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    Watch 4-year-old Boy Sing with lots of gumption on Ellen!


    4-year-old Kai gives a riveting performance of Bruno Mar’s “Grenade” on his youtube video sensation, and then again in front of a live audience on this Ellen show.  This boy has an impressive handle on language and expressiveness for his age.  These are some of the skills young people can build in singing lessons, along with intonation, breath control, tone, and broadening the range.  But besides developing a pretty-sounding voice, voice lessons are a great way to help children with speech – to be able to pronounce long sentences like Kai demonstrates for us in this video.

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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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    Don’t Sing Out of Tune, Use “Tunable” – The App That Says “You’re Flat!”

    A lot of folks believe that if they sing out of tune it can never be corrected – they they either “have it” or they don’t.  This is simply not true.  What is true, is that the brain is a muscle, and if someone has not put much thought into matching pitches over their lives, the part of their brain that controls pitch accuracy is just weak – it needs to be strengthened.

    But vocalists who want to improve their “ear” to make sure they don’t sing off pitch (as in flat or sharp) can’t really make corrections on their own, they need someone else there to correct them.  They often can only work on it while in the room with their teacher, when they can get personal feedback about whether their pitch is correct or not.  Tunable, an app for phones and computers, can be a great substitute teacher in between voice lessons.

    This app is technically designated to be used by instruments, but vocalists can use it in the same way.  One function that works well, is where a note is played for you to try to match with your voice.  The app then has a vertical line that moves to the left if you are flat, and to the right if you are sharp, with the ultimate goal being to get the line to stay right smack in the middle while you sing.  Please note that if you are using vibrato, the line will be wavy, but if you sing in a straight tone, the line will be straight and give you the most accurate reading.  This is a wonderful exercise for singers.  Being able to receive immediate feedback on if you are singing flat, sharp, or right on, is a huge asset.

    What should eventually happen is that, as the singer starts to make vocal adjustments to achieve having the gauge to lay right in the sweet spot, they should start to understand what they should or should not do to stay in tune.  Also, the hope is that through continual exercises of listening to a note and trying to match it, the singer should be able to hear their accuracies or inaccuracies more and more.  They should then eventually be able to start correcting themselves on their own, without needing to be prompted by an outside resource.

    The Tunable app can be a great tool to add to a student’s practice sessions.  Then in their lessons, their voice teacher should also be assigning vocal exercises that help with pitch accuracy – such as solfedge (“do, re, mi”) work – as well as helping the student make corrections in their repertoire.

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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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    Experiment shows that a voice can change your hormones, but a text message won’t

    Io9.com reports that biological anthropologist Leslie Seltzer of the University of Wisconsin held and experiment where 7-12 year-old girls were faced with a challenging laboratory experiment, and then allowed to receive encouragement from their mothers.  Some mothers spoke in person, some by phone, and some only by text.  “Seltzer and her team found that daughters who could hear their mothers – whether it was in person or over the phone – showed clear drops in their cortisol levels and a release of oxytocin. Cortisol is a hormone commonly linked with stress, while oxytocin is the so-called “love hormone.””  The girls who received only text messages showed no signs of hormonal change.

    This experiment has two implications in the musical education world.  One is that is shows the power of the human voice.  Having control over our voice and knowing how to use it can help us immensely in our relationships throughout our lives – at work or at home.  The capability to create soothing tones with our voices is part of understanding how our voice works, which is the goal of singing education for kids.  The other implication is that this study indicates how important human instruction is in the education world.  Learning from a computer program is just not as impacting as learning from a human being.  This is the reason why teachers can never be replaced by computers, especially for children.

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    Listen to Traditional Buddhist Monk Chant

    Across religions and countries, chanting has often been used to create spiritual and meditative results for the listeners.  This is another way music has been utilized to create positive effects on our human emotions – in this case to calm the mind and encourage introspection.

    Catholic monks created the “Gregorian” chant. “The Gregorian chant originated as a form of plainsong in the Roman Catholic church under the auspices of Pope Gregory the Great. Gregory is depicted in early Christian art receiving the gift of chant from a dove, representing the Holy Spirit, who sits on his shoulder and sings into his ear.”  ~Don Campbell “The Mozart Effect”

    Buddhist monks created their own form of chanting. Wikepedia reports that in the Buddhist faith, “chanting is used as an invocative ritual in order to set one’s mind on a deity, Tantric ceremony, mandala, or particular concept one wishes to further in themselves…In Buddhism, chanting is the traditional means of preparing the mind for meditation.

    Our voices are a powerful part of the human body, with it’s capacity to connect us with each other through language.  But also the voice is our most organic musical instrument.  Using the voice to musically touch our spirit seems a natural progression from using our voice for language.  But even more effective than communication through language, the musical aspect of communicating through singing provides the most direct route to touching the emotional core of another human.  As Leo Tolstoy said, “Music is the shorthand of emotion.”  Music can achieve things that our words can’t.


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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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    Watch – iPod heals Dementia Patients in a clip from Alive Inside

    Alive Inside is a documentary that follows social worker Dan Cohen as he creates personalized iPod playlists for people in elder care facilities, hoping to reconnect them with the music they love.   Despondent patients come back to life after listening to familiar songs that they connect with.  Long lost past memories come back to them.  Their mood is lifted and they become more conversational.  In this clip one of the patients receiving the music therapy, Henry, is asked “What does music do to you?”  He replies, “It gives me the feeling of love; romance; I figure right now the world needs to come into music, singing. You’ve got beautiful music here – beautiful, oh, lovely.  I feel the band of love and dreams.”  Before listening to music, Henry was not responding to interaction at his nursing home, and normally sat with his head bent forward, covering his face with his hands.  His stories and others are documented in Alive Inside.

    “My goal has been to find ways of bringing the cost down to zero,” says Cohen on NPR last year. “Since there have been so many generations of new digital devices that come fast and furious, we have the old iPods — many of us in our drawers at home — so let’s bring them in. On Long Island, there are five school districts that are running iPod donation drives.”

    NPR.org Lists Dan Cohen’s Tips On Music And The Elderly:

    Get the playlist right. Find out the person’s tastes and create a varied mix: no more than five to seven songs per artist. Have them weed out tracks that are so-so, so you end up with 100 or 200 songs that all resonate.

    Keep it simple. Make sure the elder knows how to use the player, or that someone nearby can help. Use over-ear headphones rather than earbuds, which can fall out.

    Be patient. It can take time to reach the music memory. If the person is responding, feel free to sing along. If someone doesn’t like the headphones, try a small speaker at first and incorporate the headphones gradually over time.

    Keep it special. Don’t leave the player on all the time. Nursing homes are finding it works well during transitions: If someone is hesitant to take a bath or eat or get dressed, music may help move things along.

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    Musician Jokes

    From OsbornMusic.com:

    A young child says to his mother, “Mom, when I grow up I’d like to be a musician.” She replies, “Well honey, you know you can’t do both.”

    Q: How do you make musicians complain?
    A: Pay them.

    Q: How many conductors does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: No one knows, no one ever looks at him.

    Q: how many drummers does it take to change a light bulb?
    A: “oops, i broke it!”

    Q: What do you call a guitar player that only knows two chords?
    A: A music critic.

    Q: What’s the difference between an oboe and a bassoon?
    A: You can hit a baseball further with a bassoon.

    Q:How many Folk Singers does it take to change a light bulb?
    A:One to change it and 5 to sing about how good the old one was

    Q: What do you call a beautiful woman on a trombonist’s arm?
    A: A tattoo.

    Q: What’s the difference between a banjo and an onion?
    A: Nobody cries when you chop up a banjo.

    Q: What do you call a drummer in a three-piece suit?
    A: “The Defendant”

    Q: What did the drummer get on his I.Q. Test?
    A: Saliva.

    Q: What’s the similarity between a drummer and a philosopher?
    A: They both perceive time as an abstract concept.

    Q: What do you call a guitar player without a girlfriend?
    A: Homeless.

    Two brass players walked out of a bar…



    Listen to “The Most Unwanted Song” (According to Scientific Research)

    “The Most Unwanted Song” is a song created by artists Komar and Melamid and composer Dave Soldier in 1997. The song was designed to incorporate lyrical and musical elements that were annoying to most people. These elements included bagpipes, cowboy music, an opera singer rapping, and a children’s choir that urged listeners to go shopping at Wal-Mart.

    Komar & Melamid and David Soldier‘s list of undesirable elements included holiday music, bagpipes, pipe organ, a children’s chorus and the concept of children in general (really?), Wal-Mart, cowboys, political jingoism, George Stephanopoulos, Coca Cola, bossanova synths, banjo ferocity, harp glissandos, oompah-ing tubas and much, much more.

    The vocals for “The Most Wanted Song” are provided by Ada Dyer and Ronnie Gent; Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid is featured on guitar.

    Source: Wikipedia; Wired.com

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