Category Archives: Family

Minnesota Varsity Alum chosen for National Youth Symphony

Carnegie Hall has announced the roster for the 2017 National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America, and Minnesota’s lone representative is 2016 Minnesota Varsity Showcase Artist Anders Peterson of Northfield, Minn.

116 outstanding musicians between ages 16 to 19 have been selected from across the country, and they’ll be performing in Mexico, Ecuador, and Colombia, as well as New York. This Latin American tour will be led by acclaimed conductor Marin Alsop, in a program that features a newly-commissioned work by Gabriela Lena Frank.

“We are thrilled to launch the National Youth Orchestra of the USA’s inaugural tour to Latin America with these young artists serving as remarkable musical ambassadors for the US,” said Clive Gillinson, Carnegie Hall’s Executive and Artistic Director. “The musicians who make up NYO-USA’s 2017 roster are truly among the very best in our country, and we look forward to embarking on another wonderful summer of music-making.”

Here’s a video featuring Peterson from Minnesota Varsity 2016.

Eddie Van Halen donates guitars to low-income schools

Eddie Van Halen — widely considered to be one of the greatest guitarists of all time — has donated 75 guitars from his own personal collection to Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation, which provides instruments to students in low-income schools.

“My whole life has been music. I could not imagine anything else,” Van Halen told CNN’s John Vause in an interview earlier this week. “Music is the universal language to me. It transcends everything.”

“Our goal is to give kids every tool they can possibly have to succeed. Music is the common denominator,” Foundation president and CEO Felice Mancini added. “You put a kid in a music class and it builds community, communication and they find a place. It’s a safe haven.”

Each year, Mancini’s foundation delivers 1,800 instruments to low-income schools, providing music education to more than 10,000 children.

Watch Van Halen’s interview with CNN below.

Brooklyn Duo covers a-ha’s ‘Take on Me’

Brooklyn Duo recently joined forces with members of Ensemble Connect to cover a-ha’s 80s hit, “Take On Me.” Check out video of their fun arrangement below.


Brooklyn Duo  — Marnie Laird, piano; Patrick Laird, cello

Members of Ensemble Connect — Rebecca Anderson, violin; Maren Rothfritz, viola; Madeline Fayette, cello; Lizzie Burns, bass; Bixby Kennedy, clarinet; Rémy Taghavi, bassoon; Oliver Barrett, trombone;

For something more “classical,” here are members of Ensemble Connect performing the third movement of Brahms’ beautiful Clarinet Trio, Op. 114 (recorded that same day):

$2.5M grant awarded to Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth

It was announced this week that the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has made an unprecedented $2.532 million multi-year grant to the Philadelphia Music Alliance for Youth (PMAY) — a consortium of music education organizations serving students all over Greater Philadelphia.

The grant will help prepare the most committed young musicians in the area, ensuring that they possess the necessary skills and talents to excel in conservatory, college, or university settings.

Participating organizations from the PMAY include: Musicopia, Philadelphia Sinfonia, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Play On, Philly!, Project 440, School District of Philadelphia Office of Music Education, Settlement Music School, Temple University Music Preparatory Division, The Philadelphia Orchestra, and The Primavera Fund.

In a recent press release, Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance President Maud Lyon says, “This is a tremendous example of how our arts organizations make Philadelphia unique. Settlement and the PMAY coalition are breaking new ground in music education, creating an unprecedented collaboration that will have profound impact upon the careers of emerging musicians. This transformative grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation is a strategic long-term investment that ensures that talented young musicians, regardless of their resources or background, will have access to the incredible array of arts education opportunities that these organizations provide.”

The newly-funded program — known as the “PMAY Artists’ Initiative” — will start this spring with musician recruitment, and the first group of around 75 student participants will be chosen by the summer. Each student will benefit from tailored plans to help set them up for future successes as they pursue future music schooling.


The secrets of Mozart’s “Magic Flute”

Mozart’s “The Magic Flute” is widely regarded as one of history’s most influential and important operas. And in TED-Ed’s video, “The Secrets of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute’,” teacher Joshua Borths investigates the intentional symbolism found in the opera, and the relationship between the opera and Freemasonry.

One of the symbolic elements of the opera that pops up repeatedly is the number three — a very important number in Freemasonry, representing order and balance. As Borths notes, there are three trials, three ladies, three spirits, and three doors. A large portion of the opera is written in E-flat major, which has a key signature of three flats. In addition, many Masonic rituals began with three knocks, and those are referenced in the opera by three powerful opening chords — root position E-flat major, root position C minor, and an inverted E-flat major.

Watch the TED-Ed video below to learn more about the connecting threads between Mozart, “The Magic Flute,” and Freemasonry, and see the entire lesson on TED-Ed’s website.

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New study shows benefits of music lessons in children

According to a new study from the Radiological Society of North America, “taking music lessons increases brain fiber connections in children.” In particular, these fiber connections increased in a part of the brain in which a decrease in connections has been linked to autism and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

“It’s been known that musical instruction benefits children with these disorders,” said Pilar Dies-Suarez, M.D., chief radiologist at the Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City, “but this study has given us a better understanding of exactly how the brain changes and where these new fiber connections are occurring.”

She added, “Experiencing music at an early age can contribute to better brain development, optimizing the creation and establishment of neural networks, and stimulating the existing brain tracts.”

In the study, scientists monitored 23 children aged between five and six, assessing them before and after nine months of music lessons. The panel noted increases in fiber connections in a part of the brain known as the minor forceps. They hope their findings can be used in developing interventions directed at young people with ADHD and autism.

“When a child receives musical instruction, their brains are asked to complete certain tasks,” Dr. Dies-Suarez said. “These tasks involve hearing, motor, cognition, emotion and social skills, which seem to activate these different brain areas. These results may have occurred because of the need to create more connections between the two hemispheres of the brain.”

Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ and why you should listen to it

One of the most familiar pieces of early 18th century music (and perhaps classical music in general) is Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons.”

But what makes it so memorable and significant? As teacher Betsy Schwarm notes in the Ted-Ed video “Why should you listen to Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’?”, part of its allure and importance lies in its use of programmatic elements.

Schwarm points out a few of the components of musical imagery that Vivaldi portrays in the piece:

• Spring — birds welcome spring with a happy song,  a thunderstorm, followed by more birds (wet and frightened from the rain).
• Summer — a singing turtledove and a hailstorm.
• Autumn — hunters dashing about in search of prey.
• Winter — teeth-chattering cold, taking refuge by a crackling fire, and back out into the storm.

Watch the Ted-Ed video below to learn more about the underlying musical narrative in “The Four Seasons,” and see the entire lesson on Ted-Ed’s website.

Classical music and popcorn help fuel PSAT preparation

According to a recent Kaplan survey of 400 teens preparing to take the PSAT this month, classical music is the most popular soundtrack for test preparation.  Mozart, in particular, was cited as the favorite composer to listen to while studying.

“Depending on the individual, studying with music can be calming, motivating or distracting, so we recommend students find whichever works best for them,” says Vice President of College Admissions Programs for Kaplan Test Prep, Lee Weiss. “What’s important is that they stay motivated, calm and focused.”

In terms of study fuel, most common options are popcorn, chips, Cheetos, and chocolate. Somewhat surprisingly, water is the overwhelming beverage choice among teens studying for the test — nearly four times as popular as coffee or soda. Weiss warns against snacks that have a lot of sugar (which can lead to fatigue and irritability), and recommends high-protein snacks instead.

Weiss also advises that students plan their study schedule ahead of time and avoid the typical last-minute cramming: “The night before a big test should be spent relaxing and getting a good night’s sleep.”

Millions of teens across the country will take the PSAT on Oct. 19. For more information (as well as free practice exams) visit Kaplan Test Prep.



The world’s oldest musical instrument

Ever wonder what a 40,000-year-old instrument might sound like?

Experimental archaeologist Wulf Hein was part of a 1992 excavation team that explored southwestern Germany — in particular, the Geißenklösterle cave. In Werner Herzog’s The Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Hein (dressed in reindeer fur and leather) explains what they discovered:

“One of the most important finds we made in this cave was a very tiny flute made out of the radius of a vulture. [It is} astonishing that this flute is pentatonic. This is the same tonality that we are used to hearing today.”

Hear a demonstration of the flute (including an excerpt of a well-known tune) in the clip below, courtesy of Hein.

A lesson in a-rhythm-etic

Clayton Cameron is a world-renowned percussionist, with a career spanning nearly four decades. He is particularly known for his skills with contemporary drumming and brushes — which is why he’s known as “The Brush Master.”

In the TED-Ed video “A-rhythm-etic: The math behind beats,” Cameron demonstrates a number of different genres from hip-hop to Latin to jazz … and breaks them down in terms of math. Watch the TED-Ed video to learn about the relationship between math and rhythms found in these various genres, and see the entire lesson on TED-Ed’s website.

For more on the percussion family of instruments, check out our Class Notes video, “Choosing the Right Instrument for You: The Percussion Family.