Posts Tagged ‘Musical ensemble’


The Importance of Early Musical Involvement: A Retrospective

May 31, 2011
Santa Teresa High School  Jazz Band

Image by San Jose Library via Flickr

Article by: Devin Grant

Music. For many of us, imagining a world without it is unthinkable, almost tantamount to losing a part of ourselves. But while music is now so clearly a part of our lives in one way or another, it’s important to remember the gifts that it has given us along the way, and the benefits that it can bestow early in life. Finding myself working with music for the summer has made me think back on all of the ways that music has affected my life to this point, and being thankful for that past I feel the need to share these benefits, in the hope that young (potential) musicians can experience the same friendly, supportive helping hand that music has granted me.

Academic Benefits

In this section I aim to speak not from personal experience (that would be a tad pompous) but from the much more persuasive statistics. Many studies have shown a strong correlation between participation in music and academic success, particularly in mathematics. The links aren’t hard to find; it doesn’t take much effort to connect rhythms and fractions, mathematical formulae can be (and have been) written to mimic melodies, and the complexities of a skilled composition are mirrored in the many facets of a complicated equation. However, the academic benefits are not limited simply to mathematics; one study conducted in Southern California showed that students involved in musical extra-curricula’s such as band or choir on average had a GPA over half a point higher than their non-musical counterparts. Some studies have gone as far as to say that music majors have the highest SAT scores in all areas (as a math major I find that hard to believe, but we’ll leave it to the experts). Regardless, it is undeniable that music positively impacts academic success and it’s not hard to see why. Between building analytical skills from reading and understanding musical scores, to the work ethic gained by the necessity of regular practice, music teaches children many important skills for academia.

Social Benefits

While a somewhat obvious benefit, this certainly merits mention considering its importance. Anyone who has been involved in musical groups can tell you that it is practically unavoidable that you will make new friends through music. Many of my friendships started and matured through music, resulting in some of my very closest friends, as well as having friends living all across the country. They say that an important part of a friendship is having common interests, and when meeting through music this first requirement is already met. Regular practices as well as performances and other occasions provide the perfect grounds to foster a new friendship. Speaking from personal experience, music offers a venue for many otherwise shy, introverted people to break out of their shell. Whether it be playing solos, belting out a spectacular note, or simply performing as part of a group, music allows these people to make themselves heard in a venue where they can feel accepted and comfortable with themselves.

Personal Benefits

This is perhaps one of the more overlooked benefits granted by musical involvement. As mentioned in the previous section, music offers a place where people can begin to express themselves socially and break out of their shell. What comes with this opportunity is a means to grow as a person, especially where confidence is involved. I for one was very unconfident throughout my elementary and junior high school years, until jazz band, choir, and musical theatre performances gave me a chance to push myself into roles that I had never seen myself filling up to that point, making solo performances and even resulting in performing a 60’s love song in a white tuxedo (anyone who knows me well remembers this event, whether fondly or not is a point of contention). It’s hard to find a medium other than music that allows someone to push and improve themselves as much as music does. Of course emotionally, music has always been an incredibly important mode of self-expression, whether one is performing, composing, or simply listening. The connection between music and the human psyche is one of the strongest there is, and having music as a part of one’s life is truly a gift at a time filled with emotional turmoil. They say the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, but often the way to your own heart is through your ears.

Despite everything written above, the effect music can have on a young person truly can’t be expressed in words. Those of us who have lived it know how it feels, and we can only hope that many more of future generations will experience it for themselves. My message to today’s youth: play early, and play often.

Related Articles: (Children’s Music Workshop)


Using Social Media to Promote Your Music. Part 2 – Where to Begin

October 5, 2010
5 Ways to Cultivate an Active Social Network

Image by Intersection Consulting via Flickr

As covered in part 1 there are numerous forms of social media that can be used in a variety of ways. Each has its own strengths and weakness and it is not always necessary to use all forms, rather concentrate on a few that fit you and your situation best.

It is important that before you begin you have devised a strategy and outlined what you want to achieve. This can be numerous things. Maybe you want to increase your profile in the local area, or promote upcoming events.  Initially focus on one or two of these key goals, making sure not to over complicate your message.

List what resources you have to use to aid your promotion. Do you have band artwork, audio tracks, video and an EPK? If you do not have the later this is your fist priority (see our guide). These various mediums can be used to promote your work.

After setting out your goals and evaluating your resources you able to review the social media options and choose those that best fit your needs.

If you are a beginner it is advisable to begin with Facebook as it allows you to use the most varied amount of promotional materials in the simplest way. Chances are you already have a Facebook account with links to your friends and family. By creating a ‘Like’ page for your music these contacts can help by being advocates for you and your work, spreading the word to their networks. Below is a video that details the advantages of promoting on Facebook and how to go about it.

As a musician it is also important you have a Myspace page. Myspace can act as an online EPK. With the number of musicians and music professionals using this site it is a good idea you have at least a basic presence.

The key thing to remember when starting to promote your music using social media is to be focused. Start using one or two networking sites and build from there. It is better to build and maintain one quality network presence than numerous poorer less maintained ones. As your networks grow it becomes easier to expand into other forms of social media and begin to cross promote with these networks.


Photos From the Worst Pop Band Ever Performance During the 2010 WIJBF

September 23, 2010

The Worst Pop Band Ever performed their innovative form of jazz at The Martini Bar during the 2010 Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival. Below are a small selection of photos from the night,


2010 Festival Shorts – A Night in awe of the Duane Andrews Quintet

July 23, 2010

By Justin Ried

On Thursday night (July 15) the Duane Andrews Quartet made their contribution to this year’s Wreckhouse International Jazz & Blues Festival at the Masonic Temple. Duane and his band lead the audience through a spine-tingling experience with their own take on many Django Reinhardt tunes, manouche infused traditional folk songs, as well as some of their own breathtaking compositions.

The atmosphere of the night was similar to that of a traditional Newfoundland kitchen party rather than just a performance given by four strangers. With Duane’s parents, brother, wife and child in attendance it gave the vibe similar to that of a house party, where Duane, Steve, Pat, and Dave where merely entertaining their guests rather than performing for an audience, eliminating the feeling of distance between musician and listener. Not only did Duane provide his audience with his mesmerizing gypsy jazz, but he also captivated them between songs with short stories and brief history on the tunes played. The stories seemed to continue after he had finished speaking and began playing his guitar almost as if the song was a continuation of the words he spoke, making for not only a remarkable musical performance, but a wonderfully entertaining evening as well.

What added to the enjoyment of the performance was the chemistry between the band members that was strikingly evident throughout the show. Steve Hussy, on rhythm guitar would often look back and forth between the audience and Duane and couldn’t help but flash an occasional smirk, displaying how much fun he was having providing the backbone for such a substantial ensemble, despite filling the role for as long as he has. Also adding to the personality of the quartet’s performance was Dave Rowe, who would occasionally crane his neck over his double bass to catch a glimpse of Duane to follow his lead, each time looking on with a huge smile on his face looking as though he was experiencing something new and wonderful with each note being played. Completing the bands persona was Patrick Boyle who sat still, looking as if he were listening to the music very intently until it reached the trumpet section when he would take a deep breath and work his magic, playing the tunes with dizzying solos or smooth sounds with his muted trumpet, rounding out the entire performance.

As the night progressed there was evidence of the bands energy spilling into the room as the crowd began to take on a life of its own with heads nodding, bodies swaying, and feet tapping everywhere you looked. With their brilliant performance and their contagious energy, the Duane Andrews Quartet made for an amazing evening and a colourful piece of this year’s Wreckhouse International Jazz & Blues Festival.


A Guide to Preparing for the Studio

June 7, 2010

By Simon Miminis

In today’s music industry we’ve seen a massive increase in DIY projects (independently recorded, produced, manufactured and distributed projects). This phenomenon is generally attributed to the recent rise in availability of recording technology. It’s now easier than ever to go into a studio and record without spending thousands and thousands of dollars. So what better time to discuss preparation for the studio? Below are some Pre-Production tips to consider before you hit the record button.

State Goal of Recording:

Think of how you will use your recording, i.e. radio promotion, demo for club owners, single on your website/myspace, part of your full length album? These all carry special production decisions so give it a thought or two and let your engineer and producer know.

Description of Musical Style:

Let your engineer know in advance the genre of music your recording along with examples of what you want your recording to sound like, maybe a favorite record of yours that you admire for its production value.

Plan The Packaging:

If applicable make sure you have a plan for your CD package. Will you be hiring a graphic artist or designing a simple cover using software at home? If you’re using a graphic artist plan that into your budget as well. This is also a good time to look at getting quotes for pressing your CD.

Organize Rehearsals With Stated Goals:

Basically make sure you and your band are well rehearsed. I recommend bringing in a friend with a good ear to listen to your tune or to record it on an MP3 player and listen back to it as a band. Most importantly BE PICKY and fix things no matter how small! You don’t want to waste takes, time and money on performance issues in the studio. Also make sure that you and your band are comfortable playing to a click, it’s fairly common practice to use one in the studio.

List of Tunes With Instrumentation:

This will be important for the engineer to know so he can have a game plan for set up and the order of takes.

Verify That All Recording Equipment And Misc Gear Is Available:

Do you need a Piano, Rhodes, special reverb unit, specific microphones? Ask before your session so that the proper arrangements can be made and equipment can be rented if required.

Select And Book Any Additional Musicians:

Missing a vocalist, drummer, extra violinist? Make sure to arrange to bring one in. Standard Union pay for a single session musician is around $380.00 for a 3 hour slot (minimum booking) so budget that into your expenses if it applies to you.

Bring A Lunch:

Sessions can be long. Either make sure that the studio has a working kitchen or pack a lunch for the day. It’s hard to work on an empty stomach!

Print All Charts And Lyric Sheets Double Spaced:

This will help the engineer map out the song for quick editing and play back later. It will also help if you need to take notes (i.e. point out exactly where that wrong note was played or the tempo rushed, etc.)

Make A Schedule:

Having a play by play schedule will make sure you’re on track and not wasting time. Delegate specific time slots for arrivals, setting up, tracking, listening, editing, overdubs, mixing, mastering and lunch breaks down to the minute. This will help budget your time and assure that you can complete the project in the allocated amount of time and money.

… And last but not least…

Back-Up Plan:

Last but definitely not least, BRING IN YOUR OWN PORTABLE HARD DRIVE TO BACK-UP YOUR SESSION! This cannot be stressed enough, technology is unreliable at best so if your session is not backed up in at least 3 different sources then it is not saved at all. If you don’t own a portable hard drive then invest in one as soon as you can. They are extremely cheap in this day and age and necessary if you plan on doing any studio work.

Hopefully these tips help make your next recording session a little more organized.


Jazz Styles Family Tree. (Pre-World War II)

April 6, 2010

Jazz music has evolved since its inception in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, creating a jazz family tree of styles. Jazz by nature is an evolving and exploratory form of music and new shoots continue to sprout.

Scott Joplin, a pioneer of Ragtime

At the very root of this tree is Ragtime. Ragtime itself was an amalgamation of many forms of music such as traditional African songs and folk music mixed with traditional European musical forms such as waltzes and marches. These styles were however only really influences upon Ragtime and why it is consider the first form of jazz.

Ragtime was born in the South of the United States and so was jazz’s first variation. New Orleans Jazz (sometimes referred to as Dixieland), developed from the popularity of ragtime. Musicians in New Orleans embraced this new style but used the instruments from brass bands which were popular in the city at the time. This change of lineup brought about changes in the music with the skill and influences of the musicians, creating the New Orleans style. This style was less focused on the solo, but there was more individuality shown from the players. Musicians  would embellishing their playing to show off their talents. In New Orleans Jazz improvisation had become a huge part of the style.

In the 1920’s Jazz’s popularity began to spread across the United States with new musicians exposed to the genre. One of the major Cities to be captivated by this modern style was Chicago. Chicago in the 1920’s was a city going through drastic growth and changes with the youth of the city rebelling against the traditional societal values. A more individualistic and outspoken society was being created. This is reflected in Chicago Jazz which is characterized by its focus on innovation and improvisation.

Back in New Orleans Hot Jazz becoming more prominent led by a musician named  Louis Armstrong. Hot Jazz featured collective improvisation where the band would work around a central melodic structure to produce new and original work. The size of a hot jazz band was beginning to grow too from the basic brass band. This in most part was due to improvements in recording technology which allowed more instruments to be recorded at one time.

In the 1930’s Jazz not only began to become the prominent form of popular music in the United States but also spread across the Atlantic to Europe. It is also a decade considered to be a golden time in Jazz history with the emergence of the Kansas City scene. Kansas City Jazz is regarded as the beginning of what is regarded as modern jazz (see our article on Kansas City: The birthplace of modern jazz ). Kansas City Jazz fused blues styles with jazz and the heavy amount of improvisation created ground breaking and innovative music.

During the 1930’s Swing was king. Swing was  based on New Orleans style Jazz but using large orchestras and was full of the new innovative influences from Kansas City . The music was fun and invigorating making it great to dance to, giving it that mass appeal. Swing would continue to be a dominant form of music well in to the 40’s & 50’s.

Jazz had been exported to Europe during and post World War I by American soldiers posted on the continent and had become a popular form of music. New European inspired variations of jazz also began to appear the most notable being  Gypsy Jazz (see our article Gypsy Jazz: A European variation of an American invention). Gypsy jazz or Manouche jazz’s (as it is also known) main exponent was a Belgian by the name of Jean ‘Django’ Reinhardt. In this style string instruments are used opposed to the brass and woodwind instruments used in American forms. There is also no rhythm section, with the beat being played out by banging on the stocks of their instruments.

Jazz’s influence across the globe would continue to spread, leading to further innovation and styles.

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JUNO Category of Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year, 2010.

March 5, 2010

The five nominees for Contemporary Jazz Album of the Year are Charles Spearin for ‘The Happiness Project‘, Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society for ‘Infernal Machines’, Hilario Duran for ‘Motion’, John Roney for ‘Silverbirch’ and Kirk MacDonald for ‘Songbook Vol. 1’  . Below is a brief bio of each artist and an example of their nominated album.

Charles Spearin – The Happiness Project

A member of the band Broken Social Scene, Spearin is no stranger to the JUNO Awards, previously winning two awards. This album, which is based around the spoken word recordings of his neighbors in Toronto talking about happiness. ‘The Happiness Project’s” success has come as a refreshing surprise

Darcy James Argue’s Secret Society – Infernal Machines

‘Infernal Machines’ is the debut album by Darcy James Argue.  The album utilizes Argue’s 18 piece big band using traditional styles in new and innovative ways. A native of Vancouver, Argue earned his masters degree in Boston and now lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Hilario Duran – Motion

A performer at last years Wreckhouse International Jazz and Blues Festival with Luis Mario Ochoa, Hilario Duran has produced another JUNO nominated album in ‘Motion’. Cuban born Duran, now based in Toronto is a two time JUNO winner (2002 and 2006) for his albums ‘Havana Remembered’ and ‘Perspectiva Encuentro en la Habana’. He has also received a Grammy nomination for Best Jazz Instrumental Solo.

John Roney – Silverbirch

A Grand Prix du Jazz nominee at the 2003 Montreal Jazz Festival and has become an integral part of the Montreal jazz scene. John has built a reputation as a talented pianist, representing Canada at the Martial Solal International Piano Competition in Paris, France. A native of Toronto, Roney has toured the world showcasing his considerable talent.

Kirk MacDonald Quartet – Songbook Vol. 1

Kirk MacDonald has numerous JUNO nominations and a JUNO award (Best Mainstream Album in 1999) as a solo artist plus several other nominations as part of other groups. The Nova Scotia native is one of Canada’s leading saxophonists and has worked with some of the finest jazz musicians around today.

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