Start your romantic Valentine’s Day right by listening to Classical music which has the power to improve your mood, make you smarter, help you work faster with more accuracy, and improves health and healing.

This month we have an interview and radio show with Becky Ann Jenkins Irons, master teacher and musician.  Our article of the month is Curly’s Advice by Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM.  

 Radio Show feature question for February 2014: Becky Jenkins Irons, as a teacher for kindergarten, first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, did your students perform better on class work, tests, and quizzes listening to Mozart Symphonies in the background?”

Our blog features Becky Ann Jenkins Irons, master teacher, award winning Gymnast, award winning dancer, wife, mother of five children, pianist, singer and choral conductor. She is passionate about her family, teaching, music, and helping others.

Becky Jenkins Irons has four generations of musicians in her family. Her parents are musicians, she and her six brothers and two sisters are musicians, her grandmothers are musicians, and her three sons and two daughters are also musicians continuing the tradition by playing flute, piccolo, clarinet, violin, oboe, tenor saxophone, and piano. Mrs. Irons’ four oldest children played chamber music and orchestra concerts together and her husband Lee is also a musician, playing the trombone.

Becky Jenkins Irons is also a second-generation teacher as her mother; Jill Thatcher Jenkins has a Ph.D. in Education. Her mom’s specialty is improving education systems.

Growing up Mrs. Irons played piano for her families fiddle group. Playing music has always been a family affair.

She has taught in the public schools of Baldwin City, Kansas and Yorktown, Virginia for ten years, teaching students in kindergarten, first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade. She has taught Reading, English, Math, Science, and Social Studies.

Mrs. Irons says, “My grandmother was a professional singer, so she made sure that my mother could sing.  Most days, my grandmother sat with my mother at the piano, teaching her soprano and alto parts and to sing on key.  My mother grew up from a young age playing the violin, practicing faithfully for at least an hour each day, five days a week all through elementary school, middle school, and high school.  My mother then played in a local symphony and at church.  Today she doesn’t play in a symphony but plays regularly for church and nursing homes.”

“Since my mother wanted our family to have a fiddle group, and my father was busy and couldn’t take music lessons, she went to banjo lessons in the evening and then taught my father how to play the banjo when he had free time.”

Becky Ann Jenkins Irons Growing Up Years:

Becky Ann Irons was born in Afton, Wyoming to Jill Thatcher Jenkins and Dennis Jenkins. She was raised in the Kansas City area.

Dr. Frank:  “Do you have any siblings?”

Mrs. Irons:  “I have six brothers and two sisters.  They all learned to play the piano, though some better than others.  Two of my brothers grew up playing the violin.  My family would perform fiddle music at Christmas time for nursing homes each year when I was young.”

Dr. Frank:  “Did you study and play a musical instrument?”

Mrs. Irons:  “I started to play the violin in third grade and continued through seventh grade, until we moved to an area that didn’t have an orchestra in the schools.   I also learned the basics on the guitar and took about three years of piano lessons.  I played the piano for our family fiddle group, while my mother played the fiddle, my father the banjo, my two brothers the violin, and my other brothers the spoons.  My sisters weren’t born yet.  I also took voice lessons and made it into the top choir in high school.  My grandmother on my father’s side taught me how to lead music.  I later was the choir director at church while in college and after being married and was the director for a child’s choir.  I am currently the chorister for my church congregation.”

Dr. Frank: “When did you become interested in mathematics?”

Mrs. Irons:  “I became interested in mathematics in elementary school but began to really appreciate it when I started teaching fifth and sixth graders math, especially during summer school.  I enjoyed seeing the impact that I could make in the lives of these children in a subject they were struggling with.”

Dr. Frank: “When did you become interested in science?”

Mrs. Irons:  “I have always been interested in science, as far back as I can remember.  I enjoy learning about the environment and how things work.  I even took a small engines class in school.  I like to see the reaction on my students’ faces when they make a science discovery, learning something new that they didn’t know was possible.”

Dr. Frank: “Were you a good student in elementary school, middle school, and in high school?”

Mrs. Irons:  My parents stressed the importance of good grades, and I was motivated to do well.  I was always one of those students that tried to get all A’s through school and participated in a variety of activities.  Through doing well in high school, I was able to get academic scholarships for college.”

Dr. Frank:  “When did you begin studying Gymnastics? What grade were you in? What awards have you received as a Gymnast?”

Mrs. Irons: “Being in a large family, we didn’t have a lot of extra money.  We were lucky to move into an area that had a private German club.  We were not German but were recommended by some friends that were part of the club.  For a low, monthly fee, our large family was able to have gymnastics, dance, swimming, and tennis lessons, as well as have track and fishing opportunities.  I started gymnastics in third grade and continued for many years, competing against other teams in the state and teams from German clubs in other states.  I have received various medals and ribbons.  I eventually was accepted on a national gymnastics team with Bud Marquette, the coach of the Olympian, Cathy Rigby.”

Dr. Frank: “What were your favorite subjects in high school and did you have a favorite teacher who inspired you?”

Mrs. Irons:  “My favorite subjects in high school were Choir, Biology, and Small Engine Mechanics.  My favorite teacher was actually my cross-country coach, Tim Nixon.  We had over 70 students on the team, and it was due to the coach.  He went beyond being a coach.  He took us to Christian music concerts and used that music to inspire us to work harder.  We had cookouts, and he spent a lot of time talking to us about life.  He made us believe that we could accomplish anything.  I was able to be on the women’s winning, state varsity cross-country team during high school.”

Dr. Frank: “Where did you attend college and graduate school and what was your major? Did any of your college professors inspire you?” 

Mrs. Irons:  “I attended Ricks College in Rexburg, Idaho; the University of Kansas in Lawrence, Kansas; and BYU in Provo, Utah.  My major was Elementary Education with a minor in Dance.  The one teacher that really inspired me was Lee Wakefield, one of my ballroom dance teachers and coach of the BYU Ballroom Dance Team.  This teacher stressed that anyone can learn a skill and do well.  He inspired me to take all levels – bronze through gold in American, European, and Latin ballroom dance, inspired me to try out for the ballroom dance team, and to compete at the gold level.  This teacher increased my love of dancing and motivated me to work hard.”

Dr. Frank: “When did you begin teaching Gymnastics?”  

Mrs. Irons:  “I took a coaching class in college.  That year, I started teaching students at BYU and later students at William Jewell College.  I taught gymnastics for an after-school gymnastics program at Vineyard Elementary School in Baldwin City, Kansas and later ran a summer gymnastics program for Baldwin City Unified School District.  I then taught at a YMCA in Yorktown, Virginia.  I am currently teaching gymnastics at three studios for the Academy of Dance and Gymnastics in Hampton Roads.”

Dr. Frank:  “What ages are your Gymnastics students and do you play music in the background for your floor exercises?”

Mrs. Irons:  “The ages of my students range from 3 years old to 18 years old. My students perform gymnastics in a recital once a year, and my older students, that are on a competing dance team, use the gymnastics in their dance routines.  The students always look forward to practicing with the music on.”

Dr. Frank: “Did you have your children study musical instruments?”

Mrs. Irons:  “Yes, all of my five children have played musical instruments.  My children have some basic piano training.  My oldest, Derek, started flute in fifth grade and played all the way through high school, also learning piccolo.  My twin son, Rand, started private clarinet lessons in third grade and played through middle school.  My other twin son, Lance, started taking violin lessons in third grade.  In fifth grade, he started oboe and played through his first year of college in a college orchestra, also playing tenor saxophone.  My daughter, Morgan, started violin in third grade, played for a few years, and then became interested in color guard with the marching band.  My daughter, Breanne, played violin for a short time and then also became involved in color guard.  They have used their music skills to play chamber music together for church and concerts.

Lance and Morgan studied violin, chamber music, and orchestra with you, Madeline Frank. Lance studied with you for seven years and Morgan studied with you for five. They played in a quartet with my oldest, Derek, on flute, and Rand, Lance’s twin, on clarinet on many concerts together on your “Student Concerts”. They also played in the Youth Orchestra of Colonial Virginia, an orchestra that my husband and I started and ran for a time.”

Dr. Frank: “What grades have you taught in your 10 years of teaching and what grade are you teaching this year?”

Mrs. Irons:  “I have taught kindergarten, first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth grade.  I am currently teaching kindergarten.”

Dr. Frank: “How many years have you had your students listening to Classical music, Mozart, in the background of your classrooms?”

Mrs. Irons:  “My students have been listening to classical music in the background of my classroom for about seven years.”

Dr. Frank: “As a teacher for kindergarten, first, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth graders, did your students perform better on class work, on tests, and quizzes listening to Mozart Symphonies in the background?”

Mrs. Irons: “ I can definitely say, ‘Yes.’  As soon as the classical music is turned on, my students have a noticeable change in behavior.  They calm down and talk less.  Not only do I play classical music in my regular classroom, but also during summer school classes to sixth-grade math students as they come into my classroom. Some of these students, with behavior and attention problems, calm down quickly as they listen to the music and get started on their morning work.  The students even ask for me to turn on the music when I don’t have it on.  This past summer, I had an administrator walk in and comment on how they couldn’t believe how quiet and focused the students were and said that they should try playing music at their home school.  Every summer, that I have played the music, these students have improved their scores from pre-test to post test by 30-50%, which is an amazing amount for a five-week program, covering an entire year of curriculum.  The students in my regular classroom have met their end-of-the-year goals every year, and I have also seen great improvement.”

“Curly’s Advice”   By Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM  

Think about this carefully! What one thing do you want to change and fix in your life this year? That should be your New Year’s resolution. Throw out that list of ten things you will never do.

Dave Sheffield, The Shef, speaker, mentor, and author, just wrote a new article for this New Year called “One Word Can Change your Life”. He asked, “What if one word could change your year for the better?”

Dave’s article got me to thinking! In Billy Crystal’s movie “City Slickers”, Cowboy Curly, tells Mitch, “Do you know what the secret of life is?” That’s when Curly held “up one finger.” When Mitch wanted to know “what is the one thing?” Curly said, “That’s what you have to find out.” Like Mitch, “you have to find out” the one thing you want to accomplish this year.

Dabney, a friend of mine, said this year she would like to have a “nest egg” for the future. I said, “How about socking away $50 a month out of your pay check?” She said, “I’m going to do it and I’m going to get my kids to do it too! That way each of us will have $600 in our nest egg by the end of the year.”

Many years ago, my older son was in the fourth grade and did not understand fractions. In fact his entire class was failing fractions. His teacher did not know what to do.

I remembered my teacher and mentor at the Juilliard School, Mr. William Lincer saying, “Math is rhythm and rhythm is math.” I looked at my son’s math book and saw that eight authors had written his math book and each page contained eight different math-teaching concepts.  Children like adults learn one thing at a time and build on this foundation. I decided to simplify this to one concept per page. My children have always enjoyed music and what makes music special is the rhythm. I began writing math to rhythm equivalents to make it easier for my son to understand the math concepts step by step. He also learned math through the rhythm of music by visually seeing the math to rhythm combination, by clapping and tapping the rhythms, and by hearing the combinations. We made it into a game. That was when my son understood fractions.

His math teacher called me and asked, “How come your son now understands fractions?” I explained the concept to him. He then said, “Can you come and show me how to teach my class fractions?”

I said, “I’d be happy to help you.” I went to the public school the next day and showed his teacher how to teach fractions through the rhythm of music. My son’s class all understood fractions after that.

On a side note, when this math teacher tried to use my new math to rhythm program to teach fractions he decided to submit my work as his at the local college for his teaching certificate project.

I received a call from the head of the education department at the local college asking, “If I had just written a “math to rhythm program” to teach fractions to children?” I said, “Yes, I had written it for my older son who was having trouble with learning fraction in his fourth grade class at the local public school. I also told her the name of his teacher at the school.” She told me to “publish my “Math to rhythm program” immediately!” That was the year I published my first book.

I asked my Mom, Romayne Leader Frank, what she thought we should call my new “Math to rhythm” book that teaches fractions and decimals through the rhythm of music to children in kindergarten-5th grade?  She said, call it “Musical Notes On Math”. It later became a winner of the Parent-to-Parent Adding Wisdom Award.

Dr. Albert Einstein said it best,” If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

So, what “one thing” do you want to accomplish this New Year?

As Cowboy Curly might say, “You have to decide that.” (C) 2014 Madeline Frank

To Contact Madeline Frank for your next speaking engagement at [email protected]

Dr. Madeline Frank’s book “Leadership on a Shoestring Budget” is now available through Click on the following link to order your copy of “Leadership On A Shoestring Budget”

For more scientific evidence, medical evidence, test results, and true stories of the world’s scientists, medical doctors, and mathematicians who have studied and played musical instruments since they were children read “The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D. Click on the link:

Madeline’s Midnight Melodies- Music From around the World” . This CD complements her books with a blend of dance music, gigues, tangos, ballet and favorites including “Danny Boy”, Puccini’s “O Mio Babbino Caro”, Debussy’s “Claire De Lune” and others. “Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” is music to relax by and to move by for music therapy. For your cd of  ”Madeline’s Midnight Melodies” click below: 

“Musical Notes On Math” by Dr. Madeline Frank teaches your child  fractions and decimals, the fun way, through the rhythm of music, Winner of the Parent To Parent Adding Wisdom Award. For more information click on the following link:

Wishing you and your family a very happy Valentine’s Day from your Non-Invasive Medicine Music Expert, Madeline

Madeline Frank, Ph.D. an Amazon. Com Best Selling author for “The Secret of Teaching Science & Math Through Music” and “Musical Notes On Math“(teaching fractions and decimals to children K-5) winner of the Parent-to-Parent Adding Wisdom Award.

For over 25 years, Dr. Madeline Frank has helped children and adults overcome problems through music. Dr. Frank, a strings teacher, college professor, researcher, speaker and concert artist has found a scientific link between studying and/or listening to musical instruments and academic and societal success. Madeline Frank earned her Bachelor and Master’s degree from the Juilliard School of Music. Her education has included scholarships at the Juilliard School, Indiana University, and the University of Cincinnati and she has a violin performance diploma from the North Carolina School of the Arts. (C) 2014 Madeline Frank