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    Introducing the classical comedy duo “Igudesman and Joo”

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    This comedy duo from Great Britain combines their incredible concert musician skills with a sense of humor, creating an amazing and impressive routine that makes classical music more accessible to audiences while entertaining the heck out of them.  This video is just an exceptional, amazing performance that personally makes me (Charissa) so happy!  Please make sure to watch it to the end because each segment gets bigger and more ridiculous.  Just when you think they can’t top themselves, they do!

    Richard Hyung-ki Joo (pianist) and Alek­sey Igudes­man (violinist) worked together to create their show, “A Lit­tle Night­mare Music,” which had an American debut in 2009. “We always had a dream to make clas­si­cal music acces­si­ble to a wider and younger audi­ence, to take out the snob­bism and elit­ism, and to cre­ate an envi­ron­ment where peo­ple are not afraid to go to con­certs,” Joo says. “We were also fas­ci­nated by humor or the­ater within music, and we real­ized that (com­edy in the con­cert hall) was an art form that doesn’t exist in the dic­tio­nary but cer­tainly works.”

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    Piano Lessons Help Children’s Finger Dexterity

    Research shows that piano lessons are recommended for the development of fine motor skills.  So, how can that enhance our lives?  Most of us use very specific finger movements all day to control our phones, laptops, tablets, etc.  If we observed our speed in operating our devices with those around us, we would notice a difference in speed depending on each persons fine motor ability.  What if you could type 50% faster?  That could have a pretty big affect on the time you spend on your computer at work or at home – it could shave hours off your day.  For children, fine motor skills are even more important as they struggle to use their fingers just to tie their shoes.

    Eugenia Costa-Giomi (PhD Ohio State University) reports research comparing the motor skills of children who took piano instruction for a two year period, versus those who didn’t, in her article “Does Music Instruction Improve Fine Motor Abilities?” published in the Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences.  She recorded “a significant improvement in fine motor skills was found only for the children who received the lessons, and a significant difference in the speed of response was found between the two groups at the end of the two years of instruction. The innumerable opportunities to assess, refine, and time their motor responses to specific stimuli during musical practice and the availability of constant evaluative feedback (i.e., sound) may allow musicians to improve the accuracy and speed of perceiving and responding to relevant stimuli.” (more…)

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    Why Music Education Rocks! – 10 Ways music benefits children

    As music opportunities in the schools systems dwindle, parents are taking matters into their own hands for their children’s music education – looking for ways to compensate for the experiences that are not always built into school life anymore.  But why is it so important to initiate musical experiences for our kids?  We all know a little about the benefits of studying music, but  SheKnows has put together a great  list, fleshing out 10 different ways music can affect a young persons life:

    1. It will boost their brain power

    Want to give your child a mental advantage? Music can do that. “More and more studies show a correlation between higher academic achievement with children who are exposed to music,” says children’s music specialist Meredith LeVande of MonkeyMonkeyMusic.com. “Music simply stimulates parts of the brain that are related to reading, math, and emotional development.”

    2. It will improve their memory

    Where did that shoe go? That’s a question asked far too many times in far too many households with kids. Help your kids remember more (and learn more!) with music. “Further research has shown that participation in music at an early age can help improve a child’s learning ability and memory by stimulating different patterns of brain development,” says Maestro Eduardo Marturet, a conductor, composer and musical director for the Miami Symphony Orchestra.

    3. It helps them socially

    Picking up an instrument can also help your child break out of their social shell too, experts say. “Socially, children who become involved in a musical group or ensemble learn important life skills, such as how to relate to others, how to work as a team and appreciate the rewards that come from working together, and the development of leadership skills and discipline,” says Marturet, who also oversees the MISO Young Artist program in South Florida, which allows young musicians to hone their musical skills as part of a professional orchestra.

    4. It’s a confidence builder

    Are there any areas of life that aren’t enhanced by having good confidence? Probably not. And if you want your child to develop their confidence, learning to play a musical instrument can help.

    “They find that they can develop a skill by themselves, that they can get better and better,” says Elizabeth Dotson-Westphalen, a music teacher and performer.

    5. It teaches patience

    We live in a world of instant gratification, but real life demands having patience. When you are playing in a band or orchestra (and most musicians do), you have to be willing to wait your turn to play otherwise the sound is a mess. That inadvertently teaches patience. “You need to work together in a group to make music,” says Dotson-Westphalen.

    6. It can help them connect

    Who doesn’t sometimes feel a little disconnected from their lives? Music can be a much-needed connection for kids (and adults too!). “It can satisfy the need to unwind from the worries of life, but unlike the other things people often use for this purpose, such as excessive eating, drinking, or TV or aimless web browsing, it makes people more alive and connected with one another,” says Michael Jolkovski, a psychologist who specializes in musicians.

    7. It’s constant learning

    In some pursuits, you can never truly learn everything there is to know. Music is like that. “It is inexhaustible — there is always more to learn,” says Jolkovski.

    8. It’s a great form of expression

    People pay a lot of lip-service to expressing yourself. But how can kids really do that? One great way is through the arts — like music. “It gives pleasure and expresses nuances of emotional life for which there are no words,” says Jolkovski.

    9. It teaches discipline

    There’s this old joke that begins “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” The answer? “Practice, practice, practice.” To improve in music, you have to not only do well in classes, but devote time to practicing outside of the lessons too. That requires discipline. “Exposing kids to musical instruments is the key. They are naturally curious and excited about them — and the discipline that parents AND kids learn by sticking with it is a lesson in itself,” says Mira Stulberg-Halpert of 3D Learner Inc., who works with children who have ADHD.

    10. It fosters creativity

    Above all, playing music — particularly as kids get to more advanced levels in it — is a creative pursuit. Creatively is good for the mind, body and soul.

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    Watch Learning Matters – Harmony Program: an After School Music Program for Under-Privileged Kids

    This aired on PBS NewsHour on February 24, 2012; it was produced by the Learning Matters group, specifically Cat McGrath and John Merrow. It looks at the Harmony Program out of CUNY in NYC, which provides after-school music education to under-privileged children. That program is modeled off El Sistema, a famed Venezuelan program of the same nature. For more resources on all this, consult learningmatters.tv.

    The Harmony program consists of a 2 hour after school group class on their instrument every day, plus practice on nights and weekends.  That’s about 500 hours of practice during the school year, and 300 hours of group instruction.  This could cost the family thousands of dollars a year, but is provided for free through private donations.   Students are given donated instruments to use for their instruction.

    Having daily reinforcement of the music concepts is a brilliant approach, because with that much support it is impossible for a student to fail.  With our normal piano lesson or voice lesson program, students meet with their teacher once per week.  It is up to the student and parent’s motivation at home to touch back in on their studies each day in between lessons.  Since practice schedules very, students can progress at very different speeds.  A program like this one, that makes sure students are working on their instruments every day, can really ensure consistent success.

    Students in the Harmony program are more likely to attend school regularly, and perform better in school, compared to their peers.  “Sometimes it’s hard not to smile,” says Julianne, a 5th grader in the Harmony program, “Every day after school when I come into Harmony, when I play that first note it makes me smile.”

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    Ways that Music is Important for Children

     Jackie Silberg is an Early Childhood Specialist.  Her expertise is in brain and literacy development for young children and developmental games using music.  She is the author of many child development books that have been published in 34 different countries.  Piano lessons and voice lessons are among the developmental tools she recommends for children.  In this article, Silberg writes about the following ways in which music is important for children:

    Music helps develop children’s language skills: When young children listen to familiar words in songs, the neural transmitters in their brains are firing away, and their brains are building connections to the sounds they are hearing and the words they are singing. Singing songs and reciting poems and rhymes with children helps them develop early literacy skills.

    Keeping a steady beat develops language. Clapping hands, stamping feet, and using rhythm instruments in time to music develops important pre-reading skills. Young children recognize words, sounds, rhythms, tones, and pitches long before they talk, sing, or dance. So, the more music your children have in their lives, the better they will speak and read.

    Music helps develop children’s self-esteem: Music is a wonderful way to address the many needs of children because music is nonjudgmental. There is no right or wrong, it just is what it is. Listening to different types of music nurtures self-esteem and encourages creativity, self-confidence, and curiosity.

    Music helps develop children’s listening skills: Music encourages the ability to listen and thus to concentrate. Songs encourage speech and auditory discrimination. Through music, children learn to hear tempos, dynamics, and melodies. Listening for loud and soft, up and down, fast and slow encourages auditory development in the brain.

    Music helps develop children’s math skills: A simple song can include basic math skills such as counting, repeating patterns, and sequencing.

    Music helps stimulate children’s brain connections: A recent study from the University of California found that music trains the brain for higher forms of thinking. For example, researchers believe that music affects spatial-temporal reasoning (the ability to see part-whole relationships).

    A study conducted by psychologist Frances Rauscher of the University of Wisconsin at Oshkosh and physicist Gordon Shaw of the University of California at Irvine specifically links the study of music to necessary brain development. They demonstrated that preschoolers who were given early exposure to complex multi-sensory stimulation—in this case, musical keyboard lessons and group singing—scored higher on tests measuring spatial reasoning, a skill used later in math, science, and engineering.

    Music and movement go together: Children naturally respond to music by moving and being active. Music helps children learn about rhythm and develop motor coordination.

    Group dances like the Hokey Pokey help children learn about their body parts (“you put your right foot in,” “you put your left hand in…”), sense of direction (turning around, going left and right, moving back and forth), and rhythm patterns (clapping to the beat).

    Music relieves stress: Stress can be relieved with songs, chants, finger plays, and moving to music. Singing together creates a feeling of safety and makes learning in a classroom much easier.

    Music makes transitions easier: Getting children to move from one activity to another is easy when you sing a song. For example, sing to the tune of “The Farmer in the Dell,” “It’s time to go to lunch,” and you’ll see that the children will get ready much faster. Keep making up verses. “Let’s pick up the toys… Now let’s wash our hands,” etc.

    Music encourages creativity in children: A fun game to play with children is changing the words to familiar songs. It is a wonderful way to develop the creative process. Remember in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll how the words of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” were changed to “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Bat?”

    Choose a song that your child knows well. Some familiar songs are: “Old Macdonald,” “The Wheels on the Bus,” and “Skip to My Lou.”

    You can sing, “Old Macdonald had a supermarket,” and sing about all the items in the supermarket. Make up a sound to go with the food (e.g. orange juice: slurp, slurp).

    Music is a great way to teach children with special needs: Music is a fun way to teach all children, including children who have special learning needs. Music experiences can be an effective way to stimulate speech development, provide organization for cognitive and motor development, and create a meaningful environment for socialization.

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    Watch Victor Borge’s Piano Comedy

    Initially a concert musician, Victor Borge soon developed a style that combined comedy with classical music. In 1940 he immigrated to the U.S., where he achieved fame appearing in various venues, including radio, films, concert halls, Broadway and TV. Though he performed with many of the world’s leading orchestras, his pianistic talent was often overshadowed by his humor.

    Source: Biography.com

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    Ray Charles Protégé Ellis Hall Supports MusiCares, for Music Education in the School

    On August 17th in Pasadena the soul songbook was unchained when MUSE/IQUE presented “Lose Your Senses with Ellis Hall” as the finale to it’s “Summer of Sound”  at the Beckman Mall Lawn at Caltech. A former protégé of Ray Charles, Ellis Hall has spent time as the lead singer and keyboardist for Tower of Power, given voice to one of The California Raisins, and performed or recorded with Stevie Wonder, Herbie Hancock, Michael McDonald, Natalie Cole, Taj Mahal and Charles himself, among others. At his show, he played a wild mix of Charles, Wonder, Mozart, Marvin Gaye, Bach, Beethoven and more.

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    Watch Piano Tricks! 8yo Plays Piano Backwards & Upside Down For Ellen

    Umi Garrett is a child prodigy classical pianist. In May 2009, 8-year-old Umi appeared on NBC’s The Ellen DeGeneres Show as her first public broadcast performance. Since then, she has been receiving requests to perform worldwide and appearing regularly with symphony orchestras in the US and around the world. Umi also challenges herself in the international competitions regularly.

    Now at the age 12, Umi’s most recent accomplishments in 2012 include winning the first prizes at The 13th Osaka International Music Competition in Japan in October, The Chopin International Competition in Budapest, Hungary in June, and Bradshaw and Buono International Piano Competition in New York earlier in the same year.

    Source: UmiGarrett.com

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    Go to FREE Music Concerts at LACMA

    Every year the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) in West Hollywood presents over one hundred concerts featuring leading international and local ensembles in programs of classical, jazz, Latin and new music. These include the long-running Sundays Live and Jazz at LACMA, along with the newer series Latin Sounds and Art & Music.  The Jazz at LACMA series is presented outdoors amidst LACMA’s lush landscaping and beautiful architecture.  Tens of thousands of people attend each year, some toting blankets and picnic baskets, to enjoy the free concerts.  The Sundays Live series is held indoors in LACMA’s Leo S. Bing Theater.

    This is a special opportunity for parents to expose the young aspiring musicians in their family to enriching live music at no cost.  Attending a musical event can go a long way to enhancing your child’s appreciation for music.  Kid’s can’t connect to what it means to be a musician from listening to the radio or their iPods – those mediums provide little insight to how music is actually made.  Actually seeing professional performers in person can be inspiring to a young person who is thinking about studying an instrument.  It makes a big difference to see an live example of what a music student could aspire to (after they make it past the “Mary had a Little Lamb” stage of their studies).  Being an accomplished music requires long term study, and it helps to have a good vision of what you’re working towards to keep the momentum going.  Watching great musicians show off their skills can be exciting and inspiring for the whole family.  So check out LACMA’s calendar and find a date for your family to enjoy an enriching experience!

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