Monday, December 29, 2014

Playing Music Can Help Boost Your Memory

Thank goodness I started playing music when I was a kid, probably around 10 years old. If I hadn't begun reading music and playing the trombone in the 4th grade, I probably would have a worse memory then I already have :) Previous research has shown that playing music can lead to better language processing skills and enhanced working memory. Now new research has determined that playing music also allows musicians to be better able to store that established knowledge for the long-term.

Dr. Heekyeong Park, assistant professor of psychology along with other researchers from the University of Texas at Arlington, measured electrical neuron activity in the brains of 14 musicians who had been studying classical music for at least 15 years. They had these participants play memory games with both words and pictures while hooked up to an EEG (Electroencephalography) machine. This EEG machine records processing differences in the frontal and temporal lobes, and the memory games were designed to test both working and long term memory.

The study results revealed that the musicians scored higher than the control group of participants on both the working memory tests and the long term memory tests. Currently, the research team is not able to determine why musicians score higher on these memory tests, however these findings provide hope that perhaps some type of musical training may help those who have difficulty with cognitive and other memory challenges.

The team at the University of Texas at Arlington presented their findings in November 2014 at the Neuroscience 2014, the international meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, in Washington, D.C. - For more information on their study please visit them at www.uta.edu/news/releases/2014/11/music-memory.php We first heard about this study from our friends at the www.huffingtonpost.com - Musicians-Have-Better-Memory

That's for today folks - Happy Monday and just two more days till New Years Eve 2014 and a new beginning in 2015. We'll be back with another post before the clock strikes midnight on 12/31/2014!

Peace, Love & Happiness

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Saturday, December 27, 2014

UK Inventor creates Brain Box to help paralyzed make music

Technology and music both will never cease to amaze us. We recently learned how one Brazilian born musician/inventor now living in the UK is helping people who are paralyzed create music using their brains. Eduardo Miranda has been on a mission for the last 11 years, ever since his eyes met someone who had "locked-in syndrome". This is a condition in which a patient is aware but cannot move or communicate verbally due to complete paralysis of nearly all voluntary muscles in the body except for the eyes. Mr. Miranda's latest invention is dubbed the "Brain Box", and with it he has found a way for these patients to create music just using their eyes.

This amazing device monitors brain activity through electrodes attached to the back of the head, and can determine where the persons eyes are looking. The person is then able to select which piece of music he wishes to hear by which icon on the screen he or she is looking at.

Miranda, who is head of the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research at Plymouth University says:

"I wanted to create something to enable people with severe disabilities to make music. I was struck by an encounter I had once with a man who had had a stroke and was paralyzed completely from the neck down"

To me this technology is quite fascinating. and I can see so many uses for it even beyond playing music. I'm very interested to see just how far this can go someday. In the future, could we all have the computer record and play back music that we hear only in our heads?

To learn more about Eduardo Miranda and his work you can visit him at http://neuromusic.soc.plymouth.ac.uk/. To see where we first learned about this you can visit the KSPR news article here: KSPR.com - Brain-Box-Allows-Paralyzed-to-Make-Music

Mr. Miranda and his associates are also very involved in researching and developing software that can help create music. This video clip above explains a little about it and shows an orchestra playing a piece called "Mind Pieces" which was partially computer-inspired by birds and other natural occurring sounds that the "music creating"program

Well we made it past Christmas and I hope you had a wonderful time with your friends and family. New Years is right around the corner, stay tuned for another post for we hit the big 2015

Peace, Love & Happiness,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

50 Years - The Legacy of Rudolph, Hermie, Clarice & Yukon Cornelius

It's hard to believe that the wonderful story of "Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer" is now 50 years old. The Rudolph TV special first aired on December 6th, in 1964 and was based on the song written by Johnny Marks. Another very interesting fact is that the "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" song itself was based on a poem of the same name written by Johnny Mark's brother-in-law Robert May even further back in 1939. It is amazing how one art-form (poetry in this case) can be reinterpreted later, first as a song and then a TV special that has given so much happiness and joy for two generations and counting.

Earlier this month, CBC Radio in Canada aired a news spot that reflected on the legacy of Rudolph and talked to some of the actors who did the voices for the characters. The legendary American actor Burl Ives narrated the story playing the part of Sam the snowman, but many of the other voice actors were from the Toronto, Canada area which was a hot-bed of voice talent in the mid-60s. These included Stan Francis (Santa Claus & King Moon Racer), Billy Mae Richards (Rudolph), and Larry D. Mann as lovable Yukon Cornelius. Two of the actors still living recently spoke to CBC Radio: Corine Conley (Rudolph's Mom) and Paul Soles (Hermie the Elf), both shared their thoughts on why the story of Rudolph has meant so much to so many over the years. To see and hear what they had to see check out this story straight from CBC:

CBC Radio - "The-Surprising-50-Year-Legacy-of-Rudolph-the-Red-Nosed-Reindeer"

The story of Rudolph, Hermie and the Misfit toys is certainly a universal one that greatly applies even in todays world. Too often, many of us struggle to try to find a way to fit in, when in the end its the world that should learn to accept us as we are. Whether we're a red-nosed reindeer or a dentist Elf, we all have a lot to offer the world and we should never short change our individuality just to try to fit in.

This will be our last post before Christmas so I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas with your family and loved ones tomorrow!

Peace, Love & Happiness

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Monday, December 22, 2014

Snoopy and the Christmas Truce - 100 Years ago in 1914

Exactly one hundred years ago the world was involved in what at the time was referred to as the Great War. This war would later be known as World War I and history would reveal how unimaginably horrible this conflict really was. During these 4 long years there were more than 9 million service members killed among all sides and a staggering 7 million civilians that also lost their lives.

Perhaps the lone bright spot during this war occurred during Christmas week in 1914. It was during this time it is said that soldiers on the German side first began peacefully reaching out to the British side and many eventually came out of the trenches and crossed sides to exchange food, gifts and even played some football (known as soccer here in the US). This laying down of the arms occurred in many but not all places and was completely against the upper commands of both armies. Somehow these soldiers, these regular men from both sides, realized that if they couldn't have peace during Christmas, then what would this world really becoming to. Unfortunately this level of Christmas peace was not repeated in 1915 as the higher up commands had given strict orders (although some instances of peace did occur) and by Christmas 1916 the war had become so bitter on both sides that any chance of Christmas peace was lost.

During the British Music Invasion in the 1960s, there was an American group of six guys from Ocala, Florida who named themselves the Royal Guardsmen and have been forever known for their novelty hit "Snoopy vs. the Red Baron" from 1967 and its even more popular followup "Snoopy's Christmas". Snoopy's Christmas" commemorates the Christmas Truce by telling the story of Snoopy flying for the Allies and fighting it out in the skies against the Red Baron from the German side on Christmas Eve. When the Red Baron has Snoopy's plane damaged and square in his sights for the kill, he instead allows Snoopy to land and offers him food and drink behind enemy lines. The songs' chorus says it all for all of us:

Christmas bells those Christmas bells
Ring out from the land
Asking peace of all the world
And good will to man

We can only hope that some sense of humanity still remains the fighting armies of all countries, and that some day we will see new examples of the brighter side of the human race. Here are a few good video's that combine the Snoopy cartoon with the Royal Guardsmen's tune "Snoopy's Christmas"

If you would like to learn more about the Christmas Truce , our friends as Wikipedia have a very informative article about what happened at Wikipedia - Christmas Truce

I hope everyone reading this is having a joyous and happy December leading up to Christmas this week and most importantly that there is peace in your life.

Peace, Love & Happiness

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

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 @ LoveSongs.com

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 @ LoveSongs.com

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: www.News-Press.com - "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 www.TheRhythmTree.com

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 @ LoveSongs.com www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

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 www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

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 @ LoveSongs.com

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 @ LoveSongs.com

Monday, November 10, 2014

Guest Post: WHY ARTS EDUCATION IS KEY IN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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 www.RadiationRoom.com with the originally article posted at www.radiationroom.com/articles/education.htm

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)
RadiationRoom.com

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 http://mashable.com/2014/11/07/stubhub-next-stage-concert-series/

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 @ LoveSongs.com

Sunday, November 2, 2014

500,000 Australian students sing "Paint You a Song"!

Last Thursday, October 30th, was a pretty awesome today for music education in Australia. At exactly 12:30 EDT, over 500,000 school students sang "Paint You a Song" in unison to support Music Education in Schools.

This event was created by an organization called Music: Count Us In which is a non-profit run by the Music Council of Australia with backing also from the Australian government. A review of Music Education in Australia completed in 2005 demonstrated the lack of meaningful music education in too many of the countries schools. Music: Count Us In was created to help push back the other way, offering resources to teachers, schools and communities to help offer better music training across the board to Australian students.

Music: Count Us In has been holding these events now for 7 years with each year getting bigger and stronger. This year over 500,000 (that's a half a Million) school students from 2100 schools in Australia will participate in the event. The song chosen to be sung is "Paint You a Song" which was written by 5 high school students from across Australia working with music industry mentor Harry James Angus, and Program Ambassador, John Foreman.

For more information on this excellent organization please visit www.MusicCountUsIn.org.au. Here are a couple of press articles from Australia about the event including some video clips from the event itself:

It so wonderful and amazing to see this type of support form music in the land down under. We'll definitely be in contact with Music: Count Us In in the near future to see how we might learn from their successes to help improve music education here in the US.

That's all for today folks - hope you had a great Halloween weekend (twick or tweet) and don't eat too much candyyyyyy!

Music, Love & Laughter

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloween Music to Scare Your Night Away

Other than Christmas, Halloween is the one holiday that has the most songs and music soundtracks associated it. I'm sure we can all name 4 or 5 "Halloween" related songs off the top of our head starting with "Thriller" (Michael Jackson), "Monster Mash" (Boris Pickett), "Werewolves of London" (Warren Zevon) and "Ghostbusters" (Ray Parker Jr) to name just a few.

Then we also have a multitude of scary movie soundtracks that will get stuck in our head as we attempt to peacefully drift off to sleep. The two that haunt my sub-conscious are "Tubular Bells" from The Exorcist and the original "Halloween" Movie Soundtrack. There is of course another movie soundtrack that brings fear into the hearts and minds of almost anyone listening and that is the "Jaws" music. That, of course, is more of a summer beach thing then a Halloween related soundtrack, unless you want to associate it with Land Shark character knocking on your door from the old Saturday Night Live Days :)

Lists of favorite Halloween songs and soundtracks have probably been made for the last 40-50 years. Here's a list of great 31 tunes that would be perfect for any Halloween party, brought to us by Mashable.com: Mashable.com: Halloween Music Spotify Playlist

Then here's a list that the Pittsburgh Post Gazette compiled by asking local area musicians about their favorite - You'll note that this list leaves out all of the obvious favorites and delves deeper (and sometimes darker) into the musical archives: Pittsburgh Post Gazette: Some Scary Suggestions for Halloween Listening

Finally here is a list of the top 10 horror movie soundtracks brought to us by the Dallas Observer: Dallas Observer: Top 10 Horror Movie Soundtracks

What we learn from all of this of course, is that music has always been used to help set the mood in whatever setting we're going for. No where is that more apparent then in a movie where we're hoping to get the wits scared out of us :)

I'll leave you with 3 of my favorite Halloween related songs and soundtracks - Enjoy and don't close your eyes too soon tonight ha ha ha

"Thriller": (Original 13 minute mini-movie & music video:

"Werewolves of London":

"Halloween Movie Soundtrack": (Michael Myers Lives Forever)

That's all for today boys and girls - Be sure to dress up and go out for some treats tooooonight!

Music, Love & Laughter

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Monday, October 27, 2014

Turn up the BASS If you Wanna Get More Done

It has been said that music is a powerful motivator, and research has once again proved this theory. Researcher Dennis Hsu did a recent study at the Kellogg School of Business at Northwestern University, and the results demonstrated that by listening to powerful music, we become more motivated and confident both in work and social situations. The study took a group of undergraduate students and had them listen to a pre-selected group of music clips that included a multitude of styles including pop, heavy Metal, Reggae and Hip Hop. The students rated each music clip for how powerful and determined it made them feel. The study then used each students own top 3 "powerful" music choices for the next phase of the study. What the study found was that the students top 3 powerful music choices helped them see the bigger picture when completing a task. When working in a group, their "power music" enabled them to speak up and contribute sooner to what the group was trying to accomplish. The "power music" had the effect of making each student more sure of themselves, more sure of their own skills and opinions and more in control of the outcome of future events.

The study also revealed that its often the energy of the bass in the music that helps make a song feel more powerful to the listener. So it appears that singer-songwriter Meghan Trainor really knew what she was talking about when she sings

"Its all about that bass, 'bout the bass, no treble
all about that bass, 'bout that bass no treble"
.

If you've been living on another star system and haven't yet heard this catchy little ditty from Ms. Trainor here is your chance with a video clip that's been watched by almost 200 million people to date:

Here's a link to the full article where I first read about the "power music" study KDVR - Turn up the Bass Music to Make You Feel More Powerful

We all know that many world-class athletes pump themselves up prior to their performance by listening to their own power music. One of my favorites has always been "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor. I'll leave you with the video clip that that power nugget and will be back to you in a few days with another fun & informative post.

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Thursday, October 23, 2014

If You Want Kids to Learn Music, First Teach Them How to Sing!

At first this might sound obvious. Kids and adults are always singing, at least the ones I hang around with are :) But when I stopped to really think about it, a lot elementary instrumental programs attempt to start kids off learning a musical instrument, when they haven't had any musical training at all yet. Learning the music basics (melody, rhythm, reading music) AND learning how to make an acceptable sound out of a trumpet, saxophone or (shudder) a violin, can be very difficult even for adults.

We all hear songs that we love to listen to and hum along to. If you start kids off learning how to sing some of their favorite songs, they will learn a lot about how to a musical phrase together, and about different types of melodies and rhythms. You can first start off with songs of the Sesame street variety when they are small (3-4 years old), and then graduate slowly to slightly more complicated songs (Nick Jr & Disney) by the time they are 6 or 7. This will gradually and eventually lead to them learning popular songs from the radio by the time they are 9 or 10 years old. Not the trashy songs from the radio mind you, but the ones that convey a positive message and are appropriate for kids. Believe it or not, there are still some great songs played on the radio every year that are appropriate for all ages. I'll run a separate post later this month and point out some of my favorite examples :)

We recently came across an article about award-winning conductor Richard Gill who is the driving force behind the National Music Teachers Mentorship Pilot Program now beginning in Australia. Core to Gill's program is a mentorship for music teachers by more experienced music teachers. The teachings are led with the philosophy that teaching kids how to sing first is a better when to introduce them to music. Here's a link to the full article on the ABC News website down under ABC News - Singing the Key to Teaching Children Music

All this talk of singing makes me remember a song written by Sesame Streets Joe Raposo and made popular by the Carpenters (top 5 hit in 1973) and by almost every character on Sesame Street over the years. Yes its "Sing" or as you may remember it "Sing a Song" - Check out this beautiful rendition of the "Sing" by the Carpenters

That's all for today folks - I'll be back soon with another post. In the meantime please consider teaching your little ones how to sing as soon as they can talk (maybe even get them humming sooner than that). You may be surprised how many other benefits they receive from this very early "musical" training!

Music, Love & Laughter,

~Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com
www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

Monday, October 20, 2014

"Keep Music Alive" Visits the Lennon Bus in Springfield, PA

Each year, the John Lennon Education Tour Bus visits schools throughout the US to help elementary, middle school and high school students learn different ways to express their creativity. They teach them how to write songs, and then help them record those songs. Taking it one step further, they then help the students create a music video featuring their newly created song and the students that created it. My wife and I were very fortunate last week to be able to tour the Lennnon Bus while it visited E T Richardson Middle School in Springfield, PA as part of the Support Music Coalition and NAMM Best Communities for Music forum. The Lennon Bus itself is a technological wonder, with a full audio recording studio, full video recording & production suite plus living quarters for the three onboard engineers who literally live on the bus 10 months out of the year.

First we arrived for the "Support Music Coalition" forum that began at 8:30 AM in the school auditorium. The forum was a outstanding panel of folks including representatives from the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association (PMEA), National Association of Music Merchandisers (NAMM) as well as music teachers and parents of music students. The panel also included the Superintendent of the host school district, Dr. James Capalupo, who is an outspoken supporter of music in schools with the quote "Support the arts, ALWAYS, cut the arts programs, NEVER". Dr. Capaulop is part of a growing trend of Superintendents across the country who started their own careers as music teachers.

The "Support Music" panel discussion centered around the benefits of music education in the schools, what it does for the students, both academically and for their confidence and social skills. The panel also touched on some ways that schools and communities can help with the arts programs in schools. One method that has been very helpful in the Springfield School district is the non-profit parent and alumni booster organization that helps rally the community with fundraisers and other activities to help keep the focus on the arts.

After the forum we headed outside into the light rain to wait for our turn to get the official Lennon Bus tour. There was a tent set up outside with music equipment including a full drum set, keyboard and guitar. I couldn't resist the opportunity to jump on the keyboard and I played a few songs with Bryce from the Lennon Bus keeping the beat on the drums. If my voice was awake that early in the morning I might have started to sing as well, but I'm pretty sure the frogs were still in session :)

After a brief wait, we jumped in on the last general tour of the bus before the students began to line up for their days activities. Peter, one of the 3 Lennon Bus engineers, then demonstrated some of the videos that the students had done, including a high school group with a polished, MTV-like quality to a fun and quirky music video done by an elementary school group - something about saving themselves from the "Land of the Stashes" in reference to mustaches and beards. This is the cutest video, and you can tell the kids had so much fun creating it. This was a story the kids made up all by themselves and the Lennon Bus team helped them create & record the song and then film a 3 minute music video to help tell the story. The resulting music video is colorful and entertaining and would be a big hit in any grade school classroom or even as a Nick Jr segue way in between shows.

Springfield's ET Richardson Middle School was previously chosen as one of the 500 schools in the nation to have the best music education support. Each of these schools was asked to submit a short video about "What Makes Music Education Great in Your School" for a chance to win a visit by the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus. For more information on upcoming Support Music events and John Lennon Educational Tour Bus visits please visit SupportMusic.com and LennonBus.org . Here's the winning video sent in by E.T. Richardson Middle school which will then also play into videos that some different schools have created during their own visit by the Lennon Bus. Emjoy!

That's all for today folks - It's Music Monday and the Monday part is almost over - I'll be back in a few days with more musical fun and infotainment for you - Until then let the music play on!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Thursday, October 16, 2014

This is your BRAIN on GUITAR!

In a 2012 study in Berlin, Germany, researchers hooked up 12 guitar players to brain scanners and learned some pretty amazing things. They had the guitarists all play the same piece together (ie. like a big guitar band), and what they saw was that their brain waves synchronized together while playing the piece. Even more interesting was the fact that their brain waves actually synchronized slightly before they started to play (like they were all coming to starting gates of a race at the same time).

Being more of a keyboard/piano player myself, I wonder what the brain scans would look like for musicians playing other instruments playing the same piece of music. What if you had a full band with different instruments, say piano, guitar, bass, drums and maybe a horn section? If they were all playing the same piece with the same notes written out would their brains synchronize as well? Or is there something different about guitar player brains as a recent article in The Open Mind suggests.

I do agree with the article when it claims that that guitarists often tend to be the more creative musicians. Maybe its the years of trying to emulate and outdo guitar solos from the all the guitar virtuosos from the last 40-50 years starting with Jimmy Page, Eric Clapton, BB King, Jimmy Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, Slash and a host of others. When you are trying to play what you hope is an exceptional guitar solo (or any instrument for that matter), at some point you let go of your conscious mind to see where you're creative brain waves will take you on their own. I know myself I have written some of my very best pieces of music when I forced myself to not think about what I was doing, but instead just let my hands and fingers go where they wanted. Sometimes our best path to discovery of any kind is to let go and see what floats back into our being from the universe (I'm getting a bit spiritual here I know, no apologies :)).

To learn more about the Berlin research please check out this article on The Open Mind website: The Open Mind: This is Your Brain On Guitar

Stop back this weekend for an update on how our visit to the John Lennon Education Bus went this week - in short it was pretty amazing but we'll have more details and pictures to share. For now have a great Fridayyyy (almost) and will be back this weekend with our next post.

Love, Music & Laughter,

~Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

Thursday, October 9, 2014

BBC Music releases one of the coolest cover songs ever!

The BBC, one of the most well known and trusted sources for news and information, has jumped into the music business with BBC Music, and to celebrate they have created one amazing rendition of "God Only Knows" by the Beach Boys. With proceeds going to the BBC's Children in Need charity, the song features an amazing cast of artists including Sir Elton John, Pharrell Williams, One Direction, Lordes, Sam Smith, Kylie Minogue PLUS Brian May from Queen rockin' the guitar. They were joined of course by the legendary songwriter and Beach Boy himself, Brian Wilson who appears twice briefly during the entertaining 3 minute video.

The recording and video feature 27 different artists and is backed up by the 80 piece BBC Orchestra. The artists participating range from pop to rock, and classical to opera (yes opera!) - together they've created a very heart-warming rendition of the Beach Boys classic.

Here's a link to the Forbes article where I first discovered this: Elton-John-Lorde-Pharrell-and-more-help-launch-BBC-Music-initiative-with-Amazing-Beach-Boys-Cover-Video

The Guardian takes it one step further by giving us the lowdown of exactly who is in the video and when plus giving us their performance rating of each performer (does this now count as an Olympic charity single since we have scores or maybe at least a shot on The Voice or American Idol :)). The Guardian - BBC-God-Only-Knows-Cover-Every-Performance-Reviewed-and-Rated

And now for the video itself, check it out and see if you don't agree its one of the coolest cover songs and videos you've ever seen:

That wraps it up for today kiddies - I'll be back soon with another post as soon as I dig myself out of my "to do" pile of fun sitting on my desk :) Have a great day and be sure to play some extra music tooooday!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Sunday, October 5, 2014

John Lennon Educational Tour Bus Brings Unique Music Experience to Schools

For 17 years, the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus has brought music recording and video production experiences to students all over the USA with their high-tech (and colorful) bus. With the assistance of three on-board engineers, students learn how to write, perform, record, and produce original songs, produce and shoot music videos and documentaries and complete a broadcast quality music video – all in a single day. Boy what I would have done to have experienced something like this when I was in school! Endorsed by John Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, the bus is also supported by long list of corporate partners including Apple, Sony, Yamaha, Gibson and many more

From the LennonBus.org website:

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is highly adaptable, and is designed to provide students, their schools and communities with performances, demonstrations, remote recordings, and studio sessions customized for their needs, levels of experience and interest. The bus travels the country visiting schools, musical and technology conferences and events, and partners with newspapers and other media to host Battles of the Bands with the national winner selected online

I recently learned that the tour bus will be visiting a school just 10 minutes from where we live, so we are hoping to get a up close glimpse of what they are doing and will do another post about it.

I can remember very clearly the time period when John Lennon passed away. I was playing in a wedding & club band called "The Sound Of Gold" and we played many Beatles songs with the band leader Mark Tully taking the Lennon parts and me doing my best with the McCartney parts (my voice was definitely still developing then :)). I remember we played a New Years Eve event just 3 weeks after he passed and performed a tribute to Lennon with a heavy dose of Lennon influenced Beatles songs along with some Lennon solo tunes. To this day I still perform "Imagine" whenever, wherever I can. This song along with "Let There Be Peace On Earth", perfectly embody what each and every person in this world need to fully embrace, one by one. I can only hope that through music, arts and other non-violent means we can slowly move towards this end for the human race.

I'll leave you with the song that John Lennon is most remembered for.

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
No religion too
Imagine all the people, living life in peace..

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

I hope you have a wonderful day and stay tuned for some more fun posts coming this week on "how music can help you!" :)

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

Monday, September 29, 2014

Heard any good Babylonian Love Songs Lately??

Believe it or not, there was most definitely music in ancient times. While written records and notations telling us exactly what the music might have sounded like don't exist, there were enough clues left behind to let us know that music did indeed exist. Stef Conner is a performer, composer and musicologist who is working with a group that recreated an ancient lyre and is trying to reverse engineer music from the 2nd millennium BC. Originally from Sussex, England, Conner has performed across multiple continents to critical acclaim all along the way. With a PhD in composition, she has studied jazz, classical and many other forms of music. Her training and worldly musical experiences have definitely helped prepare her for what many would consider an amazing challenge: How to write music that sounds like what ancient music would have really sounded like

Conner was able use her skills and knowledge to make the long leap from modern folk music to possible ancient love songs by teaming up with Andy Lowings, and the Gold Lyre of Ur Project. This project actually built a replica of a 4,550-year-old Mesopotamian gold lyre and asked Stef to compose music for the lyre. When asked how she attempts to best write compositions that might sound something like ancient Mesopotamian music, Conner states:

"I propose to look for features that recur frequently in living music linked to Mesopotamia. The point is to look for the most consistent features in a widely dispersed collection of music. The most commonly occurring will be those most likely to have been features of Mesopotamian music, either because they have been preserved through musical lineages branching out from Mesopotamia, or because external influences have caused them to be invented over and over."

Last year, Conner and the Gold Lyre of UR Project recorded the results—an album of contemporary music, sung in Babylonian, called The Flood, which will be out December 2014.

We originally learned about Stef and her ancient music project via Slate Magazine - Babylonian Music Recreated . To reach Stef Conner directly you can go to her website Stef Conner - The Lyre Ensemble .

I'll leave you with a short video clip from the Gold Lyre of Ur Project which by the date appears to possible before Conner was involved. Some fascinating pictures of ancient artifacts straight from British and other museums along with some ancient sounding melodies. Please enjoy and we'll see you for another post very soon!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Music helps teacher speak again after brain surgery

Allison Woyiwada is a music teacher from Ottawa, Canada, and had literally taught thousands of elementary school students in her 28 year career. In 2012, she was diagnosed with an brain aneurysm which required a very delicate and risky surgery. When she emerged from the surgery, her family quickly realized that she had lost most of her motor and speech skills. Two months after the surgery she basically had the skills of toddler, unable to even put two words together.

Then a miracle happened. Her daughter was pushing Allison in a wheelchair through a hospital waiting area and saw a piano. She wheeled her mom up to the piano and then something amazing happened. Allison started to play the piano, and not just any song. She began to play the Beethoven Sonata sheet music that was sitting on the piano at the time. Her daughter and everyone around was absolutely astonished. Allison soon began working with a music therapist who used a method called "melodic intonation therapy" to help bring back her speech. Today, just two years after the surgery, Allison is almost fully recovered and is once again teaching music and even sings in French, German and English.

Stories like Allison's never cease to amaze me. Once again, musical therapy has proven to be a sometimes miraculously tool when someone is up against something seemingly insurmountable. For the full account of Allison's amazing journey and recovery thanks to music, I invite you to check out the newly published book entitled "Allison's Brain" by author Robert McMechan found on Amazon.com right here: Allison's Brain - Amazon.com

I first learned of this story through CBCNews and CBC Radio in Ottawa. Here's a link to the CBC Radio story in Ottawa by Anna Maria Tremonte Allisons Brain Documentary

That's our inspirational story of the week, and I hope you liked it as much as we did. We'll be back tomorrow night with a new post, and if you've got an inspirational story to share please let us know about it. Thanks and goooood nite all!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

85% of all Music Sales in Japan are CDs - Yes in 2014!!

I was just amazed as you may have been reading this. Normally the Japanese are ahead of the technology curve on most things, but it seems there are a number of factors keeping the CD alive and well in this Asian isle. Apparently the digital rights issues have not been worked out quite as well over there as in the US. Two of the biggest music streaming companies, Spotify and Rdio are not yet launched in Japan. That combined with the fact that it seems the culture there really still likes to have a physical souvenir in the shape of a CD case and booklet with their music. Tower Records, the huge music chain that went out of business in the US almost 10 years ago, STILL is alive and well with 85 stores in Japan with annual sales around 500 million. On one hand all this seems very strange to us in the US, however CDs apparently still account for 40 percent of all music sales world wide.

So I guess I'll hang on to my supply of Vincent James "One More Night" CDs and see if there's a way I can get them shipped and sold over in Japan. We are planning a trip there sometime next year so I'll have to find a way to stash of box of CDs for the visit :)

To read more about this very interesting CD phenomena check out the full article in this weeks Forbes Magazine at 85-Percent-of-Music-Sales-in-Japan-are-CDs

I'll leave you today with a fun novelty tune from way back in 1980 when vinyl records still ruled the day. Take a walk back in history with The Vapors and "Turning Japanese":

Have a great nite and will be back tomorrow with another ppppost!

Music, Love & Laughter

~Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com www.Facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Apple and U2 - "Songs of Innocence" not so Innocent!

So it seems about a week ago, Apple and U2 decided to band together and release their new album "Songs of Innocence" to the masses. Far from being a traditional release, they instead decided to "give" the album away to the 500 million or so ITunes subscribers on the planet. Seems like a great promotional idea doesn't it? Well maybe 5 years ago it might have been, but now it just seems like a last ditch effort for a once iconic band to stay relevant, AND what has now become a complete PR disaster.

I was a huge U2 back in the day, when the band and their music stood for something a lot more important than making money. Songs like "Sunday, Bloody Sunday", "Pride (in the name of Love)" and "New Years Day" were all about our human struggle and crying out for a better world. But with U2 and the marketing company pocketing a reported $ 100 Million dollars to "give" their music away, it seems the Bono, The Edge and the boys have really lost their way. If U2 really wanted to actually GIVE their music away as a true gift, they wouldn't have felt the need to concoct such an enormous payday for themselves in the process.

I also wonder if Apple would have stooped so low if Steve Jobs were still with us. The other side of this is Apple should have known better than to force free music downloads on the world, at a time when people just don't want downloads anymore. Whether we like it or want it or not, we are in a music streaming world now - the masses have spoken, so now we music creators need to adapt to this new paradigm. Jobs was an extraordinary visionary, and surely would have seen that the U2 download push promotion was a bad idea, and crafted a more creative way to get the buzz Apple was seeking.

Here are just two of my favorite U2 songs from back in the day. First there is "Pride (In the name of Love)":

And then there's "New Years Day":

There was also "With or Without You" and "Where the Streets Have No Name" from the Joshua Tree album in 1987 and "Beautiful Day" from 1993 and "Desire" from 1997. These were all great songs, but I'm having trouble latching onto something that stands out in the last 10-15 years. Instead of a crazy publicity stunt to try and stay relevant, what U2 needs is to go back to their musical roots. Try writing about what really matters in the world, and then deliver that message with the same passion they started out with. I realize that for many artists this is an extremely difficult, if not impossible task. Because of their success, their lives and fortunes have changed so much and its hard to remember what it was really like in the beginning. All we can do is hope Bono and the boys find their way after this incident and manage to come back with a song that really inspires us once again.

NOTE: I tried to find the new U2 album "Songs of Innocence" in my ITunes player and it seems to be hidden very well (or maybe I just need to update to a newer ITunes :)) . Oh well, I'll just head online to stream a few songs and hope that maybe there's still a nugget of greatness among the new U2 tunes.

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

"KEEP MUSIC ALIVE" mission launches on Facebook today!!!

Today we've launched our "Keep Music Alive" mission on Facebook at www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission, and we are soooo excited.

As you may already know, we are on a MISSION to promote how valuable and important music is in all of our lives: Academically, Therapeutically or just overall making us a happier society. As part of this mission, our new book “88 Ways Music Can Change Your Life” will feature original quotes, anecdotes and stories relating how music has affected the lives of people all over the world. We are currently searching for inspirational stories, anecdotes & quotes for possible inclusion in the book.

In addition to inspirational stories, “88 Ways” will also feature some of the more recent research supporting the importance of music, plus practical suggestions and examples of what schools & communities can do to help bring music back despite the recent arts & music budget cuts.

Our life experiences make us who we are today. Many of us credit music as playing a vital role in who we have become and where we are in our lives.

  • Did music help get you through a difficult time in your life?
  • Was there a particular song, or artist, that strongly resonated with you?
  • Was a there a person in your life who influenced you with their music?
  • Was there a family member or friend who played an instrument, or sang, and made you more aware of the musical world around you?
  • Did you learn to play an instrument or take part in your school’s band or chorus?
  • Was music used to help you during a type of therapy, either to motivate you or to “just get you through it”?

When you look back now, how do you think your life is different, or has changed, because of Music?

If you have a story you’d like to share with the world, we would LOVE to hear it. No story is insignificant because your story comes from your life, which is special and unique. Please email your original stories, quotes or anecdotes about “how music changed your life” to: MusicStories@LoveSongs.com. You will hear back from us within 72 hours confirming we have received your submission. Also, please let us know how you would like your name to appear with your story (full name, first name, etc) and tell us your city/state and/or country where you reside.

By submitting your original quote, anecdote and story, you are granting permission for them to be shared:

  • in the book,
  • at conferences & discussion groups,
  • Radio, TV, print and internet interviews, blog posts & articles

All entries submitted will be considered for inclusion in our book “88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life” which will be published in March 2015. Each person whose quote, anecdote or story is included in the book, will receive a complimentary copy, once it is published. No other compensation will be offered.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of this book will be used to help keep music alive with funds going to a variety of music charities that bring music instruments and instruction into schools.

For more information about our mission, please visit: LoveSongs.com and click on “Keep Music Alive”. And please don't forget to LIKE the Facebook page for www.facebook.com/KeepMusicAliveMission

p.s. The deadline for story submissions is December 1st, 2014. Please share this message with musicians and others you believe may have a story to share.

That's all for today folks, we'll be back tomorrow with another post - yay we did 3 days in a rowwwww!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Beatles come to Pittsburgh - 50 Years ago this week (1964)

I had the very good fortune this summer to meet the man who was largely responsible for bringing the Beatles to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania during their first US tour. This would end up being the Beatles one and only appearance in the "steel city", and was near the beginning of Pat DiCesare's legendary career in the concert business.

Pat DiCesare started out as a songwriter and Doo Wop performer in the 1950s and later moved on to booking shows and concerts. In time, he and his partner Rich Engler became the single most powerful force in the Pittsburgh area concert business. It wasn't long before DiCesare-Engler Productions became one of the top grossing concert companies in the entire US. Their dominance in that industry would continue for over 3 decades. During that time, Pat and Rich would go on to produce and promote concerts by legendary artists including Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, Janis Joplin, The Temptations, Aretha Franklin and many, many more.

My wife and I both were fortunate to meet Pat this past August during a Quantum Leap conference (nope, its not about the very cool TV show, but instead it's an incredible training and mentoring program). It turns out Pat took his lifetime of experiences and stories and turned them into an amazing book "Hard Days, Hard Nights" and was there like us learning how to promote his book. This amazing book of musical journeys tells many of Pat's own personal stories of working with and promoting many of the legendary artists we all grew up with.

To honor Pat and his incredible career, the governor of Pennsylvania just announced that the week of Sept 14th was The Beatles week to honor the Fab Four visit to our state 50 years ago on their inaugural US tour. In addition, the governor named the day of the Beatles concert, Sept 14th, as Pat DiCesare Day in Pennsylvania. I can't believe I met someone who has a day named after them how cool is that! In talking with Pat, both in person and on the phone, you can tell he's just about the nicest and most genuine person you will ever meet, especially in this crazy music business. If you are a music fan like me, I highly recommend you head over to Amazon or Barnes and Noble and pick up a copy of "Hard Days, Hard Nights". You will absolutely enjoy the experience!

That's all for today kiddies. I will be back tomorrow with another post, but that topic will be a mystery until I put my writing hat on tomorrow :) Have another great nite and we'll see you soon!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Monday, September 15, 2014

AMAZING - 41% Increase in Music Education in the UK over the last 15 years, BUT...

I was astounded to read that over the last 15 years, there has been a 41 percent increase in the number of kids in the UK that know how to play an instrument. WOW, that's just amazing! A study by ABRSM, the exam board of the Royal School of Music, also found that the piano, recorder and classical guitar were the favorites with drums, electric guitar and bass guitar not far behind. Now, I'm thinking if they did this in the 60's, guitar, bass and drums would have been tops thanks to the Beatles and the entire British music invasion.

But, back to the topic: In an article I just read, the Royal School of Music study credits this positive musical trend on recent government initiatives, particularly in England. The piece doesn't specifically mention what those initiatives are, but perhaps we need to dig a little deeper. Some of these ideas could possibly be implemented in the US and other countries.

One interesting thing about the article: It mentions that the children from well-off families have a much higher chance of playing an instrument, which itself is not surprising. But I also found it very odd that the title of the article mentions that fact, but not the dramatic increase in the number and percentage of kids playing an instrument. I know as musicians, and for me especially, as part of our "Keep Music Alive" mission, we want to shout out from the mountain tops "WE NEED MORE MUSIC!". But we also need to trumpet out the good news stories where more music is being played. This provides a fairer and more balanced (and ultimately more believable) argument, and also provides us with positive examples that others can learn from.

Here's a link to the article - take a read and post your comments and let me know your thoughts on the topic: Music education still a preserve of the rich, UK study shows

On Deck: Pat DiCesare and "Hard Days, Hard Nights"

We're back on the blog kick folks and we're gonna try to do at least one short blog post EVERY day. Tomorrow we'll be talking about my new music friend Pat DiCesare who is a legend in the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania concert world. Pat was instrumental in bringing The Beatles to their one and only appearance in Pittsburgh back in 1964. He also went on to produce hundreds of concerts over 40 plus years, hosting acts like Led Zeppelin, Aretha Franklin, The Temptations and many, many more. So look for the new post on Pat and his new book Hard Days, Hard Nights tomorrow. Till then have a grrrreat nite all!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Let Your Kids Study Music - says Forbes!

The folks who write for and read Forbes Magazine generally know a thing or two about succeeding in our highly competitive world, and a recent Forbes article trumpets the cause of allowing, wait, encouraging kids to study music. We're not talking just having kids play music while they are growing up, but encouraging them to study music in college say instead of generally more preferred careers like engineering, computer science, math and other STEM subjects.

The article talks about how we really need to let our kids follow their own path and if that path happens to be music then absolutely encourage them. A little known fact is that many kids that go to school for music eventually end up in other highly successful careers like lawyers, doctors, scientists and more. It's very interesting, because most of us myself included always thought that going to school for music meant a lifetime of either teaching music or trying to scratch out a living as a touring musician living forever on the road. It turns out that many of these kids going to college for music are also some of the smartest and motivated kids there. After their well-rounded 4 years of liberal arts education, many go on to advanced degrees or sometimes end up in highly sought after positions in business and banking. This realization definitely aligns with what I have always said. It doesn't matter where you go to school or often even what you go to school for. It's what you know, what you're willing to learn and your ability to network and strive to be better that will be the ultimately be the deciding factor in your success.

I have to say this article caught my attention because it brought me back a few decades to when I was deciding where I wanted to go to college and for what major. I had my heart and mind set on going to West Chester University to study music, however the folks at home gently swayed me toward what they thought was a more practical course: engineering. At this point I would never go back and change the path I took, simply because it gave me the interactions and ultimately the beautiful family that I have today (although incidentally I met my beautiful wife through music many years after college). I do however occasionally ponder for just a moment what my life would have been like if I had gone to college for music instead of engineering. We'll never know, but what I do know is that for my children I will absolutely encourage them to follow their dream path whatever it may be. Follow your passion with all of your heart, might and soul and see where it leads.

Here's a link to this very interesting and informative article by writer Liz Ryan for Forbes Magazine:

Let the Kid Study Music, Already! Forbes Magazine

I'll leave you with this picture of an incredible piano & violin shaped building in China - apparently you enter the main piano shaped building via an elevator in the violin. Boy would I love to visit this place :)

Have a great day everyone and stop back tomorrow for another post - yep I'm gonna try and go for two in a row!!

Music, Love & Laughter,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

p.s. LoveSongs.com is looking for YOUR Music Story - "How Has Music Changed YOUR Life??" - For more information please visit www.LoveSongs.com/keepmusicalive

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Playing Music Will Make You Smarter - Yes its True!

It's been said by many that kids who play music will do better in school. A recent two year study accompanied with several years of observation by Los Angeles based non-profit The Harmony Project has demonstrated just how much music can make a difference. Before beginning the study, they began to notice that kids they were teaching music to were graduating high school at higher rates with many heading off to big universities like UCLA and Tulane. This was despite the fact that this same kids came from disadvantaged areas with the odds stacked against them. The Harmony Project began to study a test group of current students more closely over a two year period including measuring brain activity at various times during the study. To date the testing has shown that while one year of musical training doesn't appear to make much different, a marked improvement was definitely evident after two years. One remarkable statistic from the study showed that 90 percent of the students participating graduated from high school while only 50 percent of their same neighborhood peers did the same.

Here's an introductory video about the Harmony Project - Based on what I'm learning so far I would love to see a Harmony Project in every city in America. We'll have to do some searching to see what exists already and see how we can do our part to help expand this.

Like most studies about music and education, this was a rather small sampling of 44 students and many more studies like this need to be done all over the country and in different socio-economic areas. I am thinking however that when they do the results they find may very well indeed be similar and support what we have been saying: Music and arts training needs to be included in education if we really want our children to have the best chance at succeeding. I talk to countless folks who went to school in the 1950s-1960s and they tell me music instruction of some sort was actually a requirement for many. Compare this to today where its pretty much never a requirement and often not even an option.

Stay tuned as we continue to research more studies and learn as much as we can about all angles of how music and education are tied together. For now, here's the link to an ABC News story about the study, its a very worthwhile read: ABC News: Playing Music Helps Sharpen Kids Brains

RIP to Jimi Jamison

The music world was sad to learn of the sudden passing of one of rock's best known voices from the 1980s, Jimi Jamison from Survivor. Jimi sang on many of their trademark hits including "The Search is Over", "High On You", "I Can't Hold Back" and more. He took over the lead singing duties after Survivor made a name for themselves with "Eye of the Tiger" from the Rocky franchise. The lead singer at that time Dave Bickler had left the band for medical reasons and since then Dave and Jimi had both performed with Survivor at various times over the last 20 years.

I'll leave you with my favorite Survivor song with Jimi Jamison which is "The Search Is Over". Jimi: You and your voice will be missed!

I was living for a dream, Loving for a moment
Taking on the world, That was just my style
Now I look into your eyes, I can see forever
The search is over, You were with me all the while

I hope everyone's week is goin' great - I'm having a blast learning more about music, education and musical education altogether :) Have a great night and I'll be back tomorrow with another post!

Music, Love & Laughter

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Taylor Swift says "Shake it Off" but I just can't do it!

If you haven't noticed already, Taylor Swift's new song "Shake It Off" has been inescapable - Every where I turn the song is being played again and again. I first heard it when my daughter was listening to it, and I was like "is that Taylor Swift's new song? Don't tell me you actually LIKE that song!" I asked her. Now before all you Taylor Swift fans get up and protest, I have been a big Taylor Swift supporter for years, simply for the fact she has come out with a multitude of really great pop tunes. There was "Teardrops on my Guitar", "Our Song", "Should've Said No", "Love Story", "You Belong With Me", "I Knew You Were Trouble" and I probably missed a few. Whether or not she wrote or co-wrote all of these songs I don't know, but I do know that she has remained a star all these years because she consistently released quality songs (if your a pop song fan you can't deny this!).

When I first heard "Shake it Off", it immediately struck me as the type of song that a new artist would NEVER get radio to play let alone put it in rotation. It's a great idea for a song, but the melodies are just second rate at best. Does anybody remember what a "B" side is? That's the flip side to the "A" side on an old 45 vinyl single and its the "A" side that's the hit. I'm afraid to say that "Shake it Off" in my opinion is definitely a "B" side. Tonight I forced myself to listen again, just trying to be as objective as I could and the result was the same. Good beat, great lyrical concept, but melodies, melodies melodies need some work. Oh well I tried :) If you haven't heard this yet (probably not possible :)) please take a listen yourself here and let me know your thoughts:

I also came across a good article explaining why "Shake it Off" is such a big hit (and just how big a hit it is already after less than two weeks). I can't argue with the logic they present: "Shake if Off" is a huge hit simply because Taylor Swift is probably the biggest pop star on the planet right now. I can only hope that she has more pop gems in her pocket to share with us, because this phenomena won't last forever unless she can bring some of that magic back. Here's a link to the article Slate Magazine - How "Shake it Off" became a HUGE hit!

Before I go today I'll leave you with one of my favorite Taylor Swift songs called "You Belong with Me" - no doubt about it its just a great song and deserved every bit of the attention it got!

Today is new Blog Day #2 - Stop back tomorrow when we try to make it Blog Day #3 - Getting back up on the horse and riding again is funnn!

Music, Love & Happiness,

Vincent James @ LoveSongs.com