The Fifth Beatle, or Music Education Begins at Home!

As you might expect, I’m an enthusiastic proponent of music education in all stages of life, starting in early childhood and continuing as long as a person has life left in ’em. An early start confers many advantages: in addition to the sheer joy and fun that it can bring, involvement in music is believed by many professionals in education and the neurosciences to boost brain development and aid in learning. (Here are just a couple of sources on the topic, among many: PE and Music for Higher Test Scores, Music and the Brain.) I believe it helps with socialization and cooperation as well, if kids have a chance to participate in musical group activities, like singing in a choir or playing in a band.

And though it may not be discussed as often in child development circles, I believe that music is also a vitally important tool for helping children connect to our shared cultural heritage. Opportunites for making this connection abound in our everyday lives, especially in music-loving households.

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Click Mr. Readmore for a story of how one of those opportunities arose for me recently! πŸ˜‰
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Play a Mile in These Shoes!

I bet you’re jealous of these super-cute shoes!

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“Where can I get a pair of my very own?” I hear you asking. Well, we’ll get to that in a minute, but first, ask yourself if you’re prepared to do what it takes to fill them!

Can you handle this?

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domo-kun.jpgNo, this is not some overgrown cousin of Domo-kun; rather, it’s the business end of the King of Instruments — a little contraption we call the Organ.

The pipe organ is one of a subcategory of instruments that you play with both your hands and your feet. Drum kit is the other that comes to mind instantly, but I can’t think of another instrument where you use your feet to play notes arranged in keyboard fashion, under normal circumstances. (I’m gonna say that FAO Schwarz’s Dance-On Piano, made famous in the movie Big, doesn’t count. I will write a concerto for it, though, if someone wants to commission me! πŸ˜‰ )

Click Mr. Readmore for the music & fashion scoop, plus some very silly bonus video!!!
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Happy Easter!

It’s a very different kind of Easter for me than usual: this is the first Easter in many years that I didn’t play the organ for several church services! I’m on a little sabbatical from church music at the moment, as McDoc and I really wanted our weekends to be flexibile given the heavy demands of his schedule… not to mention our exciting newlywed status! (we’re closing in on our 10th monthiversary! πŸ˜€ )

The other unusual thing about this Easter, for me as a recent California-to-Midwest transplant, is that it’s COLD! There are even a few snowflakes falling today.

But on to the important thing: Easter Music! I love the Easter hymns I used to play every year. Here’s my favorite one, “I Know that my Redeemer Lives.” Click here for the words.

Click here to give the organist some props. We tend to be very invisible up in our choir lofts, behind those giant consoles! πŸ˜‰

I hope you had a great day, whether it was snowy or sunny where you are! πŸ™‚

When Can We Write the Requiem for This War?

Miss Music Nerd is not an overtly political blog, and it is, for the most part, a lighthearted affair.

But there are times when I am moved to take a stand.

This video is from a performance of Benjamin Britten‘s War Requiem. In the piece, Britten intersperses the Latin text of the traditional Requiem Mass with poems by Wifred Owen, who fought and died in World War I. The War Requiem was performed at the 1962 reconsecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, which had been bombed in World War II. It’s an amazingly powerful and moving work, and I encourage everyone to listen to it in its entirety. I also recommend Derek Jarman’s film version. I could go on at length about the piece, discussing the text and analyzing the music — and at some point, I will. But my purpose today is different.

I mention the connections of Britten’s piece to two different wars in order to call attention to the utterly absurd and senseless idea that here we are, again, at war. No cautionary tales, no lessons learned, no historical awareness that war is never simple, clean, or quick. No recognition that even a “just” war is a war to be grieved.

At some level, we human beings must be enamored of suffering, since we seem so unwilling to refrain from participating in it. I’m speaking primarily of those in positions of government and leadership, who make the decisions and carry out the plans that perpetuate the Sisyphean tragedy we’re trapped in once again. But I believe it is the task of humanity — all citizens and governments — to work to make our current situation unimaginable. It requires effort at every level — from interpersonal to local to federal to global.

In Buddhism, there is a concept that the separate self is a delusion. There was a time when I would have taken offense at such an idea, jealous as I was of my uniqueness and individual autonomy. But lately I find it both comforting and instructive to consider that when we hurt others, we hurt ourselves, and vice versa. I think this is also perfectly in keeping with Christ’s commandment to “love thy neighbor as thyself,” not to mention his radical challenge to “love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you.” Clearly, humanity has yet to put these ideas into practice in a sustained fashion.

blgswrm2.jpgToday is the 5th anniversary of the beginning of war in Iraq. Approximately 3990 members of the U.S. Military have been killed since March 2003, as well as untold numbers of Iraqis, including civilians. And of course, not one of these deaths has brought back to life anyone killed in the September 11 attacks, or anyone harmed by Saddam Hussein’s regime, or anyone involved in any incident for which it might arrogantly be imagined that this war is any sort of effective remedy or justifiable retaliation.

You might ask what the 3 preceding paragraphs have to do with music; I could also go on at length rebutting the notion that music, and art in general, is (or should be) apolitical and “pure,” an oasis of benign aesthetic stimulation in a world that continuously requires us to tolerate discomfort. But for the moment I simply wish to add my voice to an ever-growing chorus that demands: END THIS WAR NOW.

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  • New Tabs for your Clicking Pleasure!

    I direct your attention to the top of the page, where you’ll find two new tabs to click on!

    Listen to This! is a collection of the original pieces that I’ve posted on the blog (or elsewhere on these vast wide internets) before, conveniently corralled so you can listen to them anytime.


    The Fascinating Life of a Music Copyist
    is a collection of posts describing my adventures while preparing the score and parts for my Theremin Concerto which was premièred last week.

    Here at Miss Music Nerd, we’re all about making things easy for you! πŸ˜‰ Enjoy!

    Theremin Concerto Media Wrap-up!

    scott-theremin-demo.jpgWell, here I am back home in Michigan, but I’m still basking in the glow of last week’s excitement. The three performances of the Theremin Concerto went very well, and the audience response was fantastic! So many people came up to me afterwards and told me how much they enjoyed it — a few even requested my autograph on their programs! Watch for them on ebay… πŸ˜‰

    Many of the musicians in the orchestra told me that they really liked the piece as well, and that makes me very happy, as I value the performers’ opinions quite highly. I even received a compliment on how good the instrumental parts looked from one of the horn players, who also works as an editor for a music publishing company, so he wasn’t just whistlin’ Dixie!!! πŸ˜€ (Regular readers will remember that I took great pains to make sure the score and parts were high-quality!) And I’m happy to report that the only notation errors discovered during rehearsal were a few missing accidentals in the brass parts. There’s an explanation for that, honest, but unless you’re a Finale aficionado, it’s too boring to go into here. At any rate, an explanation is not an excuse, and my proofreader has been sternly reprimanded! πŸ˜›

    On to the important stuff: our media blitz! We had newspaper coverage, and I had my TV and radio not-quite-debuts!*

    First, the short-attention-span-friendly linky list:

    Click Mr. Readmore for the annotated version!
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    Theremin Concerto: T minus 95 minutes!

    DATELINE: San Diego

    Real quick update, as I have only intermittent internet access!

    The rehearsals for the concerto have gone very well, and now I’m just about to go get gussied up to attend the premiere. We got a really nice write-up in the San Diego paper last week, and tomorrow we’ll be on the local public radio station’s morning show, These Days, which is available as a podcast (we’ll be on in the last 20 minutes of the show.)

    Okay, gotta fly! πŸ™‚

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