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Saturday, March 19, 2011

Full Moon Special!

Did you know?

Tonight's will be a special Perigree full moon.

The moon will be the closest it ever is to the earth in its elliptical orbit and will appear 14% larger to viewers on earth.  The last time this happened was 1983 and it will be that long into the future until it happens again!  It will appear largest in the east around sunset.

Several years ago, a beautiful full moon coaxed me out to the back yard to gaze upwards with my children.  A treasured time then, with them both off to college, even a more treasured memory now.

That night's observation gave birth to a mountain dulcimer solo I named simply, Full Moon.  (click the link to listen)

I recorded it and later included it as part of the soundtrack commission for a marvelous video project, Serenade to the Canada Goose.

The tune was also included in the first compilation CD released by Dulcimer Players News later that year.

So, I'm getting ready:
I'm gonna heat some water, drink some hot chocolate.

I can't wait to see what tonight's full moon special will bring!!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Pepper Song

Here's a song that was inspired by one of those spontaneous statements from a child at one of the Early Childhood centers where I get to share folk music.

"I don't like Peppers!" was the exclamation, which sure sounded like the start of a new song...which is exactly what we proceeded to create.

And, true to form, the kids had lots of creative ideas, which of course lead to creative participation in both the song creation and performance.

Other children at other centers have embraced it as one of their favorites!

Here is the latest mix to come from my recording process as I work on a recording of music for the kids that I love to share music with.

The Pepper Song

As we started tracking, it started to head in a western, mariachi-style direction and Russ (KIVA RECORDS) coaxed me into bringing my trumpet in.  

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

In the Studio

Old Black Cat & Kitty Puss on Galax Style
Dulcimer built by Ben Seymour
It has been a while!   2007 was the last time that I was in the studio working on a new recording project of my own, not being a session musician for someone else's project.

Being reunited with Russ Hopkins at KIVA Records has got the creative juices flowing!

In co-production with Russ I've been recording and polished tracks since December and we're having a great time honoring Old-Time songs and the people from whom I learned them, as well as new and old songs for kids.

The process is evolving into at least (2) recordings:  Porch Pickin' Old Time and a Kids Recording.

Here is a demo sample of the Old Time:  Kitty Puss (that I learned from my friend Don Pedi in North Carolina.

And here is another demo sample of a one of the Kids' Project tunes.
Old Black Cat Couldn't Catch A Rat is another traditional tune I learned from Don Pedi.

However, when I play this with kids in my Early Childhood Classes, they can't figure out why the cat couldn't catch the rat.

So we started to make up verses and came up with a pretty good tale of explanation!  (The Folk Process at work!)

The recording, listening, adding, subtracting and editing are a part of the creative process that I so fully enjoy, it is hard to find words to describe it!

So, let's play!            (photos by Russ Hopkins)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Long-Distance School Songwriting "Residency"

What a great time this morning!

Student's Song Ideas from November 2010 Workshop
at Montrose Elementary School, Bexley, Ohio
I woke up early to get connected with a school that I'm working with in the Eastern Time Zone so we could have Skype Lessons with the music classes at Montrose Elementary in Bexley, Ohio.

Bill Manchester and Nonon Matthews are the teachers for these lucky students!  They are creative, inspired and inspiring teachers who are helping their students explore their creativity and equip them with skills to engage and interact with their world and their imaginations!

Thanks to funding support from grants within the Bexley City School system, I've been contracted to conduct a year-long, long-distance "residency" with these students, to help them with songwriting.

The overall theme for the school year is "What's Your Story?" and creating songs as a vehicle for telling those stories is a perfect fit.

We began with me being present with them for (2) days of workshops in November, to get acquainted and begin talking about songs, and trying out our ideas.

Chicken on a Fence Post
We have continued to correspond via a special googlesites page I set up (Mr. Steve's Songwriting Workshop) on which I post lessons, examples and resources, and they share their song ideas, beginnings, fragments and recordings of their demos!

In today's Skype lessons, I was able to meet with two classes (and the strings class came in to accompany the group singing "Old Joe Clark") to sing and play with them, and brainstorm and work on the song ideas further.

Bailey's 2nd Grade Class is working on a song about going to Market for food, but finding the food (a chicken) entertaining them!

Here is a screen shot of our Skype Lesson
(I'm in the lower Left Hand Corner but they are watching me on the screen in their classroom)

They are singing "Chicken on a Fence Post" as the verse and "Old Joe Clark" as the chorus.

The Birthday Song
Miller's 2nd Grade Class's song is about the excitement that comes with a birthday party.

Normally, a school residency takes place within a shorter amount of time (like a week or a few days).  By conducting this residency over the year, we aim to have a lasting effect that a "one-shot" concert or workshop cannot accomplish.

We will continue to meet long-distance and share our ideas, hone these and other songs, and then I will travel to Ohio in early May for (2) more days of workshops and the schools big Arts Festival.

Thanks to the vision of these teachers and the school staff, and some effective use of technology we are helping to awaken and equip these young people to have creative skills to apply in all parts of their lives!

I love my job!