Funky Monkey Photography: Spring is in Session

We were honoured to be asked by Funky Monkey to be models for their spring session.   As you know, we LOVED all the shots of our girls and our family during their Christmas promotion.  With many new backgrounds (I am so in love with the arrow background) and colours to choose from, it was hard to decide.  Luckily, James is a pro and he had it all in check.

Now besides all the amazing lighting and props that are always there, I first have to mention this.  Our two eldest daughters are generally shy girls (we left Baby C out of this session because I wanted James to have girls who could take fast direction).  It takes them a while to warm up to people and I’m including close friends and family.  Only seeing James for the second time, he had them in giggles and totally at ease.  Maybe it was the ease of the shoot or the fact they remembered his famous line, “Bingo bongo!”  It could’ve been the fact that he opened the session with a cool swing and they realized, “Hey, this is gonna be awesome!”  Whatever it was, I was in awe that he could make those two so comfortable.  They were into the photos, brought their great smiles, and tried whatever poses he suggested.  It was a fun time for all.

Like the Christmas shoot, the studio is always updating their stock and this time it was another enormous selection of backdrops and floor drops.  They had brick backgrounds, flowers, fields, patterns, you name it and it was there (he has a cool storage nook for his backdrops under the stairs too – excellent use of space.).  My favourite was the weathered wood floor drop and the matching background.  The cool thing about floor drops I learned was that they can be made of many materials and this one felt like felt.  They also come in vinyl, linen, canvas, and plastic.  The combinations are endless and really sets the tone and look of the photos.

The shoot took slightly over an hour, but time flew by with the enormous amount of choices we had.  If your little one is ready for some commemorative pictures (the only problem will be selecting your favourites) or you are finally ready for a set of family photos, think of Funky Monkey and the whole experience!  If you want a fun photographer and organized partner who helps with bookings and answers all questions fast, give them a shout.  Trust me, you will have a great time!

Contact them now by calling or texting: 416.997.0814.





Last week, our school had a special visit from Aussie X, a division of X Movement, a program geared towards school-age children to promote physical activity and positive thinking.  Through the use of sport, specifically Aussie Rules Football, the coaches engage the students through play and team building.

T-Bone (Phil) and Meatball (Cade) were the two instructors from Aussie X.  We learned that in Australia, many people go by nicknames so we called them by their nicknames during their time with us.  They were at our school for three days teaching classes from kindergarten to grade eight.  On the evening of the last day, parents were welcome to attend the lessons at the school so they could participate in the same fun activities their children did earlier during the week.

We were given a two-hour window where my students were first shown a video about footy.   After a brief introduction, Meatball asked a few questions to make sure they were listening. They discussed the basic skills and rules of Aussie football and then out we went.

The students warmed up with some simple games involving listening skills and partner work.  They danced, skipped around, acted silly, and generally, had a good time.  Afterwards, they tossed the football and learned how to kick the ball properly with their hands in proper position. One of the later games involved them aiming the balls at Meatball and myself.  Not MY favourite game 😛 however, I was lucky that the kids hadn’t perfected their kicks yet.  I left unscathed.

At the end of the session, Meatball handed out some green bracelets and taught them some Aussie high fives, which continued to solidify the friendship between him and the kids.  They liked his cheesy jokes so why not a goofy handshake.  Mix it in with some dance moves and they were hooked.  Everyone left happy and with an accent (LOL).

I had a chance to sit down with the two instructors and picked their brains about footy, X Movement, and life in Australia.

HTM: Is footy the national sport in Australia much like hockey is in Canada?

T-Bone: Yes.  It’s the Australian Football League.

Meatball: AFL.

HTM: What attracted you to the sport?

T-Bone: Everyone’s doing it.  Every town has a league.

Meatball:  You grow up around it.

HTM: Is playing professionally part of the plan for you?

T-Bone: Not for me.

Meatball: When I was younger, it was part of the plan.

T-Bone: Well, you kinda play professionally.  You get paid to play.

Meatball:  Sorta.  It’s not a lot, but yeah, I get paid.

HTM: How old are you and how long have you been playing?

T-Bone: I’m 29.  I’ve been playing since I was six.  The league here is like your little league.

Meatball: I’ve played local league and interleague which is like rep since I was 9.  I’m 20.

HTM:  Who decided to pitch this sport outside of Australia?

T-Bone: The main guy is from Australia, Emile “The Dragon” Studham.

HTM: My husband mentioned seeing this on Dragon’s Den.

Meatball: Yes!  So we were on Shark Tank too.  They came to North America and then expanded.

HTM: Was the focus more on the physical aspect or teamwork for this program?

T-Bone: It was more on the teamwork aspect where everyone is learning a new sport.  All the kids are on equal playing field so to speak.  There are always the kids who are the athletes, some are the artists, etc. Here everyone can learn to kick the ball the same.

Meatball: Footy makes them all equal.  Kids get to shine for those two hours because it’s new to everyone.

HTM: Besides the physical exercise, what do you enjoy about teaching footy to the kids?

T-Bone: Kids can just hang out.  We like the interaction, it’s fun!

Meatball: I like having impact on the kids.  Showing them how to be positive and caring to others.  It’s treating people equally.

HTM: My students wanted a class nickname.  What would you give us?

Meatball: I think something fierce.  Markham Redbacks like the spider.

HTM:  Thanks so much for your time.  Much appreciated.

T-Bone: You’re welcome.

Meatball: No problem.

For more information about Aussie X and X Movement, please check out their website.

Unionville Festival

       This past weekend, we popped by the Unionville Festival on Main Street to get our fill of parades and treats for the start of the summer.  It was amazing weather on Saturday so we spent some time soaking up the rays.  We arrived about half an hour before the parade began.  Usually, the hot spots are taken up already, but I think people were just milling around.  We managed to grab our favourite curb across from Starbucks.   We were excited to see how Baby C would like it.

      The parade lasted about an hour and we saw many local businesses such as dance studios, local clubs, and politicians with floats and participants handing out candy and treats.  The kids enjoyed it except for the gun blasts at the start.  They were quite loud and right in front of us.  We saw the huge horses up close, a school bus (Baby C LOVES them), and a fire engine.  To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this year, volunteers handed out flags.  There was free face painting and Freezies for the kids.  We saw lots of dogs and babies all out enjoying the great weather.  Our friend and coach of Big H’s basketball team had a booth to promote his basketball camp.  We ran into a couple of friends who also attend this annual event.  Local merchants sold soap, jewellery, dresses, fresh bread, and toys.  There was a big selection of food including corn, stinky tofu, and burgers.  There was a big Pikachu walking around and some clowns taking pictures with kids.

          We left around noon as Baby C was starting to get tired and we had been up pretty early that day.  Big H stayed with her friends at the basketball tent, popping over to other tents to make slime.  We enjoyed some fresh mango slush on the way back to our car.  It certainly reminded us that summer is just around the corner.  Can’t wait for more 25C days!

Meal Planning 101


With so many things on the go, the last thing I want to stress over is food.  I’ve always meal-planned, but lately, the process has been fine tuned and everything seems to go quite smoothly.  My process starts on a Wednesday when my favourite flyer app, Flipp, comes out with next week’s flyers for our closest grocery store.  I plan the menu for the week, sometimes based on sales and other times just using the flyer for inspiration. After menu planning comes the store visit on a Saturday morning.  If you go early enough, no one is there and it’s a pleasant walk through produce and meat.  Sometimes, I’m even lucky enough to wrangle an older daughter to come with me for the trip.  Most times, I go at it alone and I find it relaxing.  The funny thing is, no matter how many things I have to get or whoever comes with me, it’s usually an hour trip. Going alone is easier though because then I’m not entertaining Baby C or convincing my girls that zucchini really is as delicious as its cousin, the cucumber.

Sundays are meal prep days.  Although it doesn’t take a full day, it does take a busy three to four hours depending on how much chopping is involved.  A typical menu for the week may consist of using my Instant Pot at least once, some stir fry, and perhaps, something going in the oven.  I also try to plan healthy breakfasts to go for four of us (Baby C eats at daycare) and also snacks and lunches.

When I was on maternity leave, every night we had a different meal.  Oh, how spoiled they were!  LOL.  Now, I will often double Sunday’s meal and Tuesday’s meals.  Even though Hip Teacher Dada and I finish early at work, we don’t leave right away.  From coaching to planning and marking to the gym, we don’t usually get home until around 5:30 p.m.  Having something ready to heat up is much easier than doing an hour of cooking every night.

This is our menu for the week:

Girls’ Breakfast: fruit and yogurt parfait (granola sprinkled in the morning)

Parents’ Breakfast: chia seed pudding with fruit (granola sprinkled in the morning)

Girls’ Lunch: cheese, pita, veggie sticks and chicken drumsticks

Parents’ Lunch: salad with berries, chicken, and egg

Dinner: shepherd’s pie and broccoli, honey garlic drumsticks with rice and mixed veg (roasted mushroom, onion, peppers, and carrots), omelette with toast and asparagus

Snacks: fruit cups with apple, pear, strawberries, and cherries, veggie sticks with dip, and carrot muffins

As you see, the menu is simple and healthy.  On the weekends, we usually eat out, grab take-out, or have events with family and friends.  I’ll do a more substantial breakfast on weekends like crepes or waffles.   I will try to avoid making Sunday plans because I know being home sets up the rest of the week for success.  I try to mix up my protein so that no one gets bored of the menu and in the summer, we will barbecue.  Last week, we had shrimp wraps, chicken alfredo, and homemade chicken fingers.  Making up dinner menus is fun and often, Facebook feeds and cooking shows serve as inspiration.  Sometimes I just ask the girls what they want and we’ll just go with that.  Chatting about food with friends is also a regular thing so sometimes I get cravings so my menu is already done.

What about you?  Do you meal plan and prep on Sunday?  Any special tips to share?





SUPERHERO POWERS: Which would you choose?

superhero cartoon

I LOVE superhero movies.  The next few years are gonna be a blast for Hip Teacher Dada and I because every other date movie will be superhero focused.  We just watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and soon, it’ll be Wonder Woman (June 2).  It got me thinking.  Why the sudden interest in the genre?  Why the multitude of t.v. shows, comics, and remakes?  When did superheroes become cool again or did they never become uncool?  I’m not complaining.  It’s a dream come true!

For me, I’ve always loved superheroes and grew up watching Superman with my dad.  Although my dad is no longer with me, I always remember the Christopher Reeve movie marathons on t.v. with him.  I remember watching Batman and thinking how dark a character he was, but always thought he could kick Superman’s ass.  I was engrossed in X-Men and even bought a large coffee table book and shared it with some (only certain students with a fondness of heroes knew about it) who were really into them.

I also thought it was so cool to have superpowers.  Which one would I want? There are so many out there: invisibility, speed, super strength, and harnassing the power of nature.  My friends even compared me to Wolverine for having such quick healing powers after my three C-sections.  LOL.  In the end, I decided that I’d love to be invisible.  Why?  Well, why not?  (Fine, it would be cool to spy on people.)

What about you?  Which power would you want?

Bullet Journal: I LOVE IT!

If you’re a teacher, chances are you love to organize and you love making lists.  Every September, I look forward to purchasing a brand new agenda for the school year.  I colour coordinate school events, personal appointments, kids’ activities and our family social calendar.  Until Christmas, my agenda has perfectly round bullets, neat check marks, and perfect stickers. By Christmas break, it’s no longer worthy of themed stickers and cute doodles.  It’s a mess.

One day, a friend mentioned bullet journaling to me and I couldn’t stop looking at all the results on Pinterest.  This entire phenomena is devoted to lists, creative designs, and jotting down memories.  I can write down future events and happenings.  I can decide my own layouts all the whole using cool new tools like washi tape and stencils.  What!  Where has BUJO been all my life?  It’s also a great place to write down things my kids do (I have a few pages devoted to each kid), wish lists, and future to-dos (a lot of it is for work for next September or for the house).

I came across this new hobby just around the time I turned 40.  Not sure if this is a midlife thing or just another new hobby, but anytime I get into something  (e.g. stamp collecting, Cricut, Instant Pot, etc.), I’m all in.  I mean, I go HARD!  I want all the tools, research all the tips, and Google all the sites – usually in a week.  LOL.

So after purchasing my bullet journal from Indigo on my birthday, within the week, I also had the fine liners, pencil crayons, stickers, and metallic markers.  I also went on the hunt for cute washi tape, correction tape, and the perfect ruler and pencil case.  I began to lay out my monthlies and weeklies, all the while keeping in mind what my friend said.  “Don’t worry if you make mistakes!  I did for the first few weeks and it’s okay.”  Clearly, she knows how Type A I am!  This BUJO not only gives me a chance to design my own layouts and pick my colour scheme for the pages (much like a scrapbook), I also have an exercise in retraining my mind and keeping my mental health in check.  It’s almost like gratitude journal, Smash Book, and agenda all rolled into one.  What fun!

Last week, we were in Niagara Falls so naturally, we hit up Target in the dollar section (my fave).  Amazing finds including mini-stamps (the Starbucks coffee cup got me), washi tape, and planner stickers.  For $3, you can’t go wrong!

Since I started, a couple of my friends are now interested in it and started to gather their materials for their own bujo.  I can’t wait to see their layouts and what other ideas they came up with.  I mostly modify inspiration I see on Pinterest to suit my needs.  Each month, I’ve switched out my weekly layouts to keep it fresh.  I’m going to have this current bujo until the end of 2017 and then get a new one for January (it’s hard – my mind has a Sept to June calendar because of work, but I also work on Jan to Dec time).  My middle child really wants one for her birthday so maybe she will get a Birthday Bujo.  It’s already in my planner.  😛

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: THE HOCKEY SWEATER

Everyone knows the classic story by Canadian author, Roch Carrier, about his experience growing up as a big hockey fan.  All the boys in the neighbourhood wear a Montreal Canadiens’ jersey with number 9, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, on the back.  However, Roch is accidentally sent a Maple Leafs’ jersey instead when his mother orders it from Hudson Bay.  He is afraid to wear it because of what all the neighbourhood kids will think.  He can’t be a Toronto fan!

Before the presentation of this beloved tale, the TSO presented a collection of songs inspired by travelling all across Canada.  From a wolf’s song to a regatta tune focused on the trombone, the melange of short pieces was not only fun to listen to, but educational.  Before each piece was played, the host of the event, Abigail Richardson-Shulte, explained the background of the piece and taught a mini-history lesson.  As a teacher, I LOVED it.  It also helped to see which instruments to pay particular attention to.

Our favourite piece was the farmland song, “Chicken Reel.”  It really got the audience clapping and the kiddies moving.  The musicians spinning their double basses at the side was great too.   Not only did this song get the audience into it, there were several more pieces that allowed for audience participation.  We closed our eyes and imagined The Northern Lights.  The audience did a wave.  It was really fun!

After travelling across our great nation through song (we are celebrating our 150th, after all),  it was time for the main event.  The TSO along with the author himself performed the famous book through narration, drama, and sounds.  Different instruments portrayed special effects such as the naggy mom (woodwind), church (organ), and Rocket Richard (brass).  It was great to see the story unfold right before our eyes.

Once again, the TSO did a great job of educating the young and old alike through a spectacular musical performance.  I loved the classic tale performed live.  My kids enjoyed the short pieces throughout the performance.  They were just long enough to keep their attention.

Have you been to a TSO performance yet?  Check out what’s coming up:

Fidget Toys: Helpful or Harmful?


       fidget cube       A recent fad has popped up in my classroom: the fidget toys.  Whether it’s a cube or spinner, these little gadgets that grew their following on Kickstarter have become the talk of the class.  Kids who have one fall into one of three categories: they have a medical need so the toy helps them focus, they think it’s cool and popular so they want to be on trend, or they follow their friends who have one and claim it helps them focus.  I say claim because kids who never had problems focusing before now say they need a gadget.  Really?

      Now I’m all for the ones who need it because of a ADHD diagnosis, anxiety, or autism or their parents or doctors recommended it. I’ve asked for parental notes if students are bringing one.  My fear is that kids are bringing it “just because” and it becomes more of a hindrance than a help.  (We all have something that helps them focus.  For me, it’s silence and sometimes tapping my pen.) No problem to accommodate as accommodations are what teachers are all about.  Gross motor movement is shown to help with memory and retaining information especially for students with ADHD.  However, no studies have shown that handheld toys have the same benefit as someone on a stationary bike for memory retention or learning.  Ironically, the toy is actually distracting for those with ADHD who are watching other kids play with it.

From the Sentinel & Enterprise news, “According to Laura Garofoli, Fitchburg State University professor of psychological science, said there’s little evidence these fidgeting devices help children with ADHD. ‘There’s no research on the actual fidget spinners yet,’ she said. “Research on fidgets for kids on their desk at school is actually very spotty.”

Garofoli said studies show physical activity helps children with ADHD concentrate, but most research focuses on the use of large muscle groups, not fine motor skills.

“Across the board more physical activity leads to better outcomes for kids with ADHD in the class,” she said. “The tricky part is does that have any correlation with the fine motor of the little fidgets at the desk? Stress balls, TheraPutty — there just isn’t a whole heck of a lot of data to support that they’re effective.”

       Hence, my concern is for the ones who are getting them “just because.”  (I’ve always taught my students to think for themselves and not be sheep, but that’s for another post.)  I’ve asked some students and they don’t exactly know why they have one or want one other than “it’s fun” or “it’s cool.”  The problem arises when they start clicking and spinning during lessons and they focus on how much they can click in a minute or how fluently they spin this newly discovered gadget rather than focusing on the lesson.  I’ve observed kids walk around the room to visit other kids to see how their spinner works and to challenge each other on how long they can spin. Kids easily miss the important steps to a math problem or what figurative language is when focused on their gadget.  They don’t hear all the instructions or miss the assignment due date.  It’s also become a distraction to others.  I’ve watched students play with their toy during a work period and I’ve seen other kids watch kids as they play.  Heck, I get distracted at times and I have enough to do.  I now have a new job on my list which is observing who is using the toy for need or for fun.  Minutes spent here and there adds up to a lot of wasted minutes in my book and anyone who knows me knows that I’m all about efficiency.

         At the end of 2016, Forbes even called it the “must have office toy for 2017.”  Be that as it may, some adults may have already established great work habits and can afford to use a spinner while leading a meeting or being on an international conference call.  Some schools have banned this toy because of students playing with the toy instead of listening in class.  Young kids are just developing these habits and this spinner fad has sort of blown up not necessarily for the better. I’m pretty sure most of my class did not develop a medical condition over the past two weeks that requires said gadget.

           A few other students in the school have these toys (this is exactly what it is to me), but I have about a quarter of my class with these colourful contraptions.  Hopefully, the students who need one find it helpful and really does keep their attention on the task at hand.  I hope the ones who are using one are doing so for a good reason.  I want my students to develop good learning and study habits and it’s near the end of the year.  E.Q.A.O. (provincial standardized testing) is at the end of the month.  We want all the focus we can get and it all starts with parents knowing which toys are being brought into the classroom.


Editor’s Pick: AquaMermaid

Have you ever watched The Little Mermaid and wondered what it was like to be so free, so swift, and beautiful under the water?  My eldest daughter certainly has and she had the wonderful experience of being Ariel (at least for the hour) at Aquamermaid in downtown Toronto.  She enjoyed her trial swim class and the time seemed to fly, er, swim by.  The class was held at University Settlement Recreation Centre (near the Art Gallery of Ontario).

Leah, an instructor, for almost two years, said that a great part of the experience was taking her favourite swim move, the butterfly stroke, and extending it to the dolphin swim.  She enjoys teaching the kids because it’s a fun experience that puts everyone on an equal playing field.  Everyone (boys and men too) can put on a mermaid tail and experience the freedom of swimming in the open water.  They have a merman instructor too and birthday parties are open to everyone.  They’ve had boys and girls for parties and everyone’s had a good time.  Certainly, the photo ops are awesome!

They started with an introduction and created a mermaid name.  After choosing their new monikers, they wiggled into their mermaid tails (made of stretch fabric that goes up to the waist and beyond) and learned some basics of mermaid movements.  For people with tiny feet, thick socks or swim shoes are recommended.  The main requirement is to swim independently for 25 metres, but Leah made an exception for my daughter and she wore a life jacket for the experience.  She had a blast!  From diving underwater to gathering colourful rings tossed into the pool to using a pool noodle to propel forward to swimming through a hoop, the girls couldn’t stop smiling.  Not only is the activity fun, it looks like a great cardio workout.  I felt tired just watching them go.

Not only is it a novel idea, the physical benefits are enormous.  Since the legs are bound together, it keeps the swimmer in good form for a dolphin kick.  This move is apparently incredible for the abs so I can see why grown women are into this new hobby.  I saw another little girl (who is a very advance swimmer) swim the length of the pool back and forth and it certainly was enchanting.  I was mesmerized by how fluently she swam.  There was also a party in session and the girls played games while a mom also joined in the fun.

While we were wrapping up, a group of young ladies came to wait on the bench.  They were clearly there for a bachelorette party.  What a fun idea!  It reminded me of Ariel and her sisters (yes, I’m a Disney fanatic).  They looked super excited for their swim and I couldn’t blame them (totally made me want to take swim lessons.  Am I missing out?)!  Glistening tail, fun games, and a solid cardio workout?  Somebody grab me a tail, stat!

If you are interested and want to dive right in (see what I did there), please check out their website at here and book your free trial.


sarah hicks.jpg

Sarah Hicks, the conductor for the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Disney’s Ratatouille, was gracious enough to take the time to answer some questions for me about music, the industry, and kids and music.  Here is what unfolded.

HTM: Welcome to Toronto!  You picked a great time to make your debut as Winterlicious (annual food event in Toronto where popular and high-end restaurants have special lunch and dinner prix fixe menus) just wrapped up.   Is cooking something you enjoy?

SH: I loooove to cook.  I grew up with a mom who went to cooking school in her youth so I picked up a lot of pointers growing up.  I love the tactile and meditative qualities of chopping and mixing and sauteing.  And, of course, eating is fun too.

HTM: How did you choose Ratatouille as your next performance?

SH: Conductors don’t necessarily get to choose what they’re going to do – at least I don’t as I’m booked all around the world to conduct various films as orchestras want to perform them.

HTM: That’s amazing!  Did the movie that appeal because of the food aspect?

SH: Pixar stuff is so genius.  And Michael Giacchino writes the most charming scores!  Have you seen UP?  That’s his music too.

(*I have seen UP and some scenes were particularly difficult to watch due to past health reasons).

HTM:  You trained at Harvard and have spent many years travelling around the U.S. and being a part of different orchestras. You’ve also worked in Korea and overseas.  Is there a particular city you’ve enjoyed the most and can you tell me a bit about it?

SH: It’s too hard to choose a single favorite, but I’ve most recently really enjoyed working in Prague with the Czech National Orchestra on a Frank Zappa project.  They’re a great group, the music was really out of the box, and being in that beautiful city is always so special.  (I lived there in the 90’s for a year, so that’s part of it too).  Film side note:  did you know that “Amadeus” was filmed there?

HTM: I’ve watched Amadeus numerous times as a child.  Some scenes were just embarrassing to watch with my family, but it’s a great movie.  (Ha ha.)  I’ve read that you started out with piano, but due to health reasons, you turned to conducting.  Your dad told you to “stop crying” and “you can still hold a stick.”   How did you manage to accept that harsh reality and turn that into a positive?

SH: I think kids are more resilient than we think – certainly looking back at my 17 year old self I give myself credit for being able to bounce back from disappointment, but I also think of it as accepting a new challenge;  I’m always looking for things to master or conquer or kick butt at, so I think that had a lot to do with it.

HTM: Perseverance is a virtue I always try to instill in my students and yours is a real-life example.  I’m not sure how the conducting world works.   Tryouts?   Have you ever missed out on the job you wanted?  What did you say to yourself to bounce back on your feet?

SH: Conducting is a tough profession.  In my early days, I certainly went to tons of auditions (there can be a hundred candidates for a single spot).  It’s challenging from a practical standpoint because if you think about it, an orchestra may have 100 musicians in it, but there is only a single conductor.  So jobs are pretty scarce.  I’ve certainly not gotten jobs I wanted.  And often you have little choice in where you end up living because you need to go where the gig is.  Very few conductors make their living simply conducting – many also teach or play or have non-performing jobs as well.  I feel lucky to be doing this full-time.  As for getting back on my feet after a disappointment, I remind myself “this is the life I chose.”  It ain’t easy, but the rewards for me are worth the disappointments and rejections.

HTM:  That’s a wonderful attitude to take.  You’ve been great at merging pop and classical in the past working with artists such as Sting. You present yourself as not only as a strong conductor, but I feel someone who is very comfortable in her own skin, a bit of a rock star.  Are women growing in this industry as conductors and not just musicians?

SH: Absolutely.  There’s a ton of young female talent out there, so different from even a generation ago.

HTMHow have you been treated as a female conductor? 

SH: Musicians generally don’t care what you are as long as you know what you’re doing, but I have gotten a lot of comments on what I wear (sleeveless tops) and my hair (I don’t put it up, ponytails give me headaches and I like it long and down).  I don’t think men would garner the same sort of attention for their appearance.

HTM:   I can totally see that.  Have you faced any challenges in the profession in general?

SH: I think men and women have different approaches to leadership.  Not to generalize too much, but men can get away with being a bit more authoritarian – if a woman behaved in the same way she risks the backlash of being called “difficult” or worse (b**** comes to mind).  I tend to lead more by persuasion and consensus and with the understanding that everyone has their own individual responsibility and my job is to create a cohesive vision out of it.  It’s a slight different approach than some are accustomed to, but generally people start to understand my groove pretty quickly when I’m working with them.

HTM:  I understand.  It’s still different how men and women are viewed in a leadership role.  Now what do you think about technology?  It is everywhere now.  At school, I came back from maternity leave to a school with whiteboards instead of blackboards, iPads and Airplay instead of overheads and transparencies.  What’s your take on technology and music these days?  Does it take away from the basics of sound or enhances them?   Do you like incorporating technology when you compose?  Does the TSO use it?

SH: That’s an interesting one.  I think of technology and music, from a performing standpoint, as incorporating things like film and amplification.  I think there’s a place for everything.  I’ve even done a piece with a live DJ onstage, which was totally fun.  I don’t really compose anymore.

HTM: That’s too bad.   Finally, my students are really into music.  They are usually into Top 40.  If I could introduce a few symphonies to them, what would you recommend?  Do you have a favourite composer?

SH: In terms of accessible music I think of pieces like Ravel’s Bolero, Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker Suite and The Triumphal March from Verdi’s opera, Aida.  My favorite composer changes a lot, depending on mood.  I love Chopin and Mahler and Bartok and Mozart for different reasons at different times, but nothing cleanses the mind and soul like Bach!

Thanks very much to Sarah for taking the time out of her extremely busy schedule to answer my questions about music and the industry.  Wishing her well in the future and certainly, an open invite to pop into my classroom whenever she’s in town!

Please check out the Toronto Symphony Orchestra here.