Birthday’s and Growth

Many birthdays fall in the spring, and my calendar is literally chock FULL of them during the whole merry month of May. The day that we are born seems like an important occasion for anyone to celebrate. As we journey another year around the sun, my own May birth date has become a symbol of growth and renewal. With each passing year I try to be more appreciative of time on this planet—and that I actually get to live to experience another hour, minute, day, week, month, or whole year full of adventures.  The frustrations of this past year have inspired many changes in all of us: Black Lives Matter, environmental concerns, changes in many personal and business relationships and I THINK, made us more aware of one another and appreciative.

This is a song I sing and play when babies are born. It’s called “For Baby” But I always insert the name of the child I am singing to. It’s on my album “Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta BED”

The story of the “Happy Birthday” song is fascinating. It is the most recorded song in history and there are many versions of it around the world. Conde Nast Traveler shared this video highlighting how to sing birthday wishes in German, French, Spanish, Italian, Hindi, Bengali, Punjabi, Mandarin, Russian, Japanese, and more!

 

But who wrote the song, and where did the song come from? See below for interesting facts taken from an article highlighting the history of the two teachers who created it!

Facts about the Happy Birthday song:

  1. Supposedly, the song was written in 1893 as “Good morning to you, Good morning to you, Good morning, dear children, Good morning to all”, by two teachers Patty and Mildred Hill, to sing to their kindergarten children. When one of the children had a birthday, they changed the lyric from “Good Morning” to “Happy Birthday.”
  2. By around 1911, the word ‘birthday’ started to sneak its way into versions of the tune and on this day in 1924, for the first time, ‘Happy Birthday To You’ was written alongside the melody named ‘Good Morning to All’.
  3. It didn’t take long for the song to appear in films and on radio airwaves — entirely without royalties. In 1931, the lyric Happy Birthday appeared in the Broadway musical The Band Wagon.
  4. In 1988, Warner Music became the owners of the song and benefitted a reported USD $2 million in annual royalties. The Hill Foundation, set up in the sisters’ honor by another Hill sister, has collected half of all royalties since 1893, with some going to their nephew Archibald, after Patty’s death in 1946.
  5. Walt Disney had to pay USD $5,000 to use it in a parade and the royalties charge on a scene of Martin Luther King celebrating his birthday in the civil rights documentary “Eyes on the Prize” was so high that it never made it to DVD.
  6. The makers of the 2008 documentary “No Subtitles Necessary: Laszlo & Vilmos” about the Hungarian cinematographers, paid USD $5,000 to use the music in their film.
  7. Marilyn Monroe tweaked the lyrics to sing “Happy Birthday, Mr. President” for President John F Kennedy at a celebration of his 45th birthday in the year 1962. It has since become one of the most famous renditions of the song.
  8. Robert Brauneis published a paper in the year 2010, ‘Copyright and the World’s Most Popular Song’, bringing the Hill family’s ownership of the melody into dispute.
  9. In the year 2013, filmmaker Jennifer Nelson filed a lawsuit against Warner Music after they charged her USD $1500 to make a film about the song and include a clip of it.
  10. In 2015, a US judge ruled that ‘Happy Birthday to You’ is not under copyright. The ruling means royalties will no longer have to be paid to Warner Music for use of the popular song. Since Happy Birthday returned to the public domain, you can expect to hear it far more frequently in films, advertisements and TV shows.

Looking for a good Birthday song playlist? There are some fun options online that you should definitely utilize:

  1. Spotify’s Birthday Playlist: HERE
  2. Billboard’s The 24 Best Birthday Songs: HERE
  3. Birthday Song Playlist for Kids: HERE
  4. Spotify’s Top 40 Kid’s Party List: HERE

Throughout its short history, this little song has seen many smiling faces.  Here’s wishing you a very Happy Birthday on your special date of the year. And if you think of  yourself sitting in the Hill Sisters kindergarten, you’ll never grow up!

 

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Chasing The Shine

Anyone who knows me knows that the Spring equinox is one of my favorite times of year! The concept of brightness, light and shine holds dear not only in life but in my #Hunktabunkta Music. My last CD, Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta HOLIDAYS was a series of songs and stories that celebrate global light. With light, comes joy and with joy comes happiness. We can all use some more of that after this past year!

Celebrating Spring Equinox:

This year the first day of Spring was March 20th! The equinox occurs when the Sun crosses the equator, heading north. The crossing of the Sun into the Northern Hemisphere is what marks the start of Spring and the time where both day and night are almost equal in length! Once Spring is here, we get more SHINE into the later hours of our day!

 

Did you know?

  1. The spring equinox happens March 19, 20, or 21 every year?
  2. The equinox happens at the same moment worldwide.
  3. Day and night are NOT exactly equal during the equinox
  4. Based on our annual temp cycles Spring is actually March 1st– May 31st

Shift In The World:

This year’s start of Spring, marks our 1-year mark of COVID—a pandemic that has changed our lives. Many of us have been affected by sheltering in place, working from home, losing loved ones and friend, or adjusting our lives in other ways for an entire  year. That said, we are finally starting to see the LIGHT at the end of the tunnel. With vaccines being officially rolled out, we now have realistic hope of in-person gatherings and human connection. My collaboration and re-write of “In Our Hands” was something created in reaction to our life-altering change. I shared this video almost 1 year ago!

Written with my dear friend bonnie Nichols who lives in Soldatna, Alaska.

Earth Altars:

For the coming of Spring, the sense of hope and more light, I am grateful.  A few people created  “earth altars” and shared them on Zoom the first day of the Equinox to show gratitude for our planet, welcome the Equinox and celebrate  the warming weather. Earth altars can be made by anyone out of natural materials of our earth.  Here’s the one I created, and I encourage anyone to make an Earth Altar.

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SPOOKY #Halloween Activities & Tips During COVID Times

During these unprecedented times, we have all been forced to spend holidays, family times and celebrations a little differently. Yet we can still use creativity to ensure joy, fun, collaboration and SPOOKYness for #Halloween.

Creative activities: Right off the bat, get your family to read through my SPOOKY lyrics and create their own scary stories.
SpookyCoverUsing my song, Ooey Gooey Stew, set up a Zoom dance party and see what kind of moves you and your friends can make.

I’m re-sharing the article from HealthyChildren.org for some more ideas for #Halloween.

Virtual costume parties & parades:
Use video chats to hosts online parties with friends and family. Share recipes, make and show-off costumes, sing spooky songs, tell and act out stories and play games. Have fun! In cold climates, this may be the first time your child can wear a costume that doesn’t have to be hidden under a coat or parka! Outdoor costume parades or dance parties are another option if the weather is nice. If so, you can even bring your neighbors together, as long as you stay at least 6 feet apart and wear cloth face coverings with your costume.

Remember: Costume masks can’t replace cloth face coverings unless they have several layers of breathable fabric and cover the mouth and nose snugly. Since some paints contain toxins, be sure not to paint your Co-Vid mask.

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Spooky movie night:
Plan a movie night and dress as your favorite character/s in the movie. Do this as a family at home or encourage your child to watch with their friends while video chatting, with everyone starting the movie at the same time. Here is a great website with some good family-friendly movie suggestions.

Decorating pumpkins:
This is one Halloween tradition that is so much fun, as long as you are careful to avoid pumpkin-carving injuries. Instead of knives, children can draw faces with markers, and parents can do the actual cutting. When the carving is done, try rechargeable battery-operated LED lights inside the Jack or Jill O’Lanterns rather than actual candles. Save the pumpkin seeds, clean off the pulp, dry them out on a towel then roast them slowly in the oven from the pumpkin for a healthy snack!

Here’s a great tasting recipe for Pumpkin seeds:
1 cup dry pumpkin seeds (pulp removed)

½ stick unsalted butter

¼ cup soy or tamari sauce

Melt butter and soy/tamari together in small pan and mix in pumpkin seeds. Coat thoroughly. Pour all onto baking sheet. Roast slowly in a 300 degree oven, for 45-60 minutes or until dry and crunchy turning once or twice with spatula.

Halloween-themed treats to make as a family:

  • Pumpkin pizzas: Decorate pizzas with toppings in the shape of a jack-o’- lantern.
  • Fruit pumpkins: Using black markers, draw faces on the rind of an orange or tangerine. Then stick a thin slice of celery on top to look like a stem.
  • Caramel apples: Using a small deep saucepan, melt one package caramels in double boiler on stove. Stick popsicle sticks into apples and swirl each apple in caramel sauce. Cool on waxed paper.
  • S’mores: If you happen to have a fire pit or be by a grill, roast marshmallows, then make a sandwich by added the roasted marshmallow to two graham crackers covered with squares of chocolate.
  • Ghost toast:Use flour tortillas and cut them in ghostly shapes. Decorate the ghosts using white or cream cheese, red peppers, black olives and hummus. Broil briefly in the oven.
  • Kiwi spiders: Cut kiwi fruit in half and place cut-side down. Add 8 straight pretzels for legs. If your child is under 3, be wary of treats that can be a choking hazard.

Community events (hopefully outdoor)!
Look for community events focused on safety AND fun. These may include programs offered by a park district, arboretum, zoo or other outdoor venues in your area. Stay away from crowds and follow safe-distance rules even when outdoors. Try visiting a haunted forest, pumpkin patch, corn maze, zoo or botanic gardens and avoid haunted houses and enclosed spaces. Outside activities are safe as long as faces are covered, one-way walk-throughs are provided, and numbers of people are limited. If you think there may be screaming, make sure to allow extra distance. For outside activities, use reflective tape on costumes. Make sure shoes fit well and costumes are short enough to prevent tripping or contact with flames.

Remember:
Halloween during the COVID-19 pandemic is a chance for you and your children to get creative, and maybe even invent some new traditions! It’s also a great opportunity to model flexibility and a positive spirit. If you’re excited and make it fun, your kids will have fun, too. More importantly, this is a good time to teach children the importance of protecting not just themselves but others, as well. The decisions we make on this one day can have a ripple effect beyond our own families. Finding safe ways to celebrate can create magical memories.

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Tune Out to Tune In (or is it Tune In to Tune Out)? BOTH!

IMG_3493Tune out to tune in: Spending time in nature has always provided me with a sense of calm and total freedom–especially when there are no electronics/tech devices.  Do I REALLY need to tweet, make a phone call, respond to a text, read an email or look at the time?  These days tuning out is also an essential break from the stresses of COVID-19. The pandemic has limited our everyday social interactions, most “regular” activities and our ability to travel, and made it difficult to escape a wide variety of anxieties it can cause. Whether it be walking around the block, down an alley, through a vacant lot, for miles around various neighborhoods and parks, hiking up mountains or camping out for a day or two, nothing feels quite as soothing as tuning into our natural surroundings. Tuning out of our normally noisy zones allows us to tune in and reconnect with the mind, body and soul. My husband and I  just returned from riding “The Thorofare”in Yellowstone National Park– a 9 day horse pack trip through 90 miles of wilderness. On day 4, we were the furthest we could be from any road or community in the entire lower 48 states.  Surrounded by the sounds of rivers rushing, creeks gushing, campfires popping, horse hooves clopping, night owls hooting, crows looting, raindrops pattering, lightning cracking, wind roaring and horses snoring, my mind tuned into our astounding world and it’s myriad symphonies.

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Clearing:  When you are surrounded by wilderness as far as you can see, you can completely clear your mind and focus on the present moment. You are immediately woven into the magical web of life.  Disconnecting from technology, media and outside worries and tuning into nature allows us to reframe our priorities and truly appreciate this planet we call home. Practicing meditation, listening, journaling, focused breath work, Yoga, QiGong, or Tai Chi can all help us tune in and appreciate the present. Yet it’s always the peace beauty and harmony of wilderness that pulls me into it again and again.

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Returning to urbanity: With schools re-opening soon and/or teachers beginning online lessons, parents are forced to take a more active role in education. It’s a hectic time, so even more important to surround ourselves with things that bring joy, comfort and peace. For me, getting outdoors provides all of that and more.  Block-off time each day to go for a walk outside, take a hike, run like the wind or just sit quietly under a tree or in a park. Be outside, notice and appreciate.

IMG_3618In wilderness there are infinite worlds like this giant dandelion ready to spread its seeds.

 

IMG_3648All the logs on this park ranger’s cabin were clawed by grizzly bears!
IMG_3663Yellowstone Park contains some of the most fascinating geologic and seismic regions in the world.  Much of the park is full of steaming, bubbling or exploding “geysers.”  Geysers are formed by pressurized underground springs that erupt sending water jets and steam sometimes hundreds of feet in the air.

 

IMG_3667Standing on this bridge made us realize we were about to return to all we had tuned out during the last nine days.  I already miss the sounds and sensations I found in the wilds–oh and my trusty horse Leo too!  I can’t wait to tune in again.

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Here are some good links for horsepack trips, camping, camp songs, equipment and other wilderness experiences:

https://www.top50ranches.com/blog/pack-trips-on-horseback-best-horse-trekking-holidays

https://duderanch.org/blog/2018/11/03/6-horseback-pack-trips-you-dont-want-to-miss

https://www.top50ranches.com/blog/pack-trips-on-horseback-best-horse-trekking-holidays

Ultimate Collection of Camp Songs

How to camp with your dog and safely avoid COVID-19

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Let’s GO! (Camping)

Tent_camping_along_the_Sulayr_trail_in_La_Taha,_Sierra_Nevada_National_Park_(DSCF5147)

My dad was my role model when it came to outdoor life.  Whenever we would go anywhere outside, he’s say “Let’s GO!” Summer is a time for bringing families together and sharing adventures. This extra layer to all of our lives– COVID– is leading us to use our imaginations and getting out of our houses and into the great outdoors.  One of my favorite summer activities is camping.  So… Let’s GO!

Here are some fun ideas you can do before, during and after you camp:

    • Prepare!  Figure out where you want to go and for how long.  Maybe it’s outside in your own or a neighbor’s yard for an afternoon nap. Or maybe it’s a real camping trip for one or more nights.  If you google “places to camp near me” you will be amazed at what pops up on the internet!  Find a new park and or a campground that you have never been to! Plan a road trip to a beautiful spot you can enjoy and car camp.  Or better yet: locate public use lands via this link.  There are tons of  resources out there.
    •  https://www.usgs.gov/news/mapping-public-lands-united-states
    • Plan what you’ll need.  How far are you traveling and for how many nights?  What kind of activities will you be doing once you get there?
    • REI offers this link for beginning campers.  You definitely don’t need all the items they suggest and probably have quite a few of them.  If not, I bet your neighbors to!  No matter what make sure to follow this Girl Scout Motto: “Be Prepared.” You never know what might happen on an outdoor adventure!
    • https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/camping-for-beginners.html
    • Try to find a site that is close to water! A river, beach, lake or a creek will do the trick.  Cool off and dip your toes in or take a dunk.
    • Locate a flat place where you can pitch your tent.  Gather wood for a fire pit and ring the area with some large stones, or set up a kitchen/cooking area for your camp stove.  (Some campgrounds provide firewood and fire pits and even grills.  Be SURE to store all food and garbage in your car or hang it between two trees high up on a rope, because wildlife (particularly bears) LOVE human food and will be sure to find it.
    • “The Very Scary Hairy Bear” is a song I wrote that was inspired by one of my first camping trips.
    • Leave ABSOLUTELY nothing except footprints when you go.  Carry EVERYTHING tiny scrap of paper, gum, food, etc. out with you.  My good friend who is a park ranger even covers her footprints by swishing a pine bough over them.
    • Now it’s time for even more fun:  What can you do without a cell phone, iPad or computer? Hmmmmm.   Zoom into nature. That’s what! Here are some ideas:
    • Make a hiking stick.  Find a tall straight stick, remove the extra twigs and take a hike.  Find animal trails and wonder where they go and what animal made them.
    • Have a scavenger hunt! What can you discover? Have each person in your family make a list of 5 things they see.  (Ant hill, bird nest, animal footprint, unusual rock, flowers blooming, tree stump, etc.). Then have everyone pass their list to someone else.  Go through the list and see if you can find what your other family member did.
    • Notice the ways light changes during the day.  See if you can tell the time of the day and what direction you are facing by looking at the shadows under trees.
    • Listen to the beautiful music in nature that’s all around you:  water gurgling, chipmunks chattering, squirrels scurrying up and down tree bark, bees buzzing, birds tweeting, wind whistling, trees creaking, etc.
    • Choose a rock or fallen tree to sit or lie on and “read a book.” Some of my favorite places to go and to travel are found inside books, like this song from Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta BOO-2, “Read a Book.”
    • Build a campfire.  Sit around it together and share stories and sing songs. Here are some good camp songs to sing around the fire.  What are some of yours?
    • https://www.care.com/c/stories/3343/50-great-camp-songs-for-kids/

      8 Easy Camp Songs to Teach Kids This Summer

    • https://www.songsforteaching.com/campfiresongs/
    • Watch the very dark night start to brighten! Without city lights in wilderness, the universe is even bigger than we can possibly imagine.  Look for shooting stars and make a wish if you see one.  Learn some of the shapes stars make called “Constellations.”
    • This song is from my newest CD, Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta HOLIDAYS Songs and Stories that Celebrate Global Light  called “Stars”. I never get tired of looking up at a black starlit night, imagining what other forms of life there might be and being completely awestruck at lifee on our own tiny planet. As we know it, the cosmos is beyond our comprehension.  However, each of us has important work to do while we are here.  So– Let’s GO!
    • Let the sounds of the night rock you to sleep.   You might hear an owl hooting, coyotes howling or frogs croaking. Listen  They have important work to do too!
    • Wake up early and watch the sunrise!

Need advice on camping with the kiddos?

https://www.nps.gov/subjects/camping/camping-with-kids.htm

https://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/camping-kids.html

 

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The Sounds Of Summer

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With the current seemingly chaotic events happening all over our planet, there is more time to walk and play outside, slow our minds down and enjoy listening to the sounds of Summer– one of my favorite FOUR seasons (Hahaha)!  My latest CD Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta HOLIDAYS Songs and Stories that Celebrate Global Light, has several songs on it that celebrate the sun.  Humans could not exist without the sun, so here’s a song about the sun and the impact it had on our ancestors—and still has on us today.

This week, June 20, 2020 marks the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere:  Summer Solstice.  So let’s discover some of the sounds of summer!

Birds chirping: What is your favorite bird? Can you recognize its sound? I love the way birds communicate! They each have their own language that translates into beautiful music and song. If you were a bird, which one would you be? Watch this video to learn about some of the different species and their sounds:

Bicycles Whirling: In the Summer, fresh air is the BEST! One great way to go outside and be active is biking! I love to bike through different neighborhoods, parks and on mountain trails and to feel the wind rush by all around me.  I especially like the whirling sounds the wheels make as they roll over different textures of dirt, mud, gravel and pavements.

Splashing Water: When the temperature rises, it’s time to head for the cooling comfort of water.  Maybe it’s a bucket of water in your backyard.  A public pool.  A mountain lake.  A bathtub.  A puddle from a sprinkler. It makes no difference. Whenever you are close to water, what sounds do you hear? A dog or cat lapping water? The quiet splash of the perfect dive? The loud BOOM of a belly flop? Giggling and gurgling? The pitter patter of kicking legs? Water provides a great stage for summertime sounds.

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Rain Falling: Sometimes Summer brings rain. The sound and smell of rain hitting pavement is unforgettable. As the droplets fall, they create their own melody and rhythm. Often, rain sounds are used to calm the mind, focus thoughts and even put people to sleep. What effect does the summer rain have on you? Check out this video to experience the sounds of rain:

Go Outside and Listen: What sounds will you be listening to on June 20, 2020?  Happy Summer, and let’s all start to listen more intently to the amazing sounds around us. Happy Solstice!

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Collaborations! Teamwork works!

This month when being socially isolated feels like a very old new normal, more and more people are connecting with others digitally— to learn, work, work out, play and communicate.  Where the world was once all about making personal connections through face-to-face   contacts, it’s now screen-to-screen or mask-to-mask at a healthy distance.  Although it can often be frustrating trying to learn new technologies, those who have digital access are incredibly fortunate. And this new world is opening up channels, relationships and ways to collaborate that we never knew existed.

Throughout our lives, almost every relationship we have is based on collaboration and teamwork.  Communication is collaboration. My first musical collaboration (apart from musicians), was with a total stranger.  Bonnie Nichols lived in Alaska, and I in Nashville. Aaron Brown, a publisher told her to call me, and we wrote an entire album of songs over the telephone. Let’s call that a team of three.

Example #1 Bonnie (co-writing from afar) (The Attack of the Midnight Snacker)

The Attack of the Midnight Snacker

A few years later, Diane Bachelor, an educator from Alabama, asked if she could develop skill-building activities based on first album. We wrote an activity guide and presented workshops together at many early learning childhood conferences throughout the US. Thanks to her and that collaboration, the educational impact of my songs grew exponentially. It was a great team.

Example #2 Diane Bachelor (activity guide)

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Then there are the TWO artists who has created ALL my album covers. Mathew McFarren. He totally captured the essence of each album, and lives in Ohio, and the graphic artist, Ken Maynard, who added all the text, lives in Tennessee.

Example #3 Matthew McFarren (Art) & Ken Maynard (Copywriting)

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You get the idea! There are 9 more.

And what about the attorney who helped me trademark my great great grandmother’s work, “Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta”? That collaboration allowed me to win a lawsuit against ToysRUs!

Example #4: Trademark

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My latest album “Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta Holidays Songs and Stories That Celebrate Global Light” won a Parent’s Choice Gold and a National Parenting Products Award, thanks to the solid collaborations with James Coffey an outstanding producer and publicist Beth Blenz-Clucas. And WAIT!  James lives in Indiana and Beth is in Oregon.

Example #5: Creation of Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta HOLIDAYS

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Example #6 Kimbra Brookstein (Social Media Manager)

Collaborating from home and anywhere you are, is possible and successful!  For over 7 years my Social Media Manager Kimbra Brookstein has been based out of California.  All she needs is a computer plus the real scope of her role requires that she understands my voice, my craft, my target audience and how/where to provide valuable content to my audience.  Over the course of our partnership we have ensured opmechs that make this partnership a success from afar! This includes weekly conference calls to stay up to date with new projects and shows, a set of technology tools that provides access and scheduling of our content, and continuous research of best practices. We build our connections over the phone and send frequent updates via email.

social-media-manager

 

I am so grateful for the wonderful teams of people that have collaborated in the creation and continuation of my songs and brand:  Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta. Think about all the ways YOU can and do collaborate.  Maybe it’s making dinner together with a family member, or talking with a friend who is down in the dumps, creating a piece of art, music or a craft.  Heck—even the material and stuff you are using is a collaboration.  Go Teamwork!

 

 

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Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta COVID-19 Resource List For Parents + #InOurHands Music Video

My friend Bonnie Nichols Music and I re-created this popular song #InOurHands to address COVID-19. We hope it brings you joy and we hope you share! #InOurHandsCO #InOurHandsAK. Lyrics below:

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Katherine Dines AKA Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta™ sends out love, light, good health and positivity during these uncertain times. COVID-19 is a virus that’s affecting all of us throughout the globe. It’s experiences like these that allow us to appreciate our loved ones and the extra times we get to share even more.

The new buzz-word at the moment is “hunker” a word I used to see in children’s books. Because there is a lot of mis-information out there, stay safe by following all of the guidelines provided by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Huddle together, BUT make sure to stay 6’ apart, so not too closely!!! Wash your hands for 20 seconds and sing, hum or whistle your favorite tune. Using soapy lather and warm water, scrub all parts of both your hands including:  front, back, between all fingers, the fingertips and fingernails.  And do it frequently.

Take walks and play outside, and do what you can to help others who are less fortunate. In every city and state, there are people in need, and there are lots of ideas. Here are a few in CO:

https://www.alittlehelp.org

https://nextdoor.com/g/jgnt2hqpn/

If your kiddos are going bonkers and driving you there too, make sure to follow a daily schedule.  It will help!   Make time for walks and hiking.  (Don’t visit playgrounds where contact with other children is inevitable).  Here are some interesting links and resources of free education, shows, family activities, fitness and more.

Aggregated Documents:

Music & Activities:

Education:

Parks, Zoos & Aquariums:

Yellowstone – https://www.nps.gov/yell/learn/photosmultimedia/virtualtours.htm
Access Mars – https://accessmars.withgoogle.com/
Monterey Live Cams – https://www.montereybayaquarium.org/animals/live-cams
Atlanta Zoo (Panda) – https://zooatlanta.org/panda-cam/
Houston Zoo – https://www.houstonzoo.org/explore/webcams/
Georgia Aquarium – https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/beluga-whale-webcam/
Georgia – Beluga – https://www.georgiaaquarium.org/webcam/beluga-whale-webcam/
Canadian Farm – https://www.farmfood360.ca/

Until next time, stay safe, positive, hunker together, and enjoy this precious time.

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Making Music “Then” vs. Making Music “Now”

Lately I’ve been pondering how music and the music making process has changed over the years. As an “indie” (that’s short for “independent”– meaning someone who isn’t connected to a specific record label or publisher), song writer, musician, writer, producer, publisher and performer with 25+ years of experience,  I’ve seen some incredible  changes in: 1) lyrical content  2) the recording process, 3) sound mixing 4) how listeners consume and experience music  5) music marketing and distribution, and… even more!

Then Vs. Now

1. Songwriting. One of my first lyrics written in 1991, features a mom at home, and a dad going to work. That’s not happening these days. Mom could be the bread winner, or there might be two moms, or both partners could be working. Writing songs and paying attention to current themes, is super important.  Our human population continues to evolve.  15 years ago I could cite “Three Blind Mice” as a nursery rhyme to introduce one of my new songs about mice.  Everyone knew that rhyme.  Not anymore!  There isn’t a school I know who would teach that rhyme, because a “farmer’s wife cut off their tails (of mice) with a carving knife”….   Now we are all about, pollution, kindness to animals, human rights, sexual equality and diversity, cultural diversity, what families are, and how people work, and new words and expressions in our vocabularies are just a few of the changes that effect song lyrics.

2. Recording Music.  11 of my 12 albums were made in studios using live musicians.  My first in 1990, required 1/2 tape, which I JUST had transferred to a digital disc, because after 20 years,  tape has a shelf-life and will start to disintegrate. I made my latest album digitally, by sending all my tracks from Denver back and forth to an incredible producer who lives in Indiana!

3. Listening to music.  My first musical WOW was listening to Joni Mitchell’s vinyl album in my friend’s back yard.  I loved reading along to the lyrics on the album cover, and wore the needle of my record player out listening. Or what about my car when it used to eat my cassette tapes.  SOOOOO frustrating! Or having to throw away a CD because it was scratched, or the player kept kept kept repeating or skipping. 10 years ago I got an iPod classic and have used it faithfully to perform. Yesterday I did a show and didn’t have it with me, so used my phone and BlueTooth to get the tracks.  No cords required!   And when I’m cooking, there isn’t anything better than saying: ALEXA, play Reggae, or Pop, or Jazz, World, Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta of Katherine Dines!!! Alexa… LOUDER!

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4. Creating sound effects. Old-time radio and stage productions created sound effects for audiences by playing various objects. For example: the clipping clop of a horse’s hooves were made using coconut shells and a crumpling up paper made a crackling fire.  Many of these sounds were recorded and the same sounds were used hundreds of time.  Now thousands of unique sounds are available digitally and can be “looped” to play over and over again whenever needed. Need an angry cat?   How about water going down a drain?  A pitchfork, ice in a glass… etc.   It’s gotten so perfect that you can define what kind of a glass that ice is clinking!  Pitch, tone and tempo can all be changed instantly with a tiny click, pedal or switch.

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5. Music as an Industry.   Musicand music-makers have been around as long as humans have.  It’s part of every culture.  Yet, it’s fairly new as an industry. In the early 50’s  artists would literally fill the trunk of their cars with their new records and drive around the country delivering them to various radio stations, hoping to get the DJs to play their songs.  Many hits were born from that technique.  Then television changed everything.  Record labels formed and got into the act of making money from selling music.  They started doing the distribution but also charging the artists for that “service.”  Some labels even sent media stations expensive gifts hoping to “buy” their artists a top spot on the charts.  And up until about 10 years ago, artists, and songwriters were paid a royalty each time their song was played on the air, and for each record sold.  If it became a hit, it was even pretty good money! I used to sell a cassette tape/booklet in a slick package at concerts and in stores for $25, and I sold a lot of them!  Then it was CD’s and booklets, (l love including lyrics), for $15,  then just CD’s for $10 (to keep up with amazon pricing), and today as of 2020, people have stopped purchasing actual products and prefer streaming. There is so much great music in so many different genres available through so many sites, and everything can be instantly downloaded, shared, and “had for a song” — or, practically for free. A song that is streamed and listened to 1000 times will earn a songwriter a little more than $4.oo.  So today we are in a time when working hard to earn a living by simply writing songs, is close to impossible, unless you are Billie Eilish!  And  IMO, most genres other than country and pop are considered “underdogs.”  in 2020 new parents have so many musical and media options, that plain ole’ “children’s music”has moved even further down the list.  Still I am fortunate to be able to do what I love and love what I do.

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Who’s Your Mentor? #NationalMentoringMonth

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Did you know that January is National Mentoring Month? With the new year and a new decade launched, it’s a perfect time to think about both your personal AND professional goals. As an artist who is always trying to evolve, I often ask myself, “How can I improve my craft?” and “Who do I admire that I can learn from?”

Mentorship is a way to manage your own learning process, improve your skills and get a unique perspective from a trusted resource! In my journey as a singer, songwriter, musician, producer, performer and teaching artist, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor others and give back to an industry that I love. I have critiqued songs for people; helped them understand the importance of branding, publishing and protecting their works through copyrights; brainstormed marketing ideas; honed their performance, teaching styles and practices, and encouraged better connections through social media.

Although I have helped many people as a mentor, and I have grown exponentially by observing and admiring my peers, I personally have not ever had one! Mostly I have honed my skills in a somewhat “ghostly” way, preferring not to bother or add to anyone’s work load.  But for sure, don’t follow that model!  All anyone has to do to find a mentor is identify someone you admire and trust and then ask. The only possible outcomes are a no, maybe or yes, so GO for it!  Don’t deprive yourself of a huge growth spurt—and the amazing richness a mentor or new set of ears can bring to your work. And—don’t forget to approach different people with different skillsets as mentors.

Here are “5 key characteristics that make a great mentor “(as provided by the mentoring platform- Chronus).

  • Inspire – What makes mentors effective may very well rest in the ability to inspire their mentoring partners. By setting an example, you may be able to motivate your partner towards future paths that are beyond his or her original dreams. Challenge your partners to find importance in what they aspire to do. Help your partners create a future vision.
  • Be an Active Listener – A sign of good listening is that your partners feel they have been clearly heard and understood. Your partner feels accepted and puts more trust in the mentoring relationship. One form of active listening is remembering or showing interest in things your partner mentioned in the past.
  • Share Similar Experiences – Mentors are not expected to be superheroes. Most of the time, they are people who have already experienced situations similar to those their partners now face. By sharing your experiences, you can help your partner feel more empowered to deal with challenges successfully.
  • Provide Corrective Feedback in an Encouraging Manner – It is not easy to take feedback well. However, hearing it in a motivating and encouraging tone can help your partner accept and apply feedback readily.
  • Speak of Your Mentee in Positive or Neutral Ways – Your partner needs to trust that your discussions are confidential and that the mentoring relationship is mutually supportive. When speaking of your partner to others, provide only positive or neutral comments.

A fun piece came out the other week titled “Overlooked no more, Margaret McFarland, Mentor to Mister Rogers.”

Important #NationalMentoringMonth Dates:

  • 1/8: “I am a Mentor” day
  • 1/17: International Mentoring Day
  • 1/30: #ThankYourMentorDay
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