It takes many resources in schools to help students learn new skills. When kids are having fun and fully engaged in an activity they will remember much better what they are learning. Music in the classroom, day care, or home lightens the mood, and solidifies the learning! Special education music is used to help students with various challenges learn skills while they are having fun.

Teachers are using special education songs by various artists for reinforcing good behavior, staying active, assisting with transitions, encouragement, dance therapy, Sign Language, recognizing emotions, and teaching social skills

The team at Special Needs Book Review is pleased that Lauren Mayer, award-winning songwriter and entertainer, agreed to write a guest post introducing her new music CD, “Yes I Can”.  We thank her for the audio samples, photos, and information about her resource for teachers of very young children and for students with special needs.

Lauren Mayer’s bio says, “A summa cum laude graduate of Yale, Lauren is the composer-lyricist for six other albums of children’s educational music, as well as of nine published and produced children’s musicals and four albums of comedy songs for adults.” Let’s learn more about special education music during this interview with Lauren Mayer.

Lorna: Congratulations on all you have accomplished! Your bio also says you are a vocal coach and music educator. So on Monday mornings when folks are heading back to work, where do you go? Is your work teaching or performing or a little of both?

<<Lauren Mayer: I do a mix of everything.  Usually I spend Monday morning getting my schedule organized for the week; I music direct for a couple of schools, which involve after school rehearsals, I also work for some professional theatres with evening rehearsals, and most of my private voice students come after school or on weekends.  Plus I have various writing projects – I just finished writing a theme song for a local credit union, which I’ll be recording with professional singers, and then filming their employees lip-synching.  And next up, I was commissioned to write 2 songs for a festival of science music.  So it’s always interesting and different – the only challenge is making sure I get an occasional half-day off!>>

Lorna: I really see how effective special education music can be to reinforce skills when working with students with special needs.  Your music CD, “Yes I Can”, has seven original songs. What themes do they cover?

<<Lauren Mayer:  I was fortunate enough to consult with the specialist who works with the Special Needs Arts Program, and so she gave me some topics where she thought a song could be very helpful, including difficulty with transitions (“Time To Change”), self-calming and stress management (“Breathe”), and even the challenge of new foods (“Funny Food”) – which I’d forgotten was always a big deal to my kids when they were younger, so I thought that would be good for all sorts of kids.  And then the dance teacher had asked for a guided movement song (“Let’s Get Moving”), and something with body parts that would be more ‘hip’ and have more sophisticated words than ‘Head Shoulders Knees & Toes’ (“Feelin’ Good”).  The other 2 songs are about confidence and achievement (“Yes I Can” and “It’s A Snap”)>>

Lorna: « Yes I Can » can also be used with young children in preschool programs, for homeschooling, and the early grades in school. On the CD parents and teachers will find seven accompaniment-only tracks. Explain what a bonus this is for teachers and parents.

<<Lauren Mayer:  Teachers may want to have the kids perform the songs themselves, but so few schools have pianos, or teachers who play the piano.  So they end up having the kids sing along to CDs – which is great, but then you hear the professional vocalist instead of the kids.  And the engineer with whom I record all my songs does lots of projects for professional singers who may want to perform their songs when there isn’t any accompaniment available, so he’s gotten used to recording a set of their tracks without the vocal.  (Fun trivia detail – these are called ‘TV Tracks’ from when vocalists would go on talk shows and programs like American Bandstand’ to plug their albums, but there wasn’t a band available, so they would sing to their accompaniment tracks.)>>

Lorna: You are the co-founder of Curriculum Rocks, a company producing fun, educational music for teachers, kids, and parents. Tell us about your company and the products you have already produced.

<<Lauren Mayer:  My sister, Nancy Mayer, is an elementary school teacher. When our kids were young and I was starting to teach classroom music, we were commiserating about how  hard it was to find kids’ music that wasn’t juvenile sounding.  Then my older son’s 4th grade teacher asked if I would do something with her class about the California Gold Rush – she handed me a classroom musical that was more appropriate for kindergarteners, so I decided to write something more interesting.  When Nancy heard that, she asked if I could also write some songs for her to use in her first grade classroom – so we decided to form a company where she’d give me the curriculum for each grade or topic, and then I’d write & record the songs.  So far we’ve

produced First Grade Rocks, Second Grade Rocks, and California Bound (for 4th grade), as well as Lifeskills.  And I’ve done two albums of seasonal songs, one for Autumn and one for Winter – when I have a few free minutes, I’ll do Spring and Summer, and then we’ll start on more grade level recordings.>>

Lorna: Curriculum Rocks offers workshops for teachers and students. What topics do you cover in these workshops?

<<Lauren Mayer: We work with teachers on how to incorporate music in the classroom – it all depends on each teacher’s needs.  Some want to write, or help their kids write, song parodies as ways to remember curriculum, others want to get more confident in their own singing.  Basically we provide the resource that used to come from a school music teacher – right now school budgets have limited that to an instrumental music (band) teacher who maybe spends an hour a week at each school.

In addition, I have just started putting together a series of workshops to teach elementary school students how to welcome children with disabilities who are mainstreamed.  This was suggested by a friend of mine who is a teacher, and she’d noticed that while the children with disabilities have aides, that doesn’t help her explain to her other students why they don’t get the same accommodations, or why certain kids act  certain ways.  So we are putting together an assembly program with songs & skits, involving the kids and using humor, to teach them about autism, CP, dyslexia, and other disabilities and learning differences.  (And my kids were also helpful with this – my older son has Central Auditory Processing Disorder, so until high school he was in a pullout class as well as having an aide in elementary school; and my younger son has pretty severe OCD, and he pointed out that often kids joke about it, saying, “Oh, I’m so OCD, I like to color inside the lines.”  They both suggested that I include those types of learning differences too.)  We haven’t started offering these yet but hope to in the next academic year.>>

Lorna: Music for children is not the only music you create. You have three comedy albums with these titles:  Psycho Super Mom, Return of Psycho Super Mom, and  Latkes, Schmatkes! Tell us about this part of your career.

<<Lauren Mayer: The Psycho Mom albums are all about finding comedy in the challenges of motherhood – and the songs really are inspired by specific episodes (for example, “There’s Always A Diorama” is about last-minute school projects, and “Grownups Get To Have Fun, Too” was based on a comment my younger son made to me when he knew I was going to get together with the mom of a friend of his – he said something like, ‘Grownups don’t have play dates’, and I responded with ‘Oh, yes, we get to have fun, too!’ and the song wrote itself.)  In addition, I do a weekly topical comedy song for my youTube channel – about current events, or sometimes things going on in my life, like when my younger son got his driver’s license, or shopping for my older son’s college dorm room (that became “I Reserve The Right To Cry At Bed Bath & Beyond”).>>

Lorna: You grew up in California, in a highly musical family and your own sons and husband are also musical. You have a cabaret act with your husband, debonair crooner Scott Grinthal. I read that you and Scott tailor your act to include more comedy, including songs about the group or event you are performing for. (At this point I am thinking, oh my, Lauren will never have time for this interview!) What are recent events you have performed for? Which do you prefer, performing for adults or for children?

<<Lauren Mayer:  What a great question!  I should clarify – my mother was (and still is) very musical, and her mother was a music teacher.  On the other hand, my father was tone deaf – to the point where my mom wouldn’t let him sing to us when we were babies because she was worried he’d be a bad musical influence!  And it’s fun that both of my sons are now pursuing music in areas where I’m not at all talented.  My older son, David, is 21 and getting a BFA in Musical Theatre outside of New York – he’s a gifted dancer, especially as a tap dancer, and he’s already done a few professional shows.  And my younger son, Ben, is 18 and a drummer/percussionist (I can’t play the drums!).

Scott is a wonderful singer, and our act is a switch on the usual cabaret act where the singer is a lovely woman and the pianist is a comedic man (like Louis Prima and Keeley Smith).   Right now, our next booking is an Art Deco fundraiser, where we’re doing songs from the 1920s and 1930s – nothing especially customized other than the type of songs.  And he’ll be singing the lead vocal on the song for the credit union.

Then we’ll be doing “Yes Dear! (A Marital Cabaret)” at a club in San Francisco for Valentine’s Day weekend.  I’m also doing an evening of holiday songs with another local performer – he’ll do the lovely Christmas ballads, and I’ll do comedy songs for Chanukah.

As far as which I prefer – I don’t actually perform that often for kids, but I do work with them a lot, either as a teacher or music director, and I love it – now that my sons are almost grownup, it’s a great way to stay connected to younger kids.  (Sometimes I do find performing or writing for adults is a nice break – I can be a bit more sassy!)>>

Lorna: Thank you so much for your guest post and now for this interview. Good luck with all your future endeavours! Please let our team know of any future CD’s for children with special  or different needs.

<<Lauren Mayer: Thank you!  These were interesting questions, and I really appreciate the opportunity to let your team and your readers know about this album.  And good luck with your work!>>

Links: www.laurenmayer.com, www.curriculumrocks.com

About the CD, “Yes I Can” by Lauren Mayer

14 tracks – 7 original songs with vocal, 7 accompaniment-only tracks

Catchy, upbeat kid-friendly songs

Released June 1, 2014

Buy CD “Yes I Can” by Lauren Mayer Amazon.com   Amazon.ca   CDbaby.com   iTunes

READ Also:

Music for Students with Special Needs – CD Review of “Yes I Can” by Lauren Mayer

Online Music Therapy Course for Autism – “Meet in the Music” by Esther Thane

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