Sunday, February 13, 2011

Author Interview + Book and Necklace Giveaway: Sara Bennett Wealer of Rival

Recently, I had what Oprah would most likely deem an "Aha" moment. It came after I watched and listened to an amazing performance by our school’s concert band. It was held in our school's gym, with about 800 people watching. As I listened to the music, I looked around at the crowd and saw dozens of students playing air drums and other instruments. This got me thinking about the number of students who could benefit from music education. But, with shrinking budgets, this will not happen any time soon.

I knew that Ms. Sara Bennett Wealer was going to drop by DeRaps Reads for a guest post and knew that her book dealt with two former friends who compete musically. So, I figured Ms. Bennett Wealer might have an opinion or two about the state of music education in our schools. And, I was right!

When people talk about cutting back on music in public education, I often feel like they’re speaking a foreign language. Music was such an important part of my own educational experience that the idea of curtailing or eliminating it just doesn’t compute. Music gave me confidence. It opened new worlds. It made me excited to go to school and kept me motivated when other subjects had me discouraged. 

I often think that the people who want to cut music from public education aren’t thinking about it the right way. They act like music is an “extra” when, really, music can be an integral part of the learning experience.

In fact, you could create an entire curriculum with music as the glue that holds each subject together: 

Languages – How many of us learned French by singing Frere Jacques? I remember my German lessons because our teacher taught us “Du, du liegst mir im hertzen.” Heck, music is its own language, and one that few people end up regretting having learned. 

Literature/Poetry – From lyrics and librettos to symphonies and operas based on myth, legend and classic literature, your lesson plan is almost written for you!

History/Cultures – You can explore everything from daily living, religion and folklore to major historical events by looking at the music people were singing with and for one another.

Science – How do the parts of the body work together to give you your voice? What are the physics of pitch? The mechanics of how a trombone works? How do animals in nature use musical sounds to communicate?

Math – This is a biggie for me. A friend of mine told me his daughter’s school was teaching math by having the children stomp out rhyhms on the floor, and I was so jealous! If someone had taught me that way I might not have grown up terrified of numbers. 

I remember the first time I really, truly understood math – it happened when I was singing Bach’s B-Minor Mass with a symphony chorus. When rehearsals first started, I HATED the piece. It was painful and tedious and hard, with all sorts of changing rhythms, byzantine fugues and harmonies, just a brick wall that I couldn’t get my brain around. I tried to fake it – tried to follow the people next to me, tried to limp along, and I ended up with a headache, a sore throat and a tongue-lashing from my director.

I was forced to face the music – I HAD to count. I had to do the math. I had to work the problem, no shortcuts. So I coaxed my brain into really analyzing and reading, and…

…Seriously? It got way trippy. After a couple more rehearsals, things suddenly clicked! And I felt like I had literally walked into the music. The music took on three dimensions, like I was inside of it – almost like being in an architectural geometric structure. I could feel and hear and see and understand what the numbers were creating, and it was so much more than just digits on a page. It was a gorgeous masterpiece that I love to this day.

Why, oh why couldn’t I have had that experience at age15? 

With today’s focus on standardized testing, I worry that this kind of creative thinking just isn’t being done when it comes to music in public schools. But perhaps we need it more than ever.

Music can get test-weary kids out of their seats. It can help them experience what they’re learning, not just memorize it. It can bring concepts to life. 

Perhaps, instead of putting music in a separate classroom, we should make every classroom musical. Maybe then we’d see that it’s not an “extra” at all!

Find Sara Online: 

And, now for the giveaway. I am so very jealous that one of you is going to win this amazing prize pack. One lucky commenter with a US address will win:

 A copy of Rival 


 This cute necklace!

How awesome is that?! To enter, simply comment with an answer to this question:

How has music been important or influential in your life?


Open to US entrants only
Contest Ends 2/20/2011
Please leave an email address so that I can contact you if you win!


  1. Sadly, I'm one of the people who air guitars to their favorite sings because I have no musical training, but music is still very important to me. When I was going through my teens, listening to music gave me an emotional outlet, and now it gives me a spiritual one. I love to compose psalms in the shower and "sing" prayers in my head. I also have a great love of singing and make any excuse to do it, even though I'm not that good, because it brings me joy.
    Thanks for the excellent post. It may be too late for me to learn, but I'll make sure my future hypothetical children are given the chance to learn it.
    And thanks for the giveaway!
    zombiegirrrl21 at aol

  2. I am tone deaf and have no sense of rhythm, but I love music. I prefer songs where the lyrics really mean something (to me at least). And my husband and I also have have been taking ballroom lessons for 4 years now (he has great rhythm).

  3. I love music and it is always on at my house. I love music and books much more then TV. I am not sure how it has influenced me but I do love it the louder the better. Please include me in your giveaway.

  4. Yay! Great interview and giveaway!

    As a girl who played piano, handbells, and sang in many choirs, music has been a huge part of my life! But perhaps the best part of music for me is when a song can take you to a particular emotion or memory. I love when music is that powerful!


    Fletch8502 at yahoo dot com

    Quitting My Day Job

  5. I love music but sometimes I think I'm getting too old for it. I would rather listen to an audio book. Haha.

    Hooked to Books

  6. While I do not play an instrument now, playing the alto saxophone in junior high (and briefly in high school) was a very positive experience, and of course, music played a huge role in language learning for me as well in Spanish. Then of course, there is just the sheer pleasure of listening to music which has probably impacted my life more than any other musical exposure.

    I love the cover of this book!

  7. I have always enjoyed playing music. I played both the piano and saxophone in my younger days. But the thing I enjoy most about music is how it can be associated with certain events in your past and remind you of those good (or bad) times.

  8. I used to be very musical as a child, but have grown out of it over the years. I used to play piano, flute, and was a dance major. However, these things just grew to be too much and not enjoyable anymore. I do have a slight nostalgic feeling when I sit back and think about those years. I think music is great for everyone. Very healthy in fact. I think every child should be able to make their own choices when it comes to music. I've seen it do great things for some. I still enjoy listening to music very much. And I take any opportunity to see a live band. I love concerts.

    deadtossedwaves at gmail dot com

  9. Music means so much to me. It is like a comfoting friend, and always makes people feel better. IfI am depressed or sad, I turn to music. Happy and joyful, I turn to music.
    I play the violin and it is very enjoyable for me. My local music group is closing down so I may not be able to have lessons anymore or go to my orchestra, but that does no stop me for my love for music.
    Everyone has different tastes for music. Classical, rock, rap, pop, dance, indie, jazz, swing and some are 'tone deaf'. But music is loved by everyone someway. Whether it is listening into your bedroom chilling out, tapping a beat onto the table, the rythem of the keys you type on teh keyboard or really gettting out there and moving - be free. Be alive. Be youself.

    Thank you for this fantastic giveaway-

  10. I love music, even if it's just to have something to listen to while I study or do housework.

    I played trumpet when I was a kid and enjoyed being part of the school band.

    meredithfl at gmail dot com

  11. Very calms me down..

  12. How has music been important or influential in your life?
    Its a way to stop thinking about all the stress in life and just lose your self in listening to music which i love to do


  13. Oh, I'm so glad to see this up - I couldn't remember what all I had said. Now I feel like emailing it to all the schools in my city. Thank you so much for featuring me and my book, and for supporting the arts in schools!

  14. I took piano lessons for 11 years, so music played a huge role in my life. Even now I always listen to music that fits my mood. I tell people if you want to know whats going on with me pay attention to the music I'm listening to. They go hand in hand.

    themgowl at

  15. Music is so important to my life. It gets down to my very soul... and reminds me that I have one. It, along with any artistic endeavor, is what keeps humans from being robotic drones.

    Music proves again and again to improve the lives of the people who get involved with it. And yet schools continue to get it wrong by cutting budgets. It makes me so sad.

    beths0103 at yahoo dot com

  16. Music has been everything in my life, from making it (as far as band and choir go) to listening to it. It gets me through the hard times and makes the good times that much better.


  17. This is a great giveaway. Thanks for hosting. Music has been very influential in my life. In middle school I was in band and choir. I loved being in both because I was able to have a creative outlet to express myself. In high school, I was in 3 different choir groups and I loved every minute of it. I gained a confidence that I know came from performing with these groups. Being in these groups helped me make it through high school.

    Music is still important to me. I listen to music at some point every day. It lifts me up or calms me down (which ever my mood calls for).

    actinupwb at

  18. How has music been important in my life? The best question is probably how has it not? Music IS my life. I am a senior in college studying music performance, and I'm getting ready to do my senior recital. Without music I wouldn't have a career (granted, my career choice is not an easy one, and I may still not have a career, but hey, at least I can try). I cannot imagine a life without music (I've been playing one instrument or another for approximately 17 years now), which makes it hard to pinpoint everything music has done for me. I don't talk about it a whole lot on my blog, because the blog is a place for books, but this is a huge deal for me. One of the saddest things I can think of is that some other little girl like I was won't get the opportunity to find refuge in her music because some school board decided sports were more profitable.

    I'd better stop there or I'll go on all day.

    greenparrot55 [at] hotmail [dot] com

  19. I am SO musically challenged so I would have to say Christmas music always puts me in the right frame of mind..any time of year

  20. I was in Show Choir in high school (just like in Glee) and I would have never met some of my best friends if it hadn't been for that! It was such a great experience, and I miss performing!


  21. I played the clarinet in elementary school and was in chorus in high school and even though I was never very good at either I always tried my hardest and was proud of myself for doing my best. Music gave me confidence :)


  22. I believe songs always go along with our lives. Some of my favorite songs remind me of times in the past that were good or bad and sometimes they even remind me of people. So it is great that songs can transport you back to a time in your life with a memory.

    Thanks for the awesome giveaway

  23. I love music! Can't sing, though I try, can't dance, yeah I keep trying on that too, but I always have it playing in the background and I love all kinds.

  24. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't listen to music. It has helped me through a lot of tough times.

    findjessyhere at gmail dot com

  25. Hmm, where to begin.... I blame it on my dad.

    My dad's a musician, and he plays by ear, so growing up I was constantly called into the room and asked "Does this sound right? Higher or lower?" Or "Can you get me the lyrics to this?" Or "What's a good word for ______"
    So there was clearly no avoiding it.

    I have countless playlists in my iTunes, ranging from the very general to the neurotically specific. When I'm reading, I sometimes think "this specific part of this specific song would be perfect for this line right here." It's kind of ridiculous.
    Music is pretty much a constant in my life.

    mbradenwf AT gmail DOT com

  26. Music was a huge part of my life growing up. I started music lessons when I was 7 years old. I played the flute and piano. I went to music school and participated in a few different orchestras and bands. I also competed in a lot of different flute competitions on a state and national level.....Hehehe I sound like such a nerd. I even majored in music in college. So music completely changed and shaped my life. I LOVE all types of music and now love to share that with my one year old. His favorite thing is to listen to music and dance :) I hope I can instill a love for music in him!

    TaraTagli at gmail dot com

  27. Music is important to me because one song can mean so much. One song can take me back to my favorite memory or to a hard time or remind me of someone I lost. Music is a way to connect to other people and to have something in common without sharing the details. Music is also important to me because, like books, it offers an escape and tells a story.

    Thanks for the giveaway! (:


  28. Great interview! Music is so important to me, when I'm not writing, I'm listening to music. Heck, my job is to listen to music (I review albums and interview artists.) Music helps me understand my feelings when I'm clueless.

    Thanks for the wonderful giveaway!

    Amy // artsyrockerchick at aim dot com

  29. Music is important to me because it's one of the greatest things I remember from my childhood. I always took musical and vocal music lessons and I had so much fun doing it.

    Lisa, bell198(at)aol(dot)com

  30. Besides books music is the second most important thing in my life. When your having a bad day or a heartbreak etc that one song is all you need the one that you can relate too and feel as if you have someone that truly understands. Also for all the hard trials i've had music is what kept me going letting me rid of stress and take a breather from reality just like books.

  31. what an awesome giveaway!
    uniquelymoibooks at att dot net

  32. music is SO important to is will never find me without either a book or my ipod lol. I learned to play music (flute and piano) at a young age and it made all the difference.

    hense1kk AT cmich DOT edu

  33. Wow, her post made me realize how important music in school really is in my life. I myself used a song to learn Spanish conjugations and the presidents. In my life music is my comfort from the outside world. In church the songs and hymns I learn help to really calm myself and bring me back to a happy place.

    Thanks for this guest post and great contest!
    two_of_hearts_101 at yahoo dot com





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