Thursday, August 26, 2010

La La Land

This blog has been sleepy this week. My apologies. I've been in my head a lot this week, reading books and exploring different sounds. Last Monday, I fell in love with Bob Marley's music. Growing up near the beach in Florida, I thought Bob Marley was a bit cliche', so I avoided ever becoming a hard core fan. What a shame that is. Bob Marley is the perfect soundtrack to the 100 degree Southern California weather we are currently experiencing. Listening to him while I ponder the coming school year's peace related theme makes the work even better. He just makes everything feel happy.

I also started reading a book called Lennon Revealed about John Lennon.

Started learning how to play "Peace Train," by Cat Stevens, on the piano.

Spent a lot of time thinking about the connection between life and music. Didn't realize anything too revolutionary yet. Just this: listening and singing music about peace makes me feel peaceful. Pretty obvious, but what if I only listened to and sang songs about peace? I wonder what that would be like. Hmmm. Maybe a new idea for the new school year? I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

John Lennon's Message

I was born in 1980, just 6 months before John Lennon was shot and killed. My parents named me after a Beatles song, and the song that made me really want to play the piano was "Imagine" by John Lennon. Something about the slightly far-away sound of that old upright piano grabbed me. Then the idealistic lyrics come in with that sincere voice of his. When he sang

Imagine There's No Country, 
It isn't hard to do, 
Nothing to Kill or Die for, 
And No Religion, too

I knew what he meant by the sound of his voice. He had this sad sincerity whenever he sang about suffering, and "Imagine" spoke to every one's suffering. Even though I was a religious Catholic kid living in the Bible Belt the first time I heard that, I knew what he meant. Wouldn't it be so wonderful if we were just people

I just saw "The U.S. vs. John Lennon" for the first time, and John Lennon is on my mind a lot now. As a member of Generation Y who was denied the privilege of living in this world with John, I watched those clips of John leading masses of people in singing "All we are saying is give peace a chance" I couldn't help but wonder, where did all those people go? I certainly didn't see them when I was growing up. Why is that? Did so much really change in 1980 when John Lennon died? 

It just doesn't make sense to me. I wonder if the peace activists were just scared. I think I would be too if I had been part of a generation that saw John F. Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John Lennon die over beliefs that so many people held close to their conscience. 

John Lennon was very brave. He did something that very few people in the public eye ever did. He spoke out for peace, even though it was not really "cool" yet. He saw something wrong, and he stood up. He realized his life was public whether he liked it or not. Why not do something really productive and helpful with that fame? Why not encourage people to just be peaceful? Conservatives laughed at their children for loving such a ridiculous character. They were ridiculed for following John's urgent plea to just be yourself.


The stubborn Baby Boomers continued to carry out this behavior until the 80's. Then... time to grow up. What would a psychologist say about this? From a compassionate perspective, I would guess it had to do with fear. Just like one abused child will grow up and (statistically) will marry into an abusive relationship, have kids, and repeat the cycle of violence. 

Are generations the same way? The Baby Boomers were revolutionary. So what happened?
Well, it's all in the past now. Time has gone by, and perhaps there will be a resurrection of John Lennon's philosophy. Everywhere I go, I see all kinds of beautiful people wearing peace signs, and T-shirts with musical instruments on them with phrases like "Peace Rocks!" In the 80's I felt like a total dork for wearing a peace sign. Maybe John Lennon's style is ready for a flashback. Wouldn't it be so nice if everyone thought peace was cool? Imagine that.

Published with Blogger-droid v1.5.2

Monday, August 16, 2010

The Troubadours!

If the slide show does not work, go to this link:

Yesterday, we debuted "The Troubadours" at Belmont Village in Hollywood. "The Troubadours" are a group of 11 California Music Makers students who have reached an intermediate skill level and are proud to share their love of music with members of the community. Once a month, we will be bringing music to the residents of Belmont Village, an assisted living community in Hollywood, CA. It was a blast.

Just like real troubadours of the old days, our group strolled from room to room giving private concerts to 2-3 people, as well as sing-a-long performances to large living room crowds. The audience hummed along as Ella played "The Entertainer" and sang as Danielle performed "He's Got the Whole World in His Hands."

Several kids showed off their improvising skills by playing a blues jam on the spot. Jack's piano rendition was enough to draw in several residents to the living room. The music was contagious and exciting for all.

Special thanks to Nancy Redford for photographing the event.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Survey: Music in Your Teen Years

Yesterday I posted a thread titled "Understand Me Through My Music." I'm curious about your thoughts on this. Please help me understand music and the emotional relationship we have with it. If you could take a moment to answer the following questions, it would be most appreciated. The survey is really geared toward adults, but If you are currently a teenager or tween, please let us know how music is effecting your life now.

Tori Amos: My Teen-Age Voice
Thanks so much!

1. Do you think that the music in your teen years is better than the music being played on the radio now?

2. Did you feel an "emotional" connection to the music in your teens?

3. What did music do for you when you were a teenager?

4. Were you obsessed with music in anyway when you were a teenager?

5. Who were your favorite musicians when you were a teenager and what drew you to their music?
6. What are your thoughts regarding the current state of the music industry? (The business itself, the mainstream artists, internet piracy, etc.)

Your Brain on Improvised Music

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Understand Me Through My Music

Lately I have been thinking about the way we personalize music. I remember growing up and really developing an emotional bond with music as a teenager. Doesn't everyone go through this? The answer is almost always yes. The same is true for children.

As the student-teacher relationship develops between us, I begin to notice that some students are picking out songs that specifically speak to their own emotional concerns. It makes me happy to see them expressing their feelings through music. I also remember doing this. And I remember feeling frustrated that my parents and teachers were not picking up on the signals. In a way, I tried to symbolically tell the adults in my life that I was sad. I listened to sad folk songs and contemplative singers like Tori Amos and Natalie Merchant. They expressed my feelings so I didn't have to. I'll bet we all can relate to this.

When we are young, we are still developing our vocabulary, so we do not always have the words to explain our feelings. But we always have music.

As the old saying goes "music is what feelings sound like." This is something we learn at a very, very young age. When parents criticize the music their kids listen to, I take it a little personally. I feel that those kids are also trying to express their feelings through the only emotional language they know: Music.

I have been talking about this a lot with both kids and adults, and everyone in my social circle seems to agree. If you want to understand your kids and teenagers, listen to their music. 

There once was a note pure and easy

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Donnas

I saw "The Donnas" play at The Troubadour in West Hollywood over the weekend. Let me tell you, it was so fun to be up front at a serious all girl band rock show! I know The Donnas want to be rockers and not "female rockers," because it 2010, y'know? But my little feminist rocker heart was just so proud. I can't help it. Rock on, ladies!!
Published with Blogger-droid v1.4.9

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Amy Hendrickson & the Prime Directive

Stephen Pigman

Do you remember your first elementary school boyfriend or girlfriend? It was usually started by a simple little note with the question, "Will you go with me?" I always thought that sounded funny. Go where?

Anyway- my first b-friend, Stephen, was in 4th grade with me, and I think he took the more sophisticated route of sending his best friend as a messenger. After answering the question with a "yes," I seem to recall maybe one conversation actually happening during those 2 weeks. You know how grade school dating goes...

When I moved away the next year, I never saw any of my elementary school friends again.

Enter Facebook. Well talk about a trip through time! I got a message from Stephen about a month ago and was so surprised to see that we both chose a life of music. If we were 19, I might say, "Big deal. Who hasn't chosen a life of music?" But we are not 19. We are at least 10 years older than that now, and the number of our peers choosing a musical life is much smaller these days.

Stephen Pigman plays bass and sings in the band "Amy Hendickson and the Prime Directive." Having opened for national acts such as The Wallflowers, they regularly tour the east coast, and have played at some impressive venues like "The Florida Theatre" in North Florida.

I'm so glad to see an old friend still rockin' the dream.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Hey NPR Fans: Check Out Who Blogged About 38 Ways!!!

Lisa Napoli

I Love L.A.

There is always something going on. A movie premier, a car chase, "unusual weather"(aka: light rain), and of course, celebrity sightings. It's always fun to spot "publicly successful" people. This is common for everyone. Even the ones who act like it's "no big deal" are probably squealing internally with delight.

When I first moved here, I wondered if geeking out when meeting someone who is "known" would be a unique, embarrassing reaction, reserved for newbie-LA residents. It's not. Everyone here, whether they have been living in Hollywood for 6 months or 12 years, gets excited the minute a member of the film and television elite enters a room.

So I get why it's really amusing when someone has that same enthusiasm for NPR writers, or any other member of the Literati.  Successful writers do make me want to squeal with envious adoration. If I saw David Sedaris just casually browsing at Borders, I would totally go through a panic in my mind as to whether or not it would be "appropriate" for me to approach him with a simple,

"Thank you so much for being YOU!'"

Case in point: One time, I met a guy at a party who writes for "This American Life." 

You would have thought I was meeting one of the kids from Twilight, I was so freakin' excited! So you can imagine how thrilled I was yesterday, when I opened up the blog of Lisa Napoli, reporter for Marketplace on American Public Media, as well as the Huffington Post, and saw a picture of Moi. 

I met Lisa this past Sunday at the Temple where I performed, and she blogged about 38 Ways to Change the World Through Music! So exciting!!

After reading Lisa's blog, I found out that she spent some time in Bhutan, a small Kingdom between India and China, where she helped start the first non-government radio station! Amazing! She has written about her experience in a book titled "Radio SHANGRI-LA: What I Learned in Bhutan, the Happiest Kingdom on Earth."  It will be released in February 2011.

Her story makes me want to add a 39th idea to our musical community service list: "Go to a small country, and teach them how to start their own radio station that is NOT government-run."

Yes. That is VERY 38-Ways style.

Just when I think I’ve exhausted the possibilities of cool, interesting, change-oriented people in this giant city of Los Angeles, something happens to remind me how dumb and short-sighted that feeling is. To wit: I had the pleasure of meeting Michelle Payne yesterday, who keeps a blog called 38 Ways to Change the World Through Music but in the dimensional world teaches kids about music, yoga, and Buddhism. She actually sang two beautiful songs for the kids at the Temple we visited with my favorite monk, the Rev. Kusala (who himself plays a mean uke, but that’s a whole other story.)
A lot of what she’s talking about (the discipline and focus of learning music) has to do with the world at large, not just music.
I’ve pasted her “manifesto” here below but a clearer version is on her site, which I hope you’ll visit.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Playing for Buddhists

Recently I started playing music at Buddhist Temples and Sanghas. This picture was taken two weeks ago at Lien Hoa (leen-wah) Temple in Garden Grove, CA. It is a Vietnamese Temple, and according to Rev. Kusala (the monk with the ukulele standing next to me), it is very unusual for Americans to teach the Dharma or play music for this community.  The woman who is working to get more American born adults to teach and sing in English to the kids is a visionary named Michelle. The community was so open and inviting. The head monk gave me a yellow mala for my wrist. (A mala is like a rosary. It is also used for prayer and meditation)

The children were so well behaved and engaged. They are so smart and kind. It was a lot of fun. I went with Kusala to another temple in Long Beach yesterday. This community was very different. Busy and more laid back at the same time. Some of the kids had spiky hair and ripped jeans. Very Rock and Roll. You could say I felt right at home! 

After Kusala and I performed, the monks and nuns made us sit down in the dining room and fed us way too much tasty vegetarian food. A monk named Nin (I have no idea how to actually spell it...) taught me a song in sanskrit that I have promised to practice and play next month. The words are : "No Mo Avalo Kitesh Varas"  The song is a praise to Kwan Yin, the great Bodhisattva of Compassion.