The first person I thought of when I was informed that our SingFit solutions had won the LeadingAge California Innovation Award was my dad, Lou Tubman. My dad would now be known as a serial entrepreneur, but back in the day we just called him a crazy inventor. Growing up, he started so many businesses, I used to joke that I had the world’s best scrap paper collection made from the stacks of thick stock letterhead from his companies come and gone.
That said, Dad was so ahead of his time that one of the many ideas he came up with and patented in his life, one first imagined in 1960, sits at the center of the SingFit solutions that just won said innovation award in 2020.
In addition to being an inventor, my dad was a singer. In the early 60s Dad was in basic training in the army and he would sneak off base in New Jersey and go to opera lessons in New York. At the time in the opera, there was a person called the opera prompter. The person’s job was to go to rehearsals, learn where the singers were weak in remembering the words to a particular song, go to the performances and feed the lyrics to the performers right before they needed to be sung.
Driving to and fro, Dad wanted to have the opera prompter in the car. He imagined a multi-track player where he could fade in and fade out the prompter and guide a singer so he could rehearse both lyrics and melody on the way to lessons (he was a lazy student, Dad would always say, when telling the story). Of course, the technology infrastructure wasn’t there yet to support his idea. Cassette tapes were not yet invented and Steve Jobs was in kindergarten.
So Dad got married and had me and my brother, Andy. I took on dad’s entrepreneurial side and Andy inherited his musical talent. But my dad never let go of his love of inventing, music or his lyric prompting idea. Over the decades there were karaoke businesses, family “vacations” to the Consumer Electronics Show and many, many dinners where the topic of discussion was not what happened in school but patent strategies and copyrights.
For a while my brother and I took our own paths. In the mid-90s, I was fortunate enough to get in on the internet early. I spent a decade learning the ins and outs of digitizing the world and building businesses. I believed the companies I was working for would change the world only to be let down when, inevitably, the money would get tight and they would transform into platforms to sell sugar water. Disenchanted, I returned to school and received a master’s degree in Futures Studies with the goal of cracking the code on using technology for good.
Meanwhile, Andy pursued a degree in Music Therapy. One day Andy came home from college with newfound knowledge. He discovered that not only does regular singing come with a host of health benefits, the lyric coaching idea my dad was so passionate about was an evidenced music therapy protocol with the ability to help restore speech after a traumatic brain injury. This technique also enables people with dementia to sing joyfully, elevating their mood and decreasing agitation as well as bringing them out of their fog and into their positive present.
After graduation and working in hospitals, Andy opened his own music therapy private practice. With only 7,000 certified music therapists in the United States and the body of evidence for the benefits of music as medicine exploding, the waiting list for Andy’s services grew with every passing year. In 2012, the app economy had finally developed to the point where my dad’s idea of a multi-track lyric coach had finally arrived. It was time, we all decided, to pool our collective ideas and experiences and create Musical Health Technologies.
Though my dad is no longer with us, Lou lived long enough to see his ideas at work, bringing singing as a therapeutic tool to improve the health and happiness of tens of thousands of people experiencing dementia with our first lyric coach-based solution, SingFit PRIME. And so while my brother, the creative, hardworking staff at Musical Health Technologies, and I continue to build and expand on Dad’s original idea, it was in his name, Lou Tubman, that I accepted the award for innovation from Leading Age California along with a $10,000 check. Knowing my dad, he would have taken the money and put it into his next big idea rather than use it to continuing developing the current one, because that’s what crazy inventors, I mean serial entrepreneurs, do. So were he alive, I might not have told him about the cash prize, but regardless, Lou, this one’s for you.
Co-Found & CEO
Musical Health Technologies