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    Music for Thanksgiving Day

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    Thanksgiving is fast approaching and we’re sure you’ve planned the meal, delegated cooking assignments and decorated your table. But have you thought about the music? As fans of The Music Junction, we know you love music so we’ll make your holidays a bit easier by providing you with some playlists. Enjoy!

    Before Dinner 

    While you’re busy preparing for the big feast, keep the kids entertained with this food-centered playlist from BethBlenz Music. Keep the children focused on the meal by inundating them with food references and teach them that it is possible to use words such as eggplant, whipped cream and pancake in a song.

     

    During Dinner

    This will be your most challenging playlist. The music must not compete with conversations or be so loud that it distracts people from what’s on their plate. Also, and most importantly, the music must be likable by various generations who all have their own opinions of what is good music. During the holidays, we lean toward timeless artists and names like Sam Cooke, Stan Getz and Charlie Parker never get old for us. Thanks to Epicurious for providing the playlist.

     

    After Dinner

    Your guests will most likely have full stomachs and be in tryptophan-induced slumber thanks to the turkey. Aid their comfort with some soothing music from the Sisters of St. Benedict church in Beech Grove, Indiana. We do not know much about the church or the sisters but we thoughts the songs performed at last year’s Thanksgiving Mass were beautiful. Your guests will be so relaxed by their voices that you may need to bring out some blankets.

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    Alive Inside – A Documentary on Music Therapy

    We came across a documentary on Netflix that had us both in tears and full of joy about the power of music.

    The documentary, “Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory,” documents a music therapy program that assists elderly people living with dementia in nursing homes. In the beginning, you see the patients who are lethargic, lacking in emotion and sometimes completely unresponsive. Then, their caregiver gives them an iPod filled with their favorite sounds from their younger days and a transformation occurs that seems almost magical.

    Their eyes light up, they sing, they move to the beat. When one resident hears her favorite Latin song, she pushes aside her walker and starts dancing. Another wheelchair-bound man moved his legs fervently upon hearing “Oh Johnny” by the Andrews Sisters. A woman who spends her days and nights in bed with her eyes closed begins moving her entire body once headphones are placed over her ears.

    It’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen.

    “The parts of the brain which are involved in remembering music and responding to music are not affected too much in Alzheimer’s Disease or other dementias,” says neurologist Dr. Oliver Sacks in the documentary. He also has published his own research on music called Musicophilia.

    The key is to give patients music that they like and reminds them of their youth. Given that most have lost their memory, caregivers do a lot of research to find music that will have a strong connection for their patients.

    According to the documentary, there are 5 million people in America living with dementia. And the music therapy program the documentary highlights, Music & Memory, is trying to reach nursing homes throughout the country.

    “What we’re spending on drugs that mostly don’t work dwarfs what it would take to deliver personal music to every nursing home resident in America,” says gerontologist Dr. Bill Thomas.

    If you’re looking for ways to give this holiday season, Music & Memory is accepting donations and your used iPod shuffles.

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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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    How Music Shaped The Business Decisions of a CEO

    We may take it for granted now but the speed in which we get answers on the Internet happens at an astoundingly fast pace. Google even lets people know just how fast.

    Type in “music education” and you get a response in .40 seconds. “The Music Junction” yields a result to our website in .44 seconds.

    Do you know you can attribute this lightning quick speed to music?

    Let us explain. Google CEO Larry Page says that playing the saxophone and studying music composition while growing up in Michigan always made him conscious of speed and time.

    “It’s amazing to the extent I think that modern operating systems are terrible at being real-time,” Page said told Fortune magazine. “If you think about it from a music point of view, if you’re a percussionist, you hit something, it’s got to happen in milliseconds, fractions of a second.”

    So he pushed his engineers to consider time when creating or improving search engines or other Google products. His team also took into account lag time of other websites and gave higher ranking to those sites with faster loading times.

    In a very real sense you can thank Fortune’s 2014 Businessperson of the Year for creating a faster Internet.

    Now that he runs a multi-billion dollar operation and leads one of the most successful Internet companies in the world he has given up music, right?

    Not at all.

    The CEO still finds time to incorporate music into his life. He has recently begun drumming lessons.

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    Hearing Through Your Bones

    Think a song sounds good? If tech companies get their way, music will also physically feel good too.

    Applying the science behind bone conduction — using the body’s bones to transmit sounds to the inner ear — a variety of products from glasses to headphones to bicycle seats, will make us rethink about the way we hear.

    One of the newer inventions is the SubPac, in which users wear headphones strapped to a thin backpack. Once the music plays, the bass comes alive with a “purr in your abdomen” and a “strike to your lower spine,” according to the BBC. The makers of the SubPac market the product as simulating the experience of live music with the wonderful thumps of bass without hurting your ears. This experience is known as tactile sound and it’s being used in several ways including helping deaf people enjoy music.

    We think Music.Mic expressed it best when describing the potential of bone conduction: “Perhaps tactile sound and bone conduction can give our favorite tunes new life. Can you imagine feeling the pounding “wub wub wub BZZZs” of dubstep throughout your entire body? And what about thunderous classical symphonies and ear-splitting heavy metal? There’s a new gateway to music opening. This is a whole separate way we can perceive sound, and many of us haven’t even tapped into it yet.”

    While hearing through this method may add a different dimension to hearing and feeling music, science can also be manipulated to make the world safer. Hearing through bone conduction is less overpowering than hearing conducted through the outer ear. That can mean a safer run, bike ride and swim for athletic people if they wear headphones that manipulates bone conduction. Microsoft also is creating a headset that will ping blind people when they are off path as well as offer turn-by-turn instructions to get to their desired location. Because the headset is using bone conduction, neither the pongs or the instructions will prevent the user from hearing the sounds that surround them.

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    Tech Learning Tool: iReal Pro App

    We wanted to share an app with you that’s been a favorite of some of our teachers and has been referred to as a “swiss army knife” to many working musicians: iReal Pro. We also think aspiring musicians from The Music Junction can benefit from using this app as well.

    First, the app is popular among “gigging” musicians because it literally lightens their load and negates the need to bring so much sheet music to the next wedding, bat mitzvah or club. The iReal Pro app has a vast library of chord charts that allows you to play nearly any song. As an added bonus, users can change the key to any chart at any time! A library of chord charts is also good for students who may want to play with new music on their own and experiment with different genres of music.

    The app also offer several exercise charts and makes practicing alone more interesting thanks to a playback feature that features a chord instrument, bass and drums. Instead of playing alone, students can practice their work with a fuller sound that gives them a sense who how the piece, as a whole, should sound.

    As a writer for Musicians’ Republic noted: “You can set it to repeat as many times as you like, at whatever speed you like, and it will obviously play it in the key selected as well. You can turn the various instruments up or down in the mixer view … If I’m practising on piano I’ll typically turn the chord instrument down as I can provide that (thank you very much). If I’m practising on guitar though, I’ll leave it in as my ability to play the melody and chords at the same time on guitar is still a work in progress. You can work it out to suit you.”

    While the app is not cheap —  the 6.0 version costs $12.99 — we think eager students will spend a lot of time using this app, which means more practicing is being done!

    Have you used iReal Pro? What do you think of it?

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    Student Learns The Violin As War and Violence Are Nearby

    Sometimes the power of music can transcend a person from time and place and make him forget about all the worries and fears happening in day-to-day life.

    And sometimes, rather tragically, the cruel realities of the world are too overpowering.

    We were moved by a Los Angeles Times story of a Beverly Hills music instructor who gave music lessons to a student living in the semi-autonomous region in Iraq known as Kurdistan. They met through Jonathan Hollander who connects dance and music instructors to students living in conflict zones.

    If you have been following the news you know the region well. It is a hotbed of activity with the Kurds trying to fend off jihadists groups (i.e. ISIS, Islamic State). Last summer, President Barack Obama issued airstrikes over the summer in an effort to repel jihadists and protect American oil interests.

    Yet, with such political instability and Kurds seeking refuge in a mountaintop, teacher Constance Meyer taught student Mustafa (a fictional name to protect his identity) how to play the violin via Skype. The Internet connection would sometimes be unpredictable but they continued, bonded by their love of music.  Meyer introduced him to Vivalvdi’s “The Four Season” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” and enjoyed see Mustafa’s eyes light up when he heard the music.

    At that moment, where people live, their political or religious views are irrelevant. The love of music is all that matters.

    Yet, those magical moments were short-lived.

    Meyer wrote: “As a violin teacher, I’d never thought at the end of a lesson that I might not see a student again. At his third lesson, on Sept. 3, Mustafa told me that he was prepared to join the Peshmerga (armed Kurdish fighters). While military service in Kurdistan is voluntary and he’d never served, he said: ‘I can go to fighting. They not conquer my country.’ …A week or so later, Hollander emailed me. ‘Have you seen Mustafa’s latest Facebook photos?’ There he was in military fatigues and boots, surrounded by other recruits, draped in the flag of Kurdistan, the violin nowhere to be seen. He canceled his fourth lesson. ‘Very busy,’ he emailed.”

     They still have not resumed lessons. We hope that wherever Mustafa is right now that “The Four Seasons” is bringing him comfort.

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

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    3 Ways to Honor Those Who Served on Veterans Day

    Today is Veterans Day, a special day in which we honor the men and women who served in war. There are many ways to remember their sacrifices but we’ve come up with a few choices and, because we are The Music Junction, they all have a connection to music.

     

    Honor

    Take time to honor veterans at a local ceremony. At 11 a.m. today at McCambridge Park War Memorial, the City of Burbank’s ceremony will include a special presentation by the U.S. Navy, live music and more. Pasadena also will host a ceremony and a parade is scheduled in the San Fernando Valley.

     

    Give

    Music can play a powerful role in helping veterans cope with severe emotional, physical and mental distress they may develop while serving. In fact, a study by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs shows that six weeks of music instruction can lessen the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and reduce depression. Guitars for Vets gives free guitars and weekly lessons to veterans in 20 states with nearby programs in Long Beach and Loma Linda.  Currently, the demand is outweighing the nonprofit’s ability to supply instruments and educators. Any donation will help Guitars for Vets continue its great work.

     

    Remember

    Coldplay uses archival footage from World War II in its latest video for the song “All My Friends.” With images of ships capsizing, soldiers running in battle and the injured being carried away, the video is a gentle reminder on the sacrifices soldiers make on behalf of their country.

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

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    A New Musical Instrument That Sounds Like A Digital Synthesizer

    The Internet has been abuzz with a new musical instrument that has an interesting name and packs a serious sound.

    Turkish musician Görkem Şen created the Yaybahar and demonstrated its sound on a video that has since gone viral. The instrument is impossibly large and looks deceptively simple. It seems to be made of sticks and drum covers and just when you’re ready to disregard its ability to produce any sound, Şen brings out his bow and starts playing.

    The sound is deep, full and incredibly moody and futuristic yet also beautiful. It’s been dubbed the acoustic version of a digital synthesizer and we’re still stunned about the sounds that came out of that instrument.

    We’re interested to see what becomes of the Yaybahar, if it can be reproduced and mainstreamed into orchestras, experimental music, even pop music. We’re thinking the size will be a major factor in its long-term success but we hope to hear more of the Yaybahar’s sound!

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

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    A Songbird That Uses Music Theory

    The tweet you hear from a certain bird is more than just a beautiful noise. This small, chunky bird is applying rules of music theory just like you.

    The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study found that the hermit thrush employs a harmonic series that’s remarkably similar to a woodwind instrument. The research team, including a composer, a biologist and statisticians, gathered and analyzed more than 100 songs from the male hermit thrush.

    In all, they found that more that 80 percent of the time, the hermit thrush created music in the harmonic series. Yes, this unique bird is singing scales!

    The hermit thrush’s song-like ability bird has been noted for years with bird experts claiming that it can sing in major and minor scales and pentatonic scales as well. Yet other researchers dismissed the idea. The birds’ lovely tweets, shrills and songs couldn’t use music theory because so many mathematical principles are involved (to understand the foundation of music theory, check out this blog post).

    The fact that a certain bird uses mathemtatical principles also reveals insight into our music. According to Smithsonian.com:

    “‘If an aspect of music is found not only in humans, but also in a variety of non-human species, this would suggest that there may be something in our shared biology that predisposes us to find that aspect interesting, or attractive, or easy to sing,’ research Emily Doolittle says. The thrush study reinforces the notion that human music is a product of both biology and culture—but perhaps there’s more biology at play than we thought.”

    Why are these birds so musical? Well, it appears it is all for love. According to Nature World News:

    “Rather, the researchers argue that the thrushes are intentionally choosing to sing in these patterns, as they somehow know that it will be most appealing to female thrushes (and human ears) – creating catchy tunes both easy to remember and easily measured.”

    That is music to our ears!

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

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