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Who’s on your gift-giving list?

giftThe American Retail Federation reports that although Black Friday weekend sales decreased slightly from last year’s, 2013 total holiday sales are expected to increase 3.9 percent over last year, to $602 billion.

Instead of battling frenzied shoppers at big box retailers in search of the latest gadgets, LPM invites you to check your list twice and consider thinking out of the box, and the gift wrapping paper. Instead of stretching your budget and buying presents your loved ones may not really need, or want, give a gift that keeps on giving.  

It’s simple. Ask yourself, what’s your loved one passionate about? Whether it is education, social services or the arts, there are numerous valley non-profits that could use a helping hand. Call them up or go on-line, and consider making a donation in the name of your loved one. Then, send them a card sharing the good news about your donation on their behalf. Giving is contagious, and every little bit counts! Maybe they’ll respond in kind. 

If there are children on your list, or in your brood, consider spending uninterrupted, old-fashioned, quality time together. Valley resident and composer, Ira Weitz, shares his take on how to foster ingenuity and creativity with “The Imagination Starter Kit.”

 

The Imagination Starter Kit

Urban beats become a playground for mental problem-solving

By Ira Weitz

There is no greater reward than working from your heart and making a difference in the world.

– Carlos Santana 

Every morning when I wake up, I have a cup of espresso sweetened with two “Santanas” – a Carlos Santana quote (I recite the one above which starts this article) and then I play my Latin hand drum along with the recording of my favorite Santana song, Try a Little Harder, from the Festival CD. That song has become my mantra as I devote the rest of my day as both a creator and performer of educational children’s music to making a positive contribution to the lives of our youth. I help them connect with their imaginations, to find solutions that will help them to live a happy, community-connected, meaningful life. I call my discovery “The Imagination Starter Kit” and it doesn’t have to cost you any money since the materials you will need may already be in your house and on your computer. Your only investment will be the time it takes to work with your children. But, before I tell you what materials you’ll need to get started, I will relate to you my “Aha!” moments, those insights which led me to the creation of The Imagination Starter Kit.

As a former elementary school teacher and guidance counselor, I worked with small groups of six, and I was encouraged to develop some techniques that would motivate our students to overcome their academic challenges and their pessimistic attitudes. My group discussions were fine, but occasionally I noticed that some children remained detached, isolated and oppositional, and never joined our talks. They preferred, instead, to look out of my classroom window and sing songs they heard on the radio. When I asked them what tunes they were singing and what the lyrics were about, they would tell me. My questions engaged their interest and, afterwards, they participated in our group chat with a renewed focus and an increased attention span. I was not judgmental about their music, and they appreciated that.

When I arrived home, I would listen to the songs they named and, in doing so, I noticed a common thread – each tune was percussion-heavy, with either a strong hip-hop or reggae beat. I then decided to take the initiative and create my own compelling educational music. So, I went to a store and bought a few CDs of instrumental reggae and hip-hop beats without the clutter of vocals and melody. Minimalist beats, without singing and melodic instruments, leave lots of empty space in-between for the students to participate in, to create their own word/lyric/rap solutions. I call this teachable moment, offered by the empty spaces between drum beats, a window of imagination opportunity for our youth. It is a time when they can be intuitive and evaluate both their experiences and the wisdom offered by the experiences of others to determine the best course of action to overcome their challenges and rise to the occasion.

One day, after a few listens to get the flow and feel of the beats, I composed some rhymes dealing with the topics for the next day’s scheduled group sessions. These topics were: self-esteem, consequences, conflict resolution and imagination. With thick black markers I wrote the rhymes onto big charts, played my beat CDs through a boom box, and practiced “rapping” my original rhymes. I have to admit, I was really “rocking the mic.” 

On the very next day in school, my students were fascinated by the educational percussion-dominated sounds that surrounded them, which I used as starting points for our interactions. The atmosphere was electric as the children read and rapped my concept-specific sample rhymes, and as they recited their own original spoken poetry. Their enthusiasm was contagious as they co-created (with me) the solutions they were in search of.

Click here to read this story in our Digital Edition

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This Article appears on the December 2013 issue of LPM under Features

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