BELOIT — Susan Picking was teaching tots how to stand up for themselves on Tuesday, with the help of a little hip hop.
The Beloit musician was visiting four schools to teach them the catchy tune “No Bully” in honor of National Bullying Prevention Month. The wee ones were wiggling to the music as they learned some important lessons to keep them safe. Picking made stops at Hackett and Todd elementary schools as well as Cunningham and Aldrich intermediate schools.
“No Bully,” is from Picking’s new CD, “School of Life.” Children are taught the hip hop and acoustic version of the song.
“It’s a way to teach and promote anti-bullying efforts through the arts in a positive and fun way, and is a discussion opener to a subject that can be difficult to talk about,” Picking said in an interview on Monday. “Music is the universal language that connects us all.”
While researching what kids can do in bullying situations, she found a list of points to incorporate in her verses: stand tall and confident, report bullying behavior, stand in a group to combat bullying and learn how to reframe negative comments from others. On Tuesday, Picking went through each verse with students to help the ideas resonate with them.
“These are great discussion points and strategies for children to have, when in a situation. I also use mindfulness practices to teach internal and self compassion which has that ripple effect out to family, class, school and community,” she said.
Picking, who purchased a home in Beloit this summer after her husband, Mike Wheeler, found work at Kerry Ingredients, has an eclectic list of life experiences she hopes to share with youth.
After obtaining a degree in broadcast journalism, Picking worked as a ski instructor and flight attendant. She later received a certificate in songwriting and vocal performance from Long Beach City College in California.
Picking said she writes music for all ages, although it’s always family-friendly. Although she draws inspiration from folk music, she can perform a variety of music styles. Because of her message-driven lyrics, she was invited to be an artist-in-residence at a school in Michigan. She started writing music for kids in 2012. Her CD “The School of Life” as well as “School of Life in Session” - with additional karaoke tracks - teaches tolerance and kindness while encouraging and promoting diversity.
The inspiration of “No Bully” came from another song, “DiverseCity.” Picking said her friend’s daughter was bullied on a bus because she’s biracial.
Picking hopes to remain involved in Beloit and its schools. She volunteered at a peace rally event in May as well as with the Boys & Girls club last spring. She continues to volunteer hosting music at Todd Elementary School and is hoping to help out with Community Learning Center, part of an after-school program available at some district schools.
Her other CDs are “Down in Your Soul,” “Take 3” and “Wonder in the Wander.”
Picking wrote the song “Wonder in the Wander” while on Safari in Tanzania in east Africa. She likes to write about synchronicity and serendipity. For more information visit www.susanpicking.com.