I love movies about music/musicians, and I had heard great things about the movie Once, but didn’t get around to seeing it until recently. It’s about a singer/songwriter who performs on the streets of Ireland while working in a vacuum cleaner repair shop by day. He meets a piano player and they collaborate to bring their musical aspirations to life.
The storyline of artists struggling to develop their God-given talents pursue the dream in a world where the deck is stacked against them never gets old for me. It also brings to mind the reality of how committed one must be to overcome those odds. I once asked vocalist Irma Thomas, known as the “Soul Queen of New Orleans” what she did when times in the music business got tough. She stated simply, ” I went out and got a job.” Sometimes it’s that simple, but it’s never easy.
The movie also avoids so many of the typical movie clichés, making it more real and believable. It’s magical in its understated simplicity.
And the storyline mirrors the career of the musician who co-wrote the soundtrack and who played the lead role in the movie, Glen Hansard, who dropped out of school at age 13 to perform on the streets of Dublin and is now a successful songwriter and Academy award winner.
So you say you love music. That’s great. But when time are tough, you must ask yourself, “How committed am I and what am I willing to do to overcome the obstacles in front of me?
Here’s a performance of the Oscar-winning song “Falling Slowly” at the Sundance Film Festival.
Kevin Spacey recently gave a speech on Arts Advocacy at the Kennedy Center. A brief interview the following day with Chris Matthews of the show Hardball is making the rounds among arts advocates on Twitter. Spacey researched historical testimonials from well-known public figures, and he shared this gem during the speech – Matthews was so struck by it that he asked Spacey to repeat it to his audience:
“When Winston Churchill was Prime Minister and he was told that there were going to be major cuts in arts and culture because of the mounting costs of World War II, he responded with a simple reply, ‘Then what are we fighting for?’”
We featured a lecture by Frank Battisti here before, but I urge you to watch the video below. In this brief panel discussion, he reiterates many of the points (benefits of music education and the role of the music education program) we’ve made here before, yet he does it more articulately, succinctly, and thoroughly than any speaker that I can recall.
“We have got to grow music lovers. Kids who love music. Not band, not activity – music. And it starts with the teacher loving music.”
“Music is essential to the development of every child, not just the ones in my band. I’m not happy until every child has quality music education, because for the full development of that child, that’s essential.”
“We’ve got to sell it (music education) like Madison Avenue”
“Our job is to get kids to Grow, understand, appreciate, and love music”
“The issue in art is not being better than anybody else – it’s about finding who you are and being creative. There are no trophies for that, but there’s great enrichment and great fulfillment from it.”
In a previous post, we discussed the lesson of passion in music education, one of the 9 common lessons of music education that translate into success. In this video at the TED website, Benjamin Zander demonstrates his love for classical music about as passionately as anyone I’ve ever seen.
Here’s an excerpt from his rousing speech in which he explains the importance of understanding the holistic message conveyed in a musical piece:
“I have to stop thinking about every single note along the way, and start thinking about the long, long line from B to E. We just came back from South Africa. You can’t go to South Africa without thinking about Nelson Mandela in jail for 27 years. What was he thinking about? Lunch? No. He was thinking about the vision for South Africa and for human beings. This is about vision. This is about the long line – Like the bird who flies over the field and doesn’t care about the fences underneath. This is about vision. This is about the long line.”
As a musician, I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that long after we perish the earth, someone somewhere could be listening to and inspired or moved by the work we’ve left behind. I suppose that’s one of the motivating forces behind most artists’ work – the need to have an impact, to be relevant, and to be remembered – to have a legacy in our life’s work.
But can you define your legacy? That’s was author/speaker Dan Pink (author of A Whole New Mind: Why Right Brainers Will Rule to Future) is asking people to do. At his website, he has posted videos from all over the world of people articulating their sentence – The exercise asks you to distill your life — what it’s about, why you’re here — into a single sentence.
Everyone has many aspects of their life and many stages. I can’t think of anything more important than my 16 year marriage and my 13 year-old son. But with respect to the work I do here in this forum:
“He uniquely articulated the benefits of music education and changed hearts and minds in the process.”
Why do you choose to be an artist?…and What’s Your Sentence?
You may not know the name Sam Spence, but I’d bet you know his music. Spence has written over 700 songs for NFL Films, and if you’ve ever seen highlight reels of NFL football games from 1966-2001, you’ve heard his music.
When I was a boy, there was a weekly syndicated show called NFL Game of the Week. NFL Films would pick the best game of the previous week of football (hence the name), and compile a 30 minute compilation narrated by the legendary voice of the early days of NFL Films, John Facenda. If you watch Chris Berman on ESPN, he often channels the voice of Facenda as a tribute when he begins his own recap of the week’s games.
The synergy of that music combined with the film and narration took the sport to another level. It was iconic. This was more than a sport. It was gridiron theater, and the music still sends chills down my spine. In this video clip, Spence talks about his music and conducts a group of students:
I saw a presentation by Bill Strickland, founder of Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild, in 2009 that was as memorable as any that I can recall. He is providing opportunities for disenfranchised people from the inner cities of Pittsburgh on whom society had given up. Art and music are central to the environment that they have created both as a symbolic means (creating an atmosphere of hope) and as an economic engine (Training in ceramics, photography, and computer imaging, and the founding of the MCG Jazz music label). Learn more about Bill’s work at the Manchester Bidwell Corporation website