Category Archives: music

so your kid wants to play the violin… now what?

Your kid came home with a gleam in their eye, rumpled paper in hand, informing you that they’d be taking up an instrument. So did mine. In fact, all four of my kids have come home with that same gleam at some point! Each time they did there was the accompanying dread. What instrument would they choose? Please, no drums! How quickly would they lose interest?  Once they settled on something, say the violin, how does one even go about choosing a violin for a kid? In other words, my kid picked a violin? Now now what?!

Let’s start this little chat out by saying that I come from a very musical family. My formative years were filled with my dad’s music. He was in a band when I came along. In retirement, he’s back in a band. Both my brothers play, the older one is rather gifted. Me… we’ll if you give me a sack I could carry a tune in it. The only instrument I play to any level of aptitude is the radio.  

That said, I always wanted to play. Longed to, in fact. I love music, I just wasn’t suited to playing it myself. I got my mom’s word gene, the music one skipped me. Though I can share that when it comes to playing the theme song from MASH on a clarinet, I totally channel Glenn Miller. 

When the music gene that missed me started to show up in my kids, I was so proud. My amazing humans could do this music thing! We made it through each of them taking up with recorder, most of our hearing intact. Then came the violin and some struggles.

When the folks from Yamaha reached out to ask if I’d be interested in helping parents learn more about choosing a violin, I was totally up for that. Yes, this is a sponsored piece but it is also something I really wish had been out there when we were learning all the things… the hard way! 

Things to Know About Choosing a Violin

Choosing a violin is not the same thing as choosing a violin shaped object

Trust me, I love finding a great deal. When we found a $45 violin on Amazon it was a thrill. The rental place wanted that much a month! What we received certainly looked like a violin. Did it play like one? No. In fact it was so difficult to tune, string and even play that in the end we ended up with a rental contract and out more than that $45. Lesson learned; beware the violin shaped object!

Renting doesn’t make as much sense as you think

When the oldest came home with that gleam the rumpled paper in is hand was a rental agreement. Our school system doesn’t supply instruments. We figured he’d lose interest in a month or so, which made renting seem to be the sensible choice. 

What we ended up with was a contract that got us a more than gently used instrument. The violin is a delicate thing, keeping it in good shape makes a big difference in how it plays. How it plays makes a difference in the level of joy your child may get from learning to play. 

Buying can seem a steep price to pay at first. For us, we had three more kids who might take it up at some point, so the cost savings was clear. I’d say that if you buy and have just one kiddo, see if they shop you purchase from has a buy-back program. This could make both budget and musical sense. 

Enlist expert help 

I can not stress this point enough… when choosing a violin for your kiddo, expert help is key! I’m not saying you have to spend four hours in a showroom with a guy who works on commission but certainly don’t try to go it alone. Yamaha has a great tool on their website specifically designed for families. 

The Violin Finder can help you with everything from fit and sound to the brand that will work best with your child’s skill set. Our youngest son is 6 years into playing and as he has grown so has his violin. I had zero clue that we’d need to level-up as he grew up. Yamaha has helped us figure these things out. 

Let it be fun

Yes, they’re going to need to practice and sometimes that means butting heads. Two of my four didn’t really stick with playing music because practice just wasn’t their thing. The other two found fun in not just choosing a violin but exploring their musical gifts. Honestly, I think fun is the deciding factor. Let them enjoy the process, even if that means noise cancelling headphones for you. 

 

 

 

Requiem The Soundtrack

requiem the soundtrack
photo credit: Julie Cohn of Cork, Fork & Passport

The waning months of 2015 and the beginnings of 2016 were hard on the world of music and arts.  Rare voices and singular talents were lost. Bowie, Frye, Rickman… those were hard losses to take.  Each had a place in the soundtrack of my life, maybe yours too? Requiem The Soundtrack is a bit of a love letter to voices gone but still so much a part of the story.

Did you know Alan Rickman sang?

Okay, so maybe Alan didn’t sing well. He might not even be deserving of inclusion in Requiem The Soundtrack save for the fact that his voice is inextricable from my memories. Truth be told, I could listen to that luxuriously deep voice reciting tax code. You’ll forgive me for subjecting you to Johnny Depp’s screeching in Sweeney Todd… eventually. 

Bowie may have been the biggest loss. It’s a very short list of people that have had such enormous impact on music, art, fashion and culture. Our youngest daughter may have been the biggest Bowie fan I’ve ever met.

In the days following his passing there were lots of tears. Stuck in DC traffic a week after the news, Under Pressure came on the radio. Before I could turn the channel, her brother was misty-eyed. It was his favorite song too. I let them cry it out. For the span of 4:08 minutes they bonded. That was the power of Bowie in our lives.

Before we could recover enough to listen to Space Oddity the news of Glenn Frey’s passing came. This one hit me harder.

Though I’m a kid of the 80’s I’m also the child of a musician. My Dad plays dozens of instruments, shared a stage with Chuck Berry, and knows the girl in Dan Fogelberg’s song Same Old Lang Syne {he and Dan went to school together, my dad played for his dad}.  Music has always been how I connected with him. Songs from The Eagles were the first chords that bonded us, musically.

I can vividly recall sitting outside on cool nights in the California desert town where I grew up, watching him sing to my mom, “I love the way your sparking earrings lay against your skin so brown…”  She was his Witchy Woman, her spell cast from sapphire eyes under dark lashes. Frye’s voice harmonizing  with my dad’s, true magic. 

So many disappeared voices make their way onto my playlist of memory.  The Optimistic Blues of Allen Toussaint. Nobody but Townes Van Zandt should ever sing Poncho and Lefty. Down in the Boondocks they’re missing the dulcet voice of Billy Joe Royal.

As vividly as though it happened yesterday, I can remember driving down a single-lane road headed from Boston to The Cape and hearing that Amy Winehouse had died. We were in two cars and my oldest son called to be sure I didn’t need to pull over and cry. They all know how much music means to me, because it’s the same with them.

Then there are the bands that won’t ever quite be same without members that made the music; Pete de Freitas from Echo & The Bunnymen, the Chilis without Hillel and The Stooges without Dave. There is no INXS without Michael Hutchence – no matter how many reality shows they dream up.

I can think of a song for almost any milestone in my life. When I look back there seem to be a whole lot of holes where amazing talent once lived. Perhaps that’s the inevitability of aging. The beauty in that though is that those songs don’t go away. Technology these days lets us dive into the pool of memory anytime we want.

Not a day goes by where I’m not on Spotify, or offline with my collection of tunes. Music is as much a part of my everyday as it is my memories. We have a playlist for road trips, work days, house cleaning, there is even one a bunch of us put together in morbid homage to my bestie’s thyroid cancer. {for the record, she kicked cancer’s ass}

Any time I need to hear the voices of those gone, I just turn my smartphone and wireless headphones on and they live again. 

 

 

This post was inspired by weekly #VZWbuzz chats that often feature ways that technology impacts our daily lives. As a member of a very cool team of influencers for Verizon Wireless I sometimes receive compensation, cool gadgets to test drive, or get attend special events.   All opinions – and playlists – are entirely my own, based on my experiences, because you deserve nothing less! 

star man, forever in her sky: a 9 year old girl’s love letter to David Bowie

a 9 year old girl's love letter to David BowieShe was seven the first time we watched Labyrinth. I fully expected her favorite thing to be the puppets. As she’s done from the day of conception, Em surprised me. “Oh mommy, I’d go live with Jareth! He could sing me to sleep every night.”  That began our journey of exploration into wonderfully weird world of The Thin White Duke, giving birth to a 9 year old girl’s love letter to David Bowie.

While most girls her age had Bieber Fever she only had eyes for Bowie. I recall – with no small sense of pride– the day my mother-in-law sent her a One Direction t-shirt that she instantly asked to exchange for a vintage Ziggy Stardust. Breaking the news that such shirts didn’t exist in her size was rough. 

Among the most treasured Christmas gifts to this day is her photo  “signed” by him. Her playlists are filled with everything from Star Man to Dancing in the Streets. Walk by the bathroom when she’s in the shower and you’re likely to get serenaded with Fashion. This strange little soul is an old one, and Bowie her muse.

A 9 Year Old Girl’s Love Letter to David Bowie

Your music made me smile and dance, even when I was sad. That made me a better person. You inspired so many people to be their real selves and that made your music no ordinary songs.

So many people found who they really are inside because of who you were. The reason I will always love is because you showed that we can all be many things and have magic in our lives.

You were a beautiful person to see, to hear, to get inspired by. Because you were always something new but yourself. Your songs were stories, like pages in a book. When I hear them it is like I read them over and over again. I love to read, to listen.

I am so sad that I will never get to go to one of your concerts or hear new things you’ve done, but as sad as that makes me I’m even more sad for your family. I hope your children know how amazing you were and how many lives you meant so much to. Even someone young like me.

There is no more music in the world like what you made, but you will always shine like a star in every sky. I will miss you so much.

In her own words, from her heart to his. I’m so proud that she found a true muse at such a young age.

Good Night Sweet Prince

Christmas Rewind with Wizzard

I love that my teen is open to all sorts of musical and artistic expression. Okay, really I mostly love that she digs the same music I do.  One of my favorite parenting moments came when the manager of The Violent Femmes liked a tweet about my kids rockin’ out to ‘Kiss Off’ on one of our epic road trips.

I. Win. Parenting.

While making merry and junk, she began to ponder complain about Christmas songs that get remade with each generation (lack of creativity much?) Wanting to prove that the holiday music scene has more to offer than the 2,147th remake of ‘Santa Clause is Coming To Town’ I decided to I’d share my favorite Christmas song with her; ‘Fairy Tale of New York.’

Naturally we went to YouTube, because actually seeing Shane MacGowan sing is a gift in itself. She loved it, I beamed. Then YouTube served up another Christmas-themed-British-type music video.  My words fall short in describing this, so I’ll just let the video speak for itself.

Were two drummers really necessary? Why is there just one balloon, and is that child beating himself with it? Don’t even get me started on the guy at the piano or the overuse of blue eyeshadow. Did he just kick that child? This is a CLASSIC!

Her reaction… “All. The. Drugs. They must have been on all the drugs.”

Happy Christmas!

 

Smokey & Friends: Memories, Music and a Giveaway

The latest release from Smokey Robinson, "Smokey & Friends" smolders and rocks - Giveaway

My earliest memories involve my Dad with a guitar in his hand, sitting at a piano, or dancing around with Mom. Music has always been a part of my life – a friend.

I grew up with the sounds of everything from 60’s protest songs, to classical compositions, dad’s original tunes to the soulful sounds of Motown. The Shirelles sang me to sleep at night. I can’t thank my parents enough for giving me the gift of good music. Now I’d like to do the same for you.

The legendary Motown icon and Grammy® award-winning singer-songwriter, Smokey Robinson released an album that is sure to become as iconic as he is. A compilation of duets with other music legends (hello, Sir Elton) and some of today’s top artists (John Legend, swoon) titled, “Smokey & Friends.”

Everything is good in the world tonight, when Smokey sings along with; James Taylor, Sir Elton John, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, and Mary J. Blige, as well as with some of today’s hottest artists including John Legend, Miguel, Jesse J, and CeeLo Green, among others.

John Legend lends an elegance “Quiet Storm,” with his soul-filled grace at the piano. Legend starts the track with an homage and thanks.

“Bob Dylan called Smokey Robinson one of the greatest poets of our time, Smokey it’s an honor to sing this with you.”

The honor is all ours, dear music fans. I literally got goosebumps when Smokey began to sing.

Smokey & Friends

The Tracks Of My Tears – Elton John

You Really Got A  Hold On Me – Steven Tyler

My Girl – Miguel, Aloe Blacc & JC Chasez

Cruisin’ – Jesse J (almost good enough to erase the memory of Gwyneth Paltrow butchering it with Huey Lewis – almost)

Quiet Storm – John Legend

The Way You Do (The Things You Do) – CeeLo Green

Being With You – Mary J. Blige

Ain’t The Peculiar – James Taylor

The Tears Of A Clown – Sheryl Crow

Ooh Baby Baby – Ledisi

Get Ready – Gary Barlow

Whether you – like me- love Smokey’s velvety, soulful, put-the-kids-to-bed-early groove, or enjoy a more contemporary vibe, there is something for you here. Like Sinatra’s duets before it, “Smokey & Friends,” is sure to become a timeless classic.

I’m so excited to have two copies of “Smokey & Friends,”  to give away!

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