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Series: “Music and Arts Education: What’s the Point?” Episode 1: Valentine’s Special — Love

Grandmother's message to my Dad on sheet music: "From Mom, with Love"

Music and Arts Education: What’s the Point? Episode 1: Love

As a leader in music and arts education, I find it my responsibility to communicate the importance and purpose of music and arts education.

Since today is Valentine’s Day, I want to share the story of how my grandparents on my Dad’s side of the family met. Although I am the only person in my family who decided to do music as a career, music has been very important to my family. Music communicates to others thoughts and feelings that words cannot. This is the first in a series I call “Music and Arts Education: What’s the Point?” Today’s topic is “Love” (don’t worry, it will be family friendly). I plan to talk about “professional skills”, “cognitive”, and “social-emotional” in future posts/episodes. For today, I will focus on “Love”. All you need is Love… and Music Education!

Love: One of Music’s Many Roles

Music serves many purposes in society. One role music plays in society is of courtship, romance, friendship, and family; in other words, “Love”. Everyone is aware of the multitude of love songs broadcast on the radio, streaming, and in movies. “Love” is a central theme of many songs, sometimes explicit and sometimes implicit. Some love songs, historically, were later readapted as religious songs (and visa-versa).

Music: It is how my Grandparents Met

My grandfather was born in the early 1920’s and went into the U.S. Navy during World War II. At one point, he was stationed in Washington State and living in an apartment building. He grew up playing the guitar, learning songs from family members and from the radio (i.e. by ear). As he told the story to me, he was playing guitar by himself in his apartment room. My grandmother, who loved music and lived one story below in the same apartment, heard the music, ran upstairs, knocked on the door, and introduced herself.

The rest is history.

Fast Forward: Music’s role in my Family

Whenever I went to my grandparent’s house, inevitably someone would pull out an instrument and start playing music for everyone. In some ways, it was kind of like the music that held the family together. Whenever my grandfather pulled out the guitar and started playing songs like “You are my Sunshine”, my grandmother would stop everything she was doing and listen. More importantly, the look in her eye as she listened to my grandfather was just like she was twenty-years old again, like they were meeting again for the first time. Witnessing this interaction was always insightful for me. I could really see the power of music when I saw how my grandfather could bring the whole family together through music.

At this point you may be thinking, “Yeah, but this is the life of a family of professional musicians, right?” If you thought this, you would be mistaken.

I decided to become a “career musician”, yes, but my grandparents were not professional musicians. My grandfather’s career, other than the Navy, was that of a land owner and property manager. My grandmother took care of the family and the house. Neither had ever performed outside of our family gatherings. Nonetheless, music played an important role in their lives.

From the Heart: The Language of Music

Music communicates that which is difficult (dare I say “impossible”?) for words to say alone. The sort of communication that occurs when music is being performed is not the same as a speech or a book. It communicates similar things to a story, yes, but it also communicates feelings. I would argue that, in some ways, it communicates feelings more effectively and efficiently than even poetry alone.

At our family gatherings, when my grandparents played music for one another, they were communicating feelings. My grandfather’s first language was Spanish. He was born and raised in a farming village in New Mexico, and although this village is in the U.S., he learned Spanish first and English second. As a result, many of the songs that he knew were in Spanish.

My grandmother did not speak Spanish, but she loved these songs, and she loved to hear my grandfather serenade her with these songs. I know because I witnessed the two of them at the family gatherings. It is a wonderful memory for me to know how they loved each other.

My Grandmother’s Message to my Father and Me

My Grandmother purchased much sheet music during her life. She would write all over the music. She wrote notes directed to my Father, how also played the guitar, about which pieces he should learn, which ones she thought would sound nice. These messages survive today as I have some of the music in my possession. In some ways, they are like my grandmother’s little love notes to my Father, as well as to me. (I am mentioned on many of the notes as well.)

Grandmother's message to my Dad on sheet music: "From Mom, with Love"
“From Mother, with Love…” written on sheet music purchased for my Father from my Grandmother

My Grandmother always said that “If you are to become addicted to anything, become addicted to music”. She really loved and valued music. She really respected orchestra conductors, and wanted one of us in the family to become a conductor. Although I did not become a “orchestra conductor” per se, I have become a leader in music. I also think my grandmother is right about music being “healthy”. There are so many things to become addicted to, and music is one of the healthiest obsessions that a person can have. Exploring music deeply results in a better understanding of self and others. This is a topic that I will explore in further posts and episodes as well.

My grandmother also saw the great value in music education. She could see for herself how it impacted her own life in a positive way, as well as the important role that music plays in families and society as a whole.

All You Need is Love (and Music Education!)

In the video that I created to accompany this post, I sing and play my own arrangement of “All you need is Love” by the Beetles. I created this arrangement specifically for my sister-in-laws wedding. Performing music at such occasions is yet another reason music education is important. When you have someone in the family who has taken the time and effort to learn music, then you have a person who can provide, culturally, to the family and their circles. When you invest in a person’s music education, then you put them on the path to a healthier lifestyle. When you play music for your loved ones, you communicate not only the literal meanings of the lyrics, but the emotions and feelings expressed in the melodies, rhythms, and harmonies.

"Music and Arts Education: What's the Point?" Episode 1: Valentine's Special -- Love

This Valentine’s Day, please enjoy some music. Also, consider the role that music education has on Life, Love, and Family. Enjoy!

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MAP Students Showcase at Open House

MAP Student showcases his work

Last Sunday, we had an open house event, which was open to the public. MAP students showcased what they have learned at MAP over the past few months.

MAP students performed music and showcased for each other, as well as visitors from the general public. Each student contributed to the activity in some way. When we were finished, I compiled a video of their showcased work. Please check out the following video to see what the kids are doing.

MAP Student Showcase Video

Student Showcase from Jan. Open House

What are the Kids Learning?

MAP students are learning so much in their classes. Of course, they are learning music, art, and computer programming, and they are studying with some of the most knowledgeable instructors in their respective fields. However, here at MAP we understand that students need a holistic education. That is why, included with lesson packages, students are invited to perform weekly in sharing sessions.

Weekly Sharing Sessions

How many times have you learned something only to find out that you were not able to use what you learning? Performance, showcasing, and portfolios should be a central part of everyone’s education. We do not understand something until we try to show what we learned to others. This is one of the many reasons that we offer weekly sharing sessions.

2nd Graders are the “Makers” of their own Games

Near the end of the video, one of the students says of his game, “I am the maker”. It is amazing to hear this 2nd grader describing himself this way. Imagine a world where kids envision themselves as the creators and the makers of their technology. This is categorically different than kids passively playing video games. Our Music+Code classes empower kids to participate in the creation their technology. Led by the legendary instructor Walter Bender, who co-founded One Laptop Per Child and Sugar Labs, these students really learn how to dominate their computers, while having fun in the process.

Interested in Learning More?

You can always feel free to contact us from this site, by phone, or email.

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Music+Code Crowdfunding Campaign Kickoff: Selections

Last November we hosted polymath musician Rob Flax to kick off our Music+Code crowdfunding campaign. Rob played a variety of music, including his latest single, but most of the music centered around math and music in some way. You can check out selected samples from the concert below.

Fractal Hornpipe

Rob started the concert with his original composition, Fractal Hornpipe. The melody to fractal hornpipe has the structure of a fractal while still being musically satisfying. Click on the player below to listen to his live performance.

Fractal Hornpipe by Rob Flax as performed for Music+Code Campaign Kickoff

That’s a fun challenge I set for myself… Can something be the best of both worlds? Can I have good music that is also good math? […] I want it to be something that is mathematically rigorous, that has fractal structure, but is also fun to listen to…

Rob Flax, Music+Code Campaign Kickoff 11/15/2020

Fractal 2

After Rob’s wonderful performance of “Fractal Hornpipe, he then performed “Fractal 2”. This piece is composed from a snippet of “Fractal Hornpipe”. The rationale, as he explained it is that because fractals go on forever it would be nice to have Fractal Hornpipe be the start of other music (i.e. and not be a dead-end in fractal creation/similarity).

“Fractal 2” by Rob Flax

Factorial’s Revenge

Next, Rob played an interesting piece that he co-created with one of his patron’s (who is also a polymath musician) who also attended the concert (and also contributed to the campaign — thank you, Lynz!). The piece features a sequence of repeated notes that ends up to be a factorial (i.e. 4, followed by 3, then 2, and 1).

It’s the math operation with the most “Zazz”!

Rob Flax, Speaking of Factorials (11/15/20)

Grand Finale: Rob plays with Music Blocks

Rob Flax Music+Code Final Performance with Music Blocks

To end the concert, Rob played together with Music Blocks, visual programming language. MAP instructor, Devin Ulibarri, created a script (i.e. some computer code) that created randomly generated music to perform together with Rob. Rob Flax, being a master improvisor, created melodic phrases on the fly to respond to Devin’s program.

What is Music+Code Crowdfunding Campaign?

Rob’s concert is the first in a series of performances to promote our Music+Code crowdfunding campaign. The campaign is a fundraising effort to hire professional musicians to be featured artists on videos for our Music+Code curriculum. MAP instructors Walter Bender and Devin Ulibarri are leading the effort to create Music+Code lesson plans which you can check out right here on the MAP website. Rob was a great choice to start the campaign because he knows math and music very well, and the Music+Code curriculum is very rich in musical and mathematical concepts.

How you can participate in Music+Code Crowdfunding Campaign?

Here are three ways that you can participate in the Music+Code crowdfunding campaign.

Note: Audio recordings (without video) on this page are copyright (2020) of Rob Flax (i.e. recorded by Rob Flax) and are used with permission. Video on this page is copyright (2020) of Remake Music, LLC. All works are copyright under Creative Commons Share-Alike 4.0 license.