”

 This was not watered-down Shakespeare—this was the real thing—every word, every line, every nuance was pure unabridged Shakespeare and was presented with aplomb, elegance, and downright sophistication—and yes—by fourth and fifth grade students! We were blown away by these young people touting lines of Shakespeare with feeling and emotion you would expect to hear from Broadway professionals.

Cymbeline - May 2014-12

 Their teacher, Rafe Esquith (just call him, Rafe) began teaching his students Shakespeare over twenty years ago as a way to help his students learn English, increase vocabulary, and problem solve. For anyone remotely familiar with Shakespearean drama and its complicated diction and subject matter, this is no easy feat. The students volunteer to come throughout the summer to dissect the play’s intricate language, learn accompanying parts on musical instruments, and foster a genuinely collaborate spirit. After eleven months of rehearsals, the students perform the production to an awed public. Rafe’s goal is to take his students’ natural gifts and turn them into something extraordinary—character qualities and creative gifts that will benefit them in the future workplace. And by doing so, he changes lives.

Cymbeline group

 Only 30 percent of the children at Hobart Elementary graduate from high school, that is, unless you are in Room 56. One-hundred percent of Rafe’s students graduate from high school and go on to college and not just any college—Columbia, Stanford, Yale, Berkeley, Dartmouth, UCLA, USC, Brown, Notre Dame, and the list goes on and on.

Cymbeline - May 2014-5 Mark and I were privileged to sit behind the Cuapio family. Their son, Emmanuel was playing the part of Cymbeline, King of Britain. They told us their other children had been in Rafe’s class and their daughter had been a part of The Hobart Shakespeareans when she was in the fifth grade. She is now at the University of California, Riverside studying political science with the end goal being law school. No doubt Emmanuel will also be a college graduate. Mr. and Mrs. Cuapio are immigrants from Mexico and are clearly proud of their children’s accomplishments and what they have learned by being part of The Hobart Shakespeareans.

 Every student gave a breathtaking performance demonstrating talent well beyond their years. Some of the actors included Cymbeline’s Queen, played by Joanna Choi, Imogen played by Jessica Miguel, Posthumus played by Jason Jimenez and Cloten played by Roland Pascual, (to name a few). And, they didn’t just act—they also sang and played musical instruments! There were no backstage assistants telling the students when to go on stage—every student knew exactly where they needed to be and when; when to change costumes (they wore different colored t-shirts), when to change scenery and props, and when to sing and dance. And everything was executed without a glitch!

Cymbeline - May 2014-9

 The music was performed by middle school students and the singing, dancing and signing (ASL) by the elementary students. The choice of music was deliciously creative as they combined classical Shakespeare with modern, upbeat music including, “Good Vibrations,” “That’s Amore,” and “Let it Be” (btw: they performed a total of 17 pieces of very difficult music).

Cymbeline - May 2014-4

 OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Hobart Shakespeareans have been seen and supported by many celebrities including Hal Holbrook, Ian McKellen, John Lithgow, Michael York, and Josh Groban (who contributed nearly $30,000 to the Shakespeareans just this year).

 Before the play, Rafe related to the audience the untiring efforts needed to put together a performance of this magnitude. And he pointed out that the reason these children are able to learn and memorize Shakespeare is because of music. “Music is crucial for a child’s complete development no matter his aptitude. Music must not be optional,” he said. He also stated that although the superintendent of Los Angeles Unified School District wants to put a computer tablet in every child’s hand, he would rather see a violin in every child’s hand!


Bravo to the Hobart Shakespeareans and to Rafe!

Next year—2015—they will be performing: “A Winter’s Tale.” Don’t miss it!

 Check out their website:





One of the most fascinating subjects I learned in Herbology was “The Doctrine of Signatures.” This doctrine basically says that God put His imprint on various fruits and vegetables to help us understand what part or organ of the body they strengthen. So, here are a few fruits and vegetables and which organ of the body they help and why.

 Carrots: Eyes 


A sliced Carrot looks like the human eye. The pupil, iris and radiating lines look just like the human eye…and YES science now shows that carrots greatly enhance blood flow to and function of the eyes.

Tomatoes: Heart

A Tomato has four chambers and is red. The heart is red and has four chambers. Research shows tomatoes are indeed pure heart and blood food.

Walnuts: Brain

A Walnut looks like a little brain, a left and right hemisphere, upper cerebrums and lower cerebellums. The wrinkles or folds on the nut are just like the neo-cortex. Because walnuts are high in omega-3s, they help develop over three dozen neuron-transmitters for brain function.

Kidney Beans: Kidneys

Kidney Beans actually heal and help maintain kidney function and yes, they look exactly like the human kidneys.

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb: Bones  

Celery, Bok Choy, Rhubarb look just like bones. These foods specifically target bone strength. Bones are 23% sodium and these foods are 23% sodium. These foods replenish the skeletal needs of the body.

Eggplant, Avocados, Pears: Female Womb

Eggplant, Avocados and Pears target the health and function of the womb and cervix of the female – their shape resembles these organs. Today’s research shows that when a woman eats 1 avocado a week, it balances hormones, sheds unwanted birth weight and prevents cervical cancers. Interestingly, it takes exactly 9 months to grow an avocado from blossom to ripened fruit. There are over 14,000 photolytic chemical constituents of nutrition in each one of these foods.

Figs: Male Sperm

Figs are full of seeds and hang in twos when they grow. Figs increase the motility of male sperm and increase the numbers of sperm to overcome male sterility.

Sweet Potato: Pancreas

Sweet Potatoes look like the pancreas and actually balance the glycemic index of diabetics.

Olives: Ovaries

Olives assist the health and function of the ovaries

Grapefruit, Oranges: Mammary Glands

Grapefruits, Oranges, and other Citrus fruits look just like the mammary glands of the female and actually assist the health of breast tissue.

Onions: Body Cells

Onions look like body cells. Today’s research shows that onions help clear waste materials from the body.

Isn’t this interesting? So, if you know what part of your body is weak—then you may want to start “beefing” up on that particular fruit or vegetable that will strengthen that part of the body.


Sharlene 2014


Why do you purchase the brand of skincare products that you do? Is it the ingredients? packaging? the benefits?  Believe it or not, most products are purchased based on packaging–yes–packaging. Sometimes if the bottle looks like it came out of a science laboratory, women buy it (after all, if it looks scientific, it must work). Other women buy according to price and they erroneously believe that “expensive” and quality go hand-in-hand. Some girls are sucked into the fantasy images on the advertisements promising the same results. (when you look at those images think: Photoshop and move on!). And last, a lot of girls follow beauty bloggers who purchase according to what the blogger recommends.

 Okay, you need to put yourself in the driver’s seat and take charge of what products you purchase based on an educated decision rather than a whim or just because someone says it’s great. You need to know more about the product than if it feels good, smells good, is smooth on your skin and has chichi packaging. You need to understand what that product does to your body and to your organs once you slather it on your skin. Your long-term health may depend on it!  In other words, you need to understand skin basics.

 Welcome to Skin Physiology 101

 I’ll make this simple: approximately 60 percent of what you slap on your skin gets absorbed into your blood stream. Some of the chemicals behind that chichi packaging are downright harmful to your inner organs.  “Harmful?” you ask in surprise. Yes, harmful. And forget about FDA approval. Only 1% of the FDA’s budget goes to regulating the beauty industry. Given that percentage, it should come as no surprise that the beauty industry “gets away with murder,” –as the saying goes.

 Some chemicals found in skincare products have tiny molecules. Those tiny molecules can seep past the various layers of your skin and go directly into the blood stream. From there, some get filtered by the liver and the liver decides what gets stored in the organs and what gets dumped. Ever heard of black hair dyes that contain coal tar? In most countries in the world, they are banned because they have been associated with an increased risk of fatal non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiply myeloma. But not in the U.S. Nope—any attempt for warning labels on these products was thwarted by a regulatory loophole that exempted these ingredients from the FDA’s jurisdiction. So, they still remain on the store shelves today and you and I keep purchasing them.

 This is just one example, there are hundreds.

 I’d love to tell you that all chemicals found in skincare products are soothing to the skin, produce amazing results; allows you to drink the fountain of youth and are very safe. But it is not that simple. Some of these chemicals can form by-products during manufacturing and storage, or while they are on the skin (a.k.a. formaldehyde). Some are estrogen-mimicking or hormone-disrupting which can cause uterine cell changes, cell proliferation and other types of elevated estrogen activity.

 So, I’m going to teach you about specific ingredients, how to read labels, what the threshold principle is all about and the meaning of Willet’s Response. So stay tuned—there is more to come.

Sharlene 2014




Have you ever been to a grand opera? If so, do you remember how old were you when you first saw a grand opera? I was nine and it was my grandmother who took me. We saw Tannhäuser by Richard Wagner. It was a pretty intense opera to see for a first time experience! The only thing I remember was that it was extremely long and my legs dangling from the chair went numb, and there were a lot of very pretty costumes.

 However, I’m grateful for that experience because it really was my first of many exposures to grand opera when I was young and started me on the road to loving and enjoying opera as an adult.

 On Monday I talked about a great book to use when introducing your child to The Magic Flute by Mozart. Today, I want to talk about a CD series that is wonderful to use when introducing your kids to opera. The title: “Pavarotti’s Opera Made Easy.” I own three in the series: “My Favorite Opera for Children,” “My Favorite Songs,” “My Favorite Showstoppers”—all amazing with the best songs opera has to offer! Opera CD

 I want to focus my comments on “My Favorite Opera for Children.” This CD is a delightful introduction to opera for children—and adults! Pavarotti has included both the fun and the bombastic that will sure to get your child’s attention and keep it.

 For instance, if you are looking for something to march to with your children, try listening to the “Children’s March,” “Toreador Song,” and “Toreador Chorus,” all from the opera Carmen by Bizet. They lend themselves perfectly for marching and dancing around the house, and try adding some rhythm instruments to enhance the experience.


 Clap out the beat with your child as you listen to none other than, “Largo al factotum” from Barber of Seville by Rossini. If you have seen “Mrs. Doubtfire” this song will immediately be familiar to you as you hear the words repeated over and over, “Figaro, Figaro, Figaro,” etc. It is bouncy and fun and one of those songs that you cannot just sit still and listen to—you have to get up and move!

 Another group of famous opera songs that have been “featured” in various TV commercials are: “Soldier’s Chorus” from the opera Faust by Gounod and “Anvil Chorus” from the opera II Trovatore by Verdi. And if you remember the TV series, “Mission Impossible,” you will recognize “The Ride of the Valkyries” from the opera Die Walküre by Wagner.

 Last, are several songs taken from The Magic Flute by Mozart that I mentioned on Monday: “Pa-Pa-Pa-Pa,” “Pagageno’s Song: A Birdcatcher am I,” and others.

 Again, if you are going to take your child to experience Grand Opera for the first time—you definitely want to get a copy of the music to play for them so they can become familiar with the music. As far as I’m concerned, helping them to understand the story and then having them listen to the music (over and over) will make their “actual” opera experience a monumental success!

 Here is nine year old Amira Willighagen from Holland performing a breathtaking rendition of “O Mio Babbino Caro” from the opera Gianni Schicchi. What is amazing about her is that she has no formal vocal training. She loves to sing and went on YouTube because she wanted to learn opera!


Sharlene 2014




2 cups flour

2 cups sugar

4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

½ tsp. salt

½ pound (2 sticks) butter

1 cup cola

2 large eggs

½ cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


¼ pound (1 stick) butter

1/3 cup cola

2 tablespoons water

1 pound powdered sugar, sifted

5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

1 ½ cups miniature marshmallows


Grease & flour 9”x13” pan. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Stir together: flour, sugar, cocoa, and salt. Bring butter and cola to a boil in saucepan. Pour over the flour mixture and stir until combined. Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until frothy and add buttermilk, baking soda, and vanilla; whisk until blended. Stir into the batter. Batter will be thin. Pour into pan. Bake for 30 minutes.



 While cake bakes, make frosting. Bring butter, cola and water to a boil in a small saucepan. Stir the powdered sugar and cocoa together in a medium bowl; pour the butter-cola mixture over: stir with a wooden spoon until well blended. Wait until the cake is just about ready to come out of the oven and then fold in the walnuts and marshmallows. Remove cake from oven; pour frosting over hot cake, spreading to edges. Cool.


Helpful Hints:

  1. I only use the brand: “Wheat Montana” for my flour. It is NOT made from a GMO wheat seed and therefore it does not cause the problems that most wheat causes today. The genetically modified wheat today has 40x the gluten of a normal heirloom seed wheat and is therefore almost impossible for people to digest without having problems. You can get this flour at Wal-Mart and it is the same price as all the crappy GMO flours. I get the one in the blue bag—the white flour. But they also have a whole wheat flour and a baker’s blend flour. You will be amazed how incredible it is to work with this flour—it reminds me of the flours I used to bake with when I was 12 years old.

  1. Organic Sugar: I get it at Costco—it is a larger crystal than regular processed sugar and it is more of an amber color. Love it!!!

Sharlene 2014

Today I want to talk about a delightful children’s book that retells the story of a very famous opera. The title is: The Magic Flute by Anne Gatti. It is a beautifully illustrated book about Mozart’s famous opera and is perfect to use when introducing your child to opera. Gatti has also included a CD with music markers on pages indicating when to play the music. Also check out: The Magic Flute: An Opera by Mozart by Kyra Teis. It is also a gem!The Magic Flute 1

 For most people and particularly children, opera is not an easy medium to enjoy because operas are written in Italian, German, French, etc, and tend to be very long. However, most opera companies today feature English subtitles above the stage to enhance the experience and if the opera is geared to children, they are short enough to appeal to a child’s attention span.

 The Magic FluteTo get kids interested in opera and prepared to sit through an opera, you have to use baby steps. So, take your child to an opera that is geared to children and try the following steps to prepare them:

  1. First: find a children’s book written about the opera either at the bookstore or library.

  2. Second: read the story to your child and if there is too much text and dialogue for the age of your child, then you read the book then tell them the story and show them the pictures. Gatti’s book has a lot of text, so if your child is younger than eight, I would read the book and become familiar with the story and then explain it to your child.

  3. Third: use the CD included in the book and when you come to one of the music markers, play the piece of music from the CD. And, don’t just play the music—get up with your children and dance and move to the music!

  4. Fourth: YouTube is a great place to watch excerpts from The Magic Flute. (see below)

  5. Last, research and find operas in your community geared to children. It is a medium that once you understand what is going on, you are hooked! (See Good Music Brighter Children chapter 10 for more suggestions)

 So, here is the story in a nutshell: Mozart wrote The Magic Flute in 1791—the same year that he died.  It was one of his most popular operas because it was written for the common person and not for royalty or nobility.

 The Magic Flute has all the trappings of a fairytale and includes a magical world of flying machines; butterflies and flowers the size of birds and a pair of lovers and a belief that good will triumph over evil. The story takes place in the woods where Prince Tamino seeks to save Princess Pamina from the wicked Queen of the Night. Together, Prince Tamino, Princess Pamina and Papageno, (a cowardly but good-natured birdcatcher who wants to find a wife), use a magic flute to ward off evil, overcome thundering waterfalls, and walls of fire, to save their kingdom from darkness and live happily ever after.

 Two must-hear songs in this opera are:

 The Queen of the Night Aria: In the aria, the soprano must hit a high F over and over again. It’s incredibly difficult, so the aria is a great piece for a soprano to show off their skills.

 Papageno Papagena duet: In this duet, Papageno, the good-natured birdcatcher finds the wife of his dreams—Papagena and they sing a duet together. Totally delightful and fun!

 Watch this brief YouTube video on The Magic Flute. It includes excerpts from both the Queen of the Night aria and Papageno Papagena duet.

 I will be blogging more about opera at some future date—in the meantime—experiment with these suggestions and fall in love with opera!


Sharlene 2014

In response to numerous requests, I’ve decided to blog once a week about skincare. However, these will be short tips about skin from a science perspective. But before we get into cells and skin layers, a little history is in order…

Believe it or not, women from the dawn of time have wanted beautiful, glowing skin. And, like today, they have gone to great lengths to get it. Here are some interesting tidbits from skin history:

**History indicates that women started using various forms of potients and paints during the time of Cleopatra. They probably used them before—we just don’t have a record of it. Cleopatra was famous for taking baths infused with milk to keep her skin soft and smooth. The lactic acid from the milk probably acted as a gentle exfoliator on her skin

**Women wanted very white, very uniform skin because tanned or freckled skin meant that you worked in the fields and women wanted the opposite sex to think they lived the life of a pampered woman.

**In the late 1700s a law was passed by the English Parliament that imposed the same penalty on womanly adornment as for witchcraft. Why? So a man could free himself in case he married such a woman under false pretenses.

**Queen Elizabeth I of England combined egg white, powdered egg shells, alum, borax and poppy seeds and painted this concoction on her skin. She was trying to achieve a very white look. Instead it looked like chalk painted on her face.

**In order to achieve white, uniform skin, women were willing to use dangerous ingredients such as mercury, lead and arsenic wafers. Laird’s “Bloom of Youth” was an expensive cream that had lead and mercury in it and would whiten the skin. It also proved fatal for some women who continually used it. They ended up in the hospital with paralyzed limbs and eventually died. **Most women in the 1600 and beyond did not have a Sephora or Ulta to purchase the latest and greatest skincare concoctions, so they made their own from what they had in the cupboard and ice boxes: rice, a calf’s foot, butter, eggs, camphor, alum, apple cider vinegar, and anything else they could find. They traded skincare “recipes” with their neighbors from across their fences.

**In the late 1900s, Theron Pond, a chemist from New York began making concoctions from the witch hazel plant. He called it “Pond’s Extract.” It was touted as an aftershave lotion, a dentifrice, a contraceptive douche, a sore throat remedy and helped with insomnia—in other words, when you bought this, you were definitely insured of getting more “bang for your buck!” Theron Pond

Has anything changed? Absolutely not! Women, of all ethnicity, still want perfect skin and will go to any lengths and costs to achieve it: botox, laser, acid peels, facelifts, facials, expensive creams and anything else that promises the fountain of youth found in a bottle, vial or injection.


Sharlene 2014



(I am starting a blog about health and wellness and will be posting about once a week. This is a longer blog, but most will be shorter health tips)

I became interested in health and wellness in January 2004. The previous year I was not feeling well and had visited four medical doctors who basically could not find anything wrong with me. When I woke up on August 2, 2003 I could barely physically move. Obviously, I knew I needed help from some other source. After searching the Internet, I did find a doctor who took 28 vials of blood out of my arm and concluded that I had an auto-immune disease; had almost no functioning hormones and my adrenals were shutting down. I went on several prescribed medications, which slowly helped, but I decided to also take matters into my own hands and become educated on health and wellness.

This experience drove me back to school taking 31 classes on all aspects of nutrition—both traditional Allopathic (Western medicine approach focusing on calorie in, calorie out) and Ayurvedic (Eastern medicine approach focusing on enzyme in, enzyme out). On the Western medicine side, I studied physiology, biology, chemistry of food, hormones, vitamins/minerals, etc. and on the Eastern medicine side, I studied the organic industry, face/tongue/nail analysis, zoning, pulse diagnosis, therapeutic grade essential oils, the Bach flowers and many other holistic and organic remedies. I ended up reading 74 books. It was quite the process and I learned a lot from the experience. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in keeping and maintaining their health.

However, you need to understand that nutrition is a very controversial subject and there are all kinds of misleading information out there. Of the 74 books that I read, I only found four books where I felt that ALL the information seemed correct. The others certainly had a lot of great information, but many contained information that was controversial and contradictory.   So, my suggestion–when you decide to follow certain health guidelines, understand that something you eat today may be wonderful (according to the “experts”) but tomorrow they may change their minds and vilify a certain food (example: coconut oil).

For this blog, I’m concentrating on the many things I learned from my classes–and hopefully something will help you a long the way.

 Today I want to focus on: VEGETABLES! If you are an A-blood type, more than likely you love vegetables. (If you don’t know your blood-type—you should find out). But no matter whether you like veggies or not, you MUST find some way of eating them—steaming, baking, boiling, juicing, etc. For juicing, I highly recommend the book: Power Juices Super Drinks by Steve Meyerowitz. Most juice advocates tell you not to mix fruit and veggies in the same drink. However, if you hate that idea, then mix them—it is not the end of the world.

 So what will vegetables do for your mind and body? Well…

Improve cognitive function (in other words—veggies help you learn and think)

Increase fiber content, (guard against colon cancer and type 2 diabetes)

Build your body (fruits cleanse the body, veggies build the body)

Contain enzymes for digestion (96% of hospital visits are people suffering from digestive issues)

Keep your heart healthy

Keep your organs happy (guards against kidney stones)

Lower blood pressure (celery can lower blood pressure by up to 10%)

Important for keeping your skin looking young!


I am not a fan of vegetables. If I had a choice between a piece of fruit and a veggie—I would definitely take the fruit. And if the choice was between chocolate and fruit, I would take the chocolate. However, I know that I need to eat vegetables every day, so I try and find ways to make them more palatable for my picky palate. Plus I know people who never lift a vegetable to their lips and they are dying a slow, painful death–so my advice to you–eat them no matter what!

 Here is a tip: if you hate broccoli (like I do) then bake it—cut it up, put it in a pan, sprinkle olive oil over all, mix with your hands and then sprinkle sea salt and pepper on. Bake for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove from the oven and sprinkle some parmesan cheese. Enjoy! You will be absolutely dumbfounded how incredibly delicious it tastes! Trust me, you will become a fan. (see: Our Best Bites by Sara Wells and Kate Jones)

Next: The Doctrine of Signatures found in Herbal Medicine: find out what the shape of the veggie means for your health.

Sharlene 2014

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