I have something exciting to share for Changed for the Better, the power of arts in education!
It’s time for some UPGRADES!
Ask and ye shall receive is my mantra for the moment. Let me explain. In preparation for the upcoming season four, I decided to do a little upgrading. Given how far the podcast has come, it was time for a new logo, episode intro and theme song.
In the beginning, I had no idea what would become of this podcast, so when I was ready to go live with content, I also had to have all of the marketing bells and whistles. I found a catchy intro song called “Hey” on Bensound which had the light, feel-good vibe that I was looking for. I knew that if I stuck with the podcast, I’d eventually want something else a little more personalized, but in the moment, “Hey” fit the bill. I also put together some logo art on Canva so I could promote my “brand” (that sounds so weird) and made things look somewhat official.
One year and 40 episodes later, it was time to reach out to people who would do it better than me. First task: theme song.
When you can’t say it, sing it!
The beauty of being an arts educator is that you work directly with some extraordinary talent. For the upgrade, I really wanted to use people I know, former students who had continued developing their work into adulthood. For the song, there was only one person I wanted: my guest from episode 8, Brianna Knight.
Brianna was one of our brightest stars who graduated Spring Valley High School in 2016. Her most notable role (among many) was the title role in AIDA, which (as the young folks might say) she slayed.
Nowadays, she is a brilliant Neo-soul composer and recording artist with a strong collection of her own music. Every so often, she releases a new single, the latest one better than the last. And of course, I have all of them in a playlist. Check out her work on her YouTube channel. Her voice is an instrument all it’s own: evocative, emotional, smooth, lilting and powerful all in one breath.
Brianna has also done some work in jingle writing, and was known nationwide as “the Chime girl” several years ago.
While I had no idea what she might put together, Brianna’s voice was the sound I wanted to open and close the show. I knew that she would understand what I needed; we shared so many important artistic experiences together, and were both “changed for the better” because our lives connected so many years ago.
I sent Brianna a text, knowing that her time and artistic energy is precious: she has been putting out her own music, creating videos, and living the life of a working musician. I was hopeful that she might find some space to conceptualize and translate the feeling that we get not just from the interviews, but from our shared history as creators and artists. There was a part of me that was afraid that she might not have the time, but if you don’t ask, you’ll never know.
She said yes. Enthusiastically. ❤️❤️❤️❤️
Ask and ye shall receive.
Waiting for good things
For a naturally impatient person, waiting for good things is tough. My heart was itching to hear what Brianna would come up with. Honestly, the idea of pulling a feeling from a series of conversations I had and summing it up in a 30-second jingle—it felt like a tall order. Her talent notwithstanding, I didn’t know if her idea would match the vision in my head, but I trusted her professionalism, her creative gifts and our connection.
About a month later, she sent me a draft. It popped up on my text messages as I was finishing up at the gym one Sunday morning. I took a breath, opened the file and listened intently. My heart started racing, and I cried—right there in the gym. There were screams too. I was so overwhelmed that in a 25-second jingle, Brianna captured the feeling that surrounds the entire podcast. I immediately gave her the go-ahead to make the final version, one that she would put her bells and whistles on.
Know I’m changed for the betterLyrics by Brianna Knight
And the music made me stronger
Know I’m changed for the better
You were there for me
Know I’m changed.
A week later, I got another version, incomplete, but more fleshed out with gorgeous harmonies with her voice bouncing and lilting in ways that made my heart race. Suddenly, it became an ear worm played on repeat. In a 30-second spot, my new theme song would encapsulate all the love and connection over the years.
On March 3, as I was teaching a class, my watch buzzed. Brianna’s name popped up and my heart started fluttering. She sent the final version. I decided to save the listen for lunchtime, where I could sit quietly and take it all in. The next hour was an eternity: I still had another class to teach before lunch. Talk about being distracted…
I finally finished my class, ushered my students out, closed the door, and sat down in the quiet of the space I’ve been calling home for so many years. I took a breath and pressed play. As I listened to her swirling voice singing those lyrics that were like affirmations of love, I took in all of the feels. I get that feeling whenever I make a particular connection with a student in class or rehearsal; we share a moment of understanding, epiphany, and growth. That’s what I felt this song encapsulated: thousands of moments, over decades of time, wrapped together in 30 seconds. It is breathtaking to feel that way, and now I can feel that way whenever I want; all I have to do is press play.
Brianna’s career embodies this musical theater sentiment: if you can’t say it, then sing it. In this theme song, she has graced me with the most beautiful gift.
Creating a brand
When you are a creator with something to promote, marketing and branding are terms you must grapple with. When I created the initial artwork, it took me a few hours to throw something together. It worked well enough, but I needed something better if I wanted to see a better future for the podcast.
Based on my own experience, I figured that someone with some real skill could navigate the process more quickly and easily than I could. Of course, it turned out to be much more complicated than I thought. I did an initial reach-out to my social media connections, and while some sent me some fun stuff, it fell short of what my heart really wanted. A college friend gave me the name of a graphic designer, who I decided to work with, but the process took much longer than expected and the outcome, while nice, didn’t thrill me.
In the middle of that process, I received an email from Michael Delpup, a former Thespian who asked if I still needed artwork. His sister was one of my dancers, and she had messaged him about my design needs. He is a graphic designer by trade, and while I shared that while I was already working with someone, I was open to anything. I just wanted my heart to smile when I looked at the logo. He graciously moved forward with his ideas.
A few weeks later, he sent a pdf with loads of design options. I was floored not only by the work he had done, but how many incredible designs he had completed to match the feel of the podcast. There were literally dozens of viable options to choose from—colors, fonts, banners—and they were all interchangeable. While I knew I needed to see the other designer’s ideas through completion, my heart knew I wanted to work with Michael.
As a Thespian alum, Michael had been watching the podcast and enjoyed seeing everyone’s progress as adults. He was eager to put his spin on what would eventually become the new face of “Changed for the Better.” After a few communication to clarify my needs with his ideas, this is the result:
I am so excited that I was able to reach out to my Spring Valley arts community and have them contribute to this passion project of mine. Brianna and Michael have encapsulated everything this podcast is about and I could not be more grateful for their time, effort and vision in helping me to keep moving forward.
Keep an eye out for season 4! You can catch up on the blogs for past episodes here or subscribe to the Changed for the Better YouTube channel here.