Why I Stand Up For Music: A Success Story

This post has really been a long time coming. I’ve toyed with the idea but was uncomfortable for a while with posting it online and never really knew how to word it until deciding to just start getting it on the page. Do you know why this blog is called “Day in the Life of a Backwards Musical Mind? Well today, I’m finally going to tell you.

Did you know?

Children who study a musical instrument are more likely to excel in all of their studies, work better in teams, have enhanced critical thinking skills, stay in school, and pursue further education.

Elementary age children who are involved in music lessons show greater brain development and memory improvement within a year than children who receive no musical training.

Learning and mastering a musical instrument improves the way the brain breaks down and understands human language, making music students more apt to pick up a second language.

When growing up I tended to get really frustrated in school because I couldn’t pick up concepts as well as the other students. The teacher would be moving on to the next thing and I would still be trying to figure out what was still in front of me. I had trouble wearing certain clothes, and even eating certain foods, I also had a lot of trouble in sports finding it hard to even catch a ball. When I was old enough it was finally revealed to me I had slow processing issues, a sensory disfunction (still can’t wear certain clothes or eat certain foods) and little fine motor control. Now, one would think that with all these obstacles put in my way it would be a little detrimental to my every day life, but with involved parents like my Dad who would work a full day and yet still have time to come home and play catch with his little girl before dinner, or my Mom who would sit down with me for hours to get my homework done I managed to make it through better than before.

What really began to make a difference in my life is when I was “forced” by my Mom to begin taking a musical instrument in forth grade. I use the term “forced” very loosely. It was more of “You want to play an instrument? Flute or Clarinet, 2 years minimum and if you want to continue great, if not I’ll understand.” Almost 15 years later my flute is still being played and I have music as another reason to thank for learning how to adapt and overcome obstacles I faced early on in my life.

Walking into music I was on a level playing field.

    In the classroom I might have been behind, but in music I was on a level playing field. It was a place I could excel if I really tried. In subjects such as Math or even Science you have a specific way to think about how to solve a problem, a lot of the time I would get stuck on a math problem because I had problems processing the original way to solve it so I tried to think of a different way..not all the time it would be correct. Overall subjects like math and science just became frustrating . In music, I could think of 500 different ways to play or listen to a piece and they could all be right.

  Music plays an important role in language. Similar areas of the brain are activated when listening to or playing music and speaking or processing language.  (http://scienceblogs.com/cognitivedaily/2008/06/19/does-music-help-us-learn-langu/ )

    Learning how to read and play music lead to helping my brain process language. I found the more I practiced my instruments and sang, the faster my brain adapted to processing conversations I would have and reading words on the page. It became a way to speed up those parts of my brain. I eventually was able to take the ways I read music and bring them over into other areas of my life to begin to adapt and overcome. I still can read a sheet of music faster than I can read a page in a book.

      Music also gave me a new found confidence which lead to so many other changes in my life.

  •       Music is unpredictable, while being use to comfortable surroundings knowing what was going to come next was all good. I began to be ok with making mistakes and throwing myself into uncomfortable surroundings. I still get nervous at certain new adventures but now know being uncomfortable is ok and things will become easier the second time around.
  •       Playing an instrument helped improve my fine motor control. The more I practiced my flute the better my fine motor skills became. It made me use my smaller muscles such as tongue and fingers on a regular basis. I remember going to PT, OT, and all the other Ts out there, playing an instrument was the best therapy.
  •   It helped me to persevere. When I didn’t get the song the first time I played it over and over again until I got it right, and that quality carried over into other parts of my life.
  •       And after a busy day, with so many insecurities, unprocessed things, and stress over uncomfortable situations. Coming home and closing the door to just sit and play provided needed solace to clear the things bouncing off in the white padded walls in my head.

  Music helped me overcome and adapt, it helped me grow up. When I began to study music education in college I had trouble getting through certain classes. All I had to do was remember what I had to do to get there and that’s all I needed to get through. Now as a music educator I find myself seeing the same qualities I had when I was younger in some of my students and remember how hard it was for me and how music was that relief, that strength I could build my confidence on. It allows me to relate and always have hope even for the tough ones.  With technology in the mix, it not only helps my students, but turns my weaknesses I still have and into my strengths.

     I stand up for music in the schools because it gave me so much. It pushed me over obstacles that were miles high, and showed me I could excel if I pushed myself. I’ve gotten so far so early in my life because of it and know there are so many students out there who can benefit from it just like I did. No matter what twists and turns my life will bring, I will always come back to music. Just like I stand up for it, it stands up for me.

What makes you stand up for music? What’s your story?


Receiving the TI:ME Teacher of the Year award from the amazing Amy Burns

Joytunes; Apps and Games to Get Kids Playing

So it has been a weird week, I just got back from Texas and this coming week is winter break. I have been really sitting in limbo.  It is truly difficult to teach anything new the week before break but since I just returned from another amazing TMEA conference I’ve been experimenting with a few  tech tools and different ways to use them in class. One being the Joytunes family of products.

Have you ever heard of Joytunes? They have a fantastic set of practice products for students learning recorder and piano.

I’ve found myself using these apps with my recorder students and my after school piano students all the time seeing great results in the process especially with their piano apps. The thing that makes Joytunes apps stand out to me is the way it recognizes real instruments allowing the user to control the game using a real recorder or a real piano. One of the arguments music teachers make when debating about technology in the classroom is that it takes away students experience with a physical instrument. What these teachers do not know is that with the advances in technology, that argument is no longer valid and using an app like the ones Joytunes provides with a built in microphone we can turn a piece of technology into a valuable practice tool.

With all of these tools, I have found ways to use them inside the classroom and outside. 

  • Playing Recorder Master as a class.
  • Having students play Recorder Master as an assessment logging their scores.
  • Practicing Recorder Master at home
  • Using Dust Buster or Piano Mania as a warmup or incentive tool for private lessons.
  • Having those students whom I can’t fit into my private piano schedule learn beginner piano at home using one of the piano apps.
  • Learning about different national anthems using the Piano Summer Games app
  • Printing out some of the free sheet music for my piano students or students who want piano music.

     The possibilities become endless.

    Have I peaked your interest yet? Are you trying to tell me you do not have an iPad? or maybe you can’t afford such a mystical tool. Head to joytunes.com where you can play the recorder games for free right on the website all you need to do is make sure you have a microphone somewhere on your computer. The website also offers free piano sheet music for beginner piano students!

To download the Free apps click on one of the following links below:

Dustbuster:  https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/id502356539?mt=8

Piano Mania: https://itunes.apple.com/US/app/id604699751?mt=8

Piano Summer Games: https://itunes.apple.com/app/id540759434 

Recorder Master: https://itunes.apple.com/app/recorder-master/id492065346

How do you get your students interested in practicing?



  Do you know how amazing this past week has been? I have been waiting for months to be able to head down to San Antonio for TMEA and meet up with wonderful people that I only get to see maybe once a year. Along the way I met up with so many new faces this year and  absolutely loved to see smiles when I presented my solo session and was even more thrilled to present with the amazing Amy Burns. You know what my favorite part was out of the whole week?

1622832_10100104981014447_2094006784_nI get to be a part of this amazing group

TOTYs! (Next year we need to do the Dr. Who inspired pic)

         What ever happens next year I will always be  inspired to push forward and continue to ensure students in the music classroom are receiving the best education with the help of technology, TI:ME is a group of leaders and innovators and I am proud to be a part of it . I am truly blessed to have so many people looking out for me. I cannot wait to raise the bar and push forward into the further. Next stop, my masters!

      If you’re sitting here saying “Man I am jealous, a great conference..AND 80 degree weather?” then start planning for next year and I will see you there! If you have never come to TMEA then you NEED to go next year! It is a must!! From the sessions, to the exhibitor booths (I hear that Quaver Music booth was pretty hopping), to going out and having dinner with long time friends you only get to see once a year is an event you can’t help but look forward to.

    Looking for session materials? Here are some from TI:ME members who have put theirs up online already:

1926865_10100104981328817_1545305678_nBack in the snow may stink, but this picture will remind me to keep smiling 🙂

Looking to the Left, gazing to the right and always staring forward

2 days have flown by here at TMEA/ TI:ME. I cannot believe I’ve been here for two days already and only have one more day..I might cry. It has been amazing, I’m not use to the attention being on me so being the TOTY this year has been really cool. We are really one big family and being down here is one big family reunion..why can’t we all work in the same school? It would make life so much more fun! Being the youngest TOTY is kind of fun too, it is very humbling to have so many people remind me of how much I’ve accomplished in such a short amount of time and it reminds me I’ve still got a long ways to go. Time to stand up and believe I am a leader and act on it.

(This is sort of a late night rant) It surprisingly still shocks me when someone I have just met judges me as a tech savvy high school/college student still. I graduated with my undergrads over 4 years ago…c’mmmoooonnnn people! I was sitting in my friend Amy Burn’s session yesterday and helped a woman download the Guidebook app for the conference. She was pleasant enough and thanked me before starting a conversation. We discussed how un tech savvy she was (her words) before she asked me which college I attended…I promptly excused myself to go see if Amy needed assistance with her projector and then came back and replied “actually I’ve been teaching 4 years, I’m presenting next.” Her jaw might have dropped a couple of stories with that remark. It got me thinking though, not many young people like myself are pushing themselves to do things like I am. I would say I might be one of the youngest presenters here. To me it becomes a challenge to get more young presenters out and about. We need more young leaders ready to step up for when it becomes time. There are not many my age around and it’s time to change that. We have just as much to say as the next person and should not be afraid to say it especially when it comes to technology. Why aren’t you putting in conference proposals? Why aren’t you involving yourselves in the important conversations? I’ve learned so much from just jumping in. It forces me to further my knowledge because I get to research it. My mind grows with every presentation I do or conversation I have.

it’s time to stand up and have a voice , won’t you join in?

Hey, have you heard of Technology Institute for Music Educators (TI:ME)? Check them out and join today ti-me.org .


TMEA Coloring Book

So I did one of these last year and was able to occupy my time and calm my nerves on the way down to TMEA, I figured..well why not again? The excitement and nervousness about heading down next week is starting to set in so I figured instead of going crazy to post some awesomely serious tech tidbits of information, why not do something fun? Below is the link to the PDF of the TMEA/TI:ME 2014 Coloring and Activity Book!  

TI:ME/TMEA 2014 Activity Book

Now here’s the challenge. I want to test the reach of this blog and dare you to think out of the box and not care who thinks you’re silly. If you print this book out, I want to see your artwork! Post a pic in the comments, Tweet me @musiccargirl14, Post a pic on my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Celticnovelist. I will repost the pictures in an upcoming post next week!


If you are heading to TMEA next week, I will see you there! I have two sessions at the TI:ME pre conference on Wednesday, will be accepting the TI:ME Teacher of the Year award on Thursday, and will most certainly be at the Quaver Music and TI:ME booths whenever I have a free moment! Come say hi!