• Five Fat Turkeys

    This is my version of Five Fat Turkeys which I adapted slightly to be a counting song from 5 -1.  Warning:  this song WILL get stuck in your head!

    C            G              C

    Five fat turkeys are we.

    C                      G            C
    We spent all night in a tree.

    C                                    G                        C                  G
    When the cook came around, only one could be found

    C                   G               C
    And that’s why we’re here you see!


    Four fat turkeys are we… etc

    Three fat turkeys are we….

    Two fat turkeys are we….


    One fat turkey, that’s me!

    I hid all night in a tree

    When the cook came around, I couldn’t be found

    And that’s why you won’t eat me!


    Music from:


    I also teach the melody by rote to some of my piano students.

    You can find a cute visual book to accompany the song (Free via Google Docs) from:


  • If You’re Thankful and You Know It

    Well, it’s finally here!  My favourite month.  Thanksgiving (for us Canadians at least), my birthday (!) and then Halloween.  I have about two hours worth of Halloween songs that I love to do with my clients, but this year I needed to beef up my Thanksgiving songs!  It took me a while to search all of these up so I hope that these posts will save you some time.  I decided it would be easier to split each song up into one post so be sure to check out all posts under Holidays – Thanksgiving!


    If You’re Thankful and You Know It (to the tune of Happy and You Know It)

    C                                          G
    If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your hands.

    If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your hands.

    F                                C
    If you’re thankful and you know it, then your face will surely show it.

    G                                C
    If you’re thankful and you know it, clap your hands.

    This song is pretty self-explanatory… you can do stomp your feet, shout hooray, say thank you, and/or eat some turkey (gobble gobble).  I also ask each client one item that they are thankful for and insert it.  I said I was thankful for the music so we sang “If you are thankful for the music clap your hands!”.  TWO of my clients in one session both said they were thankful for me. Ah shucks!!

  • World’s First Autistic Choir

    I am so excited to share this post today!

    Coming out of Malaysia is a choir specifically for children with autism to show that when given a chance children with Autism have unlimited potential.  The charity supporting this choir is called Kidzcare. I will let the following video speak for itself!

    I am not surprised that the choir sounds amazing.  In my work with kids with Autism they constantly show an amazing understanding of pitch.

    A lot of the kids I work with are somewhere on the very broad Autism Spectrum.  Quite often, I recommend adapted music lessons rather than music therapy for these kids, as their musical abilities are or have the potential to be quite sophisticated.  Adapted lessons also reach a lot of the goals we want to work on with them: self-esteem, independence, listening skills and following an external stimulus (the beat).  Plus, it doesn’t hurt that learning music increases language and mathematical skills!

    I started noticing that a lot of my adapted music students who have Autism have absolute pitch (also known as perfect pitch) or something very close to it.  Absolute pitch is defined as the ability to accurately identify a given note in the absence of any other notes.  This means I can play one note on the piano (or any instrument for that matter) and the student, without knowing the key or hearing anything else, can tell me which note I am playing.  I started to wonder if this was because perfect pitch is actually more prevalent in Autism – or were we just seeing musical kids because we are a music studio?  Had parents found us because they noticed their child’s musical abilities or we were seeing a microcosm of a larger trend in people with Autism?

    Research shows that both people who are blind and people whose first language is a tone-based language (like Mandarin) DO have a higher prevalence of perfect pitch – actually much higher than the general population.  I went on a search for research to back up my suspicions of this being true for people with Autism.  It seems to be universally accepted that people with Autism do have perfect pitch a lot of the time, especially musical savants and people with higher-functioning Autism.  A lot of the research, however, is qualitative (based on one individual) or focuses only on higher-functioning savant-like participants.  One good (but slightly dated) article I found that compared a group of people with Autism to a neuro-typical control group was:

    Bonnel, A. et al. (2003) Enhanced Pitch Sensitivity in Individuals with Autism: A Signal   Detection Analysis. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 15-2, 226-235

    They found that people with Autism DID score better than the neuro-typical group in identifying and categorizing pitches, suggesting that people with Autism not only have enhanced visual processing, but most likely also have enhanced auditory processing.

    This could be one explanation why music therapists are having success using a technique called Melodic Intonation Therapy with pre-verbal children with Autism.  MIT is usually reserved for working with stroke-recovery patients, using pitch repetition to not only recover speech, but also teach the correct intonation.

    So, with our perfect or almost perfect pitch students, we are seeing a great propensity to quickly memorize songs and pick out melodies on the keyboard.  Even with one of my lower functioning clients, his memory for pitch surprised me.  One day I sang a new hello song to him, and had him sing along.  Two weeks later, without hearing it again, he picked out the melody on the piano!

    One challenge of working with kids with such good ears is that they want to rely on this talent because it is easier for them to play a song by ear than read the sheet music in front of them!  A lot of these same kids have trouble reading in school, and so a big goal is to get them to read sheet music as it increases visual tracking skills.

    Even with some challenges, having such a good ear is an amazing talent and I’m so glad these kids get to show off all of their hard work at the year end recital!

    It makes me so happy to see that Malaysia has obviously figured it out – music really is the key to unlocking the potential for children with Autism!


  • Summer Success

    What a summer!  I can’t believe it is almost over.  My two week long summer camps were a huge success.  One of our participants has NEVER participated in a full day, week long program… and he did both weeks!  He started last fall in my two hour a week musical theatre class.  Prior to that, he had attended school for a maximum of an hour and a half per day.  The funny thing is I would have never known that this was a huge achievement for him as he was so relaxed and positive all week!  Luckily, his mom shared her perspective with us, writing a story about how great Semiahmoo House Society and the fine arts programs have been for her son.  Take a minute and read her and her son’s story (and she just happens to be a published author!):

    “Two Little Miracles Merging Together

    Last Friday, I had the delightful experience of sitting with other guests, in the main foyer at Semiahmoo House, as a most amazing group of young adults assembled before us. They were dressed in a mixed array of tangled wigs, glittery bits of costuming, shorts that were crazy-coloured and too small (but definitely set the mood), and even rolls of candy strategically dangling from one young woman’s shoulders and chest. Of course it took only a moment to recognize that she was a very cool rendition of colourful Katy Perry!

    My only disappointing moment was in watching their music video for “Poker Face!” Why did I not ever interpret that song that way? Ha, ha…. ‘Poke HER Face’ and there they were, poking the Semiahmoo Gaga’s face! It was just too witty and too funny. I can’t even remember the last time I laughed that hard, not only through that song, but most every song! Everyone was laughing!

    But it was definitely not laughing at the performers! It was laughter at just plain feel-good moments, all of them stemming from the love, dedication, respect, and character that just exude from Semiahmoo House! It made me think of the very first time, exactly a year ago, when I first came in to check out this place I’d heard so much about. I’d had my fingers crossed and my heart on hold, praying that this would be a place that could open and expand the life of my special son Brook, though bracing myself that it seemed unlikely, because so very few things had worked that way for him throughout his life.

    At the end of the presentation of these fabulous music videos, I wiped away the tears of laughter, and by then of sentiment, and I saw in my mind, the image of Julie Thiele (the Rec and Leisure Director at the time of my first visit). I remember being taken aback by what I saw at Semiahmoo, and saying wonder something like, “Wow, it’s like this is a place where people with disabilities are celebrated! Even the gorgeous wooden structure of the building and the central staircase scream that!”

    I remembered her looking back at me, smiling and replying, “That is exactly our mandate.”

    Let me get back to ‘my guy,’ the one in the music video and sitting there before us, in the crazy-coloured and too-small shorts! I’ve noticed at Semiahmoo that there is a real blend of participants, each so special and each with their own distinct personality, shape, size, level and nature of challenges and health issues. All of them have had to work hard throughout their lives to become who they are today. And some of them have had far more than their fair share of challenges thrown at them, and their bodies!

    Brook is definitely one of them. His body chemistry, his wiring, and his genetic make-up have made his life a really complex challenge – for him, for people working with him, and for his family who love him to pieces, even through the roughest times. But let’s not get too serious! He’s kind of like a highly-trained professional; you know, the ones who have all of their degrees abbreviated in  letters that follow their name….Brook has a lot of “letters after his name,” depicting his numerous disorders and challenges.

    By the time he was six, we gave up hope of him being able to participate in Summer Programs, even ones well equipped for children with special needs. School was an intense challenge where he could attend only for partial days. It was all just too much for him, especially the impact of being around so many children and staff. By grade 7, even in a low-key Resource Room, the most he could handle was an hour and a half a day.

    High School was a nightmare, and he sometimes missed weeks at a time, even when we maintained the brief one and a half hour schedule. Brook is just such a tremendously challenged and complex fellow. And let’s face it: our school system is not equipped to deal with many of our really challenging kids. Finally out of desperation, when he was fourteen, as parents we basically took the bull by the horns and altered everything in his life to honour our #1 goal: to do whatever it took to build his self esteem and make him feel good about whom he was.

    It’s a long story, but the result was a delightful 20 year old young man, who was at last, emerging, and who could at least be receptive and willing to give a place like Semiahmoo a chance. That was all we needed to do. The magic that is Semiahmoo did the rest!

    Part of that magic is respecting the reality that “inclusion” isn’t always the answer! There are times when people with disabilities need and want to be surrounded by others who are like them. Last Fall, it took only a couple of weeks for the Tuesday Adult Night Out Program, and the sensational Musical Theatre program to become a part of Brook’s life, and he expressed continually and emphatically that he has “never felt so connected to people” (aside from his family). He loves it there!

    The two evening programs were milestones (and don’t even get me started on the absolute joy and wonder that Brook’s family, extended family and even past and present one-on-one workers felt as we all sat in the audience, the night of their performance); but they were short, 2 to 3 hour activities for him. To participate in a full-day program, everyday, for two weeks is something even I didn’t really think he could handle, at least not with some kind of fall-out, stress or fatigue.

    Typically, once Brook has done anything for more than a couple of hours, he needs hours of ‘recovery time’; and yet this week and last, he’s taken it all in his stride and can’t wait for the next day’s adventure! What more proof do you need that Semiahmoo House is something really special?

    When Brook discovered that I was writing this article, he felt proud and requested that I include some of his words. They are, “Please don’t ever, ever let them close this place down!”

    The “Two Little Miracles Merging”….. In his family’s hearts, Brook is hardly a ‘little’ miracle, because we know he is someone special who has had to work so hard, and there is a place for him in this world. (And with his 6’2, 200+ pound frame he is hardly little!) …..and Semiahmoo House? That is most definitely not a ‘little’ miracle, either!”

    Written by Stephanie Simone


    Here are the videos the summer camps made!

    And here is the  rec rockers summer camp music video for the song that they recorded, “Brokenhearted” by Karmin:

  • I’ll B.C.ing you in B.C.

    Happy B.C. day everyone!  After two weeks of running summer camps the extra day off came at just the right time for me.  I spent the afternoon cheering on the Canadian’s women’s soccer team… what a game! (Don’t even get me started on the ref!)

    So, in honour of B.C. day I wanted to share this link I found to a goldmine of songs – with free downloadable sheet music – all about B.C.!

    It actually comes from the music library over at U.B.C.  http://www.library.ubc.ca/music/bcmusic/htmpages/musiclisttitles.html

    It includes such hits as “I’ll B.C.ing you in B.C” (http://www.library.ubc.ca/music/bcmusic/htmpages/illbeseeingyou.html)

    And my personal favourite, a song about my hometown: “The White Rock Song” (http://www.library.ubc.ca/music/bcmusic/htmpages/whiterocksong.html)

    Here is just a sampling of the lyrics:

    “When you feel like a seaside rendezvous

    When you take a notion for an ocean view

    Pack your grip and take a trip where smart ones flock –

    White Rock, B.C.”

    Plus many, many, MANY more!  Perfect for planning a music therapy session on B.C. day for seniors.

    If you are looking for something a little more modern, check out this free downloadable playlist from last year’s Peak performance project finalists for 20 songs all about Vancouver.  You can also stream them via soundcloud from the site.


    Check out The Oh Well’s “Go Outside” for a little pick me up.

    Hope you had a great long weekend!