Music for the Community

Welcome to our Music for the Community page! Since we can't take our music out to local nursing homes and libraries at the moment, we're inviting you in to enjoy it here instead. Each day you'll find a new student performance on this page, along with some info about the composer or instrument - and sometimes words too so you can sing along. 

If you're interested in a particular category, you can sort performances by student age, instrument, singalong music, composer and so on - click on the orange tags under the text. We hope you and your family will enjoy watching our students share their music! 

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Wednesday, May 13 2020 00:00

Day 28: Etude by Suzuki (Skills, part 3)

Violinist age 8 plays Etude by Suzuki 

An etude (French for “study”) is a technical piece that’s more complicated than a simple scale, but still focuses on teaching one new technical skill to prepare for more complex music using that skill. 
This student is almost ready to move beyond basic folk songs and tackle the easier music of Bach and other classical composers. To do this, he’ll need to learn a new fingering pattern which goes beyond the basic set-up that complete beginners learn. This lively Etude has many repetitions of this new pattern, helping him to build the muscle memory to be able do it without much thought.
In turn, that muscle memory will serve him well in the Bach Minuet he’ll meet next, leaving him free to keep his focus on the music. He already has this new technique well under control, and is even comfortable enough to throw in a little spur-of-the-moment inspiration on his final note - to the amusement of his audience.

Violinist age 8 plays Go Tell Aunt Rhody

Continuing yesterday’s theme of learning musical structure, students have a lot of fun singing about poor John, who really overdid it on the snack food! See below for the words.
Meanwhile, though, they’re taking in more complicated rhythms (mix of slow and fast notes), and a new phrase structure (A1, A2, B1, B2, A1, A2 – see here for explanation) – so putting the notes together on their instrument is made much easier. 
Along with this musical understanding comes quicker technical development. If you watch this student’s bow closely, you’ll see he’s doing a great job of using shorter bows on the shorter notes and longer bows on the longer ones – because having internalized the music more easily, he has enough of his brain freed up to handle this challenge.
(A1) Go, tell Aunt Rhody - John is very sick.
(A2) Go, tell Aunt Rhody - John is sick in bed.
(B1) He ate some popcorn, then some candyfloss,
(B2) Then peanut butter on his bread!
(A1) Go, tell Aunt Rhody - John is very sick.
(A2) Go, tell Aunt Rhody - John is sick in bed.

We're doing something a little different this week - taking you on a journey from the earliest stages of learning an instrument through to musical mastery. First, our beginners who are just learning to pick out a simple tune...

Pianists age 4 play Twinkle, right hand and left hand

There’s so much learning going on right here! First, we show two videos today so you can hear a basic feature of the piano – notes played with the right hand are higher in pitch (actually, they vibrate faster), while those played with the left hand are lower in pitch (they vibrate slower). Since you play these notes with different sides of your body, the concept of pitch is also reinforced through movement. Ears, hands and intellect all begin to make cross-connections (for string players, we have other ways to achieve the same thing).
Meanwhile, the Twinkle song needs no introduction, and its simple notes and structure make it work for beginners on pretty much any instrument. But - did you know that it’s also a “sandwich” piece?
Bread (“A” music) Twinkle, twinkle, little star - how I wonder what you are!
Cheese (“B” music) Up above the world so high
Cheese (“B music again) Like a diamond in the sky,
Bread (“A” music again) Twinkle, twinkle, little star - how I wonder what you are!
Beginners are thrilled to discover that as soon as they can play the first piece of “bread” and slice of “cheese” - they can actually play the whole song! As we teach them to recognize these overall musical patterns easily, they quickly develop a sense of mastery over new material.
This is your kid's brain on music! 

Violinist age 9 plays "Spring" from Vivaldi's Four Seasons, first movement

We’ve finally had some great spring days over the past week – we hope you’ve managed to get outside and enjoy them! With spring really getting underway, this seems like the perfect time to offer this beautiful sound picture.

Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi lived from 1678 – 1741 (more or less at the same time as Bach), and his "Four Seasons" violin concertos are among his most beloved compositions. Each movement of each season is paired with a poem, and it’s thought that Vivaldi may have written these too. 

Here’s his poem for this first movement of the "Spring" concerto - and where in the video you'll hear the matching music:

Springtime is upon us. [opening theme]
The birds celebrate her return with festive song, [00:36]
and murmuring streams are
softly caressed by the breezes. [1:25]
Thunderstorms, those heralds of Spring, roar, [thunder at 2:03, lightning at 2:06, rain at 2:14 on]
casting their dark mantle over heaven,
Then they die away to silence, [2:43 - 2:53]
and the birds take up their charming songs once more. [2:53]

Painting the full picture takes a lot of notes - you might notice the young violinist moving over from one page to the next a couple of times!


Thursday, May 07 2020 00:00

Day 24: Down Pony, Up Pony

Violinist age 5 plays Twinkle Variation C, "Down Pony, Up Pony"

Here is another variation on Twinkle, from one of our young Wayland Rec beginners. Again, this bowing pattern will show up later in much more advanced repertoire.

For violin, viola and cello, we call this variation “DOWN pony, UP pony” to emphasize the alternating direction of the strong bow strokes. Others like to call it “Long, short-short, Long, short-short”, while our Suzuki piano teachers often use “Run Mommy, Run Daddy”. Pick one of these, and see if you can keep up singing it all the way through - or maybe chase Mom and Dad around the house!

Wednesday, May 06 2020 00:00

Day 23: Beethoven’s “Für Elise"

Pianist age 11 plays Beethoven’s “Für Elise (For Elise)”

Who was the mysterious Elise for whom Beethoven wrote this short but very famous piece? There are quite a few possible candidates!

One is German soprano Elizabeth Rockel, who sang in Beethoven’s opera Fidelio. She met with Beethoven quite often, and it’s known that he wanted to marry her at one time. Another soprano called Elise Barensfeld has also been suggested, although less is known about her.

But in fact, what  Beethoven actually wrote on the manuscript was not "Für Elise" - but "Für Therese"! It’s widely acknowledged that the Therese in question was Therese Malfatti, to whom Beethoven proposed marriage in 1810, the same year he composed the piece. As further evidence, she was also the owner of the manuscript.

She must have been rather put out when - thanks to a sloppy copywriter who made the 19th century equivalent of a typo - her name on the published version of the work was changed to someone else’s!

Tuesday, May 05 2020 00:00

Day 22: Mary had a Little Lamb

Flutist age 6 plays Mary had a Little Lamb

“Mary had a Little Lamb” is one of the simplest pieces for beginners on pretty much any instrument. It uses only three notes in a simple up and down pattern – and pretty much everyone knows the words!
Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb –
Mary had a little lamb; fleece was as white as snow. 
We’ll add this same piece on other instruments later, so you can compare their sound directly.

Cellist age 16 plays Allegro Appassionato by Saint-Saens

French composer Camille Saint-Saens (pronounced Sanh-Sonh) was born in Paris in 1835. By the time he was three he was picking out tunes on the piano, and his great-aunt started teaching him. He made his professional debut at the age of 10, and also became a brilliant organist. 

His first job was as a church organist, which allowed him time to pursue his interests in piano and composing. He later became a beloved teacher at a school for future organists and choirmasters, and wrote his famous “Carnival of the Animals” with his students in mind (although he didn’t finish it till much later, after he left the school). 

Saint-Saëns was a keen traveler - from the 1870s until the end of his life he made 179 trips to 27 countries! His performances took him mostly to Germany and England; for vacations, and to avoid Parisian winters which affected his weak lungs, he often went to Algiers and Egypt in north Africa.  
At his last public recital in 1921 it was noted that his playing was “as vivid and precise as ever”, and that he appeared “admirable for a man of eighty-six”. He died about a month later in Algiers, after a long and full musical life.
Friday, May 01 2020 00:00

Day 20: "Ode to Joy" by Beethoven

Adult violin student plays "Ode to Joy"

People the whole world over are familiar with Beethoven’s Ode to Joy, from the glorious finale of his 9th Symphony. Its message of hope and unity is a fitting one for these very challenging times. 
While theofficial” version features a full symphony orchestra and chorus, with as many as 200 people performing together*, part of the genius of this melody is its simplicity – which makes it very accessible to students even in the early stages. This lovely arrangement was made by this student’s multi-talented teacher, who accompanies him on viola. 
We love our adult students and their willingness to be beginners at a new activity, reassuring younger students that adults still have things to learn! 
*This linked performance of the London Philharmonic Orchestra includes WSM Director Penny Wayne-Shapiro in the first violin section. See if you can spot her on the fourth stand of first violins, outside chair.
Thursday, April 30 2020 00:00

Day 19: Schubert Sonatina in D

Violinist age 10 plays Schubert Sonatina in D, third movement

Viennese composer Franz Schubert lived only from 1797 to 1828, but he managed to compose a vast amount of music in that short time – over 600 songs, seven symphonies, a large amount of piano and chamber music (music for a small group of players), operas, and church music. 

The 12th of 14 children, his musical gifts were obvious early on. He started piano lessons with his brother at 5, and violin lessons with his father at 8, but he soon outgrew their ability to teach him. After finishing his training he became a schoolteacher and also gave private music lessons, earning just enough money for his basic needs, including clothing, manuscript paper, pens, and ink, but with little to no money left over for luxuries. His life was never easy, but he did have a small circle of admirers in Vienna. Today, though, Schubert is considered one of the greatest composers of Western classical music, and his heartfelt music continues to be popular.

A sonata is a composition for one or two (occasionally three) instruments, frequently including a piano; and a sonatina literally means a “little sonata” – something shorter and easier. The piano is an equal partner here, with each performer taking turns to have the tune or the accompaniment. This lively movement in 6/8 time is based on a gigue, or jig.

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