When your city supports the people of their community at any age, wonderful things happen for the seniors of the community! Iowa City, Iowa is such a place. The local Senior Center provides daily weekday activities and a place to connect with others 8 am to 5 pm Monday through Friday.
Musical diversity is a part of your daily life, even when you’re not expecting it. Today’s music varies in the short musical segues between shows on your radio, the music in the elevator or on hold. How about that podcast theme song or the celebration and festivals in your town? Hopefully, like me, you celebrate the old and welcome the new. How lucky we are today to connect to anyone from anywhere at any time through music!
What was your first musical experience after the world shut down for COVID? Mine was as a music teacher who loved YouTube! I found my first experience in March 2020 through a video of the people making music on their balconies in Italy. Amazingly, these people gathered nightly with whatever they had in their homes and made music together. Wonderfully, their voices echoed across the streets below and they joined their humanity together through music. What power music has to enrich our lives!
Finding comfort and healing through music at home and around the world
Last weekend I was going through a box of those things you’re going to use someday, and found an article I’d pulled from Reader’s Digest in 2013. In accord with our month’s theme, it was about a man, cellist Vedran Smailovic, that inspired a musical diversity connection from Sarajevo to England and beyond.
On May 27, 1992 during the Sarajevo Civil War, a particularly brutal attack occurred that killed 22 people at 4 pm in the afternoon. Sadly, they were simply waiting in line for flour near a local bakery. Smailovic, a cellist in the Sarajevo opera, spent the next 22 days, at 4 pm, in full concert attire playing for his townspeople. With great courage, Smailiovic played Albinoni’s Adagio in G Minorto an empty chair near the bakery despite the fact that the shellings continued.
From Sarajevo to England to Yo Yo Ma
In 1992, Englishman David Wilde composed The Cellist of Sarajevo, Op. 12 for unaccompanied cello. Wilde hoped to honor the feelings created by his own understanding of Smailovic’s act of bravery and in solidarity with his cause. Someone who heard and understood the importance of the piece was none other than cellist, Yo Yo Ma.
Extending the chain of international musical connection, on a stage bare except for a single chair across from him, sat Ma. It was 1994 as he played Wilde’s piece at the International Cello Festival in Manchester, England. A story is told that in the poignant silence that followed Ma’s last note, he reached out and gestured an audience member forward. Ma met Smailovic in the aisle with the audience on their feet and everyone weeping. How lucky those audience members were to be exposed to the musical diversity of our world. How lucky was I that Reader’s Digest shared that richness with me!
New Harmony Line is making music across the world
Speaking of international music experiences, we are happy to be hosting our Beta pilot teacher Odysseas Sagredos from Athens, Greece as our Office Hours guest next Tuesday, November 1st at 7:30 pm ET. During his pre-recorded interview, he talked with such passion about what his students were doing with Hyperscore. When he shared their work to post on Hyperscore’s YouTube, I realized with glee that one of their songs was a remix of “The Final Countdown” by Swedish rock band, Europe. Everywhere, every day, we are all connected through music!!
Our colleagues at MusicFirst were out of the office on Monday, October 10th in observance of Indigenous People’s Day, which is not yet a state holiday in Iowa, where I live. Thank you MusicFirst for celebrating the day and giving me an opportunity to learn. This week, I’d like to celebrate Indigenous People’s Day through Native American artists’ contributions to the world of music.
Musical diversity in my classes
Last week, I mentioned that I could fill blog after blog with the composers, performers and cultures my students studied. This week, I am happy to remember finding Jana Mashonee to share with my students. Jana, who is of Lumbee and Tuscarora descent, has been nominated twice for a Grammy, and performed for both the Bush and Obama families during their respective presidencies. As a multi-talented artist, she has also written her first book “American Indian Story – The Adventures of Sha’kona” and starred in the movie “Raptor Ranch”. Mashonee has a charitable foundation for Native American Youth called “Jana’s Kids”. Most importantly, she received nine NAMMYs (Native American Music Awards) for her singles and albums.
Fusing Native traditional music with modern pop
The first piece that I found to share in my classroom was Mashonee’s single “The Enlightened Time“, which was from her second Grammy nominated album. As the video begins, we are seeing her and others in traditional dress with traditional instruments and lyrics. Then a pickup truck pulls up and she begins singing in English. My students found this combination very interesting, and this piece remained my example of this genre the rest of my teaching career.
Mashonee performed this piece at Coastal Carolina University in South Carolina. Mashonee was quoted in their newpaper, the Sun News. “I pride myself in being able to be influenced musically by many other cultures and styles of music. It is my mission to break down the stereotype that all Native musicians perform just pow wow style music. There are a lot of Native musicians out there today who are performing hip hop, country, and blues but put their Native twist on it.” I know as a teacher that I really appreciated sharing Mashonee’s style!
New Harmony Line will continue to celebrate
Our fall pilot introduced us to Odysseas in Greece, Frederico in Portugal and Carroll in Toronto along with all of our pilot teachers in the U.S. No doubt, we will continue to meet people around the world as Hyperscore is shared across the web! Please continue to enjoy the pieces we upload on our YouTube channel include the latest from Odysseas’s students in Greece. Odysseas will be our pre-recorded guest for November Office Hours and we hope to pre-record with Frederico for December. Thank you for bringing your own background to your musical contributions, Hyperscore users!
Recently, I was looking at a webpage that mentioned that October is Global Diversity Awareness Month. Putting that date on my Google Calendar led me to see that Hispanic Heritage month is September 15th-October 15th. This gave me pause, because I was not aware of these two important events, yet I listen to globally diverse music daily!
Celebrating the rich musical diversity in our world today is easy with access to the internet’s resources. Have you ever paused to think about your ability to listen to diverse music from anywhere, any time of the day? Let’s take this moment to celebrate these musicians that enrich our daily experience.
Musical diversity in my classes
In my 32 years as a music teacher, my students listened to, played along with, danced to and sang songs from across the U.S. and around the world. In my last 18 years at junior high, access to content providers like YouTube gave me the music of the world with actual musicians from their countries of origin. When we talked about tonality, I played Idjah Hadidjah’s Tongerret from Java. Erghen Diado was our exciting example of harmonic and melodic shape performed by the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Choir (Global Divas: Voices from Women Around the World is a “don’t miss!”). Of course, when we were learning to play 12-bar blues in the guitar unit we started with the great Robert Johnson and the students new favorite song, Joe Turner Blues. This celebration list, covering a 32-year career of sharing musical diversity, is absolutely endless…trust me!
Students sharing musical diversity with me
My last year of teaching, I had the privilege of having a brand new student who had just immigrated from Honduras. Imagine his amazement that I could sing the great oldies like Celia Cruz’s hit “Quimbara” from Cuba. Yes, I found Celia on YouTube when searching for an example of Latin music. My students loved her beautiful hair, clothes and radiant vibrancy!
My new student shared his favorite Hispanic pop stars Ozuna and Maluma with me. Fittingly, they have become part of my daily soundtrack. Of course, they played along with my long-time favorites Camila Cabello, Enrique Iglesias, Shakira, Gloria Estefan, etc. I listen as I blog or do daily tasks with my toe tapping and my body moving. Do you want to put some fun in your work day? Try Reggaeton! How lucky my students were to be exposed to the musical diversity of our world. How lucky was I that they would share that diversity with me!
What will New Harmony Line celebrate next?
As you can see on our Projects page, New Harmony Line has also experienced great musical diversity connections. City Symphony projects using Hyperscore motives as the basis for the arrangements were completed in Philadelphia, Lucerne, Toronto, Skaneateles (NY), Perth, Detroit, Armenia and, currently, in Bilbao. Fittingly, our Hyperscore YouTube Channel contains original pieces from the United States, Greece, Portugal and anonymous contributors that could be from anywhere. With music as our universal language, we could have musical diversity connections every day. A great reason to celebrate, don’t you think?!!
Join the New Harmony Line team at this year’s CreatedBy Festival at Boston Children’s Museum. Massachusetts STEM Week kicks off with a hands-on festival celebrating the inspirational work of local artists, technologists, innovators, and creative do-ers. We’ll be offering hands-on demonstrations of Hyperscore. We’re proud be joining this year’s carefully curated group of exhibitors and partners, including Artisan’s Asylum, New England FIRST, Brandeis Maker Lab, and more.
Collaborative composing for band, orchestra or choir is something that would seem unfathomable to me if it weren’t for the City Symphonies work of MIT Opera of the Future Professor, Tod Machover. Hopefully, you’ve seen Hyperscore and understand the beauty of its simple design for the individual composer. However, if you are a visionary like Machover, all individuals who lead a musical ensemble would be clamoring to have their musicians compose together with Hyperscore, or as an arrangement of individual’s motives. Following that, the leaders would print the work in traditional notation using the export feature and, finally, perform their work for an adoring audience. What a challenge, and amazing experience, that could be!
If you took piano lessons, band, orchestra and/or choir like I did throughout my school years and into college, it was rare to play contemporary and diverse original works of music. As we learned in a July 2022 NPR online article featuring Dr. Rocque Diaz, Ms. Daria Adams and GSHARP, we should be playing original music from every culture and genre in addition to the Classics. I came across this 2014 Reddit comment thread when searching for a discussion on the benefit of playing the Classics of every genre and era as compared to composing and/or playing original work.
Stick with the Classics? Write original works? Collaboratively Compose?
“Don’t get me wrong, I like to learn songs whether its tab or someone teaching or my earz (sic), but I get such a thrill creating a tune that it makes me [happy?] more often writing songs than learning songs… if that makes sense. EDIT: discuss.” Astoundingly, this one simple comment from u/zamboniman06 brought a long discussion thread of 135 comments.
To argue the benefit of learning music that’s already been created, JeeBusCrunk wrote, that “Great songwriters like Billy Joel, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder think the Beatles are the most important thing that ever happened to pop music (I tend to agree), and I believe you’re doing a great disservice to yourself as a musician if you don’t truly understand why they feel this way (even if you disagree)”. Anonymous, however, simply stated the opposite point with the simple words, “I don’t really create the songs I write, I hear them”. Sounds like something John, Paul, Ringo, George and Wolfgang would have said! Similarly, many of my students have said that when they use Hyperscore they never really know what they’re going to do until they start composing and like what they’re hearing!
The joy of an original composition
Probably, my favorite Reddit thread commenter was alividlife. This person stated Hyperscore’s philosophy to a T:
“…I’ve noticed in writing my own material, as soon as I take it seriously, and try and write something “awesome”, it’s a struggle of frustration. What has been proving a better way, is to almost be joyful…
It’s just a matter of getting the basic idea. Verse. A Hook of some sort. A chorus. Then maybe a bridge.
…Keep it simple, and as it becomes refined, work on creating each part as a breathing whole. But ideally stick to the real simple fundamentals of harmony, and simple melody…I think a huge issue with creation in general, all art forms, is that inner-critic…Enjoy yourself, and your audience will appreciate you for it.”
Raise your hand for collaborative composing!
New Harmony Line is looking to emulate the work of Professor Machover with a visionary ensemble leader who is interested in collaborative composing, guiding their musicians to create and perform an original work. Realistically, in today’s work world I wouldn’t know a single ensemble leader who would have time to run the unit then arrange the resulting piece. Thus, we are looking for freelance arrangers as well. Raise your hand if you are the visionary! Raise your hand if you are the arranger of that future collaborative piece! Then contact me, firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll write about your work in the New Harmony Line News blogs to come!
Guiding students to compose original compositions is something I did not do until Year 17 out of 32 years of teaching. Assuredly, I was intimidated by the blank page I was presenting them with. Honestly, I had written very little music myself. Definitely, I thought they needed to know theory in order to compose! The Hyperscore workshop I attended in 2007 with Professor Tod Machover, who leads the M.I.T. Opera of the Future Group, changed my whole outlook on composing with students!
Hyperscore–guiding students to compose
Behind the simple Hyperscore user interface were all the rules of Western harmony. All my students had to do was put in a note and decide to make it longer or shorter. Do I want the notes higher or lower? What instrument do I play the notes with? What notes or phrases do I pair? How fast or slow should my work move and how loud or soft should it play? Guiding students to compose was so simple with a program that let them decide where to go with a little check-in here or there from me! Most importantly, was there time for individual conferences? Sure! Everybody’s busy leaving me time to move around the room–check.
If you’ve been reading my blogs at all, you know that I take great pride in the work my students produce, just as so many of them do for themselves. In 2007, three of my students earned the opportunity to have their works played by the Ying Quartet on the stage of Hancher Auditorium in Iowa City, Iowa after I attended Professor Machover’s workshop. I still enjoy Sam’s “Letting Off Some Steam” in my “Hyperscore Forever Favorites” file. I’ve blogged about “Untitled by Randalette” and “Pew Pew Pew” written by students in the early 2000’s that I consider to be classic examples of student creativity.
Recently, I blogged about the long-term music substitute gig that resulted in 32 songs being added to our YouTube Channel. “Kings and Queens” is nearly famous with 73 views–by a 2nd grader! “Tools” is just as adorable. Amazingly, a kindergartner is showing us their quarter note alternating steady beat and their experimentation with note values in the rhythm window. We have an ESL teacher starting a unit in October with her 3 year olds. Won’t that be fun to listen to?! Pre K-12–anyone can compose!
If you find guiding students to compose to be a mystery, please choose our team to help you discover Hyperscore. Will we see you on September 26th? New Harmony Line hopes so!
Cecilia Roudabush Director of Education and General and Adaptive Music Teacher for 32 years in the Iowa City School District
Celebrating teachers who are returning for the 2022-2023 school year now, and those who already have weeks under their belt, is a joy for us at New Harmony Line! Many of the teachers we are in contact with enjoyed a little bit of summer time to reconnect with family and friends, travel and organize that garage but were right back on the websites looking for quality activities to engage their students with long before the school year started. Hopefully, this is the year that COVID takes a backseat to singing, dancing, playing instruments, listening to new and well-loved music, and students creating their own!
Recognizing how far we’ve come
Who would have imagined that this event in Armenia, held 10 short years ago, would further the mission of Hyperscore becoming a web-based music composition tool for students all over the world? We are celebrating teachers like Professor Tod Machover who inspires students every year at the M.I.T. Media Lab where Hyperscore was created. Accordingly, we celebrate the contributions of his students Mary Farbood, Egon Pasztor, Kevin Jennings and Peter Torpey in creating, designing and improving the simple to use, yet musically complex, Hyperscore. New Harmony Line is thankful for its rich, historical foundation which started, of course, with creative students in a classroom!
Celebrating teachers who led the Beta pilot
New Harmony Line could not have launched the web-based Hyperscore with MusicFirst in May, 2022 were it not for the 17 teachers who tested our tool in their classrooms. We wish the best new school year to national and international music teachers Mike, Kylie, Pier, Dirk, our 3 Rebecca’s, Frederico, Diane, Elisabeth, Debra, Jaclyn, Caroll, Odysseas and Jonathan (who found us at TMEA in February and never looked back!). I can’t wait to write a blog about our Speech Language Pathologist, Lisa, who is a musician herself and led her Students with Autism to write their yearly opera using Hyperscore during our pilot! Special thanks to Jenn for sharing her music room with me for an informal study on the Social/Emotional Learning states of 3rd grade students learning Hyperscore (exciting data coming soon!).
Every teacher returning to the classroom deserves thanks and recognition for the work they do to foster student joy for learning. New Harmony Line wishes you a wonderful 2022-2023 school year!
Our guest this month is Patrick Esarey, a graduate music therapy student at University of Iowa. Patrick is passionate about expanding accessibility to music composition for underrepresented populations, and recently ran a pilot study using Hyperscore in his classroom. In 2019, Patrick graduated from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio with a degree in music performance. He is an avid songwriter, guitarist, and bassist. Patrick has worked with individuals with intellectual, cognitive, and developmental disabilities at UCM Residential Services (Union City, Ohio) and Camp Krem (Ahwahnee, California). He has taught private lessons and served as a manager at Guitar Center (Sarasota, Florida).
Office Hours are held via Zoom on the first Tuesday of every month. Our staff will share tips and updates to help you get the most out of Hyperscore, and we’ll answer your questions. Sessions will be recorded and posted on our YouTube channel.
Have you ever had a chance to play the rainbow? Rainbow-colored instruments have been around for years, none more popular these past few years than Boomwhackers. If you didn’t already know, Iowa native Craig Ramsell, a classical guitarist with a B.S. and M.S. in Management from M.I.T., created the plastic tubes that have become legendary in music rooms across the world. When I was a long-term general music substitute teacher this past May, 2022, we couldn’t keep ourselves from “talking about Bruno” and playing along with the fabulous video from Swick’s Classroom on YouTube!
Traditional or block note head
Whether you are using 8-note diatonic handbells, an outdoor Cavatina or Boomwhackers, New Harmony Line wanted you to have the opportunity to guide students to compose using the colors of the rainbow. With this in mind, CTO Peter created a super-fun Setting that features rainbow-colored lines. You can use the traditional note head or the block note head, which I prefer visually for the colored lines. Try out both settings with your students and let us know your favorite!
When you compose with the rainbow setting, you can easily create melodies. However, don’t forget one of the best features of rainbow-colored instruments which is chording! This video features the chordal accompaniment for the chorus of “We Don’t Talk About Bruno” from the movie “Encanto” using the block note head:
We hope you will enjoy this new feature. We’d love to hear from you if you, or your class, writes a “play the rainbow” song!