Saturday, December 13, 2014

Why a Little LESS Holiday Music is a Good Thing!

Every year the same thing happens. Radio stations and stores start playing Christmas Music even before we've put away all the Halloween decorations. Every year I think to myself - Don't they have a clue, that by the time we get to Christmas Day we can't even enjoy the holiday music anymore because we've been listening to it for at least 6 weeks.

First off, how about we let Thanksgiving be its own holiday. Maybe we can start a new tradition by coming up with some great Thanksgiving songs on the holiday we're supposed to be giving thanks - "Thomas the Tasty Turkey" or something like that :) Seriously though, it wouldn't hurt to have a couple of quality Thanksgiving songs that will help this important holiday stand out on its own.

We ran across some news recently where some store chains are now playing LESS holiday music during the Christmas season. Instead of playing "Rudolph", "White Christmas" and "Santa Claus is coming to Town" 24/7 over and over again, they are mixing in holiday songs along with non-holiday music that we love to hear. FINALLY - This makes the holiday music SPECIAL because its not played ALL the time. Chains like Starbucks, Victoria's Secret and H&M are helping to create this trend and I hope many more will join them soon.

Here's the full article on where we first heard about this trend and with any luck it will start to become the norm (along with some stores not opening at all on Thanksgiving so their employees can enjoy that holiday with their families):

Less Christmas Music at some Retail Stores - FINALLY!

Tell us your thoughts on Christmas music. Do you like to hear it on Thanksgiving, before Thanksgiving, not until after Thanksgiving?? I'm voting for the latter but am curious as to the what the general consensus is.

I hope you are all enjoying a wonderful December so far - It's gotten cold up here in the Northeast and Christmas is now just 12 days away ("On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to meeeeee....").

Peace, Love & Happiness

Vincent James @

Monday, December 8, 2014

Why we still remember John Lennon

Today marks 34 years since the world lost one of its most beloved musical souls and an inspirational leader for a generation. My biggest memory of the time was that I had just begun playing keyboards in a wedding-club band called the "Sound of Gold". I was the newbie in the band barely out of high school, and this was my first real working band experience. Along with the band leader Mark, who was a huge Lennon fan, we put together an extra large selection of John Lennon and Lennon-led Beatles songs to play for our shows that month. For the Beatle tunes, I got to do the Paul McCartney parts although I don't think my voice was totally up for that challenge yet. I later grew into a higher tenor range :)

It definitely felt therapeutic to share those songs with our audiences that month and into the new year. I remember we also played some of John's newly released songs including "Woman" and "Starting Over". and it still amazes me today how talented John still was as a writer and performer. One of the last songs he ever wrote and recorded, but didn't release, was the song "Grow Old Along with Me". Written for his wife Yoko, this song later became a huge hit for Mary Chapin Carpenter. Despite whatever people thought of Yoko, I think its important to remember that if John really loved and cared about Yoko, then it never should have mattered what we thought of her. She was his soul mate and that was that. Its just like we should tell our own children some day. If they love their spouse and as long as their spouse is good to them, it doesn't really matter what us the parents think of the them. That's my mini-sermon creeping in a bit here sorry :)

Collectively we all firmly believe that we lost much more than a talented songwriter and musician that day. John was one of our biggest musical heroes and perhaps the most important voice of that generation. I happened upon an article written by Candy Leonard who is also the author of Beatleness that spells out very well why John was so important to the 60s generation and why he is still so important to many of us today. NextAvenue.Org - Why We Still Mourn John Lennon

I'll leave you with the John Lennon song that I still play today at many of my shows and will see and hear audience members singing along with me. I think more than anything else, the song "Imagine" embodies what John was all about: Imagining how beautiful our collective future could be, if only we could escape the trappings of life that many of us hold too dear. Enjoy the music and feel free to post your favorite John Lennon memories here:

Peace, Love & Laughter:

Vincent James @

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Part Art & Part Science: Musical Therapy is Medicine That Works!

By now its a well documented fact that music therapy is a profession whose time to shine has come. Although utilized for many years, helping patients recover and heal by playing various styles and forms of music is finally beginning to get the recognition it deserves. The needs and situations vary but some examples include:

  • Helping a pre-mature baby who is not growing fast enough
  • Helping a young child with a debilitating disease who needs motivation to help regain or maintain movement
  • Helping an elderly patient with advanced dementia or other ailments who can only physically or verbally respond when there is music involved.
The list of patients who may benefit from some form of music therapy is as long as our imagination.

We recently came across an excellent article by professionally licensed Music Therapist Julie Avirett who spends a lot of time at Golisano Children's Hospital of Southwest Florida helping babies, young children and teenagers in their healing process. Ms. Avirett puts its best when she says:

"Music therapy may appear simply as a thoughtful service used for entertainment in a clinical setting, but it's actually an evidenced-based form of therapy. As an established health profession, it creates a therapeutic relationship that addresses physical, emotional, cognitive and social needs of patients and their families through music in a fun, interactive way"

I encourage you to check out the full article where she really helps us understand the value of music therapy and how it has become such an important tool in helping children and adults to heal: - "Music is an Established Form of Therapy"

I also came across this very interesting 6 minute video by Music Therapist Ryan Judd which shows him actively helping several patients using music as a tool. It's so fascinating and heartwarming to see and hear music therapy in action seeing children respond to the music. For more information on Ryan you can visit him at

In future posts, we'll be covering more about music therapy and the various types of patients that its helping both here in the US and all around the world. Until our next post please have a great week - December and the Holiday Season is now in fullll swing!

Music, Love & Laughter,

~Vincent James @

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Don't be Afraid to Advocate for the Arts - Should YOU Help??

Many of us absolutely believe that including the arts in education is a good thing. We know from decades of research that requiring the arts in education helps lead to students becoming more well rounded and better at traditional subjects like math, english, science and history. Students who have music and art courses go on to valuable and important non-arts careers like doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists and more. However, despite the majority of us believing this is a good thing, not many are willing to advocate for the arts to be required or even included in elementary and secondary education. Even more surprising, is that many music and art teachers themselves don't appear to be openly rallying for this cause.

I came across an article published recently where the author, Stephanie Milling, does an excellent job of analyzing this situation and helping us understand some of the misconceptions that often deter us from fully advocating for the arts. Stephanie is the Assistant Dean of the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Winthrop University where she teaches Dance, Women’s Studies, and Honors coursework. Ms. Milling's list of possible reasons for our hesitancy to act includes the issue being seen as too political, or not wise to pursue being a state-employed teacher, or simply appearing as too big or too daunting a task. The responses that Stephanie gives for each of the reasons that hold people back are quite convincing. I believe if more teachers and non-teachers learned more about them they would be more likely to actively help promote the cause.

If you believe that our schools should at a minimum offer music and art education as an elective, then I urge you to check out this brief article and see if afterwards you don't want to jump in and help: Developing Arts Advocates - The Future of the Arts

Speaking of helping out, our "Keep Music Alive" Mission is looking for volunteers to help with research for our upcoming book "88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life" and to help promote the cause both online and offline. Even if you can offer just a few hours a week either long term or short term your efforts would be really important. Any help you can offer would be absolutely appreciated PLUS you'll get your name in the book along with a complimentary copy once the book is released. Post a comment here or simply message us on Facebook over at

That's all for today folks - Stop back in a days for another post and to keep up to date with "Keep Music Alive" please visit us on Facebook. Thanks and have a great Sundayyyy!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Academy of Music for the Blind - Amazing Musicians!

We recently came across a very special music school from the Los Angeles area - All of the students share two things in common: The first is that they are all blind, and the second and most important thing is they all have a passion for music and have demonstrated an amazing musical talent at a young age.

The Academy of Music for the Blind was founded 11 years ago by Executive Director David Pinto who saw a void that needed to be filled. There are numerous music schools for children with sight, and extremely limited options for children who cannot see. David was fortunate to work with Ray Charles during the last two years of his life, and knows how important this mission was to Ray and wants to see it continue and grow.

A recent video released by the school features 9 year old Dorothy Cho performing the very popular "Let It Go" from the movie Frozen. It's clear from the first musical phrase she sings that her vocal ability and confidence while performing are well beyond her young years. I definitely look forward to hearing how her musical and vocal abilities grow over the next 5-10 years and seeing where her music career can take her.

About a year ago, 60 Minutes on CBS did an update on the school, reaching out to revisit 13 year old Rex Lewis whom they had featured 5 years earlier when he was just 8 years old. Despite being blind and having additional disabilities, Rex showed tremendous musical talent at that age and to see and hear him play now at 13 is utterly amazing.

The concept of a Music Academy for Blind children is soooo wonderful to me and I only wish there were more schools like it through out the US and world. Watching the 60 Minutes video featuring Rex, you can see where music being part of his life has made a tremendous difference in how far he has come with all his disabilities. If you would like to learn more and possibly donate to this cause, please visit the school @ Academy of Music for the Blind

Please enjoy the rest of your weekend and if you got hit with that early cold icy blast this week don't fret, spring will officially be here in just over 4 months :)

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @

Monday, November 10, 2014


This is a guest post from Peter Carli, who is a Music Producer from Goldsboro, PA. Originally written to Dr. Todd Stoltz, who is the superintendent of the West Shore School District Cumberland and York Counties PA, this piece makes an incredibly clear and compelling case why arts education needs to remain in our schools. You can find Peter online at his website with the originally article posted at

Dear Dr. Stoltz,

As a resident of the West Shore School District, I am writing to you to voice my support for comprehensive arts education in our public schools.

The arts are vital to our lives and our nation and the reasons why are seemingly endless. Visual arts, music, theater, dance, creative writing, handicrafts, and other forms of creative expression enrich our lives. The arts also enlighten us as people and add vibrance and dynamics to our society. To understand and appreciate the arts is to understand and appreciate our culture. Poetry, painting, music and other art forms are important because they are a reflection of the lives we lead.

For example: Knowing the arts are key to understanding our country's history and what makes America "America". This is especially true of creative writing and music which tell stories that get passed from one generation to the next. A prime example of this is "The Star Spangled Banner" by Francis Scott Key. Not only is it our national anthem, it is also a living document and testimonial about a pivotal piece of American history and the resolve of the American people.

Investment in arts education benefits far more people than just visual art and music students. Studies have proven that professional fields of all types are enhanced from a well rounded education. The arts excel in teaching innovation, context, and excellence and strengthens a person's ability to think critically and "outside the box." Learning to draw helps in the development of fine eye-hand coordination and learning to play a musical instrument at a young age aids the development of a child's cognitive function. Other research reveals a strong link between music and visual arts education and higher achievement, both academically and in adulthood. The arts also teach how collaboration and independent thought work together and how to create original ideas that fit within existing frameworks, abilities that are vital in today's technological world.

Investment in the arts generates billions of dollars in economic activity which translates directly into jobs and influence, both at home and around the globe. America's top export is not technology, automotive, agriculture or weapons. It's music, book publishing, cinematography and fine arts. What America creates has a global market and the arts are a key component in the USA's status as the dominant world superpower.

As Americans, we should realize this better than anyone. It is America that created the concepts of free markets and mass distribution, which empowers creators and entrepreneurs by rewarding them. It is America that created the worldwide distribution framework that delivers information and entertainment to a global audience. We created the Walt Disneys and the Warner Brothers of the world, the tastemakers of art as entertainment. The film and TV studios of Hollywood are billion dollar enterprises selling fantasy and adventure to an eager audience. Visual artists such as Norman Rockwell and Andrew Wyeth are known throughout the world; their works serving as a window into American life. And it was America who created the modern record company and the soundtrack of our lives. And these businesses need an educated workforce.

Despite all the evidence of the benefits that comprehensive arts education provides our youngsters and society, there are a sub-set of people on the political right who fail to understand the need for the arts as part of our public school curricula. Some conservatives are outright hostile to the arts both in school and the community at large, and as America looses it's competitive edge and it's status as the dominant world superpower, I find their opposition quite disturbing. The role of the arts in society is of no less consequence than the roles of industry, science, health care, or banking.

Now think about what our lives would be like without our great American musicians, poets, visual artists and architects. How about our writers, photographers, filmmakers, and actors? Our country would lose its edge in a multitude of ways.

Visual arts, music, cinema, radio/TV, book publishing and other art forms create jobs and fills our tax coffers while promoting international good will and enriches our cultural identity and understanding. It's time that those with an axe to grind stop using public school arts programs as political chess pieces. By refusing to invest in arts education, we are in danger of creating a culturally stagnent society, robbing our communities of what makes them vibrant and unique, and creating disincentives towards investing in both our young people and our businesses here at home. And history will judge us harshly for it.

These are just some of many reasons why I encourage you to support music and art education in our public schools.

Best regards - Peter P. Carli II (Goldsboro/Etters PA)

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Stubhub Helps Raise $ 300,000+ for Music Education

We all know StubKub as that event ticket company helping us to buy or sell tickets to our favorite sporting events, concerts and pretty much any event you can think of. StubHub has become so popular in fact that even my Mom who is in her 80's uses it to sell tickets. I was surprised and pleased to learn that Stubhub's Next Stage Concert Series is also helping to raise money for the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation which in turn purchases musical instruments for under-funded schools all over the United States. To date, this concert series has raised over $ 300,000 (this year alone I believe) with the total instrument value reaching almost $ 600,000 (double your money which is pretty good, perhaps they are getting good discounts from instrument manufacturers we'll have to check that out).

Featuring bands like GroupLove, Trombone Shorty, Walk the Moon and more, these concert events help raise money and exposure for this very important cause. Giving kids an opportunity to learn how to play a musical instrument early in life. All in all this program has helped 16,000 students start to learn an instrument who otherwise might not have. This opportunity will have a great impact on these kids both now and in their future.

I was first introduced to the Next Stage Concert Series by this Mashable article

To learn about StubHub's Next Stage Concert Series please visit them online at StubHub Next Stage Concert Series. To learn more about the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation and the great work they do please visit them at Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation . I was very impressed to see how many schools that they donate music instruments to all over the country every year. I'll leave you with a very inspirational video that shows the impact of what this foundation does:

Have a great weekend and we'll be back to you soon!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @