Friday, November 28, 2008

Holiday Lights Festival/Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We had a fantastic Thanksgiving performance - from a musicians standpoint, nothing beats a great performance, when everything goes right. Last night, we sang for the Holiday Lights Festival downtown. Omaha kicks off the Christmas/holiday season with Holiday Lights Festival every year. The Mayor does a countdown, and over a million tiny white lights covering all the trees that align our downtown streets light up simultaneously. It's quite breathtaking.

We were honored to perform a half hour "pre-lighting" show, filled with Christmas music from our first Christmas CD, "Ribbons and Pine", our lullaby CD, "Stardust" our upcoming Christmas CD, and a few other just-for- fun Christmas tunes.

Now when you're booked for a gig in late November, outside, at night, in the Midwest, you're taking a few risks...the weather could be awful, you freeze your hands off, the wood on your guitar could crack, gusts of wind could choke your throat and blow over the keyboard, and no one would show up. Or, as was the case last night, you have a clear, beautiful, slightly cool evening - nothing that a free cup of hot chocolate won't cure - a perfectly exquisite sound system with professional sound persons, a well organized event, and a crowd of nearly 30, 000.

People cheered, clapped, sang along, and were just generally the perfect audience, made up of all generations. Lots of families with kids happily running about, enjoying the night air and each other. It was so easy to sing our hearts out on this one. A big thanks to Carly Barth, who organized the event - she did an amazing job!

Top this off with Thanksgiving dinner in the company of a warm, loving family of over 70 people, more music, and plenty of sentimental tears... and I know that these are the memories I want to hold on to for life. It was a perfect evening.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


I can't believe I've been MIA for nearly a month! When you read what follows, you'll understand why. We just sent this out to our mailing list, but also wanted to post this here for all of our cyberspace friends. Thanks in advance, for your support, and for spreading the word to your friends.

xoxox Cher
Dear Friends,

We are writing to thank you for your generous support of our music. With your help, Stardust has gone on to win eight parent and family awards and is in the running for four more awards! We are also very excited to let you know that Stardust is a Grammy entry in six different categories!

Today we are asking for your support in a different way. We are honored to have partnered with the Help Group – UCLA Autism Research Alliance, and are seeking to raise funds for a groundbreaking new program that uses music-based research, therapy and education to help children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD).

“Music Enhanced Learning Opportunities for Developing Youth (MELODY)” is a new program being developed by Dr. Istvan Molnar-Szakacs, a neuroscientist at UCLA’s Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, in collaboration with The Help Group and with the support of The Friends of the Semel Institute. It aims to harness the universal power of music to help children with ASD overcome their difficulties in social and emotional communication. Children with ASD experience challenges with communicating and understanding of emotion, such as interpreting facial expressions. In contrast, they appear to show no deficits in processing emotion in musical stimuli.

The goal of MELODY is to improve socio-emotional functioning in children with ASD by using a music-based approach which includes 1) studying the brain bases of socio-emotional deficits using neuroimaging techniques 2) developing a music-based therapeutic intervention to teach children emotion recognition skills and 3) conducting quantitative and qualitative evaluations of music education programs for children with special needs.

Since the release of Stardust, we have received countless letters from grateful parents of children with special needs, sharing their personal stories of how Stardust has helped calm, relax, and focus their children. Through our years of performing, we have seen first hand the beneficial effects of music on children. We could see how music would light up their eyes, bring smiles to their faces and laughter to their hearts. We are so grateful to know that we have an opportunity to help raise funds for a research program that could bring us a step closer to understanding autism, developing new treatments and helping these special children and their families.

We need your help to accomplish all this work! We have set a goal to raise $100,000 by March 1st, 2009 and are asking that you consider making a tax-deductible gift of $25 or more to help achieve this goal. Your contribution in any amount is greatly appreciated, and even a gift of 20, 15 or 10 dollars will make a huge difference! Your donation will be used to support the development of the MELODY program and will help improve the lives of these special children with ASD and their families.

To donate directly to MELODY, please visit The Friends of the Semel Institute’s website, the support group for The Semel Institute at and click on “Donate Here” at the top of the homepage. This will direct you to a new page, where you can click “Click here to donate and become a member.” This will take you to a secure page allowing you to make your donation by choosing one of the amounts on the drop-down menu or choosing ”Other” and filling in any amount you’d like to donate to MELODY. Please designate the amount of your donation and be sure to write “MELODY” in the Comments box at the bottom of the page, ensuring that your donation will go directly to the MELODY program.

For more information on the MELODY program, please visit and for The Help Group – UCLA Autism Research Alliance, visit

We thank you from the bottom of our hearts,

Your friends,

Cher & Gene