Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Rahniesha Lewis

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.

Today we feature Rahniesha Lewis. Rahniesha is a fundraiser for a non profit organization in Los Angeles, CA. 

Rahniesha Lewis

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet

At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?

13

Why did you start playing?

One day, my dad told me I was going to play an instrument and described all the benefits that come along with it. Being a trumpet and bass guitar player himself, he said he believed everyone should play an instrument at some point in their lives. He told me I had to commit to it for one full year and then if I didn't like it, I could move on to another activity. I had one week to pick an instrument of my choosing or else he would pick one out for me! LOL. So, I wound up choosing the clarinet since it didn't seem too far off from the wooden recorder I had and a couple of my friends also played the instrument. 

What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?

Middle school was where I began my interest in classical music. It was definitely a struggle trying to learn not to squeak and juggling between band practice, track practice, and chorus. After my 1st year of playing the clarinet in the 5th grade, I liked it so much that I decided to stick with it, I was getting the hang of it and I also liked this elite club I belonged to where we all were a part of something bigger. In high school, I had to make a tough decision to choose to stay in the band or chorus since they practiced at the same time. I chose the band so I could join the marching band since we could go to all the football games and go on trips; it also didn't hurt that our band was highly ranked in the state! I enjoyed playing movie scores, fight songs, and other musical favorites.   

Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?

My favorite music teacher was from elementary school, Ms. Galen. She was the first person to introduce Broadway musicals to me. She was my chorus teacher from Kindergarten through 3rd grade and we sang songs from popular musicals that were playing in the 80's like songs from Cats and Annie. I am now a lover of musicals because of her.

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

One of my favorite times in band was from my senior year in high school. I lived in Virginia at the time and we got to go to Disney World to play in the 3pm Main Street Parade. I remember how exciting it was in the practices leading up to the trip and then actually being at the parade was so energetic. We were a part of the celebration and people were cheering us on and that just made you want to do a good job in the performance.

Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?

I wasn't going to play my clarinet in college, but, I found out that the marching band was going to be performing the halftime show at my favorite football team's (Redskins) last game in the old stadium against our rivals, the Cowboys. There was no way I was going to pass up that opportunity and plus, James Madison University had a reputation of having a good marching band. I wound up playing for 3 years and I was able to travel to Europe with the band in a once in a lifetime experience.

What is your current occupation?

I am a fundraiser for a Los Angeles nonprofit organization that helps kids get into and through college.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music is a universal connector, I am able to identify with some of our students in our program that may be in band or chorus. 

How has music played a part in your adult life?

I live music everyday. I may not play the clarinet anymore, but, I am in my church choir. I also support local music charities like the Grammy Museum and KJAZZ (a jazz radio station). I attend concerts and listen to music to get me through my day.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Stay committed to playing or singing throughout your life or else you will feel a void. Once music is in your system it doesn't leave. Make time for music no matter what and you will be able to do things you never would have imagined. Also, musicians are part of a special group and don't be afraid to share your talents with others.

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Heather Novak

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives.

Today, we feature Heather Novak. Heather is an Emergency Room Nurse who is currently finishing her Master's degree and training to be a Family Nurse Practitioner. 

Heather Novak

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet, a little piano, a little guitar

At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?

7

Why did you start playing?

My Mom played the organ when I was little and I always wanted to play, too. She let me start playing the electric organ when I was around 7, but, I never had lessons. Then, when I was in 5th grade, it was time for school band. I really wanted to play the saxophone, but my Dad insisted I play either the flute or the clarinet, so I choose the clarinet. 

 

What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?

I played the B flat Clarinet in elementary and middle school years. This included concert band and marching band. In middle school (it was actually a junior high back then), I also played the E flat clarinet in concerts. I also played the vibraphone during football half time shows one year. None of the percussionists knew how to read treble clef music and we were performing the Phantom of the Opera so a few woodwinds played for that song. Our band instructor knew how much I wanted to be in jazz band, but he did not allow clarinets in jazz band. He allowed me to play auxiliary percussion so that I could enjoy jazz as well. First chair clarinet alternated between myself and two other girls for the most part.... Who got to play first chair really depended on the week, but the competition for first was great fun! I was also in charge of the school music library one year; looking through all that sheet music and making copies was actually quite fun. I loved the music programs at my elementary and junior high school... but, made the choice to not play in the band in High School. My junior high band had beaten the high school band I was slated to be in during many competitions. I knew that as a clarinet player I was not talented enough to earn a scholarship to college so I opted to join ROTC instead... I sure did miss Band though. 

Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?

Mr. Bill Pease was my favorite music teacher. He was the band director at my middle school. He expected greatness from us and it showed. He never choose music based on the fact that we were a junior high band, he choose what he liked regardless of the grade and then taught us to play it. He was a perfectionist and expected us to always do our best. Tardiness was not tolerated, if you weren't ten minutes early you were late. If we were late we ran laps or did push ups, the same for disrespecting him. Even now, I still cannot stand to be late for things. 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

I think my most memorable memory from grade school band was the district band concert. I was the infamous student.... The one who played twinkle twinkle little SCREECH! I was so embarrassed, I could not believe that I squeaked, and so loudly. My band mates didn't care, though... They reassured me that no one knew it was me and it didn't matter. 

Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?

I did not play in college. I got married and had a family instead of going straight to college. When I did choose to go, the music program wasn't really a concern for me. 

What is your current occupation?

I am an Emergency Room Nurse, currently finishing up my Master's Degree and training to be a Family Nurse Practitioner. 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

I think that music helps you think clearly. You are used to following direction, but also letting your heart sound through your music. In the medical field, caring really is an art. You have to think critically, but you also have to use your heart and sometimes think around the corners of problems to figure out what is really going on with your patient.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

The main way that music is part of my adult life at this point is through my kids. All three of my girls play instruments. I have a high school jazz trombonist, a clarinetist, and a beginning french horn player. I play with them occasionally, but I'm rusty. When I finish school in December, I plan to link up with the local community orchestra and bring music back into my life on my own account. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

The best advice I have for young musicians is to never let go of their music. Even if you don't continue in a band program, music touches a part of you and becomes part of your life. If you stop playing for a time, you will miss it... it's an expression of your soul and it can be an emotional release when things are tough. 

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Melanie Pertee

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives. 

Today, we highlight Melanie Pertee. Melanie is Pertee is an Administrative Rep Senior for a major government contractor supporting the US Navy Submarine fleet. 

Melanie Pertee

What instrument do you play?

Clarinet, Oboe

At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?

10

Why did you start playing?

I started band, because it was the family thing, both my aunt and dad had played clarinet during their school days.  I had always told my parents at parades I wanted to do that when I was old enough. 

What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?

I loved music, it taught me self discipline and that hard work pays off.  Music played an important role throughout my school years as it made friendships that I still have today along with great memories that I carry with me.

Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?

My favorite band teacher was Mr. Bill Pease.  He always pushed us to be better and instilled in us that our band was our family and we would always have that friendship as we grew older.  He knew that each of us had a special gift that we could provide the Team and he worked to cultivate that in each and everyone of us.

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

I have so many but I think that my favorite memory is when we went to a competition with Plaza Junior, and we came home with every trophy that there was a category for and we won a special session with a director who worked with us.  A lot of people that year couldn't believe that we were a junior high band with the music we were playing. From that moment on we were dubbed the pride of Plaza.

Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?

I did not play an instrument in college as I went later in life so I didn't attend traditional college.  

What is your current occupation?

I am and Administrative Rep Senior for a major government contractor supporting the US Navy Submarine fleet.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

The organizational and self discipline that I learned in music/band has helped me become a sought after Administrative Rep within in my company because I take pride in the work I put out and always make sure I work with integrity and respect. 

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music has made me realize my goals, it has made me want to succeed and better myself.  It has provided me the confidence that I can lead a team at work and in my life.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

My advice for young musicians is to listen to what you are being told, practice always makes perfect.

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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Benjamin Osoba

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives. Today, we will highlight Benjamin Osoba, a PhD student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. 

Benjamin Osoba

What instrument do you play?

Percussion, Saxophone, Clarinet

At what age did you begin to play your first instrument?

8

Why did you start playing?

I always wanted to play the drums and we finally got a drum set at my church that year (i.e. 2000).

What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?

During elementary school, I took drum lessons at a local music school. When I was in 5th grade, the movie "Drumline" was released. I loved it so much that I began watching my VHS copy of it and learning the cadences.

This practice eventually paid off, as I was recruited to play in the Eastside High School drumline as a 7th grader. After school, I would travel to the high school to learn and play with the older students.

As I continued learning, my music interests expanded. In 8th grade, I played clarinet and eventually graduated to playing tenor saxophone. The experience of learning woodwind instruments helped me to understand music theory.

While in high school, I played snare drum in the marching band, drum set in gospel choir, and saxophone in concert band. Throughout these years, I attended numerous band camps, including the FAMU Marching 100 summer band camp, the BCU Marching Wildcats summer band camp, and the NSU Spartan Legion high school band camp. I also took to arranging music using Finale software. This eventually led to my participation in the NAACP ACT-SO competition for music composition, which I did on a national level my senior year.

Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?

My favorite music teacher was my first drum set teacher, Mr. Rick Cameron. His teaching style made it very fun to learn and play the drums. I always looked forward to attending the lessons for this reason!

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

My favorite band memory was putting on the Eastside High School band uniform in 7th grade. I still remember the feeling of pride and excitement at that very moment and I'm sure I'll never forget it!

Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?

Although I did not play in an organized ensemble, music did in fact impact my college choice. When I applied to my now alma mater, Norfolk State University, I did so as a music education major. I wanted to play in the NSU drumline, the "Million Dollar Funk $quad", which I still consider to be the best HBCU percussion section in the nation. As a Florida native, I auditioned for this drumline by way of a recorded DVD (which I still have to this day).

During my freshmen year, I switched my major to electrical engineering so that I could attend NSU on a full ride scholarship via the Dozoretz National Institute for Mathematics and Applied Sciences (DNIMAS). I ultimately decided not to play in the band so that I could focus on my academics and thus keep my scholarship.

What is your current occupation?

I am currently a PhD student in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. My research focuses on the design and configuration of Micro/Nano-Electro-Mechanical (M/NEM) relays for ultra low power digital logic applications. I am supported through the following academic fellowships: the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship, the Ford Foundation Pre-Doctoral Fellowship, the National GEM Consortium University Fellowship, and the UC Berkeley Chancellor's Fellowship.

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music is still my passion and I use it to keep myself motivated when graduate school gets very tough. For example, after running microfabrication processes, conducting device measurements, attending research talks, and/or going to class, music is what I use to unwind and relax.

Since beginning graduate school, I have started collecting vinyl records. I have learned so much about the history of recorded music from doing so! I also meet with other graduate students during weekends to play drums for our unofficial jazz ensemble.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

In addition to my academic endeavors, I am also studying audio engineering and production. Particularly, I was inspired to start learning how to produce after being introduced to A Tribe Called Quest when I was in high school.

For these reasons, I spend the majority of my free time studying music equipment, listening to records, and practicing on my MPC5000. I hope to eventually collaborate with some of my favorite artists, including (but not limited to) Talib Kweli, Joey Bada$$, and Black Milk.

What advice do you have for young musicians?

Practice, practice, practice! I didn't understand the importance of practice until I was an adult. The process of learning to play an instrument is analogous to the process of learning anything, be it mathematics, art, science, etc. You have to learn the fundamentals and then build from there. So, developing the discipline to do so at an early age will help you throughout your life!

More importantly, always remember to have fun with what you're doing. Music is a beautiful thing, so enjoy it to the fullest.

The link to my current beat tape is as follows:

https://soundcloud.com/diracproductions/sets/progressive-steps-vol-1

Additionally, if you have any interest in collaborating, I can be reached at DiracProductions@gmail.com.


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Music in Our Schools Month Profile: Anthem Smith

The National Association for Music Education (NAfME) has designated March as Music in Our Schools Month. To celebrate, the jsquared music performance center will be highlighting people who played instruments in grade school and the impact it made on their lives. Today, we will highlight Anthem Smith, a band director in Petersburg, VA. 

Anthem Smith

What instruments do you play?

Tuba, Tenor Saxophone, Alto Saxophone, Baritone, Trombone, Trumpet, Percussion, Piano

At what age did you begin playing your first instrument?

9

Why did you start playing?

My mom is a music instructor, so ever since I can remember I was around her bands and loved music. Playing an instrument was destiny for me. 

What was your experience with music during your elementary, middle and high school years?

My very first experience with music was taking piano lessons as a small child at one of my mom's friends, Ms. Geraldine Boone's, home. A few years later my mom bought me a saxophone when I was 9 and I took private lessons with professor James Hester at NSU after school. I always received high marks in music class in elementary school. I played string bass in the orchestra and made all city my 5th grade year. In middle school, I played alto saxophone in the concert band until 7th grade. In 7th grade my director, Mr. Donald Spruill (RIP) needed a tuba player, and my mom recommended he train me to play it. I played tuba from 7th grade until my senior year in college. In high school I played tuba in the concert and marching band, where I was section leader. I also made all district band on tuba. I performed with the Norfolk All City Jazz Ensemble on the tenor saxophone from 9th to 12 grade. My senior year I also took AP Music Theory and began to arrange for my marching band. 

Who was your favorite music teacher? What made them your favorite?

I don't have a single favorite so I will shout out them all. All my band directors and music teachers, Mr. Spruill, Mr. Williams, Mr. Daley, Mr. Krieselman and Mr. Featherer. They all taught me countless things about music and about being a better student and person. My most influential music teacher never officially taught me at all, and that was my mom. She was a public school band director for over 30 years and now works at NSU. Her musical lessons came more subtlety and I can always count on her for advice today, as I continue my growth as a band director. 

What is your favorite band memory from grade school?

Most definitely Friday night with the marching band and our Jazz Band trip to Atlanta. 

Did you play an instrument in college? Did music impact your college choice?

I played tuba with the Norfolk State University Spartan "Legion" Marching Band. Music was the reason I went to NSU. I had loved the Legion all my life up until that point and always knew I would end up there. Band was the best reason about undergrad and I made friends that eventually became my family, all thanks to music. 

What is your current occupation?

I am currently a band director in Petersburg, VA. I am the head director of bands at Vernon Johns Junior High. I am also the assistant head director of bands and chief arranger at Petersburg High School under Clyde Boswell. 

How has music helped you in your current occupation?

Music is my profession. I love introducing music to my students and helping them grow into fine musicians through concert and marching band. It's very rewarding when you see a child get better and better from month to month and year to year.

How has music played a part in your adult life?

Music is my life. I would be lost without it. I'll love it forever. 

What advice do you have for young musicians?

My advice to young musicians is to never stop exploring your instrument and other instruments. Also, always remember music is art and should always be fun. Never take it too serious, but, don't take it as a joke. 

Be on the lookout for anything related to the Petersburg High School Marching Band and the Vernon Johns Junior High School Band as well. 

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The Magical, Musical Misadventures of Ms. Melody and the MH Middle School Band (Fiction)

Chapter 1

I was wide awake staring at the back of my eyelids. My eyes were closed, but my mind was racing. First day of school and I was nervous. I opened my eyes and blinked a few times because it was just as dark in my room as it was when my eyes were closed. As I rolled over the light from neon blue numbers lit the air. 4:30am. Ugh. Half an hour before my alarm. Oh well. I sat up and stretched. Let’s get this day started. 

When you live in a house with four boys and two parents, it pays to be the first person up in the morning. I showered in peace, dressed and was downstairs eating breakfast before I heard the first person wake up and go into the upstairs bathroom. 

I paused to take one last look in the mirror, snapped my morning pic and was gone before whoever that was finished their shower. 

Walking down the dimly lit street, I could see a couple of my friends at the bus stop. My nerves calmed. I took out my camera and shifted my flute case underneath my arm.

“Hey y’all!” I yelled down the street. I was immediately embarrassed because it came out way louder than I expected. 

“Hey, Nina!“ they yelled back in unison. Snap. Perfect shot.

“You and that camera!” I heard Missy saying as I got closer. 
“Did you get my good side?” said Tristan. Missy and I shook our heads and laughed. We all knew that Tristan had no bad side. She was the prettiest girl in the neighborhood and she knew it. 

I was so happy to see my friends. 

As the sun continued to rise, a steady stream of kids joined us at the bus stop. Perfect lighting for my first day of school photo shoot. I was getting some really great casual shots when I felt a tap on my shoulder. Michael. Great, I thought as I rolled my eyes and turned to see what he wanted. 

“Hey Michael. What’s up? Nice sneakers.” Maybe if I killed him with kindness, he wouldn’t have the heart to say something mean to me. 

“Yeah. That’s what I need to talk to you about. I see you out here taking pictures. I need some pics of my sneakers.” 

“Um... yeah, sure.” My mind went into immediate creative overdrive. Michael’s sneakers were bright yellow with neon orange and green trim. “Leah, Chris and Tristan, y’all come here and stand like this.” I made them all stand with their feet in a circle. On the first day of school, you have to be dressed to impress. Everyone had on their brand new clothes and shoes and Leah, Chris and Tristan all happened to be wearing gleaming white sneakers fresh out of the box. No creases.

Michael’s highlighter yellow sneakers stood out in the circle like a sun ray bursting through the clouds on a rainy day. Rainy day = gray. Gray = asphalt. I could see that my shot was genius.
The bus pulled up just as I took the pic. “I’ll send it to you today after school, Michael,” I said as I put my camera into my bag, grabbed my flute case and got on the bus.

My mind was racing through my class schedule when I was literally knocked back into reality by Terrie.

“Scoot over. I have so much to tell you!” she said as she used her book bag and clarinet case to nudge me over.

“Happy first day of school to you, too” I said, smirking while I made room.

“Did these busses get smaller? There’s hardly any room for both of us to sit here!” Terri lived one bus stop away from me. She was also one of the few neighborhood friends who was in band. Did I mention she grew a foot over the summer break? Well, maybe not a whole foot, but it had to be at least 6 inches. She was taller than everyone.

“Ok, so what’s the big news?” I asked.

“Did you hear? Mr. Fernstead is gone! He’s not the band director anymore!” Terri’s voice sounded as if she didn’t know whether to be happy or excited. Whichever one is greater, that’s the one that Terri was. She never liked Mr. Fernstead. Especially after what happened at band camp last week.

“Seriously? He’s gone? Where did you hear that?” Why did I even ask that question? It was no secret that Terri’s mom was the neighborhood gossip. She knew absolutely everything! Nothing gets past Mrs. Winsome.

“My mom said that the parents got a letter in the mail saying that Magic Hollow Middle School was getting a new principal. She called her friend that works at the school and she told her that once he saw that video you made of us last year at festival, he marched right down to the band room and was in there for over an hour. When the new principal came back to his office, he gave her Mr. Fernstead’s keys and said that he won’t be needing them anymore.”

“Wow. This new principal sounds crazy. What are we going to do without a band director?” I had just made the advanced band and, no matter how terrible they sounded, I was still excited about being in the top band. 

The ride to school was a blur. My mind raced from the news I just heard to the sneaker shot I got this morning. This morning. Michael was nice to me. That’s a first. He has had it in for me since I moved here last year in sixth grade. It’s not my fault that the first time I saw him, he had on a pair of cowboy boots, blue above-the-knee shorts and a yellow t-shirt that had MIKEE spelled out in green letters on it. Hey, his shirt said Mikee, so, I called him Mikee. Maybe he didn’t like that nick name. It’s been nothing but torture ever since. 

Ugh. Why was I thinking about him? Our school had no band director. What would I do without band? We should turn this bus around now and go back home. I can enroll in another school. One with a good band director. It’s not too late, right?

My thoughts were interrupted as I instinctly stuck my hand out and braced myself on the back of the seat in front of me.
“Did you feel that?” I asked Terri.
“Girl, this bus driver can’t drive. Get your stuff. Let’s hurry to the band room and see if we can find out what’s going on.” Terri said as she quickly worked her way into the aisle and off of the bus.

Snap. Had to get a first day of school shot of the front of the school.

I caught up with Terri and we entered into Magic Hollow Middle School. 

 

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Bringing Music Where There is None

From the article:

“I had a long-term vision to become a support for music education programs in Atlanta, especially in the schools that are hurting and get little help or attention,” he said. “We want to be a resource to provide instruments, education and grants for music programs of all types.” 

“We were getting this off the ground last spring when we got word that the Atlanta school system’s music program was going to get cut, mostly in 18 elementary schools,” said Monroe. “So it was natural that our first programs started there.”

One of the teachers whose job was eliminated, Arthur McClenton, joined Monroe’s team and got in touch with principals at schools where he used to teach. Two elementary schools, West Manor and Bethune, embraced the idea of having teachers come in after hours to lead a band class twice a week. Both programs now have close to 20 participants from third, fourth and fifth grades who are introduced to instruments provided by the foundation. Both the instruments and the lessons are free."

The program is called The Gift of Music and it was born out of the need for music education programs. In Atlanta Public Schools, elementary schools band programs were cut leaving a void. The Gift of Music works to fill those voids. Here at the jsquared music performance center, we will be launching our own program this summer to help continue the work of The Gift of Music Program. Music helps to give kids something to look forward to, an escape from the monotony of every day life. Music helps to expand their imaginations. We applaud the work of the people with The Gift of Music!

 

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Weekly Practice Planner

As a private lesson teacher, I knew that I needed something for my students to log their practice time and help them to remember what they needed to work on. Below, is my first attempt to design a practice planner that is both easy to use and appealing to the eye. 

If you would like your own copy of our practice planner, send an email and I will send you the pdf!

jsquaredmpc_practice_planner

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4 Simple Steps for Effective Practice

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How Playing an Instrument Benefits Your Brain

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What's going on? Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians' brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout. View full lesson: http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-playing-an-instrument-benefits-your-brain-anita-collins

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