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    Watch Disney Frozen “Let it Go.” One song, 25 different languages!

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    When Frozen was dubbed into 41 languages, it meant that 41 singers had to be selected for the popular favorite “Let it Go.”  Hear 25 of the vocalists in 25 different languages.  It is really amazing to listen to one take of the song, with 25 different voices & languages all patched together.  Even though these are 25 vocalists, their voices meld into one.

    According to the Hollywood Reporter, “Let it Go” composer Robert Lopez is grateful that the animated hit’s 41 foreign-language versions are not his problem, but that of Disney Character Voices International senior vp creative Rick Dempsey, responsible for translating Disney’s films. “We were floored when we heard the compilation of ‘Let It Go’ in all those different languages,” says Lopez. “It sounded practically like Idina Menzel singing the whole thing,” says wife and co-composer, Kristen Anderson-Lopez, who notes that it’s actually dozens of foreign voices dubbed for each language. “That’s why you want to work with Disney, because no one else has that touch all over the world.”

    Idina Menzel does have a spectacular voice, and finding 41 international singers who could equal her sound is impressive.  One amazing quality of Idina Menzel’s voice is her ability to sing higher range notes in an uber-focused sound placement.  Her high notes sound compressed to a sharp clarity that build effortlessly into the climatic moments of “Let it Go”.

    One great way to get that clarity of sound is through “vocal fry” exercises.  Vocal fry is the sound that is made by the vocal folds vibrating slow enough that instead of creating sound we just hear a “buzzing” noise.   It’s the sound you make when you’re tired and just waking up in the morning, or at the end of a long sigh or yawn – most of us know it as a “sleepy” sound.  But vocal fry is much more than that, it exercises and strengthens the vocal folds to create a focused, clear sound.  Vocal fry also aids in creating a “mix” sound on high notes, so that a singer can sing high with a sound quality that is more similar to their lower notes than, say, an opera singer’s high note sound quality.

    If you want to try to sharpen your sound, combat breathiness, and build killer high notes, try doing a little vocal fry every day.  The standard exercise is to move up and down a 5-note scale, increasing by a half-step after every repetition.  You should be able to hear a tiny bit of sound that is following the note changes, but mostly a full vibrating “fry” sound dominates.  After doing this for 5 minutes, try singing and enjoy how much easier it feels.  For a more advanced exercise, try starting on a vocal fry sound, and then transitioning into a gentle pure sound in the same breath.  The sound should come out very focused sounding, with a little buzz on it, almost the way a mosquito sounds in your ear.  With commitment and time, you could start hearing those Idina Menzel high notes in your own voice!

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    Elias is Back! Watch this 7yo Piano Prodigy with a lot of Spunk!

    Piano prodigy Elias Phoenix, 7, completely wowed audiences when he made his first debut performance on the Ellen show last month.  Now he returns for another great performance and entertaining personality.  This boy has a lot of spunk!  I am surprised that a child with that much energy could “still” himself long enough to go through the dedicated hours and days and years it takes to build up his piano skills to the high performance level he’s achieved today.

    On a side note, the one thing that struck me as a little odd is Ellen’s present.  She gave him a sound system, which is a perfect gift – good job on that, Ellen! – but the funny thing was the 66-key keyboard that accompanied the set.  These keyboards rarely (or never?) have weighted keys, so it would be very difficult for a classical pianist to use.  It would feel like playing piano sequences on a laptop keyboard.  It’s very unsatisfying to play, but it’s also difficult to have control with the overly light feel.

    We always give parents the ok to purchase an inexpensive 66-key keyboard for their young student when they are first starting – if they are really on a tight budget and don’t want to make a large purchase upfront – but even then it is not ideal.  88-key weighted key keyboards, however, work great for long term study and even for professionals, because the feel and key range is practically identical to an acoustic piano.  Some Kawai-brand keyboards even sell keyboards with wooden keys, just like an acoustic piano key, and use the same hammer action inside the keyboard for a perfect replication.  The only difference is that the piano sounds coming out of a digital keyboard are pre-recorded sounds, where as an acoustic piano is creating it’s own sounds and has a big resonant chamber for the sound waves.  This is much more satisfying for a pianist, but has nothing to do with the actually execution of playing, so any piano can practice and perform on an acoustic or weighted-key keyboard with equal ease.

    One piano with weighted keys that is a great deal right now is the Casio CDP-120.  it has been replaced with a new version, so the old version has dropped in price.  It was once listed at $450, but is now hovering around $300.  It can often be difficult to find a weighted-key keyboard for under $400, so this is a great deal.

     

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    6-Year-Old Revived from illness by Music

    SEATTLE Reports “Kids are resilient, but sometimes they need a little nudge. For a Seattle boy who recently became very sick, that extra push came from the unlikeliest of places.  If there`s one thing A.J. Hwangbo knows for sure, it`s the power of music.  That`s because when this 6-year-old was knocking on death`s door, music brought him back.”

    After A.J. receives a short outing from the hospital to see his favorite artist, Macklemore, in concert, he experiences a dramatic turnaround with his illness.

    “He seemed a lot more himself that evening,” his mom said. “I didn’t have to wipe his mouth the whole concert.”

    The next day, A.J. spoke for the first time in weeks.

    “I’ve seen kids become withdrawn and sad, and depressed because of a traumatic experience they`ve been through – that is definitely common,” Van Cleave said. “What I haven`t seen before is the incredible transformation in such a short time with one really amazing event in the way it happened for A.J.”

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    Watch TED Talk on “How I beat stage fright”

    All performers grapple with the anxieties of stage fright.  This is a Ted Talk tale of how one musician, Joe Kowan, found a remedy for his.

    Joe Kowan is a Boston-based musician and graphic designer who has been struggling with stage fright since he first started writing songs at age 27. Despite his adorably expressed fears, he charms audiences with his own style of quirky folk and acoustic hip-hop, by turns poignant, salacious and comical. In 2009 he released the gangsta’ arts and crafts video for his original song “Crafty,” and in 2011 he was a finalist in the USA Songwriting Competition.

    At the Music Junction, we coach our students to work through their stage fright in our two yearly recitals.  Joe is an adult who had never performed before he was 30, but we have the advantage of introducing young children to the idea of being on stage in front of people while they are young enough not to have imagined all of the adult fears that contribute to stage fright.  Encouraging your child to perform in front of an audience will integrate the experience into their development so that it feels more natural to them when they become adults.  Everyone still experiences stage fright no matter how used to performing they are, but it can be managed.

    The core reasons for stage fright are your inner fears – fear of failure, fear of being judged, fear of being vulnerable – so the main work for a performer is to address these fears.  First of all, practice, practice, practice!  If you know you’re extremely prepared, you’ll feel less likely to fail – and if you do, you’ll still know that you did your best.  Second, stop worrying about what other people think!  It’s a good idea to perform in settings where you know the audience has no expectations, so that you don’t feel pressured to be amazing right off the bat – like an open mic night, or a class or workshop.  You can even try performing in a small group before going on your own to ease yourself into the experience.  Lastly, perform often!  You need to prove to yourself that you can be successful on stage, and then you’ll know that there is nothing to fear – that takes time and lots of opportunities to succeed.

    We encourage all of our students, kids and adults alike, to participate in our Winter & Spring recitals.  We appreciate it when parents get on board with prioritizing the recitals and encourage their young family musicians to be prepared and excited for the experience.  Kids who have performance experience are learning a life skill that will help them in so many other ways – school presentations & leadership roles – and later, business presentations & job interviews.

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    Watch Sophia Grace & Rosie Perform ‘Girl on Fire’

    This is a favorite performance of Girl on Fire in a string of regular appearances on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” made by Sophia Grace and Rosie, the pint-sized British child duo.  Sophia Grace has a very developed voice for her age, and the confidence to belt it out even in front of a large intimidating audience.  That’s partly due to her best friend Rosie, according to Sophia, who performs along side her to provide moral support and great dance moves.

    In this performance of Girl on Fire, Sophia Grace shows a lot of vocal control.  The fast vocal riffs and runs are impressive in a child her age.  Although once in a while the runs slur together, mostly the pitch changes are very pronounced.  It’s rare to hear runs executed so clearly at this age.  Sophia also has a very focused, clear tone, without the “breathy” quality of most young singers.

    This kind of vocal development is definitely possibly for a 7-8 year old student who is taking regular weekly voice lessons, but there are different factors at play that can affect how long the development takes:

    1) How does the child speak?  If the child has a very soft and breathy speaking voice, then that vocal quality will be the initial sound of the singing voice when beginning lessons.  If the child has a very nasal quality – where the back of the tongue normally rests almost as high as the “ng” (as in “ring”) sound when they speak – then that will be the particular starting place for the singing voice when beginning lessons.   So these natural tendencies will create differences in what the focus of study should be in the voice lesson, and how long it takes to develop an impressive, mature tone.

    2)How focused is the child?  If the student has a hard time concentrating, it can take sometimes as much as 3 times longer, or more, to make achievements in each vocal concept.  It’s important to be a good listener to be able to understand what vocal concepts are being addressed, and to continue concentrating on the concept while trying it out.  It’s possible for the voice teacher to focus on vocal exercises that need less explanation, and that automatically give vocal benefts when executed, but it still will always improve the lesson if the student is focused on the purpose of each exercise as they execute it.

    3)How physically self aware is the child? Children develop at different rates, so one student may not be able to feel how to create specific movements with their mouth or their breath as well as another student.  A young voice student who will learn quickly has a lot of control over things like: being able to relax the jaw, relaxing the lips, exhaling at a steady rate, controlling how much air pressure to use to support a note, enunciating words, being able to adjust the tongue, etc.

    4)How verbal is the child?  Children who speak articulately and with confidence will have an advantage in their voice lessons.  This skill will affect the student’s ability to memorize words to a song and enunciate them well.  Students who are shy and soft-spoken, who do not often speak in full sentences, or possibly mispronounce words,  may find it more difficult to learn the words to a song.  This is not a reason to forgo voice lessons – to the contrary – in this type of situation, voice lessons are an excellent tool to improving speech skills.  Often, young students feel empowered when they are given words to say, when they might feel more insecure being as verbal on their own.

    Regardless of how fast or slow a child shows vocal development from their voice lessons, it is still an extremely beneficial activity for any type of student.  Students who need more development in the areas mentioned above, will be able to practicing developing those skills in their lessons.  Every student should compare their progress against themselves, not against others, because the point is to find improvement in yourself, not compete against the improvements of others.

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    Watch Elias Phoenix – A 7yo Piano Prodigy – on the Ellen Show!

    Ellen DeGeneres had 7-year-old Elias Phoenix on her show Friday, in one of the best interviews a 7-year-old has ever given.  Even Ellen, after the interview, tweeted “Just finished taping 1 of the most memorable interviews I’ve ever done, with a 7-yr-old. Airs tomorrow. You have to see it to believe it.” I would agree that this is one of the most memorable interviews Ellen has done.

    Elias is totally comfortable on stage – he doesn’t seem to be intimidated at all by how many people are in the audience.   He says that his two life-long dreams were to perform in Carnegie Hall, and to be on the Ellen show, and now he has achieved both!  Not surprising when you see how talented this young piano prodigy is.  But his vibrancy is equally as impressive – his amazing “Hollywood” dance is so endearing, and his hands-on approach to Ellen seems to disarm her and the audience alike.  He seems to be one of Ellen’s biggest fans, lavishing compliments and touching her hair to find out that it is “so soft.”  He is so excited to be there he can hardly stay in his seat, and it’s entertainment alone just to watch his animated personality in action.  This is one special kid!

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    We can see sound!

    Through the science of cymatics, we can not only hear sound, we can actually see it.  In this video, Evan Grant demonstrates the science and art of cymatics, a process for making soundwaves visible.

    This is one image of what Beethoven’s 9th Symphony looks like through a cymatic device:

    Cymatic image of Beethovens 9th

    Useful for analyzing complex sounds (like dolphin calls), the science of cymatics can also make complex and beautiful designs.

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    Jenny Lind – Americas first “Rock Star”

    Some refer to the 19th Century Opera star, Jenny Lind, as the world’s first Rock Star.  This recording from Nate DiMeo’s podcast, The Memory Palace, is a beautiful story about a beautiful singer, and what it was like to be a music fan in the 1800’s.  Before recordings could be obtained of your favorite artists, enjoying music was constrained to once-in-a-lifetime live performances.  I (Charissa) found it captivating to listen to how the music industry functioned during that time period, and the differences and surprising similarities compared to today.

    Looking at the past, it’s easy to see how universal the love of music and musicians is during all time periods.  We can’t deny the fascination we have with artists and their art.

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    Stevie Wonder performs “Songs in the Key of Life” album at Nokia Center

    Stevie Wonder has been performing wonderful holiday shows annually in Los Angeles for 18 years now to raise funds for the collection of toys for needy children in the Southland.  These holiday performances are a great musical event for families to attend, and always include special guest celebrities and well-known local talent to flesh out the fun program.

    For this year’s show at the Nokia Center in LA, however, Stevie decided to do something special and perform the entire song collection from his hit album, Songs in the Key of Life.  Cited by Elton John as the greatest album of all time, this album includes well-known Stevie Wonder songs like “Isn’t She Lovely,” “I Wish,” and “Sir Duke.”  I recommend listening frequently to this album – it’s addictive!  “Village Ghetto Land” is one of my favorites, for how musically beautiful the song is, and how poignant the lyrics are.

    The show began with Stevie Wonder coming onto the stage with his family to introduce the program, and his son and grandsons made a reappearance in some of his later performances.  Special guests this year included John Mayer, Chick Corea, & Herbie Hancock among others.  The show opened with five male singers performing the beautiful a cappella introduction of “Love’s in Need of Love Today.”  Other highlights included the West Angeles Church of God in Christ Gospel Choir directed by Jason White, who also kicked off the show, singing their hearts outs on traditional gospel repertoire.

    This was an overall wonderful performance and I highly recommend it as must-do family event every year!

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    Introducing the classical comedy duo “Igudesman and Joo”

    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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