Monthly Archives: January 2016

Passing on My Love of Live Music: My Daughter’s First All Ages Show

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IMG_3140I’ve had some pretty interesting live music experiences in my day.

I witnessed Mick and his boys endure constant drunk-dude outbursts of “Woooo, I love you, Keith Richards!” during what was otherwise a flawless Rolling Stones performance, and laughed as my mom’s asthma mysteriously cleared up from the nasty-smelling cloud of smoke wafting down on us at the Willie Nelson show.

I watched a performance by Pearl Jam with pure disgust, because an Austin afternoon traffic jam caused us to miss my only chance ever to see The Ramones. I yelled myself hoarse at both a Stray Cats reunion show and a Johnny Cash performance, and watched Gordon Gano chew out the audience like a school marm for throwing water bottles at a Violent Femmes show.

I pouted, because I wasn’t “old enough” to see The Clash yet, and thoroughly ticked off when former Sex Pistol John “Johnny Rotten” Lydon had a “throat problem” that caused him to cancel his show.

I’ve prog-rocked along with Carlos Santana, sh*t-kicked with Dwight Yoakum, and “rock concert moved” with the original Blue Man Group before they became an over-hyped brand name.

I’ve attended a chamber music performance at a motorcycle dealership, and seen countless jazz and folk concerts under the West Texas stars, while working summer music festivals.

I love live music, be it classical or heavy metal, pop or punk, blues or bluegrass. Just put me in that atmosphere surrounded by people drinking in the experience of absorbing that pure sound of notes and lyrics flowing from stage to ear; a sound without the sanitized filter of the car radio or Beats ear buds, and I’m where I want to be.

Now, here’s the overwhelmingly humiliating part. It all started with Lawrence Welk. I surprised my grandmother with a pair of tickets to the Champagne music pioneer’s traveling show when I was seven, and she had such a fun time, I took her to see Liberace.

Suffice to say, I’ve paid my concert dues as a dutiful granddaughter, but it wasn’t without merit. My grandmother and I were very different people and didn’t always get along, but when I took her to these shows, she was so genuinely entertained, none of these differences mattered. I was a good granddaughter in her eyes.

I think my dad noticed this and made sure I got plenty chances to see my own music. This included taking me to my first all ages experience at a rock festival,  to see one of my guitar heroes, Stevie Ray Vaughn. I had the good fortune to see him twice, both times with my dad, and both times two generations ran across friends we knew. There were people of all ages and ilk, just bonding over the sounds of one man on stage with one guitar… and it was awesome.

Old ticket stubs seem like worthless pieces of paper, except for the memories they hold. Every person who attends an a musical performance, be it an opera or rock concert, has their own story to tell. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

Every person who attends an a musical performance, be it an opera or rock concert, has their own story to tell. Image: Lisa Kay Tate.

In November, I had a chance to be on the flip side of this experience by taking my daughter to her first all ages show. My daughter had been going through the middle school, “yeah, whatever,” phase, and although she’s a great kid, getting her to admit she’s excited or happy about something is like pulling teeth from a dragon. Tread lightly.

She does love her music, and is rarely without her dad’s hand-me-down iPod, another thing that makes reaching out to her a bit hard.

One of her favorite bands on the planet is the Plain White T’s, and when I found out they were coming to a fantastic local music venue, Tricky Falls, for a pretty inexpensive ticket price, I figured it was time for some aggressive mother-to-daughter outreach: a live rock concert!

I had a little ulterior motive, as I really like this band, too. I had also been itching to get myself to a smaller venue concert again, particularly since putting concert calendar listings together is part of my day job. I needed a girls’ night out with one of my girls.

We had taken her to other shows as a kid (do The Wiggles count?), but this was the first time she was getting to see a show by her band. I didn’t let her know where we were going until we walked in the door of the club. The entire time the doorman was marking her hands with those big telltale “I’m under 21” X’s in permanent marker, she eyed me with suspicion. It wasn’t until we walked through the foyer of the old renovated theater space, that I held up the ticket stubs and showed her:

“This is where I brought you,” I said, and she literally did a “YES!” fist pump.

Like my own concert experiences, I got to witness how many different types of people were there to for the Plain White Ts experience. Since one of the opening acts was a runner up of the show The Voice, Matt McAndrew, there were plenty of parents who wanted to see him. I didn’t know who he was, since I don’t watch The Voice, but, he put on a solid show. I made a couple of iTunes purchases of his music, and of the other opening band for the show, Beta Play.

I never heard of either of these opening performers, but that’s what seeing them live does. It forms a connection to their music hearing it through a third party device just can’t.

I had a blast showing off my concert cred to my daughter. I showed her how to inch her way to the front of the crowd, which t-shirt type is the best to get (the one with the city listings, of course), and how to carry as little as possible on your person, so you can put your hands up and dance and when the spirit moves. I taught her how to ignore the “my first beer” drunks, and to look in between the sea of smartphones thrust in the air when Plain White T’s frontman Tom Higgenson sat down for a stage solo of  “Hey There Delilah.” She put her own choir experience to use by remembering to shift her legs, and not lock her knees from standing.

More than anything, I taught her to lighten up a bit. Don’t be afraid to sing, to scream appreciation, and to dance. No one is judging you, they’re all just here for the band. By the end of the show, she had sung along to nearly every hit, waved her fandom allegiance to every band member, and smiled the entire time. I did as well, not only for the terrific show, but for seeing how much fun my daughter had, and watching her catch the same concert bug that has inflicted her mother for several years.

I think, although can’t be sure, I even heard a “thank you.” For the sake of happy memories, I’ll say I did.

Fuzzy photos and printed out tickets signed with Sharpies may not be museum worthy, but who cares? All that matters is getting to say, “I was there, and it was amazing.” Images: Lisa Kay Tate.

Dark camera phone photos and tickets signed with Sharpies may not be collecter value, but that doesn’t matter. What doe is being able to say “I was there, and it was amazing.” Images: Lisa Kay Tate.

After the show, we were able to wobble and crunch our way through the crowd, to get my daughter an autograph from one of the lead vocalists and guitarist, Tim Lopez and drummer De’Mar Hamilton, as well as from McAndrew.

When I got home, this 46-year-old mother of two felt as young and vital as my 13-year-old, who at least for one night thought I was the most awesome mom in the world. Despite my sore feet and droopy eyelids, I felt energized with the elixir of good music, and fond memories.

I got to see this thrill carry on when my daughter watched the band we just saw singing their new hit, “American Nights,” on a Macy’s Parade float on television over Thanksgiving weekend less than a week later.

“Oooh, they sang this one when I saw them Friday,” she boasted to her little sister with a huge grin.

I remember that thrill of familiarity and privilege that comes from being in the same room as a favorite performer, and it’s a thrill that will always pop back up, no matter where my daughter goes in life. Wherever she is, whatever her experience, there will always be a little nostalgic spark when she hears “1234” somewhere in her periphery.

Yes, the live music experience is still a potent today for me as it was when I first saw Stevie Ray blare out “Pride and Joy” to a mass of music lovers several generations strong.

Sometime, in the not-too-far-off future, I hope, I plan to experience it again.

Originally ran in GeekMom Dec. 2, 2015.

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Ten Pieces II and CBBC Envy

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nobachforyou“Classical music is a little bit like having a spaceship. It can take you anywhere you want.”
— Dominic Wood (of CBBC’s Dick and Dom) in Ten Pieces.

We listen to a ton of music of all genres in our home. I’m proud to say my 6-year-old, who enjoys Yo-Yo Ma, can identify Johann Sebastian Bach’s Suite No. 1 in G Major for Solo Cello, BWV 1007, as quickly as she can The Ramone’s “Pet Sematery,” the latter of which she just recently quit referring to as “Don’t Put Me in the Berry.”

Over the past month leading up to Halloween, we had been playing several “dark classics,” including, among other pieces, Richard Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries,” and especially the goose bump-inducing Bach masterpiece Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.

Therefore, I tapped into the wonders of world-connecting Internet, as well as my insatiable journey for all things educational, and spiraled myself into a corner of frustration, as I tried to access the video content of BBC’s young people’s programming branch, CBBC’s, classical music film and outreach program for secondary schools, Ten Pieces II.

I had forgotten they were working on this until I ran across a Vimeo clip of one of my favorite actors, Christopher Eccleston, introducing “Ride of the Valkyries” for this project. It looked, for lack of a better phrase, absolutely fantastic. The production value was outstanding, and I couldn’t wait to see and share this entire film.

There are other cool aspects of the Ten Pieces II film, CBBC’s secondary level answer to last year’s successful Ten Pieces program and film for primary students. This included introductions by stand-up comic Vikki Stone and rapper Doc Brown, performance poetry with poet, musician, and educator, Chris Redmond, and a “Ten Pieces Megamix” presented by DMC World DJ Champion Mr Switch. The purpose of both these films is to introduce new generations to some of the world’s most celebrated classical pieces, as well as for use in a school curriculum.

However, the icing on the cake for me was with the opening piece, in which my personal creative muse, presenter James May, introduces, you guessed it, Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565.

Quick lesson for those who don’t know: “BWV” refers to the cataloging system of Bach’s work, or “Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis” in German. But, I digress.

I couldn’t wait to share these with my kids, as well as view them myself. Also, having both May and Eccleston introducing these pieces gave me reason to believe somebody out there created this program specifically for me (for use as an educational tool, of course).

Plus, CBBC offered a free DVD to secondary teachers, something my husband would have loved to apply for and use in his high school world history and geography classes, as he often discusses the artistic contributions of different eras and cultures.

Then, I saw that dreaded phrase: “Available for UK schools only.”

Of course, *sigh* of course.

Oooh, but they have the “chapterized clips” online, so we can just pull these up and watch them as we need them….or not:

“Sorry, CBBC games and videos can only be played if you’re in the UK,” so says the site.

Aaand, there you go. That location-limited practice sometimes called geo-blocking. This isn’t done out of spite, but rather, often to keep the licensing budget under control. Even so, it still feels like being left out of the “cool music kids” club.

Once again, I get to witness a resource with tremendous teaching and entertainment potential from another country, and am stymied by that little reminder social media hasn’t actually physically shortened the miles between the continents.

Now, obviously, I realize there’s a little bit of a geographic gap between North America and Europe, and it isn’t practical to supply American schools with free DVDs. Shipping cost alone is impractical. I am also aware licensing fees are a pain in the backside, when it comes to making video content accessible overseas. I completely understand this, but I don’t have to be happy about it.

The representative I contacted about this from the BBC Ten Pieces team was very helpful. She told me there is an ambition to make this film, which is funded by U.K. license payers, available internationally, but this likely won’t be a quick process.  Fair enough.

This wouldn’t be the first time I’ve felt a little bit of international malcontent for lack of instant gratitude in the cyber world, but this latest disappointment had me thinking. Instead of grumbling about what I can’t access, I’ve come up with some ways to use what is available to us educators, parents, and music lovers west of the Atlantic.

tenpiecesposters

Ten Pieces and Ten Pieces II was created with U.K. students in mind, but there is still some great of content for available for everyone “across the pond.” Images © BBC.

Grab ALL the Downloadable Content Available.

Teachers from all over can access this free information—and CBBC happily provides this—including grade-specific arrangements of each piece, posters, composer profiles, lesson plans, and repertoires.

There is also audio content available in the form of free downloadable mp3s, performed by the BBC Philharmonic (Ten Pieces II) and BBC National Orchestra of Wales (Ten Pieces). Yes, these audio clips are accessible by everyone.

However, the Guide to the Orchestra eBook is available for U.K. devices only. Oh well.

Know Where to Dig for Videos…Legally.

There are ways for American viewers to see content on U.K. sites.  BBC Worldwide on YouTube does have a CBBC channel as well. Currently, there aren’t any Ten Pieces II clips, but there are performances from the original Ten Pieces available for viewing.

Sometimes you can get lucky and find a clip on the BBC News Channels, but other times it will just link you back to the U.K.-only sites.  The YouTube content is really the best bet.

Back in the day, we actually purchased a used DVD player so we could set it specifically for our U.K. purchased discs (we had accumulated a lot of Michael Palin travel discs). One would think it would be easier to convert videos online.

Well, if you’re really desperate to see something, there are legal VPN

Of course in most of my cases, you can “wait it out.” It seems like all videos like these end up on YouTube or Vimeo eventually, and since it was one of these sites where I ran across the Eccleston/Wagner piece, as well as Dick and Dom’s introduction for “Mars” from Gustav Holst’s “The Planets” in the original Ten Pieces film, there’s a pretty good chance, others will follow. Just have patience.

Take Advantage of Good Old American DIY.

By using the downloadable resources that are available for everyone, it is actually easier to find video clips and audio downloads available to American viewers.

One of the resources from Ten Pieces is a downloadable repertoire. Use this to put together your own iTunes disc, since all of the pieces listed are easy to find and purchase. It may not be the arrangements used in the CBBC program, at least you’ll have a similar playlist.

I have to point out there are wonderful resources for American teachers out there just waiting to be discovered, from sheet music to online clips, and instrument-specific materials. The K-12 Resources for Music has links to hundreds of sites for educators and parents, but keep in mind not all of them are current or active.

The downloadable The downloadable content is there for a reason. Use it! Image: Lisa Kay Tate

The downloadable content is there for a reason. Use it! Image: Lisa Kay Tate

Take advantage of these domestic resources and combine them with what you can from the CBBC programs. Find recordings by the New York Philharmonic or Boston Symphony Orchestra, to help illustrated the lesson plans provided online by CBBC. Come up with a fusion of the best of both sides of the pond.

As far as making this internationally available, maybe if enough interest were shown for these films from North American schools, I would like to see digital downloads offered for purchase for a nominal price. I’ll just put that thought out there, and walk away.

Classical music, and all music for that matter, is such a uniter of people from all over, it only seems right to pool the American and European programs and resources available, and really create something spectacular.

These Ten (or Twenty) Pieces are a good place to start.

Originally ran in Geekmom on Nov. 9, 2015, since then the author is happy to announce James May’s clip featuring Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is now available via YouTube!