Archive for February, 2010

“The Great Penguin Rally at Antarctica” by Ty Curtis

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Well they march out in the snow in black and white tuxedos, and they come together in an icy valley. The weather there is cold; about 45 degrees below. But that’s the way that they like it at the penguin rally. Almost sounds like a party in the snow, doesn’t it? Well it is a get-together of sorts, with lots of slipping and sliding, and cold birds colliding!

These natives of Antarctica have adapted to some of the harshest conditions imaginable. Oddly enough that is where penguins are most suited to survive. It is not that they don’t have any challenges down there. No, they do indeed. They are actually part of the food their chain. But you won’t find any complaining penguins. They seem to like their chances in this environment.

Penguins are equipped to handle the subfreezing temperatures of Antarctica. They have a thick layer of fat below their feathers. This layer serves two main purposes; to insulate their warm bodies against the cold temperatures, and to serve as a food store when locating food becomes difficult. So the next time you see a chubby penguin, don’t laugh. This guy is probably one of the most likely penguins to survive the long winters of the South Pole.

A great deal has been written about the way penguins travel through the snow. Some videos and documentaries refer to their movement as a march. However, if you watch them carefully for any length of time, you will see that most penguins move rather clumsily on the ice. The way they move would best be described as waddling. They walk on the snow at about 1 km per hour. Sometimes they even propel themselves along on their bellies. That’s alright by them. This type of movement saves precious energy. When in danger, Penguins can easily pick up their pace. A penguin in its home environment can easily move faster than a man through the snow.

Where this fine-feathered bird truly excels in movement, is in the water. All of its in-the-snow awkwardness is replaced with graceful flight when it is in the water. While in the water some types of penguins can swim at speeds of up to 12 km per hour. At these speeds they can leap out of the water and glide for about half a second. Most types of penguins will only do this when they are being pursued by a predator from below.

With all of its humorous peculiarities, the penguin was an easy selection when deciding which animal to include on our personalized children’s music CD called Sea Animal Adventures. From their unique, tuxedo-like appearance, to their awkward waddling on the ice, these birds of Antartica have no problem capturing the interest of adults and children alike. One of the personalized children’s songs on the Sea Animal Adventures CD is called “Penguin Rally.” In this personalized child’s song we have shown how much like us the penguins sometimes behave. Or, is it that we sometimes behave like the penguins? After all, who was here first, humans or penguins?

“Today I Worked On Basketball With 24 Fifth Graders” by Ty Curtis

Thursday, February 11th, 2010

You want to know how to solve the world’s energy crisis? Figure out how to harness the energy coming from a class of 24 fifth grade students, right after they have had lunch. That should be enough energy to power this planet for a decade! Today I was privileged to see that energy in action as I took my students out to work on their basketball skills during P.E. Now, If you were to ask these students to raise their hand if they know how to play basketball, every hand would be raised. To listen to them talk you would think that you were talking with the Los Angeles Lakers.

Before playing the game we started out with a few warm up exercises in brisk February air; you know the traditional ones like jumping jacks, hip rotations, and pushups. After doing the warm-ups came the time to organize the games. We have three basketball goals to work with, so that means after all of the splitting into groups was done, we had three groups of eight students. Teams of four on four would be playing each other. The organizational part can sometimes be pretty interesting because most children have strong preferences for who they want to be teammates with. In the end, everything usually works out fine so that everyone is satisfied with the teams they are on. Once everyone was squared away on a team it was time to play. 

I blew the whistle that would signal everyone to begin playing. Instantly there was a enough horsepower (and willpower) on that court to energize a small city. The games would only last about twenty minutes, but to the students that seemed like a reasonable amount of time to play. While the students played, I moved about on the court to each team to help them fine-tune their skills, clarify rules of the game, and help them get a healthy perspective on sportsmanship in the midst of competing with each other. To see the looks on their faces while they are playing is priceless. They get so excited while they are playing.

When our time had run out, I went over and took up the basketballs. I could have blown the whistle but that would have just been wasted air. It is a lot easier to get children to start playing than to get them to stop playing. Anyhow, everything went well right to the end. It was a good day of fun and exercise for the students. When the class was over the students headed back to their classrooms to learn more about the 3 R’s. In P.E. they learned a little more about the game of basketball, and we all learned a lot more about each other.

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live!” Henry David Thoreau

“Writing; An Important Part Of Who I Am” by Ty Curtis

Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

I enjoy writing. I enjoy seeing my thoughts come together and fill up a page. There is something about composing that is both challenging and rewarding, and I like both of those things. One of the neat things about composing is that it transcends time. How cool is that! I can write a story and leave it behind, and someone can read it a hundred years later; just like those writers before us who have written great tales or documents that have stood a test of time.

Writing can also be good therapy. When I list my life’s challenges down on paper, I get a different perspective of them. Somehow they seem a little more manageable when I can see them all written out on one page.

Writing can be used to reconnect with old friends from the past. I love how social networking has brought about fresh opportunities to make new friends and keep up with old acquaintances. Five years ago (at the time of this writing) that would have been almost impossible. Now, maintaining contact with old friends is easy.

Writing allows me to express myself artistically. I can weave words into personalized children’s songs that may be sung by my grandchildren’s grandchildren. The words will give them a chance to get a look into my creative thoughts, and the music will paint the words with vivid emotions. It’s kind of neat to think that my grandchild could fall asleep listening to lullabies written by their granddad. Perhaps one of my songs will even cause them to smile long after they are adults.

Writing gives me the privilege to inspire others to worship. Nothing gives me more pleasure than writing songs of worship that encourage others to walk more closely with their Creator. What a privilege it is to create songs of praise and gratitude for the blessings that have fallen on us from a loving heavenly Father. I sincerely feel that nothing could have more value than helping a neighbor build their faith and connect with the love of God. Writing helps me accomplish this.

Writing is contagious, and in these times of advanced technology anyone can take part in expressing themselves in writing. And they should. We have writing tools today that our grandparents couldn’t have imagined. Every computer is equipped with a spell checker that will spell difficult words for us. Built-in document checkers help catch grammatical mistakes and even offer solutions when we make miscues. These tools take lot of the boring work out of writing, and leave us with the simple challenge to express what’s on our minds.

Yes, I guess you could say that I am really into writing. It fulfills a lot of the needs in me to be creative. I think it’s a blast, and I really have fun with it. Maybe you can have fun with it too. Try it for yourself.

“Life Lessons Learned from a Fiddler Crab, and a Red Drum” by Ty Curtis

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

Oh, just to be able to kick back and watch the fiddler crabs in the pluff mud of the South Carolina salt marsh. What a sight! Well, that is exactly what I do sometimes when I am off work. I drive down to Winyah Bay, and walk down my parent’s long wooden dock that leads to a small barrier island. I call this tiny island Little Momma’s Island because that is what my Mom used to be called by her grandchildren.

Down on the tiny island the only sound to be heard is that of the small waves of the bay washing up against the sand. If you take a closer look you can see thousands of small brown crabs called “fiddlers,” moving about the muddy sand, foraging for food. Fiddler crabs are very interesting little creatures. The males have one large claw and one much smaller claw. The female fiddlers have two small claws. The fiddlers don’t really have too much to worry about, that is until the high tide rolls in. It is then that the island becomes covered with water, and the red drums move in. Red drums are also known spot-tail bass, and they love to feast on just about any type of crab that can be found in the bay. The fiddler crabs have one hope against this swift predator; dig a deep mud hole and dive in it. The red drums, however, don’t mind digging to get to their meals. As a matter of fact you can see them sometimes with their tails waving out of the water trying to lunge their bodies vertically down into the mud to get to the fiddlers. If the fiddler has dug his home deeply enough he will live to see another day. Once the tide recedes, and the island is above the water again, all the fiddler crabs return to surface of the pluff mud, and begin going about their ways of finding food in the marsh. It is an ancient cycle that has existed between the red drum and the fiddlers; One that has been around before the days of man.

It was the simplicity of this little creature’s life that led me to write a song called “Mr. Fiddler.” This is one of the songs on my children’s music album called Sea Animal Adventures. This particular song has a Calypso style, similar to what you might hear on a Jimmy Buffet album. The topic lends itself well to personalized children’s music because children are naturally fascinated by sea animals. My daughter, Emily, had a great deal of fun doing the background vocals for this song. It reminded her of the days strolling on the old dock, leading down Little Momma’s Island, to the place where the fiddler crabs play.

“Finding the Inpiration to Write ‘Caretta, Caretta’” by Ty Curtis

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

It’s really strange how many ups and downs a writer can go through while composing a new song. As I was writing the songs for “Sea Animal Adventures,” an album of personalized music for children, I remember how sometimes the words to the songs flowed freely from my fingers to the keypad of my computer. Other times, however, I felt that bogged-down feeling that composers sometimes get.

I remember one day I felt stuck while trying to come up with the topic for a new song for the children’s CD. I needed a change of scenery and a break from the self-imposed pressure, so I got into my car and drove down to the local Wal-Mart to pick up some supplies. It was late June, and the sun warmed the asphalt in front of the store. I remember the warm, South Carolina breeze as it made its way from the Charleston harbor, then across the parking lot to my face. I got a few items from the store and went through the customer checkout. I took my time heading back to the car because it felt like this might be an unproductive day to attempt to write personalized music for children. Nevertheless, it was back to the writers grind for me.

I climbed into my car and started the engine. As I shifted the car into reverse I noticed the car that was parked in front of me. I happened to glance down at the license plate of that vehicle. That’s when it came to me! Inspiration as clear as the midday sun. The license tag on the car was one of our endangered species plates. The image on the plate was that of our state reptile, the loggerhead sea turtle. Now if that wasn’t enough to get me excited, there was another eye-catching sight for my thirsty eyes. On the back of the car was a sticker that said, “Get Inspired!” That was enough for me.

I headed back to my office with a new sense of direction for the next song for the personalized music album. This children’s song that I was about to compose would be about “Caretta, Caretta.” That is the Latin word for the loggerhead sea turtle. I began researching the sea turtle, looking for particular tidbits of information that would lend themselves to a musical flow. I was searching for something that would reveal the fragile nature of this species. Somehow I needed to personify sea turtles in such a way that children could relate to them. I chose a waltz, 3/4 tempo. There was something about that time signature that reminded me of the constant sway of the ocean. The song began with Caretta’s birth under a moonlit palm, and mentioned her struggles to make it to the safety of a small lagoon. Then the lyrics talked about her victorious life, soaring through the sea. Finally, the song concluded with her peaceful flight to a starry lagoon, far beyond the moon.

I remember as I completed writing the final verse for this song, how tears filled my eyes. They were not tears of happiness for completing the days work. No, these tears were coming from a place a little deeper. I let out a sigh as I realized that I had just paralleled the life-story of my own mother in this song. Incidentally, my mom would move on to her Heavenly home the following year. To this day, every time I listen to the song, “Caretta, Caretta,” I feel that old familiar tug on my heart, and my mind races back to a happy place, filled with fond memories of my mom.

“Getting the Music ‘Right’ In the Car” by Ty Curtis

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

It’s kind of funny, but one of the first things we do when we finish a recording a project at ChildsPlayMusic.com studio is take the personalized children’s CD out to the car and listen to it on our car’s CD player. Doesn’t that sound silly! We have all of that fancy, good-sounding studio gear, yet we take the CD to a less expensive, just so-so sound system. There is a method to the madness at work here. You see, all of that state of the art recording gear can make the music sound really great in the studio, but the real bottom line is will the music sound good on an average car CD player? The neighbors get a real kick out of it when they see us running out from the studio to our cars to listen to another CD. It may sound like a trivial step in the recording process, but I can’t tell you how many times everything sounded just right over the studio monitors, and then when we listened to the project in the car, something needed to be bumped up or down in the mix.  The moment we hear something that needs to be adjusted we jot it down in a notebook, and continue listening. Once we have listened to the whole CD, and noted any spots that need to be adjusted, we head back into the studio. We make those little tune-up touches here and there and burn another test CD. More often than not we get it right the first time through. However, once in a while the car test reveals an area that needs to be touched up.

The truth is that we are some what of perfectionists here at ChildsPlayMusic. The things that we correct on a project, for the most part, would never even be noticed by our customers. But since we are the composers, singers, and the players, we notice even the tiniest detail that doesn’t flow the way we think it should. Then we get it right. We know that we won’t get a second chance to make a first impression, so we want that first impression to be a good one.

We take a lot of pride in our sound. So far in our young company’s three year existence we haven’t had one returned CD. Another statistic that we are kind of proud of is that over eighty percent of our customers are repeat customers. Many of those folks use us as a regular part of their gift-giving life. Our “Sea Animal Adventures” birthday CDs have been a staple for some folk’s “quick pickup” birthday gifts. They give us a call and we get it recorded and sent out right away. No problem.

So if you happen to be near our the studio one day, and you see a guy running out to his car with a CD in his hand, you know what’s up.  We are just making extra sure that when you order a personalized child’s CD from us that it is going to sound great when it gets to that special child in your life.

“Personalized Children’s Music Can Be Helpful for Children Who Don’t Like Their Name” by Ty Curtis

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

I have been writing and recording personalized children’s music for a few years now. It has been exciting to say the least. Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of the this business is seeing the different names that are ordered on a day to day basis. Sure, the largest part of the names ordered are the names you would expect; names such as Hannah, Emma, John, etc. Those are very common names. But then there are a group of names that we call the special order names, or custom names. These are children with first names like Elizabeth-Ann, Mary-Liz, Anne-Smith, or James-Breelin. Those names are not the typical names that you would find in a group of five hundred or so people. Those names are the ones that are composed of two or more names.

Then there is another group of names that are special order names. These are the names that are fairly unique, or would not occur on a list of over a thousand names. These names are sometimes as unique as the passwords that you have to create these days for a bank account. I recall one day I received a custom order for a child’s name to be used in a personalized children’s music album. I will not disclose the name of the child because I am quite certain that no one else on the planet has the same name. I remember asking the parent how they came up with the name for their son. The mom told me that she wanted to name her child after herself, but when she gave birth to a boy instead of a girl it threw a monkey wrench into her plans. After thinking about it for a while, she said that she decided to reverse the letters in her name and let that be the name of her son! 

That brings us to the main reason for this article. Some children are not as confident in themselves as other children are. Some children just lack self-esteem. For those children, an unusual name can add to the weight of a low self-image. There are some children who feel almost victimized by the name they were given. I bet some of you may remember that old Johnny Cash song called “A Boy Named Sue.” That song was about a boy who hated his name. Not only did he dislike his name, but the song also talks about how he was picked on by other kids and taunted about his name. When a child’s name is “a bit on the unusual side,” the child may feel a little less than sure about how others perceive it. That is the perfect time to show the child how cool their unusual name really is. “How can I do this?” you may ask. Well, personalized children’s music would be an excellent way to show a child how special their name is. In our songs at ChildsPlayMusic.com we embed the child’s name at just the right moment in each song. The music doesn’t sound phony or contrived. The songs are really cool sounding, and the words to the songs are well thought up lyrics. (When your children are in their formative years you don’t want them to be bombarded with mediocrity, and we don’t either.) That is why we take the time to get our songs right. The songs are so catchy that your child will be singing along with the tunes in no time. In many instances the children get so excited about hearing their name in the songs they want to let others listen to their album of personalized music. You don’t have to take my word for it. Read comments from our customers.

This music can definitely useful in helping a child feel good about his or her name. We have found that even parents find themselves singing along. The next time you want to give a gift to a child who has an unusual name, personalized children’s songs might be just the right inexpensive gift with most value for the child.

Check out the music samples today at ChildsPlayMusic.com. We think you will like what you hear.

The Wonderful Effects Music Can Have On People

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

For many years now I have witnessed the positive effects of music on people. I have had a fairly unique vantage point from which to observe. You see I have been a bi-vocational type of person for quite sometime. I have been a schoolteacher for 25 years. But before becoming a teacher I was a young, professional musician. I played the guitar and sang. I performed for many events and occasions. I have played at more restaurants and bars than I care to remember. I have played in classrooms, dorm rooms, and hospital rooms. I have performed for birthday parties, wedding ceremonies, and divorce celebrations. I have played for christenings of newborn babies, debutant parties for young ladies, and for funeral services, as families said their final farewells to loved ones.

On a few rare occasions my presence playing music seemed to have a minimal effect on those listening. However, that was more often the exception, and not the rule. I understood very early on that music usually has some impact on people who are listening to it. Sometimes the effect is profound, and other times it is minimal. But nonetheless the effect is real.

I have noticed that little babies, sometimes before they can even talk, respond or react cheerfully to the rhythm of a peppy song. I have seen my on children, when they were toddlers, start bopping up and down as they interacted with the beat of the music of my guitar. The sight of them dancing around at such a tender age would never fail to put a big smile on my face.

One summer, when I was on school vacation I was asked to play for a group of elderly Alzheimer’s patients. I played for them for one hour every week during that summer. The effect of the music on those kind folks was both encouraging and therapeutic for them as they sang along with me. Somehow they could go beyond the bounds of their illness for a short period of time and fix their trains of thought onto happy melodies that they had locked into their memories many years earlier. During the songs you could see their faces brighten as they found a rare moment in which they could interact with each other in a group sing-along.

As a classroom teacher I have seen the surprised, delight on the faces of many of my students as I created personalized songs for them. I did this by singing their names into songs I made up for them. And at the end of each song, without fail, every other child in the class would always say, “Make up a song with me in it.” The reaction of the children to the songs was so popular that I later formed a small music business called ChildsPlayMusic.com. As you may have guessed the main thing that I do in this business is compose and record personalized children’s music. This has been very popular among my students. It has also provided an opportunity for parents to share special musical moments with their children.

I have seen clearly that music of all kinds certainly does have an effect on people, and the most profound musical impact that I have seen is when children hear their names sung in a song that was created especially for them. You can hear examples of personalized music for children at ChildsPlayMusic.com.