Enhancing a dinner party with music, what your musical preferences say about your personality and how music can affect patients with Alzheimer’s and dementia — Mindy Peterson has delved into all of these topics over the last five years with her podcast: Enhance Life with Music.
“I really do believe music makes our lives better,” said Peterson.
The Eden Prairie resident launched her music-themed podcast in 2019. Since then, she has put out more than 160 episodes and continues to generate new ideas for topics to tackle. “I love doing it,” she said.
The podcast has become a natural outlet for Peterson to share her love of music — a love that goes back to her childhood. “My parents had a rule that all of us kids had to take one year of piano lessons,” she recalled. While her brother moved on to another instrument, Peterson continued playing piano throughout school.
“It gave me an appreciation for music,” she said. “The knowledge is so versatile and translates to a lot of skills.”
As Peterson began teaching piano classes in high school, she assumed she would go into music, but as she pursued a musical track in college, she soon realized that she didn’t have the same level of passion as her peers.
“I loved music,” she said. “But I loved a lot of other things, too.”
Peterson ended up getting a business degree and taking a job in marketing, though she continued to teach piano on the side. When kids entered the picture, Peterson left the corporate world to raise them. She kept teaching piano throughout, though, and before she knew it, she had a full studio of classes.
Hooked on podcasts
Today, Peterson is a nationally certified teacher of music, a member of the Music Teachers National Association and the arts advocacy chair of the Minnesota Music Teachers Association.
“I’ve always been interested in the effect of music on people,” said Peterson. “I’m fascinated with how music can apply to so many aspects of our lives.”
Peterson knew she wasn’t alone, but when she got hooked on podcasts, she was surprised to find an absence of podcasts covering the topic.
With the wide variety of podcasts out there, Peterson assumed someone was already doing a podcast on the effect of music on people. “This is the perfect medium to showcase how music makes our lives better,” she said.
She searched for just such a podcast, but couldn’t find one. It didn’t take long for Peterson to come to the conclusion that she should create one. “At that point, I had the time and bandwidth to take on something else,” she said.
Launching a podcast
Peterson started researching podcasts in January 2019. She looked at what equipment she would need, considered how to revamp her website and began assembling a list of potential topics and guests. On July 31 of that year, she launched her introductory episode. The next week, she released an episode about music in movie trailers and followed that up with an episode on the effect of music on urban poverty.
“Every topic or guest I went with gave me an idea for another episode,” said Peterson.
Five years in, Peterson has learned a lot about producing podcasts, from what topics generate the most interest to how to vet guests to make sure they play well to listeners. “Some people have great resumes, but are not that engaging,” she said.
And while she admits that she’d rather not go back and listen to herself on those first few episodes, Peterson said she has produced several episodes that she would gladly recommend to new listeners. Among those is Episode 143, where board-certified music therapist and author Tim Ringgold discusses how to use music to aid in sobriety. “It was such a powerful story about how music affected his life,” she said.
Episode 43 is another standout. Released for Memorial Day in 2020, Peterson spoke with Richard Casper, a United States Marine Veteran and Purple Heart recipient who co-founded CreatiVets, a non-profit that provides art, music, and writing programs for combat veterans with post-traumatic stress and traumatic brain injuries. Casper talked about his experience losing a friend and being injured himself while serving in Iraq and how music and the arts saved his life once he returned home.
“Other favorites are where my passions overlap with my guest’s,” said Peterson.
Generating new ideas
Most of Peterson’s podcast episodes fall into one of four categories: Science & Health, Sports & Entertainment, Education & Community and Business.
Peterson uses connections from previous podcast episodes as well as social media to find guests. She also has a short list of dream guests she’d love to interview, including singer/songwriter Michael Franti — “He has such positive lyrics and is so intentional about making the world a better place” — and author Gretchen Rubin, who studies human behavior and happiness.
Until she can land one of those dream guests, Peterson continues to build up a cache of podcast topics. “I have not had any problems coming up with topics for it,” she said.
Peterson also said she loves to hear from listeners — whether it’s feedback on an episode or an idea for a topic. “I’m always looking for ideas.”
While she has cut back to biweekly episodes, Peterson has no plans to quit podcasting anytime soon. She’s still having too much fun doing it.
“I have a full-time job,” she said. “I do this on top of it. I don’t make any money, but this is a creative outlet for me.”
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