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School Finds Music Is the Food of Learning
December 20, 2014 2:15 AM

No surprise here: include a healthy dose of music and vocal classes every day and voila! -- you get higher test scores and happier children.

The images and sounds from this voice charter school in Queens, NY, are just so dang cute:


"There's a lot of humming, especially right after choir class," Kate Athens, a fourth-grade teacher, said. "They're not doing it to be disruptive; it's just stuck in their heads."

And it also comes out in their higher test scores:

Academically, students at Voice did significantly better than the city average on New York State math exams last year, with 70 percent of its students passing, compared with 39 percent citywide. Their English performance was less impressive, but with 39 percent passing, it still beat the citywide average of 30 percent.

The despicable cuts in arts funding notwithstanding:

All this pops especially brightly against the drab state of the arts in New York City public schools at large, where a report by the comptroller this spring found that spending on arts supplies and equipment fell by 84 percent from 2006 to 2013. The report also found that 20 percent of public schools had no arts teachers at all, and that the dearth in arts education was especially dire in low-income areas. The administration of Mayor Bill de Blasio has since increased arts funding and pledged to hire 120 new arts teachers in middle and high schools, where state law requires arts instruction.

But the really deep and lasting effect is as Ms. Athens describes:

"They learn to stick with something hard and breaking things down into steps," she said. "And work together as a group at such a young age."

All professional musicians have integrated this concept into their daily lives and apply it to every endeavor. Learning music at this high level is a skill set these kids will take with them for the rest of their lives.

This story is not surprising and should be applied all over the country. One can only hope!

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John Steinbeck on Eddie Condon.
December 1, 2014 2:05 AM

There's a new jazz club in Greenwich Village, NYC, called Mezzrow. It's run by the swinging jazz pianist, Spike Wilner (owner of Small's around the corner), and it features mainly piano/bass duos.

Well, Spike sends out weekly emails announcing the latest lineup of musicians, and in his latest one he mentions Eddie Condon's biography. In it is a forward by the great, John Steinbeck, which reads as follows:

"I have known musicians - not as you have - but a little. They are the most confused, childish, vicious, vain people I know. On the other hand they are the most generous. Their wills are like those of children. Their cruelties have no more sadistic background than has a small boy when he pulls the wings off flies. Their domestic relations are a mixmaster type. Business confuses them, and so does politics. They almost seem in themselves to live outside ordinary law and common ethics. Now, the reason I am saying all of this is that it is also true that I know of no group which has such direction in work. They aim at excellence and apparently nothing else. They are hard to buy and if bought they either backslide into honesty or lose the respect of their peers. And this is a loss that terrifies them. In any other field of American life, great rewards can be used to cover a loss of honesty, but not with jazz players - a slip is known and recognized instantly."

Steinbeck describes quite accurately the mindset, determination, commitment, and yes, lack of social skills many of exhibit. Apparently this letter on original paper was auctioned off at Christie's back in 2001. It fetched almost $8,000, more than many jazz musicians make in a year these days!

For more on Eddie Condon, you can read this wonderful page over at Riverwalk Jazz from Stanford University, including this quote from his daughter on what it was like helping to run his jazz club in The Village years ago:

"We usually went to the club when they were preparing to open, early in the afternoon after school. Making Shirley Temples with all the cherries was a big deal. Liza and I would just take over the long bar while the guys were cleaning up getting ready for the night. Then we'd go down to the basement. That's where all the action was cuz that's where the house cat lived and there was often a litter of kittens. The other thing we used to love was the electric train set. Wild Bill Davison was an electric train lover and collector so they had an electric train in the room where the guys used to take their breaks."

Ahhhh...the nitty gritty of running a jazz club. Make sure you support Spike in all his efforts!

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School Finds Music Is the Food of Learning

John Steinbeck on Eddie Condon.

R.I.P. Charlie Haden

Not Over Till Overtime's Due? Met Labor Strife Bares Secrets

Nicholas Payton and Black American Music.

Brain scans of jazz musicians unveil language and music similarities.

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R.I.P. Yusef Lateef.

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Are Spotify and Pandora evil?

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Free MP3s from Vinson Valega:

Live at Blues Alley, Washington, DC (April 2005):
Jiminy Cricket Goes To The Go-Go Dance (Vinson Valega) [5.1 mb]

Live at The Cape May Jazz Festival, Cape May, NJ (April 2005):
Georgia (Ray Charles) [9.0 mb]

Live rehearsal, NYC (summer 2006):
Ask Me Now (Thelonious Monk) [8.8 mb]

~~~~~~~
For musician info and more free MP3s, go to our "Awake" CD page.
Videos of various bands available at YouTube.
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