The Summer Singer – Songwriter Competition that got my attention!

Something exciting, yet subtle, is happening on FACEBOOK  this Summer!  It is the EZDrummer 2 Songwriting Competition sponsored by Toontracks  (A software company that makes many musicians use for home studios to make their tunes sound even more amazing!)  The contest is one where winner takes home $10,000 and that is a lot of money for many who are competing!
Read the about the competition here.
I ordinarily would have bypassed any contest announcement on FACEBOOK, but this one caught my attention because one of the contestants is my good friend and talented songwriter,  Dara Baker (aka Dara On Radio).
Dara has a jazzy, sultry and sassiness quality to her voice.  This Floridian mom, entrepreneur and teacher wrote the music and lyrics to  I KNOW, in addition to singing it for her entry.

Listen here to I KNOW and vote for Dara!

I took an opportunity to interview Dara for this article.  
Here is what I discovered and would love to share with you-
Louise:  Dara we know that you want to win the first prize with your amazing song, however, what would be a second thing you wish to accomplish by entering this contest?

Dara: To win second place, of course!  LOL!  :-)  If I don’t win, I’m glad people who never heard my music got a chance to listen and to share.  Being a music educator, I’m always about spreading the word about the importance of music in all of our lives, be it writing, playing or just listening.

Louise:  How did you come up with this song idea and record it?
Dara: The song was written by me.  I sing lead and play piano, Ed ( her husband)  & I sing background vocals.  Ed played guitar and bass, programmed the drums and played the little synth parts in between.  We both recorded and mixed the song in our home studio.
Louise:  This is usually a blog that discusses educational matters.  Do you think this contest may help motivate people to keep music programs in schools instead of cutting performing arts programs.
Dara: It’s (the contest)  not really geared towards the educational community, however, it is open worldwide to people starting at age 13.  If you look at the number of entrants, it’s obvious to see just how many people feel the burning desire to be a part of the music industry.  Kids younger & younger are becoming songwriters every day with the ever increasing availability of some AWESOME computer software out there.  It’s becoming less and less expensive and easier to use with every passing day.  Also with social media, the desire to “be a star” is more approachable as well.Louise:  How can readers and our friends vote for you?
Dara:  Go to Facebook to vote via the “EZ Drummer 2 Songwriting Competition”.  Each voter is allowed to vote on FB once per day, so yeah, it would be great if EVERYONE voted EVERY day till the contest is closed and share the link!!!  :-)


th-1Learn more about Dara and what she does when she is not busy with music contests by connecting with her here:Dara…On Radio; Arts, Entertainment and the Business of it All  member


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If you are a person who participates in social media on a regular basis then you probably are familiar with this hashtag – #IRL – In Real Life.  That is when you meet someone from social media in person.  Up close.  No typing needed.

I first joined the social media world in 2008.  Tweeting a few thoughts from time to time. Then I stumbled upon a group of educators and family experts and we joined a bit of a “group”.  From there I hopped over to Facebook to extend my inner circle, followed by Pinterest, Instagram, Google +, Klout, Tumblr, etc.!

Many times I would wonder while “chatting” with my social media pals - If I met you in person would you be the same person you portray here in social media? Would you be so kind and generous or are you really an egotist or worse?

I am glad to report that I have met scores of my online connections and rarely was I disappointed. Yes, there were a few who I thought may have had giant egos and indeed they did – but they was few and far between.

I must say that meeting social media peeps in person gives the online experience a serious boost.  The relationships are genuine, we know each other, and not only by our TWITTER handles, and truly do care.

So, if you are ever given a chance to meet social media friends #IRL – I hope your experiences will be as positive as mine.

Enjoy the slideshow of some of the many friends I have met and follow them on TWITTER, if you wish (their handles are under the photos).

Let’s survey the audience – do you use quotes in your social media content?

“A #2 pencil and a dream is all you need to go forth in to your future”

~recent quote spotted in a school

Everywhere I go I tend to see quotes.  Postings on Facebook.  In my Twitter stream.  On classroom walls. And, even on billboards as I drive up and down the LA freeways.  From Gandhi to Einstein to Dr. Phil – there are quotes everywhere!

Which begs these questions:

1- Do you use quotes  in  your social media content?

2- Do quotes really help build an audience and  engage your audience to want to learn more about YOU and YOUR BRAND (versus only pressing FOLLOW, but not really engaging any further)?

3- Do quotes appeal to men and women equally?

4. Which are YOUR favorite quotes?  (I would love to see many of you answer in the comment section!)

So go ahead… educate me (and others) about the value of using quotes in social media… and if you are so inspired – complete the attached poll that will start the discussion by answering question #1.  If you wish to answer any other questions – feel free to use the comment section to do so.



A Face. A Social Story. Helping children with Autism to express feelings

I have worked many years within the Autism community.  It is often my observation (and that of many others) – that people on the spectrum sometimes misread or fail to notice social and emotional cues in others.   This can lead to difficult, awkward and at times, comical situations. Many therapists, psychologists, educators and parents work diligently to try and bring social awareness and correct communication techniques  (including semantics) to those who have challenges in these areas.

Over the years I have snapped thousands of photos for programs and products via SIGNING FAMILIES.  Today I am making many of  the photos with only “faces” available in the form of a slideshow.   Feel free to download and share this slideshow. To stop the slideshow or pause it- simply press the middle two lines on the photo.

It is my hope that these photos will help promote conversation, social stories or simply with identifying feelings and emotions in others.

Consider these pictures a starting point. Notice there are no captions below any of the pictures. I will leave it up to the viewers to decide where the conversation should lead and decide which emotion the photo is portraying.  Perhaps whole stories can be generated with a single photo.  Let the child lead, if you can.

To learn more about my programs for children and adults with Autism, please connect via SIGNING FAMILIES or my website.

Feel free to add your ideas on how to promote communication below.

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Honoring our Veterans – Part 2

Earlier this week I posted a pictorial blog of our recent trip to the monuments in Washington DC.  Most of the memorials we visited were  tributes to those who have served in combat.

After posting this blog I recalled that I had caught a group of World War II veterans on an honor flight to commemorate Veteran’s Day  at the World War II Memorial.  I happened upon this group in November of 2010  arriving at BWI airport when I was awaiting a departing flight at the same gate.

I know the footage is shaky and also not professional.  But, this is what happens when organic moments are caught on simple FlipCams!

There are many more videos, like this one, on YouTube.  Simply use the search words – Veterans returning home

Feel free to post links as comments to your “coming home” videos.  And as always, respectful comments welcome.


Washington DC Monuments – Night and Day

If you are one to be touring the east coast of the United States this summer (or ever) be sure to place on your “Must Do” list a visit to the national monuments in Washington DC.  Below you will find a photo essay with hopes that these pictures will entice you to journey to these national treasures and soak in the historical lessons that each tell.


The Washington Monument tours over all buildings in the nations capital.  Recently re-opened after the 2011 earthquake.

The Washington Monument tours over all buildings in the nations capital. Recently re-opened after the 2011 earthquake.

The Washington Monument at night

The Washington Monument at night

A tribute to 9/11 victims, including my neighbor, Sara Clark

A tribute to 9/11 victims, including my neighbor, Sara Clark


No other words needed

Each bench at the Pentagon Memorial has a name of a victim.  There are reflecting pools below each one.  How the seats are placed reflect how the victims were seated during the crash.

Each bench at the Pentagon Memorial has a name of a victim. There are reflecting pools below each one. How the seats are placed reflect how the victims were seated during the crash.


FDR Memorial at night

FDR Memorial at night

The monuments at night - full of art and culture. Including these at the FDR memorial

The monuments at night – full of art and culture. Including these at the FDR memorial

The towering Dr. Martin Luther King memorial

The towering Dr. Martin Luther King memorial

The memorial is lined with quotes which adds to this ever amazing tribute

The memorial is lined with quotes which adds to this ever amazing tribute

The riveting Korean memorial - a MUST visit

The riveting Korean memorial – a MUST visit


Korean memorial

Korean memorial at night with many visitors despite the late hour


Arlington National Cemetery at night

Arlington National Cemetery at night

Vintage + Contemporary = Steampunk!

DSC_0325  If you had asked me four months ago to describe Steampunk I would have answered with a blank stare. I had NO idea that this was an art form let alone one that is quite unique, intriguing and most of all taking the design world by storm!

In essence, Steampunk is the melding of vintage objects with a contemporary flair.  How can I best explain Steampunk – well think of taking your grandmother’s glass trinkets and placing it with your father’s baseball. Glue them together and add a bunch more interesting novelty pieces. Hard to visualize this as art? I had a difficult time wrapping my head around this, too. To get some clarity I did some homework and found myself  spending a bit of time with someone who could answer a whole bunch of questions about Steampunk – Beverly Holman, a longtime resident of Hermosa Beach, CA.

First lesson I learned – 80 is the new 50! Despite being a senior citizen she is no way near retiring, as she has jumped in with both feet and wizardry hands to create the most funky of designs!  Imagine placing an eyeball and a license plate on to an old camera. Strange grouping you may think? Well look below and see how this odd matching of objects becomes a work of art!

I had an opportunity to interview Beverly  and found out that after many years in behind a desk she longed for her first love – art! Without much ado, once retiring she decided turn back time and go back to her artistic roots. She decided to start by seeking out various retro and antique items that could be repurposed.  (Her house is stacked with bins that hold the most fascinating collection of objects!).  Once she has mapped out a general idea she assembles items that she believes will carry out a chosen theme – then she sits down and starts to create! Hours and days later  a new Steampunk design is born!


Here is where I get sad – I see these wonderful creations and then reflect back to the many times I threw out little objects thinking they were were worthless. Who would want that odd monopoly piece or glass figurine from a five and dime store?  Beverly does!

And in case you are wondering Steampunk is a legitimate art form.  Some find a more goth following with their talents while others lean to the more Victorian and vintage aspects of Steampunk.  There are magazines such as Just Steampunk! that dedicates many pages to artists (Beverly will be in their upcoming issue.)

So if you are sporting an AARP card and wondering what to do in the next chapter of your life – consider your more creative side! Nothing keeps a brain and body fresher than setting goals and using your innate talents!  And, if you are interested in learning more about Steampunk or wish to have a great conversation with a fascinating woman please check out Beverly’s website!  I am glad I did!

Below are some photos I took of just a few of the dozens of creations that Beverly has made. Many of her designs are available on ETSY and in California shops – a list is on her website with links.

Enjoy and note – I truly love Steampunk and was fascinated by the art form. This is NOT a sponsored post.

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Dear 2014 Graduates,

Dear Class of 2014 Graduates,

CONGRATULATIONS! Have you noticed a theme in commencement speeches this year?  Like those from First Lady Michele Obama,  Jim Carrey and John Legend (who sings throughout his speech)?  The themes are quite simple, poignant and introspective.  In the spirit of their words I offer a few words to echo their sentiments and some of my own  pearls of wisdom.  You are invited to add your own words below and to also check out a list of the BEST commencement speeches ever!class of 2014

Successful people surround themselves with people they love and pursue activities they love.

Education is important – period.

Worry is a useless behavior.

Common sense is necessary to succeed in life.

Laugh more.

Put down the electronics and have real discussions with real people in your real life!

Play more- outside!

Be creative or at least go see creative endeavors such as the performing arts or museums.

Be responsible for your actions – don’t pass off your guilty actions on to someone else

Be humble.

Be motivated.

Remember everyone is a teacher and a student – forever.

Don’t be negative in public or on social media- ever.

Thank those around you – you didn’t get here alone!


Why Instagram is a GREAT Choice for Engagement

Why Instagram is a GREAT Choice for Engagement
I started to be a shutterbug in 1967 – the year my parents took us to Disneyland.  I must have snapped every photo on my roll of 24 within minutes of arriving to the gates where Mickey Mouse stood!  Since then I have snapped THOUSANDS of photos including countless pics of places I have visited.  Which is why when Instagram,  a photo driven social media site that depends on engagement,  became all the rage and I quickly became – “an early adopter”.


Instagram is a virtual photo album that you share with your friends and family. It also enables you to engage an audience by using a common entity known as the hashtag #.  The pros of Instagram are that you can use endless hashtags which helps like – minded people find you and your product or service. You can instantaneously share your image on to TUMBLER, FACEBOOK and TWITTER, as well. Your photo of your trip to Italy can be a useful tool for those wishing to learn about places to visit and was found simply because you uploaded a photo of Venice and tagged it #Italy #Travel #Venice.
 The cons of Instagram is that it is best used as an app and not very computer friendly.  Another con is that you cannot really comment effectively.  A big ‘ol heart for “ I love it” usually is all one can say.  Those who like to read comments are best to post on FACEBOOK.
Caution- for those who think that Instagram is about snap- upload- hashtag and SELL you are WRONG.  Instagram engages an audience and may entice them to seek out more information but the company frowns heavily on direct sales and will “ding” you if you repeatedly try. So don’t add any pricing or personal contact information on any of your posts!
Lastly…Want to have a lot of people enjoy and remark on your Instagram photo? Simply do a group selfie with half a dozen celebrities at the OSCARS! Just ask ELLEN!  (photo credit below- @theEllenShow)




The last weeks of school – how to keep kids motivated to learn?

smallIt is that time of year again when spring break is over and the students are now clamoring for summer vacation. It also is the hardest time of the year for teachers to teach and parents to get their kids to school without complaint.

How can you compete with the sweet smell of grass growing or hours of sunshine?

So, I would love to open this blog up for suggestions on how teachers can entice kids to read just a few more books, learn additional math concepts or allow themselves to create a science project for that end of the year fair. In essence, how to keep kids learning this time of year?!

Parents - What motivates your child to learn? How do you manage to get your child up and out every morning without argument? (Or don’t you?)

Teachers – How do you keep your students to stay on task and remain interested in learning when the outside is so alluring?

Let’s all share and learn from each other… And, for those who teach school year- round, I would love to hear about YOUR techniques for keeping students motivated, too!


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