While I’ve lived with the idea of creating a BenAnna Blog for a little while now, whenever it came time to put fingers-to-keyboard, the most cringey, nails-on-a-chalk-board voice would always reply: “A blog? Why would people want to read what you have to say?” This is one of the most frequent conversations taking part in my head, as self-judgment and social anxiety are longtime co-pilots of mine. However, authenticity is something that I work hard at, in my life as well as BenAnna’s, and that means acknowledging the good, the bad, and everything in between. Creating a blog would give me a space to talk through my music process, my favorite resources, moments that make my heart sing and moments that make it sink, etc. It’d be a place to amplify my friends’ voices and to just further show that we’re all human, a place to break down those daily anxious voices, and that is what I want this space to be.
So after 3 weeks of saying “I’m gonna start writing,” I’m feeling confident enough to show a new side of me after listening to “Don’t Hide Your Magic” by Emily Arrow. How appropriate that listening to “new to me” children’s music inspired a move forward with a blog that will be showing a more vulnerable part of me.
So thanks for letting me get that out real fast, and thank you for coming over to read more about me. The first topic I want to write about is “Why BenAnna?” but before we get to that, I need to tell you about who I was before BenAnna. I think it’s so important (and can be pretty fun) to look back on ‘who you were’ in order to see ‘who you are now’ in an even brighter light. I honestly don’t remember a time when I wasn’t making or listening to music in my childhood, and in fact, one of my earliest memories is of my first “performance.” I was five years old at my godfather’s 30th birthday party with a pop up stage and a live band playing. I walked over to him, pulled his shirt, and told him that I wanted to sing him a song. He said “Sure, go ahead,” but I told him “No, I want to sing up there” and pointed to the stage. The band was on break, so my Uncle Danny and I got on stage and sang “You Are my Sunshine” (a hit in my household). The band came back and accompanied me while the whole party sang along. Music has always been in my life, and that’s all thanks to my mother (and my (and my dad for tolerating all the noise). My mom, Patti, was (and is) a natural-born mom, often presenting houseguests with plate of chocolate chip cookies warm out of the oven upon arrival. She’s a lifelong singer, so it comes as no surprise that she encouraged singing and music-making whenever possible. Between family choruses of “Aiken Drum” on car rides, impromptu one woman musicals for my little sister, backyard productions with my cousins (complete with a clothesline curtain) at my grandparents’, or “teaching” piano to anyone I could, music was who I wanted to be when I grew up, regardless of what form that took.
When I discovered Music Therapy in 6th grade, I immediately knew that it would be my college major. It took my parents some convincing, but they had six years to get on team Music Therapy. I really found my voice in college and I wouldn’t change my college experience for the world, but throughout my college years I found myself constantly fighting and self-advocating. I had to fight for myself in my college department, for the validity of my major to friends and family, for my mental health to my professors, for the way I lived/worked versus that of others at my age, for campus jobs wherein I knew I would find success, and for more inclusion in my college (especially with ASL and the Deaf Community). Looking back, it probably wasn’t as heavy a time objectively, but in the moment it was difficult to process and ask for help. Post-college, I was fortunate enough to get a job in Music Therapy quickly; I passed my MTBC exam (on the third try) and got an email an hour later with a job opportunity from an upperclassman friend at her facility. I had three major employments in the field of Music Therapy before we started BenAnna Band. I worked in daycare centers where some teachers didn’t have a lot of training on kiddos with varying behaviors, in a music school where most of my private lessons were early childhood learners and students with a wide range of communication and cognitive delays whose parents (and my facility) had forced expectations on the students’ musical performance and proficiency, and in a special needs preschool where I conducted group sessions and experienced some major burnout, partly because I had no one to process with, and partly because of a lack of creative collaboration, as I was I was the only creative arts special employee. Looking back, I can notice a clear trend: I was constantly working to see all my students as who they were, not trying to force them to fit into the box of a desired behavior, and really listening to what they wanted to express, verbally or otherwise. After so much burnout that went unrecognized in the moment, I came to the realization that there was a better way for me to still work with kiddos, amplifying their creative expression while giving myself more of a flexible, supportive, and heart-fulfilling work experience. The need to help kiddos grow creatively that has always been present, coupled with the need to prioritize my process more, is what sparked BenAnna. Both Ben and I kept our fulltime jobs, but we started to build our little baby business. In 2020, I was fortunate enough to work virtually with my preschool until August, when I was ultimately let go due to covid costs. This forced me to really take the full jump into BenAnna becoming my fulltime work, and as scary as this was (still kinda is) for myself and my family to not have “consistent income,” I’ve never felt more rewarded and confident in my work than I do right now. In 2020, I think we all did a lot of soul searching for what we actually need and what we don’t need to live a happy life. Now having had BenAnna as my fulltime gig for 6 months, I realize that I was putting myself in a box of social expectations and that I needed to amplify my self-expression in the same way I was fighting for my students to be seen. I think about five year old Anna and I’m feeling like her more and more every day, enthusiasm bursting from her fingertips, seeing a dream and running for it. Our whole life is full of cycles and patterns, and BenAnna is very much a new chapter for us. It has given me the most beautiful opportunity to break the negative cycle of constant fighting, and now I’m able to create for myself and kiddos all around the world. I’d love to finish this first blog with the quote that inspired for me to write…
“Wave your wand anytime you want, don’t hide your magic/ ‘cause you got a spark that lights up the dark, it’s so fantastic so don’t hide your magic.” – Emily Arrow
Sending light and love,