As an author, I understand the complexities, difficulties, excitement, and thrills of writing and the writing process. However, I can’t imagine writing children’s books and writing and composing music to accompany the books. This takes a potential writer’s block to the next level if you know what I mean. Yes, this is exactly what Lisa and Lorraine have done. They recently released their, count them, four books and they have a Halloween book already in the works.
Taken directly from the Lisa and Lorraine Music and Books website, Lisa and Lorraine “…both saw the need for nonfiction uplifting text for young children. Each book they have written has a musical companion so children can sing, read, or listen to the story and message that builds positive images in their minds and hearts.” We can get behind them on that and everyone smiles when children have fun and learn.
But there’s more to the story…there’s always more to the story and the people behind the story. Today, we’ll get a little bit of that story.
Give a warm welcome to 10 Questions with Dr. Lisa Baker and Lorraine Watson of Lisa and Lorraine Music & Books.
I don’t softball questions, however, let’s start with the easy one and the question you’re probably asked most often – how did the two of you meet?
Great question! We met while working for the Clark County School District in Las Vegas, Nevada. I was an administrator for the Clark County School District at the time. In fact, I was part of the hiring team involved with hiring Lisa as our Pre-K teacher. I was Lisa’s administrator and direct supervisor. One day after school, I heard a piano playing. I had to go see who was making beautiful music. To my surprise, it was Lisa tickling the ivories. I sat down next to her and started playing as well. It was so cool. That sparked conversations about both of our musical history and experiences. Then one day after work, Lisa stopped by my office and told me that one day we would write music together. We both thought it would be a great idea, but our jobs and life’s demands just didn’t provide opportunities to even think about it at the time. Lisa told me later, that she thought I would think she was completely off her rocker regarding her premonition. I didn’t think she was off her rocker at all. However, as I mentioned previously, work demands and professionalism didn’t allow us to even think about creating music and children’s books until I retired from the school district.
If I’m correct when I say each of you can and could compose music independently of each other, what sparked the collaboration?
You are absolutely correct. We can and do compose music independently of each other. I heard some of Lisa’s music and she heard some of mine before we ever started co-writing and composing together. She liked my music and I liked hers. When we sat down for the first time to collaborate it was incredible. It was almost like magic. The combination of Lisa’s style and my style created a beautiful blend. For example, we might be in the studio and all of a sudden Lisa thinks of something to add and I think of something else. It turns into this great creation of sounds. It is just beautiful music. The spark that started the collaboration was both of us having backgrounds in early childhood education and child development; the passions to inspire happiness in children and have them experience a joy while learning came naturally. It was an automatic focus from the get-go.
Why children’s books? Why not church hymns, soft rock, or pop songs? Why, for example, didn’t you take on John Tesh or Beyonce?
As teachers, we both identified the need for nonfiction books for young learners. Coupled with our craft knowledge and education, it was no secret to us that music helps children learn. So, we decided to write children’s nonfiction books and musical companions to maximize student learning.
The purpose of Lisa and Lorraine Music and Books is to provide children, families, emergent readers, and teachers with tools that are essential for paralleling real-life learning experiences with books and music. Our focus is to bring happiness, and joy, into the minds and hearts of every one of our readers!
Now for the other stuff we have written, we are always open to options regarding John Tesh or Beyonce. If you know how to do that, let us know!
As educators, is there an added benefit to your books in schools? Can your books enhance education or are they in addition to education?
Every book we have written has a theme that aligns with school themes in Pre-K and Kindergarten. Yes. There is a 100% benefit to the books and musical companions in schools, home-schooling, daycare, or just at home. The books are written with rhyme, rhythm, and repetition which are critical skills for emergent readers. Every book has nonfiction images for students to be able to make clear text-to-self and text-to-world connections. The print is large yet simple so the reader is not overwhelmed. By singing along with the book, the language is imprinted as are the images. Articulation is practiced while singing or reading along. The nonfiction images also allow opportunities for students to begin to communicate with their peers and teachers about what they see and what their thoughts or opinions are about each picture. In addition, the musical companion helps set the tone in the environment as well as activating the entire brain for learning! How could you do better than that?
Had you never become educators and artists, what would you have chosen as a career and why?
Neither of us can even imagine a life without education and the arts at this point and time. When I was little, I wanted to be a principal of a school, or singer. When Lisa was little, she wanted to be a musician and singer. She would sing and play music for hours on end for her son and it sparked an interest in child development for her. She also had a passion for veterinarian studies. As you can see with her credentials, she chose education and behavioral sciences instead of music, arts, and veterinarian schooling.
The greatest accomplishment in our lives beyond educators and musicians are the titles of Mom and Grandma.
What would you say are the greatest challenges in producing children’s books like yours?
We would both equally say that the greatest challenges are time and scheduling. Rehearsals, writing sessions, studio time, graphic arts, and creative service sessions have to all coincide within a certain timeframe which can be difficult. Also, it’s challenging to keep the balance between work and family time.
Does either of you produce other music? If yes, what kind? Genre?
We do produce other music. Lisa likes to write folk, country, easy listening, and relaxation music. I have written easy listening, instrumentals, country, contemporary, soft rock, and Christian music.
Share a little bit about the creative process. For example, does the song come together then a book crafted to illustrate it? Does this happen simultaneously? How are the books born?
It can be different every time. There might be a melody that guides the theme or the other way around. Other times, it just happens simultaneously. We sit down and brainstorm the most important message that we want the kids, or reader, to hear. Then the creation continues. It’s almost as if there is complete inspiration in the background guiding us along. Sometimes, it takes less than an hour to complete the song and text for the books. If it wasn’t for the creative services from Jessie Kuntz, our graphic artist, The Glitterati for creative services, and Brett Hansen at Audio Arts Las Vegas, the process would be even more challenging!
Does either of you practice a writing routine or regular process for music or book creation?
We don’t really have a writing routine. It’s more themes driven and we have to be in a creative frame of mind to proceed.
If you had one thing to share with someone who wants to or is in the process of making a product, what would you like them to know?
Dream! Never give up on your dreams. Set one goal, then another. Take baby steps if necessary, but don’t stop. Eliminate distractions and keep the focus on your end goal.
In Lisa’s own words:
Do your best and angels can do no better!
In Lorraine’s own words:
Life is precious! God is good!
Well, I have to say Lisa is the receiver of my lack of time awareness. I have called her in the middle of the night while I was creating music. You just can’t ignore those creative juices no matter what time it is. It goes like this. Phone rings. Lisa picks up. I immediately say, “Hey listen. I have two different sections you need to listen to. Which one do you like best?” Lisa says, “Um, play it again…? Ok, I like that one…” I say, “Are you awake?” She says, “Yes, sure, I’m awake!” In all honesty, she was awake…to answer the dang phone!