Time to L.E.A.R.N.!

TODAY’S CLIP: This is the incomparable Donny Hathaway singing “A Song For You”. Although I could just leave it right there, I will give this bit of background. I heard the smooth jazz cover of this song at a graduation party yesterday and thought it would be apropos to post the original. Enjoy!

As a musician, 90% of what you do is listening. Music is too much of a universal language to get stuck on one dialect. Therefore, today’s blog is dedicated specifically for you to LISTEN (to the clip provided), EXPAND (your thinking on music in a way that you may not have considered before), AND ROCK NOW (with more musical knowledge added to your repertoire)!

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to this song. The video included in this blog is only intended to bring musical awareness to the reader.

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Teach Them Well

This blog posting is dedicated to ALL of my former piano and music students who are growing into/have grown into wonderful young men and women. I’m so proud of you all and wouldn’t be the teacher that I am without you. Keep on keepin’ on for the glory of God!

For all of my readers who may be old/retired teachers, this blog is going to make a lot of sense. For all of my readers who are new teachers, keep on teaching and you’ll understand what this blog means soon enough.

A very interesting thing happened to me last evening. As I was checking my Facebook feed, I came across the picture of a former piano student of mine. It was on his father’s page and the picture was of my former student in his college cap and gown and his mother and father. Naturally, I clicked the “Like” button and kept on scrolling.

Then I received a friend request from my former student. Naturally, I accepted (only THEN realizing that we weren’t FB friends).

THEN I received a message from my former student saying simply “Hey Mr. Thomas!!” to which I responded back with a chunky response that included “Hello” as well as congratulations on his college graduation so on and so forth. Then I received a message from him that blew my socks off. He said:

“Thank you! I want you to know that you were a huge inspiration to me in the music world, and last week I accepted a music teaching job in the city of Newport News! I had my senior recital about 2 years ago and it was a success. So even though it was long ago, thank you for the music lessons and knowledge that you helped me achieve back then!”

And when I read this, you could have stuck a fork in me because I was DONE. I just could not stop myself from smiling (aka “cheesin’ “) from ear to ear because THIS IS WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT! To know that the music lessons I gave this young man almost a decade ago has resonated with him all this time and inspired him to do even greater works… it’s just an indescribable feeling (so much so that I had trouble going to sleep).

ADD TO THAT… this news came at the same time as another piano student of mine, who already has two CD recordings under his belt, debuted his smooth jazz piano skills up at the legendary Twins Jazz Club in Washington DC.

AND ADD TO THAT… this news came on the eve of yet ANOTHER piano student of mine who will be graduating high school tomorrow (THU 5/29/2014) and moving on to Hampton University down in Hampton, VA (my “little Lalah Hathaway”).

The bottom line is simply this: TEACH THEM WELL! Today’s students are tomorrow’s leaders and if you teach them properly, then they’ll carry it with them and do GREATER works (lining up with what Jesus said in John 14:12).

…and then this morning a strange second feeling hit me that my wife so lovingly confirmed after hearing this Facebook story: “I’ve been teaching for a long time and I’m getting old!”

(but that’s a blog for a different day)

The Leadup To Memorial Day [Part 3/3]

MEMORIAL DAY IS ON THE WAY! This upcoming holiday usually signifies the start of summer for most of us (even though the TECHNICAL start of the summer is the “Summer Solstice”… but I digress). However, we need to keep in mind that Memorial Day is “a US federal holiday wherein the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered.” (thank Wiki) Therefore, I present to you this three part musical series dedicated to our honored dead.

This is “Adagio For Strings” by Samuel Barber as performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. This is the same music that played in the background of the movie “Platoon” by Oliver Stone (1986).

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to this song. The video included in this blog is only intended to bring musical awareness to the reader.

The Leadup To Memorial Day [Part 2/3]

MEMORIAL DAY IS ON THE WAY! This upcoming holiday usually signifies the start of summer for most of us (even though the TECHNICAL start of the summer is the “Summer Solstice”… but I digress). However, we need to keep in mind that Memorial Day is “a US federal holiday wherein the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered.” (thank Wiki) Therefore, I present to you this three part musical series dedicated to our honored dead.

This is “Battle Hymn of the Republic” by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to this song. The video included in this blog is only intended to bring musical awareness to the reader.

The Leadup To Memorial Day [Part 1/3]

MEMORIAL DAY IS ON THE WAY! This upcoming holiday usually signifies the start of summer for most of us (even though the TECHNICAL start of the summer is the “Summer Solstice”… but I digress). However, we need to keep in mind that Memorial Day is “a US federal holiday wherein the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces are remembered.” (thank Wiki) Therefore, I present to you this three part musical series dedicated to our honored dead.

This is “Armed Forces Medley” by the San Diego Symphony Pops.

DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to this song. The video included in this blog is only intended to bring musical awareness to the reader.

Time to L.E.A.R.N.! (Graduation Edition)

TODAY’S CLIP: Tis the season again. It’s the “Mom-Dad-Grad Gift Corridor” and today’s clip is for the 3rd part of that lineup. This is Sir Edward Elgar’s “Pomp and Circumstance”, however I found in my research that what we know as “Pomp and Circumstance” (played at literally every high school graduation everywhere) is actually a section of the “Pomp and Circumstance Military Marches, Op. 39, March No. 1 in D”… AND add to it that this is march number one in a series of six different marches written by Elgar. Check it out and be amazed at what “Pomp and Circumstance” has been reduced down to at high school graduation.

For more information on the history of “Pomp and Circumstance”, please go to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pomp_and_Circumstance_Marches

As a musician, 90% of what you do is listening. Music is too much of a universal language to get stuck on one dialect. Therefore, today’s blog is dedicated specifically for you to LISTEN (to the clip provided), EXPAND (your thinking on music in a way that you may not have considered before), AND ROCK NOW (with more musical knowledge added to your repertoire)!

What do you think? Shared wisdom makes us all stronger.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the rights to this song. The video included in this blog is only intended to bring musical awareness to the reader.

Please Don’t Lie

Think about your answers to the following questions:

1. Have you ever ordered a menu item from your favorite fast food restaurant only to find that the food you were actually served looks nothing like the picture?

2. Have you ever walked up on a person of the opposite gender that you were interested in only to be IMMEDIATELY uninterested once (1) you got a good look at them or (2) they started talking?

3. Have you ever purchased a car because it looked “baller”, but once you started to drive the car you found out that it was a “not-at-all-er”?

Musical concepts apply in our everyday life more often than we think. The three questions that you just read are the everyday life examples that I apply to songs that have elaborate introductions yet those introductions are NOT an indicator of what the song will actually be. You’ve all heard those songs. In fact, the conversation in mind might go a little something like this:

“Wow… I LOVE the intro to this song…”

“…sounds like the singer is about to start…”

“…wait, did the music just switch up?…”

“…this is not where I thought this song was going…”

“…I’m changing the station/turning on the CD player/turning on the iSomething…”

Does that stream of consciousness sound familiar to you? When I took jazz composition in college, one of the things that my professor said about the introductions to a piece of music is that it has to be related to what’s actually happening in the song. Otherwise, it’s not really an introduction.

That’s like if I shake your hand… say to you “Hello. My name is Thomas”… and my name tag says “Bill”.

You see. Not a real introduction. Therefore, to all of my songwriters out there in Blogland, I encourage you to make sure your intro’s match your actual song giving you musical consistency throughout your entire piece. Think of it like this: an introduction is nothing more than you musically letting the listener KNOW what they’re about to get into for the next 5-6 minutes. As a result, that 30 second intro is crucial. How crucial?…

A solid intro indicates a solid song.

A weak intro indicates a weak song.

A weak intro to a solid song indicates an incomplete song.

A solid intro to a weak song indicates a LIE!

(please don’t lie… it’s so unbecoming)