Christmas is fast approaching. This month we have an interview and Radio Show with Dr.  James “Jim” Nicholas, a Fireman, teacher, and musician. Our article of the month is “Roadmap to Your Goals” by Madeline Frank, Ph.D., DTM. Several articles are included on how studying a musical instrument has helped professional careers in finance, technology, and media and how playing and listening to classical music can make you healthier. Remember to start your day right by listening to Classical music. No one is immune from the power of music.

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Radio Show Feature Question for December 2013: Dr. James “Jim” Nicholas how does Classical music play a part of your life as a firefighter, former news caster and radio announcer, teacher, composer, editor, amateur botanist and what musical instrument do you play?

Our blog  features Dr. James “Jim” Nicholas, fireman, former news caster for WFIU, the NPR affiliate, former announcer for Connecticut Public Radio, teacher, composer, editor, amateur botanist, and musician. He is passionate about saving lives, helping others, and is a concert cellist having played concerts with the finest musicians in the world.

James Nicholas was born in Valley Stream, Long Island New York and raised in the area. His mother Jeannine Brosseau raised Jim, his sister, and 3 brothers in a musical environment to be strong and hard working with good family values. Jim says, “One brother played oboe and guitar and my youngest brother continues to play the clarinet and teaches band in the public school system. Another brother enjoyed listening to the music around him and my older sister played violin quite well. She and I played in orchestra together and very occasionally in chamber music at home.”

Dr. Nicholas says, “I began studying the cello in fourth grade at the age of 8, and began studying in school. We had a music program which, when I look back in retrospect, was on an astonishingly high level.”

Dr. Frank: “Did you play in school orchestras in elementary, middle school, and in high school?”

Dr. Nicholas: “Yes, and youth orchestras and regional string festivals from 6th grade onward.”

Dr. Frank: “Were you good at mathematics?

Dr. Nicholas: “I was good at it and I enjoyed geometry and algebra.”  

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

Dr. Nicholas: “I was extremely interested in science from probably 4-5 years old and onward. Natural history at first; I became passionately interested in chemistry, including organic chemistry, at around age 13-14.”

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

Dr. Nicholas: “Yes – in general high B’s and A’s.”    

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

Dr. Nicholas: “Apart from orchestra (conductor’s name was Ray Anderson, a wonderful man who introduced me to some of the great chamber music works by inviting me to play with some of his professional colleagues, as well as conducting a high school orchestra good enough to tackle the finale of Sibelius’ Second and the last two movements of the Dvořák cello concerto, among many other things). My absolute favorite subject was German – I went through 3 years’ worth in one year. Teacher’s name was Robert Baker.”

Dr. Frank: “Where did you attend college and graduate school and what was your major and your minor? Did you play in the university orchestra, did any of your college professors inspire you, and what were their names and what subjects did they teach you?”

Dr. Nicholas: “I attended Indiana University and received my bachelor’s degree in cello performance, two master’s degrees in cello and early music, and a doctorate in cello performance with a minor field in Russian and East European studies. Orchestra was required. I was first inspired by Éva (Czakó) Janzer (AY-vah TSAH-koh… YAHN-tser), the cellist of the Grumiaux Trio, who was as lovely, gentle, and elegant a person as she was a superbly polished musician.

I learned a tremendous amount from János Starker (YAH…-nosh SHTAR-ker . You couldn’t help doing so whether you wanted to or not!!!), and in my latter days from my “adopted dad” and head of my doctoral committee, the Baroque violinist Stanley Ritchie, who taught me everything I know about the capabilities of the bow as well as opening up for me a whole new world of nuance in expression. I also adopted his motto: “Do the right thing”.

Dr. Frank: “You have taught as a graduate assistant at Indiana University. What is the most important ingredient to teaching students successfully?”

Dr. Nicholas: “I articulated the following once to one of my theory students, who subsequently became a close friend and in a way an “adopted son”: I felt personally responsible not only for imparting the subject matter and helping my students to understand it to the best of their individual abilities, but also for their development as complete human beings – while they were in my class and after they were gone – and forever.”

Dr. Frank: “You have composed and edited many beautiful pieces of music including “a cellist tribute to Eva Czako”.  Please share how this piece came to be written.”   

Dr. Nicholas: “My very good friend Robert deMaine (one of the funniest people I have ever met) was principal cellist of the Hartford Symphony at the time and we often concertized together as the duo “Cellomania!”. In 2002, Robert was appointed principal cellist of the Detroit Symphony.  He’s now principal cellist in L.A. He had asked me more than once if I wouldn’t consider writing something for him; I never acted on it until the realization struck me that he was leaving and that my cello-playing days were probably over. One evening, shortly before he left, we went out for a bite to eat, and I sketched a couple of bars on a napkin; a progression of nostalgic, almost “weeping” chords in wide voicing. He asked “is that for me”. And it was, but it was a reminiscence of Eva Czako, a beloved figure in my life who had passed away almost a quarter of a century previously.”

Dr. Frank: “What did you learn from studying the cello?”

Dr. Nicholas: “I learned self-confidence from  playing the cello and about problem solving. I take the same approach to problem-solving that I took, in my latter years, to coming up with the very best fingering and bowing; sometimes very outside the box, but in the end the most logical. I’m very, very analytical that way, I will “chew” on finding a solution for a problem, usually ignoring conventional wisdom (unless it really is wise), and I’m always looking for further and further refinements.”

Dr. Frank: “When did you begin working on Radio stations as a News Caster and announcer and how long did you and your side kick, German shepherd Whisky and Sparks work on your show?

Dr. Nicholas: “I worked in radio for my final two years at IU Bloomington; the station was WFIU, the NPR affiliate. Of course I announced a lot of classical music, but what I really found most rewarding was preparing, editing, and reading newscasts. I also worked for 6 years at Connecticut Public Radio as an announcer; my little German shepherd Whisky was always at my side (to the continual disapproval of the station manager) for 4 years, and after she passed on, my shepherd Sparks was there with me for two years.”

Dr. Frank: “You have played many concerts over the years. What was your favorite?”

Dr. Nicholas: “Possibly a “Cellomania!” appearance for the dedication of the University of Connecticut’s new performing arts center in Ashford, CT, a tiny town which had been largely settled by Hungarian and Slovak emigrants between 1880 and 1920; there is still a “Hungarian Social Club” on the side of the only main road through town, and almost directly across from it, one of those typical Austrian or Hungarian churches with a small onion dome atop a Western-style steeple. For the occasion, I prepared some virtuoso arrangements of the Romanian folk dances by Bartók (BAR–toh…k) and the Dances of Marosszék  (MA–rohsh–say…k) by Kodály (KO–dye…), and was able to give a talk relating these to the culture, language and folklore of the settlers of Ashford, and also to the time period during which they were emigrating from the Old World; a time by which, according to Bartók and Kodály, the rich musical and folkloristic heritage of the region was already disappearing.  Between the music itself and Kodály’s description of the region as “a fairytale land… a paradise”, the audience was pretty stunned.”

Dr. Frank: “When did you start being interested in Amateur Botany?”

Dr. Nicholas: “Well, I’ve been a nature bum since I was a kid. I didn’t discover a new species of butterfly, but in researching the disappearance of some of the formerly common native trees of Connecticut, I stumbled across a stand of huge Hackberry trees (Celtis) in an old cemetery in the south end of Hartford, and another one in Windsor – and with them, the Tawny Emperor butterfly, which was on the “special concern” list and thought to be extremely rare, possibly endangered, in Connecticut. A team of very excited entomologists came up from Yale to investigate and document this, and one of my photographs of the Tawny ended up on the masthead for the Hartford Courant, CT’s largest newspaper.”

Dr. Frank: “When did you decide to become a Fireman to save lives, and help others, and how many years have you been working as a Fireman?”

Dr. Nicholas: “After Bob deMaine left the area, I knew that I’d never again be collaborating with a musician on that level again, and certainly not one with whom I had such a fun, almost “college best-friends” relationship. I felt that everything worthwhile that I’d ever done in my life was behind me, and anything I did in music would be a pale shadow of what I’d done in the past. At 45, I felt no sense of purpose. Shortly after Bob left town, I found myself driving on the west side of Rocky Hill (a southern suburb of Hartford) and passed by Fire Co. 2, with a sign outside that read “Help us to help you volunteer”. I found myself wondering what kind of a person you’d need to be to do that; could I do something like that?  I knew it had to be something big – and something in which I wouldn’t just be repeating old formulas. The idea lay dormant for another year or so, but a personal crisis induced me to walk through the doors of Fire Headquarters sometime during the winter of 2003-2004. So I’ve been doing it for ten years now. By coincidence – or not – I remember being introduced to the air packs we wear on our backs, and how to do the check offs on them. The emergency alarm on what is called the PASS device is a very shrill series of five ascending notes, identical to Papageno’s signal in Mozart’s Magic Flute Opera- and in fact, it is how Papageno and Tamino found each other during their own “search and rescue” mission. I was sort of gobsmacked at the way these two seemingly unrelated worlds had collided, with me in between them – and then I further realized that just as Tamino and Pamina had had to undergo their test of fire and water, I would also undergo a very real test of fire and water at the end of my time at the Connecticut Fire Academy.  Not what I could ever have imagined myself doing 25 years previously, when I played in the pit orchestra for the Magic Flute with the score beside me. I graduated with my Firefighter I certification in 2004, aged 47; the oldest in my class by 14 years. That, not receiving my doctorate, was the proudest moment of my life. (My situation is rather the reverse of that of most Americans – my body’s in much better shape than my brain is!). Five years later I would go on to receive my Firefighter II and III certification.”

Dr. Frank: Thank you, Dr. James Nicholas for saving lives as a Fireman and sharing your work with our Radio audience as a fireman, teacher, and cellist . You are an inspiration to all of us to take action and help others as a teacher, parent, relative, or friend.

“Roadmap to Your Goals” by Madeline Frank,Ph.D., DTM

When you have accomplishing your goal it’s time to set a new one. I have just received my DTM, my Distinguished Toastmasters Award. Dave Sheffield, “The Shef”, motivational speaker, author, and Coach says, it’s “Freshly minted”.

A DTM is the highest award in the speaking and leadership organization Toastmasters. To my mind a DTM is like a Ph.D. in public speaking, communication, and leadership skills. I completed it in less than 3 years.

How did I do it?  I set a goal date for each course or set of projects. For your goal dates choose a date that is important to you like your birthday, your parent’s birthdays, your wedding anniversary, your parent’s wedding anniversary, your children’s birthdays, friend’s birthdays or sibling’s birthdays. Whatever dates you choose make sure it’s a date that is special to you!

For the first 10 speaking projects in the Toastmasters “Competent Communicator Manual” and the 10 leadership projects in the “Competent Leadership Manual”, I set my birthday, November 24th as my goal date.  Having completed that goal and date, I set out to finish the next 10 speaking projects, for the  “Advanced Communicator Bronze” and the “Advanced Leader Bronze” by my Mother’s birthday, May 28th.

By choosing dates that are important to you, you will finish and accomplish your goals. As I finished each goal I had already set up the next goal date.

So what are the three steps to accomplishing your new goals?

1)   Write down what your new goal is and the date you want to complete it.  Remember to visualize accomplishing this goal. For each step of your goal write down the date you will complete it and stick to that date. Place it where you can see the goal and the date every day so you can focus on it!  Make it apart of your daily “Agenda”.

2)   Write down your obstacles that you will have to overcome to reach your goal.  Every obstacle is a problem, which means it’s an “opportunity” to grow, learn, and change.

3)   Write down your “plan of action” and the “time limit” for each phase of your plan with your goal date for completing each section of your goal.

Remember to keep your goals and dates in front of you where you can see them everyday. My new goal is to work for a second DTM. What’s your goal and what date do you plan to complete it? Don’t get sidetracked. You can do it!

“Is Music the Hobby that Can Make You More Successful? Link Between Music and Success” video by Miri Ben-Ari (Oct. 18, 2013) from the Huffington Post.

Miri Ben-Ari says, “Defining successful people and finding the annex between their success and musical education, that’s a no brainer,” Ben-Ari said. “It has been proven that music education contributes to development of the brain — especially the left side that has to do with processing languages — to your overall social skills, intelligence, the ability to focus and discipline … so I totally see this annex between successful people and music education.”

“Health Benefits of Music” . Drexel University and HealthDay reported that cancer patients reduced their anxiety, lowered their blood pressure levels, and improved their mood by listening to music and working “with a music therapist.” It was also found that participating in music  decrease stress levels in patients with cancer.”

“Is Music the Key to Success?” (Oct. 12, 2013) by Joanne Lipman from the  New York Times Sunday Review.  

Ms. Lipman says, “The connection isn’t a coincidence. I put the question to top-flight professionals in industries from tech to finance to media, all of whom had serious (if often little-known) past lives as musicians. Almost all made a connection between their music training and their professional achievements. The phenomenon extends beyond the math-music association. Strikingly, many high achievers told me music opened up the pathways to creative thinking. And their experiences suggest that music training sharpens other qualities: Collaboration. The ability to listen. A way of thinking that weaves together disparate ideas. The power to focus on the present and the future simultaneously.”

She spoke to Bruce Kovner, pianist, hedge fund billionaire who said, “ He sees similarities between his piano playing and investing strategy. Both relate to pattern recognition, and some people extend these paradigms across different senses.”

Paul Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, studied the violin beginning at age 7 and as a teenager studied the guitar. He says music “reinforces your confidence in the ability to create.” After many long days of programming, “he would pick up his guitar”.  To Mr. Allen “the music was the emotional analog to his day job, with each channeling a different type of creative impulse.” He says, “In both something is pushing you to look beyond what currently exists and express yourself in a new way.”

Ms. Lipman also spoke to James D. Wofensohn, former World Bank president and cellist, Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the federal Reserve who played clarinet and saxophone professionally, Woody Allen, clarinetist, Paula Zahn, television broadcaster and cellist, Steve Hayden, advertising executive and cellist, and several others.

To read more click on the following link: 

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 Christmas and a happy, healthy, and prosperous New Year 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) 2013 Madeline Frank