We YouTube Surf So You Don’t Have To!

Stop in here from time to time to discover some pretty cool things found while surfing the webs!

Sarah Jarosz is a great mando player with a silk smooth voice. Enjoy this rendition of a classic song!

“October” by Eric Whitacre is one of the great pieces that that Sounds of Illinois Brass Choir will be working on this fall.

Adapting – our new video series

We all are doing things as we have never done them before: I, for example, have never lead an orchestra program without live musicians in front of me. Friends have moved their office into their homes and are supervising their children’s e-learning while maintaining their professional lives. Others are having virtual happy-hours, producing virtual concerts, and wearing masks to the post office. In short, we’re adapting to our situation.

To that end, the Sounds of Illinois Community Music Center is doing what we can to serve the artistic needs of our community by commissioning newly, and quite sadly, unemployed musicians to make videos of themselves dropping some musical knowledge. It has been great to see what our friends have been sharing with us, and it is important that we, with the help of our supporters, have been able to provide some financial assistance to the great musicians at their time of need. While we know that watching a video can’t take the place of working with a live instructor, we felt that we needed to do something to fill the void left by social distancing. Please take some time to visit our YouTube page and watch the videos that have been made, and hit “Subscribe” so that you’ll know when the next video drops.

Be patient – Be purposeful – Be still…

This announcement started as a long post about the societal noise from which I’ve been having a hard time escaping, but it occurred to me mid-stream that my ramblings were adding to the unrelenting murmur. So, in the spirit of one of my mentors whose mantras were “less is more,” and “talk is cheap,” I invite you to stop what you are doing, put your device on airplane mode, turn off the TV and spend the next 3 minutes with your eyes closed, listening to a glorious work of art, the “Sarabande” from JS Bach’s Partita No. 2. There is not an assignment attached to this: no expectation to research Bach or his Partitas, or to discover more recordings by Chen. Just listen with the intent of listening. Be patient. Be purposeful. Be still…

I am here, you are there, but WE are not in either place, and that’s a drag!

By far, my favorite part of teaching is the daily interaction that I have with my students. No matter how well we play, or how efficient our rehearsals are, we are together making music, telling dumb jokes, sharing cosas buenas, and building our community. Thus, the e-learning/teaching, social distancing thing is tough on me as a teacher (but my introverted self kind of digs it!) The challenge that I will face is learning the best ways to “interact” with my students and make sure that they are getting some instrumental music enrichment in their lives. So, I will take this time to comb the internet for helpful information on practicing, playing, and overall music-ing.

Today’s installment comes to us from a New York artist, Michael L, who shares some thoughts and tips on instrumental music teaching and learning: Click Here for the Video!

You Brain on Music

I am intrigued by this map I just came across, thanks to Jon Harnum (who would probably thank Daniel Levitin.) I have the book this map comes from, and have picked it off my shelf way too many times in the past, and have sat down to read only to get distracted with whatever shiny object comes flittering across my desk, never getting past the intro to the intro. Now I feel compelled to bite the bullet and dig into it so that I can discover in greater detail just how much of our brain is stimulated by the act of performing music. I’ll get back to you to tell you what I’ve found.

The Man With The Jack, Ducks Falling From the Sky, and Please and Thank You!

If you don’t want to read the story, and just cut to the chase, please just go to our donation page!

In my youth my Dad would always try to pass on some sort of lesson or a bit of wisdom to me and my siblings. He would use stories that he picked up from his dad or from his business colleagues or from coaches here and there; some of them made a ton of sense, and others were…interesting??? One of his favorites was a story about a man and a jack which I still don’t understand to this day. But one that I do remember well, and really stuck with me (although I’m not sure of its origins) had to do with waiting for things to happen. He said something to the effect of “an old proverb states that a man will have to stand outside with his mouth open to the sky for an awfully long time before a duck falls into it.” Dad wanted us to realize that we couldn’t just stand around waiting for things to happen to/for us. We had to be active participants in our future.

This lesson, or a variation of it, is the one of Dad’s that I tend to use more often than others with my students, and with my own kids. It really gets to the heart of bringing shape to dreams and seeing a project through to its fruition. As I have written before this idea of the Community Music Center rattled around inside my head for quite a while before I let it out into the open. If I sat around waiting for the idea to grow wings, it probably wasn’t going to happen, and if by some miracle it did, the reality certainly wouldn’t match my vision. We have been putting a lot of effort into ILCMC, and things are really taking shape: we’ve had our first lessons and classes, and now we are planning for the fall semester and beyond. We’ve been able to get as far as we have  with the help of a small core of people, and the financial support of a few more. But, I am finding myself standing in the middle of the field with my mouth open waiting for greater financial support to materialize. It’s not happening.

So, here I go, on the verge of doing something that takes me out of my comfort zone: I am asking for help raising funds for the Center. Will everyone who is reading this please take out a credit card and visit this page to make a donation to the Sounds of Illinois Community Music Center? If you have been following our journey you know we are providing tuition free music education and performance opportunities to learners throughout our community. Through our Tuition-Free Academy alone, we are handing out about $1500 in tuition over the next 5 weeks to a group of 10 elementary aged string students. And in a few weeks we will offer our summer choir mini-camp to a growing group of rising 1st – 3rd graders. We would love to lift the limits to how many kids we can afford to reach each semester, but we need your help to make that happen. The possibilities of what we can do for our community with the right financial support are so exciting to think about. The Sounds of Illinois Community Music Center can be the model of what a community music center can do.

Thanks for reading, and thanks for your support!

It’s All Happening!

This week the Center opens the doors to our first private student; next week the Summer String Academy at the Center welcomes its inaugural scholars; and in July a gaggle of rising 1st-3rd graders will join us for three days of singing, moving , friendship and snacks! All of this on its own is a beautiful thing, but what makes it really special is that none of the families enrolled in our summer programs will pay one dime of tuition for any of it! By the time July is over we will have provided well over 100 collective hours of tuition-free instruction to students from our neighborhoods. This is a commitment that the Sounds of Illinois Community Music Center has made to our community because we believe in eliminating barriers to a great music education. And we believe in the transformative power of music to an individuals and their community.

But, this means that we have to rely on the kindness of friends and neighbors to come forward and help the Center and its students by making donations that will help us to pay faculty, purchase music, print programs, make insurance payments, and cover all the other big and little things that come along in the life of a Community Music Center. It’s not always easy to ask for help, but I come to you with hat in hand, inviting you to play an important role in the life of the your community music center by making a donation of any size so that more people can reap the benefits of a tuition-free music education.

To make a donation to the Sounds of Illinois Community Music Center, visit our PayPal Giving Fund page. On behalf of all who will benefit from your generosity, I offer a heart felt THANK YOU!

The Journey Begins

The idea to open a community music center has been rolling around in my brain for quite some time now. I grew up in “HoFlo” and have long seen the need for somewhere  that folks of different backgrounds and generations could gather to sing, play, create, share, listen, and otherwise “itch” their musical curiosities. I wanted there to be somewhere that a kid who wanted to learn how to play the violin could ride on his bike after school and get a great lesson without his parents having to pay a ton of tuition. I thought it would be so cool to offer a space where all of the adults who look back upon their childhood and say “I wish I had never given up playing in the band” could go for another chance at musical glory. I thought how valuable a music center in the heart of our community could be. And then I said some of these things out loud to someone who isn’t my wife or my dog. I exclaimed “how cool would it be if…”

That was the moment: the idea had left my head and passed over my lips. It was out in the world and need to be cared for before becoming a “I wish I had…” So, here starts the journey. The Sounds of Illinois Community Music Center is recognized by the great state of Illinois as non-for-profit corporation, and has been designated by the IRS as a 501(c)(3) organization. We have paperwork, a logo, a free website, three officers, and a vision. All we need now are folks who have an itch that needs help scratching. But, I know they won’t be hard to find.

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton