The video above is one of the most wonderful things I’ve seen in a long time. Why don’t you watch it real quick, and then keep reading if you’d like.
This is the Chorus of PS22, Staten Island, New York. The kids are singing the song Lisztomania by the band Phoenix and – can you believe it – every single one of them is completely engaged and loving what they are doing! I honestly couldn’t believe what I was seeing the first time I watched this video. I have worked with music in schools in so many different ways and capacities and I almost always come away from the experience with the following feeling – music programs are completely doomed. Most of the kids don’t care. They’re only doing it because their parents are making them. They thought being in band would be a lot more fun than it actually is. They usually don’t even like the music they’re playing.
Schools everywhere are failing to show their students how learning music can be relevant to their lives. But the director of this chorus, Gregg Breinberg, is really doing something amazing.
I’m always dumbfounded when I’m reminded that creating music used to be an incredibly common pastime in this country. Amateur musicians were everywhere, and making music was a way that families connected and bonded. What happened to those days? Isn’t it amazing that the world isn’t like that any more, yet almost all of us are still incredibly passionate about the music that we listen to? Is it because, while the music around us continued to move forward, the music that schools taught remained staunchly rooted in the past? I believe that is a big part of it.
However, I’m so encouraged when I see something like this and I hope that other music educators can begin to follow suit, because I honestly feel that their jobs depend on it. I would love to see school music programs transform themselves into laboratories where students are given the tools and skills to form their own bands, write their own arrangements, and compose their own tunes. Get kids involved in music in ways that they can relate to. Help them to first form a connection to the art of music-making; worry about how Bach and Beethoven will fit in later.
What do you think? Am I way off base here? We’d love to have some discussion about this in the comments!
I met up with my good friend Chris Paquette today while in Chicago for an audition, and he introduced me to the music of the incredible Esperanza Spalding. At just 24 years old, this bassist/vocalist is incredible. Here is a video of her performance at the White House Poetry Jam on May 12, 2009. (By the way, did you know there was a White House Poetry Jam? I didn’t. Thanks, Obama.)
Incredible, right?? Last night Greg Pattillo (the flutist here) and his band, the PROJECT Trio performed at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee’s Recital Hall, a performance set up by Professor of Flute, Caen Thomason-Redus. A brilliant move on Caen’s part, as it’s very rare to see a guest flutist performance bring in such a big audience. The show felt like more of a late-night jazz concert, incredibly executed by the three musicians, all who were classically trained at the Cleveland Institute of Music, once upon a time. The three guys, Greg Pattillo on flute, Eric Stephenson on cello, and bassist Peter Seymour bring an energetic and unique performance to the table, with jazz-esque renditions of Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and Prokofiev’s Peter and the Wolf. PROJECT covers all styles of music, from classical to jazz, and salsa to bluegrass, “projecizing” each tune to make it their own. And they do it so well, sometimes you can’t believe you’re only hearing three instruments. If you ever get a chance to see these guys, I highly recommend it. You won’t be disappointed. And teachers…they put on a great show for in-school performances, so check out the section on outreach on their website.
I’m so happy to finally be able to share with everyone the project that I’ve been working on the past few weeks – putting my entire Less Than Jake vinyl record collection on to Flickr. Who cares, right? I know, I know – we can’t all be LTJ superfans or vinyl lovers. But, besides my own selfish reasons (more on that in a second), my hope in doing this project would be that some folks would gain an appreciation for the stellar artwork and packaging of vinyl records these days. I think Less Than Jake has always understood the experience of buying a record and how much room there is for it to be an experience that goes beyond just the actual music. They really get it, and I think you’ll see that in my Flickr collection.
However, I don’t want this “project” to just stop with my personal LTJ collection – I’m hoping to entice other LTJ fans to put their own collections on Flickr. See, my collection is pretty good, but it still pales in comparison to everything that the band has put out – every release and every sleeve/lablel/vinyl variation that comes with each pressing of that release. I’m just dying to see it all, and I hope that other collector nerds can help me out!
Emma is a free-lance flutist and teacher in Pittsburgh, PA. Her dork-a-thon qualifications include: a BFA in dance, sewing, knitting, crafting, color guard, baking, yoga, herbal tea, home remedies, Oprah, writing, Tomb Raider, dessert, long walks, blues music, baskets, and bargain shopping.
Jason is a freelance tuba player and computer nerd living in Pittsburgh, PA. If that wasn't enough, his other dork-a-thon qualifications include: A degree in computer science, punk rock, t-shirts, photography, Google Reader, orange juice, opera, guitar, plaid shorts, flip-flops, shaving once a week, naps, Madden 2K8, southern cooking, Georgia Football, free food, graphic design, and Asian cultures.