The things students do

The past four weeks have been quite difficult for me. I had to take a significant amount of time away from my day job as a middle school music teacher to care for my father. I’m sure I’ll have more to say about that as I continue to cope with losing him. However with all that has happened, my students remind me (yet again) why I am a teacher, by creating this message for me.

They did manage to include music we have been studying and a song I made them research earlier in the school year. Great way of connecting our curriculum. Nice job Soundview Class of 2017.

Singing President

Recently I listened to another installment of the New York Times Popcast and became even more impressed with the level of discussion about America and in particular it’s relationship with President Obama. This is as close as I ever hope to get in communicating anything political in this forum, however there were a lot of good things mentioned about Obama in this podcast and I feel the need to share.

In my opinion, his most powerful moment was his performance of Amazing Grace at the funeral for victims of the Charleston church shooting. I still get chills when ever I hear or watch this moment unfold.

Picking a high school in New York City

Many of my middle school students already know where they will be attending high school. When I was their age I had no ideas where I’d be spending the bulk of my teen age years.

There were only 3 real choices for me at the time. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, mainly because it’s one of 5 specialized public high school in New York City. LaGuardia was the only one of those schools who featured the performing arts as it’s identity. The others were all about science, engineering or math.

Stevenson High School was an obvious choice for me, hqdefaultpartly because a lot of the people that march in the drum and bugle corps I was a member of went there. I knew they had a marching band and that was a big factor in my appreciation of that school.

Finally my other choice was Julia Richman – Talent Unlimited High School. They have a great performing arts department and were competitive with LaGuardia. I also knew a few of the students from my drum and bugle corps went there as well

The main reason for picking any of these schools was because they had music programs and members of the New York Lancers went to those schools. I guess the arts and like minded people to attend school with was important to me. In many ways that is still true today.

fiorello-470x240I was accepted to LaGuardia and I was very relieved to be going to a specialized HS in NYC. The movie FAME was about that school, so I was secretly humming that tune to myself when I got the news.

I was not a very good student, but I devoted myself to all my music performance classes. Music history and theory seemed like math, science and humanities. Not a good fit for me at the time. I had trouble putting into context why they weren’t as stimulating at the time, they were more of a hurdle I had to jump to graduate.

Eventually I got my act together as a student, and now I’m a teacher!

Great Find, Funny Path

It’s funny how one comes into contact with new music. I was recently listening to the New York Times Popcast titled “The Return of New York Rap” , which offered a unique discussion about the lack of rap music coming out of NYC the past decade. As I am a native New Yorker and still feel a certain connection to the music coming from there. So to listen to

Jon Carmanica pictured at "The Hip-Hop Renaissance: A Culture Rebirth?" Press Conference during the 2008 CMJ Music Festival at the NYU Kimmel Center in New York City on October 21, 2008. © RD / Dziekan / Retna Digital
Jon Carmanica pictured at “The Hip-Hop Renaissance: A Culture Rebirth?” Press Conference during the 2008 CMJ Music Festival at the NYU Kimmel Center in New York City on October 21, 2008. © RD / Dziekan / Retna Digital

Jon Caramanica and his guest talk about the artist coming out of there and the specific impact the New York radio stations play in getting music out to the masses was very enlightening. Not to mention, the Caribbean and island talk reminded me of home. When I hear topics likes these about my hometown, I feel comforted.

The podcast was so interesting to me that I wanted to read up on some of the artist mentioned in the talk directly from the NYT website. Well, somehow I meandered toward the bottom of the page and saw a trumpeter. His name is Ibrahim Maalouf and I am glad I got the chance to discover his music as well.

Funny, the twist and turns we make towards discovery. From Young M.A.’s “OOOUUU” and Fat Joe and Remy Ma’s “All The Way Up” to Ibrahim Maalouf Live in Beirut.

Middle of summer worries for a music teacher

music-school-560x328 It’s the middle of summer, my kid is watching cartoons while I look at my units of study for the up coming school year. Since I am a middle school band director, I tend to worry about how effectively I am helping students learn specific skills on their instruments and the other parts of music299de70a6b898c2b2e89733edb73c3e4, like music theory and music history. Never mind connecting them to other subjects studies at out school and finding ways to stay in touch with anything current and relevant to middle school kids, while thinking about making global connections to all we do.

Just for fun (or because I’m a glutton for punishment) we will be tackling intro to music theory, the Romantic era of music history, beginning conducting and beginning composition. IMG_2308

And yes, this will be the work 6th, 7th and 8th graders will explore with me. Should be a fun school year, so why am I worried about it in July?

 

I Tend To Reminisce

Now and again I tend to reminisce about my youth, and luckily what comes up most for me is the music I listened to. Lately I’ve been spending my time totally enamored with two specific groups, The New York Voices and the Pat Metheny Group. I listened to these pieces often and I fell in love with the artist as well. I can even make a direct connection between the woman I fell in love with (who is now my lovely wife of 13 years) and one of these groups.
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The New York Voices are a vocal jazz quartet currently, however when I first learned about them they were a quintet. I listened to their self titled first album constantly, in fact it was the 3rd CD I remember ever buying in 1991. The song that has stuck to me like a great memory is titled Silence Of Time. Take the time to enjoy this piece.

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The first time I heard Pat Metheny’s Minuano I remember it challenged all I knew about music. The lines between jazz and classical music were blurred for me since. Subsequently, I started to listen for common ground between genre’s and making connections across the different components within music. This piece moves and I remember it moving me as a teenager.

 

Latest Ear-worm

Somehow I can’t seem to shake two seemingly and completely different ear-worms.  For those who don’t know what an ear-worms is, the best I can say is it’s a song or a piece of music that has worked it’s self into you mind and deep into the very fabric of your being.

My Brian This Week
My Brian This Week

In any case here are my two…yes two ear-worms. First I had a conversation with a new friend and he mentioned that “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys changed his life and perspective on music. Well, after that conversation the worm was on the hook and working it’s way deep into my mind.

The second came as a result of the awesome documentary I watched on Viceland called “NOISEY London”. Now it’s on, and my mind is racing back and forth between Kano, JME, Giggs and the Beach Boys.

These things usually come to an end when I buy and listen to the object (or in this case the objects) in question. Anyways…this is my therapy, but somehow I hopes it’s contagious for others to enjoy like I am.