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    Promoting Science Through Music

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    When we imagine the people who work for NASA, we think of rocket scientists who help us understand life outside of Earth. But do you know they also put out great music videos?

    Well, their interns do.

    Interns at Johnson Space Center in Texas have a unique tradition of creating funny parody videos with versions of “Gangnam Style” and the “Harlem Shake” that had us laughing. Now, they have come up with a twist to Meghan Trainor’s “All About That Bass” with “All About That Space.”

    The video have interns dancing among some pretty cool shoots of the space center. It’s a nice inside glimpse of their “office,” which many of us will never see for ourselves.

    And what exactly do they sing about? Here’s a sample:

     

    Hey they’re working so hard, don’t you love these NASA guys?

    They will take us so far the first time that Orion flies.

    You know we’re travellin’ to deep destinations ‘fore to long,

    So if that’s what you’re into then join in and ride along.

    I’m all about that space

    ‘Bout that space, space travel

    I’m all about that space

    ‘Bout that space, space travel

    I’m all about that space

    ‘Bout that space

    Hey!

     

    The video was meant to promote the test launch of Orion on Dec. 5, which worked on us. We discovered that Orion will someday take people deep in space, hopefully as fars as Mars! The test flight successfully circled the earth twice in just over four hours.

    Also, if you need more proof on how much scientists like music, check out this blog post!

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    Have Tests Coming Up? Play Classical Music

    Even when you are not actively listening to classical music you are still benefiting from it.

    Does that make sense? Let us explain.

    The University of Southern California’s news page cited several studies that show the benefits of passively listening to classical music. One study published in Human Physiology found that children who listened to an hour of classical music a day had greater levels of relaxation, even if they were never explicitly told to pay attention to it. Another published report discovered that students scored higher on tests when their lecture included classical music playing in the background.

    “The researchers speculated that the music put students in a heightened emotional state, making
 them more receptive to information,” USC wrote.

    This information can be useful reminder to college and high school students facing finals during this time of year. If you want to be relaxed, focused and retain information, listen to classical music! It is just what your brain needs.

    Yet, not all classical music is created equal for studying.

    Alan Chapman, host and producer for KUSC (USC’s nonprofit classical music station) explains that orchestral pieces that ranges from  “whispers to booming cannons” are too distracting. Instead, choose solo piano pieces, including Mozart sonatas or French piano music by Poulenc,
 Debussy or Fauré. Chapman also recommend guitar and lute music. To jumpstart your music listening, we included one of our favorite pieces, “Claire de Lune,” which we find so soothing.

    Enjoy!

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    New Film Promotes Music Education

    We have been fortunate lately to have so many new releases of music-related movies and documentaries. We were completely inspired by Alive Inside and were of intrigued by William H. Macy’s Rudderless. Now there’s a new documentary that shows the value of music education.

    Some Kind of Spark by Ben Niles follows five kids living in some of New York City’s poorest communities who receive special instruction from Julliard’s Music Advancement Program. The renowned program provides Saturday instruction to students ages 8 to 14. The program is free and gives students unique access to Julliard’s instructors yet demands a lot of them, even the beginners. The film follows the students for two years in the classroom, at recitals and at home and shows their commitment to becoming better musicians (they can spend hours in rain, sleet and snow just commuting to Julliard) as well as their struggles with family issues and stage fright.

    Niles is clearly a music fan (he made Note by Note: The Making of Steinway L103) and the film is meant to be uplifting and be a rallying cry for more music instruction for children. Yet, as one critic noted, the film can be frustrating for highlighting such a unique program.

    Firedoglake writer noted: “It’s a reminder of how much the lives of children are enriched by a musical education — and sadly an implicit lament about how children are increasingly being robbed of such opportunities.”

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    Music Resources on Pinterest

    We know Pinterest is a great site for planning a wedding, looking for new recipes and those who crave a do-it-yourself project. But have you ever visited Pinterest to learn more about music?

    Although some ideas require so much work you wonder if it’s worth the effort, it is nice to have a community of “pinners” out there who can help make you or your child a better musician. Here are our recommendations of some worthwhile pins. Enjoy!

     

    Music Theory

    We found Pinterest is especially good at providing education resources for young children, especially in music theory. We love this worksheet on how to count notes and this handout is a fun way to learn about different tempos. This infographic on major and minor scales works for people of all ages.

     

    Piano Music

    You’re never at a loss for beginning music sheets on Pinterest. You can easily find the Happy Birthday song, an alternate, easier version of Let It Go from the movie “Frozen,” even the indie pop hit “Hey there Delilah

     

    Singing Lessons

    The “Singing Lessons” board by Elizabeth Geer is full of text and video resources for warm-up exercises, beginning books and demonstrations on how sound is produced from your body. Also, the “Voice” board by Amanda Jaques has pinned some good videos on exercises and breathing through your diaphragm.

     Do you have a favorite pin or a board? Let us know!

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    The Life of a Music Major Requires A Lot of Practicing

    If you think you practice music a lot, check out the life of a music major.

    An article from The Daily O’Collegian from Oklahoma State University shows the amount of commitment students need for their craft and it is an interesting read if you’re deciding on majoring in music.

    Student Corrine Bean is a music education major and says she spends 13 hours a day at the university’s performing arts complex that include taking classes and studying music. Although she is primarily a cello player, her university requires that she learn another instrument as well as take vocal lessons. She also participates in her school choral and strings group. That is a lot of work!

    Bean wants to score movies after she graduates is preparing herself with her thesis project that includes playing three cello pieces and an original composition.

    By the way, unless you are a music major it would be hard to spend 13 hours a day on your instrument.  If you would like to know a how much a practice, it is hard for us to give universal advice. Although generally the youngest musicians should practice 15 minutes a day and older, more advanced musicians should devote an hour a day, the truth is that quality is more important than quantity. If you lose interest or concentration, take a break. If, after the break, you still cannot focus, move on.  And do not try to make up for lost time with a marathon session on the weekend.

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    Keep A Journal Of Your Music Lessons

    Do you keep a journal of your music lessons?

    Chances are a teacher from The Music Junction has recommended it because chronicling your practice can inspire you about the progress you’ve made. It can also help you figure out how long it takes to master a piece of music, which can be useful when preparing for recitals.

    Any notebook will work or, if you want something more specific, you can download a music log here.

    If you need some additional inspiration for keeping a journal, read this New Yorker story by Jeremy Denk, a professional pianist who has played with Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and the symphony orchestras of Boston, Chicago, San Francisco, and London. It is cutely titled “Every Good Boy Does Fine” and discusses how Denk rediscovered his music journal that dates back as far as 1981. Each page is filled with suggestions for improvement by various instructors as well as his insecurities. It also serves as a diary of his life and the important role instructors have played in his life.

    Denk wrote: “There’s a labyrinth of voices inside your head, a counterpoint of self-awareness and the remembered sayings of your guides and mentors, who don’t always agree. Sometimes you wish you could go back and ask your teachers again to guide you; but up there onstage, exactly where they always wanted you to be, you must simply find your way. They have given all the help they can; the only person who can solve the labyrinth of yourself is you.”

    We agree.

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    Life Lessons From a Blind Musician

    Chad Erickson lives several thousand miles from California but his spirit of determination can inspire us all.

    Erickson is a talented high school senior who can play eight musical instruments — from the accordion to the alto saxophone — by ear. Last school year, Erickson decided he wanted to perform in Florida’s Fletcher High School marching band including its field shows that require musicians to not only play music but march into different formations. It is an artform where accuracy and precision are tantamount.

    Erickson is also blind.

    Yet, Erickson was determined to succeed. With the support of his mother, band director and classmates he has successfully performed with the marching band, which has won several honors this season. Erickson receives assistance from a guide, another student who holds on to Erickson and physically guides him and offers verbal instructions. Succeeding with or without a guide can be a challenge as students sometimes march 180 beats per minute. Yet, Erickson has found a way to perform just as well as his peers.

    Erickson, who was born at only 23 weeks and weighed just under 2 lbs., told The Florida Times-Union that he enjoys the experience.

    “‘I wasn’t sure I was going to like it at first,’” he said candidly. But the more rewarding part, he said, comes from ‘playing in a musical ensemble, and being part of a group that has an interest in common with mine — and that is music.’”

    Next time you think a challenge is insurmountable, think of Erickson.

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    Gender Disparity In High School Music Programs

    When you see your local high school choir or marching band perform look at the makeup of the young performers. Chances are you will find that girls outnumber boys, a gender imbalance that has been persistent for the past 30 years.

    Kenneth Elpus, an assistant professor of music education at the University of Maryland School of Music published a research report that looked at enrollment trends spanning from 1982 to 2009. He found that choirs are composed of 70 percent girls and 30 percent boys. In orchestra,  64 percent of the musicians are female while 36 percent are male. Band has the narrowest margin of gender imbalance with 56 percent females compared to 49 percent males.

    The benefits of music education have been well documented by researchers. Playing music is great exercise for the brain that helps students enhance their grammar skills, become better readers and improve test scores. The fact that boys are underrepresented in high school choir, band and orchestra might mean they are missing these crucial benefits. We hope something is done to fix this gender imbalance.

    Researcher Elpus notes that despite the lack of representation in high school arts, boys seem to have a leg up in the music careers.

    “The makeup of instrumental music students has been more heavily weighted towards females,” Elpus writes, “yet those students who pursue, or find the most success, in classical instrumental music or instrumental music education as a profession tend to be male.”

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    Older People’s Brains Benefit From Music Lessons

    It is an unfortunate reality that many people stop playing musical instruments as they grow older. Thankfully, we stumbled upon a wonderful story and some scientific research that shows it is never too late to stop playing.

    Writer Carolyn Scott Kortge for The Register-Guard in Eugene, Oregon wrote about a tuba ensemble filled with retirees, like Bill Jensen. Jensen and others shared with Kortge personal stories on how they joined the group.

    “Like many of us who dutifully took music lessons in our youth, Jensen, 68, shifted his focus to family and work as he moved into adulthood,” Kortge wrote. “The pastimes of earlier days were replaced by income-producing efforts. But he missed the sense of connection he’d once felt — one participant in a group of many, creating harmony together … In retirement, they are relearning techniques and rediscovering rewards in the sound of music.”

    It is a beautifully written story about taking on new challenges and worth a read.

    Members of the tuba ensemble are also receiving other benefits from playing. A study of 60- to 80-years-olds who received piano instruction for at least six months showed marked gains in memory, verbal fluency and processing information compared to those who did not take music lessons.

    Jennifer Bugo, an assistant professor of music education who conducted the study said this development should be encouraging news.

    “People often shy away from learning to play a musical instrument at a later age, but it’s definitely possible to learn and play well into late adulthood,” Bugos told National Geographic.

    These stories should be the final encouragement to start music lessons for older people. It is never too late to learn and your brain will thank you for it!

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    Why Musicians Make Great Entrepreneurs

    We already know about the exciting neural activity that happens when we play music and how it creates lasting effects that benefit children in school, even older students who aspire to be doctors. Now, a music major turned entrepreneur says his degree helped him succeed in the business world.

    Panos Panay who created an online gig-booking site named SonicBirds and is now founding managing director of Berklee College of Music’s Institute for Creative Entrepreneurship penned an article for Fast Company about how he tried to hide behind his creative background when he began his career in the tech startup scene. Over time, he realized that learning and studying music provided him a competitive advantage and that business schools could learn a few things from music majors.

     

    Learn to listen: Panay writes that music majors are constantly listening to others and adapting their performance based on group dynamics, which is a skill that could be beneficial to entrepreneurs who have to change their business strategies based on new inventions and market demands.

     

    Mix it up: Panay writes that music students study diverse genres of music that inevitably create a cross-genre pollination. He adds: “Entrepreneurial education needs much more cross-departmental, or even cross-university, collaborations where engineers, designers, business students, and creatives come together to imagine and cocreate.”

     

    Get on the road: Music students are always interacting with their customers through live performances. Given this fact, musicians can go beyond the books and apply a real-world analysis of what works and what does not. Business students could greatly benefit from this type of engagement, Panos writes.

     

    Encourage originality: Music students are taught to express themselves creatively and in their own unique voice, which is very similar to the saying “think outside the box” that business students are taught.

    What do you think? Has your music education benefited your non-music career?

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