Alex Meixner’s hands fly across his accordion when he plays crowd favorites at Oktoberfest celebrations across the country. The talented musician, who is known for the Hormel pepperoni commercials and his passion for the accordion, can play thousands of songs and has an encyclopedic knowledge about many styles of folk music. He began to learn how to play the accordion at age four; he now owns 14 accordions and travels with his band. Meixner says he loves how the accordion always gets a crowd reaction.
Composer Craig Hella Johnson calls it the “long sacred silence” – his way of describing a common audience reaction after choral performances of his recently published composition Considering Matthew Shepard. In an age when hate crimes are on the rise and divisiveness is rampant, Johnson’s work raises deep questions about our humanity. It focuses on how people can learn to love those who are different from them. Audiences often pause in silence before applauding; such is its impact. During a performance at the University of Southern California this year, one student performer described the reaction this way:
One of the most important but sometimes overlooked jobs of a choral director is to help their students take care of their voices. With the stress of repertoire preparation and the other time-consuming aspects of our job, it can be something that we cognitively recognize but don’t necessarily have the time or energy to pursue. Our students, no matter the age, are going through critical times in their vocal development. We ask a lot of them vocally – range, projection, volume, facial expression, blend, tone, and many other skills – and we need to help them protect their voices and learn to care for them in a healthy way.
Now that the school year is well underway, instrument repairs are soon to be an unavoidable fact of life. The good news is many of the most common repairs can be done in the comfort of your own music room. To do so, however, you need the right tools. Here is a rundown of the most important tools you need for common musical repairs.
It was at a television station in San Francisco, California, where Deke Sharon realized how far his work in a cappella music had reached. He went to the station to complete a satellite interview for an Australian morning show when he struck up a conversation with a gentleman who was there to talk with the national media about military drone strikes. Sharon said the man, who was dressed up in an “FBI suit” and looked very serious, had an outburst of joy when Sharon said he was there to promote the movie Pitch Perfect 2.
Trying to keep track of all of your classes and ensembles is hard enough. Then concert planning time comes, and there is a sea of event planning details to remember as well. To try to make things easier, we’ve compiled a checklist of concert planning tasks, along with a few stories from the trenches that showcase ideas that worked and moments when things went unexpectedly wrong. First, here is the checklist. Follow the arrows to see the planning steps from beginning to end:
Think about the way we learn music – the methods and best practices used in the vast majority of music classrooms. The teaching approaches are not all the same, but there are a lot more similarities than differences. Go back to the 1980s and earlier, though, and you will find systems that are far removed from what we have today. Changes happened over time in large thanks to the inception of the Essential Elements for Band method books.
Two worlds collided for cellist Nicole Myers as she traveled back to her Pennsylvania high school to give a performance as a professional musician. She and her bandmates in a rock orchestra group called Cello Fury visited Ephrata High School on a rainy spring day for one of the many outreach concerts they do for schools. There she was greeted by her former cello teacher Galen Reed. Myers says Reed went above and beyond as an educator, including driving her to state orchestra events and supporting her work beyond high school.
J.W. Pepper talked to current and former teachers during one of our summer workshops to get some ideas for starting the school year right. Here are some of their thoughts on topics including class preparation and lesson planning in the weeks ahead:
A large wall photo at a Philadelphia exhibition shows Leonard Bernstein during one of the most poignant days of his life – a day in 1948 when he conducted a concert with a small group of Holocaust survivors in Germany. The picture and the story behind the moment are part of the Leonard Bernstein: The Power of Music exhibit at the National Museum of American Jewish History. The presentation marks what would have been Bernstein’s 100th birthday in August 2018.