New music!

This morning I woke up to these birds chirping a sweet little melody, and I got all inspired! I pulled out my iPod and composed this little ditty while in bed 🙂 I even took a sample of the birds and used it in the recording. Hope you enjoy it!

 

Black Music History Facts: Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis

Hello!

I know it’s been a few days since my last post. I was a bit under the weather, please forgive me. 😔

But I’m back! For today’s post of black music history fun facts, we have the amazing songwriting and music production team, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis! When I think of 80s and 90s R&B, they’re who I think of. They helped to make some of your favorite R&B hits, and if you don’t know about them…it’s time!

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  • James Samual “Jimmy Jam” Harris III and Terry Steven Lewis have been making hit after hit since 1982.
  • Jimmy Jam is the son of famous Minneapolis jazz and blues musician, Cornbread Harris.
  • Harris and Lewis met in high school in Minneapolis and formed a band called, Flyte Tyme, which became The Time.
  • Morris Day joined them in ’81 and they toured with Prince.
  • They produced their first record for the SOS Band.
  • They were known for being one of the few who used the Roland TR-808 drum machine
  • They produced Janet Jackson’s breakthrough album, Control in ’86. (Won a Grammy)
  • In ’89, they hit it again with Janet Jackson’s Rhythm Nation 1814 (4 Billboard Hot 100 No. 1 hits)
  • In 1990 Jam And Lewis recorded “Pandemonium” with The Time, which was released on Prince’s Paisley Park Records.
  • In 2005, they opened up their recording studios in Sana Monica, Flyte Tyme West.
  • They have 31 top ten hits on the charts in the US and the UK
  • Acts they’re associated with: The Time, Prince, Janet Jackson, Michael Jackson, The SOS Band, Boyz II Men, Usher, Rod Stewart, Mariah Carey, Chaka Khan, New Edition, Patti LaBelle, and more!

    Here’s a short interview:

    And a playlist of some of their hits: 

Black Music History Facts: William Grant Still

Hey hey!

It’s day 2 of Black History Month, and I’m back with more black music history fun facts!

William Grant Stills is a classical composer and gas had major orchestras play his compositions. He was a trailblazer for the African Americans in the world of classical music.

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  • Born May 11, 1895 in Woodville, Mississippi
  • He started taking violin lessons at the age of 15. He then taught himself clarinet, saxophone, oboe, double bass, cello, and viola (He was pretty amazing, no?)
  • Still actually went on to Wilberforce University to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree.
  • He conducted the band at his university and started composing and orchestrating…all while teaching himself to play more instruments.
  • Received a scholarship to study at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.
  • He was a student of George Whitefield Chadwick and later Edgard Varèse. (Both were composers/musicians)
  • Worked as an arranger for popular music
  • Played in the pit for various musicals
  • In 1934, we starting writing his first opera. He went on to write 8 operas.
  • In 1949 his opera, Troubled Island, was performed by the New York City Opera. It was the first opera by an African American to be performed by a major company.
  • He went on to conduct the New Orleans Philharmonic in 1955. He was the first African American to conduct a major orchestra in the south.
  • He was also the first African American to have an opera performed on television in the US. A Bayou Legend premiered on PBS in 1981.

Afro-American Symphony – I. Moderato Assai

This symphony was the first one written by an African American and performed in the US by a major orchestra. As you’ll hear, this piece has classical and blues elements. The best of both worlds!

 

 

 

Black Music History Facts: Lena Horne

Happy Black History Month!

I love history, I love music, and I love my fellow black folks 🙂

Every day this month, I’ll be posting black music history fun facts. Today’s feature is the amazing, elegant, and strong, Lena Horne.

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  • Born June 30th, 1917.
  • She was in the Chorus line of the Cotton Club when she was 16.
  • Moved to Hollywood and started playing small roles in films, then moved on to bigger roles in 1943 (Cabin in the Sky and Stormy Weather)
  • First African-American signed to a long-term studio contract
  • She was one of the first to work on both sides of the “color line”. She sang with both white and black swing and jazz groups.
  • She was blacklisted as a Communist because of her participation in the Civil Rights Movement and her friendship with Paul Robeson and W.E.B. DuBois, who were activists.
  • Received Honorary Doctorate from Howard University in 1980
  • Her career spanned over 70 years
  • More of a random fact….she guest starred on The Cosby Show and A Different World back in the 80s and 90s (two of my favorite shows haha)

– Bri

Holiday Student Feature: Brianna L.

Happy Holidays!

It may be a few days after Christmas, but it’s still the holiday season.

You may remember Brianna from my first student feature, she’s a voice student of mine. Here we are singing a duet of Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas. We had about 2 weeks to crank it out, and it was a lot of fun! Hope you all enjoy and have a happy holiday 🙂

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Holiday Student Feature: Shiloh and Levi

Happy holidays, everybody!

Tonight (Christmas eve), I’ll be posting all my amazing students playing some holiday favorites. The first one is a two for one deal, Levi and Shiloh! They’re brother and sister, and some of the smartest, talented, and kindest kids I know. I’ve been teaching them for about 4 months, and they’ve learned so much in that short amount of time. I hope you enjoy what they’ve prepared for you 🙂

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Levi decided he wanted to play a duet with me, and we chose Deck the Halls. Levi is 10 years old and an advanced beginner.

 

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Shiloh played Jolly Old St. Nicholas. She’s 5 years old, and a beginner.

Sunday Student Features: William T.

Hello and Happy Halloween!

This week for my Sunday Student Feature, I present to you my classical piano student, William (Will)! He’s a very intelligent, eager, headstrong and talented 13-year-old. He’s been taking piano with me for about 6 months. He’s one of the few students I have that genuinely love Classical music. He’s very eager to learn as much as he can about it. He had already taught himself quite a bit before we met and he’s also great at playing by ear. What we mostly work on in our lessons are technique and reading music. Will has also expressed an interest in composing, which I am very excited to work on more with him as time goes on. This young man is a very hard worker and has an insane amount of potential. As I say about all my students, it’s truly a privilege to be a part of his musical journey, and I hope it takes him far 🙂

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William chose to play an excerpt from the First Movement of Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. He only had the piece for a couple of weeks prior to filming this video. Being a student in all AP classes and balancing piano lessons, is not an easy task. But Will rose to the occasion, and I am very proud of him and the progress he’s made!

– Bri

 

Sunday Student Feature! (Brianna L.)

Hey there!

Welcome to the first “Sunday Student Feature”!  I’m going to feature a student every week showcasing a different piece or song that they’ve been working on in their lessons.

This week we have Brianna L.! Brianna is a voice student of mine, who I’ve been teaching for over a year now through TakeLessons. She’s one of the kindest, driven, and talented people I’ve met. Being a fellow Midwesterner, we’ve been able to get along fine 😉


I’ve really enjoyed being a part of Brianna’s musical journey; it’s a privilege, really. I love what I do, and I love when I can see and hear the improvement in a student. Brianna is a hard worker, and I’m excited to share her progress with you all!

Here’s a quick blurb from Brianna herself: “My name is Brianna Labrier, I’m 21 years old and I’m from St. Louis Missouri. I love to sing and would love to make a career out of it. My favorite singers are Christina Aguilera and Alicia Keys, I’ve always looked up to both of them. I love taking lessons with Brianna S because she not only helps me improve my voice but she also helps me push out of my comfort zone, which gives me the confidence to go on auditions and sing in front of people more often.”

Here’s Brianna with “Sunday Morning” by Maroon 5

P.S. She basically taught herself the chords/piano for this song all in about a week and a half while I was out after wisdom teeth surgery. Pretty impressive 🙂

 

The Music of “The Get Down”

Hey hey!

I’m here to talk to you about my latest obsession. It’s a little show on Netflix called The Get Down. Y’all. This show is amazing! Everything about it is beautiful; the storyline, the visuals, the music, the sounds, the cinematography…just everything. If you haven’t heard of it yet, The Get Down is a new musical drama series about these teens in the Bronx (New York) in 1977. We follow a group of teens, The Get Down Brothers, and Mylene and her two best friends. Both groups are centered around music and art. The Get Down Brothers is made up of 5 guys: Ezekiel, Shaolin, Dizzee, Ra-Ra, and Boo-Boo. They formed a group mentored by Grand Master Flash called The Fantastic Four Plus One…or The Get Down Brothers. Shao is the DJ, Ezekiel is the rapper/MC (The Wordsmith). On the other end, we have Mylene, who aspires to be a Disco queen. Her two best friends, Regina and Yolanda help to form their group, The Soul Madonnas.

Also. With the real Grand Matser Flash and Nas there to coach the actors in a hip-hop bootcamp…how could you go wrong?

Now that you have the synopsis, let’s talk about the music. I’ll be talking about the music in the second episode. There are 6 episodes total, and they’re all about an hour long. I also don’t want to spoil too much of the show for those who haven’t seen it.

The way the music is used throughout the show really keeps you captivated and dancing! At the beginning of every episode, there’s narration and a recap rapped by “Adult Ezekiel” (voiced by the rapper, Nas). He’s telling a story, which is what I feel hip-hop and rap should always do. It has an old school vibe to it, with just enough modernism mixed in. The rapping, the beat behind it, the scenes from previous episodes and shots of the city all work together to create something beautiful.  Elliot Wheeler, the composer, did a great job setting the tone.In your typical series set in the 70s or made in the 70s, you have that funky, lots of strings and brass transition music. That can be found here, but again, has a modern twist on it. For example, the music used whenever Grand Master Flash came by to mentor The Get Down Bros., there was always some sort of pentatonic scale like melody being played giving off the East Asian vibe. I do have to admit that it seemed a bit corny after a while, though. I think that’s what they may have been shooting for. You know how “kungfu” films from the 70s had that campy East Asian sound thrown in the score, this is almost exactly how it’s used here. Another great example is the use of Merengue and Latin percussion. Whenever the scene transitions to Mylene or her family, that’s what’s playing in the background. With Shao and Zeke, it’s always hip-hop.

A scene that really stuck with me that involves Zeke and Shao, is when they’re on the roof of their space, and are releasing pigeons. The pigeons start to fly in formation and synchronize with one another. While this is happening, you hear strings, piano, and an inspirational theme playing. All the while, you sill hear trains, cars, horns, your typical city sounds. It’s like finding beauty in the mess and destruction that’s going on in the city. Zeke also has scenes where he is writing new material while you hear the same sort of music and background noise. Again, it’s like he’s finding inspiration in the city and using it as fuel; it’s driving him. The song, ‘It Takes Two” is used in this episode. It’s the song that Shao is trying to master as a DJ. He was given a crayon by the master, he wasn’t told what to with it, though. Shao and the crew spent the episode figuring that out and how to “arrive and depart” on time. All while It Takes Two is playing, Zeke is always by Shao’s side trying to help him out. The lyrics “It takes two to make a thing go right, It takes two to make it outta sight” are constantly being repeated. That music was also being played while the pigeons were circling on the roof – when Zeke had his realization about the crayon (I won’t spoil what it’s for. Watch for yourself haha). It takes two to make things go right 🙂 To add to it, while Mylene and Zeke were arguing in the hall, the record kept skipping and fading in and out. I think that played well with how their team (Mylene and Zeke) weren’t meshing as well anymore. How it was a bit of a battle to get it to work out.

Another great scene that integrated music to fit the mood was a scene in the nightclub. Cadillac, who is the owner of the club and gangster…and prince of disco, is playing the song “Superfly” by Curtis Mayfield. While this is playing, he’s questioning and trying to scare a confession out of two kids while waving a gun around and dancing…and snorting cocaine. The lyrics to Superfly that are heard the most in this scene are ” Hard to understand, what a hell of a man. This cat of the slum, had a mind, wasn’t dumb. But a weakness was shown, ’cause his hustle was wrong. His mind was his own, but the man lived alone.”

Things take a turn for the worse when the building The Get Down Brothers work from is set on fire. Suspenseful music and a slower faded and scratchy version of “Rock Steady” mixed with a hip-hop beat are being played while Shao runs towards the burning building in slow motion. It’s like you can hear all the records melting. When he stops and Zeke tries to talk some sense into him, you hear a mix of those inspirational strings and piano along with rising and angry strings as Shao grows more and more frustrated. Shao pushes him down, and the music stops, like all the noise in head clicks off.

The final scene I want to talk about is the last scene in the episode. Mylene has a record producer to impress, but she’s gotta take a church hymn and turn it into a disco tune. She has Zeke to help her on the piano as well. The song starts off with the entire choir singing and her father, the pastor, preaching to the congregation/There are people passing out in the audience, praising, and singing. However, the choir isn’t too impressive. The record producer is switching seats throughout the audience and growing impatient. Mylene spots this and breaks out. There’s a spoken word (And I think a bit of a Flamenco)  vibe going on along with stomping and clapping as Mylene makes her way to the front of the choir stand. She starts to sing the song arranged from the hymn with the lyrics Zeke wrote for her. Zeke starts to play a disco beat along with her singing, she completely flips the song to fit her style. This is where the “It Takes Two” theme comes back to me. They worked together to make it right! Below, I have the scene I’m speaking of.

I highly recommend watching the entire series. It gets better and better!

Thanks for listening to my rambling 🙂

– Bri

Credit should also be given to Stephanie Diaz-Matos : music supervisor, John Carbonara: music editor,  Jamieson Shaw: music programmer, and Ed Bianchi:director