Blog Post

The Good News About Singing Together as a Family

April 9, 2020

For many growing up, singing around the campfire, gathering around the piano to sing, singing while working with family members, or while Christmas caroling, were all fairly common activities. I don’t know if we knew how good we had it! Maybe this is a good time to bring back the tradition of singing together as a family. You don’t need a lot of training to do this- you can sing along to music on Spotify, or have your student play some melodies in which everyone can join. If you read about our ideas for making your own instruments, you could actually start a band. Missed that blog? Check it out here.

Of course, this is more than just “geeking out” together musically at home. A few of the benefits of singing together include:

  • Singing soothes babies more than talking. Check out this recent study!
  • Singing relieves stress.
  • Singing prepares children to read.
  • Singing together encourages teamwork, waiting for a turn, and sharing.
  • Singing together improves listening.
  • Singing together helps build memories.
  • Singing strengthens your immune system – check out this study from NCBI.

For more on the benefits of singing, read Eleven Surprising Health Benefits of Singing.

And maybe now is a good time to break out into song! Send us photos of your family singing and making music at home- we would love to see them! Here is a start:

Can you spot Ms. Amy? She couldn’t read music yet, but she could sing!
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Re-Discover Classics to Share With Your Children

April 9, 2020

How many of you were raised on classics such as Fantasia? If you have not watched it, now is a great time to check it out and share it with your family. Fantasia was produced in 1940. The original idea Walt Disney had was to create an animated short starring Mickey Mouse. Can you imagine that there was ever a time when Mickey was declining in popularity? Well apparently around that time, he needed a boost (and aren’t we all glad he got one?). Disney was producing Silly Symphonies, and wrote The Sorcerer’s Apprentice to be the next addition. With production costs mounting, he decided to turn it into a feature film that would showcase other classical pieces, enhanced with visual art.

Fantasia combines narration, a symphony, a conductor, and lots of beautiful animation.

Here are some facts about Fantasia:

  • The symphony features the Philadelphia Orchestra. Go Pennsylvania!
  • The conductor is Leopold Stokowski.
  • The program includes seven classical compositions.
  • It was the first commercial film shown in stereophonic sound.
  • American Film Institute ranked it as the 58th greatest American film in 100 Years…100 Movies.
  • The film was elected in 1990 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the US National Film Registry.

A word of caution, some scenes are intense (in the typical Disney way) and Disney + puts a disclaimer on a few of its older movies:

This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions

That said, I have a personal disclaimer: I always fell asleep during Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony.

For lighter fare in Disney’s collection, enjoy the Melody Time productions, such as Bumble Boogie, a jazzed-up, animated Flight of the Bumble Bee:

Enjoy some of these old classics – the music is expertly performed, and, coupled with the animation, is wonderfully engaging and exciting!

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A Window Into the Carnegie Museum of Natural History

April 2, 2020

Here is a fun web page with many resources for you from Carnegie MNH! Explore the museum, watch clips from paleontologist Matt Lamanna, ask geeky science questions, and more! Did you know there is a City Nature Challenge? Find information about how that will work in your neighborhood this month. Do you need more coloring pages? Download and print! Check out Super Science Saturdays, which are now transitioned to be enjoyed online. This site is chock-full of ideas, links, and is designed for the whole family.

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Bird Songs in Your Neighborhood and Around the World

April 2, 2020

Many of us are scheduling time outdoors to break up the day. Daily walks, dog walks, nature hikes and the like are becoming routine and greatly valued moments in our long days. Next time you are outside, try to focus on the bird calls around you. That is sweet music, indeed. It’s fun to try to figure out where the birds are located, and who makes each sound. To that end, we are providing this beautifully illustrated chart. It’s so pleasantly designed it would look good hanging on a wall.

Each bird is fully illustrated, and labeled with its name, and a fun phonetic spelling of the bird call. Above the bird, you’ll notice a map which shows you the region for that particular bird. Have fun listening, and take it with you on your next walk outside! you don’t have to go far to hear the melodious offerings from the birds. For more on listening in nature, read this CYM blog from 2018!

50 Bird Species and the Sounds They Make

Source: AAA State of Play

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Daily Music Joy!

March 27, 2020

Our friends at From the Top are sharing clips of some amazing young people who are making music and using their gifts to bring joy to all who watch and listen.

Here are a few of our favorites so far:

FTT alum and violinist, Sam, shares a favorite technique- up bow staccato! Take a look here– he makes it all seem so effortless! And how about the decor in that practice room at McGill University?

A brother sister guitar duo will bring joy as well as peace, as they perform outside! They are holding a special Facebook live event this Friday, March 27. Check From the Top on Facebook for more information!

Now on to an instrument that may be new to you. Do you erhu? Here is a little background before you watch 17 year old Benjamin perform! If you like numbers, you’ll enjoy this system of playing music! I gathered these facts from NPR. To read the full article, go here.

The erhu is a traditional Chinese instrument. In China, people associate it with beggars…

The erhu is an instrument with two long strings, played using a bamboo bow strung with horsehair. Sound projects out of the small windows on the back of the instrument’s body, which is made of old redwood and snakeskin. The right hand controls the bow. Press down, and you play one string; pull up, and you play the other. The left hand always touches both strings. Without frets, proper intonation is difficult, but the possibilities for tonal flexibility are great.

NPR: The Sonorous Strings of the Erhu
November 26, 20073:58 PM ET
Heard on All Things Considered

Watch Ben perform his composition where he breaks down the now infamous number 19!!

More From the Top Daily Joys will be coming your way- stay tuned!

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Helpful Resources for Families

March 26, 2020

We thought we would pass along some great resources for families, curated by the folks at Commonsense Media.

Simply go to this article on their web page for some timely tips, helpful ideas, and sources. You’ll find many wonderful links, from quality media suggestions to at-home schooling help and articles to help have healthy conversations with your kids, and so much more.

Hang in there, parents- you are doing a great job! And we are doing all we can to help. See you at your next lesson!

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Emma Movie Comes to the Small Screen

March 26, 2020

You don’t have to wait for the much-anticipated movie, Emma., any longer. (And yes, that is a period, after the title. Some suggest that the period tells us that this adaptation is aimed at young adult audiences. You know, the ones who emphatically express themselves. With. Extra. Periods. It’s also a “period” film, so there’s that.) The movie was just beginning its run in movie houses across America when response to the current Pandemic caused theaters to close their doors. Thankfully for those of us who were eager to check out the latest Jane Austin novel-turned-movie, the production went to digital release on March 20.

Something notable about this movie is that both the director and the composer of the film are women. It seems odd that in 2020 a fact of that nature would still be worth noting. But here we are!

Composer Rachel Portman (pictured) began scoring music for films at the age of 14. To date, she has scored more than 100 films. Portman became the first woman to win an Oscar in the scoring category for her soundtrack to the adaption of Jane Austen’s Emma.  But that was Emma from 1997! She went on to be nominated two more times, once for Cider House Rules (2000) and Chocolat (2001). Portman has also scored for television, and she has won prestigious awards for her work. For a full article, please take a look (and listen) at Classic FM’s article.

Film scoring is a great way to combine many interests in the arts. Literature, costumes, history, music, scenic design, set design, all play into the production as a whole. The music weaves in and out of all of those visual elements, enhancing every scene. The music propels the story, and underlines themes, or puts emphasis on a particular moment. Without music, movies would be dry, and stagnant. Maybe this is something some of you can play around with in your spare time these days! Pay attention as you watch movies to hear how the music is being used to enhance the experience. Try your hand at writing down some melodies, or improvising. And young ladies, get out there and be leaders in music! Compose, conduct, perform– the sky is the limit!

Take a listen to some of Rachel Portman’s work here!

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Making Instruments – Do Try This at Home!

March 25, 2020

If your child or children are enrolled in group lessons, you know they play many percussion instruments throughout each class. So if you are doing online lessons, your teacher may be adapting activities so that the instruments are not as crucial. But did you know you can have fun making a multitude of musical instruments at home?

A drum is one of the easiest- just hold onto (or empty out) a rolled oats container. Keep the lid, and decorate as you would like. And presto, you have a decent drum! A coffee can works well, too, or get fancy with some fabric as this article from Artists Helping Teachers demonstrates! If you need a drum on the fly, though, a wooden salad bowl played with wooden spoons works quite well!

Who remembers playing a kazoo as a kid? Well, if you take the cardboard tubes from those precious rolls of bathroom tissue, wrap wax paper around one end, fasten it down with a rubber band, and put one hole in the tube, you are set! Sing into the open end and you’ll get the buzzy kazoo sound! Decorations are optional, but stickers work well, as does Washi tape!

If you want to add a Spanish flair to your home band, how about a pair of Castanets? Just hold on to two metal caps from juice bottles, then cut out a rectangle of cardboard big enough for both caps to be attached to it with hot glue. Fold the cardboard in the middle so the caps meet — and make a “clack” sound! (Did you know “clackers” is another name for castanets?)

Maybe you are looking for more of a challenge- for your older children (or yourself)? Look no further than the Glass Harp! You may remember doing this at your grandmother’s house when the dinner went a little long for your taste… and you started tracing the top of your water glass with your finger until it made a lovely whistle sound! Or was that just our family? Surely not! Try a few glasses, fill them with different levels of water to allow for a variety of tones. See if you can create a song- maybe even play a duet. To give you motivation, I invite you to check out Pachelbel’s Canon in D, performed on, you guessed it – the Glass Harp!

I officially invite any CYM family to create a performance using any of these suggestions! Please send us a video of your performance and fun along the way! And for sure, share your instrumental creations in your next online lesson!

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Spread the Creativity! Celebrity Shares from Home

March 20, 2020

With so much technology available to us, being home-bound can be purposeful and enjoyable. As musicians, we have it pretty good, too. We can make music whenever we want! Have you thought about face-timing a loved one and playing music for them? Or how about recording one-half of a duet and sending it to your buddy to have them play along? Maybe now is the time for you to work composing, or improvising!

When you have your instrument, the sky is the limit. Hop on Google Hangouts and jam with your friends or share something you are working on. Collaborate!

Two nights ago, two very well-known friends shared a musical moment. Jimmy Fallon has taken to creating daily shows from home, and each night he has a special guest via Zoom. On Wednesday night, his guest was Lin-Manuel Miranda! Miranda is a composer and singer, best known for his musicals In the Heights and Hamilton! At the end of Jimmy’s show, Lin-Manuel shared one of the beautiful songs he composed for In the Heights. So here you have a world-famous musician, making music in a small room of his home, on a keyboard. A glimpse into a musician making music. You understand, it’s what we do! Please enjoy this clip of Dear Theodosia and let us know how it inspires you!

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Browse, Listen, Look, and Read!

March 20, 2020

Finding activities for the whole family just got a lot easier, due to the generosity of arts organizations!

On any day, you and your children can explore a museum anywhere in the world, such as the Van Gogh Museum! For more museums, or to look INSIDE the Paris Opera House, check out the many wonders you can find at Google Arts & Culture!

On another day, how about checking out world-class orchestral performances and activities from the Detroit Symphony Orchestra! Scan the QR code for the corresponding music (Beethoven’s Pastorale Symphony No. 6) and try the fun music activity.

Or if reading is on tap for a day, head over to Open Culture and browse hundreds of free audio books that you can download!

We will keep the links coming – and you can share your ideas, too with your teacher!

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