Category Archives: Gigging

Music Careers for Your Personality Type

Are you wondering where you might best fit in your local music community? Check out this infographic shared with us by Emily Parker with collegematchup.net. As you’ll see, the multi-faceted music industry has a place for all personality types!

Music Careers for Your Personality Type
Source: CollegeMatchup.net

Forget the Map at Home!

A Guide to Improvisation, by Katie Lubiens

You don't need sheet music on this journey.
You don’t need sheet music on this journey.

Improvising? That sounds scary! Making up the music as you go? But where’s the sheet music? Who even improvises anyway?

As a classical violinist, these were all questions I asked myself when confronted with the thought of improvising.  I never was taught to improvise.  As classical musicians, we always have our sheet music to guide us, to show us the direction we should go.  Going forward into the musical realm without sheet music seems like going on a roadtrip without a map.  Where do I go?

Surprisingly, I’ve discovered, improving is all around us as musicians.  Even classical musicians improvise, too!  There are so many musical genres to experiment with which do teach you to improvise and foster those creative juices that make new music happen.  From blues jams to Irish sessiuns, from jazz club improvs to bluegrass jam outs, there are endless outlets for practicing improvisation.  Without sheet music, how do we know what to play?   Especially when improvising with other musicians.

Katie Lubiens performing with The Seseseisiunists.
Katie Lubiens performing with The Seseseisiunists.

Here are a few pointers when learning to improvise: 

  1. The most important thing to know is what key you are playing in.  It can sound great when everyone is playing something completely different, but they must be playing their own unique parts in the same key for it to work.
  2. Think of the scale, then play itterations of the scale.  I like to play the scale aloud before trying any kind of improvising so I really get the notes in my ear and fingers.  Then try playing the scale up and down, jumping around with different arpeggios, and always keeping the tonic, dominant and 7th in mind.
  3. Take turns.  Most improv music works best when everyone takes turns being the melody.  When it’s not your turn at the melody be sure to keep the energy up.  Long notes mixed with off beat rhythms are easy on the tonic or dominant.
  4. Practice some cool licks at home.  Most improv artists aren’t actually making it up as they go.  Usually, they have practiced some licks which they made up at home and can transcribe them into any key to play while performing in an improvising scenario.
  5. Perfection is not the point.  Improvising teaches you to be adaptable.  Adapting to your current musical situation makes you a stronger player and shows you that the imperfections are what make improvising so thrilling.
  6. Don’t be afraid!  Although you can feel put on the spot while improvising, recognize that everyone else recognizes that you are improvising.  It is not meant to be perfect.  Once you get used to improvising, you will begin to feel the powerful energy in making up music with your peers as you go.

Like anything, improvising gets better the more you do it.  I promise you, if you try you, will find that creating your own music with others in the moment is one of the best adventures you can embark upon. The moment when you close your eyes and listen to yourself creating music together, making it up as you go, and you hear that it sounds beautiful and harmonious, you will find pride in yourself like never before.  So, go ahead, make up the directions to your next adventure and forget the map at home!

**Check back soon for more in depth imrpovising tools and tips!

How to Keep Classical Music Alive

How can we keep classical music from ending up six feet under? (Photo by Ben Salter)

There are plenty of saucy articles floating around questioning classical music as a dying art, such as these treasures:

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Each of these articles brings up some very good points about the past, present, and future of classical music. So is it dying? And if there is any truth to the conclusion that classical music is a dying art, is there anything we can do to stop it?

HOW TO KEEP CLASSICAL MUSIC ALIVE

I don’t know what all the statistics are — ticket sales, CD and digital music sales, concert attendance, radio traffic — but I do know that the best way to

  • keep a plant alive is to water it.
  • lose weight is to eat less and exercise more.
  • accomplish something is the work hard.
  • make friends is to meet people.
  • learn an instrument is to practice.

So when you apply this principle of ACTION in the quest to keep classical music alive, the trick to making a difference in the music community is to do something about it.

INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE PEOPLE

At Kennedy Violins we are really serious about keeping classical music alive. That’s why our biggest priority is to get quality instruments into the hands of anyone and everyone who has any desire to play. We try our best to provide instruments, rentals, and lessons at the most affordable price for the quality because we want to give EVERYONE a chance to make music without unnecessary costs as a stumbling block.

I’ll use a gardening analogy. If you want to grow a garden full of produce or flowers or fruits, the first step is to plant seeds. Likewise, if you want beautiful music to be produced in your community, the first step is to get instruments into the hands of the people, especially the children.

Not to say that children are the only one who can play, but the majority of professional musicians who have found success started playing at a young age.

THE THREE ACTIONS THAT PERPETUATE MUSIC

Orchestra concert attendance, ticket sales, and symphony bankruptcies are only a portion of the picture. In the grand scheme, the continuation of music as a lasting tradition is based on three foundational elements:

  1. EducationIn order for music to be produced, musicians must be taught music performance, theory, and history.
  2. Performance In order for music to be produced, musicians must perform what they have learned.
  3. ListeningIn order for music to be appreciated, it must be listened to by people who care.

With that said, there are SO many ways to promote the ongoing exercise of these three foundational elements. I would encourage everyone to take part in these exercises by learning, playing, and listening to music. It’s all about INVOLVEMENT and faith in the lasting value of classical music as an important tradition worth perpetuating. May we each do all we can to support this worthwhile and enriching art.

New Year’s Resolutions: A Musician’s Guide to Self-Improvement

Happy New Year! (Photo by William Warby)

Making New Year’s resolutions is a social trend that has become more popular throughout the last century. Is becoming a better musician on your self-improvement checklist for 2014?

To help you in your quest to take your performance to a new level, here is a MUSICAL interpretation of some of the nation’s most common New Year’s resolutions out there.

Get a better bod.

  • Improve your left and right hand technique.
  • Focus on posture. Stand up straight.
  • Develop muscle memory through repetition. (Think sets of pushups and situps.)
  • Exercise (i.e. practice) three or more times a week.
  • Warm up before you play.
  • Join a musical sports team: an orchestra, quartet, or other performance group.
  • Train for a marathon (i.e. a recital or concert).

 

Have a more positive attitude.

  • Refrain from throwing your instrument when frustrated.
  • Believe in your ability to achieve your performance goals.
  • Repeat encouraging mantras. (“I can do this.” “Never say never.” ““Success is not obtained overnight.” ― Israelmore Ayivor)

 

Make strides in your career.

 

Do well in school.

  • Take private lessons (if you don’t already).
  • Do your homework (i.e. practice).
  • Keep a practice journal.
  • Make sure you have the right school supplies (i.e. accessories).

 

Do something you’ve never done before.

  • Play a new piece.
  • Play with new people.
  • Practice outdoors.
  • Compose music.
  • Listen to new artists.
  • Try a new instrument.
  • Practice new techniques.

 

Get organized.

  • Prepare and decorate a comfortable practice space.
  • Keep your practice room, case, and music collection uncluttered.

 

Reduce stress.

  • Don’t take practice too seriously.
  • Take breaks.
  • Play more ballads.
  • Get back and shoulder massage to loosen your playing muscles.
  • Set reasonable goals.
  • Don’t expect too much of yourself.
  • Keep your love for music alive.

 

Improve time management.

  • Set aside time to practice.
  • Breakup practice time dedicated to specific pieces and exercises.
  • Be realistic with your schedule.
  • Keep a planner and mark your calendar with rehearsal times and events.

 

Read more books.

  • Expand your sheet music library.
  • Learn about composers.
  • Study music history.
  • Learn how to expand your creativity. (You might try The Artist’s Way).

 

Do more community service.

  • Perform at nursing homes and hospitals.
  • Do “show-and-tell” performances at preschools and elementary schools.
  • Support musical organizations that need funding.
  • Organize a concert to support a charity.

Find love.

  • Develop an intimate relationship with your instrument.
  • Get obsessed with a composer.
  • Ask someone out on a date to an orchestra concert.
Photo by Josh James
Music is good for the heart! (Photo by Josh James)

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Need reminders to keep your goals? Print out this list and hang in your practice space. Best of luck as you strive to improve your musicianship!

Note: Don’t overwhelm yourself with unrealistic expectations. Keep in mind the value of patience, persistence, endurance, and a commitment to never give up on your dreams. Don’t be afraid to reevaluate and recommit to your artistic goals throughout the year. As Richelle E. Goodrich says in her book, Smile Anyway,

 

Do it again.

Play it again.

Sing it again.

Read it again.

Write it again.

Sketch it again.

Rehearse it again.

Run it again.

Try it again.

Because again is practice, and practice is improvement, and improvement only leads to perfection.”

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Happy New Year from all of us at Kennedy Violins!

Music for Parties: Live & Otherwise

I like throwing parties. But I also suffer from a condition I call “Gatsby Syndrome.” Symptoms include behaviors such as

  • delighting in the act of throwing parties;
  • hoping that one’s favorite people will attend such parties;
  • lacking a desire to socialize or receive attention at such parties;
  • finding distractions during parties such as tending to host/hostess duties: replenishing drinks, busying oneself in the kitchen, taking coats, etc.; and/or
  • lingering in the background observing the party rather than actually partying.

 

I was seventeen when it occurred to me that throwing a party was more than just getting a bunch of people in the same room. I put together my own birthday party (which, on a side note, turned out to be hilariously fun with every guest bringing a round cake to stack into a 20-tiered monstrosity that naturally resulted in a cake fight when it toppled over). But I remember there being two memorably awkward moments that combined into one larger awkward moment:

  • Awkward Moment 1: I had arranged a whole bunch of chairs into one large circle instead of in groups of chairs for smaller groups to mingle. As a result, everyone quietly nibbled on their party sandwiches not knowing with whom to make eye contact, waiting for some brave soul to speak to the entire circle and break the silence.
  • Awkward Moment 2: During that moment of silence itself, there was no sound—specifically, NO MUSIC to distract from the silence. It occurred to me later that in the event that all guests at a party shut their mouths simultaneously, having something to bridge the gap of that silence can save a party from sudden death.

Like have you ever been at a gathering where the conversation dies down, there is a silence, and someone says, “Well, I’d better get going. . . .” And then before you know it everyone else says, “Me too” and there’s a big scuffle as everyone retrieves coats and shoes, hugs the host, and vacates.

A few years after the great 17th Birthday Party, I was prepping for another party and popped my “Getz Plays Jobim: The Girl From Ipanema” CD into the boom box (does that date me?). As the hours passed, I noticed that people both stayed longer and seemed more comfortable. Even though the music was unnoticeable in its background-noise kind of way, it brought warmth into the room. And when I, as the hostess, noticed a break in the conversation at some point, no one else seemed to.

It’s a pretty simple formula that restaurants and retail stores have down: play music—the right kind of music—and people will stay longer and buy more. I’ve learned that people actually spend more when faster-paced pop music is played in a clothing store, and people will stay longer and consume more in a coffee shop with atmospheric, relaxing music.

Gatsby, when planning his parties, knew that music was key. “By seven o’clock the orchestra has arrived, no thin five-piece affair, but a whole pitful of oboes and trombones and saxophones and viols and cornets and piccolos, and low and high drums. . . . The lights grow brighter as the earth lurches away from the sun, and now the orchestra is playing yellow cocktail music, and the opera of voices pitches a key higher. Laughter is easier minute by minute, spilled with prodigality, tipped out at a cheerful word” (F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby).

(P.S. What happened to full orchestras being present at parties? Like in The Sound of Music, or even during “Under the Sea” in The Little Mermaid? Invite an orchestra to play at a party and I’m there.)

Live music at parties is always an incredible touch, whether it’s a formal quartet at a wedding reception or a bluegrass trio at a barbeque. And while none of us can afford to throw a true Gatsby party, music can always be a part of the affair—no matter what the party budget may be. Try these options on for size:

  • A live quartet
  • One guy on a guitar
  • A Pandora station playing from your Blue-ray
  • An iTunes or Spotify playlist
  • A real record player or phonograph for a retro/period-themed party
  • A violinist playing unaccompanied Bach
  • A harp player
  • A rock band
  • Classical music CDs
  • KARAOKE!

So as you’re planning your upcoming Christmas party, be sure to invite the tunes! It’s time to kill the silence, vanquish boredom, and have a good time!

ALSO, don’t forget to join us for the holidays at Kennedy Violins! You will most definitely hear classical music in the showroom, music which may prompt you to pour yourself that cup of complementary coffee or tea and gaze contemplatively at the hundreds of violins surrounding you like friends at your own private party. You’ll love it. Hope to see you soon!

The Musician’s Résumé – Part 2: Writing & Distributing

A well-written résumé can be your ticket to the job of your dreams. (Photo by woodleywonderworks.)
A well-written résumé can be your ticket to the job of your dreams. (Photo by woodleywonderworks.)

In “The Musician’s Résumé – Part 1: Getting Started” on our Kennedy Violins blog, we brainstormed ideas on how to get started with a musical résumé. Now that we know the direction we’re headed, it’s time to put it all together.

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WHAT TO INCLUDE

Keep in mind that your résumé should include a combination of the information below whether you are a performer or teacher.

THE BASICS

Everyone needs to include the same basic information to start, regardless of your end goal:

  1. Full name
  2. Contact information (phone, e-mail, address)
  3. Educational background and degrees/certifications obtained
  4. Primary Instrument and style (classical, jazz, folk, rock, etc.)
  5. Secondary instrument(s). Note: Only list instruments you can play fairly well–not the oboe you played for one year in middle school. As a rule of thumb, honestly consider your capabilities: could you perform in an ensemble or teach beginner/basic music lessons on this instrument? If so, list it.

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Below your contact information you will clarify your emphasis in the first (and main) section. Group information in a logical way: chronologically, in order of significance (recommended), or in a combination of both (i.e. categories with information within the category in chronological order).

FOR PERFORMERS

Performers will emphasize performance experiences on a shorter, focused, résumé that doesn’t need wordy descriptions. According to The Musician’s Résumé Handbook by Bob Borden and Kathy Ivy of the Eastman School of Music, “Performance résumé must be limited to one page and should include only educational training and performance experience. All material should be listed in order of performance, without any description or list of duties.”

However, while its up to you how much and what information you include, you might consider noting your roles as either a section player, principle, or soloist, unless you’ve exclusively been a section player only and repeatedly mentioning it is unnecessary.

What to include:

  • Ensembles with which you’ve played: orchestras, operas, bands (be selective–don’t mention your garage band to a professional symphony admin or anyone you want to take you very seriously).
  • Teachers of note
  • Master classes in which you’ve performed or taught. Mention notable artists with who you’ve worked.
  • Freelance work and recording gigs. Note studio names and other meaningful specifics about the nature of the gig.
  • Major recitals and other solo performances.
  • Major artists with whom you’ve performed or accompanied.
  • Touring experience.

FOR TEACHERS

  • Workshops and masterclasses you’ve led.
  • Private teaching experience, whether at a studio, a music school, or in your home.
  • Non-music teaching experiences that reflect your capabilities.
  • Certificates and memberships with associations like MENC or Suzuki.

ADDITIONAL SKILLS & INFORMATION

Ttowards the bottom of the page, include info that shows you’re a well-rounded individual with other marketable skills:

  • hobbies
  • languages you speak
  • community service involvement
  • achievements
  • computer/recording skills
A modern résumé layout by Conor Luddy. Choose a style and readable font that reflect the impression you hope to give about yourself.
A modern résumé layout by Conor Luddy. Choose a style and readable font that reflect the impression you hope to give about yourself.

MAKE IT LOOK GOOD

There are many ways to take advantage of the space on the page of a modern résumé, limiting white dead space and including all the important information you can. Working with columns and even spreadsheet cells can help distribute information evenly across a page.

Using light colored paper, like a classy off-white, can also give it a nice touch. However, as most résumés are distributed online now, you may not need to worry about paper. Still, you could make the background of your résumé a non-white, unassuming color for interest in your PDF or digital file.

DISTRIBUTING YOUR RÉSUMÉ

Now you’re ready to send! Send this résumé (along with a brief cover or introductory letter of inquiry) by e-mails or snail-mail to orchestra managers, school administrators, or other potential employers. You might even Include a recording (on a CD or as a sound file attached to e-mail) or yourself performing.

TIP: Once your résumé has been handed over, don’t just wait for a response, be ready to perform! Have audition pieces ready, to play, be brushed up on your conducting, or have a first lesson for students prepared.

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Once your music résumé is complete, we would love to see it here at Kennedy Violins! Feel free to contact me at liz@kennedyviolins.com with questions or with your résumé for review. As supporters of the music community, we want to see you succeed.

All the best!

The KV Team

The Musician’s Résumé – Part 1: Getting Started

Photo by Nguyen Hung Vu
Photo by Nguyen Hung Vu

In a previous post on our Kennedy Violins blog, “How to Find Gigs: Musical Networking,” I talked about ways to make connections within a music community when searching for performance opportunities. Diving further into the networking process, I want to zone in today on a specific and powerful networking tool: the musician’s résumé.

DO I NEED A RÉSUMÉ?

Anyone and everyone looking for work needs a résumé, including musicians and performers. When you’re a student, you rely heavily on your transcript as a reflection of your accomplishments, but once you’ve graduated from high school or college, your work experience becomes the substance of your marketability.

A SENSE OF DIRECTION

Where do you start when drafting your résumé? The first step is not to focus on where to begin, but where you want to end up. Think about your direction, motives, and professional goals. What kind of work are you looking for?

If you’re primarily a performer looking for gigs, your résumé will highlight your performing experience. Or perhaps you are primarily a music educator looking for private students or a position as a professor, conductor, or school orchestra teacher. You may be interested in an administrative position with a music-related organization. There are so many different opportunities, so your résumé will target the type of employment you’re looking for.

WHERE TO BEGIN

If you’ve come down with a case of writers block before you’ve even started, here are a few ideas:

  1. Make a list of your career goals and the types of jobs/gigs you’re looking for.
  2. Make a second list of specific employers or companies you’re targeting. For example, if you want to play in a professional symphony, look up open positions first so you know your options. The music union (the American Federation of Musicians) is also a helpful resource for finding work opportunities.
  3. Make a third list of major experiences and jobs you’ve had in one column and your skills in a second column. Don’t think too hard, just free flow stream-of-consciousness-style, jotting down anything and everything of import in your life.
  4. Weed out the unnecessary. Underline or highlight the most significant information to include in your résumé. Make decisions about what information is important to keep by asking yourself whether or not your future employer would find it relevant.
  5. Work on your layout first, then fill it in. Sometimes its easier to fill in the blanks (perhaps in a template) rather than stuff your content into a layout later.
  6. Look for examples. Ask to read résumés by people you know or Google résumé examples, templates, and tips online.

FIND EXTRA HELP

Gleaning knowledge from other people can be extremely helpful as they offer you some extra perspective.

  1. Sit down with someone who knows you well to evaluate and point out the marketable skills you have that are apparent to them but not always to yourself.
  2. Meet with a professional adviser who can help you put together your résumé, review your current résumé, and offer editing suggestions.
  3. Meet with a professional who does what you want to be doing. Discuss your goals with someone who has achieved them. Someone experienced in your field is sure to have advice and direction to share.

GET READY TO BRAG

Creating a résumé is a chance to highlight your best. This is the magical opportunity to put your best foot forward, make a memorable first impression (without even being present!), and highlight your greatest achievements. Don’t be humble! Any relevant experience counts–even that one time you subbed with a specific orchestra or played in that masterclass you completely forgot about. Adding up all these details–even one-time experiences–will create a full and impressive résumé.

For information about specific items to include in your musician’s résumé, stay tuned for “The Musician’s Résumé – Part 2: Writing & Distributing.”

 

A Brief History of the Serenade

Photo by Elin B
Photo by Elin B

With Valentine’s Day less than 48 hours away, you might be sweating bullets trying to come up with some way–any way–to impress that special someone.

Well, I’m going let you in on a little secret. There is nothing that wins someone over like MUSIC. Sure, you could always gift your sweetheart a violin. But it’s also prime time for serenading and the singing telegram. And this strange tradition of awkwardly showing up at someone’s door to sing songs (think Christmas carolers) is nothing new. It all began with the serenade.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE SERENADE

Going back to prehistoric times, there is evidence that music existed. Like verbal language itself, music is similarly a natural and essential form of communication. The oldest known musical instruments include a collection from China even dating between 6,600 and 7,000 BC. Now those are some serious oldies.

If you think about it, almost any piece of music could be considered a serenade in the sense that all music is intended to be performed for an audience, whether it be a hall of concertgoers or simple an individual.

But when it comes to the traditional serenade, this form developed in Medieval times as a way for an eager gentleman to serenade his lady love of choice. This was typically done in the evening through a window (Romeo-and-Juliet style) with self-accompaniment on a lute or guitar.

These medieval serenades developed into an art form of its own kind. During the Baroque era the serenade evolved into a lyrical piece still sung and played outdoors, but for an an audience rather than a courted lady. By the Classical and Romantic eras the serenade further evolved into a form in concert literature for string ensembles and orchestras, like a light symphonic work with multiple movements and varying tempos, but free of heavy, dramatic orchestration. The serenade kept it’s lyrical, evening-song character.

AND IT’S STILL HAPPENING

Going back to the original serenade with that young man singing at the window, this form of the serenade is still performed today. There is no shortage of young men wooing girls on the guitar. One of my old roommates was even proposed to via song. Singing telegrams, caroling, Italian men singing from gondolas, mariachi band specials, and even Elvis impersonators serenading couples down the aisles of Vegas wedding chapels are today’s popular way to send messages of love.

Now, you can even serenade your loved ones online. For example, my friend Fresh Big Mouf will send his original song, “Secret Crush” to your very own secret crush as a digital message of love. There’s modern serenading at its finest.

Serenade your secret sweetheart with a virtual valentine.
Serenade your secret sweetheart with a virtual valentine. (Photo by Marcello Ambriz)

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So if you really want to win over the one you love, you may find that harmony is the key (signature) to the heart. Ditch the chocolates and warm up your vocal chords because now is the time to confess how you really feel. And while you’re ditching your chocolates, send them to me. I can help you out with that.

Stereotypes & Misconceptions Part I: Classical Music is for Rich People

What kinds of people listen to classical music?  Photo by Caitlin Doe.
What kinds of people listen to classical music?
Photo by Caitlin Doe

Some strange kind of stigma has become associated with classical music, and I want to get to the bottom of it. It isn’t unusual for stereotypes about classical music and its listeners or performers to exist; after all, there are similarly plenty of opinions out there about Twilight-loving teenagers, Bronies, Trekkies, band geeks, and people who wear sandals with socks.

It’s nothing new, then, to assume that all classical music and its listeners can be stuffed snugly in a box tied up with music-note-printed ribbon and mailed to Austria. But for a brief moment, I’d like to debunk some myths about classical music.

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1. Classical music is for rich people.
I can see how this myth originated; in the 18th century the wealthy nobility were the patrons and commissioners of classical music, opera, and live performance. Watch a Jane Austen movie and you’ll see how playing the piano forte was as a mark of refinement.

Today, however, I will take this opportunity to inform you of some heartbreaking, but fairly well-known news: a great number of artists and musicians live in poverty. Even centuries ago they did. Music majors are among the ranks of graduates who receive the lowest starting salaries out of college. While the society at large believes in the great value of music and the arts, this is not proportionally reflected in the funding of the arts.

There definitely still remains the association of classical music with those who drink tea with their pinkies raised, or the nobility of the old aristocratic patrons. But, with the introduction of mass media and the internet, classical music is now accessible to listeners from all backgrounds around the globe.

2. Anyone who takes music lessons comes from a wealthy background.
Where people invest their money is a reflection of their values. Yes, weekly private lessons can add up as a monthly or annual expense, so are often quickly crossed off the budget when things are tight. And with the recent recession, as many families simplify their spending, it’s understandable that lessons often fall by the wayside.

However, there are so many affordable and even free opportunities to provide both children and adults with exposure to classical music. Many public schools offer orchestra programs with instruments students can use for free. Quality violins purchased online are more affordable and accessible than ever. Community centers and programs often sponsor free concerts, workshops, and even individual music lessons and scholarships for interested students.

In essence, where there’s a will, there’s a way. Be sure to take advantages of the wonderful resources that are available!

3. Music without lyrics is boring.
Yes, one might assume that because a piece of music isn’t accompanied by dramatic lyrics, fog machines, neon costumes, plastic surgery, and loud flashing lights that it must be boring. But classical musicians will tell you just the opposite.

While pop and folk music are often written with the same three chords and simple rhymes, I would almost argue that because pop music is “boring” in it’s composition, it’s easier to listen to. (Note: I am in no way arguing that classical music is “better” than pop music; the two simply serve different purposes and audiences.)

Unlike most pop music, classical music is composed with the richest of harmonic variations, the widest array of instrumentation, multiple melodies in one piece, and an incredible range of motion, tempos, and dynamics within a single composition. I believe that this is the reason why classical concert-goers sit silently while viewing and listening to a live orchestra; there are so many nuances in the music requiring focus and concentration to absorb. This is the opposite of boring–in fact, it’s both captivating and stimulating for the mind!

4. All classical music sounds the same.
I don’t even know where to begin with this one. [Utterly ridiculous? Anyone?] To say that all classical music sounds the same is like saying all Asians look the same. There is so much variation and personality provided by individuals within a culture and pieces within a genre of music. Listen to Stravinky’s Rite of Spring and Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending to hear a vast contrast.

5. Classical music is great for atmospheric background music.
I recently had a horribly memorable experience sitting through extremely loud, staticy rendition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons being forced down my ear canal while waiting on hold. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think classical music sounds its best from the receiver of a telephone.

As far as other background music goes, I absolutely 100% support the use of live classical music performed incidentally at receptions, parties, and other gatherings. Likewise, some classical music is wonderfully appropriate to play over the speakers in a store or restaurant. But again, I reference point number four. With the wrong set list, you may have guests or customers nodding off in their seats or running for the doors as Medea’s Meditation and Dance of Vengeance by Samuel Barber blares down from above.

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To be continued!

Tidings of Comfort and Joy: 10 Ways to Tune Up the Holidays

Sargent Major Mercy Diez sings Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas is You” for a United States Army Christmas concert. (Photo by United States Army Band)

The debate continues. The tension increases. Individuals and societies pit themselves against each other over THE question, yes, that question: when is it too early to start listening to Christmas music?

Whether you crank up tinsel-tunes before Thanksgiving, after Thanksgiving, or sometime in July, one truth remains: music brings meaning to the holidays. Unlike any other holiday throughout the year, there is more music associated with the Christmas than any other holiday–even Easter. Not only that, but every nation around the world that celebrates Christmas does so with song.

So what could be more appropriate than to celebrate the holidays by pumping them full of melody? Here they are:

TEN WAYS TO SPICE UP THE SEASON WITH QUALITY TUNES

  1. Give the gift of music. First things first. You know you’re sweating over your Christmas shopping list. But here’s a little secret: everyone loves music. Easy peasy. Wrap up your favorite CD, give an iTunes gift card, or tie a bow on the violin your child’s been bugging Santa about for years. Don’t forget the frosting on the fruitcake: sheet music and accessories!
  2. Go caroling. Bundle up and don’t even worry about bringing music along if you don’t want to. Sing the standards you know: “Jingle Bells,” “Frosty the Snowman,” “Let It Snow,” “O, Christmas Tree,” and all your other favorites. Gather a group of friends and family to carol around the block or drive around the neighborhood to loved ones’ homes. Organize a group of musicians to play or sing carols at a nursing home. You’re sure to brighten someone’s day.
  3. Organize a holiday recital. During the holidays, people are looking for excuses to get together. If you’re a private teacher, schedule a holiday recital for your students to play for their parents, friends, and other family. If you’re a solo performer or play in a quartet, organize a performance with some traditional tunes. Don’t forget to pull out the cookies and hot chocolate after the show!
  4. Host a singalong. It’s especially fun if you have a piano. Make copies of Christmas songs and put them in binders. Invite a pianist to accompany and ask guests to bring a holiday treat to share: think peppermint bark, caramel corn, and gingerbread men. Now there’s something to sing about.
  5. Light the Menorah. Learn and sing the three Chanukah blessings when lighting the menorah: l’hadlik neir, she-asah nisim, and she-hekhianu. And don’t forget to sing “Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel,” when you pull out the top.
  6. Hire a quartet. There’s nothing classier than a live quartet or small ensemble providing beautiful background (or foreground) noise at a holiday party. If you’ve never arranged for live performers at a gathering, ask around to find a good group of experienced players. Appreciative guests will be telling you all evening how much they love the entertainment.
  7. Attend a concert. Holiday concerts are never few and far between. And school orchestra and choir concerts are only the beginning. Look through the paper or online to find out where and when you can attend. For some extra interactive fun, find a local “Messiah Sing-Along” to attend and rock out with Handel’s famous oratorio. Don’t forget to warm up those vocal chords before you go!
  8. See The Nutcracker. What could be more classic? Enjoy taking part in a historical tradition by attending this popular ballet. Tchaikovsky’s famous, heart-warming melodies will definitely leave you feeling the spirit of Christmas.
  9. Send a musical card. Come on, birthdays aren’t the only occasions worthy of the stationery sound chips. Distant family and friends will especially enjoy finding  a tune in the mailbox to fill them with Christmas cheer.
  10. Watch cartoons. Christmas brings out the kid in everyone, and there’s no better time to tune into classic holiday specials like A Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Sing along with classic toon tunes like, “Christmastime is Here,” and “You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch.”

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It’s time to celebrate, and what better way to do it than with music? After all, that’s our specialty. Happy Holidays!

Sincerely,

The Kennedy Violins Team