Ragamala: Indian Exhibit Sings A Thousand Words

Miniature Paintings from 17th- and 18th- Century India Capture Moods of Music and Poetry at Williams College Museum of Art

Ragamala represents a dynamic intermingling of music, poetry, and painting in India. Ragamala is Sanskrit for a “garland of ragas,” which are unique musical compositions. Drawn from the museum’s rich Indian collection, this exhibition features sixteen ragamala paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries.

You’ve probably heard the saying, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” but what about a picture that illustrates those words… or even a song? How might you translate the mood evoked by an instrumental song into a picture, painting, or even a poem?

Between the 16th and 19th centuries in India, a classical Indian musical tradition called a raga, took on a new characteristic that did just that.  A raga, which translates roughly from Sanskrit into beauty, melody, and color, is similar to a musical scale: a selection of musical notes arranged specifically to convey, or color, a mood; discrete ragas are used to represent specific times of day and/or seasons.  These complex, richly textured melodies inspired poets to create poems based on the moods they evoked.  Artists then transposed these poems and melodies into paintings that visually convey the moods, events, and seasons represented by each raga and poem, and often include a few lines from the associated poem.

The Williams College Museum of Art will have a ragamala–a set of these miniature paintings–on display between September 27, 2014 through January 4, 2015.  Sixteen miniatures from the museum’s notable Indian art collection will be on view.  Read the rest of this entry »

Schubert Sound Installation at Mead Art Museum

Sounding Space Experience Beautifully Dissects Masterpiece

Visitors to the Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA, are now surrounded, not just by art, but by the music of Franz Schubert (1797-1828), in a sound installation that opens Tuesday, Aug. 26, and runs until Sunday, Sept. 28, 2014. This special installation features a five-channel recording of the slow movement from Schubert’s Cello Quintet (1828), played by the Brentano String Quartet and Michael Kannen, director of chamber music at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. The quintet’s second movement, approximately 16 minutes long, plays once every half hour.

Special Sound Installation Featuring Schubert’s Cello Quintet at Mead Art Museum in Amherst, MA.

Five speakers are arranged in an oval configuration in the Mead’s Rotherwas Room, the ornately carved seventeenth-century English room that serves as a gallery, event and performance space, and reading room. Each speaker is dedicated to one instrument from the ensemble, which includes two violins, viola, and two cellos. Read the rest of this entry »

Under the Hat: Energize Your Child’s Imagination through Literacy

Reading Supports the Development of a Creative Mind!

Reading is fun

Reading requires imagination and can inspire creativity.

I was a lucky kid: my mom was a children’s book author and illustrator and I grew up surrounded by books. For years, my mom and I had a weekly date at the library. I’d always check out the maximum number of books and couldn’t wait to get home to start reading. I loved everything, but my favorite stories were the really scary ones.

Not too much has changed over the years; I still have a stack of books on my bedside table and I still love learning about all sorts of things just by lying still and reading.

Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Guest DJ, Morgan Taylor of Gustafer Yellowgold Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

GUEST DJ, MORGAN TAYLOR OF GUSTAFER YELLOWGOLD EPISODE

Listen to Podcast:

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
July 12th & 13th, 2014
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

 

Featured Video:  Our hero Gustafer builds a cakey robot with a surprising personality in another classic hand-drawn music video from Gustafer Yellowgold. Music and Art by Morgan Taylor. Co-produced and performed with Dean Jones. — www.gustaferyellowgold.com


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PLAYLIST

  • Beatles – “Hello Goodbye” (Magical Mystery Tour)
  • Bread – “The Guitar Man” (The Guitar Man)
  • John Sebastian – “Welcome Back” – (Welcome Back)
  • Meco – “Star Wars Theme/Cantina Band” (Have A Nice Decade)
  • Gustafer Yellowgold – “Four Leaved Clover” (Gustafer Yellowgold’s Year In The Day)
  • Hot Butter – “Popcorn” (Have A Nice Decade)
  • Earth Wind and Fire – “Got To Get You Into My Life” – (Greatest Hits)
  • Recess Monkey – “Jet Pack” – (The Final Funktier)
  • Gustafer Yellowgold – “Dream In Green” – (Gustafer Yellowgold’s ‘Have You Never Been Yellow?’)
  • Paul McCartney and Wings – “Let ‘Em In” – (Wingspan)
  • Gustafer Yellowgold – “Werewolves Rock” – (Gustafer Yellowgold’s Year In The Day)
  • Harry Nilsson – “Me And My Arrow” – (The Point)
  • Lobo – “Me And You And A Dog Named Boo” – (Have A Nice Decade)
  • Pilot – “Magic” – (Have A Nice Decade)
  • Gustafer Yellowgold – “New Is The New Old” – (Gustafer Yellowgold’s Year In The Day)

HFVS: 4th of July Birthday Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

4th of July Birthday Episode

LISTEN TO PODCAST: 

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
Jul 5 & 6, 2014
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured Video: How do you make a birthday cake from scratch? It helps to have a great sing-along song to make the process fun. The Indie Food Channel presents a music video called “Cake” set to a catchy original song by award-winning band Charity and the JAMband. www.jamjamjam.com. Directed by Sean Oughton


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PLAYLIST

  • Kool & The Gang – “Celebration” [Celebration]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “Cake” [Rock Your Socks Off]
  • Suzi Shelton – “So Long Chocolate Cake” [Simply Suzi]
  • Justin Roberts – “It’s Your Birthday” [Meltdown!]
  • Betsy McCall’s Surprise Birthday Party – “Happy Birthday”
  • The Candy Band – “It’s Your Birthday” [Calling All Kids]
  • Betsy McCall’s Surprise Birthday Party – “Surprise Birthday Party”
  • The Candy Band – “Simon Says” [Calling All Kids]
  • Brady Rymer – “Happy Birthday Around the World” [Every Day is a Birthday]
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks [www.steveweeksmusic.com]
  • Charity and the JAMband – “Happy Birthday Baby” [Rock Your Socks Off]
  • Butterflyfish – “Lemonade” [Ladybug]Music
  • The Jimmies – “Somebody’s Birthday” [Make Your Own Someday]
  • The Uninvited Loud Precision Band – “The Uninvited Parade” [Blue Moo]
  • Laurie Berkner – “Five Days Old” [Rocketship Run]
  • Lisa Loeb – “H.A.P.P.Y.” [Camp Lisa]
  • Recess Monkey – “Birthday Bite” [Tabby Road]
  • The Hipwaders – “Birthday Ruckus” [Goodie Bag]
  • Ambrosia Parsley – “Everybody Came” [For the Kids Too]
  • “Birthday is Over” [Ditties for Kiddies]
  • Ralph’s World – “Happy Not My Birthday” [The Rhyming Circus]
  • The Panderers – “Come On” [Hotshot's Boy]
  • Betsy McCall’s Surprise Birthday Party – “After the Party”

HFVS Local Food Episode with Guest DJ, Orange Sherbet Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Hilltown Family Variety Show

Local Food Celebration with Guest DJ, Orange Sherbet

Listen to Podcast:

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am

June  28th & 29th, 2014
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured Video:  Orange Sherbet wrote this little musical ditty about seasonal foods that can be found on the Local Foods Wheel. Animation by Sarah Klein www.orangesherbet.org


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PLAYLIST

  • Brady Rymer – Fresh Brown Eggs – What’s Eatin’ Yosi?
  • Michelle Shocked – Strawberry Jam – Arkansas Traveler
  • Orange Sherbet – Waffle Day – Delicious
  • The Nields – Aiken Drum – All Together Singing in the Kitchen
  • The Little Willies – Roly Poly– The Little Willies
  • Dan Zanes – All Around the Kitchen – Family Dance
  • Henhouse Prowlers – Homegrown Tomatoes – Henhouse Prowlers
  • Orange Sherbet – Garden Song – Delicious
  • Barenaked Ladies – Food Party – Snacktime!
  • King Curtis and the Kingpins – Memphis Soul Stew – King Size Soul
  • Orange Sherbet – Springtime – Delicious
  • Chip-Man & The Buckwheat Boys – Peanut Butter Jelly Time – Peanut Butter Jelly Time
  • Session Americana – Food Opera – Table Top People Vol 1
  • Jose-Luis Orozco –El Chocolate – De Colores – Vol 9
  • Dave Rawlings Machine – Sweet Tooth – A Friend of a Friend
  • The King Cole Trio – Save the Bones for Henry Jones – Nat King Cole
  • Orange Sherbet – Delicious – Delicious
  • Cab Calloway & His Orchestra – Everybody Eats When They Come to My House – Nicky’s Jazz For Kids

Under the Hat: How Books Can Inspired Songwriting

Under the Hat: Setting the Stage

Ever since he was a little kid, Mister G has loved to read and make up stories. His parents read to him all the time and took him on weekly trips to the library. Looking back, he now sees that this love of books set the stage for his career as a songwriter.

In this month’s Under the Hat, Mister G and his mom, children’s book author/illustrator Karen Gundersheimer, reminisce about the role books and stories played in their household when he was growing up.

Next time in Under the Hat…

HFVS Underground Railroad Episode (Podcast/Radio Show)

Listen to Podcast:

Hilltown Family Variety Show
Underground Railroad Episode

WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA

Featured Video: “Follow the Drinking Gourd.” According to American folklore, this song was a “musical” map which led fugitive slaves north to freedom. For a history of the song, see www.followthedrinkinggourd.org.


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PLAYLIST

Discover the Songs: Lyrics & History

Read the rest of this entry »

Under the Hat: Curiosity and Songwriting

Songs in the Desert

As I write, I’m sitting in the Arizona desert surrounded by giant cactus and enormous mountains. For a songwriter from New England, it’s a lot like being in a candy store. The landscape, the people, the food, the music — everywhere I look there are fascinating things to see, touch, taste, smell and hear. Songwriters depend on their senses for inspiration and this year I’ve had more than my fair share of sensory stimulation. From performing in big cities and small villages in Mexico, to touring coast to coast around the United States, I’ve been fortunate to witness an amazing range of people and places… Read the rest of this entry »

I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store

Fast Forward: New Filmmakers
at Historic Northampton

In our modern society, most of us (even a lot of kids, and certainly many teens) are well aware of the effect that corporately-run big box stores have on small businesses, tightly knit communities, and local economies. Filmmaker Brendan Toller’s documentary, I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store, tells the story of the national impact that big media, big business, and internet-based purchasing has had on a very specific part of our economy and our culture.

Focused on the sharp decline in independent record stores nationwide during the past decade, as well as media consolidation and changes in technology, the film features interviews with music industry greats such as Thurston Moore (iconic Sonic Youth frontman), the Talking Heads’ Chris Frantz, activist and author Noam Chomsky, and Pat Carney of the Black Keys. Toller weaves these interviews (and many more) together alongside staggering statistics about the state of the record industry and tales of media consolidation, homogenized radio, big box stores, and – most importantly – greed, in order to pay homage to the iconic indie record shop and to shed a bright light on the frustrating and destructive effect that corporate media has upon the record industry.

Families with older students can see I Need That Record! at Historic Northampton on Sunday, December 15th, 2013, at 3pm. Shown as part of Historic Northampton’s series Fast Forward: New Filmmakers at Historic Northampton, the screening presents a community based opportunity to examine one of today’s biggest economic and cultural issues through a unique lens. The film can help teens and tweens learn how to make good choices about where (and from whom) they choose to buy or access music, and makes the importance of supporting local businesses really hit home. Independent record stores, which can be a pop culture reference for specific sub-cultures, are often portrayed with an air of invincibility about them. They’re often portrayed in the media as being so against the mainstream that they’re unaffected by it; however, quite the opposite is true. The smaller, less represented parts of our culture are generally the most vulnerable – and record stores are not exception.

Under the Hat: The Journey of Songwriting

Making Songwriting Twice As Fun

I’ve been traveling and performing around the world for many years, but singing my bilingual songs on a big stage in Mexico City or a little mountain village in Guatemala was the most fascinating and rewarding experience I’d had as a touring musician.

I started writing songs long before I learned how to play an instrument. My parents still tell stories about me banging on pots and pans and making up nonsense sounds with melodies before I could speak. You may have a kid like that too. Lots of kids love to experiment with rhythm and sound. It’s all part of the joy of using your imagination and creating something from nothing. It’s not that unusual, after all.

What’s unusual is to find someone who doesn’t love music. There’s a saying that music is the universal language. Over the last few years, I’ve learned some other wonderful lessons that have made me understand how true that old cliché really is. And the best part about the lessons I’ve learned is that they really happened by accident.

Here’s the story: my first CD, Pizza for Breakfast, came out four years ago. I’d been writing and performing for grown-ups for a long time, and I thought it would be fun to make a record for kids. The songs on Pizza for Breakfast were inspired by my former elementary school students at the Smith College Campus School in Northampton, MA. Shortly after the CD was released, my wife (Missus G) and I took a trip to Colombia in South America…

Read the rest of this entry »

Under the Hat: Mixing Music is Like Mixing a Cake

Under the Hat: Mixing it Up

Have you ever stopped to think about how music was recorded?  Or what decisions were made along to way to create the music you listen to?

Mister G takes us into his recording studio this month for a behind the scenes tutorial on how to mix music. It turns out that mixing music is a lot like mixing a cake; you have to start with good ingredients and then blend them together carefully.

Focusing on his bilingual song “ABC Fiesta,” we hear how the individual instruments (drums, bass, keyboards, guitars, vocals) sound by themselves, prior to Mister G mixing the various tracks.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

HFVS Summer Essentials Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast: 

SUMMER ESSENTIALS EPISODE

Hilltown Family Variety Show
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA
Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am

July 6th & 7th, 2013 (Rebroadcast)

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PLAYLIST

  • Lisa Loeb – “Ready for the Summer” [Camp Lisa]
  • Dog on Fleas – “Green Grass of Summer” [When I Get Little]
  • Nat King Cole – “Lazy Hazy Crazy Days of Summer” [The Greatest Hits]
  • Tony Bennett – “Firefly” [The Playground]
  • Robbi K & Friends – “Summer’s Here” [Music Makes Me Happy]
  • Justin Roberts – “Kickboard, Baby, Yeah” [Pop Fly]
  • Gunnar Madsen – “Summertime is Here” [Old Mr. Mackle Hackle]
  • Storytelling ID: Steve Weeks www.steveweeksmusic.com
  • Bill Harley – “King of the Clams” [Blah, Blah, Blah]
  • The Terrible Twos – “Lily Names Everything Sandy” [Jerzy the Giant]
  • The Beach Boys – “Fun, Fun, Fun” [Good Vibrations: Thirty Years of the Beach Boys]
  • T-Squad – “No Sleep ‘Til Summertime” [T-Squad]
  • SHOW ID: Princess Katie & Racer Steve (www.princessracer.org)
  • Randy Kaplan – “Mosquito Song” [Five Cent Piece]
  • Ellis Paul – “Dragonfly Races” [The Dragonfly Races]
  • Recess Monkey – “The Sandbox Song” [Tabby Road]

Under the Hat: Learning About Songwriting with Rhymes

Under the Hat: Rhymes

Have you ever wondered why the words to some songs get stuck in your head? In this episode of Under the Hat, Mister G reveals one of his big secrets; songwriters love to use rhymes.

Using examples from his songs “Pizza for Breakfast” and “Colores,” Mister G explains how good rhymes fit together like puzzle pieces to create catchy, memorable rhythms. We learn how songwriters search for the perfect rhymes to help to tell the story of the song.

As always, Mister G encourages kids to write their own songs whether they choose to use rhyming words or not. Featuring a cameo from Silas the Cat.

Next time in Under the Hat: Mixing it up in the studio. It’s a late night session, so you may have to stay up past bedtime for this episode as Mister G takes us into his studio where he’s recording a new CD. You’ll never listen to music the same way after you learn how songs are recorded and mixed.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

HFVS Sheep Shearing & Maple Syrup Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:

SHEEP SHEARING & MAPLE SYRUP EPISODE

Sheep Shearing

Shearing the sheep and skirting the fleece at Red Gate Farm in Buckland, MA. Click on photo to see more images. (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfie

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
March 9th & 10th, 2013
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA


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  • Lunch Money – “Wake Up, World” - Dizzy 
  • Pete Seeger – “Maple Syrup Time” – Seeds: The Songs of Pete Seeger
  • Kitty Donohoe  – “Maple Syrup” – Bunyan and Banjoes
  • Phil Rosenthal – “Buffalo Gals” – This Land is Your Land
  • Nashville Bluegrass Band & Kid Pan Alley – “Extra Hand” – Kid Pan Alley
  • Station Id: The Harmonica Pocket [www.harmonicapocket.com]
  • Carla Sciaky – “Sheep Shearing” – Spin the Weaver’s Song
  • Justin Roberts – “Field Trip” – Pop Fly
  • The Hipwaders – “Field Trip” – Goodie Bag 
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks [www.steveweeksmusic.com]
  • L. Frank Baum – The Story of Baa-Baa Black Sheep
  • Teresa Doyle – “The Shearing” – If Fish Could Sing … and Sheep Could Dance
  • Matt Nathanson – “Starfish and Coffee” – For the Kids Too
  • Moxy Fruvous – “Maple Syrup Time” – If I Had a Song: Songs of Pete Seeger Vol. 2
  • The Hipwaders – “Things You Want” – Goodie Bag 

Under the Hat: Exploring Tempo in Music

Under the Hat: Tempo

The instant we hear music our bodies start responding to the sounds.

Why is it that some music makes us want to dance and other music makes us want to take a nap? Using examples from his songs “Grilled Cheese” and “Sueños,” Mister G illustrates the role tempo plays in creating mood in music. It’s really not that complicated: fast tempos tend to make the listener want to move fast and slow tempos make the listener want to move more slowly.

He explains how songwriters use tempo as a tool to create different emotions in the listener and encourages listeners to notice the way the speed of music affects their emotions.

As a songwriter, Mister G takes into account the subject for his songs before deciding on a tempo. So, with an exciting topic like “Grilled Cheese,” a fast tempo is in order. And with a gentle lullaby  like “Suenos,” a slow tempo makes sense.

Next month in Under the Hat: What role does rhyme play in songwriting? Playing examples from his songs “Pizza for Breakfast” and “Cocodrilo,” Mister G explains how rhymes are the fundamental building blocks of lyric writing for popular songs.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Discovering Clave: Afro-Cuban Rhythm

Following the Butterflies through Words and Rhythm

While on tour in Mexico, Mister G talks about how his bilingual song, “Señorita Mariposa” was inspired by the famous migration of the Monarch Butterfly to the state of Michoacan. He emphasizes how close observation of nature can become the jumping off point for new songs. Before performing “Señorita Mariposa,” Mister G demonstrates the traditional Afro-Cuban rhythm known as clave.

Mister G’s song “Senorita Mariposa” was inspired by the famous migration of the Monarch butterflies each winter to the Sierra Madre Mountains of Mexico. Like Mister G, the butterflies can’t stand freezing weather and so they fly south to a warmer climate. The butterflies return to the exact same tree every year, but they are increasingly in danger as developers cut down the forest in order for human development. To help protect the Monarch butterfly habitat, visit www.michoacanmonarchs.org.

“Senorita Mariposa” is a bilingual song, meaning that some of the lyrics are in Spanish and some are in English.  Mister G uses rhyming words throughout the song, such as “mariposa” and “hermosa.” Mariposa is the Spanish word for butterfly. Hermosa means beautiful, which makes good sense as the song is about a beautiful little butterfly. Curious to learn more Spanish words? Go to www.spanishdict.com and type in any English word and the program will instantly translate.

The steady rhythm that plays throughout “Senorita Mariposa” is called clave. The clave rhythm is found in much traditional Afro-Cuban and Latin music and is played on two small pieces of wood called claves. Musicians from around the world have used clave, including the Beatles on their song, “And I Love Her.”

What to look forward to next month:

Next month in Under the Hat: How do tempo and dynamics affect mood in music? More than you might imagine! Playing examples from his songs, “Grilled Cheese” and “Mono en mis Manos” Mister G illustrates how tempo and dynamics are powerful tools used by songwriters to create different moods for the audience.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Giveaway: Top 11 Family Music CD Releases from 2012

Music Collection Giveaway:
Top 11 Family Music CD Releases from 2012

We’re giving away an amazing CD collection of our top 11 family albums released this past year. Find out how you can enter to win this entire collection below. Deadline to enter is: Jan 19, 2013 by 11:59pm (EST).

Last month the winners of the Fids & Kamily Music Awards were announced, with a stellar list of new CDs released this past year!

Launched in 2006 and inspired by the Village Voice’s long-running “Pazz and Jop” music poll, the Fids & Kamily Music Awards poll is the first compilation of year-end kids and family music “best of” lists from critics, writers, radio programmers, and others involved in the music industry. Fifteen favorites are selected from outstanding releases, along with five honorable mentions, including kids and family albums from mainstream/adult artists, seasoned kindie artists and some fantastic newcomers!

For the sixth year in a row, Hilltown Families has participated as a judge for the Fids & Kamily Music Awards.  Check out the winners at www.fidsandkamily.com and be sure to add some of these winners to your family music collection.

To start off the new year, Hilltown Families is giving away a collection of eleven CDs of family music released this past year.  Several are winners of the Fids & Kamily Music Awards, and several others are releases we voted for and think are a must for your family music collection! Find out how you can enter to win this entire collection below.  Deadline to enter is: Jan 19, 2013 by 11:59pm (EST).

Can You Canoe? — The Okee Dokee Brothers

Vote as the best family album of the year in the 2012 Fids & Kamily Music Awards, this album highlights a month-long journey Joe and Justin of The Okee Dokee Brothers spent traveling down the Mississippi River.  During their trip they composed songs that make up this award-winning album.  Special guests include Garth Hudson (The Band), Elizabeth Mitchell (Your Are My Flower) and Morgan Taylor & Rachel Loshak (Gustafer Yellowgold), and includes a DVD with music videos and footage from their trip.  Joe and Justin guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show in June this past year.  Listen to the podcast and check out a few cuts from their new album along with tunes from other artist they selected, and one of their videos: HFVS Guest DJ, Joe & Justin of The Okee Dokee Brothers Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Science Fair Spare the Rock Records

In 2010, in response to the devastating earthquake in Haiti, Spare the Rock Records put out the award winning compilation album, Many Hands: Family Music for Haiti, raising over $50,000 for Haitian relief! This past year they did it again with the amazing compilation CD, Science Fair, raising money for Girls Inc.’s work for science education for girls.  Placing second in this year’s Fids & Kamily Music Awards, Science Fair features exclusive tracks from Mates of State, Laura Veirs, Elizabeth Mitchell, Frances England and many others!

Blue Clouds  Elizabeth Mitchell & You Are My Flower

Released by Smithsonian Folkway Recordings, Blue Clouds placed fifth this year in the Fids & Kamily Music Awards.  Putting a contemporary touch to traditional folk songs, and using simple arrangements to rework classic rock songs by Bowie, Hendrix, Morrison and others into folks songs, Mitchell has complied a new album that is already a classic!

Mr Diddie Wah Diddie  Randy Kaplan

This past summer Randy Kaplan guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, spinning songs by bluegrass, folk, calypso, and broadway masters, alongside cuts from his new country-blues and ragtime CD, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie.  Placing seventh in the Fids & Kamily Music Awards, Randy Kaplan’s newest CD, Mr. Diddie Wah Diddie, pays tribute to America’s blues masters on an album with rollicking lyrics the kids will love!  Listen to the podcast and get a glimpse into Randy’s new album and check out his video, “Ice Cream Man Rag.”: HFVS Guest DJ, Randy Kaplan Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Invisible Friends  Dog on Fleas

Ranging in style from Afro-pop to 60’s soul, Tin Pan Alley to bossa nova, Invisible Friends is an album the entire family can enjoy on road trips or Sunday morning PJ dance parties in the kitchen.  Lead singer Dean Jones guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show this summer, pulling together a show that featured a few cuts from Invisible Friends interlaced with music from other kindie and mainstream artists.  Give a listen to the podcast to sample a few songs on this award winning album (ranking eighth on the Fids & Kamily Music Awards!): HFVS Guest DJ, Dean Jones Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Family Values  Charity & the Jamband

We can’t speak highly enough of Charity & the Jamband!  As Hilltown Families number one pick for the year, Family Values is a album that celebrates family and community.  Understanding that all things peaceful must first start in our own hearts and homes before moving out into our community, Charity Kahn has crafted songs that are intelligent and from the heart.  She tells stories set to music that is funky, with grooves and lyrics that talk up to kids and their grown ups!  Charity has guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show many times. This past Thanksgiving, through music and story, Charity explored some of the many things we have to be grateful for in our lives, including songs from this new album.  Give a listen to the podcast anytime: HFVS Thanksgiving Episode with Guest DJ, Charity Kahn (Radio Show/Podcast)

Can’t Wait  Grenadilla

“Layered voices textured with Kwela flavored rhythms, up-beat melodies, a touch of Cape Town Jive and a hint of the blues,” is how Grenadilla describes their newest release, Can’t Wait.  This past spring Debbie Lan from Grenadilla guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, putting together a show with music from South Africa, including songs off of this new CD.  Get a glimpse by listening to the podcast: HFVS Music from South Africa with Guest DJ, Debbie Lan (Radio Show/Podcast)

Chocolalala  Mister G

Hilltown Families Contributing Writer, Mister G, put out another excellent CD this year, Chocolalala. This new collection of original bilingual songs spans musical genres… from bossa nova to ska, funk to folk, rap to pop.  Songs that are educational teach young listeners basic concepts while engaging adults with captivating Latin rhythms.  In his monthly vlog on Hilltown Families, “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education,” Mister G goes a step further with his music, taking viewers into the backstory of songs released on this award-winning CD, and insight to the process of music making.  Check out his column to see his vlog: Under the Hat: Independent Music Education.

The Hero in You  Ellis Paul

Known for his deeply felt and socially conscious songwriting, often about heroes, Ellis Paul was inspired by his two daughters to write about people who contributed something to their world.  The result… The Hero in YouHeroes featured on this educational CD include both well known and little know heroes. “These people did amazing things, but they can also inspire young people today to go out and do something out of the ordinary to become the heroes of their own lives,” explains Ellis Paul about this new release.  Last winter Ellis guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, including songs from this new album. Check out the podcast to get a sample of songs: HFVS Guest DJ, Ellis Paul Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Love is a Superpower  Ben Rudnick & Friends

We’ve loved Ben Rudnick & Friends since the beginning!  Hailed as a founding member of the modern family music scene, Ben Rudnick & Friends continues to be a beloved band all family members will enjoy with their tenth release of Love is a Superpower.  The band is good, really good… carving out their own unique music style that blends neo-western swing, bluegrass, folk music and flavors of rock. High quality musicianship seeps out slowly and steadily with each song, mixed with catching lyrics to which Ben Rudnick’s vocals bring wit and charm.  In the late summer, Ben guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, bringing us a show all about love, including cuts off of this new album.  Here’s the podcast and video to get a sample of this new CD: HFVS Love Episode with Guest DJ, Ben Rudnick (Radio Show/Podcast)

Middle of Nowhere  Elska

Receiving an honorable mention in the Fids and Kamily Music Awards, Elska is a newcomer to the kindie music scene.  Elska is a fictional character living on a newly formed Arctic island where explorations are set against playful modern music and the delicate voice of Shelly Wollert.  Songs like “Arctic Fox,” “Midnight Sun in the Arctic,” and “Winter Bear” tell stories of Elska on this new island and what she discovers.

HOW TO WIN

Hilltown Families has been serving Western MA since 2005 as a grassroots communication network! Being able to share community building events, community based educational opportunities, and community service experiences over the years, along with terrific music that brings families and the community together is song, has been a great honor! Share with us your wishes for the next year(s) and be entered to win this fantastic family music collection of 11 CD’s released this past year. To enter for a chance to win simply:

  • POST YOUR WISHES FOR A NEW YEAR AS OUTLINED ABOVE IN THE FIELDS BELOW (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • PLEASE CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below.
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline to enter for a chance to win is: Jan 19, 2013 by 11:59pm.

Hansel & Gretel: Learning Through the Len of a Classic Fairy Tale

Hansel & Gretel: Gingerbread, Opera, Fairy Tale & Puppet Show

Hansel and Gretel: Learning about Opera! is a free online educational experience featuring Humperdinck’s Opera Hansel and Gretel. Players can control interactive elements in every scene and watch the play unfold. There are even lesson plans for educators to download, including music education info and cross-curricular activities on fairy tales.

Did you know the old folk tale of Hansel and Gretel, made famous by the brothers Grimm, inspired many Germans in the 1600s to create model witches’ houses from hard gingerbread? Building fanciful gingerbread houses at Christmastime hos now become a part of American holiday traditions.

Take this interesting fact and combine it with this cool interactive web site where kids can partake in the creation of an animated opera of “Hansel and Gretel,” presented by Creative Kids Education Foundation. The interactive opera takes 40-50 minutes to navigate through the creation process (with adult supervision), but kids can learn about this fairy tale (the inspiration for Gingerbread Houses) and opera, set designing and choreography while watching the play unfold while controlling interactive elements in each scene.

UPCOMING EVENT:

Speaking of Hansel and Gretel, from December 27th-30th, 2012 the Ventfort Hall Mansion and Gilded Age Museum in Lenox will host puppeteer Carl Sprague who will present a marionette production of “Hansel and Gretel.” After the show, kids can meet the antique puppets used in the show at a Victorian Tea, and there will also be an opportunity to learn about the puppeteer’s methods.

Under the Hat: Songwriting Detectives

Under the Hat: Songwriting Detectives

Reporting while on tour from Mexico City, Mister G talks about how songwriters are like detectives who are always on the lookout for clues as to what would make and interesting song. This month’s episode of Under the Hat includes footage from a variety of school concerts from Mexico as Mister G shares a story about how he came to write “Chocolalala,” the title track off of his award-winning bilingual (Spanish/English) CD:

What clues can you start to look for to write your own songs? Here are a few ideas:

  • Draw inspiration in your family. Think about what your brother’s favorite food is, what makes your mother laugh, or something your Uncle collects.
  • Think about something you enjoy, like your favorite dessert, sports you like to play, or your favorite animal.
  • Use your imagination and create a character you’d like to meet or a destination you’d like to visit.

And remember, whether you’re writing songs about banana splits, your Aunt’s collection of ceramic frogs or flying robots, it’s the details that matter the most! Spend time thinking about what makes your subject interesting and special. Then hum or strum a tune to pair with your lyrics and presto….you’re a songwriter!

What to look forward to next month:

While on tour in Mexico, Mister G talks about how his bilingual song, “Señorita Mariposa” was inspired by the famous migration of the Monarch Butterfly to the state of Michoacan. He emphasizes how close observation of nature can become the jumping off point for new songs. Before performing “Señorita Mariposa,” Mister G demonstrates the traditional Afro-Cuban rhythm known as clave.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Under the Hat: All About Guitars

Under the Hat: Independent Music Education with Mister G

Under the Hat: All About Guitars

In this debut episode of “Under the Hat: Independent Music Education,” Mister G takes us into his recording studio in Western MA for a music lesson about the guitar. Using a variety of instruments from his collection, he discusses the differences (and similarities) between acoustic, electric, classical and steel guitars. — Grab the kids for a fun tutorial on four guitars as Mister G demonstrates their sounds and styles:

  • STEEL GUITAR: With its gleaming metal body, the steel guitar is a striking instrument visually and sonically. An iconic blues instrument, the steel guitar originally came to prominence in the 1920’s. Want to hear an example of the steel guitar being used in music for children? Mister G plays his National Steel Guitar on “Shark in my Bathtub” off of the BUGS CD.
  • CLASSICAL GUITAR: Originally from Spain, the classical guitar is used to perform many styles of music including bossa nova, folk, jazz and, of course, classical. Mister G plays an excerpt from his bossa nova inspired song “Suenos” to demonstrate the warmth and beauty of this iconic instrument. — Want to learn about the history of the classical guitar?  Check out Acoustic Guitar Guru.
  • ELECTRIC GUITAR: First built in 1954, the Fender Stratocaster is arguably the most famous electric guitar ever made. Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughn and countless others have chosen the strat due to its remarkable versatility. Mister G plays examples of funk, jazz, rock and blues; all musical styles that have influenced his playing and songwriting.
  • STEEL STRING ACOUSTIC GUITAR The steel string acoustic guitar came to prominence early in the 20th century. Originally embraced by country, blues and folk guitarists, the steel string acoustic is a remarkably versatile instrument. Mister G plays his Martin D-18, his primary touring guitar, and explains why the acoustic the instrument is a great choice for solo performing.

What to look forward to next month:

Reporting on tour from Mexico, Mister G describes how various songs on his new bilingual Spanish/English CD came to be. He discusses how songwriters are like detectives; always on the lookout for clues that could lead to a great new song. The episode ends with Mister G playing the delicious title track of his new album, CHOCOLALALA.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mister G (Ben Gundersheimer) is an Amherst College graduate who spent 20 years as a singer/songwriter/producer in the adult music world prior to earning a Masters in Elementary Education at Smith College and transitioning to making music for children.  His most recent release, CHOCOLALALA, a collection of original, bilingual (Spanish/English) songs for children, won a Parents’ Choice Gold Award and is on the Grammy ballot for Best Children’s Album of 2012. A leading figure in the kids music world, Mister G’s 2011 bilingual release, BUGS garnered numerous national awards and was dubbed “irresistible” by People magazine. www.mistergsongs.com

Music Trekking: Didgeridoo

Didgeridoo

Originally made from a hollowed-out branch or stick, sometimes a eucalyptuses tree hollowed out by termites, the didgeridoo is truly a unique instrument! The didg player blows on one end and a loud, droning sound comes out of the other. Experienced didgeridoo players do a kind of special breathing – called circular breathing – that allows them to play for amazingly long times without stopping or taking a breath!

Didgeridoos come from Aboriginal culture in Australia and many have the characteristic “dot” patterns seen in much of this region’s art. Most traditional didg makers create instruments that have special animals or symbols formed from these dots on their creations. The images might reflect their family group, their clan or some animal or trait that is important to them.  Together with bilma, rhythm sticks called clapsticks, sounds are made used keep the beat in dreamtime ceremonies.  Here’s a quick look at how the two are used together:

According to Aboriginal stories, our planet and everything on it was created during an era called “dreamtime” when the ancestors walked the Earth. I was so fascinated by the didg and it’s traditions that I recorded a song about it called “You Gotta Didg!” In this video you get a glimpse of a large mountain-like form behind the musicians and dancers. That is a famous landmark in Australia called Uluru in the Aboriginal language and Ayres Rock in English. Uluru/Ayres Rock is an Aboriginal sacred site and plays a very important part in the dreamtime legends.

Are dreamtime ceremonies serious matters for adults only? No! Kids listen, play and participate in the retelling of these stories and legends from a very early age. That’s how children become inspired to keep the traditions and oral history alive. There are even games for little ones, such as a kind of Australian freeze tag. In one of these games, the didgeridoo plays a variety of notes and when it hits a special tone, all children must freeze and stay completely still. Anyone who misses the tone or can’t stand still long enough is out! In this way, kids are learning ceremonial dances while playing with friends and having fun at the same time!

The history of Australian Aborigines is rich and exciting to explore. Hopefully, this has inspired you to discover more about some of the amazing instruments of Australia and the legend and lore of the land down under!


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Award-winning children’s performer, DARIA (Daria Marmaluk-Hajioannou) has created 7 cd’s that have won national honors. She has the most awesome job of traveling the world to sing for kids and peace. Her “world music for kids” website, www.dariamusic.com, was given a 2009 Parents Choice Award for its musical and cultural content. She has also created a multicultural kids video site as well as My Favorite Multicultural Books.

[Photo credit: (ccl) etringita]

12 Musicians Share Strategies on How to Get Kids to Practice Their Musical Instruments

Getting Kids to Practice Their Musical Instruments

“Parents can play music with children,” writes Deborah Poppink. “That means singing along or even having the student teach the parent. If the parent can play the recorder, a drum, or the guitar with the child – GO FOR IT!”  (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Last fall we ask our readers how they got their kids to practice their musical instrument, generating great feedback on what worked for their families. We then invited many wonderful independent children’s musicians, several of them who have been guest DJs of the Hilltown Family Variety Show, to answer this same question. Their excellent advice ranged from letting them listen to themselves, filling your home with music/instruments, practicing along with them, allowing them to experiment, setting up a supportive environment, being patient, and making it fun!

Here’s what they had to share:

Debbie Cavalier: “Record them! I have found that kids love to hear/see their progress and are often surprised by it when they hear what they sounded like a week or two weeks ago! Listen back together and comment on the progress. You can use a free smartphone video recording app or a free audio app. I use one called Record.”

David Weinstone (Music for Aardvarks and Other Mammals): “For young children just leave the instruments lying about and let them bang or strum away at will. For older children, if they are interested, get them an instructor that is use to working with kids. Keep practice sessions short. The child will let you know how much is enough. Don’t be strict about it. If they want to learn an instrument they will need to understand delayed gratification. That’s the real hurdle at first.”

Rachel (Gustafer Yellowgold): “I used to enjoy practicing Suzuki violin much more when my dad or granddad played the piano with me, and loved singing when my brother played the piano. I think it’s the sense of music being something you do with others, and enjoy with others, makes it easier to have it be a part of every day life. – I also use to walk around the garden in circles playing the violin, as I liked the way it sounded outside – finding a place where the space around you makes it sound better or feel better. – The best thing I think is to be supportive and encouraging without forcing a child to do something that they really don’t want to do.”

Frances England: “My 8 year old son started violin a year ago and for him the things that work best are making sure we are fairly consistent with practice (4 or 5 times a week), sitting next to him and staying positive and enthusiastic while he plays, making sure we don’t leave it too late in the day when he’s too tired and can get easily frustrated, and adding some fun melodies he recognizes into the mix. After we’ve gone over music from his lesson, we often end with an “open jam” session where he can play whatever and however he wants (ie. Shredding on the violin with Led Zepplin strings cranked up high in the background!). If someone in the family can join in on an instrument, all the better… One last thing, I think it’s great to expose kids to as many different genres of music in which their instruments are played. With violin, my son has heard lots of classical, bluegrass and Irish music, but we also like to listen to people/bands that play violin in less traditional/more experimental ways (Andrew Bird, Noah and the Whale, Arcade Fire, Emily Wells). It’s inspiring to hear all the different sounds and styles that can come from one instrument.”

Charity Kahn: “Ah, the age-old question! Of course every child and family is different, but here’s what has worked in our family… Patience: Have the patience as a parent to wait ’til your child is seven or eight to start formal lessons. Before that, most children are not developmentally ready to commit to practicing 4-5 times per week, so either practice becomes a struggle between you and your child, or they don’t practice at all and consequently see no improvement and get frustrated or bored. – Practice: Don’t have overly high expectations around practice. Until kids are in middle school, ten minutes four times per week is appropriate. Usually you’ll find they want to play longer of their own volition: bonus! – Participation: Sit with your child during some or all of their practice session and support them emotionally (and musically if you can and if they ask for it). Listen, be present, hold space. Show them that you honor their efforts and time and learning process by being present for it. – Playfulness: As always, keep things light and fun. If your child is constantly struggling or having tearful practices, check with the teacher to make sure they’re not moving too quickly through the material, or suggest they spice the song choices up with something your child is familiar with and is drawn to learn. Also be mindful of not putting too much pressure of your own on your child. – The best modeling of all is to learn or re-visit an instrument yourself and model your own practicing for them. Then some day you’ll all be able to play music together! And there are not many experiences more magical and profound and connecting than making music with other human beings.”

Mike Park: “We have a music room in the garage with a keyboard, drum kit, and guitars. Usually what happens is after dinner I will go out to the practice room and just started playing and the kids will follow without asking. Having daddy play music seems to get them motivated. My son is 2 (almost 3) and can play rudimentary drum patterns. My daughter is a bit older and though lagging behind on her rhythmic skills is still very interested and we usually spend at least 30 minutes every day in that room.”

Steve Weeks: “Wow, this is a tricky one since there are so many factors. Some kids are more goal-oriented than others. Some instruments are harder to master than others, etc. – But I have to say that in my heart I really believe that music is supposed to be enjoyable. Adding too much stress to the early learning process can kill the best part of it. Music is best when it’s played for the love of it, in my opinion. It’s supposed to be magic, so when they’re really young, just let ‘em play. – I would suggest immersing your house in music. Have it on the radio. Take you kids to local concerts. Don’t tell them to knock it off when they’re just plinking around on the piano. Break out that old trumpet and play once in a while… even if you stink. If you’ve never played an instrument, take up the ukelele. You’ll love it I promise, and your kids will see that it’s OK to be a beginner.”

Read the rest of this entry »

HFVS Ice Cream & Lemonade Stands Episode (Radio Show/Podcast)

Listen to Podcast:

ICE CREAM & LEMONADE STANDS EPISODE

Saturday from 9-10am & Sunday from 7-8am
Original Broadcast: August 9th, 2008
WXOJ LP – 103.3 FM – Valley Free Radio
Northampton, MA


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PLAYLIST

Iced Tea Stand (the alternative to the traditional Lemonade Stand) -Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield

  • Louis Prima – “Banana Split for My Baby” [The Wildest!]
  • Telephone Company – “I-C-E C-R-E-A-M” [The King's Surprises?]
  • Michael Hearst – “Ice Cream!” [Songs For Ice Cream Trucks]
  • Station Id: The Harmonica Pocket [www.harmonicapocket.com]
  • Green Means Go – “Ice Cream” [A Day at the Seaside]
  • The Terrible Twos – “Jerzy the Giant’ [Jerzy the Giant]
  • Rhonda Vincent – “Bananaphone” [Sing Along with Putumayo]
  • The Hipwaders – “I Like Summertime” [The Hipwaders]
  • The Dirty Sock Funtime Band – “I’m Hot” [Mr. Clown and the Day the Sun Got Wet]
  • Adam and the Couch Potatoes – “Swimming, Swimming, Swimming” [One Size Fits All]
  • Michael Hearst – “The Sprinkle Twinkle'” [Songs for Ice Cream Trucks]
  • Station Id: Steve Weeks [www.steveweeksmusic.com]
  • Randy Kaplan – “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” [Five Cent Piece]
  • Nathan Abshire – “Lemonade Song” [Kings of Cajun Vol. III]
  • Gunnar Madsen – “Selling Lemonade” [Old Mr. Mackle Hackle]
  • Ralph Covert – “Happy Lemons” [Welcome to Ralph's World]
  • Station Id: Princess Katie & Racer Steve [www.princessracer.com]
  • Peter Himmelman – “Lemonade Stand” [My Lemonade Stand]
  • Sly & The Family Stone – “Hot Fun in the Summertime” [The Essential Sly & the Family Stone]
  • Steve Weeks – “Up!” [Alphabet Songs Vol. III Rabbit Run]

Free Friday Mornings at Tanglewood for Families & Educators this Summer

Students Can Discover the Symphony During Free Friday Mornings at Tanglewood: Summer 2012

(Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

This summer, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood are offering a unique FREE musical learning opportunity for kids in Lenox. MA!  Every Friday morning through August, the orchestra rehearses – and families, educators, homeschool groups, musicians, and other community members are invited to attend the rehearsals for free!

Before each rehearsal, there will be a Youth Music Presentation (including a “Quiz the Kid” Q+A), an engaging and informational tour of Tanglewood, and a pre-rehearsal talk on the music to be played, instruments in the orchestra, and fun facts about the music!  Those participating in the program are offered shed seating at the rehearsal, though kids under the age of 8 are asked to enjoy the show with their grown-ups from the lawn.

Attending the Free Friday Mornings program can teach kids about classical music, and its place within music history (and modern music!).  Kids will also learn about the many different instruments that make up the orchestra’s beautiful sound.  Older students can use the program to supplement studies of physics (think sound waves!), history, and material culture (take a look at how instruments have evolved over time, and how pieces reflect certain cultural eras).  

Education highlights include:

  • A pre-rehearsal youth music presentation and instrument demonstration.
  • An engaging and informative Tanglewood tour—different each week!
  • High level musician educators will give a talk about specific music topics directly related to the upcoming rehearsal (geared for middle school to adults)
  • Shed seating for a closed rehearsal of a Boston Symphony Orchestra performance.
    All ages are welcome, bring the whole family! (Children 3rd grade and up may listen in the Shed, while younger children are invited to enjoy the music from the lawn)
  • Following the rehearsal, guests are welcome explore the grounds, listen to a second hour of rehearsal music from the lawn, or enjoy a picnic lunch under the trees

HOW TO SIGN UP

It is ultra easy to come to a rehearsal, it is done by email. To reserve free Shed seating, simply EMAIL your request to Darlene White at dwhite@bso.org with the number of participants in your party. If you are a parent, educator or a community or youth leader, simply email your request, be sure to include phone and contact information, and your affiliation (such as teacher, parent, etc.).  Also include what Friday (or Fridays) you would like to attend, and how many persons will be attending in your group. If some in your group will be listening from the lawn, let Darlene know that as well. If you like, you can reserve more than one week in advance.

SPECIAL NOTE FOR TEACHERS

The education program runs year round and they have some great education resources, so If you are a teacher, let Darlene know your school, grade level, and subject.

SHED SEATING IS LIMITED

Because Shed seating is limited, reservations are confirmed on a first-come-first-serves basis. Groups are welcome, and it is best – especially for groups – to reserve early.

For more information, email Darlene White at the Boston Symphony Orchestra Berkshire Education and Community Programs Office: dwhite@bso.org.

8 Featured Music CDs for Your Summer Family Road Trip

Summer Roadtrip Music

Listeners to Hilltown Families’ weekly radio show/podcast Hilltown Family Variety Show (HFVS) know all too well about the great independent kids musicians we’ve featured on the show over the past five years.  For this summer we’re reviewing a collection of CD’s to entertain the family while traveling in the car to far off beaches, or your favorite swimming hole here in Western MA, featuring several musicians who have also been our guest DJs.

While not an exhaustive list of the great music recently released or coming out this summer, here are 8 great CDs your family can enjoy this summer:

Alison Faith Levy ♦ World of Wonder

Alison Faith Levy, formerly “Sippy Alison” from the kindie band, The Sippy Cups, has released her debut album this spring, World of Wonder.  In early May this year, Alison guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, putting together an excellent show about all things weather, including two cuts from this new album, “I Love the Rain” and “Eye of the Tornado.” Get a taste of the fabulous music off her new CD by listening to the podcast and check out the video we featured of the title track off this fabulous new album.

Recess Monkey ♦ In Tents

Load up the car pretend the family is running away to the circus with Recess Monkey’s newest CD, In Tents. This circus inspired CD brings in the voices of stellar guest musicians who have guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show over the years, including Dean Jones and Sugar Free Allstars. And the 32-page story book, illustrated by Western MA’s very own children’s author/illustrator, Jarrett Krosoczka, will entertain the kids in the back seat while heading out on your big adventure. In late June, Jack, Daron and Drew will guest DJ the Hilltown Family Variety Show again this summer. Check back on June 23rd for the podcast and a peak at In Tents.

Orange Sherbet ♦ Delicious!

Delicious! celebrates the delights of eating seasonal locally grown foods during all seasons of the year.  Orange Sherbet’s songs off of this new album celebrate farmers’ markets, gardening, the four seasons, and rice & beans… among many other celebratory songs about local food and the seasons.  In late March this year Orange Sherbet guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, spinning tunes off this new album, including “Waffle Day,” “Garden Song,” “Springtime,” and the title track, “Delicious.”  Give the podcast a listen for a taste of this new CD, and check out their featured video.

Hope Harris ♦ Picasso, That’s Who!

Winner of the Parents’ Choice Silver Honor Award for her previous album, Cousins Jamboree, Hope’s newest CD, Picasso, That’s Who! is a celebration of visual artists from the 19th & 20th century. The CD is a lovely way for families to receive musical mini-lessons in art appreciation. Kids can discover many great artists, including Romare Bearden, Jackson Pollock, Paul Klee, David Hockney, Pablo Picasso, Grandma Moses, Alexander Calder, Henri Matisse, Claude Money and Georgia O’Keeffe.

Mo Phillips ♦ Monster Suit

The family will love Mo Phillips fiery blend of Americana, soul and blues in his newest CD, Monster Suit, an album filled with music sometimes reminiscent of Western MA musical legends Woody and Arlo Gutherie.  Mo plays classic acoustic rock ‘n’ roll influence by Neil Young and The Rolling Stones, on topics most families can identify with, like bad hair days and surprising facts about ducks.

Maestro Classics ♦ Casey at the Bat

Stephen Simon and Bonnie Ward Simon, the husband-and-wife team behind Maestro Classics, guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show in early March this year, calling their show “Classical Music Comes Alive.”  Listen to the podcast and get the kids excited with their enthusiasm for sharing classical music with families.  Their series of CDs began in 2004 as an outgrowth of their sold-out family concert series at The Kennedy Center with the Washington Chamber Symphony, for which Stephen served as music director and Bonnie as executive director. Casey at the Bat is a CD from the series that families can enjoy together while exploring classical music in similar fashion as the classic Peter and the Wolf.

The Broadway Lullaby Project ♦ Over the Moon

When the littlest one has fallen asleep on your family road trip, or it’s time for driving into the night, Over the Moon, a compilation of lullabies crafted together by a stellar cast of vocalists, Broadway composers, lyricists and producer, will speak eloquently to all listeners in the car. With piano and/or guitar, songs on this CD are about the love between parents and their kids, and the unique ways this love gets expressed.

Katherine Dines ♦ Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta

A pioneer of the “kindie” music genre, Katherine Dines newest CD, Hunk-Ta-Bunk-Ta, is a collection of her most requested songs over the past twenty years drawn from the eleven CD’s she’s released since 1992. Katherine’s songs tend to find the fun in everyday family life, along with softer inspirational songs. At the end of March this year, Katherine guest DJed the Hilltown Family Variety Show, sharing her life journey in song. The show gives listeners a glimpse into Katherine’s experiences, and features songs from this new album, including “In the Backseat,” “Goosebumps,” and “Imagination.” She also shared the video for her song, “All the Way Around the World,” which you can check out along with the podcast.

 

MUSIC GIVEAWAY: Music Collection from Uncle Rock!

Uncle Rock Returns to the Pioneer Valley
Saturday, March 10th at 10am
At Flywheel Arts Collective in Easthampton, MA

Saturday Morning Music Party Presents a Family Concert with Uncle Rock at Flywheel Arts Collective on Saturday, March 10th at 10am in Easthampton, MA. Enter to win Uncle Rock's entire collection of fabulous music CD's & DVD! (Photo credit: Sienna Wildfield)

Hilltown Families, the No Nap Happy Hour and Flywheel are proud to present a family concert with Uncle Rock as part of the Saturday Morning Music Party in Easthampton at the Flywheel Arts Collective!  On March 10th at 10am Uncle Rock will rock the house and have all members of the family on their feet dancing away the winter blues!  Fill up on free pancakes before the concert, and for a suggested donation of $5 per person ($10 per family), enjoy a fun filled morning with the family!

Leading up to his performance we’re giving listeners of the Hilltown Family Variety Show the opportunity to enter to win Uncle Rock’s entire collection of music CDs & DVD.  One lucky family will walk away with a fabulous collection to add to their family music/video repertoire!  Find out how to enter to win below. Deadline to enter to win is midnight, March 9th!

And the day of the performance while driving on over to Flywheel, be sure to tune into the Hilltown Family Variety Show (103.3FM WXOJ) from 9-10am as Uncle Rock will be our guest DJ!  Encore on Sunday, March 11th from 7-8am and podcast anytime following Saturday’s broadcast right here at www.HilltownFamilies.org!

ABOUT UNCLE ROCK

Uncle Rock has shared stages with Joe Cocker, Vassar Clements and Hanoi Rocks. Hilltown Families has presented Uncle Rock here in Western Mass for performances at the Florence Civic Center in 2008 and at the Children’s Art Museum in 2007, and have had him as our Valentine’s Day guest DJ on the Hilltown Family Variety Show. And our friends over at Spare the Rock have brought Uncle Rock to the Northampton Community Music Center in 2009, the Music Meltdown in 2009/10, and to the Iron Horse in 2010 … Uncle Rock is no stranger to our area, and much admired by many families.

Uncle Rock (a.k.a. Robert Burke), is a musician with a “rock of all ages” persona who blends an inventive rock sound for families. His offbeat approach, plus a dynamic live show, has won critical praise from the L.A. Times & the New York Times. Before his nephew dubbed him “Uncle Rock,” Robert Burke Warren performed as a bass player in many rock and roll bands, including international garage rock titans The Fleshtones. He portrayed the title character in Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story in London’s West End. He’s also co-written songs for multi-Grammy winner Rosanne Cash and Rock & Roll Hall of Famer Wanda Jackson.

Uncle Rock’s CD, The Big Picture won a Parents Choice Award, and he was voted Best Children’s Performer of 2011 by Hudson Valley Magazine. Uncle Rock has participate in several collaborative efforts, including Healthy Food For Thought, which was nominated for a Grammy, and Many Hands: Family Music For Haiti, which has raised over 40k for Haitian relief! – www.unclerock.com.

GIVEAWAY: 5 MUSICAL ADDITIONS TO YOUR FAMILY MUSIC COLLECTION!

Here’s Uncle Rock’s entire catalog of CD’s and DVD which we’re giving away to one very luck family:

PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS: Uncle Rock – AKA Robert Burke Warren – has lost count of the number of parents who have expressed relief and gratitude that a CD has been created that they can enjoy WITH their kids. The former globe-trotting bass player stumbled onto his most satisfying creative endeavor yet as a teacher’s assistant at the rural School Of The New Moon in Mount Tremper, New York, where Uncle Rock was born.

UNCLE ROCK U: Uncle Rock U, a collection of 17 songs, explores the joy, excitement and imagination of childhood. The album also reflects Uncle Rock’s indie-rock background (former bassist with The Fleshtones), his theatrical gifts (the lead in the London production of Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story) and his knack for connecting with children (being a Dad himself, as well as a preschool teacher).

THE BIG PICTURE: Shel Silverstein meets Buddy Holly! The eco-rock on Uncle Rock’s fourth CD is a salute to his musical heroes, with stylistic nods to Bowie, the Stones, Cat Stevens, and Johnny Cash. Cross-generational toe-tappin’ tunes for kids from 2 to 92!

NUMBER 1 DVD: “Uncle Rock is a musical Icon in the Woodstock area,” reviews Amazon. When you go to one of his live concerts, the smiling faces and energy flows as much from the parents in the audience as from the kids. Number 1 DVD captures positive, hopeful energy through a live concert shot at the famed Utopia sound stage in Woodstock, NY, plus five videos.

EXPRESS YOUR ELF: Express Your Elf is a holiday CD with a few surprises, including Uncle Rock’s versions of “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” plus some rockin’ originals! Sure to be a welcome addition to your holiday CD collection!

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win Uncle Rock’s entire collection of music CDs & DVD is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  • CONSIDER SHARING ON FACEBOOK by selecting the Facebook icon below,
  • TELL US HOW THE HILLTOWN FAMILY VARIETY SHOW ENTERTAINS YOUR FAMILY below (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  • FULL NAME (first/last) and where you
  • LIVE (TOWN/STATE) must include your town to be eligible.
  • ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  • We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Friday, 03/09/12 @ 12midnight (EST).

Trumpet Talk: A Look at Culture and History through Musical Instruments

Hitting the Right Note: Trumpet Talk in the Berkshires

Information learned about the trumpet’s place within different cultural contexts throughout time can be used to supplement cultural studies and music history.

As civilization has evolved, so has culture and artistic expression.  Trumpet player and teacher Paul Sundberg will present a workshop Sunday, January 8th at 4pm on the evolution of trumpet music and playing throughout history.

Taking place at the Stockbridge Library, the event will teach attendees about the mechanics of the instrument and its role within many different musical settings throughout history.  Sundberg will also be displaying and demonstrating ten different trumpets, including the flugelhorn, an animal horn, the cornetto, and a cornet.

This event is best for older students and parents, but no musical knowledge is necessary in order for it to be a fun and educational event!  Information learned about the trumpet’s place within different cultural contexts throughout time can be used to supplement work in cultural studies or music history.  It could even serve as an introduction to music history, or it could be just the thing to inspire your kid to try out music making for themselves!  The event takes place in the Bement room at the Stockbridge Library (46 Main Street), and is free for everyone!  You can call the library at 413-298-5501.

[Photo credit: (ccl) Marc Wellekötter]

Fids & Kamily Awards: Top 10 Albums for 2011

Fids & Kamily Awards: 2011

The winners of the Fids & Kamily Awards have been announced!  Launched in 2006 and inspired by the Village Voice’s long-running “Pazz and Jop” music poll, the Fids and Kamily Poll is the first compilation of year-end kids and family music “best of” lists from critics, writers, radio programmers, and others involved in the music industry. Ten favorites are voted on from outstanding releases, including kids and family albums from mainstream/adult artists, seasoned kindie artists and some fantastic newcomers.

For the fifth year in a row, Hilltown Families has participated as a judge for the Fids and Kamily Awards (www.fidsandkamily.com).  Take a look at the top 10 picks and honorable mentions.  Any are sure to make a great gift of music this holiday season.

The Top 10 albums of 2011 are (in order):

  1. Recess MonkeyFLYING!
  2. Dan Zanes and Friends – Little Nut Tree
  3. Frances England – Mind of My Own
  4. Caspar Babypants - Sing Along!
  5. Lunch Money – Original Friend
  6. Brady RymerLove Me for Who I Am
  7. The Deedle Deedle DeesStrange Dees, Indeed
  8. The Jimmies – Practically Ridiculous
  9. Lucky Diaz and the Family Jam BandOh Lucky Day!
  10. Gustafer YellowgoldGustafer Yellowgold’s Infinity Sock

Honorable Mentions (unranked next ten):


Related posts:

History of Brass Musical Instruments

Music History: Brass Instruments

The Premier Brass Quintet presents The History of Brass Musical Instruments through performance and show and tell on Sunday , Oct. 16th in Southwick. The antique musical instruments used in the program are authentic historic pieces, and were made between 1800 to 1900.

The First Congregational Church of Southwick presents an free opportunity for older students to learn about the history of brass instruments!  This unique opportunity will give participants a specific glimpse into music history.

Mark your calendars… The Premier Brass Quintet will perform at the church on Sunday, October 16th at 7pm. Accompanying the performance will be a show-and-tell that provides a history of brass instruments and shows audience members authentic instruments made and used during the 19th century.

The group will play a mix of classic literature combined with modern pieces in order to musically illustrate the evolution of music written for brass instruments.

Presented by the Southwick Cultural Council and the Massachusetts Cultural Council.  The First Congregational Church is located at 488 College Hwy in Southwick, MA.


[Photo credit: (ccl) Brian Wolfe]

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