Posts Tagged 'music'



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.

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!

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’

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’

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Thought-provoking articles by musicians for musicians, music lovers or those that want to learn more about it!

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