How To Make Your Choir Inclusive for Trans, GNC and Queer Singers

by Caite Debevec

I failed my first transgender student.

I was in grad school and had never had a trans singer in my choir before. I was rooted in what I knew regarding voice types. I was sure that my priority would be vocal health above all else and I was determined to give the singer the best choral experience I could.

Did you catch my mistake?

Rather than centering my student in their experience, it was all about me. What could I give them? How could I improve their voice? Did I know warmups and exercises to address all their vocal struggles?

In the years since, I have curated a list of reminders for myself and other choral directors who strive to create safe spaces for transgender (trans), gender non-conforming (GNC), and queer singers.

First and foremost: It’s not about you.

This is something I tell myself before every rehearsal. While I may have the degrees and the knowledge, the tricks and tips, my primary responsibility is to serve my singers in the way they need me. This doesn’t mean I bend over backward to acquiesce their every request, but my goals for singers are secondary to the goals and aspirations they have for themselves. Allow your singer to be the captain of their choral experience.

Our students don’t owe us their story.

Your trans, GNC, and queer singers have no obligation to tell you anything about themselves. Accept the information that they provide willingly, and only ask questions if they create the space for you to do so. If they don’t share, you don’t need to know.

Trans and GNC singers reserve the right to enter a choral classroom without divulging their complete medical history.

Singers determine the quality of their own musical experiences.

Choral directors often focus on vocal health, but our concept of health should encompass a singer’s physical, mental, and social well-being.

You may have a transmasculine person who wants to sing in the tenor section, and they can only hit half the notes. Is there a chance they could hurt their vocal mechanism? Yes. Is forcing them to sit in the alto section – which is often predominantly singers who identify as female – the solution? No.

A singer’s mental and social well-being are just as important. While that trans singer may only be able to sing half of the notes, to them it may be the quality musical experience that they are looking for.

And always remember: Every singer’s quality experience will look different. One transfeminine person may want to sing alto, while another wants to sing bass. I find the best way of handling this is to say, “Feel free to join whichever section you feel most comfortable in, switch sections at any time, and let me know if you’d like some support!” This gives singers the opportunity to ask for guidance, but the freedom to explore their voices by themselves.

Accommodations for one singer often benefit the entire ensemble.

A few accommodations that have secret benefits:

  1. A good portion of my alto section is trans women who are singing the alto part an octave lower than written. Not only does that expand the repertoire I can program, but our intonation is greatly influenced by the bolstered low notes.
  2. Exercises that are specifically designed for trans and GNC voices are great warmups for the entire ensemble.
  3. When one section is learning their notes, have the entire ensemble sing along in octaves. Members who are singing an octave higher or lower than written can learn their notes without feeling like they are exposed. This also builds musicianship skills for the ensemble.

Most importantly: Trans and GNC singers are singers.

For many of my singers, their transness is a major part of their identity, but it isn’t the reason they joined my ensemble. While we make accommodations for our trans, GNC, and queer singers, be aware of “othering” them, or unconsciously setting them apart from your cis/het singers. Remember: We are all singers who want a community that makes music together.

For continued reading regarding transgender, gender non-conforming, and queer choral experiences, I recommend The Singing Teacher’s Guide to Transgender Voices by Liz Jackson Hearns and Brian Kremer, and A Queerly Joyful Noise: Choral Musicking for Social Justice by Jules Balèn.

If you would like further reading on vocal health, HRT, and the trans/GNC singing experience, I recommend One Weird Trick: A Users Guide to Transgender Voice by Liz Jackson Hearns, and Voice and Communication Therapy for the Transgender/Gender Diverse Client by Richard K. Adler, Sandy Hirsch, and Jack Pickering.

Caite Debevec is a conductor, composer and educator living and working in Baltimore City. She is currently the music director for the Baltimore Men’s Chorus, the founding music director of the Baltimore Women’s Chorale, Manager of Early Childhood Education at the Maryland Science Center, and an independent voice instructor working with trans, non-binary, and GNC singers. www.caitedebevec.com IG: @baltimoremenschorus@bmorewomen

My 9+ Favorite Elvis Songs From Each Era

By: Bruce Dierbeck – Social Media Manager

Thanks to the new “Elvis” biopic, the world has caught Elvis Presley fever all over again (not to be confused with his cover of “Fever” from the 1973 Aloha From Hawaii special).

Elvis’ music career can really be broken down by 3 distinct eras. There’s the early music, which launched Elvis — if not all of rock and roll — into the stratosphere. There’s his movie music that first kept, but then hurt, his relevance throughout the 60s. And lastly, there are the live performances that kept arenas packed until Elvis left the building one final time in August of 1977.

These are a few of my favorites from each of the Elvis eras, from the biggest hits to the deepest cuts. And while Elvis never performed encores, as a “thank you, thank you very much” I have a bonus for those who read to the end.

EARLY ELVIS

“Hound Dog”

Best spun on a 45, preferably with your dog of choice nearby.

“All Shook Up”

One of our favorites from Elvis’ early years, but we thought we’d shake it up here with a fast-paced rendition from the Comeback Special.

“Are You Lonesome Tonight”

Such a sad, beautiful song. But have you ever heard the “Laughing Version” where Elvis falls into a laughing fit while performing this song live?

ELVIS MOVIES

“Love Me Tender”

From Elvis’ first motion picture, a tender love song we still can’t get over.

“Jailhouse Rock”

It would be a crime not to include this one.

“Mine”

A deep cut off the “Speedway” soundtrack, which is one of the seemingly five thousand movies in which Elvis played a race car driver. This was a soundtrack song that was never actually featured in the movie. Could it have been as big as “Love Me Tender” had it come out a decade earlier and featured in the film as opposed to being used as filler? We’ll never know. But it’s a favorite of, well, mine.

ELVIS LIVE!

“Suspicious Minds”

You can see why this was a perennial concert favorite in this sprawling 6-minute live rendition from the summer of 1970. Elvis puts his everything into this performance, leaving both the king and the crowd spent.

“Just Pretend”

A beautiful melancholic number that’s a little bit country, a little bit R&B, and therefore a whole lotta bit the kind of song Elvis loved to deliver during this era.

“American Trilogy”

One of the most iconic moments from the “Aloha From Hawaii” special, it also features a jaw-dropping flute-solo one doesn’t see much in rock concerts not featuring Jethro Tull.

BONUS: ELVIS COVERS

Just as Elvis inspired so many artists over the past half-century, Elvis was heavily inspired by his contemporaries and loved covering their music. Here are 3 Elvis covers that TCB in our eyes.

ELVIS x THE BEATLES: “Get Back / Little Sister

Did you know that not only did Elvis and the Beatles spend an evening jamming in his Hollywood living room one night in the late 60s, but that Elvis also covered a few Beatles tracks during his summer of 1970 Vegas shows? His covers of “Yesterday” and “Something” are beautiful, but it’s his mashup of “Get Back” with his own “Little Sister” that was ahead of its time.

ELVIS x THE BEE GEES: “Words

Yes. You read that right. Elvis covered the Bee Gees. And words can’t truly describe how amazing that is.

ELVIS x NEIL DIAMOND: “Sweet Caroline”

The entire planet knows every word to “Sweet Caroline” but very few know that Elvis covered this would-be Neil Diamond classic during the summer of 1970 in Las Vegas. Our thoughts? So good, so good!

Discover Elvis’ legendary catalog of music at sheetmusicplus.com

Bruce is part of the social media team at Sheet Music Plus and lives in Milwaukee, WI with his wife and two golden retrievers. He’s a lover of all kinds of music from old school rap and classic country to yacht rock and power pop, as long as it has a catchy beat or can turn a creative lyric. He has an unhealthy knowledge of 1970s Elvis and can tell anything from the year a particular jumpsuit was worn to what night a live performance was from.

10 Favorite Broadway Songs Picked by Sheet Music Plus

We are so excited to watch the Tony Awards this weekend! There is nothing like a great Broadway musical number, and there have been so many over the decades. From classical Broadway hits to modern gems, we love to sing, dance, get sucked into YouTube rabbit holes, and get these tunes stuck in our heads. While it is difficult to narrow down just a few of these standout songs, we’ve collected our favorites from our Sheet Music Plus staff. 

It Takes Two

from Into the Woods

A classic from Stephen Sondheim.  

Seasons of Love

from Rent

An oldie, but a goodie that never gets old.

Wheels of a Dream

from Ragtime

A goosebump-inducing duet with Audra McDonald and Brian Stokes Mitchell. 

All That Jazz

from Chicago

One of the best opening numbers ever. Chita Rivera understands the assignment.

You’ll Be Back

from Hamilton

Is it bad to admit that the king is one of our favorite characters?

Circle of Life

from The Lion King

Such a powerful opening number. It’s hard to not get chills.

Tonight

from West Side Story

Sondheim and Bernstein crafted some of the most timeless love songs when they created West Side Story.

Wait for Me

from Hadestown

Who would think that ancient Greece would mix so well with New Orleans and soul music?

Springtime for Hitler

from The Producers

“It was outrageous, offensive, and insulting, and I enjoyed every minute.”

Bring Him Home

from Les Miserables

Colm Wilkinson’s performance of this song is a masterclass.

The Music of Turning Red: Finding Cultural Harmony

By: Naoko Maruko – Head of Catalog Product Management at Sheet Music Plus

Think back to the first time you watched a movie and watched a character that made you think, “That’s me!” Remember the feeling of being seen and the excitement of being represented on the big screen? 

Well, I don’t. 

I was an Asian American girl who spoke with no Asian accent, only spoke English (and some basic French), and did no martial art. We did not exist in movies in the 80s and 90s and as such, we weren’t really thought to exist at all.

That’s why I was excited to see the movie Turning Red! It’s a movie about a flute-playing, high achieving, confident, Chinese Canadian 13-year-old girl named Meilin (Mei for short) Lee. Granted, I was a cello-playing, high achieving, less confident, Japanese American 13-year-old girl, but in an industry that has so little representation, East Asian folks tend to rally behind any East Asian character whenever they exist. It’s exciting to have any non-stereotypical visibility even when it is not direct representation.

Upon watching Turning Red for a second time, I realized how the movie’s music captures the journey of finding harmony between the many different facets of identity. For this movie, it is the struggle not only of growing up but balancing eastern and western cultural expectations along with showing respect for tradition in a modern societal construct.

In the opening self-introduction, Mei walks and talks over a new jack swing soundtrack. This sound is a quintessentially western sound (specifically Black-created music, with influences of hip hop, soul, R&B, funk, jazz, blues, etc.). On top of this is a melody played by a modern western flute, representing the western side of Mei. It’s used whenever she is at school, with her friends, or walking around in Toronto.

© Disney

This is juxtaposed with Mei’s familial traditional eastern influences. As Mei rushes home to be with her family, the western flute melody changes to a dizi (笛子), a Chinese bamboo flute. Traditional Chinese instruments and music styles come up frequently whenever Mei is with her family, not only representing the more traditional viewpoints but also her Chinese culture. Her mother, Ming, represents that more traditional and eastern viewpoint and is thusly represented by the more traditional and eastern instrument: the guzheng (古箏), a plucked Chinese string instrument. 

Mei discovers that she has a long family history of turning into a red panda whenever feeling a strong emotion, thanks to a wish made by her ancestor. When she initially transforms and is panicking, an erhu enters the soundtrack, often accompanied by synth. An erhu, a Chinese bowed string instrument, is rarely heard in mainstream music, much less with a modern synth accompaniment, so I found these two together to be an interesting play on east and west; traditional and more modern.

In fact, the traditional Chinese instruments often play alongside western musical entities in this movie. We get combinations of dizi and full orchestra. Guzheng and synth. Big band and dizi. It is a blended cohesive sound that incorporates both eastern and western instruments and various styles that foreshadows the peace that Mei will find with her various identities.

© Disney

At the climax of Turning Red, Mei walks away from her need for her mother’s approval and toward her friends at a 4*Town concert. Hijinx ensues and everyone ends up needing to open a door to the astral plane and deal with a big red panda situation. A ritual is performed where “The door will only open if we sing from our hearts”. For Mei’s grandma and aunties, that is a traditional-sounding Cantonese chant. 4*Town is singing and doing their boy band thing. Mei’s friends are beatboxing. The supporting music is a combination of full orchestra, Chinese orchestra, dizi, and synth. It’s the culmination of all of Mei’s identities so that she can emerge her true self.

There is often the perception that East Asian people living in non-Asian countries just arrived. The “perpetual foreigner” concept means that we are always seen as “other” as opposed to part of the societal “norm”. It is why I’ve been asked, “Where are you from? But where are you really from? But originally?” hundreds of times.

Turning Red is unique because Mei is not treated as an Other. The movie seamlessly has her belonging, which in turn normalizes her belonging. More importantly, she belongs without having to give up her cultural heritage and instead has her heritage celebrated. Mei and Mei’s music showcases how you do not need to choose sides; you do not need to be 100% something (eastern, western, traditional, modern, etc.) nor do you need to be 0% something else, because your true self may be a harmonious amalgamation of many influences. You do not need to fully assimilate and leave your culture behind to gain acceptance. You also do not need to fully live by the traditional values and expectations of a generation and/or culture. All these influences can instead co-exist and come together to create something special and lovely.

In the end, Turning Red is the soundtrack for the journey of finding cultural and generational harmony and finding peace in authentic identity. It’s also an opportunity to shine a spotlight and bring visibility to not only East Asian characters but East Asian people as we celebrate both what makes us unique and our belonging. 

BIO

Naoko Maruko is the Head of Catalog Product Management at Sheet Music Plus. She is also a professional cellist and has played with musicians such as Michael Bublé, the Trans Siberian Orchestra, and Disturbed. You can find her multi-track cello arrangements on www.youtube.com/onenaoko She is from Fresno, California. Originally.

AAPI Month Composer Highlight: Naoko Ikeda

Naoko Ikeda lives in Sapporo, Hokkaido in northern Japan, and is passionate about introducing the world to her country’s essence through music. Influenced by classical music, jazz and pop, as well as the piano works of William Gillock, her own music reflects her diverse tastes with beauty, elegance, and humor. Ms. Ikeda holds a piano performance degree from Yamaguchi College of Arts in Japan and currently maintains an energetic schedule as both teacher and composer.

Was there a moment you knew your career path would be a musical one?

Before starting piano lessons at age 6, I took voice lessons! I discovered that even as a child I loved adding lyrics to melodies, and knew that I wanted career in music at age 5. I began more serious music study when I was in junior high.

How has your heritage influenced your music career? What does your heritage mean to you?

I was born and raised in Hokkaido. Japan is an island nation and does not share borders with other countries, so it has its own unique traditions, culture, and aesthetics. The Japanese value the four seasons, and I too feel close to the signs hidden in nature and its changing seasons. Our society places a high importance on our history and our art. In fact, traditions were passed down through the generations by artists and scribes carefully copying works of art into books, paintings, music, textiles, and other mediums. My compositions aim to reflect my culture but I also interpolate those sounds with my own impressions of the world.

Do you have a favorite music piece that you like to perform? Who is your favorite musician?

I love William Gillock’s “Lyric Preludes in Romantic Style.” The collection was what started my interest in piano composition as a teenager. I love performing Debussy and Mozart. It’s tough to pick a favorite musician as it depends on the genre, but I’ve been listening to the vocal group Take 6 ever since their debut, and love their exquisite harmonies!

Music connects us no matter where we are, what language we speak, or our belief system – being comforted by music is a unique sensation that we feel in our hearts. That feeling or sensation is a big step in wanting to understand different cultures and ways of thinking.

How important do you think musical experiences are in bridging cultures?

Because of Covid-19, many musicians around the world shared live performances virtually. We were able to encourage each other through the gift of music. Music connects us no matter where we are, what language we speak, or our belief system – being comforted by music is a unique sensation that we feel in our hearts. That feeling or sensation is a big step in wanting to understand different cultures and ways of thinking.

Naoko Ikeda‘s Recent Publications:

How to Keep Your Music Students Sharp Over the Summer

While summer is a great time to relax and enjoy the vacation, it can also be a great time for music students to improve their skills and become even more proficient musicians. Below are some tips and advice for music teachers wanting to help their students practice music over the summer.

Offer a summer music program

If you’re able to keep working with your students throughout the summer (or if you know other teachers who might be), let your students know that they can continue taking lessons over the break. And if you can’t do lessons yourself, consider offering a summer music camp or other similar programs where they can keep up with their practice and their peers.

Use social media to keep your students connected to each other and to you

Not only will your students stay connected over social media, but they’ll also be able to access a wealth of resources that can improve their playing skills. Facebook groups can be private or public, and you can use them to share practice tips and videos.

You could even create a private group for your current students and alumni so that former students can offer advice on how to overcome technical challenges or share musical ideas. You might also consider creating an online course that your students would have access to all summer long.

This course could include weekly mini-lessons on topics like sight-reading, ear training, improvisation, or music theory. This is an especially great option if you have multiple levels of experience throughout your studio or if some of your students will be traveling this summer.

Encourage students to listen to music in the car and around the house

One way to keep students engaged with music during the summer is to encourage them to listen while going about their regular lives. While they’re riding their bikes, playing outside, or waiting at the doctor’s office, they can listen to their favorite songs. This will keep their musical ideas flowing even when they’re away from the instrument.

It will also help them familiarize themselves with new songs—if you have a student who has learned a new piece of music, they may have trouble remembering it. Still, if they hear it a lot over the summer (either because you gave them a copy beforehand or because they listen to videos on YouTube), they’ll be more likely to retain it when you get together again in the fall.

Encourage your students to enlist a fun practice partner

The summer months can be difficult for students to continue learning—a friend or a buddy can help keep them engaged! Try partnering up student by instrument and the neighborhood they live in. Next, have them take turns picking out music to practice together, or create a music bucket list for students to choose from all summer (bonus points if they practice all the pieces on your list!).

Give your students a chance to reflect on their music and improve their playing this summer!

Now that you’ve got the tools and a clear picture of the benefits of summer practice, it’s time to take action and make the most of your summer! The best part about these tips is that they’re not just for your students—they’re can apply to you, too. No matter the experience level, everyone will benefit from keeping up with their playing through the summer months.

Even if they don’t have time to practice every day, they’ll retain more information and advance more quickly if they keep up with practicing regularly. More than anything else, you want them to enjoy playing music and making progress on their instrument so that they’ll continue in the future. At Sheet Music Plus, we provide the world’s largest sheet music selection for all abilities, styles, genres, and instruments.

The Power of Growth Mindset in Music

By Celia Zhang

“I can’t do it!” “It’s too hard!” “I’m not good at it!”

Parents and teachers – odds are, you or your student have probably said one of these phrases in the midst of a challenge, and I absolutely empathize with you. The feeling of missing the target, especially on repeat, is truly exasperating.

However, experience has shown that a shift in expectations toward a growth mindset mentality can do wonders. No, I am not talking about lowering expectations, but instead, of altering the perspective. Switch from aiming for a target task to observing a sensation, mentality or effort. Change “fix this rhythm” to “sustain full concentration as you subdivide” for a minute. Alter “use full bow” into “observe the sensation of your upper forearm stretching”. Pivot “fix your posture” to “maintain this feeling of openness in your spine”. Now – why does all this matter?

I am not talking about lowering expectations, but instead, of altering the perspective. Switch from aiming for a target task to observing a sensation, mentality or effort.

The concept of “growth mindset” is exemplified by the Harvard Business Review as when “individuals … believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others)”. This, as opposed to a “fixed mindset” (where a person’s capabilities are preset by nature), provides the student with not only limitless possibility, but correlates results with the associated effort and learning process put in, rather than a predetermined concept of “I’m not good at it, so why bother trying?”.

In all honesty, the idea that a person may be predisposed to musical talent for whatever reason – their parent plays an instrument, they have perfect pitch, they can carry a tune – is truly insignificant if the developed work ethic cannot support this “talent”. Unfortunately, it is also this version which is most commonly sensationalized in the news, on social media and online – the idea of the rarity from birth. On the flip side of the same coin, those who may not have any reason to succeed at a musical instrument, but has a rigorous and thoughtful work ethic can often find success not only in music, but also in whatever field they choose to apply themselves. This is likely the reason for the phrase, “those who are ‘talented’ are often ‘multitalented’” – though the common error here is that “talent” becomes a misnomer for an innate ability rather than the cultivated work and learning which honed the abilities in the first place.

A fantastic anecdote which my former teacher, Kurt Sassmannshaus (Founder of ViolinMasterClass.com, and prominent violin pedagogue) once shared with me was of a conversation he once had with his own former teacher, the eminent Dorothy Delay. He asked Ms. Delay – “I see some students who can spend hours and hours on a technique or section or whatnot, and not accomplish what they set out for, while others can do it in a matter of minutes. Why? What is ‘Talent?’” Apparently, Ms. Delay gave her usual sweet smile and replied, “it’s just a mood”.

Parents and teachers, growth mindset is the key to cultivate this mood.

Celia Zhang is the Founder and Director of the Village Youth Conservatory in Boston, MA. After earning her performance degrees from the Juilliard School and Yale School of Music, Zhang continued her performance and teaching career in Boston, where her students have gone on to win top performance prizes throughout the state and solo in Carnegie Hall. Learn more at VillageYouthConservatory.com.

Follow Celia:
Instagram: @VillageYouthConservatory, @CeliaWZhang
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/VillageYouthConservatory 
Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCDGvJDRmGgNshKG20uXhR4A

Source: https://hbr.org/2016/01/what-having-a-growth-mindset-actually-means

5 Tips on How To Be a Musician and Succeed Into The Wedding Industry

Becoming a wedding musician can be a rewarding and fun experience to showcase your talent and share your passion for music with others.

It can also be a great way to make extra money or venture into it as a full-time career. But how does one become a successful wedding musician?

Here are some tips to help musicians who want to break into the wedding gig scene.

1. Make Sure Your Sound Is Polished and Professional

Be confident in your abilities, and don’t be afraid to show your personality through your music. Your goal is to connect with the audience and create a memorable experience for them. Ensure your voice is in top shape and have a repertoire of songs that will appeal to a wide range of people. 

Guests will be expecting high-quality music, so make sure your band or solo act is up to par. Have a backup in case of faulty equipment, and make sure your sound is well-balanced.

2. Be Prepared For Anything

Weddings can be unpredictable events, so always be ready for the unexpected. You need to be able to connect with your clients and understand their needs.

You also need to have a great attitude and be professional at all times. If the bride wants to change the song order last minute, be able to go with the flow. If you are not comfortable with the request, politely say no and explain why.

Taking direction and working well under pressure are essential skills for any musician wanting to make it in the wedding industry.

Most importantly, remember that a wedding is not the time to try out new materials. Stick to tried-and-true songs that will please the crowd and your client.

3. Dress Appropriately

You may not think about this, but what you wear can make a big impression on clients. If you’re playing at a formal wedding, dress the part.

Wear a suit or dress that is appropriate for the occasion. On the other hand, if you’re playing at a more relaxed wedding, you can be more casual in your attire.

It would also be good to do a little research on the dress code of the wedding. Ask the couple or the wedding planner what they envision for the day, so you can be sure to look your best.

4. Know What You Should Play In a Wedding Gig

The most important thing is to make sure that the couple is happy with the music selection on their special day. If they have any specific requests, prepare a mix and send it to them in advance for their approval.

It’s important to remember that a wedding is a happy occasion. The music should reflect that, so steer clear of anything too dark or depressing.

Avoid too heavy, rowdy songs or inappropriate ones as that can quickly ruin the mood.

It’s always good to have a setlist of fast and slow songs appropriate for weddings. Include a few classic pieces that everyone knows this way; you can keep the energy up when needed and give people a chance to catch their breath and relax a bit.

5. Market Yourself to Break into the Wedding Gig Scene

You can do a few things to market yourself as a musician for weddings.

  • Create a portfolio of your work. It can be a website, an online profile, or even a physical portfolio. Make sure to showcase your range and include examples of different genres of music that you can play.
  • Get involved in the wedding industry. Attend bridal shows, meet with event planners, and network with other vendors.
  • Promote your services. You can achieve this through word-of-mouth, online advertising, or even print marketing materials.
  • Play for free at a few weddings and social gatherings to get your name out there, and be sure to ask for referrals from satisfied customers.

Browse our wedding sheet music collection to find the right music to make perfect memories!

Meet Artina McCain: SMP’s Women History Month Artist Q&A

Described as a pianist with “power and finesse” (Dallas Arts Society), “beautiful and fiery” (KMFA Austin) and having a “sense of color, balance and texture” (Austin Chamber Music Center) Artina McCain, has a built a three-fold career as a performer, educator and speaker.

Recent performance highlights include guest appearances with the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, Oregon East Symphony, and the Memphis Symphony Orchestra. As a recitalist, her credits include performances at the Mahidol University in Bangkok, Hatch Recital Hall in Rochester and in 2022 her debut at Wigmore Hall in London.

Dedicated to promoting the works of Black and other underrepresented composers, McCain curates Black Composers Concerts for multiple arts organizations and is an American Prize winner for her solo piano recordings of these works. Recently, she won a Gold Global Music Award for her recent solo album project Heritage.

Currently, she is Coordinator of Keyboard Studies at the University of Memphis.

Artina McCain’s Book

African American Folk Songs Collection

Introduce piano students to unique African American history and music with these 24 folk songs arranged for intermediate piano solo.

Songs include: By and By • Deep River • Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing • My Lord, What a Morning • Ride On, King Jesus • Sometimes I Feel like a Motherless Child • Wade in the Water • and more.

Includes detailed notes about the songs and beautiful illustrations.

SHOP NOW >

Q&A

Was there a moment you knew your career path would be a musical one?

Yes, I went to a performing arts high school in Orlando, Florida. It was an amazing nurturing place where I developed my skills in school and through my independent teacher. 

How has your heritage influenced your music career? What does your heritage mean to you?

My African American heritage has provided a rich background of musical colors, sounds and rhythm. I grew up listening to my grandmother play piano and sing and being immersed with the sounds of the Black church. This personal heritage and upbringing has given me an enormous confidence and pride in the work I do and who I am as an artist.

Do you have a favorite music piece that you like to perform? Who is your favorite musician?

My favorite piece is any piece I’m currently playing! No favorites. I think there are so many incredible musicians who offer inspiration in different ways.

How important do you think musical experiences are in bridging cultures?

I think it’s essential—it helps us to understand and appreciate one another. It also enriches our own musical experience and progress.

What’s next for you? Are there any new projects we can look forward to in the near future?

Yes, my husband and I as the McCain Duo released an album entitled Renew. Also, I am excited to be returning to the stage. I’ll be performing at Wigmore Hall in London, touring the pacific northwest and several engagements in Texas. Excited to get back to sharing music with others around the world!

Bärenreiter and the evolution of Urtext

Petra Woodfull-Harris

Bärenreiter’s publications are recognized by their covers in all colors of the rainbow and we owe our international reputation to the extensive musicological work that forms the basis of our Urtext editions.

But what exactly is Urtext? It’s the attempt to put together a musical text that is as close as possible to the composer’s intentions. Sounds pretty straightforward – all you need to do is to transcribe the composer’s autograph into modern notation, right? It’s actually not that easy, even if there is an autograph (however, there are many that have not come down to us). This document will generally represent one, if not the primary source. But what if the composer made corrections in manuscript parts used for the first performance, or even later in the proofs for the first edition? What, if years later, the composer revised the work for a particular performance situation?

The work of an Urtext editor is much like that of a detective. ‘Source tracing’ is the magic phrase, asking questions such as: which sources to a particular work are missing but must have existed at one point? In many cases, the editor has to search for sources in libraries, archives and private collections before defining the interrelationships between all available sources and deciding about their relevance.

Urtext editions

Bärenreiter’s first Urtext performing editions were all based on so-called Complete Editions such as the New Bach Edition, the New Mozart Edition, the New Schubert Edition, started shortly after World War II in response to the ‘old’ Complete Editions of the 19th century which no longer met current editorial and musicological standards. Editorial teams made up of leading musicologists were founded, and research into the entire oeuvre of the respective composer was state-funded. Based on their many Complete Editions, Bärenreiter published performing Urtext editions, with the identical musical text. Almost the entire oeuvre of Mozart, Bach, Schubert and Händel is found in the Bärenreiter Urtext catalogue.

After much discussion at Bärenreiter, it was agreed that in order to grow the publisher’s catalogue, it was necessary to go beyond the Complete Editions. The first Urtext edition published independently of a Complete Edition was Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9 (BA 9009) in 1996, followed by all of Beethoven symphonies. In the string area, Tartini’s Devil’s Trill Sonata (BA 10919) represented the first Urtext edition published in 1997 independently of a Complete Edition.

The missing element: performing practice

In 2000, with the 250th anniversary of J.S. Bach’s death, Bärenreiter published a new type of Urtext edition which stirred the musical world and brought Bärenreiter much international acclaim: Douglas Woodfull-Harris’ and Bettina Schwemer’s edition of the Bach Cello Suites (BA 5217).

Bach’s Cello Suites pose particular editorial problems as no autograph has come down to us. Instead of combining all five existing sources, the editors decided to supply players with the sources themselves as well as extensive information on historical performing practice so that cellists would be in a position to make their own informed decisions and choices. The edition not only offers a performing score in modern notation with different readings indicated within the musical text, it also provides cellists with facsimile reproductions of the sources in five separate booklets as well as with an extensive text on the genesis of the suites, the cello in Bach’s day, bowing techniques, articulation, embellishments, vibrato, dynamics, the execution of chords and scordatura.

This was the beginning of Performing Practice becoming, whenever possible, an essential component of a Bärenreiter Urtext edition.

Christopher Hogwood integrated performing practice issues in his edition of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons (BA 6994), published in 2000, by using as its main source the so-called Manchester Manuscript which allowed insight into how the work was understood in Vivaldi’s lifetime.

Another important aspect of performing practice is the examination of close collaboration between composers and performers. Ample evidence of this has come down to us in correspondence and annotated source material that sheds light on just how influential virtuosos were in determining the final form of a work. Clive Brown demonstrated this in his edition of Brahms’ violin concerto (BA 9049), published in 2006, for which Joseph Joachim played a decisive role, and Mendelssohn’s violin concerto (BA 9099), revised edition published in 2018, of which Ferdinand David shaped many details.

Christopher Hogwood’s edition of Corelli’s Sonatas for Violin and Basso continuo Op. 5 (BA 9455/ BA 9456), published in 2013, represents another landmark. The edition includes a contemporary keyboard realization by Antonio Tonelli (1686–1765). This arguably most important written-out example of continuo playing in the 18th century is astonishing as it contradicts prevailing 20th century ideas of keyboard realization in many aspects, e.g. with regard to its rich, full chords. The edition also provides a supplement with violin embellishments from Corelli’s time which can serve today’s players as models.

This new editorial approach has culminated in Clive Brown’s fabulous editions of Brahms’ Works for Solo Instrument and Piano as well as Beethoven’s Sonatas for Pianoforte and Violin. These editions are accompanied by unprecedented Performing Practice Commentaries. Clive Brown’s editions seek to recover some of the messages and performing practices that these composers expected their notations to convey to a performer. In the text parts of his editions, issues specific to each work as well as to general 19th century performance practice are discussed with regard to tempo, rubato, rhythmic flexibility and articulation, for example. Furthermore, string players will find information concerning vibrato, portamento, fingering and bowing.

In the early days of Urtext publishing, and even today, the idea of a ‘definitive final version’ of a work prevails. This concept, however, was to be challenged over the years. Composers for the most part did not consider their works as final and definitive but much rather were quite willing to make alterations in order to adjust to specific performance situations. With the creation of a new version, older ones were not necessarily replaced or lost their value. Christopher Hogwood first did justice to this practice by editing Mendelssohn’s Overtures (2003–2009) with their separate differing versions. The same approach was taken when Larry Todd edited Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto in E minor (2005), rendering the work’s early version of 1844 as well as the well-known later one.

Expansion of the repertoire

We are often asked how we decide what to publish. There are several criteria.

One aspect is that we are building our catalogue with key works of the repertoire. On the other hand, we aim to enhance our catalogue with selected, musically valuable, lesser-known works such as Hummel’s Sonata for Pianoforte and Violoncello Op. 104 (BA 10904), Joseph Joachim’s Fantasy on Hungarian Themes (1850), Fantasy on Irish [Scottish] Themes (1852) for Violin and Orchestra (BA 7898-90), and Clara Schumann’s Three Romances for Violin and Piano Op. 22 (BA 10947).

What also determines our program is the musicological need for a new edition. This was the reason why Bärenreiter expanded their catalogue with late 19th century and early 20th century French repertoire. Much of this music was only available in older editions, often with many mistakes. This is how César Franck, Debussy and Ravel found their way into Bärenreiter’s catalogue.

Why Bärenreiter Urtext?

What makes our editions different from other publishers’ Urtext editions? There is not an easy, all-encompassing answer. In many cases, you will have to compare individual editions.

Generally speaking, Bärenreiter editors consult a wide circle of sources, directly linked to the composer. This approach allows for insights into performing practice issues.

Also, Bärenreiter generally does not follow the principal of unifying parallel passages. This popular editorial approach is based on the assumption that the composer expected a performer to use the same dynamics and articulation in parallel passages, e.g. in the recapitulation as in the exposition. In many cases, Bärenreiter does not agree with this practice and allows for variants to be intended as we know today how important variation, embellishment and improvisation were throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bärenreiter usually provides extensive Prefaces, often with performance practice information. This text apparatus supplies information on a particular work not to be found in books or essays. And lastly our Urtext editions – or the corresponding Complete Edition volumes – always include complete Critical Commentaries. In the Critical Commentary, the editor accounts for different readings and explains editorial decisions.

As you can see, the idea of Urtext has undergone quite a development at Bärenreiter. It is, of course, still about the correct pitch and which note the composer intended; but today it is just as much about what that note meant to a contemporary performer and how it was expected to be played.

Petra Woodfull-Harris trained as a piano teacher in Germany and gained a Master of Arts in Music Education in the US. She has worked at Bärenreiter for more than 30 years, currently as Sales Manager for North America.

In Memoriam: George Crumb (1929 – 2022)

George Crumb. Photo credit: Simon Jay Pierce.

Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “…an all-American composer – one of our best, most original and most important,” George Crumb was a titan of contemporary classical music, who was beloved by musicians and audiences alike for his aurally and visually stunning scores.

A true avant-garde, Crumb expanded our conception of what it means to be a musician, turning items like bowed water glasses into instruments, incorporating new elements such as spoken word, nature sounds, and electronics into his works, and asking instrumentalists to participate in elaborate theatrical presentations of his music, wearing masks, for instance, or performing under prescribed lighting.

Creating works simultaneously dramatic and concise, Crumb gave to music his own musical language, both in sound and on the page. Many of Crumb’s unique notated scores famously were hand-drawn shapes and spirals. For example, his written score for “Agnus Dei” from Makrokosmos II, is in the shape of a peace symbol. In a 2016 interview with the Brunswick Review, Crumb said, “I don’t have any artistic skills outside of musical calligraphy, I just think the music should look the way it sounds.”

George Crumb writing “The Fiddler.” Photo credit: Margaret Leng Tan.

Refreshingly original and hauntingly beautiful, Crumb’s music not only reached the souls of some of the 20th-century’s most important musicians, but also inspired them to do their part to revolutionize music. Black Angels, Crumb’s best-known work, was described by David Bowie as one of his favorite records: “a study in spiritual annihilation.” That piece, said Kronos Quartet’s David Harrington, “opened up a whole new world to me…. I had no choice but to form Kronos.”

Crumb won a Pulitzer Prize and a Grammy Award for his compositions, and his groundbreaking, evocative music has been used again and again in works ranging from ballets to Hollywood films, including The Exorcist. His scores are routinely taught in textbooks and in conservatories around the world, and his influence on contemporary music is immeasurable.

Join us in celebrating the life and work of the legendary George Crumb.

John Williams: 90 Years – And Counting

On this, his 90th birthday, we’d posit that there is no living composer who has managed to be simultaneously so well-known, well-respected and well-loved than John Williams. We know his grand era- and genre-defining oeuvre like the backs of our hands: Jaws, Star Wars, Superman, Harry Potter, E.T., Indiana Jones — and the list goes on and on.

The broader public will recognize Williams pieces for their ingenious hooks, fearless displays of the widest range of human emotion, and instantaneous connection to the moving images they bring to life. Musicians, meanwhile, will simply enjoy playing his beautiful melodies and deeply satisfying orchestrations that feel undeniably natural.

None of this, of course, needs any introduction — and sometimes that’s the fun of it. Especially in times like these where our society seems to become more intensely divided with each passing day, a cultural touchpoint of pure joy that we all hold dear and that we can all relate to might be exactly what we need.

The John Williams Signature Edition series remains the gold standard in Williams scores. These spiral-bound, fully-engraved conductor’s scores come directly from the Williams originals and contain anecdotes written and signed by Williams himself that tell us, for example, which scene that he scored was his favorite, how the actors who worked on his legendary films helped to inspire his music, and his own personal connections to the characters those actors brought to life. Whether for orchestra or concert band, these editions have become cornerstones of the popular repertoire of premier ensembles across the country, and with Baby Yoda of The Mandalorian capturing the hearts of a whole new generation of Star Wars fans, that looks to be true for years to come.

5 Online Learning Resources for Beginner Through Advanced Musicians

Guest Post By: Chloe Brittain

Online music education is rapidly evolving, with new programs, courses, and technologies being released continually. From ocarina lessons to composing film music in the style of Hans Zimmer, you might be surprised what musical avenues you can explore with a Google search.

In addition to its diversity of content, the online medium provides a lot of scope for different learning styles. There’s something for everyone – interactive software, self-guided video courses, online private lessons, and live group workshops. Many online learning platforms also host thriving student communities, providing plenty of opportunity for peer collaboration and critique.

Here we’ll look at some of the top online resources for improving your musical skills – or learning completely new ones – from the comfort of home.

Online music courses and MOOCs

If you prefer learning through video-based tutorials, visit Udemy for a massive catalog of free and premium courses in subjects like piano, music theory, music production, and even more obscure areas of study, such as traditional Irish singing and world percussion. 

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Another good source of free courses is Coursera, which lists MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) from top-rated institutions like Berklee College of Music. At the time of this writing, Berklee offers MOOCs in areas like electronic music production, music theory and composition, music business, guitar, and vocal recording technology.

In addition to the above resources, many online music production courses have cropped up in recent years. If you’re trying to choose between a few different courses, you can usually find lots of student feedback on sites like TrustPilot and Reddit to help in your decision.

Interactive piano and keyboard learning software 

Music education technology has come a long way in recent years. Today’s piano learning apps employ artificial intelligence and gamification elements that help you advance your skills faster and motivate you to practice more. While many of these apps require a USB/MIDI connection so you can play along with the moving score, others are able to pick up sound via your device’s microphone and can be used with acoustic instruments.

Some piano learning apps, such as Skoove, offer free plans.

Free online guitar lessons for beginner and advanced guitarists

Many people dream of learning this versatile instrument, and there have never been so many useful learning tools for aspiring (and accomplished) guitarists.

For free online guitar and ukulele lessons, check out JustinGuitar.com. The site, launched in 2003 by Australian guitarist Justin Sandercoe, includes over 1,300 beginner through advanced video lessons covering a wide range of musical styles like blues, rock, folk, and jazz. If you’re new to the guitar, you’ll want to start with the popular Beginner Guitar Course, which will guide you through fundamentals such as chords, strumming techniques, and fingerstyle guitar. Justin is known for his fun and friendly teaching style, and the courses are designed to feel like private lessons and help you progress quickly.

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One-one-one music lessons and live group workshops

While self-guided courses and interactive apps can open the door to new musical skills, there’s no substitute for having a human teacher to watch and hear you play and give feedback on your technique.

Since the start of the pandemic, many top music artists have been offering one-on-one lessons or group workshops via Skype or Zoom. To find out who is teaching online, visit the websites of your favorite musicians, or better yet, ask around in online music forums and Facebook groups. You’ll find that many students are happy to share their experience and offer recommendations for a good instructor.

There are also services that connect music teachers with students for online lessons. One such site is Wyzant, with typical rates for music lessons ranging from $30-$50 an hour. (Of note, Wyzant also gives you the option to connect with local teachers for in-person tutoring.)

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Online training for traditional instruments and playing styles 

In this section I’d like to mention a couple resources covering more niche or traditional instruments and playing styles. The following sites offer subscription-based video training at reasonable prices:

  • Online Academy of Irish Music. If you’ve ever wanted to join in and play along at an Irish pub session, this online learning platform will give you the skills and confidence you need. In video-based courses taught by renowned Irish musicians, you’ll learn Irish music technique and ornamentation while building your repertoire of popular trad tunes. You don’t need to be able to read music to enjoy the classes, as Irish music is learned by listening. Among the 14 instruments covered are tin whistle, bodhran, bouzouki, flute, guitar, mandolin, fiddle, and uilleann pipes. 
  • Peghead Nation. This site provides beginner through advanced video instruction in “roots” music – bluegrass, folk, Irish, blues, jazz, etc. – taught by world-class teachers. Instruments covered include guitar, mandolin, banjo, fiddle, dobro, ukulele, and upright bass.
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There’s never been a better time to become a self-taught musician. Today’s online music learning resources are carefully engineered to help you progress efficiently in your musicianship and, more importantly, have tons of fun while doing it!

Author bio

Chloe Brittain blogs about online music courses and other learning resources at Just Music Stuff. She is currently learning Irish flute and guitar online.

StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group

As our Annual Choral Sale continues, we’d like to highlight a fantastic opportunity to explore new music for Thanksgiving, Advent, and Christmas .

Join host Mark Cabaniss, President & CEO of Jubilate Music Group, as special guest Mary McDonald shares thoughts on her featured pieces plus the upcoming fall/Christmas singing season.

In this approximately hour-long express session, Mark previews new music from Jubilate Music Group for Thanksgiving, Advent & Christmas from Mary McDonald, Lloyd Larson, Mark Hayes, Hal Hopson, and more.

Here are just a few of the titles featured in StreamSing:

Emerging from Our Caves

Guest post by composer Robert Sterling

I’ve often said that if I were to compare myself to an animal it would be a bear. A Grizzly, to be more specific. Grizzlies eat half the year and sleep the remaining half. And they spend a lot of time in a cave. They are okay being alone. That describes the life of the composer/arranger in a lot of ways, actually.

I work in a cave – a very nice cave, mind you. I have high-speed internet, quality studio gear, central heat & air, and a bathroom and kitchen very nearby. But it’s still essentially a cave. And when I’m not working, all too often I am either eating or sleeping. Oh, and I growl a lot, but that’s more about my personality. All in all, I’m okay in my cave.

But for the past eighteen months or so, the whole world has been in a cave, isolated from our fellow bears (I mean human beings) except for Netflix, Prime Video, and Zoom. That is not normal for the vast majority of people. Now, we are slowly emerging to see if the world outside has changed much, and if so, how.

Continue reading ‘Emerging from Our Caves’

Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!

Guest post by Ingrid Jacobson Clarfield and Phyllis Alpert Lehrer, editors of Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Classics for the Developing Pianist and Study Guides for Preparation, Practice & Performance Books 1-5

Our 5 anthologies contain the 100 pieces that pianists should learn to play. In the 5 companion Study Guides for each piece. Problems are IDENTIFIED and problems are SOLVED.                                                             

Continue reading ‘Great Editing: The Difference between Success & Frustration!’

Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet: An Easy Way to Improve the Sound of Your Choir

Composer Michael John Trotta has prepared a cheat sheet full of vocal warm-ups to help you get your choir back in the swing of things and sounding better than ever.

Download Michael John Trotta’s Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet here:

Continue reading ‘Vocal Warm-Up Cheat Sheet: An Easy Way to Improve the Sound of Your Choir’

Restore Our Song: A Homecoming

Guest post by composers Lee & Susan Dengler introducing Restore Our Song: A Resource for Restarting Your Choir, which includes an opening “kick-off” fellowship and service, devotions on the themes of deliverance and renewal, easy anthem suggestions to get the choir back in shape quickly, service ideas including a hymn sing, recruitment tips, a simple chorus for choir and congregation titled “Restore Our Song,” and more.

Finally, they were on their way!  After years of exile in Babylon, God’s people were returning to Judah.  Though some had decided to remain in Babylon, a contingent, led by the priest and scribe, Ezra, began the journey home.  To them, Babylon was still a land where they simply could not sing the Lord’s song, even when coaxed by their captors.  All they had been able to do was to hang their harps, the instruments that had once accompanied their voices, on the willow trees that stood guard by the river.  The drooping branches of the trees had served as a visual reminder of their own weeping. 

And then, they were home in their beloved native land!  In the second chapter of the book of Ezra, we find the listing of folks who returned to Jerusalem and other Judean towns. There were the priests, the temple servants, the gatekeepers of the temple.  And, there were the singers!

As the foundations of the new temple were laid, the singers began their song, as they praised and gave thanks to the Lord.  For those who listened, there was a mixture of emotions.  While some shouted for joy, others, who had remembered the former temple and all they had endured, wept with a loud voice.  It was hard to distinguish the shouts of joy from the noise of their crying.  Nevertheless, the combined sound of joyous shouts, sorrowful weeping and glorious singing could be heard for miles around.

We have thought about these people many times during the months of the COVID-19 pandemic, especially after we learned that singing in groups had the ability to spread the virus more virulently than almost anything else.  How could we sing the Lord’s song in such a land?  But now, it seems that we too are on our way home.  Almost daily, we learn of positive indicators that tell us that choirs can safely return to in-person, close-up, full-choir singing.  Thanks be to God!  This is the news for which we have been waiting over these past, long months!

Continue reading ‘Restore Our Song: A Homecoming’

Rockschool: A Complete Beginners Guide

RSL Awards Academic Director Tim Bennett-Hart takes us through everything Rockschool

Rockschool is part of RSL Awards, an international awarding body based in London, UK. For the last 30 years we have been producing material to help people learn musical instruments and assess their progress.

What’s more it really works! Artists such as Ed Sheeran, Jess Glyn, and Wolf Alice have all taken RSL Awards qualifications and gone on to have incredible careers.

It’s not just for super stars. RSL Awards assess over 80,000 people each year across 50 countries – this is a world-wide community of creative people.






What’s in a Book

A typical book like Electric Guitar Level 3 contains – 6 full transcriptions of hit songs, 6 original songs, backing tracks and example audio to download, scales and technical exercises for the level.

Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Ike & Tina Turner – Proud Mary
Taylor Swift – I Knew You Were Trouble
Ed Sheeran – Thinking Out Loud
Bryan Adams – Summer of ’69
Otis Redding – (Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay


Continue reading ‘Rockschool: A Complete Beginners Guide’

Wounded Alleluias

Guest post by Joseph M. Martin, Composer and Director of Sacred Publications for Shawnee Press

The quest to combine ministry with artistry has been a lifelong calling for me.  I have always found my place and purpose in this pursuit.  Composing animates me and breathes into my spirit an inner peace that is deeply sacred.

Reassuring rituals are part of my writing process—simple disciplines made special by repetition, reminding me to be grateful for the labor to which I have been called. With faithful regularity the process unfolds over and over, familiar yet surprising, comfortable yet challenging.

Continue reading ‘Wounded Alleluias’

Edition Peters: Piano, Pedagogy, Studies and the Influence of Carl Czerny

Guest post by Christian A. Pohl, Professor of Piano and Piano Methodology, Head of Piano Department, University of Music and Theatre ‘Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy’ Leipzig 

The start of the nineteenth century saw a seismic shift in the world of domestic keyboard playing as the piano rapidly displaced the harpsichord and clavichord as the instrument of choice in homes across Europe. Seizing on this new opportunity, a series of piano instruction methods were swiftly published, followed by methods and studies over subsequent generations that covered the rudiments of piano playing, technique and performance practice. A huge number of these studies are represented in the Edition Peters Piano Catalogue.

Major names in the field of piano pedagogy were quickly established – including Beyer, Burgmüller, Hanon and Clementi – but it was one who followed behind them that arguably defined the shape of piano pedagogy for generations to come. Indeed, even today – nearly 200 years after this educational “meteorite” first struck the German-speaking piano world – the waves of his impact are still being felt. There is no getting around Carl Czerny when it comes to pianistic exercises or didactic approaches to building a virtuoso pianist.

Carl Czerny
Continue reading ‘Edition Peters: Piano, Pedagogy, Studies and the Influence of Carl Czerny’

How to Make Your Own Virtual Choir

Make your own virtual choir performance in just 8 steps. This guide includes tips for planning the project, recording participant tracks, and editing the submissions into a final performance ready to post and send. For related technology and tools, visit Sheet Music Plus.

You’ve seen them everywhere online: grids of iPhone videos of people singing together in chorus. From Broadway stars and professional choral groups to church and community choirs and even ad hoc regional and global networks of singers, the defining group music making moment of the decade so far is…

VIRTUAL CHOIR

Here we’ll walk you through what a virtual choir is and give you a step-by-step guide to creating your own, whether for the choir you regularly sing with or direct, or for a new group of singers you’ve brought together for a specific project.

Continue reading ‘How to Make Your Own Virtual Choir’

How to Start to Learn Guitar Solos

Guest post by Leo Nguyen, founder of Six String Tips

Playing guitar solos is one of the highest aspirations a guitar player can have. We’ve all heard amazing guitar solos that are so inspiring that they make us want to do whatever it takes to be able to play them, right?

You may be in a situation where you don’t know where to start or how to have a better understanding of how guitar solos work. Keep reading and you will find really cool concepts that will make a difference in how you approach them!

1. What are guitar solos anyway?

To begin with, we can say that guitar solos are instrumental parts, and as such they provide a great opportunity for the guitar to abandon the accompaniment role and be more of a leader.

Guitar solos fulfill a really important role in the song. (No… not to show off, man!) In any song with vocals, the song gets to certain points where a vocal break is needed, noot only from the singer/vocalist’s perspective (to rest), but also for the sake of song construction.

Imagine if you hear a song with no instrumental gaps: it would be terrible! But guitar solos can give those breaks, and keep the song interesting at the same time. That’s why we need to make sure they are well crafted.

There are a great number of different possibilities in solos, but something we know for sure is that guitar solos always need to be aligned with the style of the song.

What kinds of solos are there?

Melodies – Some solos are basically melodies: a melody already used in the song, or a new one, is presented in a highly expressive and embellished way.

Improvisation – There are cases where guitar solo sections are basically left to the interpretation of the player at a specific time. (This mostly happens in live situations.) 

Continue reading ‘How to Start to Learn Guitar Solos’

Chopin: Poland’s “Cannons Buried in Flowers”

Between 1772 and 1795, the Russian Empire, the Kingdom of Prussia and the Habsburg Monarchy divided and annexed the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth amongst themselves in a series of three partitions.

Though one of the largest and most populous countries in 16th– and 17th-century Europe, decades of protracted political, military and economic decline led the country to the brink of civil war, made it vulnerable to foreign influences, and ultimately rendered it unable to withstand the onslaught brought by the encroaching powers, even in spite of a revolutionary new constitution, a war in its defense and an uprising led by Tadeusz Kosciuszko. (As a side note, Kosciuszko was also a decorated hero of the American Revolutionary War and an accomplished military architect who designed and oversaw the construction of state-of-the-art fortifications, including those at West Point.)

Continue reading ‘Chopin: Poland’s “Cannons Buried in Flowers”’

StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group

As our annual Sacred Choral Sale continues, we’d like to highlight a fantastic opportunity to explore new music for spring and Easter.

Join host Mark Cabaniss, President & CEO of Jubilate Music Group, and his special guest, composer Lloyd Larson, for StreamSing, a free virtual reading session.

In this approximately hour-long express session, Mark and Lloyd tell stories, look ahead to our future opportunities for ministry and community as church singers, and preview new music perfect for distanced, streaming and virtual choirs from Mary McDonald, Lloyd Larson, Tom Fettke and more.

Here are just a few of the titles featured in StreamSing:

Continue reading ‘StreamSing: A Free Virtual Reading Session with Jubilate Music Group’

New Pandemic Relief Funding for Your Chorus – Apply Today

Guest post by Jacob Levine, the founder of Chorus Connection and a proud member of the NYC Gay Men’s Chorus. Article reposted with permission from Chorus Connection. See the original post here.

On December 27, 2020, after a tumultuous political rollercoaster, the President signed into law another COVID stimulus package as part of an omnibus spending bill, the Consolidated Appropriations Act 2021. The 5,600 page bill contains nearly $1 trillion in pandemic relief, including four funding opportunities for which your chorus may be eligible.

Note: This blog is only relevant for organizations based in the U.S.

What’s Happening Right Now?

Once a bill like this is passed, the next step is that the Small Business Administration (SBA) must issue official guidance — in the form of Interim Final Rules (IFRs) — on exactly how the administration plans to implement the new law. The SBA released two initial IFRs on January 8 about the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP): general guidance for all PPP loans and specific guidance for second draw loans. Additional information is not yet available for the non-PPP programs mentioned in this blog.

In the meantime, below is a list of the funding opportunities and what you need to know now.

Continue reading ‘New Pandemic Relief Funding for Your Chorus – Apply Today’

A Little Jazz Piano: Exploring the Building Blocks of Music with Bob Chilcott

Bob Chilcott
(Photo: John Bellars)

You know him as one of the world’s preeminent choral composers and conductors, as well as a former member of the King’s Singers, but like so many of us, even Bob Chilcott was forced to put down his baton this year and find other ways to make music.

Chilcott focused his musical attention on teaching piano and theory to his eleven-year-old daughter, Becky, and her friend, and ended up also writing a set of three short jazz-style pieces for the piano to help show his students and other early intermediate learners explore the technical building blocks of music and develop their musical instincts in a way that would also be fun.

The results, A Little Jazz Piano, is a short piano suite featuring Chilcott’s celebrated jazz style in three movements: “Bobbing along,” “Becky’s Song” and “Walking with Ollie.”

Watch Chilcott play excerpts of the suite here:  

Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician: How to Build Solid Foundations & Help First-Year Students Fall in Love with Music

Those of us who teach beginners have specific challenges. Not only do we have to acquaint our students with new instruments, but we also have to begin to acquaint them with musical notation and theory, help them develop good practice habits, and be on the lookout for improper techniques that can turn into major challenges in the years ahead. If our students are very young, we have extra work to help them develop their motor skills, and if we teach ensembles like bands and orchestras, we have the added challenge of attempting to do all of this for many students at the same time.

The team behind the much-loved Habits series, which includes such titles as Habits of a Significant Band Director and Habits of a Successful Middle School Band Director, is back to address these challenges head-on with a new method book focused on first-year band, Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician, and a treasure trove of supplemental resources on the Habits Universal website perfect for virtual, in-person and hybrid learning environments alike.

Here’s what makes Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician special:

Instrument-Specific Instruction

Even within the context of an entire band, Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician manages to deliver specialized resources for each instrument.

On Habits Universal, students can watch videos of professionals introduce and play each exercise on each instrument. This helps them learn how music notation translates to the sounds they make, exposes them to what their instruments can sound like with proper technique and tons of practice, and gives them models to strive toward. This is especially critical for students who don’t have access to private lessons, masterclasses or high-level live performances.

Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician also addresses individual instrument techniques that many other methods ignore entirely, which are especially helpful for instruments that a lot of band directors find a bit trickier. Among these topics are:

  • The oboe F dilemma: Did you know that the oboe has three different ways to play an F?  Many directors don’t even realize that there are three options!  Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician indicates which F an oboist should use throughout most of the book.
  • Bassoon flicking: The best way to initiate sound on the bassoon for an A, B-flat, B, C or D is to flick on the C key. Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician describes what this means and how to do it, and employs the degree sign, the universal sign for bassoonists to flick, throughout the book.

This level of detail extends to other instruments with such features as left and right indicators for clarinets, thorough sticking for mallets, and chromatic fingering indicators.

Teacher Tips & Resources

Each exercise in Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician comes with tips for the teacher: how to approach an exercise with their students, what to watch out for in various instrument sections, and suggestions for how to help students master it. Below is an example:

On Habits Universal Interactive, students can play along with backing tracks and listen to real audio models of their lines. They can also video record themselves playing their lines and get automatic graded feedback on their performance. While this feature is especially helpful for remote instruction, it’s also incredibly valuable for students who can be shy about playing in front of their peers.

Notably, the assessment software scores pitch, rhythm and length separately, and tracks errors alongside the notated line, so that a student can go note by note and see exactly where they need to improve. (The teacher still has the option to change final scores on assignments and to add comments.)

This video shows an extensive demo of Habits Universal Interactive. (The demo of the assessment tool starts at minute 27:39.)

As a note, grades can be integrated with virtually any software (e.g., Schoology, Canvas, PowerSchool) that a school uses to report grades via a simple export.

Musicianship

Written by band directors with decades of experience under their belts, Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician confronts the classic difficulty of getting kids out of what author Scott Rush calls the “B-flat/E-flat/A-flat Club,” where kids are only comfortable playing in B-flat Major and E-flat Major with some momentary departures into F Major. Rather than, as in other methods, playing in the B-flat pentascale 95% of the time, Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician quickly moves up a step to the C pentascale to get kids used to reading and playing in keys with naturals and sharps, opening up a larger portion of the literature to them by the time they get to middle school and high school.

With so much focus on specific tactics and features, it’s crucial to mention that what is perhaps the most important part of Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician is that its primary goal is to help students fall in love with music. Habits of a Successful Beginner Band Musician offers teachers developmentally appropriate language for teaching musical concepts so that even beginner band students can start to build musicality into their playing from the early days.

Edition Peters: Reflecting the Composer’s Intentions and the Value of Urtext

Guest post by Linda Hawken, MD of Edition Peters Europe, and Kathryn Knight, President of C.F. Peters, USA

Being a music publisher in the 21st century presents many different challenges to those faced by publishers at the beginning of the industry 200 years ago. Nowhere is this better illustrated than at Edition Peters, founded in Leipzig in 1800 – a time when the idea of music copyright was only just starting to be thought about, with no laws in place to protect the composer. Instead, a successful publishing relationship depended solely on a close and ongoing collaboration with the composer.

Edition Peters’ unique history tells one of the most extraordinary stories of the music-publishing world.  The roster of composers with whom Edition Peters worked directly across the 19th century is dizzying, from Beethoven to Grieg and Mahler.

Edition Peters created the first editions of some of the most famous compositions of all time, with those editions being proofread and corrected by the composers themselves long before the concept of “Urtext” was conceived. Yet despite the provenance of these important editions, it became fashionable in the later 20th century to disregard them – and the unique value of the composer’s direct input – in favor of Urtext “interpretations” by musicologists.

The concept of the Urtext only emerged in the early 1930s, devised by musicologists who aimed to get closer to “the composer’s intentions” by reviewing multiple sources. Indeed it was Edition Peters who released one of the very first Urtext editions with its 1933 edition of J. S. Bach’s Inventions and Sinfonias. After the Second World War, other publishers took on this concept, producing their own Urtext editions. However, this led to much confusion about the meaning and significance of the editions, and whether they reflected the composer’s true intentions.

Continue reading ‘Edition Peters: Reflecting the Composer’s Intentions and the Value of Urtext’

VOCES8 Premieres Six New Commissions during LIVE From London – Christmas Festival

On December 5, 2020, as part of its LIVE From London – Christmas online festival, British choral ensemble VOCES8 premiered six new pieces by composers Jocelyn Hagen, Taylor Scott Davis, Ken Burton, Roderick Williams, Paul Smith and Melissa Dunphy.

The 6 New Commissions

Now Winter Nights

Roderick Williams
SSAATTBB

Now Winter Nights” by British composer and baritone Roderick Williams uses an evocative poem by Thomas Campion as its text, helping him to pinpoint the excitement of Christmas he felt as a child and still holds onto.

Continue reading ‘VOCES8 Premieres Six New Commissions during LIVE From London – Christmas Festival’

Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard

Ludwig van Beethoven

Ludwig van Beethoven’s ten violin sonatas are among the most famous works of chamber music history and represent, together with Mozart’s works for this instrument duo, the core of violin repertoire from the Viennese Classicist period.

Though composed in a short span in Beethoven’s creative life (nine of the ten were written between 1798 and 1803, with the final one appearing in 1812), these sonatas bear all the marks of Beethoven’s compositional innovation: the breaking of formal tradition, a vast emotional scope, skillful musical manipulation, and, of course, the trademark urgency and power.

The new Bärenreiter edition of the violin sonatas — or, as more appropriately titled by Beethoven himself, sonatas for the pianoforte and violin — offers a revolutionary editorial approach to the music that does more than simply hand down the text.

These new volumes, edited by historical performing practice expert Dr. Clive Brown, present an approach to performance that is quite different from what most of today’s musicians are accustomed to. This approach not only falls much more in line with what Beethoven would have expected, but also imbues the music with a renewed vigor and offers musicians an incredible array of opportunities for creativity.

“This is the highest quality of academic scholarship, but it is not only that: this edition has enabled me to bring these sonatas to life in a way that has not been possible before – this is historical research in the service of living and breathing music!”

Viktoria Mullova, Violinist

Here violinist Viktoria Mullova and pianist Alasdair Beatson demonstrate some of their most illuminating discoveries from the “Spring” Sonata (Op. 24) and show us why they’re excited to work with these new editions:

The Editorial Approach

Dr. Brown’s new editions of the Beethoven violin sonatas combine a traditional scholarly Urtext approach with a wealth of information on historical performing practice informed by the thorough study of recordings and editions made by 19th-century musicians, many of whom had direct contact with Beethoven himself or with others that did.

These historical sources reveal a striking discrepancy between performance and notation. Composers in Beethoven’s era, including Beethoven himself, simply did not write down a large swath of the expressive gestures that they would have expected musicians to make, including rhythmic and tempo flexibility, piano arpeggiation and asynchrony, portamento, cadenzas, and ornamental, rather than continuous, vibrato effects.

By not including these details in the text, composers created a space bursting with potential for the creative performer to exploit in what could and, most importantly, would be wildly distinctive and thrillingly emotional performances. In many respects, it was a creative freedom much more akin to jazz than to today’s renditions of classical music.

Continue reading ‘Beethoven’s Violin Sonatas: Setting the New Performance Standard’

SongwritingWith:Soldiers: Using Music to Help Veterans Ease Back into Civilian Life

Founded in 2012, SongwritingWith:Soldiers (SW:S) is a non-profit that transforms lives by using collaborative songwriting to expand creativity, connections, and strengths. SW:S holds three-day retreats and custom workshops that pair veterans, active-duty and military families with professional songwriters to turn their stories of service and returning home into song.

Many veterans return home from combat and do not seek services, avoiding therapy or military resources because of the stigma associated with PTSD and depression. The Veterans Administration estimates that approximately 20 veterans take their own lives each day, and of those, 14 have little to no contact with the Department.

During SongwritingWith:Soldiers retreats, veterans and active-duty service members are paired with professional songwriters to share stories and craft songs about their experiences, often about combat and the return home. Participants are registered with ASCAP as co-writers of their songs and have ownership.

Sometimes participants know exactly what they want to say in their songs, but most of the time it’s the community of others who know the same struggles that lets participants find their emotions. And it’s the genuinely interested, empathetic ear of the artist that invites participants to openly share very personal stories that they’ve never shared at all.

Continue reading ‘SongwritingWith:Soldiers: Using Music to Help Veterans Ease Back into Civilian Life’

Save The Music Foundation: Helping Students, Schools and Communities Reach Their Full Potential through the Power of Making Music

In 1997, John Sykes, one of the original MTV/VH1 executives, spent a day as principal at a school in Brooklyn. He was shocked to see that the school’s instruments were being held together with gaffer tape and that the entire music program was at risk. In response, he helped mobilize a pro-social initiative at VH1, which quickly gained steam as it became apparent that many more music programs across the country were being deprioritized with severe budget cuts or even eliminated.

Soon thereafter, Save The Music became its own independent 501c3 public charity. Since then, Save The Music has donated more than $60 million worth of new musical instruments, equipment and technology to 2201 schools in 277 school districts across 42 states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia, improving the lives of millions of children throughout the United States.

Here’s how Save The Music partners with local communities and school districts to build sustainable music programs:

  • Investing in schools: Save The Music donates instruments, music technology and other equipment to jumpstart public school music programs.
  • Supporting teachers: Save The Music supports music teachers with professional development, ongoing program support and other resources.
  • Advocating for music education: Save The Music advocates at the local, state and national levels to ensure music is part of a well-rounded education.
Continue reading ‘Save The Music Foundation: Helping Students, Schools and Communities Reach Their Full Potential through the Power of Making Music’

The Sphinx Organization: Transforming Lives through the Power of Diversity in the Arts

The Sphinx Organization is the social justice organization dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Sphinx’s four program areas – Education & Access, Artist Development, Performing Artists, and Arts Leadership – form a pipeline that develops and supports diversity and inclusion in classical music at every level:

  • Music education
  • Artists performing on stage
  • Repertoire and programming
  • Communities represented in audiences
  • Artistic and administrative leadership

Sphinx was founded in 1997 by violinist Aaron P. Dworkin with the goal of addressing the underrepresentation of people of color in classical music. The name Sphinx, inspired by the mythical creature and legendary statue, reflects the power, wisdom and persistence that characterize Sphinx’s participants, as well as the enigmatic and interpretive nature of music and art.

Now led by President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin, Sphinx programs reach more than 100,000 students and artists as well as live and broadcast audiences of more than 2 million annually.

Here’s a brief overview of all the work the Sphinx Organization does. Click on each link to navigate through the article and learn more!

And watch two of its finest professional ensembles in a moving performance from Sphinx’s virtual gala in October here:

Continue reading ‘The Sphinx Organization: Transforming Lives through the Power of Diversity in the Arts’

Pathway to Success: How to Give Every Student an Opportunity for Leadership & Create a Culture of Excellence

Understanding that teaching band is as much about teaching students to work together as it is about teaching them to learn musical skills individually, the team behind the much-loved Habits series, which includes such titles as Habits of a Successful Band Director, takes on the broader subject of leadership in Pathway to Success, which helps develop leadership skills in every student in a class and includes a focus on emotional health that has been especially helpful for teachers during COVID.

Authors Scott Rush and Tim Lautzenheiser also host a free Zoom community on Sunday evenings to support teachers implementing the Pathway to Success method in their classrooms. Read more and register below!

“To borrow a phrase: All children have talents, however, not all children have opportunity and encouragement. Pathway to Success by Tim Lautzenheiser and Scott Rush describes in detail the ‘how’ and provides that encouragement young people need to overcome any reservations and reluctance they may have to step forward and become a leader! History is full of examples of shy and timid youngsters who responded to a challenge and rose to greatness as a leader. This book is invaluable for any age! Leadership by example. Pathway to Success. I wish it was available when I was a student. Tim and Scott nailed it!”

– Richard Crain, President of The Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic
Continue reading ‘Pathway to Success: How to Give Every Student an Opportunity for Leadership & Create a Culture of Excellence’

Tchaikovsky Body Tag: A (Remote) Music Class Activity for Children

This spring, Mark Burrows (a.k.a. “Mister Mark”) put together a few distance-learning resources called Classics Come Alive to support music instruction while many school buildings were closed. This is one of our favorites!

We know how hard you’re working to stay connected with your students. And we have all discovered some of the benefits and limitations of technology and “virtual classrooms.” Heritage Music Press wanted to help. Classics Come Alive features some of the great stories from classical music. But they’re not “sit still ‘n’ listen” stories. Each short story invites students to be not just attentive listeners, but active participants. Even better, there are no materials needed, no props, no set-up, no prep-time. All that’s needed is you and your students!

Today’s story is Tchaikovsky Body Tag.

Heritage Music Press has provided the script and a video of Mark sharing the story. Use it as a model to make your own video, or if that seems like too much right now, let Mister Mark bring the story to life with your kiddos.

Continue reading ‘Tchaikovsky Body Tag: A (Remote) Music Class Activity for Children’

First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up

Guest post by Michael Andros

I picked up the guitar at 14, played in a band for 14 years, then quit.

Years later I picked it up again and have been going strong ever since. But the road to guitar greatness is littered with those who gave up.

Hopefully, my experience helps you avoid becoming a casualty on the guitar “battlefield.”

Let’s look at a four-pronged strategy to defeat the biggest causes of quitting — pain, boredom, and discouragement. We will exploit “beginner’s blush,” focus on the mission, explode plateaus, and “learn how to learn.”

How to Exploit “Beginner’s Blush”

The idea here is to harness the almost irrational, dopamine-induced optimism to push through the painful process of earning your “guitar fingers.” 

Continue reading ‘First Rule of Guitar: Never Give Up’

Sheet Music Plus Now Has 2 Million Titles for Sale Worldwide: Here Are Our Favorites

We now have more than 2 MILLION titles for sale worldwide!

Focusing on our mission to make the world’s music more playable, we’ve doubled our catalog in the last five years by forging critical relationships with sheet music publishers, creating pathways to sell and ship editions worldwide and aggressively expanding into digital sheet music available for instant download and printing.

We started Sheet Music Plus in 1997 with a commitment to serve musicians like ourselves with a full spectrum of sheet music, fast delivery and music experts filling our ranks in every department.

We’d like to celebrate this milestone by introducing ourselves (in alphabetical order!) and sharing some of our favorite items with you.

AMY, General Manager

Amy, General Manager, Sheet Music Plus

 

 

I have fond memories of playing through the duets in the Album of Flute Duets with my amazing flute teacher, Patty Lazzara.  Making music together with others has brought me joy throughout my life.

Album of Flute DuetsFlute Music by French ComposersJazz & Blues Play-Along Solos for FluteTwenty-Four (24) Flute Concert Studies

Continue reading ‘Sheet Music Plus Now Has 2 Million Titles for Sale Worldwide: Here Are Our Favorites’

Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora: The Best-Selling Anthology by William Chapman Nyaho

William Chapman Nyaho

While teaching at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette from 1991 to 2002, Ghanaian American pianist William Chapman Nyaho was struck by the utter lack of available piano scores by composers of African descent. To the extent that he could find any at all, they were mostly out of print or in manuscript form.

Shortly thereafter Nyaho found himself wandering the exhibition hall at an MTNA conference. He asked publisher after publisher for music by Florence Price. Publisher after publisher responded, “Who’s that?” Nyaho told them that she was an African-American composer and was told time and time again, “We only have Scott Joplin,” with the excuse being that there didn’t seem to be any demand for Price’s music. Nyaho replied, “The chicken or the egg: which comes first?”

Continue reading ‘Piano Music of Africa and the African Diaspora: The Best-Selling Anthology by William Chapman Nyaho’

Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English

“There is no truth in theory – only in music!”

Frank Sikora

That’s Frank Sikora‘s creed.

Frank Sikora is also in charge of the theory department and the Master’s program in Jazz Composition & Arrangement at the University of the Arts Bern and is the author of a best-selling and widely acclaimed jazz theory book, Neue Jazz-Harmonielehre, that is now available in English: Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach.

While this coincidence might seem puzzling or even contradictory at first, it is exactly what lends Sikora’s approach the nuance and balance to successfully bridge the gap between theory and practice. In Jazz Harmony: Think – Listen – Play – A Practical Approach, Sikora sets out to mold musicians who can adapt to anything, regardless of how novel and unexpected it may be. To achieve this, he establishes a close relationship between theory, the ear and our instrument, forging a dialogue between theory and spontaneity that helps musicians connect with music both intuitively and analytically.

Continue reading ‘Frank Sikora’s Jazz Harmony: The Best-Selling Practical Approach to Jazz Now Available in English’

New Instrumental Play-Along Series for Young Musicians from Editions Marc Reift

Editions Marc Reift, founded in 1983 by noted trombonist and conductor Marc Reift and offering a wide selection of music for bands, orchestras and solo instrumentalists, has two series of repertoire books with accompaniment CDs that are designed for young musicians.

Melodies for Beginners (Level 1)

The new Melodies for Beginners collection from Editions Marc Reift allows young beginners to build up a small repertoire of short, simple pieces. Arranged into several volumes for both solo instrumentalists and small ensembles, these Level 1 books are useful for small concerts or auditions.

Continue reading ‘New Instrumental Play-Along Series for Young Musicians from Editions Marc Reift’

Let’s Begin to Ring Again! Hope Publishing Handbell Choir Selections: Fall 2020

A message from Brenda E. Austin, Handbell Editor at Hope Publishing

Hello friends!

Brenda E. Austin

Have you noticed how grumpy many people are today? I sure have. I believe with all of my heart, that is in part because no one has been to the symphony, seen a broadway show, sang in their church choir or rang in a handbell festival in months and months. Our souls are crying out to be part of a musical experience again.

There are so many challenges facing us today. We need to keep the safety of our communities as our top priority. With that being said, I believe that we also need to consider our spiritual and emotional health as well. Where and when it is possible to do so safely, let’s begin to ring again. It may look different from what we “normally” do. But, what would it look like to ring today? Ringers wearing masks, each ringer at their own table or music stand at a safe distance from one another, no shared equipment. Perhaps ringing outside?? What are the possibilities?

Wishing you well!

Ring with 6: Year-Round

Arr. Martha Lynn Thompson

Martha Lynn Thompson adds another set of six settings to her highly successful series of Ring with 6 collections. Each arrangement uses 14-22 bells and is easily playable by six ringers. Three pieces have optional handchimes. A “Bells Used Chart” for each piece provides suggested assignments. No four-in-hand ringing is required but, because some ringers have more than two bells, it is necessary to have a table or a place to put the additional bells. Three of the hymns are suitable for general occasions, one is appropriate for either Palm Sunday or Advent, and rounding out the collection is Natalie Sleeth’s beautiful “Were You There on That Christmas Night?”

Continue reading ‘Let’s Begin to Ring Again! Hope Publishing Handbell Choir Selections: Fall 2020′

Helping Singers Learn at Home! Hope Publishing Choral Selections with Rehearsal Tracks: Fall 2020

A message from Joel Raney, Composer & Choral Editor at Hope Publishing

Joel Raney
Joel Raney

I know that these days many of us are searching for ways to keep our singers engaged without gathering. Here we feature several of our most popular titles that have part-dominant rehearsal tracks available for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass, as well as stereo accompaniment tracks. Whether you’re doing a virtual choir or some sort of limited socially distant singing, these tools are a terrific way to help singers learn new music at home on their own.

Stay strong and safe!

In Christ Alone with Cornerstone

Arr. Joel Raney
SATB Octavo
Instrumental Parts
Performance/Accompaniment CD
Voice-Dominant CD

Listen & follow along with the score

Originally, this appeared in Joel Raney and Lloyd Larson’s best-selling Lenten cantata, Hope in the Shadows. This medley pairs the popular Keith Getty song with the praise chorus “Cornerstone” and “When I Survey the Wondrous Cross.”

Continue reading ‘Helping Singers Learn at Home! Hope Publishing Choral Selections with Rehearsal Tracks: Fall 2020’

Publisher Focus: Jubilate Music Group

Guest post by Morgan Roberts, Director of Production, Sales & Marketing for Jubilate Music Group

Jubilate Music Group is the culmination of many years of various developments in the lives of several individuals and the music print industry. These developments led to the consolidation of three separate and distinct music publishing catalogs, each with its own individual history: Alfred Sacred, Jubilate Music, and H.W. Gray. The result is Jubilate Music Group, an eclectic stylistic blend of sacred and secular choral, vocal, handbell, and instrumental publications for adults and children.

Alfred Sacred – Jubilate Music – H.W. Gray

As a result of the consolidation and acquisitions described in this blog, Jubilate Music Group also contains the sacred compositions from the historic Belwin-Mills and Gordon V. Thompson catalogs plus the entire Brodt Music Publications and Good Life Publications catalogs. From Handel, Hopson, and Hayes to Puccini, Penderecki, and Purifoy…Jubilate Music Group catalogs contain a combined 150+ years of rich music publishing history. When considered retrospectively, the changes and developments that came together to ultimately create Jubilate Music Group make its birth true to the meaning of its name:

“A song of joy and triumph”

Continue reading ‘Publisher Focus: Jubilate Music Group’

How to Play the Electric Guitar: Songs, Techniques, Effects, and other Beginner Fundamentals

Guest post by JBostian

Music making is more accessible than it has ever been. In fact, there has been a significant rise in searches for music creation software and instrument sales in the last couple of months.

Anyone from beginners to virtuosos can now make a record of their own from the comfort of their homes. Now, what if you don’t know how to play an instrument? As we’ve already tackled in our article on learning how to play guitar, you can learn how to play all on your own through diligent practice.

If you’ve already read that article and are looking to add a little more oomph to your guitar playing, then you may want to consider the electric guitar. To help you out, we’ve put together a quick guide on how to play this instrument. Read on if you want to learn more about the basics, effects pedals, and easy songs you can start playing!

Continue reading ‘How to Play the Electric Guitar: Songs, Techniques, Effects, and other Beginner Fundamentals’

A Four-Part Journey through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir

Guest post by Curran Mahowald, a choral singer who participated in Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir 6 in May 2020

Eric Whitacre

In the spring of 2020, Eric Whitacre assembled his sixth global virtual choir to premiere his new piece, “Sing Gently.” Following a series of virtual rehearsals led by Whitacre himself, 17,572 singers from 129 countries submitted videos of themselves singing their individual lines.

From there, a team of film editors and audio engineers from 59 Productions and Floating Earth assembled the individual submissions into one final virtual performance:

Here is what it was like to contribute my voice to that video.

Continue reading ‘A Four-Part Journey through Eric Whitacre’s Virtual Choir’

Edition Peters: A Commitment to Bold New Sounds

EditionPetersLogo2020One of the most thrilling parts of working with music is discovering new works and budding composers who are changing not only the way we listen to music and perceive sound, but also how we conceive of the broader world around us and our place in it both today and into the future.

Edition Peters has consistently championed contemporary music throughout its storied history, and with its ever-expanding catalog, Peters continues to be one of the staunchest supporters of the artists who shape the future of our musical landscape. Here Kathryn Knight, President of C.F. Peters New York, illuminates the Peters commitment to new music:

Kathryn KnightPeters has been working with contemporary composers since its inception in Leipzig over two centuries ago, publishing new music by young and emerging composers such as Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn and Grieg… Our commitment to bold new sounds has remained steadfast since that time, signing 20th-century iconoclasts such as John Cage and George Crumb. We know that some of today’s mavericks will be the composers of tomorrow’s classics.

– Kathryn Knight, President, C.F. Peters NY

A Short History of Edition Peters

Edition Peters was founded in 1800 in Leipzig, Germany, and quickly established itself as one of the 19th century’s leading German music publishing houses, building relationships with the most outstanding composers of the era. In the 20th century, Max and Walter Hinrichsen — surviving members of the German Jewish family that owned Edition Peters — fled the Nazi takeover of both their homeland and their family business and established new publishing houses in London and New York, respectively, that would carry on the Peters tradition.

Walter Hinrichsen Meeting With Beethoven Portrait

Walter Hinrichsen, founder of Peters NY, holding a staff meeting under the famous Beethoven portrait by Stieler, now housed at the Beethoven-Haus in Bonn

Continue reading ‘Edition Peters: A Commitment to Bold New Sounds’

Prelude, Postlude and All That’s In Between: A Guide for the Church Pianist

Patti Drennan is an active composer and arranger with almost 700 piano books, piano/vocal books and choral octavos published with major publishers.

As a former 28-year high school choral director and then Director of Worship/Music Arts Director for almost 10 years, I have been seated at the piano creating music in so many venues. (Once a musician, always a musician, right?) In both the secular and sacred arenas, the pianist is often the glue that holds together a concert, worship service, wedding or memorial service. This is also the case when accompanying a soloist or small group. Because all music is not usually performed a cappella, a confident, quick-thinking accompanist must be ready to sense the soloist’s tempo and dynamics, phrasing and places for breathing, and the dreaded skipped-the-repeat-and-now-on-the-next-page moment! Fast thinking is a must for the church pianist and the goal is to play beautifully, giving not a hint of the soloist’s “mis-fire” to the congregation! When I was serving on staff, one of my duties as Director of Music was to create a meaningful worship service with inspiring scriptures, hymns, anthems (often two), prelude and postlude, and timing it all to when the pastor returned from a contemporary service a half-block away in another building. There were often times when he had yet to arrive and I needed to walk to the piano and extemporaneously play reflective music under a guided prayer time. For those who do not play by ear, this would be an important moment to have a secondary hymn or piano book in reach to provide that quiet music. Continue reading ‘Prelude, Postlude and All That’s In Between: A Guide for the Church Pianist’

Making Lemonade: Ringing in a Pandemic

Guest post by Sondra Tucker, Handbell Composer and Handbell Editor for Alfred Handbell, a division of Jubilate Music Group

If you’re reading this, you certainly don’t need me to tell you that 2020 has been a heartbreaking year. Amid the closing of Broadway and theaters around the country, church choirs on indefinite hiatus, community bands not meeting, summer conferences cancelled, school choirs, bands, and orchestras scrambling to find ways to teach, and all manner of music-making ground to a halt, one thing stands: the desire of musicians to make music.  We need it like we need air to breathe.

The ingenuity of those who have adapted online platforms to create virtual ensembles lifts my spirits, as do the rank and file people who have braved the technological hurdles to participate. It’s not quite the same as being in the same room, but it is fulfilling, nonetheless.

Handbells on table ready to perform

I am here to suggest that one way to keep your music-making alive is to take up handbell ringing, or resurrect it, or continue it, depending on your situation. The Handbell Industry Council, which includes manufacturers of handbells and peripheral equipment, publishers, and elite performing organizations, has guidelines for ringing safely on their web site:

https://handbellindustrycouncil.org/covid-19-information-2/

The benefits of ringing during the pandemic are: Continue reading ‘Making Lemonade: Ringing in a Pandemic’

Lorenz: Keeping Worship Fresh with New Music

LorenzLogo2020Publishing over 1,000 new works every year, Lorenz offers an extensive catalog of choral, keyboard, and instrumental music to support the ministry of churches large and small. From traditional and liturgical to blended and contemporary, music for many styles of worship can be found across its imprints: Lorenz Publishing Company, Medallion Music, and The Sacred Music Press. Having been at the forefront of new church music for over a century, Lorenz is home to best-selling titles written by the most prominent names in church music today, and is committed to supporting the creative work of future generations of composers and arrangers.

O sing to the Lord a new song; for he has done marvelous things. Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the Earth. (Psalm 98:1, 4 NRSV)

BryanSharpeLorenzThe Psalms tell us to sing new songs to the Lord. This biblical mandate inspires how we use our gifts. We compose, arrange, edit, and publish new music so that churches and individuals have the resources they need to praise the Lord with instruments and voices. As times change and fads come and go, and as one generation passes to the next, we will always need new music to keep our worship current and relevant.

Bryan Sharpe
Director of Church Choral Publications, Lorenz

Continue reading ‘Lorenz: Keeping Worship Fresh with New Music’


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