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Sunday, February 14, 2016

Now for something different on Valentine's Day!

by Steve Eulberg

Dear Patrons,  (This post was originally written on my PATREON page.  If you'd like to be MY supporter, you can click on this link to find out how your support helps me.)

This post is unusual because it isn't about what I've been able to produce, but it IS about how art inspires art.  

Grit Laskin,  a member of my union local (Local 1000 AFM-American Federation of Musicians), is a builder of amazing guitars.  (I have loved every one that I've had a chance to play!)

Grit's artistry is not confined to the sonic qualities of building, but he is particularly known for the visual artistry in the one-of-a-kind inlay that he custom designs and builds on the headstock and necks of his guitars.

I have only seen a few of these in person, but I was transfixed by his now-out-of-print coffee table book, A Guitarmaker’s Canvas—The Inlay Art Of Grit LaskinThe beauty and imagination from those pages inspired me.

As my local 1000 sister, Cathy Fink, says in the video above, not only is she fortunate to be Grit's friend for 40 years, she and Marcy are stewards of some of his instruments, which inspire them in their music-making and creation.

So, on this Valentine's Day, here is my Valentine for you, my patrons:  this art, to which I have no connection other than being drawn in and bewitched by its beauty, gives me encouragement to follow my muses as they whisper and beckon me forward on my creative path.

Your support helps me to keep my focus and move forward on the stumbling steps of creativity.  Thanks for being my Valentines!


Friday, February 5, 2016

FINALIST in 2015 Song Contest!

I received the following email this morning:

"Dear Steve,

  Congratulations The MY HERO Project  and Guitars in the Classroom have selected your song "I Am A Pond" to be a finalist in our 2015 Hero Song Contest. 

Voting ballots are going out to teachers and music professionals and winners will be announced on March 1, 2016

Thank You,
Stuart Pearlman
MY HERO Audio Manager"

Of course I am tickled by this!  (I believe it was entered into the ECO Song Contest).  
Both of these organizations are pretty amazing groups of people with life-changing and affirming goals.

So there you go.  Inspired by the curriculum of the naturalist director of a youth camp, I wrote this theme song, which has been endorsed by a macrobiologist at Colorado State University as "true and accurate in every part."  It has been used in a middle school science curriculum and sung at church camps and youth events.

It was recorded in 2001 and now, 15 years later, a Finalist for an award that didn't exist when the song was conceived and born.

Ain't life grand?

Watch a live performance of the song below:

Listen to (and purchase) the recorded track here:

This tune was recorded on my 2001 CD, Soaring

The Playalong Book is downloadable here
The Soaring Recording is downloadable here
The physical CD can be purchased and mailed to you here.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Ashes sung by a Children's Choir

Many years ago, as Ash Wednesday approached, I found myself singing the ditty, "ashes, ashes, we all fall down."  As I began to ponder what song to use for the imposition of ashes in our service, I was suddenly stuck in the spell of the songwriting muse when I was able to do nothing until this song was complete!

The "ashes, ashes" theme became the spark that I developed into a hymn for Ash Wednesday (which begins the Christian liturgical season of Lent), building on the traditional text from Matthew, but also including Job and Luke in the verses.

This song has been sung for the Ash Wednesday worship at several different congregations through the years since it was composed, but this year I was offered a special treat.

My Music Together colleague, Liesl McPherrin, wrote and asked if the music was available for her 3rd-4th Grade Choir at St. Matthew's Episcopal School to sing for their chapel service on Ash Wednesday.  After she received it and began rehearsing, she requested that I come to a rehearsal and let the students "meet the composer."

So early this past Wednesday morning I met the students in their Music Room before school and they warmed up and sang through the song.

I sat there with chills, hearing these children's voices.  I had never heard a children's choir sing the song, but their voices were the perfect match.  And the accompanist was hearing the music I intended and often perform, but which wasn't written on the page in order to keep it accessible for the majority of accompanists.  It was a taste of heaven!

Together we talked about how the song came about and I gave some feedback on their delivery after we explored the meaning of the text.

They sang it again with attentive response to their director and then were eager to join me for this selfie before I left to teach Music Together Classes.

Liesl, their director, asked how many children were alumni of Music Together.  They looked puzzled until I started singing, Hello, Everybody... and then there was much recognition.  As I left, I sang the Goodbye, so long farewell my friends, closing song and they all joined!

What a treasure this day was!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

"Shaped Wind, Breath, Spirit, the Animating Force..." how I began my multi-cultural educational presentation at the Peninsula Multi-Faith Coalition meeting this past Monday evening.

Starting with Native American flute and then moving to Australian Didjeridoo, I demonstrated this animating force and commented on the connections it has with all of the various faith traditions gathered in the room.

Then moving to djembe, a drum that was designed for healing (like a chalice) in Mali, I recalled that some people believe that our first religion, as humans, was dance, right after we started drumming.

(As a parent of two, and a current preschool music teacher in Peninsula Music Together, I can attest to the truth that we are all percussionists First!)

Another characteristic of African drummers is the awareness or belief that the rhythms are eternal and that what we are seeking to do is to create the conditions for them to come and inhabit us for a time, flowing through us for the good of the community.

After this I demonstrated how the music of Chinese, Arabic and African-American people can be played on the Hammered Dulcimer without retuning, simply by starting in a different place and playing the scales native to each.

Contradicting scholar Stephen Pinker, who once declared that music was "auditory cheesecake," I shared what the rest of the scholarly community knows about the power of music:

It helps us get together to find partners to keep the species going.
It helps us build group identity and cohesion.
It can soothe infants (and perhaps keep them safe in times of danger).  [The brain waves and heart rates of both mother and child have been documented to settle into very calm rhythms with the singing of a lullabye, a condition which lasts for more than 30 minutes after the singing has ended.]

I related a story from my own parenting:  When my son, Zach, had night terrors, the only song that would calm him was the African-American spiritual, Wade in the Water (which we had just gotten done singing as a group.)

I shared Pete Seeger's Preface in the new Rise Again Songbookwhich I just received as a gift for Christmas.

"The older I get, the more I am convinced that if there's a human rase in a hundred years, one of the main reasons will be that we found ways we can sing together.  Different religions, different languages—the act of singing together makes us realize we're human beings.  We can't put it in words.  To a certain extent all the arts are important—the dancing arts!  Cooking arts! Humor arts! Sports!

But if we're still here I believe singing will be a main reason why.  Not solo singing, singing together.  Families can sing together.  Strangers can sing together.  People who think they hate each other can sing together.  

And perhaps if we find the right songs, even people who are so filled with hate they are ready to pull the trigger on somebody—we can reach them too.  Who knows?"

I then sang a snippet from a Russian lullabye:  (phonetically spelled here)

Poost veg dah, bood yet solhnsay
Poost veg dah, bood yet nyaybah
Poost veg dah, bood yet mama
Poost veg dah, bood do yah.

May there always be sunshine,
May there always be blue skies,
May there always be Mama,
May there always be me.

It was been said that when the soldiers were called to the Kremlin at the end of the USSR, their mothers and babushkas lined the roads and sang this to them, and they didn't fire upon the crowds.

Music is powerful.  They found a song that kept them from pulling the trigger.

Then my wonderful spouse, Connie, joined me in singing Santa Cruz songwriter, Jon Fromer's amazing song:  Gonna Take Us All

It IS gonna take us all, and we CAN do it.