Music magic: Life coach helps kids build confidence through singing

Molly Williams never thought she could be a musician. The gremlins in her head kept her doubting herself but when the life coach managed to conquer those gremlins and beat back her anxiety, she knew she had a bigger mission than just music.

Miss Molly’s Music Magic is a program aimed at helping young girls, ages 9 and up, find their voice, literally, and their confidence through music and live performances. It’s also about learning how to deal with anxiety, facing your gremlins head on and learning to listen to your wise old owl.

Miss Molly Williams with her Shooting Stars. CURRENT PHOTOS / CHRIS STEVENS

“This program might be one of the greatest things I’ve done,” said Williams, who is a professional life coach with an adult version of her tween program but prefers to think of herself as a Stress-Reduction Crusader and Ambassador of Joy.

On a recent Monday, a handful of Shooting Stars, what Williams calls her gang of girl singers, let themselves into her apartment where mic stands were at the ready and the magic carpet was waiting. The girls were eager to sing but for Williams, the music is really just a tool.

“I’m very clear with my parents, I’m not a music teacher, I’m not a theater director, I’m a life coach,” she said. “I’m going to help your girls build self-confidence, I’m going to help them address their anxiety and their stresses. I’m going to help them see themselves for who they are.”

The music, the singing, is merely the backdoor to the coaching, she said.

But for the girls, it’s everything.

The magic

 Molly Williams calls music the backdoor to her coaching and insists her real tools are the wise old owl and the gremlin.

Before the girls get to work on their signature song, the song they pick that represents them, that they will perform one day in public, “they have to do the process,” Williams said.

Her most important tools, she said, are two stuffed creatures, a “wise-old owl” and a green gremlin, which represents grief, guilt, rotten, sticky thoughts and feelings of isolation.

She calls the girls to stand on the magic carpet, a heart shaped pink shag rug in the middle of her floor and asks them if anyone has had a gremlin, and then listens as they describe their experience.

Williams said a big part of the discussion is for the girls to be able to recognize their gremlin and where it lives, in their heads. She asked the girls to close their eyes, recognize their gremlin and make the choice to quiet it.

“You’re going to feel your toes on the carpet, take three really deep breaths through the nose and let your body relax when you exhale,” she said quietly. “Because you’re reminding yourself that there is ‘another part of my brain where I want to be.’”

 Polly, Camille, Ayla and Quinn (in back) stand firm on the magic carpet while they work on letting the wise old owl best the gremlins in their heads during a group session of Miss Molly’s Musical Magic. 

She asks the girls to listen for the farthest sound they can hear outside the room, then to zero in on some music, then their own breath. Clench their fists, tighten their bodies and release. Take another deep breath in, put two hands on their heart and allow their wise owl to swoop in. 

“It’s really learning how to step into and identify the negative voices that are either saying ‘I’m not good enough, I can’t, I shouldn’t,’ all the negative feeling we all have … then teaching them the relaxation process that allows them to have self-awareness, calm, clarity — it allows them to be more loving toward themselves and others,” Williams explained.

Williams said the process makes the girls feel safe, calm and empowered.

But does it work? The universal answer among parents and kids is simply yes.

Kid perspective

Polly was Williams’ first Shooting Star, the girl that launched the program. She joked that she and her sisters sing karaoke a lot at home and their performances used to be timid, quiet even, but not anymore. Polly said the program has also given her confidence in other areas of her life, like when it comes to giving presentations at school.

Ayla, 9, has been involved in theater yet still lacked confidence on stage. She said she tended to stand on stage wide-eyed and wooden-like but after working with Williams, “I flow a bit more.” She also scored a lead in a play last winter.

Like Ayla, Elise, the newest member of the tribe, acts and needed a little help in the self-assurance department.

Polly performs her signature song, “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus.

“I need to be more confident,” she said. “I need to sing not looking down and I need to move.”

Quinn said she didn’t really like performing at all but she has gained confidence since joining Miss Molly’s program. Camille agreed. She said the process has helped her a lot both on and off the stage, which is good because on May 5 she will perform with her mentor and sing her signature song in a public solo for the first time.

Parental perspective

Michelle Saunders Floyd has seen the Williams impact in real time.

“The first time I brought my daughter to Miss Molly, she was terrified. She was so nervous that she was crying,” Floyd said. “After a few minutes of talking with Molly she was singing into a microphone. I was speechless and signed her up for more lessons.”

Floyd said since starting with Miss Molly, her daughter has performed on five different occasions and is now taking theater classes.

“I am confident that it is because of her time with Miss Molly,” she said. “My only advice is to try one lesson. I think you will see a side to your kid that you didn’t know existed.”

Sarah Read said the two biggest changes she has noticed is her daughter’s willingness to try new things without overthinking them and her ability to be more open to different music, people and opportunities. Read said she’s also more open with them, which she is grateful for now that she’s approaching her teenage years.

Carolyn Dillenbeck Liggio found Williams through a local parenting Facebook page after moving to Marblehead in the fall of 2022. Her daughter Quinn was in the third grade “and learning how to navigate some tricky social situations, friendships, etc.,” she said.

“We wanted to find something that would help her connect with kids locally, while also fostering her creativity and helping to build her confidence. We were so happy to find Molly. She has given Quinn the confidence to be herself and to speak up when she feels it’s important,” Liggio said, adding that by far her best moment as a parent was seeing Quinn on stage performing with Molly at Antique Table. 

“We know Quinn is amazing but watching her perform onstage, in front of a room full of strangers without barely a glance at her family sitting nearby, was truly breathtaking.”  

For Kristen Horgan, Miss Molly’s Music Magic has impacted her entire family, starting with her oldest daughter. Ten-year old Piper has significant learning disabilities and had already been through a couple of music programs before meeting Williams, Horgan said. She said they went into the program with no expectations but within less than a month, Piper was performing with Williams and the other girls at a Fourth of July showcase.

But Horgan is also quick to note that what Piper gets from the program goes far beyond voice lessons.

“The biggest thing for us was finding someone who could connect with her and teach her on her level in a way she learns and not really knowing what that is,” Horgan said.

She said Piper has taken to using the magic carpet/gremlin/wise owl technique regularly and, in fact, it’s become a common language in their family, particularly since Williams is coaching her son as well. Horgan said her son was dealing with anxiety issues and asked if he could see Williams after using her meditation tapes at night to fall asleep by.

“He loves it, and [Molly] is so good with the kids. It’s very much transformed our house,” she said, adding that Patrick has even taught his younger sister the techniques and she and her husband have used them as well.

Next up

Williams said she is hoping to expand her program to include entire families. She calls the process a gentle, light, forgiving and even fun way to approach dealing with difficult thoughts and feelings — and that can include adults.

“I have witnessed that if a child is struggling with stress or anxiety, invariably at least one or both

parents are also struggling with stress or anxiety,” she said. “Neuroscience now proves what is called ‘mirror neurons’ — we feel the energy of the people around us, positive or negative.”

Williams said parents might think they’re hiding the problems from their kids, but they are not.

“Parents that want their kids to overcome their anxieties who are not also doing this work on themselves is like asking their kids to climb Mount Everest without oxygen,” she said. “It can be done but it’s a lot harder.”

If you’d like to learn more about Miss Molly and her music magic check

Chris Stevens
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