Compulsion for music – part I

I saw the film Florence Foster Jenkins a few days ago and haven’t been able to get it out of my mind. I’ve known about Florence since I was a student. She was the stuff of legend, known as the world’s worst singer – with no sense of pitch, no vibrato, frequent register breaks, florence-foster-jenkins-posterglottal stops, and unintelligible diction. Certainly good for a laugh on late nights over a beer when someone had access to an old recording. (Actually, I don’t think her recordings have ever been totally out of print; there have always been reissues of various kinds.)

The film, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, with Simon Helberg as the pianist, is based on the true story of Jenkins, a 1940s New York socialite and generous patron of the arts.  Florence desperately wanted to perform the music that she felt so passionate about. And perform she did – with all her deluded fantasies about her abilities. As I watched the film, I felt tugged in two directions: one part of me wanted to laugh at how terrible she sounds, and yet, her joy in performing, her belief in herself, her charm and her clear love of the music made me admire her and realize just how deep her passion for music was.  Continue reading

Exercise and memory

Buffalo Valley Rail Trail

Buffalo Valley Rail Trail

There is a beautiful 9-mile trail that runs between the town I live in and a nearby town.  The trail is constructed from a former rail bed and is extremely popular with walkers, joggers, and bicyclists.  It’s an idyllic place for an early morning walk, and I try to walk some portion of it several times a week.  We all exercise for a variety of reasons: to get out and enjoy nature; to burn calories in order to lose weight; to spend social time with friends; to keep ourselves healthy. But now, as musicians, we have another reason to exercise – it actually improves memory. Continue reading

Today is Make Music Day!

MakeMusicChicago: Sousapalooza

MakeMusicChicago: Sousapalooza

Today is  Make Music Day!  Last year there were celebrations in over 700 cities worldwide.  This year – who knows!  It all began in France in 1982 as Fête de la Musique.  Jack Lang, the French Minister of Culture, had discovered that one out of two French children played a musical instrument, and he thought that having an all-day musical celebration on the day of the  summer solstice would be a wonderful way to bring people out on the streets to make music.  Continue reading

Amsterdam and pianists

As musicians, we often talk about connections:  connecting emotionally with certain pieces of music;  connecting (or sometimes not) with the audience; connecting with one another when we perform 2015EPTAtogether; and about connections, or networks, within our profession.  And on this blog site I have often written about music and brain connections.

So I was delighted to be invited to give a presentation this past October at the 37th conference of the European Piano Teachers Association (EPTA).  The conference theme was Key Connections, and it was hosted by EPTA Netherlands and held at the Amsterdam Conservatory, which as you can see in the photo, is housed in a beautiful new building (opened in 2008).   Continue reading

Musician’s Brain Webinar

Something different for this blog  – a post to be listened to, not read.  On March 11,  I presented a webinar for the College Music Society titled A Musician’s Guide to the Brain: What We Need to Know and Why.  This was the second in a series of webinars hosted by the CMS Committee on Musicians’ Health.  If you click on the link embedded in the title, you can watch the archived version of the webinar.  The archived quality isn’t quite up to the excellent streaming quality of the original, but the content is all there. Continue reading

Music, language, and babies

Credit: © zinkevych/Fotolia.com

Credit: © zinkevych/Fotolia.com

Within days of my last post about babies and interactive music classes, a study came out saying literally the same thing about babies and language – that interaction with a parent is key to language development for babies just as the interactive music making was crucial in developing music skills for babies.

Researchers have known for years that reading to infants as young as six months is crucial for language development, and that parents who consciously babble with their babies accelerate language learning.   But they haven’t been sure what it is about reading to infants that helps develop language. Continue reading