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A Story of Music and Healing

October 6, 2013


Elizabeth J. Campbell is a singer/musician and music therapist, who is passionate about music and its ability to heal people and change lives. A few weeks ago she asked me if she could share a story of healing through music with all my readers. I was intrigued as I’ve never done “guest posts” before. I had a look at her story and agreed that it’s very powerful and definitely worth a read. Below, Elizabeth shares a little about herself and her work in her introduction, followed by her story:


Passionate doesn’t begin to describe Elizabeth J Campbell’s feelings about music. She has a varied and successful career in many aspects of music performance and education. Her professional background has combined a lifelong love of music and performing with a degree in Psychology from Syracuse University. She has combined these interests in the area of Music Therapy (graduate certificate from Arizona State University). She has worked in the field of music therapy for over 9 years, most of which has been spent working with severely emotionally disturbed teenagers. She is especially proud of her experiences in Jesus Christ Superstar, Bye Bye Birdie, Fiddler on the Roof, You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown, singing with the Boston Pops under the direction of Keith Lockhart, and her invitation to audition for the LA Opera Chorus under the direction of Grant Gershon. She has performed live with several rock bands as lead singer, back up singer, and keyboard player. Elizabeth also has vocal demo experience. She is a versatile performer with a love for her craft. She not now only uses music to entertain others, but also a form of positive self-expression. Elizabeth enjoys the outdoors, dueling pianos, and spending time with those she loves. And, well, lots of other things too. She has completed several AIDS Walks and helped build homes for those in need in Mexico. 

It starts with a pulse inside my head. The beating of my heart; hard as lead. Can’t get the music out of my mind. The rhythm of the words, the melody, the time. Melodies of sorrow, melodies of hate; used to be my story, but now that’s changed. I found a shining light and a brand new way, to live the rhythm of my life. The words have changed, the story’s rearranged; to fit a life lived with a little less pain, but with joy…joy for the music, the music that saves. 

This is a story of a young girls whose life was changed and saved by her love of the music. “Jennifer” was 15 years old when she was first admitted to “The Home.” Angry and depressed about her life and family, she resorted to physical violence and self-mutilation to cope with her feelings. She had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder; something she would have to live with for the rest of her life. Let’s get clinical for a brief moment…very brief: Bipolar disorder, historically known as manic–depressive disorder, is a lifelong condition that can affect both how you feel and how you act. It is a mood disorder thought to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain that can result in extreme swings in mood—from manic highs to depressive lows. To be diagnosed with bipolar disorder, you must have experienced a high period (mania). Bipolar mania is described as an “extreme high,” or feeling unusually great. Most people with bipolar disorder when ill or when symptomatic experience more lows (depression) than highs. Doesn’t sound fun, huh? Like most people with labels, she decided to live up to the reputation of being “that way.” She got into fist fights with peers and argued with adults until exhaustion took over and anger became tears. Her family had let her down and she saw no way out. “Jennifer” was stuck. Stuck in the anger, and stuck in the pain. What could save her from this downward spiral; this black abyss? She wanted to cry out for help, but didn’t know how. Like most depressed girls her age, “Jennifer” stuffed her feelings. She didn’t know how to express them in a healthy way.

One day “Jennifer” wandered into one of my music groups. At the surface, the groups was about learning how to sing or play the piano. At a deeper level, issues like low self-esteem, poor anger and stress management skills, fear of failure, and disempowerment were addressed. “Jennifer” expressed an interest in both singing and piano, but her heart was with her voice. She started off shy, not wanting to sing songs she didn’t already know and fearful of performing in front of her peers. She was afraid of her voice and of other’s judgement. “Jennifer” doubted her vocal abilities and would give up if she felt she wasn’t singing up to her standards. As time passed. “Jennifer” and I worked together to help her gain faith in her ability to sing; in her ability to succeed at something. She had no difficulty believing in a higher power outside of herself, but her own self -worth was non-existent.

“Jennifer” began by attending music group twice a week, and slowly grew more comfortable learning unfamiliar songs. Her ability to express her feelings was first to improve. She sang songs that touched her at a deeper level, and would often lead to an emotional catharsis; sometimes for both of us. As months passed,” Jennifer” began seeking me out for more music groups, and started expressing a desire to perform. She began wanting to sing in front of five or fewer peers; performing duets with me, as I was her safety net. Throughout this process, I noticed “Jennifer” engaging in fewer conflicts with both peers and adults, and being able to focus more in school, as her grades were slowly improving. Her singing voice was becoming something of which she was proud, and her self-esteem was getting higher. For the first time, she was both discovering and owning her strengths.

Our annual Awards Night gala was quickly approaching, and I was looking for singers and dancers. “Jennifer” approached me wanting to sing….a solo! She was glowing with happiness! We brainstormed and found the perfect song; a simple, yet catchy tune. What came next? Weeks of rehearsing, minor breakdowns, and “Jennifer” ultimately mastering the song; as well as she was able. She performed beautifully; a shining star! The brightest star, in fact, and she owned it. She owned it in front of an audience of over 100 people! Was her performance perfect? No, but what was perfect was her ability to surpass her fears and take pride in herself; for who she was and what she accomplished. This was a success, not the failure she had been conditioned to.

“Jennifer” just turned 18 and is about to graduate from high school. She sings solos with her church choir on a weekly basis, is taking piano lessons regularly, and just finished performing a lead role in the school’s fall musical performance. “Jennifer” does not have a recording contract, nor is she the next American Idol, but she loves what she does. She loves music! She seems, well….happier.

“Jennifer” continues to have her daily struggles, but is better able to deal with them with music in her life. You, dear reader, are now witness to the power of music.


You can find this story along with many others on Elizabeth’s website:

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Singing with Virtual Choir 4

July 22, 2013


A little over a week ago, Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 4: “Fly to Paradise” premiered in London for the Queen’s Coronation Festival. I was especially looking forward to this one, because I got to join in!

The History:

If you’ve never heard of Virtual Choir before, here’s a bit of a rundown. After hearing a young fan sing the soprano part of one of his choral compositions on YouTube, Eric Whitacre uploaded a conducting video and a sound-recording for singers to follow. People from 12 different countries recorded themselves singing their voice parts, sent it back to him, and he put it all together. Virtual Choir 1: “Lux Aurumque” was the result:


This was followed soon after by Virtual Choir 2: “Sleep”, this time with over 2000 voices. This one brought tears to my eyes because of the way it highlighted all the different countries which were involved. It reminded me of Musicians Without Borders: suddenly international conflict seemed totally surmountable, and politics almost faded into irrelevance:


Virtual Choir 3: “Water Night” followed the year after. I was nearly able to participate in that one, but unfortunately work deadlines got in the way and I missed out:


So I was determined that, come hell or high water, I would be in the next one. Well, the time came and this time I was ready…just. If there’s anything I learned from this experience, it is this: do not, whatever you do, leave it to the last minute. I had intended to submit videos for Soprano 1 through to Tenor, but in the end I only had time to do the 2nd Soprano part plus the solo audition. But hey, at least I made it this time!

A month later, the end result finally came online:


When I first saw it, which, since I’m in Australia, wasn’t till the morning of the twelfth, I turned into a just-barely-dignified blubbering mess over my breakfast cereal. It’s a bit mindblowing to see something like this for the first time as a participant. I haven’t managed to spot myself anywhere in the video, but that doesn’t really matter: I know my voice is in there with the rest of them. That’s…well, pretty awesome.

The Community:

There are so many people involved this choir that the credits are nine minutes long – twice as long as the song itself. Probably one of the most moving submissions (I think) was made by RhondaLee, a hearing-impaired woman who performed her solo audition in sign language. You can spot her in the final video at about 3:34. I think the funniest submission would have to be the baritone puppet (…yes, you read that right. I have yet to spot him in the choir, but somehow I’m not optimistic). Then, of course, there’s the blooper reel, for those who were – unlike me – brave enough to submit their outtakes.

There’s a forum where the community all talked to each other and supported each other through the whole process, and continue to converse even now. The forum is another reason why one should get involved early: I wish I’d come across it sooner and realised that vocal coaches could be found there, for example. I haven’t had singing lessons in years and could have used a few reminders about technique.

The nailbiting three-day wait for the soprano solo audition materials to go online, the second-guessing after submission (should I have put that video in? Maybe I should have done another take? Should I have submited the other one?), the mutual calming down and soothing of frazzled nerves, the story-telling and jokes, were all shared in the forum while we waited impatiently for the final release.

Now that the wait is over and it’s been a bit over a week, the video has gone viral and the VC community continues to thrive. Eric Whitacre’s intention was always to make the musical components available for other musicians to play with, and a number of remixes have already popped up. For example:

The Experience (and Tips for Next Time):

VC4 belongs in a special way to everyone who took part. Also, this project exists in the present. It’s not like a conference or a concert where you have a great time and then the memories fade. This performance is. Forever.

I really would have liked to get some of my students involved. However, my experience of preparing and submitting the videos made me very glad that I did it alone first, just so I could see firsthand what “making a submission” actually entails. It is an inspiring and wonderful thing to be a part of, but the process can be gruelling. I did several takes: about twenty for the Soprano II video and fourteen for the solo audition, but apparently some people did up to seventy (!). I was also very tired and cramming everything into the last minute, which takes its toll on the voice even without doing take after take. Then there was the fact that I wasn’t very cluey with the recording software I was using. Tip: get cluey beforehand. A long way beforehand.

People are already asking Eric Whitacre about VC5. In anticipation, I’ve compiled a list of “Notes to Self” for the next time around:

  1. Don’t wait until the last minute.
  2. No, really: don’t wait until the last minute.
  3. Don’t try to learn a new piece of video editing software 29 hours before the deadline.
  4. If you can, set up the microphone so you can stand up.
  5. Do take several takes over several days, instead of trying to cram them all into one day.
  6. Take time before recording to read stuff on the forum regarding things like, “Don’t use vibrato”.
  7. Sleep well, eat well, look after yourself.
  8. Know when enough’s enough.
  9. Did I mention not to leave it to the last minute?

When the next time rolls around, if you have the chance and the resources, go for it. It’s great fun!

Thankyou to Eric and the whole team: it was an honour to be part of this fantastic project.

Can’t wait for VC5! 🙂

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And we’re back!

January 20, 2012


Just completed two student-free days at school, and next week they all come back again for another year. Yaaaaay!


I’m teaching maths as well as music this year, so I may have some maths-based thoughts, reflections, and resources stashed into this blog as the year goes on. Also, thinking of taking my Master degree back up again, but switching from Guidance Counselling to a straight Master of Education. I finish it quicker that way.

Took a break over Christmas by visiting my parents down in Brisbane, and then further south to visit hubby’s mum down in NSW, where our minimum temperature was their maximum, and the region’s internet was powered by one guy pedalling away on a stationary bike. Hence, no blog updates. Returned home to a very sick cat, but she’s better now.

I see that a number of people have been downloading my planners and powerpoints. I’m glad you guys are finding them useful. As I make more, I’ll keep putting  them up here of course.

Have a great year, people! 🙂

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No, you’re not seeing things. I really have changed my blog name…back.

May 23, 2011


So, I was all excited about having “Music Triple C’ as my new name for my new-look, new-feel blog.

But I should have done some research first. Triple C is actually the name of a hip hop group. Now, granted, it struck me as kind of a happy coincidence at first, but it actually makes my blog not quite as Google-savvy, as far as search engines go.

Also, reading a bit further into blog naming, I read that it is better to have the name of your blog describe what your blog is really about. So, Music Teach.n.Tech it is. Permanently. Forever and ever. Amen.

The three Cs are staying, though. I’m still about creativity, connectivity, and collegiality, and I think they make a nice little philosophy slogan together. So my header stays as it is.

So, I apologize for any confusion, and I thank you for your patience. Call it the indecision of a new blogster just getting off the ground in my first month (well, my second one now). No changes to either name, site, or address next month, I promise.

Btw: while it would be good to update your links (again), all original links to will still make it here in the meantime, as I haven’t deleted that domain, just in case.

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