My goal of 30 blogs in 30 days for Music In Our Schools Month failed, but I hope you gleaned some great information from the blogs I did post.

Today, I have a dual purpose in my writing. Yes, I'm going to talk about music education, but I'm also going to focus on social media.

There are so many music programs which are just as passionate about music's inclusion in education as I am. I believe they too have read the research and understand the importance of music aiding in the learning process. Or, maybe they just like teaching music?

I've spent a lot of time googling music programs, both those included in schools and those that are independent from schools. Of course many of the music programs for the youngest children are independent unless these children are attending a high quality preschool/nursery school program.

One common problem I've found with these programs, however, is their lack of social media presence. In today's world, you can't just post a flyer at your local store or laundromat. Even an ad in the newspaper isn't enough to draw attention to your program. Those places aren't where people are looking anymore.

So where should you be advertising? Anywhere and everywhere online.

Consider this: as of 2014, 72% of all Facebook users visited Facebook once a month. How many people is that? Just a little over 1 billion. And, as of January 2015, almost 900 million people access Facebook on a daily basis. With that big of an audience, why wouldn't a music education program want to advertise on Facebook? And, it's so simple to make a Facebook page and share at least weekly or bimonthly what's going on in your program.

What's next? How about Twitter? Twitter is the third most used social network behind LinkedIn and Facebook. As I am focusing on music programs advertising to parents, I'm going to skip LinkedIn. LinkedIn does provide excellent opportunities for networking and possible continuing education, though. Both Twitter and Google+ boast an engagement of approximately 300 million users each. How is that for an audience. So, I ask again, why wouldn't a music education program administrator not want to make his mark on Google+ or Twitter? Twitter, after all only requires 140 characters which could include as simple as a link to your Facebook page! Google+ is a great place to provide an audio sample of children making music. (I mention audio sample rather than video due to maintaining privacy of the students).

And, third, perhaps the simplest way to get the word out is to have a website. Now your website can simply be your Facebook business page, but I would recommend having a separate site. Blogging websites such as Blogger or Wordpress allow you to have a site for free as long as you use their site as the domain, i.e.,, and both sites are extremely user friendly. What's even better, once you're ready to buy your own domain, i.e.,, both Blogger and Wordpress can be easily integrated into that domain so you won't have to pay more than about $15 a year for the domain name. Another bonus? There are ways to provide links on your website that can earn your organization money!

These three options can greatly expand your brand and increase your enrollment, so I encourage you to explore this simple, let's call it homework.

Finally, I understand not everyone is tech savvy, especially those of you who barely use the internet and don't have any social media profiles. That's okay. You're not alone, but don't miss out on the opportunity to find new students. One organization, Valkeryie, offers a myriad of options from the basics to complete management of all your social networks and websites.

I would love to hear updates from those organizations that have yet to expand their reach beyond a simple flyer or a mass mailing. Let me know once you get your social media networks set up how many students you have added to your classes or if you've found networks to help improve your knowledge of music education!
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I'm not sure if this commercial is universal, but I often hear on the radio a commercial where a child says, "Not everyone can be a foster parent, but everyone can help a foster child". I really feel that exact same way about music education.

Over the years, I've read so much research showing the transferable skills music has on the ability to learn other academic subjects. For simplification purposes, I thought I'd share some of the tweets music advocates and teachers have shared this month:

Having shown you all of this, I would now like to introduce you to the National Association of Music Parents. This national non-profit organization has been active since 2011 while some parents have held on to its current twitter account from 2009. AMP works on a larger scale to educate parents of the why of music education and the how of support and advocacy. It doesn't matter if this is a parent of a student just starting a music class or a parent of a music student who is about to graduate!

Anyone can become a member of the AMP. With a yearly payment of $12, an individual gains access to classes about the value of music education and additional resources to advocate, initiate and maintain their music program that the organization cannot provide free of charge. But, you don't have to be a member to support the AMP and its mission. 

Please support the National Association of Music Parents to ensure that additional music programs aren't cut from schools and that new music programs can begin in schools where there weren't any previously! 

I invite you to donate to the National Association of Music Parents by clicking here. In addition, write to your local political and school district representatives to ensure that music programs are not cut from schools and talk to others in your neighborhood who might have children enrolled in music programs to discover what their school's music programs need that you might be able to provide!

You can find the National Association of Music Parents on Twitter, Facebook, Youtube, Google +, and Pinterest.

Not everyone can be a music student's parent, but everyone can help a music student! How will you connect with music education today?

For those who have watched Glee, you've seen how apparently simple it is for the group to pass through Sectionals, Regionals and on to Nationals without a hitch. The truth is every step toward Nationals is extremely difficult.

With the television show, Glee, the choir magically makes it to nationals after only two years in existence. The James Logan High School Advanced Concert Choir began at JLHS in 2000 under the direction of Erin McShane. Fifteen years later, still under her direction, they have advanced to the National Competition in New York. This speaks to the degree of difficulty in competition, rather than the quality of this choir. Consider, for example, the JLHS Advanced Concert Choir placed ninth at the state competition in May of 2014, the first time they ever competed at that level. And, in 2013, the same choir received a gold rating (combined score of 90 or higher) at the Anaheim Heritage Music Festival.

And one final difference, the TV show's group, at most, has about twenty members. The JLHS Advanced Concert Choir started with 20 members and now has 90!

Before I continue, I invite you to take a look at some of their performances:

JLHS Advanced Concert Choir at the Winter Concert, 2014 
Across the Vast, Eternal Sky 
Erin McShane, Director

JLHS Advanced Concert Choir, 2013 
The Ground
Erin McShane, Director

JLHS Advanced Concert Choir at the Capitol Music Festival, 2009 
Sicut Cervus 
Erin McShane, Director

So, now as they're perfecting notes and gargling with lemon, could you participate in their efforts by donating to their trip? Of James Logan High School in general, almost 50% of its students qualify for free or reduced lunch. That is the average for most districts with the same enrollment numbers throughout California.

What better time than now, during Music In Our Schools Month, to help this one choir continue its success at James Logan High School? The teacher/director, Erin McShane can only do what she does based on the funding she receives from the district and the community. You can make your donation at their GoFundMe site.

The Advanced Choir competes in New York later this spring.

Black Stax is a band I've blogged about quite a bit. You just need to do a quick search to find out quite a bit about the band, and I still haven't seen them perform live! I'm still holding on to that "someday".

They are huge proponents of affording opportunities to those less fortunate and fighting for social justice in the Puget Sound, tweeting their trademark hash tag, #forwardmovement, with almost every tweet. And two years ago, they partnered with the Technology Access Foundation (TAF) to participate in the STEM + Art (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathmatics) concert. More recently, they teamed up with African artists to introduce Seattle to a new flavor of music!

You can listen to their most recent music and watch their live performances via Soundcloud,

Follow Black Stax on Twitter to keep up with their latest activities. Of course, they're currently tweeting about their latest song, Lucid Life, a collaboration with Gweedo, and why shouldn't they? It's another excellent release from this group.

Here is their response to the need for music education within schools:

About six months ago, I was searching for instrumental versions of pop/rock music and stumbled upon a group called the Vitamin String Quartet. I thought they only had a few songs, but I later discovered they have released over 100 albums in only 17 years. Most recently, they released Geek Wedding Collection in March 2015.

Instrumentalists in Vitamin String Quartet tend to rotate, but current members include Chris Woods (Violin), Crystal Alforque (Violin), Zach Dellinger (Viola), and Derek Stein (Cello). Stein is also responsible for much of the arranging of the tributes the group does.

Some of my favorites from their albums include their tribute to the Beatles' "Imagine", their tribute to Bon Jovi's "Lay Your Hands on Me", their tribute to U2's "Beautiful Day", their tribute to Guns N' Roses' "Sweet Child O Mine", their tribute to Led Zeppelin's "The Immigrant Song", and their tribute to Nirvana's "All Apologies".

You can find all of their albums on Amazon.

When asked why they thought music programs in school were essential, this was their response:

One component of National Association for Music Educators' Music in Our Schools Month was an invitation to schools nationwide to present their choirs singing one of 8 songs prescribed on their website. I have to admit, there were a few songs I didn't recognize, but I chose my favorites from among the elementary schools.

Feel the Beat
Words and Music by John Jacobson and Roger Emerson

Valley View Elementary School
Ellensburg, WA

Lenox Elementary School
Pompton Lakes, NJ

Always Sing
Music and Lyrics by RaeLynn, Gaylon, & Robbins

East Laurens Primary School
East Dublin, GA

Soldiers' Joy
Arranged by Emily Crocker
South Miami K-8 Center
Miami, FL

Star Spangled Banner
Words by Francis Scott Key, Music by John Stafford Smith

Tar River Elementary School
Franklinton, NC

One thing you might notice is the difference between those choirs that have pristine uniforms or costumes and those that are dressed in plain clothes. While it certainly doesn't detract from the students' voices, those choirs with students dressed in plain clothes most likely don't have the funding that other schools do. I would highly recommend making any donation you can to your local schools that might need additional funding for their music programs. Every little bit helps!

I plan on writing about various music in our schools advocacy groups as this month progresses, but today, I want to talk about a few musicians I have engaged on Twitter.

By the way, if you're not already using Twitter, why not? No matter what your field of interest is, you will find others who share the same interest. Looking for an expert in your field for advice? There's a tweeter for that? Want to find out what your favorite musician or actor is doing? He or his PR person is probably on Twitter. And, for my purposes, advocates for the inclusion of music in education programs, researchers in music cognition, and foundations who regularly donate to schools to start music programs are on Twitter. I love engaging with all of them, and especially this month! I have found so many people who support the inclusion of music in education programs including educational programs for teachers, conferences for teachers and researchers, credentialing programs, parents, and many others all excited for March as Music In Our Schools Month.

Today, I tweeted some of the musicians I regularly engage on Twitter. Yes, I'm their fan, but they've also taught me a lot about the behind the scenes work required to put on a successful show. I've learned the different types of instruments used, recording devices, how melodies are created, and what exactly a music director does. So, here are a couple of responses I received along with a little background of the musician.

L*A*W, also known as Lawrence Worrell, got started in the music industry early having uncles and a grandfather who was active in the music industry. Combining his genetics with his skills, he came to be known as the most talented kid in the music biz.

He has worked with Amy Winehouse and George Clinton. His music was nominated for a Grammy seven different times, and he won an indie music award twice.

He released his first solo album, Tha Planet 12 Syndrome, in 2010. Since that time, he has released several mix tapes including The Planet 12 Live Sessions, Volume 1. You can find his other mixtapes on datpiff. His next show is on March 29th at the No Bar in Brooklyn. This is a free show, so I hope those in the area can check it out and see the talent that I've always seen in this performer.

Understanding this artist's background might explain his answer when I asked him why he'd advocate for music in education.

Next up is Rob Lewis, music director for bands and artists as Toni Braxton, Christina Aguilera, Boyz II Men, The Pussycat Dolls, Leona Lewis, Brian McKnight, New Kids on the Block, and Babyface to name a few. He actually wears multiple hats. When he's not involved in musical direction, you can find him producing records, composing films, creating business, and donating money to worthy charities. He currently writes the majority of the music on Vh1's Big Morning Buzz Live.

I think the best way to describe Rob Lewis is one part education and three parts skill. He did get an early education in music, attending De La Salle Institute and Berklee College of Music, but his education was cut short just prior to Brian McKnight employing him as a keyboardist and later as a music director. His career has only ascended since then.

In 2012, Rob Lewis released The Masterpiece, on which he wrote, arranged, sang, and provided all the instrumentation. By the way, Rob spent 5 years perfecting this album!

Again his background greatly influences his ideas on the inclusion of music in education, perhaps even more so because he had the opportunity to explore music while in school.

Readers, what are your thoughts? Are you surprised at what these two artists have shared? Are there other artists you'd like to share their thoughts? Keep following this blog for more information on Music in Our Schools Month #MIOSM!
I know my goal is to speak about music education in early childhood programs; however, for the Music in Our Schools Month, I'll be writing about music education programs at all programs from kindergarten through 12th grade.

Matt Warren is a music teacher I recently started following on twitter. He teaches exclusively popular music at a middle school in New York. He reports that his middle school, Spry Middle School in Webster, NY, composed of 6th, 7th, and 8th grade requires students at each level to take some kind of music class.

He is also a prolific reviewer of music, advocate for the importance of music education, and an emphasizer of the importance of using current music in his classes. In his video below, he tells his audience that "anything before Eminem is old" to his students.

Check out his recent presentation at The Institute for Popular Music recorded in 2014. What are your thoughts? Is modern music better than classical music, or music before Eminem? Is it possible to integrate classical music within modern music?

You can find Matt Warren on Facebook, Twitter, and his blog.

You might know VH1 as MTV's little sister. Of course, MTV once known to be the "video that killed the radio star", mostly shows reality shows while VH1 still focuses on the music.

Part of their focus on music includes their Save the Music program. On the first day of Music in our schools month, I saw a lot of tweets about VH1's Save the Music, and it wasn't just from teachers or research organizations. Maroon 5, Fifth Harmony, Nick Jonas, Big Sean, Katy Perry, and James Maslow among others got on board on March 1st to support VH1's Save the Music.

So what exactly is Save the Music?

Put simply, this is a non-profit foundation that eagerly supports music education at all levels of k through 12. One important note, though: They only help schools that currently do not have an instrumental music program. So, choirs don't make the mark. Existing music programs don't get any additional support. But Save the Music is still incredibly important. Not only do they provide the funding for the classes, but they also provide the instruments, so neither the school nor the parents have to spend money they don't have on such a needed aspect of K through 12 education.

Would you like to support VH1's Save the Music? It could be as simple as a donation made on the organization's website, or you can benefit both the organization and yourself! Online jewelry store Alex and Ani currently sell a Sweet Melody Charm Bangle, priced at $28.00. For each purchase, Alex and Ani will donate 20% of the revenue until the end of 2015.

I highly recommend supporting such a worthy organization!

When I think about my passion for music and neuroscience, I realize I owe that development to Oliver Sacks, and not to Daniel Levitin.

Oliver Sacks should have been my first profile as his writing introduced me to Daniel Levitin.

But, I have some time right now, so let me tell you about Oliver Sacks. If you’re familiar with the name, it’s probably because you saw the movie, Awakenings, with Robert De Niro and Robin Williams. That movie was based off of Sacks’ book of the same name.

Dr. Sacks is a medical neurologist, author, and neurology professor.

What drew me to his research was a book called Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain. Musicophilia, or literally, love of music, talks about the effect music has on neurological disorders including brain trauma. I didn’t know that Dr. Sacks was a medical neuroscientist, so I assumed this book would talk about music and learning. Silly assumption!

At the time I read the book, I was experiencing epileptic seizures. It was a new diagnosis for me, so I found anything talking about seizures interesting. And, Dr. Sacks had a chapter on music and epilepsy in his book. He explains that for one epileptic, a type of music caused seizures. For another with constant seizures, music was the only thing that could stop the seizures. Music of all genres is a passion of mine, but fortunately (or unfortunately) it has no correlation to my seizures.

Sacks quotes Georg Philipp Friedrich Frieherr von Hardenberg, better known as Novalis, who wrote, “Every disease is a musical problem; every cure is a musical solution”. The doctor discovered this was true as he saw patients with Parkinson’s, aphasia, Alzheimer’s, dementia, and Tourette’s syndrome respond positively to music. Sacks explains, music works because it engages so many parts of the brain. Rhythm, actual or imagined, activates areas of the motor cortex, crucial in synchronizing and energizing movement.

Why music can sometimes complement or even replace medication for serious brain anomalies is still a mystery, but it is still fascinating. In a subsequent interview about the book, Sacks addresses the correlation of music to brain development, stating, “Regular exposure to music, and especially active participation in music, may stimulate development of many different areas of the brain . . . In terms of brain development, musical performance is every bit as important educationally as reading or writing”. He references Daniel Levitin at this point, who wrote in The World in Six Songs that music has become more of a listening activity rather than a full-engagement activity: “music-making engages much more of our brains than simply listening”.

The 81 year-old Sacks recently disclosed his advanced ocular melanoma which has metastasized to his liver. His remaining time in this world is short, but his discoveries and advancements in the world of neuroscience will continue in the works of those he inspired and mentored. His latest book, On the Move: A Life, is set to release in May.

Homeschooling families, are you busy with lesson plans for a child between the age of birth to age 8?
Teachers, do you have a classroom of nursery or preschool students?
I would love to hear about your experiences in 500 words or less. You can be as anonymous as you would like to be, but at a minimum, I need to know the ages of the children, what material you're using, and your perception of how well the children are learning. If you are a business owner, I'd be happy to mention it and link back to it when I post your email.
I am religion neutral when it comes to quality education, so please feel free to contact me regardless of the program or lack of program you use.
As an added bonus, between now and the end of April, I will be giving away three $5 gift cards to Starbucks (you don't have to drink coffee to enjoy Starbucks). I'll give away one at random every thirty days or so to one homeschooling family or preschool teacher who contacts me with a story!
Click here to send me an email!
If you’ve read my first blog of 2015 or my about page, you know that music cognition is fairly recent, both as a field in itself and as a concept for me.  To best explain my choice to be a music cognitive with a passion for early childhood learning, I need to start with music.

My interest in music of multiple genres really started with Faith Hill's "Breathe" and Lee Ann Womack's "I Hope You Dance". Up until that time, I'd never heard of a "cross-over" where an artist will take her song, revise the arrangement, and introduce it to a new genre. Since then, I have switched among country, pop, R&B, hip hop, soul, and funk -- finding something in each genre that I have enjoyed.

In 2008, my passion for music intensified. The New Kids on the Block reunited, and Donnie Wahlberg willingly and eagerly introduced fans to the musicians who made up their backing band, the producers and songwriters who helped them create their music, and the artists with whom they collaborated. I learned more about instruments than I ever had before, like the “808” a term I’d heard in many lyrics but never could identify.

Whether in person or via social media outlets, I became intrigued with what happens behind the scenes, especially the required promotion and publicity to make songs popular, worthy of radio play, and necessary for creating a substantial fan base.

In April 2009 I took my first job in the entertainment industry as founder, station manager, and on-air personality of the online NKAirplay Radio. A history in communications helped significantly in this role, and I was given the opportunity to interview multiple musicians including trilingual Canadian R&B artist, Soul; pop artist of 98 degrees, Jeff Timmons; drummer, Chris Coleman; music director and producer, Rob Lewis; George Clinton bandmate, Lawrence LAW Worrell, and Irish hip hop artist, Shaymin. I stayed on with the radio station as their media consultant through the end of 2012 and am pleased to see the station continue to attract listeners and grow their playlist.

In 2011, I became aware of music cognition or the psychology of music. I read physician Oliver Sacks (the inspiration behind the movie Awakenings), Daniel Levitin (a one-time musician and record producer turned neuroscientist), and others to become more familiar with the subject. I knew a little of brain anatomy from my undergraduate course in human anatomy, but there was so much more to know. Neuroscience for Dummies became my greatest friend as did any book I could find on music theory. A background in educational psychology can only take you so far!

Finally, the fall of 2014 brought me face to face with the issue of early childhood education, a topic like brain anatomy that provided a little knowledge). I had no idea the problems that lack of early childhood education brought when children finally entered kindergarten and moved forward. I was shocked at the percentage of children unable to read when they reached third grade. National organizations such as “The First Five Years Fund” is doing its part to lobby the government for funds to expand access to early childhood education including free preschools. I applaud their efforts, but I want to work on a smaller scale. Until I am satisfied that children have access to the quality preparation they need to succeed at the k-12 level, I’m starting with the parents. I know that not every parent homeschools, but homeschooling programs provide excellent material that can be used by any parent or caregiver. And, parents and caregivers are their children’s first teachers.

Let me use my knowledge and my continuing acquisition of skills to help parents of any economical or racial background be those quality teachers that their children need, utilizing music as a fundamental part of those essential lessons.
In one of my previous blogs, I mentioned learning styles. This is one of the first learning theories I embraced and, as such, one of the hardest I’ve had to let go. I think it makes an excellent topic for my first in a series of myths and facts of music cognition and learning.

I love to follow Neurobollocks. This tweeter actively engages with other neuro-minded researchers to point out the fallacies, whether subtle or obvious, in neuroscience research.

Back in 2013, Neurobollocks retweeted a blog post on learning styles. The author of the blog had recently attended a neuroscience seminar and summarized his experiences. He also provided a link to a research study that not only debunks the educational practice of learning styles, first postulated by Howard Gardner, but also provides evidence that neuroscientists and educated educators need to continue spreading the word that the learning styles theory as a teaching method is a myth.

I’ll be using this research study article in this post.

So, let’s start with the basics for those of you unfamiliar with learning styles. Howard Gardner first postulated his theory that all individuals possess multiple intelligences and that some of those intelligences were stronger than others depending on the individual. From those seven multiple intelligences came three learning styles or strengths: Visual, Kinesthetic, and Auditory.

To further explain these three simple learning styles, consider a small child first learning about a wooden block that has letters or numbers etched on its sides.
The visual learner would only need to see the block and its various colored sides to understand this is a wooden block that has letters or numbers on it.
The auditory learner would perhaps better comprehend what this block was if he heard the thunk of the wood as the block hit the ground. Even more, if the teacher said each of the letters or numbers on the block, the child would learn that this is a block with letters and numbers.
Finally, the kinesthetic child would need to hold the block in his hands, feel the texture of the wood, the etchings on each side of the block, and the corners and points to best learn that this is a wooden block with numbers and letters.

The theory seems logical. Consider the fact that some students learn better than others. Think about how most instruction is presented – either aurally or visually. Could it be that the most successful learners are those that are auditory or visual learners and the ones that struggle the most are kinesthetic ones? I could follow that premise, and many teachers and parents have embraced the theory as well. Many college level courses for teachers instruct teachers to incorporate all three learning styles into their curriculum, and the US Department of Education talked about the theory's benefits during the last few years of the twentieth century and the first few years of this century; yet, this reform hasn’t really helped students.

It is important to understand that connecting neuroscience to education isn’t always a bad thing. However, neuroscientific research not successfully connecting to an educational setting doesn’t necessarily negate the truth of the research.

Dekker, Lee, Howard-Jones, and Jolles (2012) write, “visual, auditory, and kinesthetic information is processed in different parts of the brain” and “these separate structures in the brain are highly interconnected”.

While we may have preferences on how we’d like to learn, learning exclusively via those preferences doesn’t improve our comprehension. What this means is that education still needs to be presented to all senses, even those we think aren’t very strong.

For further reading:
Coffield, F., Moseley, D., Hall, E., and Ecclestone, K. (2004). Learning Styles and Pedagogy in Post-16 Learning. A Systematic and Critical Review. London: Learning and Skills Research Centre.

Dekker, S., Lee, N.C., Howard-Jones, P., & Jolles, J. (2012). Neuromyths in education: Prevalence and predictors of misconceptions among teachers. Frontiers in psychology, 3(429). 
In the field of music cognition as related to early education, there are no competing interests, unless you consider product manufacturers. I might talk about some of these products in future blogs, but today, I’ll begin with some collaborators.

The first is Daniel J. Levitin, PhD.

Yes, I’ve talked about him in previous blogs, so feel free to search his name along with; however, today, I’ll be looking at an interview he gave in 2012.

To give you a brief bio of Daniel Levitin, he is a musician turned record producer turned music cognition neuroscientist and author.

As a musician, he played with his own band and then worked with such artists and groups as Sting, Blue Oyster Cult, and Chris Isaac . As a producer, he worked with artists and groups including Steely Dan and Stevie Wonder. As a music cognition neuroscientist and author, he is professor
and researcher at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.

To date, he has written six books and authored or coauthored over sixty peer-reviewed research articles.

Okay, let’s get to the interview. You can click the links below to read the interview for yourself:
Dan Levitin, Q&A 1, Association for Psychological Science
Dan Levitin, Q&A 2, Association for Psychological Science

I greatly admire the work that Levitin has accomplished, but he tells readers his readers that he is “not a pioneer in the academic study of music. The scientific study of music goes back to Wundt and Fechner (in the 1800s) and Seashore (in the 1940s)”. I might take a look at these early researchers in a future blog.

While most people are drawn to music, Levitin explains that preference for genre or style cannot be tied to one single factor:
“Some of this is cultural, some of it is social, and some of it is personal taste”. Later he adds, “Part of it is what you’re used to, part has to do with emotional associates you hold for the different sensory experiences, and certainly part of it is a genetic propensity for preferring one kind of sensory stimulation to another”.

Perhaps most related to early education, Levitin touches on plasticity,
i.e., that period of child development where the brain is most open for learning new things. Levitin says, “I imagine that there is a critical period for music as there is with language, such that if no input occurs during that critical window, a person would never be able to make sense of music”. Then he goes more into detail. If his quote is a bit too complex, simply know that exposure to music at a young age is very much like exposure to speech. You learn the structure of a sentence by listening to sentences spoken around you. Similarly, you learn the structure of a song by listening to the tempo, rhythm, and tone. Also, like language, music is tied to culture. In other words, the different parts that make up a song in western culture aren’t the same as a song that is created in Africa or Asia.

Levitin explains, “That is, whether you’re raised listening to gospel, punk, country, heavy metal, jazz, or classical, the important point is that they’re all based on the same 12 notes, the same basic chords . . . That means that your brain is configured to understand that system, and to know what to expect in all of these musics and making a transition from classical to rock, for example, is easy in terms of the musical syntax. Our brains function like statistical engines that have calculated the probabilities of chord sequences for the music we were raised with. This leads to expectations and to the possibility of those expectations being either met or violated – the very basis of musical engagement”.

Finally, Levitin discusses long term memory. If you think of a song that was your favorite many years ago, even if you haven’t heard it in a very long time, I bet hearing it once today, you’ll easily recognize the tune and all the lyrics.

So, pause a moment, readers. Think back to your favorite song when you
were ten or eleven years old. Now search YouTube for that song. Were you able to sing it word for word? Or, maybe at least you knew the chorus? Did you move to the beat of the song? Perhaps tap your foot or nod your head? That’s also part of recognition. Now, think about when you first heard that song. Where you, and what were you doing? You’ll find that you not only remember the song, but you’ll also remember the happy or sad experiences you had at the age you first fell in love with the song.

Both long term memory and the similarity of learning speech and music is very exciting to me. As I explained in my previous blogs, it is imperative that children begin kindergarten with an idea of what determines a letter and what determines a number. They should also know basic colors and how to count to ten. If we are able to familiarize ourselves with music in the same way that we familiarize ourselves with speech, why not combine the two? If songs bring us back to certain memories in our lives, why not create environments for young children where they are excited, where they are somewhere that is fun and comfortable? During this indirect learning experience, children will learn basic concepts and be better prepared to succeed throughout both primary and secondary school.
I was not aware, but there are a significant amount of students who are not able to read by the time they reach third grade, or rather there are a significant number who can’t read at the third grade level. Why do education professionals look so closely at third grade? It is at this point that teachers no longer teach their students how to read but instead how to learn by what they’re reading. If students are unable to read, not only do they miss out on the very initial steps of reading to learn, but they continue to fall behind as they progress through school.

Such students are less likely to graduate from high school primarily because they struggle so much to learn in ninth grade where every class depends on extensive reading. Dropping out of high school, these students struggle to find jobs that provide a living wage. The end result is these illiterate individuals are more likely to receive government assistance.

And guess what? Lack of reading skills can be linked to early education. Of course, it’s not necessary to ensure that a three or four year old be able to read a book, but these children who are able to distinguish a letter from a number, who are able to recite the alphabet, and who can count to ten are better prepared to move forward to deciphering words and sentences whereas those who cannot do these simple skills before progressing to kindergarten and first grade begin at a remedial level. Teachers must spend extra time on these basics, and not every teacher will. Recognize that early child education is not intensive schooling. It is preparation to learn, and it is creating an excitement to learn.

Illiteracy affects a student’s self-esteem, concentration, and ability to function outside of school. One study cited that 90 percent of youths in prison could not read, 70 percent of imprisoned adults could not read above the fourth grade level, and as cited above 90 percent of those receiving welfare are unable to read.

I have found that early child education that encourages learning and prepares students to read is essential. Learning to read can begin as early as two or three years old and should be accomplished by the time the child is eight years old or has reached the third grade.

My goal is to use my passion for music cognition and follow the research demonstrating that music can be a component of both early education and the first years of elementary school; can help students with learning to read and calculate basic math problems; and should be an essential part of all forms of education as early as birth through at least third grade.
During one of my first classes in my master’s program in educational psychology, I interviewed one of the directors of University of Washington’s Institute of Language and Brain Sciences (ILABS). They look at what the youngest humans can and can’t do. At the time, I was really interested in second language acquisition, and I found an article published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences and coauthored by Dr. Patricia Kuhl, co-director at ILABS. This study examined 9 month old babies’ perceptions of foreign languages.

Children speak English because they are exposed to English language from birth. Similarly Children who are exposed to Chinese language will speak Chinese. It’s a combination of an innate ability to speak any language and the interaction a parent or family have with the infant.

These 9 month-old infants were exposed to sessions of five hours of Mandarin and later were able to perceive when they were hearing English as opposed to Mandarin. The control group, the infants who were exposed to five hours of English at the same time, were able to perceive the foreign language approximately forty percent less than the experimental group. You can find the article online to read about how this research was completed. I was fascinated that children so young had such a learning capacity, so I eagerly interviewed this researcher.

More recently, I followed the summit on early education in December 2014. I knew a bit about school readiness, and I could personally attest to the preparation I received by attending both nursery and preschool. This seminar, however, covered much more. Research demonstrated that students who attended a quality pre-kindergarten program had a greater chance of achieving far faster than their peers in spelling, reading, and math.

Longterm effects included a higher percentage of students graduating, owning homes, and earning higher income. Simply put, a program that focuses on preparation to learn is demonstrably successful. And, consider the benefit such a program would have on children whose first language is not English or whose parents never finished elementary or high school!

Unfortunately, many current school preparatory programs’ cost is prohibitive to low-income families. If the benefits of such programs are so great, why deny the least of these access? And, can these programs be improved or even standardized across the country?

Music cognition might be a new phrase for you. It was for me. I was working toward my PhD in educational psychology while working for an online radio station. I knew I liked psychology, research, and education, but I was also becoming passionate about music. I wanted to find a way to combine the four, but I just didn’t know how. Enter music cognition, or perhaps a better term, music cognition neuroscience.

I know that some people look at this term differently. There are those who look at music as a means to help neurological disorders. There are others who look at music as simply another way to view brain activity. And, then there are those like myself who look at the bigger picture, but who aren’t so much interested in neurological disorders. For me, music cognition neuroscience is looking at how music affects the brain, particularly the brains of children from age birth through age five, and how music can affect or influence learning. I’ll talk more about early education in another blog.

This field is still fairly new. Of course, most people in the education field look for new and better ways to help students learn. For example, Howard Gardner’s learning styles or multiple intelligences was quite the fad for a long time. I embraced the idea wholeheartedly and after taking the learning styles inventory, I found I was a kinesthetic learner. That defined me perfectly! I knew I had to do a project to learn the project. I later embraced another type of learning theory that incorporated Gardner’s primary learning styles with learning preferences (TIPP). I thought, wow, this is even better: not only does it define one’s learning style, but it also helps students with strategies for learning based on that learning style. I intended to explore the validity and reliability of TIPP for my dissertation, but before I could, research came in droves disproving learning styles. While it might accurately define some, it really didn’t define most. Further, it is nearly impossible for a teacher to craft her instruction based on one student’s learning style, let alone a majority learning style.

That’s the thing about learning theory. It is innovative and interesting. Some teachers immediately embrace it to help their greatest strugglers. But learning theory is a work in progress. Researchers are always learning new things through further studies and technology.

Right now, though, I feel music cognition has a steady stronghold in the field of education. I’m excited to see what they discover next, and I hope my name will be one of the bylines of that research project!

I'm not exactly sure when I subscribed to Quora, but this week's Q&A was exactly what I needed to read - so much so, that I thought it needed reposting.

A Quora user asked the following question: "I am ambitious, talented and intelligent, but I lack willpower, discipline, and organization. I am an impulsive procrastinator of the highest order. What can I do to improve?"

And, Shana Tiang provided the following answer:

I've been in this exact situation.

I have always had big ambitions and goals and clear direction, but I used to lack everything else that would get me there. I used to play a lot of video games, watch TV for hours and prefer just doing nothing to what I should be doing. I'd feel guilty about being lazy but the guilt was never enough to stop my bad habits.

Today, I hardly watch any TV and I never just sit around. I utilise every second I can to reach my goals.

It only took me about six months to get to this level of productivity from how I used to be.

What you need to develop is a drive, and the thing that jump starts a drive is passion. You need to be as passionate about your goals as you can be. You say that you're ambitious, so what exactly are your ambitions? Do you have a clear goal that you want to achieve?

And the big question, How much do you want it?

This is the thing that I couldn't answer well before. I wanted it, but how much? More than I wanted to relax, more than I wanted to sleep, more than I wanted that instant gratification? At the time, as much as I didn't want to admit it, the answer was no.

So, instead of reading self-help books (that I was too lazy to read anyway) or repeating positive affirmations, or taking practical action straight away, I started with something much simpler: I focused on my goal. In my own head, I began questioning myself, asking myself if I really wanted it. And I also began visualising the worst case scenario. What if I went through life and never made anything significant of myself? I believed myself to be talented; what if I let all those talents go to waste? What if I die with nothing to my name, no success, no recognition, no respect? All those outcomes absolutely terrified me (and they still do). And as they say "fear is the greatest motivator".

From the moment I realised that those outcomes terrified me, they would constantly be on my mind. And they grew. They grew into an overwhelming need to do something, right now. They became a source of very strong motivation. I would spend my whole eight hour work day thinking, questioning and imagining and leave work feeling so pumped to start my "real" work. At first those feelings of motivation didn't last very long and I would slip back into something lazy after being productive for a short while, but the thoughts were never far away, and they never failed to motivate me again. Over time those periods of motivation and productivity grew and grew and now I feel like I could be productive every minute of the day.

Looking back on how I was six months ago, I realise I am still very much the same person. I'm just as tired, just as ready to relax and just as in love with playing video games, but none of those things matter to me anymore as much as my goal does.

Picture your worst case scenario. How do you feel about dying the way you are now, lacking willpower and discipline? That you describe yourself as a "rubbish human" tells me that you hate your current mindset. The only way to get out of it is to do something. Every second you work away from the person you are now, you become closer to the person you want to be. The mind is a powerful thing and it can push you. I guarantee that if you want something enough, you will work to get it. The first step is just realising how much.
So, which will it be? California or Illinois?

I have always loved Chicago. In 2006 and 2007, I traveled there four times – twice for work and twice for school. It is an absolutely amazing city, and I loved being able to travel around and see the sites. In truth, I suppose it's not much different than any other big city, but from that time seven or eight years ago, I have felt drawn to the city. My ancestors passed through Chicago as they moved from the east to the west coast. I know almost nothing about them, except that their earliest records are of a child's baptism at a church that is still standing in Chicago. Perhaps that's the link I feel.

California, or more specifically, the Bay Area, is where I was born. I still have relatives there on my father's side of my family. I haven't seen these relatives in almost twenty years, and yet, we've stayed in touch through social media. It would be wonderful to fully reconnect. I have friends there from college, and maybe more important, it is close to what I consider my hometown – Reno. With all the changes I've experienced in the past twelve years, should I return to aspects of my past? That's where I'm hesitant. Yes, it would be wonderful to have connections wherever we move, but I'm not sure if I can reconcile my past with my present or even my future.

I've dealt with my ghosts and I've faced all my demons
Finally content with a past I regret ...

I've been burdened with blame, trapped in the past for too long
I'm movin' on

I've lived in this town,
And I know all the faces.
Each one is different,
But they're always the same.
They mean me no harm,
But it's time that I faced it
They'll never allow me to change,
And, I never dreamed home would end up where I don't belong.

That past I regret? It's not my crisis of faith, but rather my inability to resolve it. It's not the depression or anxiety, but what has happened to exacerbate it. I guess I could also include infertility as one of my demons. I was aware of the issue before I married. I never experienced that type of pain that comes with such extreme hope and extreme disappointment time after time until you just break. And, I thought life was difficult thirteen years ago! The depression still exists, but I am at peace about it. I realize that it will never go away, and like any chronic illness, it will flare up from time to time.

The blame? I realize I must finally claim freedom from those who chose to abandon me, no matter who they are, to wish them well, but stop wondering when they might finally want me back in their life. What point is there in waiting for them to change their hearts? And, why should I feel guilty or feel the blame for actions taken by others. I didn't cause the alienation. It is their burden, not mine. There are so many who have remained in my life, who have loved me for whom I have become, and have concerned themselves with my life. And, while I am reaching middle age, I still have to believe I have a purpose I've yet to claim. I've made my list of what I want to do, and now I must accomplish this list devoid of any more bad decisions – at least as I am able.

Home has such a different meaning for me now. It's so much more than just my hometown or where friends and family live. There are those, whom I know have good intentions, but would only wish to develop a deeper connection if I were a different person. I am continually learning and changing, and I like those changes. I realize not everyone is happy with those changes and wish I would revert to who I was before those changes happened. But, I choose to move forward, not backward. Unfortunately, I know I'm very susceptible to influence. Living among those who want me to be like them or fit a mold that they can accept would be detrimental to whom I have become. I can still love these people from afar and believe that they only want the best for me – "But, I never dreamed homewould end up where I don't belong".

So, Chicago it is. “Life has beenpatiently waiting for me”. Maybe I'll see my bucket list fulfilled. I know I will find more dear friends, and I know I can continue to change without regret or blame. And, hopefully, the only ghosts I'll see will be those of my ancestors telling me how their lives improved when they moved on. And by the way.... "I'm not alone" - not in any sense, not anymore.

It's been so long since I've written anything - wow, 9 months even!! - so this will probably be quite a bit of rambling. While I'm writing all of this in one day, for my readers' sake, I will divide it up into two blogs.

These last several months have been ones of contemplation and planning and looking toward the future, at least attempting to look toward the future. We've been living in the middle of nowhere for the past six months. I've been bored and lonely and incredibly tired. Today, in fact, I thought about going to bed at 2:30 pm after only driving to the post office and getting on the internet. But, then I thought what else could I do, and my mind told me to write.

I know it happens often, but I'm always amazed when a song holds a different meaning after several times of listening to it.

Thirteen years ago, I moved away from home after only being there for one year after college. College provided me a place of comfort and safety, and upon graduation, that comfort and safety was suddenly gone. I didn't really know how to create that for myself, so I tried to make it on my own. After facing two deaths, depression, anxiety, and a crisis of faith, I heard the song, Rascal Flatts' “Movin'On”. That song fit my life so perfectly. Home wasn't a place I belonged, and perhaps I could find that comfort and safety I craved in another town. There was one line that seemed to only make sense if you thought of it from a religious perspective - “And I know there are no guarantees, but I'm not alone”. Perhaps I should have thought about that line, but I was too focused on the rest of the song.

I really have no regrets about moving to Arizona. I met my husband there, and I bought my first house. And, I was able to serve my restless spirit by moving after a year and a half. And, now we've been in Washington for eleven years. It's difficult for me to realize that we've been here for so long. There were many times we considered moving, but the time just wasn't right. Now, in six to nine months, we will finally move somewhere else. My restless spirit is incredibly excited. And, I get to choose where we move next. I was able to narrow my choices to two states: California and Illinois. That's when I heard the words of Rascal Flatts' “Movin' On” again.

I barely recognize that twenty-three year-old girl who first left home and moved to Arizona. Looking back, it almost feels like she was running away, looking for anything that could make her happier than she was. True, home wasn't where she belonged, but the application of the rest of lyrics seems so weak now.

Washington gave me the opportunity to make some very close friends, to learn more about myself than I ever had before, to earn my Master's degree, and to make both very good and very bad decisions. In fact, the friends I've made here are probably the dearest ones I've ever had. I treasure them, their life experiences, and. of course, my willingness to learn from their experiences and wisdom. Despite the bad that has happened in the last several years, I am truly grateful for the person I've become.

Look for part two on Wednesday!

Depression has messed up my last two weeks. I haven't done any writing. Well, I haven't done much of
anything except read tweets, monitor Facebook, and sleep. Yes, I did celebrate Thanksgiving, but I think the only reason I did was because my stepdaughter was with us. Depression has just knocked me down, and it's different this time. In the past, when I've had a depressive episode, it lasts a few days, and I'm usually crying. I don't really cry, get angry or become frustrated anymore. I just feel numb. I feel like there really isn't a point to anything anymore. And I don't have any energy or motivation to do anything about it, which if you think about it is a good thing!

I'm reminded of one of my goals of 2013 - to work through the "to accept the things I cannot change" line of
the Serenity Prayer. Nope, I didn't really do that. And, the more I think about where I am whether due to my own actions, the actions of others, or actions beyond my control, I'm in a position I hate. I'm in a position where I think, what's the point? I need to move past this point, and some days I do. I listen to my music. I play a game with my husband or my stepdaughter. I write. I smile. I know that people say that I have a cute smile, and they love my laugh. I just wish sometimes it was more genuine than it feels. Thankfully, I have a husband who is a tremendous support and who understands that depression isn't just sadness but is actually a disease.

So for now, I'm still seeking solutions. In the last five years, I've been on seven different antidepressants
plus the over the counter Wellbutrin. I seem to develop a tolerance to every single one. Today, my doctor increased the dosage of my current one. We're going to give it another month before we discuss another change. My lovely insurance, which I thought would improve once I moved from state insurance to federal insurance (from medicaid to medicare), now creates a hardship for me to go to counseling. I haven't seen my counselor since September because first medicaid cut my insurance and then, once I became eligible for medicare, I need to pay a copay - a copay I can't afford. It's frustrating. I know there has to be alternatives... such as this afternoon.

I received a lovely massage from a graduate of the school where I once worked. It was excellent, so
fantastically thorough, and it left me feeling lighter than I've felt in a long time. The firm touch made me feel less numb, if that makes sense. This massage was a gift, which explains why I was able to get it! If I want to return for another massage, it will cost me $60/session. In my opinion, that massage was better than three weeks worth of counseling. I'm not exactly sure when the feeling will wear off, but I'd certainly like to be able to return for a massage once it does until my brain can figure out how to regulate its own hormones.

Sigh, well, this blog should be about writing, so let me conclude with telling you about my participation in NaNoWriMo and the New York Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge.

First, with NaNoWriMo or National Novel Writing Month, in November, I only succeeded with writing 9,000 words. I'm pretty disappointed. I hoped to get more written toward the end of the month, but the depression just wouldn't allow it. I'm still working on the novel, though. I won't give it up till it's finished; I just don't know exactly when I'll finish it!

I entered the New York Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge in August. My first
submission in September earned zero points. My second submission in October earned one point. The goal was to get near fifteen points with each submission, so I was eliminated. Still, with my one point, I finished in 17th place for my group! I'm content with that. The next competition is a short story contest, so I'm thinking about entering that as well!

I can't guarantee there will be a blog tomorrow, but let's hope so!
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