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.

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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…

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 »

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…

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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

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

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

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

Classical Music Comes Alive this Saturday on the Hilltown Family Variety Show

Classical Music Comes Alive
Hilltown Family Variety Show this Weekend

The Hilltown Families Variety Show presents Guest DJs Bonnie Ward Simon and Stephen Simon, the husband-and-wife team behind Maestro Classics, this weekend! Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM (Northampton, MA) on Saturday, March 3rd from 9-10am & Sunday, March 4th from 7-8am. or anytime to the Hilltown Family Variety Show podcast.

Bonnie Ward Simon and Stephen Simon, the husband-and-wife team behind Maestro Classics, winner of over 50 prestigious awards for its Stories In Music CD series, will serve as guest program hosts for a special “Stories in Music with the Creators of Maestro Classics” radio broadcast of Hilltown Family Variety Show on Northampton radio station 103.3FM WXOJ-LP (Valley Free Radio) on Saturday, March 3 from 9-10am and Sunday, March 4 from 7-8am. Hilltown Family Variety Show programs are also available as podcast and posted immediate following their broadcast here on HilltownFamilies.org.

With a treasure trove of music and stories, Bonnie and Stephen Simon will take listeners on a magical journey on their Hilltown Family Variety Show segment, with offerings from luminaries like Rossini, Tchaikovsky, and Handel performed by a variety of ensembles ranging from the London Philharmonic Orchestra to the Michigan State University Marching Band, with an electro-pop dance remix of music from Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale thrown in! The program kicks off in rousing fashion with the New York Philharmonic blazing through Rossini’s William Tell Overture, then downshifts to an elegant performance by the Kirov Orchestra of a selection from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker before Arthur Fiedler takes the field, conducting John Philip Sousa’s The Stars and Stripes Forever.

Other highlights include excerpts from Peter and the Wolf, a bit of original Dixieland jazz, and even the complete Maestro Classics story-with-music of The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, familiar to listeners from the Disney movie Fantasia. Throughout the program, Bonnie and Stephen Simon interweave their special brand of friendly, informative narrative, making for a truly memorable hour of family radio listening.

A complete playlist and podcast available immediately following Saturday’s broadcast here at HilltownFamilies.org.

ABOUT STEPHEN SIMON & BONNIE WARD SIMON AND MAESTRO CLASSICS

Maestro Classic began in 2004 as an outgrowth of over a decade of sold-out Stories and Music family concerts at The Kennedy Center with the Washington Chamber Symphony, for which Stephen Simon served as music director and Bonnie Ward Simon as executive director. Experience convinced the Simons that if you educated as you entertained, developed sophisticated strategies that sparked the interest of parents as well as children, and offered only the finest musical performances, all children could develop an appreciation of symphonic music. www.maestroclassics.com

Stephen Simon, co-creator with Bonnie Ward Simon of the Maestro Classics Stories in Music™ series of CDs, is one of the most respected symphony conductors in the United States. For 25 years he brought creative programming to The Kennedy Center as music director of the Washington Chamber Symphony. Maestro Simon has been critically acclaimed for such innovations as presenting Beethoven Symphonies performed by an appropriately sized orchestra and for programming new compositions in a manner that allows audiences to conclude that not all contemporary works are painful! He also labored to resurrect forgotten musical gems by composers such as Clementi and Voricek, the “Czech Mozart.” During those years, he teamed with Bonnie Ward Simon to create extremely successful multi-generational programming for young people and their families.

Bonnie Ward Simon is president of Maestro Classics and executive producer/creative director for Stories in Music. From 1989-1998, she was the executive director of the Washington Chamber Symphony, the resident chamber orchestra at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC. An authority in the field of children’s music education, she has served as an advisor to Scholastic Publications and is an internationally published writer in the fields of music and children.

All Things Celtic this Saturday on the Hilltown Family Variety Show

Parents’ Choice Gold Award Winner Ted Jacobs
Brings the Celtic World Alive on the
Hilltown Family Variety Show this Weekend

The Hilltown Families Variety Show presents Guest DJ Ted Jacobs this weekend! On Saturday, November 19th from 9-10am, Jacobs will share songs from his albums, “A Child’s Garden of Songs” and “Back to the Garden” (musical adaptations of selections from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses), as well as his love of all things Celtic, with listeners. Jacobs’ music features traditional Celtic instruments such as fiddles, bag pipes, and pennywhistles, and the show will feature a kid-friendly discussion of the history of Celtic culture and the Gaelic language. Also, accompanying his poetry-inspired work, Jacobs will explain how he works to pair music to verses! Tune in to WXOJ 103.3FM (Northampton, MA) on Sat., 11/19 from 9-10am (encore will air on Sun. 11/20 from 7-8am) or anytime to the Hilltown Family Variety Show podcast. Listen in to learn more about music composing, song writing and a fascinating culture!

Award-winning, Los Angeles-based musician/composer Ted Jacobs is dedicated to presenting exquisite acoustic musical settings of the world’s most beloved poetry.  Ted will bring his love for all things Celtic to Hilltown Family Variety Show as the program’s “Guest DJ”  on Saturday, November 19 at 9:00 a.m. and Sunday, November 20 at 7:00 a.m.  Hilltown Family Variety Show is broadcast every Saturday and Sunday on Northampton radio station 103.3FM WXOJ-LP (Valley Free Radio) and may also be heard online on the Hilltown Family Variety Show podcast immediately following the airing on Saturday.

Ted Jacobs will regale his listeners with Celtic poetry, music, and narrative.   He’ll discuss such Celtic instruments as fiddles, bag pipes, uilleann pipes, accordion, pennywhistles, bodhran, bones, and spoons, and will delve into Celtic origins, covering the various Celtic tribes  (Scottish, Irish, French, Spanish) and providing an overview of the Gaelic language.   A section on the gifts the Celts brought with them to America (music, dance, and food) will include American songs of Celtic origin, such as  “Shenandoah.”  In the food department, Ted will expound upon the delights of haggis!

Possessing a special expertise in the poetry of Robert Louis Stevenson, Ted Jacobs will share fascinating details of Stevenson’s life and will outline his process for matching poems to songs, demonstrating with spoken and sung versions of Stevenson’s  “My Ship and I,” “The Swing,” “My Shadow,” “Farewell to the Farm,”  and “The Moon.” Other music on this program will include selections by  Altan, Old Blind Dogs, and The Chieftains, as well as a trio of songs of longing:  Paul McCartney’s “Mull of Kintyre,” Andy Irvine’s “My Heart’s Tonight in Ireland, and Van Morrison’s “Into the Mystic.”

ABOUT TED JACOBS

Ted Jacobs’ first two albums, A Child’s Garden Of Songs (1999, with songs based on poetry from Robert Louis Stevenson’s A Child’s Garden of Verses) and The Days Gone By (2000, with songs based on poetry of Eugene Field, Emily Dickinson, Edgar Allen Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, and James Whitcomb Riley) were honored with the prestigious Parent’s Choice® Award, with A Child’s Garden of Songs receiving a Parents’ Choice® Silver Honor Award and The Days Gone By taking home a Parents’ Choice® Gold Award.  The Days Gone By was additionally honored by Parents’ Choice® as one of their “25 Best Albums of the Last 25 Years.”  Both albums also received NAPPA (National Parenting Publications) Gold Awards.  Ted Jacobs’  2011 release, Back to the Garden (2011), is the long-awaited companion to A Child’s Garden of Songs.
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