Playing a Rock Gig While Pregnant: Advice from Mamas Who’ve Done it

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Pregnancy, like playing a rock show, is physically demanding. Your body is expanding, you feel increasingly exhausted and uncomfortable, and simple tasks such as climbing a flight of stairs can cause you to break into a sweat.

But while there’s lots of guidance on whether to go to a loud rock show while you’re pregnant (spoiler alert: most docs think it’s totally fine), there isn’t a lot of advice circulating in cyberspace about playing a show while pregnant. Specifically, it’s hard to find advice on how to adapt to adjust for your changed physical and mental state.

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Rockmommy founder Marisa Torrieri Bloom, at Hank’s Saloon in Brooklyn, plays a gig at six months pregnant in 2012

Fortunately, plenty of moms — including me! — have played while expecting I’ve seen more than a few of moms-to-be armed with guitars, drum parts, and the like play some pretty amazing rock and roll shows. In fact, a couple of moms I know went on tour during their second or third trimester.

Whether you’re thinking about hitting the road for a five-week tour, or playing a couple of gigs before bunkering down for a year of sleepless nights with babes, pregnancy doesn’t have to hold you back from experiencing your rockstar moment.

Of course, it goes without saying that if you feel uncertain about anything, you should talk to your doctor. Since I’m a pretty athletic person, wielding a guitar while standing and singing wasn’t a huge physically exhausting feat during either of my pregnancies — but I definitely needed to make some major adjustments (see #2). But for some people, particularly those with high-risk pregnancies or physical limitations, playing a gig while expecting isn’t going to work.

For those of you expecting mamas who want to play a show or several, here are six tips to follow:

1. Focus on fun first. If you’re reading this blog, you probably LOVE playing live music and rocking out on stage. But depending on the kind of pregnancy you’re having, you may or may not feel like doing much of anything right now. If you’ve decided to play a show because you really really want to play one, try to stay positive as you practice and plan — don’t get tripped up about not being able to do cool backbends or wild acrobatics (if that was your thing pre-pregnancy), or about others judging you for putting on a few pounds. Just focus on delivering a kick-ass show with your bandmates, and the rest will follow.

2. Scale back as needed. Whether you play three-hour sets that rival those of the Grateful Dead, or you play drums, fast and furious, for a punk band, you may be surprised at how exhausted you are after doing something pregnant that you’ve done a million times before with no problem. If you find yourself tiring easily, consider trimming down your set (or skipping the physically demanding songs) so it feels more manageable.

3. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! If you’re knocked up, you need to drink more water than usual (The Institute of Medicine recommends that pregnant women drink about ten 8-ounce cups). And if you’re knocked up while playing an instrument in a hot, sweaty nightclub or bar underneath bright lights, you definitely need to drink more. But water isn’t the only way to quench your thirst. Rockmommy Trish Naudon Thomas, mother of 6-year-old Myla Sol and drummer for The NATCH! and The Fantastic Partnerz, swears by green juice smoothies. “Drinking green smoothies every day not only helped with getting my fill of folic acid, it helped with my energy levels for practice and gigs which was about 5+ times a week,” says Thomas. “I still drink my cherished green smoothies to keep up with my extremely energetic 6-year-old.”

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New York City musician Rew Starr sings on stage while pregnant in 1993. 

4. Try to adjust or control your environment as much as possible. You can’t control everything, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t adjust your practice or gigging space to suit your pregnant state. Rockmommy Katy Otto, drummer for the band Trophy Wife and mother to a young toddler, suggests planning in advance to make sure you’ll have the things you need, such as access to a bathroom that you can use, again and again, throughout the duration of your gig. “If you have certain things you will need in a venue, such as a non smoking space, make sure to think them through and ask about them ahead of time and don’t feel bad asking,” says Otto. “Don’t feel guilty doing things like getting a hotel room to be more comfortable even if you’ve crashed on floors and couches all your touring life — do what you need to do to feel healthy and good.”

5. When it comes to lugging equipment, don’t be a hero. If you’re used to hauling around heavy amps and carrying string instruments to and from rehearsal, being told to you need to slow down might bruise your ego. However, most physicians believe that the longer a woman is pregnant, the more her ability to safely lift a load decreases, mostly because her center of gravity and balance have changed (plus, the hormones of pregnancy cause a woman’s connective tissue, ligaments, and tendons to soften). New York City mom of two and singer-guitarist Rew Starr says she “gigged pretty much up until delivery,” but had the benefit of only having to tote around a microphone. But for others, such as bass-playing moms with the heaviest of amps, it’s not so easy. If you don’t have other bandmates who volunteer to carry your stuff, ask the venue’s staff to lend a hand: Call ahead to make sure someone will be available to load, unload, and reload your car with your equipment before and after you play. “Asking for help and knowing your limits is OK,” says Starr. “Don’t be afraid to say, ‘no I just can’t lug gear.’”

6. Talk to your fans about social media photos. While some women love showing off their baby bumps, others (myself included) would rather keep their pregnancies private, from the moment of conception to the moment after delivery. So if you’re a social media maven who doesn’t feel uncomfortable having photos of your protruding belly all over the Internet, step up to the mic and ask your fans to withhold from snapping pics while you play.

Playing a rock show is a cathartic experience, pregnant or not. By keeping some of these suggestions in mind, you’ll feel great at rehearsals and on stage. Plus, your tiny fetus will probably be bouncing along to the beat, enjoying every moment with you.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.

9/16 Gig Time: Grandma’s Mini at Chapala

It’s a full moon tonight (whatever that means), so while the sky is beautiful and the weather is mild and breezy, it’s prime time for a rock show. If you’re in the Washington, D.C., area, head to Chapala Restaurant to see my longtime band Grandma’s Mini reunite. Show starts at 8:30 p.m. ET, and we’ll be playing a mix of old classics (“The Rules,” “Hypo,” “Laid Off,” etc.) and newer pieces (“Trapper Keeper,” and “Gimme a Shake”).

Get Rockin’ Legs in 5 Minutes with this Lunge-A-Palooza Workout

You probably already know how great lunges are for toning your legs and improving your endurance. But did you know they can also improve stability, core strength, and balance, too? If time is a problem (and it probably is, if you’re a parent), our resident rock mama and Brooklyn, N.Y.-based personal trainer Sharissa Reichert, who sings and plays washboard for Milf & Dilf, has you covered.

This month’s three-minute video, named in honor of the Lollapalooza music festival that began in the early 1990s and recently celebrated its 25th anniversary, is all you need to strengthen those quads and work on your core. The best part? You can do anytime (like when your kid naps) and pretty much anywhere. Also, in case you missed it, check out her 5-minute ab workout, featured last month on Rockmommy.

Disclaimer: These exercises are not intended to replace the guidance of your physician or healthcare provider. If you’re starting a new exercise program, be sure to consult your doctor first.

Evanescence’s Amy Lee Opens up About Motherhood, the Children’s Album Her Toddler Helped Her Write, and Prepping for Tour

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Evanescence singer Amy Lee is famous for her fiery, impassioned vocals on songs like “Bring Me to Life” and her powerful presence as a front woman for a goth-metal band.

But for an adorable two-year-old named Jack, she’s just “mama.”

This month, as Lee and her band get ready to embark on another national tour, parents everywhere get to enjoy her first children’s album “Dream Too Much” (Amazon Music).

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Amy Lee (photo credit: Drew Reynolds)

Recently, the Rockmommy sat down to chat with me about her new record, balancing Jack and family life with a full-time music career (who knew watching your wee one on the baby monitor could inspire a song?!), and how other creative moms can keep their musical muse alive.

Rockmommy: When I first read you had made a children’s album, I couldn’t help but think it would be a hard rock album! Did you ever in your life think you would make a pretty, melodic children’s album with your family?

Amy Lee: It definitely is different than anything I’ve put out publicly before, but it really is a true part of who I am and who I’ve always been! This is me connecting my childhood with Jack’s. There is music in here that has been part of our family since as far back as I can remember, and I’ve always loved good, catchy melodies.

Rockmommy: In your recent Rolling Stone interview, you mentioned that the album started as a family project. When did it occur to you to make something bigger that could be enjoyed by the masses?

Amy Lee: Well … I did my first recording session with my dad and uncle in February of this year, and in that same month my manager asked if I’d be interested in doing a children’s album, because there was an opportunity with Amazon. It was kind of bizarre — just meant to be I guess. I not only really enjoyed recording this music for Jack with my family, but I loved the way it was sounding. So we just had to keep going!

Rockmommy: How did you decide on the songs you would include? What was the creative process like?

Amy Lee: We recorded in Ft. Worth Texas at Spaceway Productions with my good friend and collaborator/producer Will Hunt. I would write and make demos from my home until we had four or five that I wanted to record, then we would figure out what the line-up would be for that session and book a week or so. We did that three times. So for the first batch, it was my dad, my uncle and me doing mainly songs from my childhood like “Rubber Duckie” and “Goodnight my Love.” Then for the second batch I started getting into the Andrews Sisters-style three part harmony stuff and made the focus about my sisters and I. My sister Lori, my dad, and my husband Josh all got in on the writing process, which was really fun! Plenty of hilarious emails and voice memos back and forth.

Rockmommy: Can you tell us about how your son Jack inspired some of the songs on this record?

Amy Lee: The lyrics for “Dream Too Much” came right out of his mouth! I was just sitting on the couch with an acoustic guitar, and Jack was running around the room in a circle saying hilarious nonsense (not unusual!). So when he yelled out “monkey in the band,” I sang it back to him. Then, “the muffins are sleeping!” and I sang that too. After a few lines I thought, ‘hey, that could be really cool, to make the verses just crazy imaginative stuff he’s thinking about.’ I’m keeping it that way! Another one— “I’m not Tired” — started as I was watching him on the baby monitor while sitting at my keyboard trying to write. Total rebellion against sleep. ANYTHING but that! I put myself in his mind and sang what I thought he would say if he could, and that became a fun game.

Rockmommy: You are going back on tour with Evanescence in just a couple of months! What are you most excited and concerned about, considering your new life as a mom with a toddler?  (And are you bringing him on tour?!)

Amy Lee: I’m excited because it’s a side of myself that I don’t use that much lately. Most of the time I’m Jack’s mom, hanging out at the neighborhood sandbox or watching Curious George while making him dinner. Many days I don’t put on makeup, and if I wear a necklace it’s getting ripped off. I get to strap the boots on, pour glitter all over myself and thrash around onstage with my badass rock band. YES! I’m ready! The hard part is leaving him. It’s insanely painful. We will see each other but with long stretches in between, this will be the longest we’ve been apart and it’s killing me just thinking about it.

Rockmommy: What are some of the biggest challenges you have when it comes to balancing it all — the children’s album, Evanescence, marriage, time with your son — and how have you made it all work?

Amy Lee: The thing is, I want to be the best of myself — not just for me anymore, but for him. I want him to have a mom that spends every spare minute showering him with love and making him laugh, and I want him to have a mom that rocks (literally!). It would be easier in some ways, if I didn’t work at all, of course. There really aren’t enough hours in a day. But if I stopped making music, doing what I was born to do, or even just taking time to myself sometimes to think — I don’t think that’s good for anybody in the end. I want to show him that anything is possible, that life is a gift and we should live it. And balance — some days I feel like I can’t do that, I can’t balance it all out. But keeping perspective makes that OK. He comes first in my heart, so when something else is dragging a little bit, I just have to forgive myself. I’ll fix it/clean it/book it/write it later. Making this album, fueled by my love for him and my family, brought both worlds together and just felt right.

Rockmommy: Do you have any plans to play family shows (featuring songs from your children’s album) in the near future?

Amy Lee: My dad and I are going to do a little live performance on a Sirius show called “The Absolutely Mindy Show” at the end of the month. We’re looking forward to it!

Rockmommy: What advice do you have to other rocker moms who are trying to find time and inspiration to be creative (while exhausted from parenting young children!)?

Amy Lee: Keep it in perspective. Allow your mind to rest sometimes and just breathe and listen. Turn off the TV.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Does Garbage Still Got it, 20 Years Later? 5 Thoughts on ‘Strange Little Birds’

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

When I first heard that Garbage was putting out a new album that evoked the band’s 1995 self-titled debut, I was stoked. Few albums take me back to a specific time and place like that record, a masterpiece overflowing with so many sexy, fun, cool tracks that I became an instant fan the first time I heard it.

This past July, more than 20 years later, I downloaded “Strange Little Birds,” Garbage’s sixth studio album, hoping to recreate some of those euphoric feelings. Of course, the context of my listening experience couldn’t be more different: these days, I’m a mom, not a college student. I don’t go clubbing save for a special occasion, and I’m married.

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Garbage’s sixth studio album, “Strange Little Birds”

Given all of these things, it’s difficult to give a Rolling Stone-worthy (or Pitchfork-worthy) review, where the focus is purely on the music, and how it compares to other music. But if you’re a longtime Garbage fan who’s thinking about downloading this album, I’ll share my thoughts:

#1: Shirley is ageless. Lead singer Shirley Manson’s voice, not to mention her goth-punk appearance, has barely changed since the late 1990s. She’s still as breathy and seductive as ever, with one of the most underrated voices in the music industry.

#2: Butch Vig & Co. hold their own: After nearly two decades of making music, can Manson’s bandmates (Butch Vig, Duke Erikson, Steve Marker) keep up with younger, bolder contemporaries? In a word, yes! “Strange Little Birds” encompasses a broad soundscape, filled with a smattering of noises and pretty instruments that come together like a well-blended artisan coffee drink (or, as Rolling Stone puts it, “sheer guitar buzz and moody industrial texture”).

#3: ‘Strange Little Birds’ is less like ‘Garbage’ than ‘Version 2.0’: This record is angry, with aggressive songs like “Empty” that evoke pretty much everything Nine Inch Nails (post “Pretty Hate Machine,” naturally). I’d love for the modern-day equivalent of “Only Happy When it Rains” — a goth-in-disguise pop track with a fun, peppy beat — but alas, there are none here.

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Garbage, circa 2016

#4: There is no epic “#1 Crush.” If you’re dying for Shirley to seduce you with “I would die for you”-like lyrics, dream on. You won’t find anything that would fit a “Romeo & Juliet” soundtrack on this record.

#5: But there are still still a couple of drop-everything-and-listen tracks. One listen to the epic “Even Though Our Love is Doomed,” and I immediately felt redeemed for spending $12.99 on this album.

Overall, “Strange Little Birds” leaves me wanting more. It makes me nostalgic for old Garbage, and the days of “Queer” or “Stupid Girl.” All in all, it’s a great record, even though I won’t be playing it enough for any of the tracks to slide into my “Top 25 Most Played” playlist.

Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy.

Good Body’s Salves and Tonics = Homemade Goodness for and by Rocker Parents

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Like every mom, I’m multidimensional. I work hard as a writer, guitar teacher, and parent. And I like to stay up late and enjoy live music as much as I like to wake up at the crack of dawn to try a new fitness class.

One of my greatest loves outside of mothering and music is running competitively, which I am now enjoying again for the first time since recovering from back-to-back pregnancies. And as a long-distance runner, I experience a LOT of aches. More often than not, these aches are worse than the cramps in my arms and legs post-gig, after I’ve wielded a guitar for an hour onstage. But the smell of Bengay and desire to keep toxic chemicals off my body (so my young children don’t accidentally inhale or ingest them after a cuddle session), usually means I have to wait out the aches instead of treating them with a topical remedy.

Fellow rockmommy/drummer Trish Naudon Thomas and her husband Chris Thomas, parents of 6-year-old Myla Sol, must’ve felt the same way when they created Good Body Products. The family of three, who relocated to Southern Vermont shortly after Myla Sol was born, have channeled all their creative energy into a line of all-natural skin care salves, creams, and tonics that are ready-made for super-active types like me. Recently, I opted to try a bunch of Good Body Products’ therapies — selected as part of my “one of each” bundle (a huge value at $75) — shortly after I interviewed her on balancing motherhood, music (she and Chris’ band The NATCH! recently finished a string of gigs), and a new startup!

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The Thomas family, creators of Good Body Products

Three months later, having tried all five of the products in my hand-picked Good Body Products kit — pain salve, whipped body butter, home/body mist, sugar scrub, and solid perfume — I can definitely say I’ve become a huge fan of a few of the selections. Here, I’ll discuss my experience with each:

  1. Arnica & Comfrey Joint and Pain Salve ($15)

I’ve never used anything but Bengay on my muscles, so the idea that a natural pain “salve” could work raised suspicion. I’m happy to say that the salve — a thick skin cream that feels like a slightly granular version of an everyday ointment — ended up being the best of the bunch. I rubbed it generously on all of my muscles after a recent half marathon and felt like my old self (sans massage!) in about two days.

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Good Body Products’ Arnica-infused pain salve

2. Arnica, St. John’s Wort, and Cedarwood Whipped Body Butter ($30)

I love body butters — they feel so luxe and indulgent. My ankles and elbows are super dry, so I was psyched to try Good Body’s version. The lavender-infused scent was nothing less than intoxicating, and the cream did a great job of softening my dead ankle and elbow skin. The only weird side effect is that every time I use it at night, I experience strange dreams (perhaps that’s a byproduct of St. John’s Wort’s depression-easing effects?).

 

3. Rosemary & Lavender Aromatic Mist ($14) 

I’ve never really used mists, so it was a shock that out of all of the Good Body loot I received, I ended up feeling most attached to the Rosemary & Lavender Aromatic Mist. I now spray it everywhere (my hair, my kids’ clothes, the toilet seat) and anytime I need a mood lift (lavender is, among other things, a well-known mood booster).

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Good Body Products’ Rosemary & Lavender Aromatic mist

4. Arnica and St. John’s Wort Sugar Body Scrub ($20)

I’m a huge fan of sugar scrubs because they’re softer on my skin than salt scrubs. This one comes with a light, sweet scent, and the oils left my skin feeling smooth (since I’m acne prone, I couldn’t apply as liberally as I’d like, however).

5. Lavender and Patchouli solid scent ($8)

Good Body’s perfectly packaged patchouli-lavender solid perfume immediately reminded me of the Grateful Dead-loving dude I dated in high school. Patchouli carries so many other memories for me, too — Madonna’s “Like a Prayer” cassette tape (yes, Madonna made a patchouli-scented record, for all those post-1989 kids who didn’t buy it), sneaking out with boyfriends who wore Doc Martens, and 1990s rock shows. Few things are grungier or more rock and roll than patchouli, and the solid scent is a nice way to show it off. Because I’m digging florals like jasmine these days, I didn’t wear this one much, but when I did, the scent lasted for several hours.

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Good Body Products’ Patchouli-Lavender solid scent

Overall, I’m convinced that many natural body products are just as good as their synthetic counterparts. As I write this, I am almost out of the spray tonic and joint pain salve (so I’ll have to order more soon, especially if I run another half marathon this fall). And the sugar scrub is long gone.

It just goes to show that creative mamas (and papas) can make more than great music in their quest to help (and heal) the world.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the founder and editor of Rockmommy. 

After-School Rockstars: Music Mama Wendy Mitchell’s Best Advice on Finding the Right Lessons for Your Kids

by Marisa Torrieri Bloom

Rocker moms and dads who want to start their budding Taylor Swift, Bob Dylan, or Ludwig van Beethoven on music lessons — but have no clue on what to do first — should meet Wendy Mitchell of Ridgefield, Conn.

In addition to playing bass and singing in various original and cover bands with her longtime husband Chris, she’s simultaneously raised three (3!) music-minded kids and held down multiple theater-teacher roles (she’s also battled a rare form of breast cancer, while barely missing a beat).

Recently, Wendy was tapped as the director for national music school Bach to Rock’s newest Ridgefield, Conn., location. In this role, she oversees the music program for the school, which, like its name, offers guided instruction and performance opportunities for most major instruments — guitar, keys, violin, bass, drums, etc.

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Wendy Mitchell at the mixing board

With the back-to-school activity sign-up insanity is in full swing, Wendy sat down with Rockmommy to talk about encouraging music-minded kids to thrive, what to look for in a teacher, and how to make practice fun.

Rockmommy: As a musician and mother of 3 — two of whom are talented musicians in their own right — how did you encourage your children in the arts at a young age?

Wendy Mitchell: Immersion— they were surrounded by music from the womb (I used to listen to classical and jazz when I was pregnant and put headphones on my belly to soothe them) so it was only natural for them to love it from the beginning. When my son was two he used to climb into the cabinet to play the pots and pans with the wooden spoon so we got him a small drum set when he was about 4 or 5 and he hasn’t stopped playing since.

Rockmommy: There are so many options for kids today, in terms of music and activities. What factors should you consider when trying to figure out the best option for your child (e.g., age, their attention span and whether it warrants private lessons, etc.)?

Wendy Mitchell: Each child’s personality and learning style is different so there is no cookie cutter formula for all kids. The best program to is one that enables your child to thrive, to feel comfortable, safe and valued, and of course one that’s fun. Music lessons shouldn’t be a chore or something they dread— music education should be a place where kids can come to express themselves creatively. As far as attention span goes, for little ones (toddlers), a program that engages their mind and body is one that will capture their interest and help them to learn the basics of music.

Rockmommy: What are some of the “signs” that your preschooler or young child might benefit from an after-school music program? And how do you decide which one (e.g., guitar, piano, voice/chorus, etc.)?

Wendy Mitchell: If your child is always tapping, moving, fidgeting and humming, chances are they would benefit from getting all that rhythm inside out. To figure out which instrument works best, keep in mind the size and shape of their hands and what they’re able to manipulate. For example, a five-year-old’s hands aren’t big enough to fit around the neck of a standard size guitar. Start him/her off on a 3/4-size guitar from your local music store and see how they like it. For kids age 5 to 6 we generally recommend our Kids & Keys program which allows children to reach the piano on their level (literally — it’s a shorter height). This teaches them the notes of the piano, scales and chords and basic rhythm patterns in a fun and interactive way that reaches them on their level. Kids are given a head set for part of the lessons and learn to match pitches and notes by playing a fun computer game..

Rockmommy: It’s been said that children need instructors who possess similar personalities, or enthusiasm. When hiring instructors, what qualities do you look for?

Wendy Mitchell: MUST love kids. PERIOD. Kids (and parents) can sense when a teacher is amazingly talented but hates their job. It’s hard to fake having fun when teaching kids music. We only hire teachers who are not only qualified but truly have a love and a passion for teaching and helping kids express themselves creatively through music.

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Wendy Mitchell, playing bass with one of her bands.

Rockmommy: Sometimes finances can be a challenge for parents — and the cost of activities can add up. How do you know if a music program or activity is worth the investment (e.g., it has to have great teachers with experience and references, etc.)?

Wendy Mitchell: You get what you pay for. If another music school’s prices are much cheaper than the “going rate” there”s probably a reason why. All of our teachers are not only qualified and come from the top music colleges form around the country but they’re also background checked across a national registry. Parents will know when a music program is worth the investment after they’ve seen progress and excitement in their child in that they want to go to their lessons and look forward to it.

Rockmommy: If your child becomes disinterested after one or two lessons, how can you encourage them to stick it out for at least a few more weeks?

Wendy Mitchell: Learning to finish what they started is a valuable lesson to learn in any aspect in life, especially when they’re young. If we allow our children to quit after things don’t go their way they will want to quit everything— from sports, to jobs, to good habits.

Rockmommy: Often times, parents expect teachers to work miracles — but if a kid doesn’t practice on his/her own, that can affect results. Given this, what advice would you offer parents?

Wendy Mitchell: I’d say that a parent has to be on board and follow what the music teacher suggests in order to get the most our of the program. All parties must be on the same page.

Rockmommy: How do you encourage children to excel at music, while not putting too much pressure on them?

Wendy Mitchell: Practice, practice, practice! Michael Jordan, Arianna Grande, Gabby Douglas or any star athlete or performer didn’t get to where they are without hard work, dedication, and practice at their craft.

— Marisa Torrieri Bloom is the editor and founder of Rockmommy.