Heather Pirie

Wellness and Leadership Coaching

Ann Ruckert’s Memorial in NYC: her memory was a benediction

He has achieved success who has lived well, laughed often, and loved much: who has enjoyed the trust of pure women, the respect of intelligent men and the love of little children; who has filled his niche and accomplished his task; who has left the world better than he found it whether by an improved poppy, a perfect poem or a rescued soul; who has never lacked appreciation of Earth’s beauty or failed to express it; who has always looked for the best in others and given them the best he had; whose life was an inspiration; whose memory a benediction. – Bessie Anderson Stanley

My daughter asked me when I arrived home, “mommy was it sad”? I responded that Ann’s memorial was a celebration of a life well lived. The loss of Ann is sad because of the crater left by her kindness and contribution to countless causes.  She definitely made the world a better place…

IMG_3419My husband and I ventured out on a stormy Monday to fly to New York to a Memorial Service for Ann Ruckert, who passed away last October. It seemed against all odds that we would make it out of the Toronto Island airport when we could hardly get out of our laneway. Once we got to the airport you could just feel an incredible force of purpose for us to get there. Even on the Newark end, which was stormy, everything went incredibly smoothly. We were meant to be at Ann’s Memorial.

Ann was my friend and music coach. She is one of those people you meet for the first time and never forget her impact. She focused on you, heard you and then helped however she could. Her memorial was at the modern St. Peter’s Church on Lexington and 54th. The church was full of friends, students, musicians and industry.

Ann Ruckert - A Musician's Musician
Ann Ruckert – A Musician’s Musician

Ann was a top jingle and studio singer and in the 70s, a backup singer for T. Tex and the Strabs. She also sang backups for Aretha Franklin and the Plasmatics. She was a music coordinator and founded the 13 Stories Record Label. Later she became an educator and activist for the music industry. She helped spearhead Grammy in the Schools and was a trustee of the Recording Academy. She served on the board of Jazzmobile and with the Songwriters Guild of America, founded ProShop. She worked on the board of World Hunger Year and helped establish the Jazz Foundation of America.

The Ruckert Choir with Regi Ransdell singing "Until I see you again"
The Ruckert Choir with Regi Ransdell singing “Until I see you again”

The service began with an overture and bass solo by the famous Ron Carter. You could hear his heart pouring out in his song. Ann always said he would play at her funeral. It was a delight to hear George Coleman (sax) play again, Mickey Bass on bass, Louis Hayes on drums, Mike Longo on piano, Jimmy Owens on trumpet and Bill Wurtzel on guitar. Ann’s “Ruckert Choir” (her students) sang “Until I see you again” with her student Regi Ransdell leading.

Tom Chapin and Jon Colbert
Tom Chapin and Jon Colbert

Tom Chapin (Harry’s brother) and Jon Cobert sang “Circle”. Suzanne Vega then sang “Horizon”. and Genie “Pepper”Swinson sang “Here’s to Life” a song that Shirley Horn made famous. George Wurzback sang a super funny song we all remember from Ann’s music series at the Red Lion… Jimmy Owens ended the evening with a wonderful trumpet solo. Roberta Flack left Ann a message that summarized her kindness and the light that Ann brought to Roberta’s life.

Suzanne Vega and Gerry Leonard "Horizon"
Suzanne Vega and Gerry Leonard “Horizon”

Before the memorial, I stopped to see my former producer Steve Addabbo at Shelter Island Sound. I got to see his new studio with a grand piano!!! Steve is a talented producer of many great artists (Suzanne Vega, Paula Cole, Shawn Colvin) and now he is about to launch his first solo record. I am so excited for him. I can’t wait to hear it! Check out 2015-02-02

At the memorial I was able to catch up with some of my friends from when I studied with Ann — Brian Muni, Brendan Davies, Lisa Lost, Barrett Zinn, Kristen Thien, Michael Castaldo. The icing on the cake, was I even got to see Tony Conniff – another awesome songwriting teacher, artist and producer! What a trip…

Ann was my inspiration to start the Toronto Songwriting Guild. Now it has been going for 6 years… the gift keeps on giving!

Orchids in the lobby of the Giraffe
Orchids in the lobby of the Giraffe

Four Winds at Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir!

Four Winds at Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir!.

Postitive Music Imperative Network is Collecting Positive Songs!

Positive Music Imperative Your Best Life 2013 Album CoverAround a year ago, I made a wonderful connection with a man named Victor Sinclair. After a few tweets, emails and telephone conversations, I learned about his passion — his positive philosophy and online community. I was so intrigued with his generosity, background, and ideas, that I wanted to volunteer some of my time to help spread positivity through music. 

The first Positive Music compilation CD is entitled Your Best Life 2013 – and it is coming out next week!! Stay tuned. The second compilation is due out in January and the songs are focused on gratitude.

What is the Positive Imperative?

The concept of the Positive Imperative/Positive Music Imperative is to develop a collaborative, collective social enterprise to create a legacy of positivity through education, action, and programs like these Positive Music Imperative (PMI) compilations.  We want to invite independent musicians to participate at whatever level they think is appropriate for their career and time commitment.

What is Positive Music?

Join us submit your music and together well make a differencePositive music is in a category of it’s own – these songs have been considered the most popular songs of all time; for example, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” by Harold Arlen and EY Harburg, “I can see clearly now” by Johnny Nash, “Respect” by Aretha Franklin, “Imagine” by John Lennon, and “One” by U2. While Positive Music is not new, it comes in any style or genre, from any country and culture, and from every age group and persuasion. Through its lyric and melody, this music shares the quality of being edifying, motivational and value-based.

The Urgency

We know that music has the ability to change individuals, communities and the world like no other force we know. The need for positive music has never been greater. There are many stressed and depressed people trying to balance all of their roles in life. Teens feel isolated and some are even taking their lives. Children are angry unloved, lonely and powerless. In fact, the WHO identified mental health as our number 1 issue for humanity to face on the planet.

While Positive Music is not a panacea, combined with a holistic program of personal support, encouragement and retraining, it has the best opportunity to steer the mind into healthy thinking patterns that will support the individual. Just think, if it takes 1000 plays of a song on radio for a listener to be familiar with it, wouldn’t it be great if that song could heal, change, energize, lift, fill, and bring people together.

PMI’s Intention

The aim of Positive Music is to inspire, build, energize, love, calm or change the listener. It can also serve to create both individual and social awareness/consciousness. PMI wants to honour the artist while providing a gift to the listener. 

The Business Model

We believe strongly that distributing Positive Music is a very viable means to provide a second or even multiple income streams for the participating artist. We also believe this is a unique opportunity to leverage the community in at least two ways:

1. If you participate in such a great socially-consciousness creative community, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with many like-minded singers, composers, musicians and producers.

2. On the marketing side, we also strongly believe that as we unite as one brand, we will have much greater penetration in everything we do.  In this model, we will be able to cross-pollinate such great talent and also “band it”, under the PI/PMI brand.  Think of the “Motown” concept — one of the most successful collaborations in the history of recorded music.

The Album 

We will have two versions of each album.  One album is entirely music. The other album is a magazine version with some spoken word and artists doing a 30 to 90 sec. introduction about the meaning of the music. All albums will be electronic at this point for environmental, operational and technological reasons. PMI will develop the artwork and will make it available electronically.

Send us your positive Music

Submit your Song

If you are an unsigned musician and you have a well-crafted, well-recorded, mixed and mastered song that delivers a strong vocal and instrumental performance of a positive story or message, please send me a Soundcloud link or mp3 file to When I receive your email, I will send you a document outlining the business model, timing and requirements.

Let’s change the world with positive songs!

CareerBuzz Interview CIUT 89.5 — Nov. 6, 2013

IMG_2150I had the opportunity to be on Leigh Anne Saxe’s segment of Career Buzz earlier this month Nov. 6/13 on CIUT 89.5 (University of Toronto Community radio). What a fun time being interviewed by Leigh Ann Saxe who is a happiness coach! What a job right?

If you would like to listen into the radio show, here is the attached segment (it starts at 4mins)!!

Interview with Leigh Anne Saxe and Heather Hill on CareerBuzz…

From Co-op and Corporations to Music: Alumna Heather Hill

From Co-op and Corporations to Music: Alumna Heather Hill.

If you like ovaries…

cdposter2F…I need your help! I am working with Ovarian Cancer Canada to raise awareness and money. Why? Ovarian cancer is the most serious of all gynecological cancers. Over 2600 Canadian women are diagnosed every year; and every year 1750 women succumb to this disease. Symptoms are varied, vague and easily missed. Until there is a reliable early detection screening test awareness of the signs & symptoms is our most powerful tool. The organization is not funded by government or pharma companies – it is funded by you and I.

A group of talented Canadian indie artists have joined together to offer a compilation CD called “She’s Listening“. We are raising money to produce this CD so we can offer it for sale at the Ottawa Region Walk of Hope. Several of the artists will be performing. Can you help us bring this CD to life so we can help this cause with music that heals, soothes and inspires?

Artists contributing to the CD include Jenny MacDonald from Antigonish, NS; Angie Arsenault from Montreal, QC; Sophia Radisch from Ottawa, ON; Sarah McClurg and the Wild Vines from Ottawa, ON; Kristine St-Pierre from Ottawa, ON; Tessa Duc from Ottawa, ON; Deanna Wells and Trina Nadeau from Ophelia Syndrome in Hamilton, ON; Marta Pacek from Toronto, ON; Andrea Ramolo from Toronto, ON; Heather Hill and Kat Leonard from Toronto, ON; Nicole Coward from Toronto, ON, Angela Saini from Toronto and Joy Phillips from Toronto. You will love the diferences in styles and genres.

Please support this indiegogo campaign. We need you to bring this project to life! xoxo

She’s Listening – Artists Helping Ovarian Cancer Research

july21poster copyThis Saturday night (July 20th) at The Central in Toronto, an inspiring lineup of Toronto artists are coming together to raise money for the “She’s Listening CD project” for Ovarian Cancer Canada. The lineup will include: Nicole Coward, Marta Pacek, Heather Hill, and Tree and Dee (Deanna Wells and Trina Nadeau from Ophelia Syndrome-Band in Hamilton).

She’s Listening is a compilation CD with tracks from female artists across Canada, with proceeds going to Ovarian Cancer Canada and the National Capital Region Walk of Hope. Artists contributing to the CD include Jenny MacDonald from Antigonish, NS; Angie Arsenault from Montreal, QC; Sophia Radisch from Ottawa, ON; Sarah McClurg and the Wild Vines from Ottawa, ON; Kristine St-Pierre from Ottawa, ON; Tessa Duc from Ottawa, ON; Deanna Wells and Trina Nadeau from Ophelia Syndrome in Hamilton, ON; Marta Pacek from Toronto, ON; Andrea Ramolo from Toronto, ON; Heather Hill and Kat Leonard from Toronto, ON; Nicole Coward from Toronto, ON, and Joy Phillips from Toronto and Meg La Grand from Ottawa.

These artists represent a wide range of musical styles and backgrounds, but each has a commitment to the battle against ovarian cancer which affects so many women and is of the most deadly diseases, often not diagnosed until too late. These artists represent a wide range of musical styles and backgrounds, but each has a commitment to the battle against ovarian cancer which affects so many women and is of the most deadly diseases, often not diagnosed until too late. Some of the artists will be writing songs especially for the CD. Mike Anderson of has been heading up this project!

For more information on ovarian cancer and how you can help check out Ovarian Cancer Canada.

Facebook Event:

Positivity is Hard Work

Positivity is Hard Work – 10x harder than doing nothing or creating negativity

lady1I was at the hairdresser the other day and the ladies were chatting about Reese Witherspoon, who I have always greatly admired. We were talking about how she has worked super hard on her family and career. She has managed to stay away from “negative press”. All of sudden, she was drinking and disorderly at a party with her husband and all those years with a spotless image are under scrutiny and her image even lost. One mistake and all those good years are forgotten?

It begs the question, why is it so easy to make a negative impact and why is it always extremely difficult to make a positive impact. Victor Sinclair’s Positive Imperative“Posiratio” explains this phenomenon.  As he explains,

PI LogoSignificant Positive creations, like raising a responsible human take ten times the effort and energy to create.   A Neutral one (not participating in a positive way to raise your kids) are actually a Negative and do between three and five times the damage thus also causing a ripple effect. Negatives however take ten times less effort and energy to achieve but do ten times the damage and thus create a huge Negative ripple effect, and sometimes even more.  (PI)

Let’s talk about raising children to explain the quantum effort involved with creating positivity. With my two children, it is challenging to always be a positive force in their lives. Let it be said that I am completely committed and accountable to being a positive guide in their lives. What that means is I need to teach them as many survival tools as possible. As soon as my babies were born I knew that I really had to be on top of my issues in order to care for them in the way they deserved. I needed helpers too – strong counsel, great role models, new tools and approaches etc. It truly takes a community to raise a responsible, whole, happy child.

pic 1On Tuesday night Alyson Shafer, a parenting expert, came to our local school. She was helping parents understand that children don’t misbehave, children are just using a misguided approach. It is up to the parent to figure out the behavior and to get to the underlying symptoms with the right approach. Understanding that one of your child’s primary needs is to connect with others and they will use whatever approach works to meet that need (and they are creative and persistent). A parent needs to encourage a child in their goodness (often well “behaved” children go unnoticed). What if you reverse this idea – acknowledge good “behavior and not bad”.

It is hard to change approaches and mindsets that may have represented the norm in parenting in the past generation. It is not easy trying new ways to retrain yourself and coach your children how to connect in a healthy way. It is far harder learning and trying new ways than simply doing nothing and participating in the same unhealthy dances. It is also much harder to commit to always being a consistent positive force than being a negative force. To be a negative force you just do nothing to help your children connect – just continue to create drama, distress, control, aggression, abuse.

kidsWith the awareness of a new positive parenting approach, you can start small. Maybe you want to start by smiling. Maybe then you decide to stop nagging. Then, you might try to change the negative bedtime dance or the dinner table conversation. Maybe you tackle several moments in the day that frustrate you. When it comes to big change, sizable effort is required. This change has to be consistent, regular and lasting. Everyone around your children have to help too! If you feel yourself slipping back into old ways, you need to get counsel and help to boost yourself back up. Raising positive children is a big task.

Long term meaningful “Positives” take 10 x the effort to create, and the “Imperative” is that people “get it”…. raising a child takes effort and work. Doing a great job means employing the hand,s but also the heart and mind. Making a big difference or any difference takes time, energy and a lot of work. Understanding this concept is critical in accomplishing “the big idea”. If more people understood, there would have to be more “buy in” for doing what needs to be done. But “when the big effort is not done” responsibility has to be taken for not “getting there”.

The PosiRatio was formulated by a few different inputs. Firstly common sense. We all know and understand the domino effect, on the negative side. The positive side is all about building strong foundations to withstand the negatives that face us all.

Next you look at two universal laws: the law of ”cause and effect”, and the law of “momentum”. In the Buddhist philosophy, you apply the law of cause and effect in 10 directions to reflect both time, (past present and future) and direction (including up and down). For a more thorough explanation click here.  

From a research perspective the renown Psychologist Barbara Fredrickson, did a lot of research to come up with the Positivity Ratio, by which she states you need 3 meaningful Positives to sustain positive or happy emotions against one bad, and one bad will always happen (death, loss of jobs, etc.). In her findings, she emphasizes the amount of effort and preparation it takes to build that Positive Foundation. Taking that idea and adding the spin off effect x 3 like pay it forward will also give you the 10 to 1 ratio.

So knowing the rationale is one thing, but really the rest is common sense. Negatives pay if forward just as the positive do, only because of their insidious nature, often they go a lot further. Positive Foundations are the same as what we learn with the three little pigs. A house of sticks and straw will never survive the winds of negativity, only a house that took 10 times the effort to create; a house of bricks will survive.

May you find your way, Heather

Making my first music video: and help from my friends

Wanda MacRae, Kat Leonard, me, Lisa Anita Wegner, Rob Small Tomahawk
Wanda MacRae, Kat Leonard, me, Lisa Anita Wegner, Rob Small Tomahawk

So, I have finally thrown my hat into the YouTube ring. I am finally working on my first video. I have to admit, I was pretty worried about the whole effort. Fortunately, my team was fantastic and the process has been pretty smooth.

My criteria for the video was to make an artistic, fresh video at a minimal cost with a short amount of time. That sounds easy right? Well, if you have an amazingly, creative and resourceful team, anything is possible.

Warming up the lasagna - not part of the video :)
Warming up the lasagna – not part of the video:)

Here are my takeaways from the process:

  1. Pick a song and create a final, polished recording prior to making the video. Why? As Orville Heyn, my producer and cowriter on the song insisted, I would need to match the picture with the music and my mouth and fingers would need to be identical with the picture. Makes sense.
  2. Practise the song so you can sing and play exactly with the track. Your day will go faster is the song is under your fingers. Since you can’t have music sheets in the picture, you need to know the song and all the nuances. You may even want to action the lyrics so that you can express/perform every line!
  3. Figure out a simple location you can have access to for 8 hours. I picked my parlour as I knew it would work for my time period. I also needed a piano and a room that didn’t scream out any particular era.
  4. Work out a budget, timeline and story. It is possible to make a good video on a phone! Working with a phone cuts down the budget considerably. Not a bad idea if you have constraints like I did.
  5. Find a film-maker, videographer that can help you film (on a film camera or iPhone). Find an apprentice or helper so you can have multiple angles. I was fortunate enough to work with film-maker Lisa Anita Wegner and her apprentice Rob Small Tomahawk.
  6. Lisa shooting on the cool iPhone
    Lisa shooting on the cool iPhone

    Set up hair and makeup. I asked the film-maker for her recommendation for someone who could do 50s hair and makeup at a day rate I could afford. Lisa MacRae was my choice for this project and she did an amazing job!

  7. Find a costume. I purchased a dress from Damzels – Doll Factory a local dress maker. Why not use a local designer to support the artistic community. I had a choice of several dresses that would be perfect for my 50s set.
  8. Order lighting. In my case we used natural lighting and we had some good overhead lighting already. Consider the lighting for the different times of day.
  9. Source props – if you so, make or find them. My only prop was a beautiful bouquet of flowers that I sourced in my neighbourhood at Ellyn Lilly.
  10. Test the lighting, location, etc. on the day before the shoot.
  11. Source a photographer. Heck if you are all dressed up, you might as well get a few head shots done right? Robert Saxe took some photos on location.
  12. Determine your launch plan – when and where can you launch the video for the biggest bang. In my case, I am launching the video on June 15th.
  13. What will you feed everybody? Buy some great food for the day! I made a big lasagna, ceasar salad, bagels and my banana muffins.
  14. Pay and thank your helpers! Enough said.
  15. Bring friends that can help out with holding or fixing things as needed. I brought Kat Leonard who makes me laugh, holds the bounce lighting screen, and presses play on the stereo really well.

If I missed anything please let me know. I am new to this and tried hard to keep it simple. After all of this, I think I will do it again a few more times! I would love to hear from you!

Stay tuned for the upcoming video launching on my YouTube channel on JUNE 15th at Roncy Rocks Festival in Toronto.

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If you can't run with the big dogs, stay on the porch!

A blog about the Department of English Language & Literature at the University of Waterloo

A new chapter of Lisa Anita Wegner's storytelling.

Filmmaker Performance Artist


Life is like a camera. Focus on what's important, capture the good times, develope from the negatives, and if things don't work out... just take another shot <3

Passionate Torontonian. Music lover and supporter. Social. I love whiskey sours and hate Myspace.


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