Mary Bolton

Bringing Joy to Young and Old By Sharing Songs That Inspire

 

Mary BoltonHow can an elementary school music teacher make an impact on thousands of others during the COVID-19 stay-at-home crisis?  After all, teaching music at school is about active participation. Now, there is no dedicated music room, few if any musical instruments available, and physical separation and technology limitations make teaching music by Zoom a challenge.  What is a music teacher to do?

Mary Bolton’s purpose is, “I know how powerful music can be in someone’s life and how much joy and positive energy it can add. My purpose is to bring that joy to young and old by sharing songs that inspire.” She lives her purpose each day as an elementary school music teacher and a musical performer. Mary’s challenge during the COVID-19 period, like so many others, is how to stay true to her purpose while we are sheltered-in-place?

Every year, Mary’s approach on day one of school has always been to make her learning environment welcoming, exciting and fun.  She says, “I greet my students, show them love, encouragement and support in class. I’m interested in and kind to them. I’ve found that approach works well. If they feel safe and my love for them, they’ll generally return that love, and it makes it more likely they will learn and love music, which is my goal. If they love music as children, they’ll love music the rest of their lives.”

When Minnesota Governor Tim Walz shut down schools and ordered stay-at-home in mid-March, schools began distant learning shortly afterwards. Mary and her colleagues, using a new technology platform called Quaver, are now able to reach children at home so they can continue to learn music. Quaver provides songs, allows students to play a range of virtual instruments and learning games on their devices. She supplements Quaver with her own videos, music challenges and messages to stay connected with her students and keep them inspired with music. She looks forward to the day when all can be reunited at school.

In addition to her daily teaching, Mary felt there was more impact that could be made to help others through music. As a lover of live music, and with live music venues now closed indefinitely, Mary took matters in her own hands. She decided to lift the hearts and spirits of those who are missing live music. She decided to give them hope and inspiration.  And for an hour or so, she decided to help them forget their worries.

Starting Friday, March 20 at 8 pm, Mary began to broadcast live performances from her Orono home using the Facebook Live function from her page @MaryBoltonMusic.  Mary said, “People miss going out and hearing live music. We’re all stuck at home for the foreseeable future. But people can still enjoy live music.  We just have to be a little more creative.”

Performing on keyboard, Mary described her style of music. “My inspiration is to create my own version of songs that I’ve loved for years and songs that I’ve just discovered. I love all musical genres including, rock, country, folk and jazz. Some of the artists and groups who have inspired me are: Sheryl Crow, Alison Krauss, The Beatles, Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Norah Jones, John Prine, Sade, Pat Benetar, Lady Gaga and Journey.”

 

Since her first livecast – which Mary calls her #VirtualMusicParty – Mary has sung and performed seven consecutive Fridays at 8 pm, typically performing 12 to 15 songs.  Her 23-year old son, Nick, who has returned home from southern California for the stay-at-home duration, solos two songs and joins Mary for one or two duets.

Singing and performing songs from over fifty artists, Mary’s fan, Alex Divizio of Virginia, comments, “I love your style, Mary. You can sing everything from Andy Williams to Amy Winehouse.”

Each hour-long #VirtualMusicParty is full of audience participation and engagement. Mary’s husband, Chuck, serves as the behind-the-scenes emcee.  He describes his role as, “Roadie, soundman, videographer, photographer, social media specialist, carnival barker, chef, bartender and dishwasher.”  Chuck asks people to post where they are watching from, what they are drinking and gives folks shout outs throughout the show. He interjects humor, banters back-and-forth with Mary and teases the audience to click “hearts for Mary” in order to hear more songs. Each week he shares some fun facts about Mary, a segment he calls Something About Mary.  Mary’s biggest fans “share” her broadcast to their Facebook pages, so family and friends can view, resulting in each week’s #VirtualMusicParty being seen by over 5000 people.

Mary’s fans hail from across the US, with international viewers from Canada, Japan and Taiwan, also joining the fun. Here’s what her fans say about Mary’s weekly performances:

Ellen Townsend of Hayward, WI says, “I really enjoy Mary’s Facebook Live music performances every Friday night. It’s something fun and enjoyable to look forward to after a long week working outside the home during the current situation. Mary is so talented and a joy to listen to. Her events are very well scripted and done so professionally with the help of her husband Chuck. The songs she performs are familiar and easy listening, with a different theme every week which adds to the fun.” Ellen’s husband Roy chimes in, “Every Friday morning my wife reminds me, ‘We’ve got a concert tonight!’ We look forward to them every week. Mary is a great singer and musician.”

Barb Piper of Northfield, MN says, “I like the whole family affair. Her husband and son supporting her. I enjoy the connecting of people from all over the country. I like that she is on the ‘big stage’ along with all the greats like Gaga, whomever is doing FB Live.”

A young couple in Frankfort, KY, Will Bolton and Haley Hardin, describe their views of the #VirtualMusicParty, “I have really missed family and friends during the COVID outbreak. On Friday nights, when Mary and Nick sing, I feel like I’m with them. Thank you,” writes Will. Haley adds, “I love watching Mary’s Friday night performances. She sings beautifully and needs to keep doing them. Also, I enjoy watching Nick perform.”

From Taipei, Taiwan, Apo Hsu writes, “Bravo, bravo, bravi tutti! Thank you! What a joy this is. Encore and more, Mary!”

Orono, MN residents George and Jacki and Jones tune in weekly, too. Jacki says, “We look forward to the #VirtualMusicParty every week. Your voice brings us much happiness, Mary. Beautiful!” George comments, “Mary brings great joy to all her listeners. In these times, music is the best medicine.”

Mary’s passionate about music and she is creating quite the impact, for both her students and her loyal fans of @MaryBoltonMusic. She says, “My passion for music began as a child listening to music on our big stereo with my dad, listening to my mom play the piano and playing the French horn with my sister. Since then, I was part of the school band, choir and musical theatre. In college, I decided to pursue music education and I turned my passion into my profession. I’ve been living my passion of sharing my love of music through teaching and performing for over 25 years.”

During the COVID-19 crisis, with many suffering from fear, loneliness and grief, Mary Bolton is lifting hearts. She’s living with purpose, passion and having a great impact on others during a time of need.  At a time when we could all use a little more inspiration, she’s bringing joy to young and old by sharing songs that inspire.

 

Positively Impact Others in the Chaos of Life

When the men’s small group that Dave Hemink is a member of collectively decided to mine for and define their individual life purposes, just over two years ago, little did Dave know how valuable that exercise would be in the throes of the COVID-19 crisis.

At the time, Dave was a division president of a $1B global publicly-traded medical device company. As a seasoned leader with twenty-five years of experience running companies, he knew a lot about leadership. The father of two teenage girls and married to his amazing and beautiful wife, Kristin, for nearly twenty years, Dave had a loving family and an important job. Once Dave’s purpose was clarified, it suddenly opened an entirely different way of thinking.

Purpose is the overarching guiding principle that gives your life meaning.  Most people haven’t clarified their purpose. Together with the other men in his group, Dave reflected on some deep questions, his life experiences, his values and gifts.  Dave said, “We looked within and clarified our purposes. Your purpose is deep within you, it is there. It’s up to each person to find it.”

After thoughtful consideration, Dave defined his purpose as: “I live life to break barriers, create paths and enable people to live purposeful lives, that positively impacts others, while living in the chaos of life.”

When the COVID-19 crisis hit the US in full force in March of 2020, we all experienced chaos in our lives. Dave included. Dave is the chief executive officer of Nonin Medical, a Plymouth, MN-based medical device company, that has been a world leader in innovating and manufacturing pulse oximetry systems for 35 years.  The mission of the company is to improve the quality of people’s lives throughout the world by expanding the capabilities of noninvasive measurements.

The pandemic and resulting public health crisis have created a shortage of pulse oximeters, which have been identified by the World Health Organization (WHO) as a critical clinical therapy in treating COVID-19 patients, citing: “Oxygen therapy is a major treatment intervention for patients with severe COVID-19. All countries should work to optimize the availability of pulse oximeters and medical oxygen systems.” Dave and the Nonin team provide the equipment needed for healthcare workers and patients on the frontlines of this global pandemic.

“In the past few months, Nonin has seen a dramatic increase in demand for its mobile pulse oximeters. I don’t think anybody could have predicted what we are seeing today”, said Dave. “We’ve been fighting this from day one and the global demand for pulse oximetry products globally has been unprecedented,” Dave further stated. Nonin Medical’s executive chairman, Phil Isaacson, added, “The people who have been buying from us in the past are now trying to buy 10 times more. We can’t keep up.”

Dave and the Nonin team are literally working around the clock, expanding manufacturing capabilities and strengthening their supply chain to provide pulse oximeters to healthcare professionals worldwide to diagnose and treat COVID-19. “We have product lines that are up 2,600 percent,” reported Hemink.

Dave said his purpose helps center him during this unprecedented period. “My purpose is front and center now. Your purpose is magnified at different times of your life. You live it – it is embodied in you in times like these,” said Dave.

“As a leader, you have a lot of tools at your disposal, I compare it to a mechanic’s Craftsman red tool chest. Some of the tools you use daily, some of the tools you will never use, until one day, you have a unique job that requires a unique tool.  That is where we are today.  The COVID-19 crisis has our team reaching so far in the back corners of the tool chest.  That chaos component is amazingly real. We’ve got supply chain issues and challenged suppliers. We are an essential employer and we’re committed to keeping our team members safe and well. We have customers who are demanding and desperately in need of product. Every hour it is something different. What I’ve learned is you live your purpose – and that tool chest – to guide you. To provide the team with the path”, Dave continued. “I think of purpose as the grout between the tiles. It holds everything together.”

When asked how he uses his purpose to lead his team, Dave replied, “I’m using it to create calm during the chaos, so I can give our team members the confidence to act. They are doing heroic things. The definition of a hero is an ordinary person in an extraordinary time who takes action. That describes our team members.  They are having to really stretch – sometimes doing things they’ve never done – for the greater good.  Figuring out as we go, as we’re driving 120 miles per hour. For example, helping our suppliers open shuttered factories in the Philippines and India. Finding new sources of raw materials to meet our customers’ demands. Figuring out how to process and ship orders even faster.  Working with the FDA proactively and creatively to accelerate new product approvals. We’re doing this and more, all in real time. I couldn’t be any prouder of the team and the amazing work they are doing.”

If meeting the dramatic demand for Nonin products wasn’t challenging enough, while ramping up their production capabilities, Nonin Medical has had to deal with additional chaos, when one of the first diagnosed cases of COVID-19 in Minnesota was an employee of the company. “Suddenly, that individual, as well as 10% of the Nonin team, were in proactive quarantine, just when Nonin needed every hand on deck. Thankfully, no other team member to date has tested positive and the individual who tested positive has recovered, is healthy and back to work,” said Dave.

Christine Horton, Nonin’s vice president of global marketing states, “Great leaders and individuals grow from adversity and chaos. I see Dave as someone who is positively impacting others through the chaos of life. He’s navigating the company, the leadership team and individuals through this adversity in order to better everyone. It hasn’t been about Dave, about his title or any of that. He could have any title and people would follow him. He doesn’t need to lead with his title. They are following because they feel empowered when they follow him. He’s navigated us through so many obstacles, where we could have had failures, we’ve found opportunities. We are finding solutions. He’s navigating us to make the entire company better and very, very rapidly. In a very short time.”

“The character of a leader is defined in the time of a crisis. This is who we are and what Nonin is all about. It’s a new frontier and we need new solutions. We’re flexing our adaptable muscle for those on the frontlines. This can be – and will be – our finest hour. Having a clearly defined purpose is my rudder in the chaos of life, so I can provide the leadership all our stakeholders desperately need,” Dave said.

When leaders lead with a clear purpose, everyone benefits. It serves as your North Star, the overarching principle that gives your life meaning. Would you want to be led by someone without a purpose? What if that leader, without a clear purpose, was you?

Leading with purpose provides a path, that positively impacts others in the chaos of life. In today’s unprecedented time, while leading Nonin Medical, Dave Hemink is creating great impact.

Making an Impact During the COVID Crisis, One Person at a Time: Alli Swanson, the Loving Image Shaper

 

As a young girl, Alli was the gregarious and outgoing one. Her older sister by 17 months always sent Alli ahead to meet new friends and try new experiences. It seemed everyone she came into contact with became a friend.

She had a natural gift for making friends. Perhaps it was because she started out by liking and being genuinely curious about them.

Her friends describe her as fun-loving, empathetic, caring, kind, patient, generous, an excellent listener, and a trusted friend.

In middle school, she enjoyed braiding her sister’s and friends’ hair and then trying out new hairstyles. They loved it when she made them look beautiful. Then came the makeup, nail polish and hair color. Alli joyfully assisted everyone in her circle to look their best. Her services were in high demand.

The bathroom she shared with her sister looked like the work sink and mixing station at a beauty parlor! And it smelled like a laboratory! But one thing was clear to Alli, she loved helping others look beautiful and she was passionate about making a bigger impact with her talents.

After graduation from high school, she chose the Aveda Institute for cosmetology training. The purpose of Aveda resonated with Alli and her values: “To care for the world we live in. To strive to set an example for environmental leadership and responsibility, not just in the world of beauty, but around the world.”

She was a natural. A quick study. She rapidly developed her skills, and she committed to becoming her best for her clients. She excelled at Aveda and following graduation she quickly built up a loyal clientele at a salon in the trendy 50thand France shopping district of Edina, a Minneapolis suburb.

In a fast-paced, crazy-busy, turbulent, and distracted world, Alli welcomes her clients with a kind word, a smile, a caring and empathetic ear, a healing touch and an ability to make time slow down. A momentary oasis from the chaotic day-to-day grind. With love and great skill, in an hour or two, Alli brings out her customers’ pure essence and makes them look and feel beautiful. In addition to a great hairstyle, Alli captures the hearts of her clients, connects with their minds, and bolsters their self-esteem. Alli loves making others feel beautiful, creating lasting friendships along the way. She is unique. She is passionate about being a loving image shaper.

Alli’s purpose: Helping others look and feel great, and uplift their happiness, confidence, and self-image.

Alli’s calendar fills up months in advance. For years, she’s been voted by her clients as the “Best Hairstylist” in Edina Magazine’s Best of Edina annual survey.

You find meaning when your actions reflect what you value, what is important to you, and what gifts you enjoy and want to give. Your gifts, values, and passions can guide you toward your purpose. You just have to commit. Just like Alli Swanson.[i]

When her Edina hair salon, Sloane’s Beauty Bar, closed in compliance with the Minnesota governor’s March 17 executive order to slow the spread of the Coronavirus , Alli and her clients had no idea of when they could meet again to take care of their hair and beauty needs.  Alli sensed the “stay-at-home” order could be indefinite, so she packed up her tools and products in anticipation of finding another way to safely meet her clients’ needs.

After Governor Walz continued the “stay-at-home” order on April 9 to at least May 4, Alli knew she needed to take action to assist her clients and help them feel a bit better about themselves.

Using Facebook, Instagram and text messages, she offered all of her clients a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) touch up kit. Her DIY offering includes contactless delivery, a customized premium professional hair color formula for that particular client and the steps each should take to touch up their roots.

Accompanied by her two daughters, four year old Mollie and one year old Lucie, strapped in their car seats, Alli delivers the touch up kit to the front door of her client, gives her a quick text or call to let them know their package has arrived, and then Alli, Mollie and Lucie, wave and share greetings from a socially-safe distance.

Her client, Megan Swenson, says about Alli’s DIY kit and personal delivery service, “I absolutely loved my drop off kit from Alli! My poor hair hasn’t seen her love in months, so when she offered a DIY kit I was eager to get my mitts on one! I have to admit, I was extremely nervous about it.  Mostly because I have an appreciation for Alli’s skill set and also because my hair once turned green during college when I tried to experiment with hair dye.

The drop off kit included professional hair color, supplies, and easy to follow directions. It was honestly so easy even my husband helped. The color turned out great! My roots aren’t showing and my grays are covered. Thank you so much, Alli!”

A way to lift up the spirits and hearts of her clients, one person at a time, and make people feel a little better while we all navigate the COVID-19 period.  Alli Swanson has found a way to make an impact on others during this crisis.

[i]Alli Swanson interview by Chuck Bolton, 2019.

“Not On My Watch!”


Frank Pleticha, a marketing research manager at a financial services firm in Minneapolis, enjoyed his job, but he wouldn’t have gone so far as to call it his purpose.

He had recently attended a seminar where the speaker challenged the attendees with what Frank described as a life-changing question: “What gives you juice?”At that time, Frank struggled to answer the question.

A few months later, a friend invited him to attend a human trafficking panel discussion at a local college. Frank described the event as a “complete eye-opener.” While Frank had heard of sex trafficking in India and Thailand, he was shocked to hear how prevalent it was across the US. The convergence of major expressways and an international airport, combined with close proximity to the rural Upper Midwest and other factors, earned the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area the dubious distinction of being one of the leading metropolitan areas in the US for sex trafficking.

Minneapolis Police Department Sergeant Grant Snyder’s remarked, “Don’t think sex trafficking is a problem in another part of town. It’s taking place within two blocks from here. Right now. It’s happening in your comfortable suburb where you live. And the kids who attend your junior high schools and high schools are being targeted. That’s a fact and that’s how insidious this problem is.”

Frank learned that human trafficking is growing faster than any other criminal industry. That commercial sexual exploitation of children victimizes two million children globally. Additionally, this modern slavery has an annual revenue of $32 billion, exceeding the annual revenues of Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, the National Hockey League, and the National Football League – combined!

Frank volunteered for anti-trafficking training, attended more seminars and events, and watched documentaries such as Nefarious: Merchants of Soulsand The Whistleblower. As he heard the pain of the victims, their sense of loss, their lack of self-esteem and hopelessness, their stories broke his heart. And learning the average age of those forced into prostitution in the US is thirteen, he was on fire. This revelation ignited Frank’s passion to do something. He proclaimed, “No, God! Not on my watch”and he began to act.

He connected with Trafficking Justice, a Minnesota-based volunteer organization that shares facts about how people are exploited today. The organization brings hope and healing to victims. Frank learned that in order to slow the growth of sex trafficking, three audiences need to be addressed: victims, traffickers, and buyers.

Frank sees his purpose of eradicating this injustice in Minnesota similarly to how William Wilberforce, a British politician and a leader of the movement to abolish the slave trade in the 1800s, saw his mission. He borrowed Wilberforce’s quote to British Parliament, when he speaks to others on the evil and pervasiveness of sex trafficking in Minnesota, the US, and world. “You may choose to look the other way, but you can never again say that you did not know.”

Frank spoke to the pastoral team and members of his church, Grace Fellowship in Brooklyn Park, to build awareness. Through a series of events and sheer persistence, things began to move. Frank calls the shift similar to turning a giant, heavy flywheel. It takes a lot of effort to get it moving at all, but with persistent pushing in a consistent direction over a long enough period of time, the flywheel builds momentum, eventually hitting a point of breakthrough.

While Frank has been a catalyst, one person can’t do it alone. He’s building the team at Grace Fellowship and elsewhere to take a multi-faceted approach to addressing victims, traffickers and buyers. As Frank has mobilized his church’s talent, time and financial resources to focus on this problem, he speaks of a future vision, ideally five to ten years out, when sex trafficking in Minnesota is discussed in the past tense.

Over the past few years, Frank’s eyes have been opened to a world that he’d never seen. It’s changed the course of his life. A man of deep faith, Frank firmly believes this crisis screams for a Christian response of compassion for the victims, justice for the buyers and traffickers, combined with redemption for all. His hope is to see a recovery ministry, with each service filled with people going through the recovery process and having hope for a better tomorrow.

Frank’s goal is to bring hope to the victims and to end sex trafficking in Minnesota. He’s not doing it for the fame and adoration. Even if no one knows his name, he yearns for the day when he hopes to hear Jesus Christ say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”

The crisis of modern-day sex slavery doesn’t need interested observers, it needs incurable fanatics. Frank is an incurable fanatic.[i]

Frank’s gift statement: Through my gift of empathetic and active listening, I help channel resources and contacts to the broken person sitting in front of me.

Frank’s purpose is: Being a channel for those in broken situations to get connected to the Healer.

The impact Frank is aiming for in a decade: “To eradicate sex trafficking in Minnesota and beyond!”

[i]Frank Pleticha interview by Chuck Bolton, 2019.