This week marked the 7th anniversary of the death of Michael Kamen. Kamen was a talented musician and music producer. He was also an Academy Award-nominated film composer, and wrote the original music for one of my favorite music films, Mr. Holland’s Opus, released in 1995/96. The movie, starring Richard Dreyfuss, chronicles the journey of an aspiring composer who takes a high school music teaching position reluctantly out of necessity and grows to love the work and the impact that he has on the lives of his students.
Shortly after that film was completed, Kamen founded an organization called Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, a non-profit organization that helps bring musical instruments to schools in need. After Hurricane Katrina they formed an emergency fund for school music programs in the Gulf Coast area. Sadly, Kamen was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 1997 and died of a heart attack in 2003, but his legacy lives on through his music, and perhaps more importantly through his Foundation.
I’m always intrigued by people who achieve great things, yet find a new calling in life and an opportunity to impact lives to a greater extent. Celebrities like Danny Thomas, Christopher Reeve, and Michael J. Fox found challenging missions later in life that have had greater impact on the lives of others than even their considerable achievements in entertainment.
I think it sends a message to all of us. Whether you believe in fate, destiny, religion, or a higher power, I think it’s important to understand that our journey in life is a winding road and that we may be called to change direction every once in a while to have the greatest impact on others.
Thanks to Michael Kamen for great music, a great movie, a wonderful foundation, and an extraordinary legacy.
We’ve written about Bob Dorough several times here before. Bob is a unique and wonderful jazz singer/songwriter, but he’s best known as the musical director of Schoolhouse Rock, the cartoon vignettes set to music that taught children Grammar, Math, Science, Multiplication, History. Economics, and Environmental lessons. Bob composed such wonderful songs as “Conjunction Junction” and “Three is a Magic Number,” and through DVDs his music is being passed along to future generations. He continues to perform well into his 80′s.
A group of independent filmmakers is raising money for Devil May Care, a documentary that chronicles Bob’s fascinating career.
To learn more or to contribute to the fund raising efforts of the film, click here.
To go to the Devil May Care Facebook page, click here.
To hear my interview with Bob, click here.
When my father was alive, he loved a great musical. In particular, the performance of James Cagney as George M. Cohan in the film Yankee Doodle Dandy. Last year, one of the great old single-screen theaters here in New Orleans that is experiencing a re-birth of sorts, the Prytania Theater, ran the film over the Independence Day weekend, and I had the thrill of watching the movie with my 12 year-old son – the favorite movie of his grandfather whom he’d never met.
George M. Cohan received the Congressional Gold Medal in 1936 for the inspiration that his songs such as “Grand Old Flag” and “Over There” provided to our troops during WWI, and Cagney won an academy award for his performance of Cohan in 1942. On this day when we remember those who lost their lives in the service of our nation, I have posted this medley of Cohan’s songs that demonstrate the power of music in inspiring patriotism, including still photos from the movie:
We posted a video lecture from J.B. Dyas of the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz recently in which he provided suggestions for maximizing jazz in the classroom from both a musical and a historical perspective. Here’s another resource for new ideas regarding jazz and education for students in grades K-5.
The website PBSKids.org has a section dedicated to jazz, with lesson plans created by educators that can facilitate learning and are coded by language arts (LA), social studies (SS), music (MU), and math (MA), all using jazz as a foundation. The site was developed as a companion site and a means to integrate the PBS Jazz video series by Ken Burns that originally aired in January 2001 into the classroom.
Here’s the trailer for Throw Down Your Heart, a documentary featuring the great banjo player Bela Fleck. Music is truly the univeresal language.