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    Snow Days Are About Making Your Own Music Video

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    While Southern California may never experience snowy weather, we’re certainly entertained in the fun and musical ways school principals let parents and children know that school is closed. It has become a trend to sing about school closure and record it for the YouTube world to enjoy.

     

    Given that a snowstorm is blanketing the Midwest as we type and set to hit the East Coast again, these videos are timely.

     

    They almost makes us wishes that we had snow days too. Well, not really. Enjoy!

     

    “School Is Closed”

    Principal Matt Glendinning of the Quaker Moses Brown School in Providence, Rhode Island dons a snow hat and gloves and sings his version of Frozen’s “Let It Go.” With background images of snow and traffic he sings: “The snow glows white on Route 95, not a tire track to be seen. We could make you come to school but that would just be mean.”

     

    It turns out the school’s communications director, As Olenn, was behind this video. As a father whose children love “Let It Go, ” Olenn wrote the lyrics in 15 minutes and presented it to his boss.

     

    “Weather Announcement”

    When two school administrators in North Carolina received a phone call at 4:45 in the morning that school at Durham Academy would be closed. They decided to have a little fun with it and Vanilla Ice’s “Ice, Ice Baby”

     

    Wearing their shirts and ties, they added ski goggles and sang: “Alright stop, collaborate and listen. Ice is back and the roads will glisten. Polar Vortex has a hold of us tightly.”

     

    Can you imagine your principal ever doing this?

     

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    Celebrate Chinese New Year

    The Year of the Goat (or Ram or Sheep according to some websites) will soon be upon us — Feb. 19, to be exact. Traditionally, Chinese New Year is a time to reconnect with family, enjoy good food and celebrate with firecrackers, dancing and, of course, music.

     

    For your enjoyment, we’ve listed a few events that include music. Enjoy!

     

    Feb. 1 in Beverly Hills

    The Saban Theatre is hosting Beijing Performance & Arts Group that includes a  musical performance that is in the style of Peking Opera, acrobatics from the China National Acrobatic Troupe as well as exhibition of Chinese art. For more information, visit the Beverly Hills Conference & Visitors Bureau’s website.

     

    Feb. 19-21 in Los Angeles

    The Los Angeles Philharmonic has invited prominent Chinese artists to perform Western music, such as Chopin and Tchaikovsky, as well as traditional and contemporary music from China. A special treat includes composer Tan Dun who is known here as the composer to the film “Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.” He will also have his West Coast debut of “Triple Resurrection,” which is part of his concerto series inspired by his film scores. To buy tickets, visit the LA Phil’s website.

     

    Feb. 21 in Alhambra

    The Alhambra Chamber of Commerce is hosting a festival and carnival in celebration of the new year. The festival will offer an entertainment stage filled with traditional drumming, lion dances and kung fu demonstrations. For more information, visit the event website.

     

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    Music and the Super Bowl

    While talk of Super Bowl XLIX has been dominated by the softness or firmness of the footballs (a.k.a. deflate-gate), we prefer focusing on the music.

     

    As musicians, the Super Bowl halftime show intrigues us but we know it’s filled with hits and, well, some really bad misses. Yet, we can sympathize with the entertainers; bad acoustics prompt many to lip-synch while there is an expectation to do an over-the-top performance with pyrotechnics and it is hard for any one singer to please so many different generations that tend to watch the one of the biggest athletic games in the world.

       

    This year, Katy Perry will be the featured act at the halftime show and we hope her performance will land her in the “hit” section. She certainly is capable of a creating a show-stopping spectacle and no one is expecting her to sing live.

     

    Online news site Vox, has collected some of the best and very worst halftime performances, which made for an entertaining piece for us.  We had forgotten about some of these concerts and loved watching them all over again, even the so-called bad ones.

     

    Here is what stood out for us, according to Vox’s ranking of best to worst:

     

    • #1 – Beyonce should rack up extra points for actually singing in the show or at least doing such a good job at lip-synching that it looks like she’s performing. Did she ever breathe hard during her performance?

     

    • #4 – Vox explains U2’s performance as “a medley of songs meant to function as hugging America after what had been a very rough 2001.” Seeing the names of those who died during Sept. 11, it is hard not to be emotional.

     

    • #7 – Given negative attention Michael Jackson attracted in the last years of his life,  it is easy to forget about his immense talent. While he clearly lip-synched his performance his dancing was impeccable. Also, who else can remain perfectly still for a minute and still enrapture the audience?

     

    • #16 – We did not know that ‘90s boy band New Kids On The Block, ushered in the concept of a concert for the halftime show. Before 1991, halftimes shows were performed by marching bands.

     

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    The Positive Impact Show Tunes Have On Alzheimer’s Patients

    We already know how much listening to music can benefit Alzheimer’s patients thanks to the documentary “Alive Inside.” Now, new research shows that singing show tunes can boost brain function for a disease that is cruelly known for mental deterioration.

     

    In a study led by George Mason University in Virginia, a group of patients living in care facilities were exposed to a singing program for four months, belting out tunes from “The Wizard of Oz,” “The Sound of Music” and “Pinocchio.” After the end of the evaluation period, the patients scored higher on cognitive and drawing tests than those who had just listened to music. The singing group also reported a higher satisfaction of life.

     

    “The message is: don’t give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging,” neuroscientist Jane Flinn who led the study told The Guardian.

     

    Why show tunes?

     

    Well, researchers did not find a link to the specific benefits of singing musicals over any other genre of music. Still, these songs – most of which were performed decades ago – might be easier for Alzheimer patients to perform. They are most likely to remember the words to these songs and revive memories of their life, Flinn said.

     

    This is also further proof of the benefits of music for those who play and sing. Remember, just listening to music is not enough.

     

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    Hard Work, Not Just Brilliance

    When you think of some of the greatest composers — Mozart, Beethoven, Wagner — the words genius and virtuoso comes to mind.

     

    Yet, those labels may be affecting the diversity of music composers today.

     

    Public Radio International reported on new research that found when success in academic disciplines is attributed to innate brilliance, fewer women have doctorates in that field. Conversely, when success is attributed to hard work and dedication, the gender balance is more equal.

     

    Why?

     

    Well no one is certain but Stanford University psychologist Carol Dweck believes that it is easier to exclude people when abstract language is used.

     

    “When you think something is about innate genius, then you think you can judge it,” she says. “You can take a group of people and you can tell them, you have it, you don’t have it, you have it, you don’t have it.” In the high brilliance fields women are not encouraged to believe that success is due to “a way of thinking, a way of analyzing ideas and issues, and the more you’re in it the better you become at it.”

     

    Think this study applies only to those whose field requires lab coats or staring in front of a computer screen typing code? Think again. Music composition is considered a field that people think requires a high degree of innate brilliance as well as non-scientific disciplines such as philosophy and economics.

     

    You may already know, those of here at The Music Junction dislike when skills are considered innate, including singing. Anything can be accomplished with some hard work and dedication!

     

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    Music and the Brain

    If you follow The Music Junction’s Facebook page, you may have known about a KPCC 89.3 event on music and the brain that had us excited. The event featured Nina Kraus of Northwestern University, whose work we have reported on here as well as Suzanne Gindin, founder of the Boyle Heights Community Youth Orchestra and Kristen Madsen, Senior Vice President, The GRAMMY Foundation and MusiCares.

     

    The event quickly filled to capacity but we were fortunate to see a video of the presentation, which we included above. Here are some of the important points that we wrote down:

    • Music and language overlap in many ways. “Music is a good model of auditory learning … It certainly makes sense that the learning of music might transfer to the learning, and just to be a better communicator through language,” Kraus said.

     

    • Kraus studied children in a music program who received five hours of instruction a week. There were no notable improvements after one year but after two years Kraus’ said her team was “able to measure very fundamental, biological changes to auditory processing.”

     

    • Research as not figured out the magic number (also known as the dosage effect) for the number of hours a student music complete in order to reap the benefits.

     

    • Rhythm is important for language as well as music.

     

    • Currently, music curriculum is based on music. Gindin wondered what if teachers based music curriculum on ways to make students better readers and learners such as a  stronger focus on steady beat and pitch differentiation? “Can you image the connections,” Gindin asked.

     

    • Playing in an orchestras or ensembles is one of the few activities where several people are “doing the same thing at once and you all have to agree,” Gindin said. “I think the process of doing that as group creates a sense of confidence.”

     

    • Music has a lasting impact on the brain. Kraus’ team found that older adults who stopped playing music years ago had faster neural timing in response to speech compared to those of the same age group who had not taken music lessons.

     

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    Former Child Soldier Turns To Music

     

    “Music became the place [where] I was able to see heaven.”

     

    If we are fortunate, music is a place to make something beautiful, to be at peace, and to make others happy. For a former child soldier, music became a means of finding a new life.

     

    We listened to an NPR interview with Emmanuel Jal, an actor, musician and peace activist who was kidnapped at 8 years old and forced to be a child soldier for armed groups living in South Sudan. He saw his village burned and was given an AK-47 and told to kill.

     

    Wanting a different life, Jal and 200 others tried to flee. In the end only 16 young boys would survive and Jal was able to receive an education in Kenya thanks to a British aid worker. Transitioning from a life filled with violence, Jal turned to music.

     

    “So through music I was able to dance, I was able to become a child again,” he told NPR. “And I did not know that I was going to be a recording artist. I was doing it for fun because it kept me busy.”

     

    Now living in Canada, Jal is a hip-hop artist up for a major music award and acted in a movie with Reese Witherspoon called “The Good Lie.”

     

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    Music Worth Noting Pt. 2

    In our first “Music Worth Noting” feature, we mentioned how much great music is available online. We’re trying to make it a regular feature to showcase a wide variety of music to inspire you and us. Last week we had Common and Itzhak Perlman and this week includes a whole different set of talent. Enjoy!

    Cat Stevens

     

    We’re big Cat Stevens fans so if we get a chance to see him performing, we’ll pretty much stop what we’re doing. In this Tiny Desk performance organized by NPR, you can hear some of his classic tunes and how age has changed his voice, making his tunes deeper and bit more gravelly. Also, notice how he doesn’t bring sheet music with him. Everything he needs is on his computer tablet. We mentioned before that this is the future of music.

     

    School of Rock

     

    Broadway is turning Jack Black’s “School of Rock” into a full-fledged musical and the New York Times decided to tag along for the auditions. At The Music Junction, we have some singers who aspire to perform on the live stage so they might want to check out this video for some insight into the audition process. We’re hopeful for all those nervous kids and, we must admit, felt a bit crushed when the judges abruptly told some of the children the audition was over.

     

    Sleater-Kinney

    Even if you don’t like punk rock, chances are you could not avoid the fact that Sleater-Kinney released its latest album after nearly a decade on hiatus. The trio visited The Late Show with David Letterman riding high on critics’ praise and their record sales. If you ever consider writing your own lyrics, examine the evolution of this band. The lyrics to “A New Wave,” feature pop beats while singing: “No one here is taking notice, no outline will ever hold us”Also, we love how David Letterman calls these 40-something women kids. Thanks for making us feel young Dave!

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    How Music Sampling Is Really About Loving Music

    For those taking lessons, it is easy to become entrenched with practicing and mastering theory but sometimes it is necessary to take a step back and not think about music as work.

     

    Sometimes you need to remember that music is beautiful and about expressing yourself.

     

    Yes, we know we’re biased. That is why we loved watching Mark Ronson’s TED Talks presentation about sampling, or the act of taking a pre-recorded piece of music and reusing it for a different song. Ronson said sampling was not about artistic laziness but rather something deeper.

     

    Ronson, who is also respected British artist and music producer to Amy Winehouse and Adele, focused on Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di” that debuted in 1984. In more than 30 years, it is one of the most sampled songs in music history used by Snoop Dogg, Biggie Smalls, and even Miley Cyrus who was not even born when the song originally debuted.

     

    “They were sampling those records because they heard something in that music that spoke to them that they instantly wanted to inject themselves into the narrative of that music,” Ronson told the Ted Talks crowd. “In music, you take something that you love and build on it.”

     

    When you think about it, isn’t that what music is supposed to be about: becoming inspired and making something beautiful? At The Music Junction, we receive requests from young singers who see “Annie” and “Frozen” and who are eager to perform songs from those plays and movies. For them, it is about establishing a deeper connection to something that they care about so deeply.

     

    So, remember that next time you’re practicing and thinking about music as work. You’re gaining the skills to become inspired and build something that is uniquely yours.

     

    Also, we are not the only ones who were taken with Ronson’s talk. NPR collected some of the songs that sampled “La Di Da Di.” It is a musical journey and definitely worth a listen.

     

     

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    You Can Thank Your Parents For Your Musical Preferences

    You already know that you can inherit your mother’s eyes and your father’s nose but did you know that you can inherit their taste for music too?

     

    Researchers at Cornell and UC Santa Cruz have been studying the role nostalgia plays in our music preferences. They know that young adults are preferential to songs that were popular in their tween and teen years because it helps them recall fond memories (For more information on the relationship between music and memories, read this blog post).

     

    But what researchers discovered next was interesting.

     

    They learned that 20-somethings also have a penchant for songs from the early 1980s and from the 1960s. Why?

     

    According to Priceonomics, parents and grandparents’ played the popular songs of their youth before and after they had children. These tunes then became a part their ancestors musical DNA.

     

    As The Altantic noted: “Just as nostalgia tends to confer more nostalgia, popularity also tends to build on itself: Once a song makes it to the top of the charts, the memories people associate with it help to keep it in our cultural consciousness.”

     

    So, while you may laugh at the quality of music today, keep in mind that 20 years from now, young kids will have a nostalgic feeling when they hear Pharrell’s “Happy” and Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.”

     

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