"You May Already Be a Winner!" And Everyone's a Winner with this Simple Music Activity.

Back in 1953 Harold Mertz was trying to sell magazines. 

He had salespeople going door to door. But it wasn’t very efficient. So Harold came up with the idea of mailing subscription offers to everyone. For the price of a 3-cent stamp he could blanket the town with his offers. Good idea right? 

But Harold knew that not everyone liked the same magazines. So he created Publisher’s Clearing House.  And with that one mailing, he offered a bunch of different magazine titles all in one mailing. Something for everyone. Smart guy. 

Then Harold got even smarter. He started a contest. Sort of like a lottery. 

Each subscription offer he mailed out had a number on it. One of the numbers had already been selected to win a prize. Because the number had already been selected, Harold could truthfully say: 

“You may already be a winner!” 

Harold tapped into human nature. 

He knew that people like choices so he offered more than one magazine at a time. 

Harold also knew that he could draw people in – get them engaged -  if he linked choosing magazines to something fun like a game of chance. 

What does this have to do with music? 

The people you care for like to have a little fun. 

The people you care for have different preferences when it comes to music. 

It’s human nature. And you want to honor that. 

But what if the people you care for can’t come up with song titles when you ask for requests? 

Here’s a beautifully simple solution sent to me by one of my readers, Jeanne Whiting, from northern Vermont. Thank you Jeanne! 

Pick a Winner! 

“Because I work in a memory care unit it is often difficult for folks to remember their favorite song. I have a couple who ask for the same song and there are a few whose favorites I have discovered by their reactions to certain songs. 

To make choosing songs easier, but still individual, I started a “pick a song night” which we do every Friday night. (We sing every night...except Saturday because that's movie night!) We call it Pick a Winner. Here’s how to play. 

I put the names of songs on pieces of paper and put them in a large plastic bin. There are over a hundred songs, so you never know what you're going to get. 

I start going around the circle...first person chooses a song and as they choose I say "Okay (name), Pick a Winner.” 

The response to that phrase is "And they're all winners!" 

Most of the time I have to prompt them but some can remember to use the response at this point. They pick out of "the bucket" and hand me the slip of paper with the title. I usually make a big deal about it, like a game show. "Ohhhh, what will it be?" etc. Then we sing the song. And we just continue on around the circle until we're done!” 

So simple and so brilliant! 

Jeanne plays ukulele, but you could do this same fun activity using the names of songs you have on a Spotify, ITunes or YouTube playlist. 

Harold didn’t offer people 2,000 magazine choices. He offered them about 20 based on what he knew were likely to be their favorites. He made choosing easier. And he made a game out of it. He got people to engage – to take a chance. 

Try Jeanne’s idea. 

“You may already be a winner.” 

Do you have an idea or a story to share with the Singing Heart to Heart community? Send it my way and I’ll enter you into a drawing to win a copy of my CD Songs You Know By Heart, as well as a copy of my children’s CD Ms. Tiyi’s Garden

P.S. If you play ukulele, or want to learn, read on as Jeanne shares a bit about her background, how she got started and her favorite resources for finding songs. 

“I knew a lot of the older songs because my mom was a musician (church organist/piano player) and that's what we listened to or that she would sing. We also used to play through my grandmother's record collection and sing into our hairbrushes with Doris Day and The Andrew Sisters. I learned a lot of songs when I started using my ukulele instead of lugging my guitar or borrowing a keyboard. I got the book The Daily Ukulele which has really great songs. I'm still learning from it. I also got the second book which has some older songs but leans more towards "newer" songs. We have a more diverse age population now so it does help to know some of the better known songs of the '50's, '60's and even '70's. I also have The Ukulele Fake Book that has over 400 songs...many newer ones. I'm still learning!! 

I realize how blessed I am to be able to be with the same group of people every day/night. Even when we are in a small group doing a puzzle we end up singing little bits and pieces of songs.”

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