At First Light: An Interview with Chelsea Lee Smith

Chelsea Lee Smith has been busy! Not only has she been busy working as a full-time mom, but among other things, she’s one of the main driving forces behind the wonderful blog for parenting called Enable Me To Grow, and also the Radiant Hearts educational resource which is aimed at assisting in the spiritual education of children.

And now Chelsea, along with the help of her husband Zafar and two children, has just released yet another resource called At First Light, Volume 1, which is a musical album based on 20 short quotations from the Baha’i Writings.

This wonderful album is a great way for kids and adults alike to memorise the Baha’i Writings, and the album also comes with 20 instrumental tracks of each song as well, so everyone can sing along!

With Ayyam-i-Ha coming up soon, I’m going to be buying a few copies for some of my family and friends, and I thought this would also be good opportunity to let others know about this wonderful album, so I decided to catch up with Chelsea to hear more about the initiative. 

Baha’i Blog: Tell me a little about this initiative and why you decided to record this album?

It’s a bit of a long story but I’ll try to be brief. Last year in February my sister-in-law and I launched our blog Enable Me To Grow, geared towards helping mothers nurture themselves and their children using the Baha’i Faith for inspiration. One of our largest resources is called Radiant Hearts which is a comprehensive spiritual education resource for children ages 0-4, specifically aimed at helping them memorize Baha’i prayers and quotations and apply virtues to every day life. I could go on and on about why Radiant Hearts was created but since we’re talking about the CD here, I’ll just direct you to this page on our website that shares a bit of the history in case you are interested.

When we were about to launch Radiant Hearts I contacted Karyn Robarts, founder of Virtues In Us since we were using one of the CDs she produced as part of the recommended resources for the program. After corresponding for a bit and sharing our vision, she very generously offered to fund the creation of our CDs for the program, one for the 20 quotations and one for the 20 prayers. The idea was that the sale of these CDs could financially support our work so we could create even more resources – We have SO many in the works!

It had been a dream from the start, to record the music professionally, but we never knew it would financially be possible! We are incredibly thankful to Karyn for offering this amazing gift which has allowed us to share our music with the world… and hopefully in turn, if sales go well, this project can support me in pursuing my passion of creating even more resources for mothers and children.

Baha’i Blog: So what’s the main aim of this album and how do you hope it can help others?

The aim of this album is for people to memorize the 20 quotations of Baha’u’llah, and to be inspired by the music so that the quotations enter their thoughts on a regular basis. The original idea for the Radiant Hearts program is that one quotation be memorized each Baha’i month – plus there is an extra for Ayyam-i-Ha – however just listening to the album casually throughout the year would probably reach this memorization goal too.

We set out to use one sentence quotations so that very young children could become familiar with them, and begin to memorize them. Each child is different but we were surprised how many Writings our son could memorize, especially when he learned them as a song, even as young as age three. How wonderful it would be for these sentences to become part of our children’s vocabulary and a foundation for their thought processes, so that they could be inspired by them throughout life!

Baha’i Blog: What’s the response been like so far?

Parents have shared that they and their children are memorizing the quotations effortlessly and really enjoying the music as well!  I’ve had quite a few messages sharing how children are dancing around the room to our songs also.

As this is our first product to sell, I don’t really have anything to compare it with. However I would have (honestly) expected sales to be a lot higher considering our website has a decent following, so a certain number of people have already been exposed to it. Not that I have a great voice or this is the “best CD ever” but I guess I created an album *I* as a parent would like to buy for my children… 20 kid-friendly quotations (plus sing-a-long tracks) for $9.99 – one trip to the cafe – I’d swoop it up!  So I’m just hoping sales will pick up soon and that people will support us by investing $10 into our work. We offer a great variety of resources on our website and purchasing our album is a very practical way to help us continue.

Part of the problem is that I just don’t have time for all the promotion necessary to generate more sales.  I know I should send the album information out to various Baha’i publications, email listservs, Facebook sites, etc etc but this takes a lot of time which I can’t spare at this point in my life.

So if people really want to help us, we’d love for them to send the CD website www.cdbaby.com/cd/soulrisemelodies out to their friends, families, and Baha’i communities. That would be a GREAT help.

Baha’i Blog: What were some of the challenges in getting this album made?

Other than the promotion, there are two that come to mind:

Time! My husband Zafar and I write the songs together, which we do mostly at night after the kids go to bed. Pretty early on we got a system down for writing songs that works well, and we’ve come to really enjoy it as a hobby we can engage in together, so the time for writing songs is not actually the challenging part. (Although the stopping part is! I think we could both write music all day!)

However I’m the full time carer for the kids and my husband does shift work, so it was pretty tricky trying to schedule the recording studio dates. It was becoming so intense with finishing up the Radiant Hearts program, keeping up with my website, and the recording that we actually hired a nanny who came about 7 hours over our busiest months. She was a lifesaver!

The second challenge was accepting that people were going to hear me sing. I have always loved to sing but, after reaching that awkward junior youth age, was never confident singing in public.  Zafar and I had often sung together at various Baha’i events, but he could never convince me to sing on my own.  So to suddenly decide to record a CD, where anyone and everyone could hear my voice, was a bit daunting.  I just accepted it, as I knew that no one else was going to record the music and if I wanted this resource to be made I just had to do it, but it has made me feel pretty vulnerable. Especially promoting the CD of myself singing, it’s just a bit weird. But actually singing our second track about courage from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, has helped me get over my fear! “The source of courage and power is the promotion of the Word of God, and steadfastness in His Love.”

Baha’i Blog: Why do you think this initiative and others like it are so important?

Having a variety of inspiring, uplifting Baha’i music is so important!!  Most people (children included) love music, and what better words to listen to than ones inspired by faith.  I think it’s great to have simple fun “Old McDonald” type music for children, as well, but I’d love a wider array of Baha’i children’s music for sale and I hope our CD helps contribute to this need.

Baha’i Blog: Do you hope to produce more of these?

We’ve started recording Volume 2 of the “At First Light” series, which is the 20 prayers from the Radiant Hearts program. We’re aiming to have it completed in April, and will hopefully have it online for download by May or June 2013. We’ve also been daydreaming about creating some albums for adults in the future. My husband was part of a band in high school and I always loved writing poetry… so we’ll see what comes.

Baha’i Blog: Where can our readers buy the album?

Right now our album is for sale on CD Baby as a download here:
http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/soulrisemelodies.

If all goes well, we’ll have hard copies printed later this year. That information will be available on our website www.soulrisemelodies.com

Baha’i Blog: Thanks so much Chelsea for taking the time to do this interview, and keep up the great work with your wonderful website and the wonderful resources you’ve been working on!

Here’s a cute little video of one of the songs on the album based on a qoute about Ayyam-i-Ha.

 

About the Author

Naysan is the editor of Baha'i Blog and he has worked in various avenues of media for two decades. He’s passionate about using the arts and media to support and explore the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and he has produced and collaborated on popular music projects like the "DawnBreaker Collective" and the successful Ruhi-inspired sequence of "MANA" albums. His experience as a producer for CNN was invaluable while working on a number of special projects for the Baha’i World Centre, including the "Building Momentum" and "Pilgrimage: A Sacred Experience" videos. If there’s a media-related Baha’i project out there, chances are that Naysan was involved with it somehow!

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Discussion 11 Comments

  1. I’ll definitely be downloading this for my family! I am glad to see more Baha’i inspired music available for children 🙂

  2. I watched the charming Ayyam-i-Ha video at the end of the article. If that is a sample, the collection should be a great addition to our available Baha’i music, especially for help in memorizing prayers, etc.

    1. Thanks for the comment and I’m so glad you liked the video! I was so grateful to all the lovely families who contributed the video clips, it was neat to see how many ways young children can be of service and share prayers, etc.

      All the songs are done in a similar style, although our son Zorion only sings on 2 tracks. He did a great job as he had only recently turned 4 at the time of the recording!

      If you’d like to hear samples of all the songs you can visit this page to listen: http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/soulrisemelodies

  3. In some ways I wish I was a young parent all over again. Chelsea has, indeed, been busy as a full-time mom with her blog for parenting called Enable Me To Grow. Her website Radiant Hearts, functioning as it does as an educational resource aimed at helping in the spiritual education of children, is also excellent for parents. I am a war-baby, the name of the generation born between 1939 and 1945. Looking back on my years of being a student, a teacher, and a parent in the years 1949 to 1999, I see them as simpler times. I certainly did not have the resources now available to the rising generations of parents.

    Parents now have a burgeoning resource-base to draw on. It’s a world of print and image-glut which keeps everyone busy choosing what to read and watch. In some ways parents today have many advantages; they also have to deal, it seems to me, with more complexity, partly due to the simply staggering pile of material, print and non-print, now available.

    I am now retired, after 50 years in classrooms as a student and teacher. I have reinvented myself as a writer and author, online journalist and blogger. For those who are inclined, and for whom time and circumstances permit, you might like to go to my website for more perspectives on psychology and sociology, history and the sciences. They are perspectives which, from my point of view anyway, enrich what Chelsea has to say at her two websites.

    On second thought, what I write may simply add to the overwhelming resource base that readers already have. I give you all yet another choice from the 1000s you are now making and will make in the years ahead as you all run-the-gauntlet of life: http://www.ronpriceepoch.com/PSYCHOLOGY.html

    1. Hi Ron, yes I agree it is wonderful, although quite daunting, to be a parent these days. Along with all the available materials we must weed through also comes a lot of opportunities for distraction, as well. I look forward to browsing over your website, thanks for sharing.

  4. The CD “At First Light” is a wonderful resource for parents to teach their children spiritual virtues through the Baha’i Writings. The songs are short and sweet, and Chelsea sings like an angel. You will find yourself singing along too and learning the quotes. I highly recommend this CD to parents. I think your children will love it and you will too!

    Daun Miller, Author
    Children of the Kingdom: A Baha’i Approach to Spiritual Parenting

    1. Thank you for your encouraging words, Mehrtash! Hopefully I can continue although I admit it is getting harder with my kids getting older and needing less sleep hehe, with support from the CD it may be more feasible 🙂

  5. Was just made aware of a typo. We hired a nanny for 7 hours PER WEEK during the busiest months 🙂 I sure wish I could have gotten it all done in just 7 hours!

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