As many of you know, when I’m not composing songs, I’m often recording them in a studio in Toronto. I’m as picky with the singers as I am initially about the songs. When someone’s performance is very close to being perfect, I label it as being “good enough”. It’s become a standing joke in the studio when I say that something is “good enough”, because everyone knows how close to perfection it really is.
I want you to meet Mark Steenhuis, my landscaper. Steenhuis’ work surpasses “good enough”.
For many years I have not taken care of my own lawn. I am allergic to grass. I’m really allergic to weeds. This is a job better done by someone else. Over the years I’ve met many landscapers, but I’ve never met someone with such pride in his work and such a regard for perfection as Mark Steenhuis.
This afternoon he even knocked on the door looking for me. He was wondering why I hadn’t been watering the area where he’d planted new grass seed. After all, he’d told me 2 hours earlier that it needed watering. It was at that time, after laughing, that I realized how lucky I was that Mark Steenhuis is doing my landscaping. When he’s not working as a landscaper, this St. Catharines resident is a member of the Buffalo Bandits lacrosse team. He also represents Reebok.
Kudos to Mark Steenhuis for his great desire to always do a perfect job. The rest of St. Catharines should hire Mark.¬† After all, we are known officially as “The Garden City”.
We’ve included a free mp3 for our bilingual party song, A Latin Party / Una fiesta latina. Students will love this great song, plus besides being a party song, it also teaches about the proper use of adjectives!
This week we are celebrating the launch of our complete math series in French. These reproducible resource/activity books, which also include song CDs, teaching Addition, Subtraction, Multiplication and Division, all in French, will prove very popular in French Immersion classes and within the Francophone community.
How do you spend your spare time? Check out this incredible young man! He puts every spare minute to good use and apparently loves doing it!¬† At the age of 17, Timothy Doner of NYC can now speak 23 languages. He learned many of them in only a few weeks, without a teacher.
Here’s a complete list of the 23 languages Timothy has learned so far: English, French, Hausa, Ojibwe, Wolof, Persian, Russian, German, Turkish, Yiddish, Hebrew, Arabic, Pashto, Farsi, Mandarin, Italian, Indonesian, Dutch, isiXhosa, Swahili, Hindi, Croatian and Spanish.
You can check out his video on YouTube and watch this gregarious young man talk about his quest to learn languages. He’ll speak to you in 20 different languages over the course of the video. This was filmed last year when Timothy was only 16 years old!
Way to go Timothy Doner. You are an inspiration to us all!
Today is World Autism Awareness Day. Congratulations to my friend, Rose Campbell of Campbell Creative Services and to the many other volunteers who made this awesome video possible through Autism Niagara.
Last night I had the privilege of being on a panel of three judges for two speech contests hosted by our local Optimist Club. There were many amazing speakers in both categories (grades 4-6 and grades 7-8).
At the end of the evening, I saw one young speaker on the verge of tears. Her speech had been good and I remembered it clearly. It was a speech that could be retold effectively to hundreds of adult audiences. The topic was something that was close to her heart. It was about the “Because I’m a Girl” movement and how we can all make a difference in the education of girls living in impoverished countries.
The young speaker’s sadness reminded me of a time many years ago when I too, had not been chosen after many hours, months and years of preparation. I was twenty two and had just auditioned for a “lab band” position as a saxophone player at a prestigious university. There were 24 spots for tenor sax players. I didn’t make the cut. Distraught, I remember going to the local store to purchase something to cheer me up. I bought a plaque that said “You Never Fail Until You Stop Trying” for 99 cents. Many years later, when I was in charge of teaching truant teenagers and trying to entice them to get back into my class, I gifted my plaque to a young lady who’d been seeking acceptance in the drug culture and the malls.
In my mind, all of the students I heard last night were winners. It’s a difficult thing to plan, write and memorize a speech and then deliver it to over a hundred strangers. Besides, you¬† never fail until you stop trying.
chorus: “Somewhere around the world today Are friends that I have not yet made. Maybe I’ll sit down and write them a line and say, “I could be your friend if you would be mine. This world would be friendlier, ‘Cause we’d be Valentines.”
When I composed Valentine’s Day years ago, I dreamed that maybe my one little song might help make the world a more peaceful and harmonious place. I still hold onto the dream. Please share Valentine’s Day with your classes, friends and family. We are offering it as a free download from now until February 15th. You’ll find it in this week’s newsletter. http://tinyurl.com/bzptzsa
According to Judith Adler, a sociologist and professor at Memorial University in Newfoundland, Canada, the university students in her class (studying global family traditions) had no idea of where the countries they were studying were actually located. After giving them a pop quiz, which asked basic questions such as locating oceans and continents, Ms Adler noted that 75% of her students failed the quiz. http://tinyurl.com/apnapbb
You are probably wondering, “How in 2013, could this even happen?”
Teaching basic geography to young people can be an exhilarating experience and the knowledge that they acquire will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives.
I’d like to share a favorite website of mine, where I have been known to spend hours timing myself doing these online geography puzzles. http://www.coolmath-games.com/1-geography-games-01.html
Note: I like the practice mode the best. It’s the least threatening and still lots of fun.
Last night I won my first trophy and ribbon at ToastMasters for giving the best Table Topics Speech. (Toastmasters is an international organization with local chapters, helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills.) Perhaps my enthusiasm was infectious as I spoke about the jazz sessions at our local bar and grill, the Cat’s Caboose. Just this past Saturday I witnessed a amazing quartet performance featuring John Sherwood, local jazz pianist of international fame on piano. There is absolutely no cover charge to hear these sessions on Saturday afternoons.
My speech last night reminded me of years past, when as a teacher I would create a list every month, of free concerts, theatrical performances, etc. which I would give to my students. Parents of my private students really appreciated the list since all of the performances made good, inexpensive family outings. I expected my high school students, on the other hand, to attend at least two events and write reports about the experience. This became a part of their grade.
Kevin Lipischak, John Sherwood, Randy and Warren Stirzinger (from left to right)
These days, I rarely see young people at live performances. The Saturday afternoon sessions at Cat’s Caboose would be a perfect place for entire families to hear great jazz while enjoying a snack. Ironically, the only kids I see at Cat’s Caboose are members of the extended Sherwood clan.
I think I’ll start to make up that list of free local performances once again. I can give it to my private music students. You might consider offering a monthly list like this too. It would be a great contribution to the arts community where you live.
We would like to share our success at this year’s Guadalajara Book Fair with you. New licensing agreements signed with Producciones Educaci√≥n Aplicada of Mexico and Editorial Avanti S.A. of Guatemala, mean that our brand new Math series in Spanish will be much more readily available in Mexico and Central America. Ethel Batres, CEO of Editorial Avanti S.A., is also the president of FLADEM, an association of over 1000 music teachers throughout Latin America. Ethel plans to launch our titles during the next Guatemala Book Fair, held in July of 2013. In Guatemala, these titles will be available at Piedra Santa bookshops.
Ethel Batres and Sara Jordan celebrating the licensing deal for Guatemala and Central America.
Vidal Schmill and Sara Jordan celebrating the licensing deal for Mexico.