Thursday, April 28, 2011

The trouble with raising musicians

Wow, If you haven't checked out Whistling Prairie's post of Jambalaya, you need to go there.

I've spent some time on my blog discussing the pro's of using music to raise a family. I mentioned that it is an excellent tool to teach family members to communicate, get along, work together as a team, and multi-task. Today I'd like to throw out a disclaimer.

If you instill in your children a love a music, at least one of them will get the idea that they should go on to study music in college and eventually pursue a career in music. Unfortunately, music is rarely a good career move. In fact, up until the 20th Century there was no money to be made. Traditionally music was a sponsored or patroned appointment with the rich patron controlling the musician's strings.

In the 20th Century, corporations (record companies) figured out how to make money in the music field. Record companies specialized in distribution and conditioning a public to like what they offered. This is waning. With the advent of the internet, distribution is no longer a problem -- and independent musician's are regaining control over their music while being satisfied with the lower income.

That said, I have a video here from Bobo about her new interest in biology. Jojo is playing the backing score.

I have a video of Sam in the Dixie College of Utah Guitar Ensemble playing a Bach piece that they should have played at the Bach Festival.

I have one last video, just because Joe (Jack) was so jealous of the dancing baby in The Black Eyed Susan video "Jambalaya" he insisted that I include this video where he inadvertantly filmed a random dancing baby.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Validating the Old Lady Band

I know I've done a lot of talking about the Ol' Lady Band, which has really turned into Ol' Lady Band plus kids. Today I am posting video of the Ol' Lady Band -- to prove it's existence. And I have another quotable from JoJo (Jack) who noted the following while watching our practice. "I guess it really is good to start on rhythm. That way when you get into the intermediate school and everyone is struggling with learning notes and rhythm, you just have to worry about the notes."

I would like to note here, however, that Tessa -- who plays the violin -- manages our rhythm and is moving quickly onto the ukulele.

Also note that our intent was not to video tape our practice tonight but to record the audio, but since the iPad was the easiest tool, we grabbed some video as well. But it is the song that is important, so don't be commenting on our look ;( Not everyone in the Ol' Lady Band is a looker, so don't be pointing at me. It's rude.

Another note -- In 16 tons I sing, "fighting and trouble are my middle name." Yes -- we all know what my middle name is and it's not "fighting and trouble."

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Orchestral Supporters are way better than Athletic Supporters

Tuesday, my son JoJo (Jack) reminded me that he had a concert. He said it was a fundraiser for the high school auditorium, so it was a pay to get in deal. To keep my costs down, only Ben and I went. It turned out being the best 10 bucks I've spent in a long time. The performances were worth much more than that. I was sorry to see that the show was not sold out. In fact it is ironic that it wasn't. Why do some parents support beginning students only to stay at home when the kids start sounding good?

In Utah, students can start taking band in the 6th grade. (Orchestra students can start in the fourth grade if their parents drive them to the one school that offers a 6:50 to 7:30 class -- Naji will be in fourth grade next year, and is all signed up to start his viola adventure.) My experience with 6th grade band concerts is that they are held in the gym, with two walls of bleachers pulled out and extra chairs set out on the gym floor. It ends up being standing room only, unless a parent arrives early.

Seventh grade is much the same. Eighth and ninth grade concerts are held in the lunchroom because the middle school auditoriums are much too small. These concerts are a little easier to find seating, but even then, I have seen people standing at the holiday concerts.

But by the time a student enters high school, and can actually play, parent support appears to drift off. I know that much of this comes from high school students being able to drive themselves, but I can't help but be sad that some parents miss out on these magical performances.

Jojo asked me to mention, that when the PVHS orchestra played the Carnival of the Animals the following day for regionals, he did not squeak his clarinet -- and the orchestra will be continuing on to the State Level of competition.

This next piece is the PVHS Ska band playing a medley. Check out Joe's sax solo. -- He's the only one on an alto sax.

I wasn't prepared to video any of the pieces, but at the last minute I remembered I had my iPad in my purse. I am pretty happy with the audio quality it captures (not a paid advert). I was even able to edit it and upload it from the iPad. I love learning new things.

Four years ago, when Macey was a senior, He played with the PVHS Ska band as well. Here's a flashback to that time :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Video of Joseph Playing with Himself and his Imaginary Friend

JoJo (aka Jack) was unhappy with my posting of a duet he played with himself. He said the audio recording was five years old and makes him sound like a newb. (To quote Weezy Waiter, "If you don't know what a newb is, your are also a newb")

Jack, with the assistance of his sister Judea -- who apparently is a wizard -- created a new video, which was so much fun, Jack's imaginary friend, "Cameron", joined in.

It just goes to show that teacher school is right about the "publication" step in the writing/creation process. When kids realize that what they do is going to be seen by others, they apply more effort.

And since I'm posting videos, I thought I would post Macey's birthday present to Bobo. He wrote her a song and sent her a video of him singing it to her.

Here are the lyrics if you'd like to follow along:

Song for a Meadow Lark

Hey little birdy I remember when you flew into my life on the day of 27 I didn´t then what I know now well I think I did I just didn´t know how. You changed my life with your song and light and you always help me remember what´s important in this life. Like doing our best everyday to try and save this place. Our home our family and our friends our world and our precious little space. Or listening oh so stilly to music, life and rain and helping all we know to calm and soothe their pain.

Chorus: So fly fly fly little bird up in the sky I´ll never be able to express how much you song lights up my life or how much that light has changed my heart. All I can do is write a song for a meadow lark.

Cause you´re nuthin but a sister but you´re more than a friend and that Panda on your back is the latest trend. Watching movies and playing video games or watchin cartoons all night you help me not feel quite so lame. I miss pickin you up everyday at 2 but soda and cheetos help me remember you and it may not be much but sometimes that´s all we´ve got like seven broken children in a van in a parking lot And I know that in this life we´ve been let down by more than a few but I swear on my life I´ll never grow out of you.

Chorus X 2

All I can do is write a song for my meadow lark.

Bobo's response was to write him a song right back (see above) and email it to him.

Family Bands and the Patridge Family Pattern

Judea was visiting with a friend of her's at college.He was mocking her a bit for having to go to the Bach Festival. "Your house must be just like the Partridge Family"

This brings up the point that it is not unique for families to play together. At the Bach Festival, I met a wonderful musician named Kathleen Briggs. A while back she started her own publishing house. One of the services her publishing house ( offers is a product called "Instant Ensemble" ( where customers can download the parts they need in the key they need -- instantly customizing the arrangement to fit the ensemble.

Being a certified teacher myself, I am a big fan of public education. I'm an even bigger fan of public music education. My kids, all seven of them, have had excellent music teachers. These teachers devote time before and after school, during school, during lunch breaks, and on weekends to encourage a love and understanding of music in their students. The effort they put into teaching is inspirational. But teachers can only be stretched so thin.

As important as it is for students to play in large ensembles, they also need to experience small ensembles. It's there that kids learn to listen to others and adjust what they are doing to match the group. Harmonically. Rhythmically. Dynamically. Musicians also learn to give and take constructive criticism without getting emotional. In other words, they learn to get along and communicate. Isn't that what family life is all about?

The biggest obstacle in young family bands is creating roles for everyone in the family despite their musical expertise, experience, or aptitude. I've always preferred percussion for younger kids. (This follows the Partridge Family Pattern) On the plus side, percussian is an integral part of the band and the band will insist that the percussionist not get off beat, on the minus side, the band will insist that the percussionist not get off beat.

Another way I have "evening out the playing field" is to encourage older kids to play secondary instruments. For example, If someone plays the saxophone so well that everything the band plays is too easy, ask that kid to start playing bass, or guitar, or melodica, or mandolin. The challenge of learning and transposing for a new instrument may keep that child engaged.

Technology has both eased the cause of the family band and made it more difficult. Sibelius and Finale make composing fun and arranging convenient. The internet is an incredible resources for finding music, but the internet and gaming can also be great distractions away from family time.

Today, however, I want to announce that music and family won for a brief shinning moment. Today, at nobody's bidding -- my internet gamer took my saxophone son's offer to upgrade gamer from the clarinet to the saxophone.  And their mother smiled.

 Some day maybe Ben will play with Joe so Joe can stop playing with himself (see below).

Monday, April 4, 2011

Power to the people

My boss was disappointed that he didn't get to see me playing the organ on campus Thursday night. I told him not to worry as I was playing again Saturday at the Tabernacle.

His eyes went as big as saucers for one brief moment before he said, "Oh, the St George Tabernacle. -- I was going to be impressed if it was the SLC Tabernacle on conference weekend."

We laughed and laughed.

Anyway, here I am playing at the St George Tabernacle, which has a wonderful pipe organ. It made an impression on JoJo (Jack) who said, "Why don't more people learn to play the organ -- that is a really cool historic instrument."

The Southwest Fretted Strings also played on Saturday.

The Bach Festival people are amazing. They were so very kind to us even though we were sharing the stage with the likes of the Southwest Symphony Strings and Choral. I am posting the first movement of the contata they did. The best part of participating in the Bach festival is experiencing the music.

It is part of my soap box belief that music belongs to the people and not to an "elite few". It's important that we all make a noise in this world. So to see community members pull together and take time away from raising their families and eeking out their livings to create such beautiful music -- that is something I want my family to witness.

And after watching that, I hope you are all jealous that you don't live in Sunny St George! But if that's not enough to convince you -- the Bach Festival runs for five days.

I went to the Trinity Lutheran church Sunday night to check out day four. Joe (I mean Jack) and I went specifically to check out the woodwind quintet and they did not disappoint. Below is their rendition of a four part fugue (in G minor) played by five instruments.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Raise the Globlet of Bach

Good morning! It is day three of the Bach Festival. Thursday night the festival kicked off with keyboard night in the Dunford Auditorium. That's where Dixie State College of Utah houses it's Bach style pipe organ. The organ has wooden keys -- black full notes and blonde halfnotes. The pipes are directly in front of the organist and are sometimes painfully loud. The blower is housed beneath the organ and is also quite loud.

I'd worried myself sick that I was going to "suck" again this year, so I didn't record the performance. You'll have to take my word for it that I didn't suck. I'd gotten a chance to practice on the instrument and felt that it and I came to an understanding. My kids were convinced that my piece was quite a bit easier than the pieces played by the other organists, and maybe it was but I enjoyed it all the same as I was able to avoid that "muddy" feel -- I kept my lines clean :)

Friday night the festival continued at the Eccles Fine Art Building's concert hall where the Southwest Fretted Philharmonic made its public debut. Becky is so fun. She said when she watched the Ukulele Orchestra I'd put together last year, she had no idea that this year she'd be playing with us. As with my organ performance, I also marked a vast improvement with the fretted instruments. Of course some of the members are still hating on the ukulele. Before the show, Joseph (who now wants to be called Jack because he's never met a Joe that he didn't want to punch in the face) said that ukulele's are the "JarJar Binks" of musical instruments -- See how obnoxious Joes can be?

Becky's son Colton, inspired by her many hours of practice, countered our performance with a variation of Minuet in G (in C) by playing Minuet in G (in C) in G Minor.

I'm excited about the weeks to come. It seems that our performance may have recruited two more musicians for the band...I don't want to say more cause I don't want to jinks anything, but things are going swimmingly on the musical front!

Friday, April 1, 2011


This one's making the rounds on the ukulele blogs -- and it makes me smile :)