The calendar has turned to a new school year. All of us have dreams, hopes, and expectations for our programs. All of us look to provide inspiration to our students in the coming year. With that in mind I am offering the following as inspiration to each of you.
On Saturday October 7 at 7 PM (eastern time), HBO will premiere the documentary The Music in Me. This is the first in a series of specials that will premiere over the next twelve months. Don’t miss it! That’s my point. Don’t miss this show. If you want to know why… read on.
Leslie Stifelman, the executive producer of The Music in Me and the musical director for Chicago on Broadway recently invited me to a screening of this show. From the very start I was captivated. There were times I caught myself with my mouth wide open. It was without question the most inspiring program (television, film or radio) focusing on music and kids that I have ever seen (and I have seen most of them). It was so moving that I immediately called my good friend and partner in advocacy NAMM’s Mary Luehrsen insisting that she see the show. Her response was the same as mine.
I share these reactions with you because I know that no matter how eloquent I attempt to be with the next few paragraphs I will not do this show proper justice. Here goes:
The premise is simple: HBO asked young musicians from all corners of the US to send in videotapes of the music they play. The joyful result is the HBO half-hour special The Music In Me, a documentary which profiles six young musicians, aged 7 to 11, each from a different musical and cultural tradition. What all six of these children share is talent, and a love of music that gives shape and meaning to their lives.
What struck me most was the diversity of musical styles, social circumstances and cultural influences. The children featured in this program come from all over America and include a 7-year-old African-American zydeco accordion player, a 10-year-old Puerto-Rican jazz flutist, and an accomplished 11-year-old classical cellist – amongst many others. These uplifting stories of young musicians compel us to reflect on the power of music in all our lives and reinforce for me the work we all do everyday to educate, enlighten and inspire young people through music.
With their virtuosic and distinctive performances of both classics and lesser-known tunes representing many genres of music from classical to jazz to a variety of root music, the featured young musicians open their hearts and share their passion for living musical lives. During this show you will meet:
• Nathan, age 11, from Hillsborough, CA: a classical cellist who describes the concepts and emotions that inform his artistic interpretation of “The Swan” by Camille Saint-Saens. His performance even made a cynical old drummer (me) cry!
• Elena, age 10, from Berkeley, CA: an accomplished flutist with a penchant for Latin Jazz that connects her to a unique Latin community.
• Guyland, age 7, from Frilot Cove, LA: a zydeco accordion player who carries on the tradition of indigenous music passed down to him in his dreams by his great grandpapa
• Una, age 11, from Portland, OR: a singer-songwriter and rock guitarist who believes music has the power to influence people, performing her own composition entitled “Global Warming”
• Tyler, age 10, from Virginia Beach, VA: a trumpet player who performs the patriotic tunes of George M. Cohan with his younger siblings (age 8 and 5) by day … By night, Tyler jams on the street with a sophisticated jazz combo and blows the crowd away
• Qaasim, age 9, from Brooklyn, NY: a percussionist whose favorite drum is the djembe, but who can actually make music with anything, and creates a symphony of percussive sounds on the streets of New York City
Interspersed between the featured artists are glimpses of other children whose home video clips capture their eclectic and engaging musical personalities. These include:
• TJ, age 11, from Omaha, NE, who loves his music so much that he wakes up early just so he can touch his guitar
• Aaron, age 10, from Scarsdale, NY, whose favorite kind of music, without a doubt, is klezmer music.
• Thalen, age 9, from Kaneohe, HI, a ukulele whiz
• John, age 12, from Carrollton, TX, who plays chromatic harmonica with the family trio
• Sydney, age 10, from Chicago, IL, whose favorite music is pop and whose favorite sounds are the minor chords
• Brock, age 8, from Pearl City, HI, who bangs on a taiko drum (it’s bigger than him)
• Macyn, age 10, from Waterford, WI, who presents a classic blues tune on her banjo from the middle of her family’s soybean fields
The Music In Me is a compelling mix of featured performances and home video clips. It is stunning for the way it opens our eyes to the surprising range of musical styles that children study and embrace across the country. The program provides a fresh look at the many ways music can have a vital, profound impact on young lives, and reminds us that every child is on a journey towards finding his or her own musical pathway.
The lesson for me was less of a lesson and more of a reminder. Our children have music in them. It is bursting to find its way out. It also provides us all with a gentle nudge of the breadth of music making kids across this nation are involved with. This is something the music education community has already begun to reflect on with the diversification of course offerings for students. The Music in Me makes the clear case that this is a pathway we should all embrace.
Executive Producer Leslie Stifelman, HBO, NAMM the International Music Products Association and Music for All have joined forces so we may use this documentary as an opportunity to raise awareness about the true power of music in the lives of our children.. By the time you read this we will already have materials available for you to use in your classroom and community because of the generous support of NAMM. Go to: http://music-for-all.org/musicinme.html or NAMM.com to learn more. To help keep music education strong in your community, go to http://www.supportmusic.com
As always, I encourage you to take advantage of this opportunity so we can showcase and unleash the music in us all!
Credits: The Music In Me is produced by Diane Kolyer, whose HBO credits include the Emmy Award-winning Happy To Be Nappy and Other Stories of Me, the Emmy-nominated Rosie O’Donnell’s Kids are Punny and the interstitial series My Favorite Book. The show’s executive producer Leslie Stifelman is currently Music Director for the Tony and Grammy award winning Broadway hit musical CHICAGO. She is also the creative force behind Symfunny Toons inc., a company dedicated to the development of television and interactive products for children to learn about music. The show’s co-producer is Beth Aala, whose HBO credits include I Have Tourette’s But Tourette’s Doesn’t Have Me. Feature segments presented in The Music In Me are directed by Mark Benjamin, Ellen Goosenberg Kent, Diane Koyler, Mark Mannucci, and Amy Schatz. Supervising producer, Dolores Morris; executive producer, Sheila Nevins.