Category Archives: Children's Music

The Good Guys (& Gals) of New Orleans Music

If you’re not from New Orleans or haven’t lived here for an extended period, it’s hard to articulate how wonderful the environment is among musicians here, particularly the fellowship and the way they nurture young artists and share the message of the joy of music education.

But let me try.

Several years ago I noticed in the newspaper one Saturday morning that Delfeayo Marsalis (trombonist of the famous Marsalis family) was holding “Cool School,” a session for young kids explaining and illustrating what jazz was all about through story and performance. I entered the small daycare facility and found myself in the presence of about 15 children, a dozen or so parents, and six world-class musicians. I couldn’t help but think that people in New York would line up in droves to watch a program like this. It’s both a blessing and a curse that our expectations of accessibility to great music is so high that we don’t even bat an eye that such a performance is available in such an intimate setting.

A few years later I visited the iconic music club Tipitina’s in New Orleans for the Tipitina’s Foundation Sunday music workshop. Again, 3 world-class musicians – Tony Dagradi (sax), Johnny Vidacovich (drums), and Roland Guerin (bass) played, and this time they mentored young musicians.  The format of the workshop is that the trio performs a couple of tunes as an intro, and then invite children onto the stage to join them.  About 15-20 kids joined the kids with various instruments in hand joined in. The musicians provided a brief tutorial on a simple 3-chord blues, and off they went.

As Sales and Marketing Rep. at LAFARGUE PIANOS, I hear over and over stories of parents who bring in their children for music lessons because they themselves weren’t fortunate enough to play an instrument. Either their parents didn’t believe it was important, they couldn’t afford lessons, the school they went to didn’t have a program or considered it non-essential, they tried but didn’t take music lessons seriously and later regretted it, or they simply never took the initiative. In any case, they make great sacrifices of both time and money to open the door to music for their children.

As we struggle with diminishing resources allocated to music education, kudos to all of the musicians, non-profits, and parents who are helping to fill in the gaps.

Wanna Play a Musical Instrument But Don’t Think You Can? Just Skoog It

It’s interesting that technology is allowing more and more people access to musicianship than ever before, a topic we’ve address here before in a previous video post. Some might not consider technology-enabled musicians true musicians in the purest sense, but that’s not the point. By lowering the bar of entry with technology, we enable more people to experience the joy of creating music. By increasing that pool of potential musicians, everybody wins. Some will pursue traditional instruments on a more serious level, and some will stick to their musical “toys,” but all will develop an appreciation and love for the possibilities that music has for enhancing our lives.

Here’s a musical instrument designed by a Scottish company to make music accessible to special education students called the “Skoog.”

Music & Arts Ed Budget Cuts: Creating An Opportunity for Success?

So music and arts education budgets are being cut everywhere. What does that mean for you and your school. Opportunity! Let’s take a lesson from the world of business.

The most basic principle of launching a new product or service and the greatest success stories come when an entrepreneur recognizes a void in the marketplace and serves that need and those customers.

Learning a Lesson From ESPN
Does anybody recall the early days of ESPN, the Sports cable giant. There wasn’t much to shout about in terms of major sports programming – Australian Rules Football and a plethora of rarely televised events. The staple of the network that fueled its growth from the early days was its own sports news program – Sportscenter.

Why was Sportcenter so successful that it was able to build the foundation for a multi-billion dollar sports icon. Well think about what has been happening to the sports segment of your local news programming.

In most markets, the sports highlights and recap segment of the news has dwindled, as have the resources allocated to employ journalists, producers, etc. According to a 2006 study by the Penn State Center for Sports Journalism in a survey of the top 50 markets, the average local sports segment is 3 minutes.

The logic is that weather and news affect everyone, but sports only appeals to sports fans. Yet that doesn’t mean there aren’t legions of sports fans longing for a more extensive sports news program with highlights and analysis presented by enthusiastic and entertaining broadcasters, and that’s what ESPN’s Sportscenter provided.

Music & Arts Education: The Differentiator
What does that have to do with Arts and Music Education. Well if everyone else is cutting their budgets, your successful program is a great differentiator.

  • If you’re at a private school, any differentiator is a selling feature that can help attract students. At your open houses, your potential students and their families might not consider arts education a priority. Articulate that you’re still committed to excellence in the arts – but more importantly – tell them why it’s important! 
  • Create marketing materials with similar themes. 
  • If you’re not competing for enrollment, your administrator still wants recognition for your school. Summarize your accomplishments and create relationships with local media.
  • Track down your former students and ask them to articulate what being a part of your arts or music education has meant to them personally and professionally as they’ve moved throughout their careers. Nothing is more effective in sales than the testimonial of a happy customer.
  • Ask those same former students to come back and perform or speak to your students and parents. Seeing these successful professionals with provide a clear demonstration that your program impacts lives.  

It’s a cliche, but in every challenge there is opportunity. And if you’re a great arts or music educator (and I know you are!), let ’em know it!

Frank Battisti Video: “We’ve Got to Sell it (Music Education) Like Madison Avenue

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.

Key points:
“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.”

Music & Memory: 2 year old recalls “The Rain Song”

When my son was between 18 and 24 months old, I occasionally played a VHS tape with several music videos from the early days of MTV. You never know how much children of that age retain and how they perceive what they are watching, but he generally seemed mesmerized by what he was watching. Maybe he was just astounded by the hairstyles – these videos dated back to the early 80’s – the New Wave era when bands like Duran Duran, Split Enz, Bow Wow Wow, The Tubes, and A Flock of Seagulls were leveraging the synergy of this new medium and emerging fashions to propel their careers.

About a year later (not sure the exact age, but prior to his 3rd birthday), I was driving with my son and a song came on the radio. It was a song by the band Simple Minds called “Don’t You Forget About Me.” The song was one of the few hits enjoyed by the band, but was fairly prominent in its time from the exposure on MTV and because it was one of the featured songs in the soundtrack of the movie The Breakfast Club, a series of movies by John Hughes that captured the high school experience wonderfully.

My son called out from his child restraint seat, “It’s the Rain Song.” I thought perhaps he was confused. There was a song by Led Zeppelin with the title “The Rain Song” back in the 70’s, but I couldn’t fathom how he would have known that. Then a passage of the song by Simple Minds began to play with the following lyrics:

Will you stand above me?
Look my way, never love me
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down

Will you recognise me?
Call my name or walk on by
Rain keeps falling, rain keeps falling
Down, down, down, down


I was astounded! I couldn’t believe his recall at such an early age, especially when he hadn’t actually heard the song in probably 9 to 12 months, as I recall. It wasn’t as though this was a song that we sang to him over and over again before bedtime. It was one of dozens of songs on the tape that we watched periodically. Music as a memory tool is a phenomenon that we don’t capitalize on nearly enough. It’s one of the many great benefits of music education.

We’ve discussed the power of songs of Schoolhouse Rock previously in this forum, and it’s great to know that many educators and drama clubs are keeping those wonderful songs alive for new generations.

Lynn “Zed” Shaw and Gregg “Mr. B” Breinberg, “This is Why Schools Need Music Programs”

On Christmas Eve, ABC News Nightline re-broadcasted a couple of segments featuring extraordinary school music programs. The first featured Lynn “Zed” Shaw, a high school chorus teacher who built a successful program at J.J. Pierce H.S. in Richardson, TX that spanned decades. A reunion show where Shaw planned to bring back her former students quickly turned to a tribute show when Shaw passed away from breast cancer that had been in remission but returned aggressively after the plans for the show were in motion.

The other featured the story of Gregg Beinberg, music teacher at P.S. 22 in Staten Island, NY. Known as “Mr. B” to his students.

Many of the students echoed the message regarding the greatest benefit of music education that I discovered as an adolescent – the development of self-confidence (for more info read FROM THE BAND ROOM TO THE BOARDROOM…The 9 Common Lessons of Music Education That Translate into Success) through performance that was a life-changing and transformational experience.

A boy who was described by his mother as painfully shy sings lead vocal in a performance that became an internet sensation:

Tavis Smiley Examines Gustavo Dudamel and the Role and State of Music Education

Tonight I watched the PBS Special Dudamel: Conducting a Life in which Tavis Smiley profiled the young, charismatic Los Angeles Philharmonic conductor Gustavo Dudamel, a product of the very successful Venezuelan program “El Sistema” which exposes impoverished children to classical music. The program looked at the broader issue of music education and its role in education reform.

It’s always great to hear confirmation of the concepts and opinions expressed in this forum regarding the benefits of music and music education. Here are a few of the notable excerpts (paraphrasing) from the discussion that I found noteworthy:

  • “It’s not about creating musicians. It’s about creating the sensibilities of an artist that can be used in any vocation.” (Dudamel) 
  • “Sometimes we focus on physical poverty. There’s also a poverty of hope and of dreams. That’s what music involvement gives low-income children.” (Dudamel) 
  • “There are benefits of music education and of sports. In sports, however, a lot of kids sit on the bench. Music programs tend to be more inclusive and more participative.” (Berklee Fellow participating in the program designed to replicate El Sistema) 
  • “I feel like the doors of heaven have just opened up to me. I’ll let out all of my emotions in those drums.” (Young boy involved in a program in the U.S. modeled after the El Sistema program) 
  • “Kids are like a Polaroid. They just need exposure to develop. And they should be exposed to the best in order to develop into complete adults.” (Smiley) 
  • “It’s going to take something radical to reform education. Shouldn’t something so universally accepted as music be a part of that education reform equation.” (Educator)

Play on!

Arts for Healing Celebrates 10 Years!

One of the 32 people profiled in my book Everything We Needed to Know About Business, We Learned Playing Music was Karen Nisenson, founder of Arts for Healing, a creative arts therapy center that treats people with developmental disabilities ranging from down syndrome, autism, and Alzheimer’s through the application of music and arts therapy.

The non-profit recently celebrated their 10th anniversary. Karen raised 5 children as a single mother and somehow still managed to start this wonderful organization in New Canaan, CT. Congratulations to Karen and her staff for their success!

Devil May Care: The Bob Dorough Movie

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.

Sing, Sing a Song (Don’t Worry that It’s Not Good Enough)

The Carpenters

You’ve likely heard the joke, “You should sing solo. So low that nobody can hear you.” Or perhaps, “You should sing tenor. Ten or eleven miles away.”

Those jokes embrace the notion that someone who doesn’t sing well is fair game for ridicule. I’ve never subscribed to that theory. My approach is: If you’re not a great singer, compensate by singing louder. My point is that singing is fun. Yet most of us reach an age where we’re so self-conscious that we give it up, unless we’re supremely gifted.

I assume that most of us lose our fearlessness and become overly concerned with the scrutiny of others as we approach our teen years. I recall vividly the frustration of one of the nuns at our catholic grammar school at a group of 6th grade boys circa 1978, most of whom were lip-synching the hymns in church because it just wasn’t cool at that age to sing church music (most of the boys were starting to gravitate toward KISS or Led Zeppelin at that point). In an act of public humiliation, she had us sing the song one boy at a time to try to decifer the pretenders from the performers.

The classic song “Sing” composed by Joe Raposo and recorded by a host of artists, most notably the Carpenters, captures my sentiments perfectly: particularly the phrase, “Don’t worry that it’s not good enough, for anyone else to hear…” I’ve come to appreciate the value of song when you simply pay attention to the joy that the sheer act brings you rather than how it might be perceived by others, most of whom are too scared to belt out a tune themselves.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of the success of the television show Glee is that it might make singing “in vogue” again. With these thoughts in mind, here’s Nathan Lane’s version of the song “Sing” with an assist from the muppets: