Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Earworms: Those Songs That Get Stuck in Your Head - Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis

Have you ever been waiting in line at the grocery store, innocently perusing the magazine rack, when a song pops into your head? Not the whole song, but a fragment of it that plays and replays until you find yourself unloading the vegetables in time to the beat? Elizabeth Hellmuth Margulis explores earworms — a cognitive phenomenon that plagues over 90% of people at least once a week.

Lesson by Elizabeth Margulis, animation by Artrake Studio

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Stan Houston: Grow the Market, Reap a Wider Audience


Article from the Benicia Herald

I WAS SURPRISED TO LEARN LAST YEAR that the board of directors of the Vallejo Symphony had chosen to remove David Ramadanoff as principal conductor. It is no secret that ticket sales to symphony performances have dropped over the past few years, but I would make the argument that an exclusive “interest” in the classics is the root cause of declining ticket sales, more so than Mr. Ramadanoff’s virtuous baton.

In response to the symphony’s decision, various musicians familiar with the situation have surmised that a change in “product” is afoot at the symphony. Some opeds written by classical musicians have suggested that classical music is really a niche market and that low attendance is to be expected. What does that mean? Watching the patronage flowing up the red carpet to the San Francisco Symphony season opener last year, one could conclude that classical music is the sole property of the wealthy, the politicians and the highly educated. As some have suggested, it is reserved for the one-percenters. Writers of history have documented that classical music, like that of Beethoven, Mozart and Bach, was commissioned by monarchs and that the composers went on to share their work exclusively with their benefactors, the elite. Today classical music is supported almost exclusively by those who have had the opportunity to be exposed to it in the finer schools, and it remains the core foundation of study at all music academies and schools. Graduates from top-tier pillars of education — whether musicians, scientists or engineers — appreciate classical music.

If a change in product is at the core of the symphony’s decision, does that mean the elite will be less engaged with the newer format? Will Mahler, Beethoven and Mozart have to share a program with the likes of Bernstein, Addinsell and Gershwin? Holy Stradivarius! Yes, that’s right: complex passages barely understood by even those playing them that are often better left to the visual of a “Transformers” movie may be sharing a program with staff lines from domestic composers. Some will call it blasphemy, some will call it “light”classical, and some will say it’s un-European. Fewer tragic minor movements that reach deep into our chest cavity, seeming to pull out our heart, followed by soothing “major” pianissimos triumphantly coming to the rescue — these may have to follow the Warsaw Concerto. I can hear the purists now: “Alas Ira, I yearn for a fugue.”

Successful businesses embrace the idea that what is on the shelf for sale is ultimately put there by the customer. The merchant who selfishly displays a product that fits only his or her own tastes is soon closing their doors for good. Here’s a wake-up call for symphonies throughout the world: The 99-percenters want to hear a variety of notes, not just the ones the tuxedos and Pradas want to hear. The Boston Pops and the Boston Symphony rarely have unsold seats. Their menu is wide and offers a variety of music for every interest.

But there’s much more behind the Vallejo Symphony’s decline in ticket sales. It is ironic that last year, while Mr. Ramadanoff was being told to hand over the baton in Vallejo, the Benicia school district eliminated the last bit of school day music education in the elementary schools. This year the only music options available to children in kindergarten through fifth grade are mostly after school and almost exclusively funded by private outside sources.

Losing what small bit of music education we had in K-5 is part of a race to the bottom that started in the late 1970s. Gradually, through budget cuts music and art education has been eliminated in California’s elementary schools. An obvious result is the mirrored decline in music performance participation in middle and high schools, where it is offered only as an elective. As a core offering, fewer and fewer students are exposed to any form of music appreciation in the classroom. Today’s students are seldom exposed to classical compositions, let alone even know Beethoven — or, for that matter, the Beatles. And frankly, it doesn’t matter whether Bernstein or Basie is taught in our schools; the ongoing elimination of music education in our schools is dwarfing the size of the everyday audience.

So the Vallejo Symphony, along with many symphonies throughout the world, is seeing its patronage decline. Jazz, big band and rock audiences have diminished as well. The marketing solution for increasing patronage in live performances of any music style is twofold: greater exposure of all music in the schools and a willingness to create new listening experiences in the concert hall. Playing the same video game over and over makes Mary a dull girl.

For me, listening to the same music over and over again through my 60 years is no longer as entertaining as it once was. I wanna new song. But as music education is eliminated in the schools, who will write that song — and who will be in the audience?

Stan Houston is a classically trained musician and an advocate for the arts.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

6 Benefits Of Music - How Music Can Help

Everywhere you look, (or I guess listen), music is all around us. It's on the television we watch, the commercials trying to sell us something and in all forms of entertainment you can think of. The use of music to infuse a particular feeling or emotion is abundant and effective everywhere.

Music as a sales tool is well known and powerful, but what about using music as a form of therapy? If commercials and television can project a certain feeling with it, then why can't we use it to invoke the same response for ourselves in a positive manner?

When going through a divorce, music played a large role in helping me feel better. At the time, it didn't matter how, but playing music made me feel better, so that's what I did. I listened to it, which encouraged me to learn it. The more I practiced, the more it helped me feel better.

There are many different ways in which music can assist in getting through difficult times. And many of those qualities can help anyone struggling with change.

Reduces Stress: Some music when listened to can help reduce stress and anxiety. Listening to soft, soothing music is often used in the practice of meditation to help calm the mind.

Helps With Depression: Depression can be a very debilitating stage we go through when recovering from some loss. Listening to music can release endorphins, making us feel better, even if it's just a little, it can help bring you up.

Builds Confidence: When taking music to the next level, like learning how to play the guitar, the benefits of music become more intense. Learning something new can do great things for your confidence, very useful when times are tough.

Teaches Discipline: Once again, when taking on an activity like learning the guitar, discipline is needed in order to advance with it. In order to get better at playing an instrument, you need to practice and discipline assists in keeping you motivated to practice.

Promotes Teamwork: If you enjoy playing and become confident with it, you may start looking at joining a band. When joining to play with others, teamwork is essential in having a successful partnership.

Social Outlet: Music has always been the center of social gatherings. It's an opportunity for people to have something to discuss and share experiences with. From the big arena to the small venue down the street, music brings people together socially.

Music plays a critical role in our lives, from how we feel about ourselves to being around others with the same interest. When looking for something to help bring some interest back into your life, music can be an excellent opportunity to learn and discover more about yourself.

Learning how to balance mind, body and soul can help bring peace to an ever hectic lifestyle. It's important to take time for ourselves and easy to forget to. Follow my blog to watch my effort.
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Monday, April 13, 2015

How Brass Instruments Work - Al Cannon

What gives the trumpet its clarion ring and the tuba its gut shaking oompah-pah? And what makes the trombone so jazzy? Al Cannon shows how these answers lie not in the brass the instruments are made of, but in the journey that air takes from the musician’s lungs to the instrument’s bell.

Lesson by Al Cannon, animation by TED-Ed.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Upcoming Class - Rhythm & African Percussion

Information & Registration Night:
April 23rd @ 7:00pm
6 week classes start April 30, 2015
Cost: $12.00 - info & registration night
$72.00 - 6 week class - includes take-home drums

Call for more information 707.746.7565

Download & Print Flyer

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Gifts for the Brain - Music, Art, Science

ABC Music expands its products for right-hand-side brain development for all ages. Puzzles, toys, electronic kits, and gifts based on the works of Leonardo Da Vinci, MC Escher, and Vincent Van Gogh. You won't find another store with this incredible selection.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Learn How to Sing With Voice Lessons

Singing is one of the simple pleasures in life that almost anybody can enjoy. It helps us relax and enjoy ourselves with very little effort. As a matter of fact, many have made a living entertaining people with their amazing talent when it comes to singing. While it is true that there are some of us who can sing better than others, as long as you have the potential, you can learn how to sing just like today's best recording artists. A lot of today's best singers share the same secret; they have had voice lessons before or during their early years.

Singing lessons offer up several advantages that make it the preferred way of becoming a better singer. If you do some research on your own, you'll see a lot of today's best singers and artists have had a voice coach or teacher that has helped them improve their talent and helped them become who they are today. I'm sure some part of you is saying, "I don't need singing lessons. As long as I keep practicing and singing, I'll get better." To some extent, you are right. Becoming a great singer requires a lot of practice. However, you need someone to focus your effort and guide you along the way to ensure that all the practice you are doing is actually helping you improve.

This is exactly one of the main advantages of having a voice coach. Every time you have a lesson, you will have something new to learn. As you sing, your coach or instructor will be able to identify areas of improvement and also how else you can make your voice more powerful so that you'll have a better performance.

Another good thing about having voice lessons is that you get to learn about the technical side of singing which is just as important as the passion and heart that you put into every performance. Voice lessons help you identify melodies, rhythms, sharp and flat notes, and many more. It helps you fine tune your voice so that you can sing each song as accurately as possible. Without a voice coach guiding you, this will be quite difficult to do on your own.

Control is also a great benefit to voice lessons. Your instructor will be will be able to teach you how to control your breathing so that you don't get easily winded when singing the tougher or more complicated songs. Breathing control is also attributed to vocal belting which is when a singer lets out a loud high pitch sound to give a very strong and emotional performance. Control is important because without the proper techniques in place, you may hurt yourself or damage your vocal chords when singing powerhouse songs.

There are many ways you can become a great and talented singer. Others are even born with the natural ability to sing beautifully. For most of us, it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to the craft in order to become better.

This is why having someone with you a vocal coach can help ensure your progress through regular voice lessons. Combine that with practice, and you'll soon be up on that stage like the rest of the singers you admire and look up to.

Martina Gerste an online self-development writer and also an expert in other online learning methods such as language and anxiety treatment at home.
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