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    Mix Up Your Christmas Playlist With These Songs

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    What is wonderful about this time of year is all thegreat wintry, timeless, melodic music we don’t usually hear 11 months of the year. However, we know that the same limited selection of songs are played over nad over on the radio and at the mall. If you would like to mix up your holiday playlist at home, we have some wonderful suggestions for you.

     

    Idina Menzel & Michael Bublé – Baby It’s Cold Outside

    Menzel of “Frozen” fame and crooner Bublé’s voices are perfectly suited for this classic song. It’s a beautiful rendition and this video is just oozing with cuteness by having children star in this video. Not to worry, the singers make a cameo appearance in their own video.

     

    Elizabeth Chan – “Fa La La”

    According to the Los Angeles Times, Chan is a former marketing executive for Conde Nast and Self magazine who left her job to pursue holiday music. She released third album this year we like how that it’s upbeat and happy. You just want to join everyone in the video and start dancing.

    Liz Phair, “Ho, Ho, Ho”


    If you are tired of the saccharine lyrics of classic Christmas songs, Liz Phair is for you. In her “Ho, ho, ho” she sings: All I wanted was one perfect Christmas / All I got was some coal and some switches / That’s ain’t no sleigh bell jingling on the rooftop / The landlord is here and he’s changing the locks. Still the music is fun and poppy and she has a knack for making Santa’s classic laugh — Ho, ho, ho — sound new and fresh.

     

    Kristen Bell and Straight No Chaser – Text Me Merry Christmas

    We wrote about this song a month ago in a blog post. We still think it is a fun holiday song with on-target lyrics about technology in our lives. It’s worth seeing the video again!

     

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    How Music Affects The Way You Taste Food

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    As you prepare your special holiday meal this season and seek to create the perfect sonic background for you and your guests, consider integrating some science into your music selection.

     

    National Public Radio reports that research is being done on “sonic seasoning,” or how music affects the way people taste food. Yes, this is a field of study! As a general rule, higher-pitched music, such as flutes and pianos, brings out the flavor of sweet or sour foods. On the other end of the spectrum, lower-pitched sounds, including tubas and cellos, enhance bitter flavors.

     

    Charles Spence, of the University of Oxford who is one of the leading thinkers on the sensory perception of food, told NPR:

     

    “Flavor is probably one of the most multi-sensory of our experiences … because it does involve taste and more smell than we realize. But all of the senses come together to give us that one unified experience of flavor.”

     

    In his study, Spence found that pairing drinks and food with the right music can positively alter the taste of the food by as much as 5 to 10 percent.

     

    Of course, what makes great music so enjoyable is the complexity of sounds. For the most part, it is difficult to find a dinner song that is all high notes or all low notes, usually songs incorporate both elements. Still, this is interesting something to consider the next time you host a meal!

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    Holidays Tunes Help With Literacy Skills

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    By now it should be no surprise to our readers how much we love this time of year with the music, live performances and general goodwill.

    Yet, we understand why others may not be fans. We know that the same 15 songs get played over and over and over again, which is enough to drive some people crazy. So, if you’re about to hear “Sleigh Ride” for the 30th time, try your best not to run away. Southern California Public Radio and other organizations suggest that holiday music may be good for your child’s development.

    Here are a few reasons why:

     

    • Singing Helps With Reading Skills: There is a good reason why early education is filled with songs and nursery rhymes. Singing builds vocabulary and sound discrimination, which are essential elements to reading.

     

    • Song Repetition Is Good: As we previously mentioned, this time of year tends to play the same songs again and again.  SCPR talked with Susan Canizares, the chief academic officer Learning Care Group, who says repetition is good for young children. “By singing those songs over and over again, they’re beginning to listen to the different sounds that are in words,” she says.

     

    • Improvisation is Important: One way to have an old song sound new again is to insert your own lyrics. Children especially love when their names are mentioned in lyrics and you can encourage them to let their imaginations run wild with new phrases and storylines for the song. And, improvising lyrics is yet another useful way to encourage literacy.

     

    • Use as Family Bonding Time: Singing and dancing with your child can strengthen “emotional bonding” and creates a positive home environment, something that is essential for learning.

     

    So, start singing before the season ends! If you do not know the words to some popular songs, visit this website.

    Happy holidays!

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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    2014: A Year That Showed The Many Benefits of Music Instruction

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    This year has proven to be an eventful one in discovering the benefits of playing music. Music.Mic listed the top 12 stories of 2014 and we’re proud that we’ve covered so many of these issues already in this blog included how music lessons can improve executive function, help with literacy and close the achievement gap.

     

    Here are some of our favorite stories from Music.Mic, ranging from the insightful to the humorous. What is your favorite story of 2014?

     

    •  Sounds Quality Affects Enjoyment. Rack up a point for vinyl lovers. Researchers found that the sound quality of music  impacts our emotional response to it. Volunteers were divided into two groups — one listened to a standard stereo 96-kbps sound and the other heard a song in 256-kbps audio format. The people who listened to the higher kpbs audio were 66 percent more likely to register pleasurable responses to what they heard. Vinyl records, on the other hand, plays at 1,000 kbps so start pulling out your old vinyls!

     

    •  Music Can Help Treat ADHD. Scientists from the University of Graz in Austria report that children who play music have significantly thicker grey matter in brain areas linked to attention and concentration. These areas in the brain are the same regions that are lacking in the brain scan of children living with ADHD.  Researchers hope that taking music lessons can increase grey matter for those living with this disorder.

     

    • Music Can Affect Your Alcohol Consumption.  Researchers from Dartmouth College and the University of Pittsburgh found that teens who like “songs with explicit alcohol references are two to three times more likely to engage in binge drinking than teenagers who aren’t familiar with booze-addled pop.” Changing a teen’s behavior may be difficult given the prevalence of alcohol references in today’s pop music. In fact, teens listen to an verage of 2.5 hours of music a day and, in that time frame, are exposed to eight references of alcohol brands. The study’s author was right:  “Our music is giving us drinking problems.”

     

    What’s in store of 2015 for music and science? We cannot wait to find out more benefts of music lessons.

     

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    Celebrating The Holidays With Music and Jammies

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    You know it is the holiday season when local radio stations play Christmas music 24 hours a day and the malls are filled with Santas ready to hear what’s on children’s wish lists. A new tradition has spring for those who follow YouTube viral videos.  You know it’s Christmas when the Holderness family creates their holiday video.

     

    And what a treat it is this year!

     

    The North Carolina family, which includes a mom, dad and two children, became Internet famous last year with their holiday video “XMAS Jammies.” In a video they intended for family and friends, the Holderness family donned matching pajamas, sang and danced together and generated more than 15 million views on YouTube. This year, their holiday video “card” is  “#JammieTime” and is set to the tune of REM’s “It’s the End of the World”

     

    While throwing fake snowballs and jumping on trampolines with guitars and cowbells, they sing “It’s the end of the year and we love it.”

     

    We wrote a blog post about their back-to-school video “Baby Got Class,” which we thought was hilarious and spot on about what it is really like to get children ready for school. Again, we cannot help but like this family who likes making music together and having fun.

     

    Watch the video and enjoy the holiday season!

     

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    A Shocking Statement on Music Education

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    Most of us bemoan the state of music instruction at public schools and some of us are compelled to write a letter to the editor or speak at a school board meeting.

     

    Arizona artist Julie Comnick shows her distaste another way. She burns musical instruments.

     

    Her latest work, “Arrangement for a Silent Orchestra,” displayed at the Mesa Contemporary Arts Museum shows the destruction of 100 old violins that could no longer be played. She recorded their burning, which lasted from sunrise to sunset. Then, Comnick painted and drew their destruction and saved some of the burnt violins and showcased them together.

     

    It certainly is a shocking piece of art from what we can see in the photographs. Despite the fact that we knew the violins were beyond repair, we could not help but cringe at their destruction and the story that each one had, of a child or adult devoting hours to playing it as perfectly as possible.

     

    Comnick said her art is a statement against reduced funding for the arts in public school and a technology-infused culture where everything is on demand and lasts a second. With the current culture as a backdrop, how can children learn a skill that takes years to develop and requires quiet and prolonged practice?

     

    Yet, we think the real story is in Comnick’s personal relationship with music.

     

    In describing her latest artwork, Comnick writes: “As the only child of a piano teacher, I was instructed at an early age to choose an instrument and stick with it.  At age eight I selected the violin, and at eighteen I put it down.  The years between were fraught with accomplishment and ambivalence as I excelled at an instrument that in my adolescence I didn’t feel particularly passionate about.  To re-familiarize myself with the instrument after an eighteen-year hiatus, I resumed violin lessons and incorporated music practice into my studio practice.”

     

    Call us crazy, but this art and Comnick’s backstory makes us feel hopeful. After so many years of leaving behind the violin and violently destroying it in her artwork, Comnick chose to resume instruction and performed music as part of her artwork. There is this unspoken strong connection that makes us feel good.

     

    What do you think?

     

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    Playing Music Reaps Many Benefits For The Brain

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    Attending a baseball game doesn’t make you fit and neither does watching a legal thriller make you lawyer. The same thinking applies to music. Do not expect your brain to benefit from music simply by listening to Mozart.

     

    In order to reap the benefits of music — from improved memory to enhanced communication skills to better executive function — one has to play an instrument and be engaged, according to a recent Northwestern University study led by researcher Nina Kraus.

     

    “Because it is only through the active generation and manipulation of sound that music can rewire the brain,” Kraus told Time magazine.

     

    So, the bottom line is that listening to classical music and going to the Hollywood Bowl are great cultural experiences but they are not enough. Yet, the answer is not forcing an unwilling child to take lessons because there’s a good chance she will not pay attention and not practice.

     

    Ideally, children need express their opinions about music lessons. Even if she is not initially keen on the idea, let her pick the instrument and spend time together finding the right instructor, someone who is knowledgeable and can get her excited about making music.

     

    Adds Krause: “Making music should be something that children enjoy and will want to keep doing for many years!”

     

    We agree!

     

    If you would like to learn more about Kraus’ research or how the brain benefits from playing music, consider attending KPCC’s Crawford Family Forum that will discuss this subject in depth.

     

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    At 82, Woman Still Plays The Pipe Organ For Her Church

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    You are never too old to learn how to sing or play the piano and, at The Music Junction, we have students of all ages. Taking on music as a hobby as you grow older can bring significant benefits to your brain including improvement in memory, verbal fluency and processing information, according to researchers. It also can be a great way to meet new people.

     

    If you need further motivation, read about Virginia Knapp, from North Platte, Nebraska. At 82 years old, she plays the pipe organ for her Lutheran church and she is even more demand this time of year playing for Advent, Christmas Eve and Christmas services.

     

    As a child, Virginia grew up taking piano lessons but stopped as life commitments — namely, education, marriage and children — left her with little free time. While in her 30s, a friend wondered if she would be interested in learning to play the organ and she agreed. She has immersed herself by taking lessons, attending workshops and meeting other church organists.

     

    “I’m always happy when someone tells me they enjoy my music,” Knapp told her local newspaper, The North Platte Telegraph.

     

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    Malawi Mouse Boys

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    Those of us at The Music Junction believe talent is everywhere and inside all of us. You do not have to be born with music ability to be a great singer nor do you have to be rich to create beautiful music.

     

    We came across an NPR story that is a wonderful reminder about talent. Also, you’ll quickly become enchanted with this music!

     

    The Malawi Mouse Boys spend several hours every Sunday singing for their church. The rest of the week, they hunt mice to sell as snacks to travelers along a stretch of highway.

     

    And that’s how they met Ian Brennan, a San Francisco-based music producer who has worked with artists such as Corin Tucker of Sleater Kinney, Lucinda Williams and David Hidalgo of Los Lobos. A few years ago, he happened to be traveling in Malawi and came across these young men selling mice and asked one of them to sing.

     

    “And he played it so quietly it was almost inaudible,” Brennan remembers. “But when he came to the chorus, this group of 20 kids that was pressing in, from age 2, to age 18 or so, all kicked in on the chorus in multi-part harmony. And the sun was literally going down, with surround sound and one of the most musical moments I’d ever had in my life.”

     

    Using only their voice and handmade instruments —  guitars are built with sheet metal and tree limbs while plastic water coolers and bicycle spokes serve as percussion instruments — Brennan recorded an album that was published in the United Kingdom. In fact Songlines magazine named it the best gospel album of 2014.

     

    “Their voices are really the core,” Brennan says. “They have such a unity that I think it’s very similar to the Carter Family or The Jackson 5, where it’s familial. They’ve been singing together their whole lives, people that have developed their voices literally together, that have learned to listen together, have opened their ears to each other and with each other.”

     

    The Malawi Mouse Boys recently performed in California and will appear at the WOMAD festival next year in Australia. You can also buy their music here.

     

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    Live Holiday Entertainment for the Family

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    There are so many reasons to love the winter holidays: the twinkling lights on houses, a free excuse to drink hot chocolate (regardless of LA temps) and the music. As an added bonus to families, this is also the best time to go to the theater. We’ve picked some local productions that intersperse art and music that we think you will like.

     

     

    SLEEPING BEAUTY and Her Winter Knight — Pasadena Playhouse from Dec. 10 – Jan. 4

    With a live pony, Pharrell’s “Happy” playing the background and Xena, Warrior Princess making an appearance, this is not your ordinary play. This kid-friendly production offers a unique take on the fairy tale classic in the style of British Panto, which means you should expect comedy, audience participation and lots of physicality …just what young kids love!

    Before every performance, the playhouse offers crafts, activities, even an appearance from Santa Claus.

     

    Rogue Family Series — Atwater Village Theatre from Dec. 20-21

    This series has two shows — Zen Shorts and The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone — which offers puppets, original music and video projections that are sure to keep the youngest theater-goer on her toes. At $10 a show (or $15 to see both), it is also one of the more affordable holiday theater outings. Between shows, children can decorate cookies and participate in other activities.

     

     

    Nutcracker— The  Bob Baker Marionette Theater,  now until Feb. 1

    Everything about this show is like taking a step back in time. The marionettes, which seem to magically come to life with just a few wrist movements from their puppeteers, are unlike most puppets you see today. The theater which is red and ornate is also something to be treasured. This is a very kid-focused production in which the chairs are only in the back for adults. The kids sit up front, all the better to view these magical puppets.

     

     

    A Christmas Carol — Glendale Centre Theatre, now until Dec. 24

    For a more traditional theater experience see this Charles Dickens classic that is mean to renew the human spirit. The production sold out its first weekend so get tickets as soon as you can!

    The Music Junction offers piano and voice lessons at our Burbank and Hollywood locations. Call us today to learn more.

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