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 We first heard about this study from our friends at the - 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 @

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 To see where we first learned about this you can visit the KSPR news article here: - 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 @

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 @

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 @

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 @