Happy Hallowe’en / Feliz Dia de los Muertos!

Los Muertos

Happy Hallowe’en / Feliz Dia de los Muertos! Your Weekly Listen for 10/29/15 is “Los Escueletos”.

The ancient Celts believed that on one special day per year, the souls of the dead were able to return to earth to visit the living. People put out candles and offerings of food and drink for their departed loved ones, and used scary jack-o-lanterns, bells and other protective symbols to ward off evil spirits. This tradition was eventually absorbed by the Catholic Church and became “Allhallowtide”: the three days from October 31- November 2 known as All Hallow’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

The Dia de los Muertos festival in Mexico developed from ancient traditions and was originally celebrated in the ninth month of the Aztec calendar (about the beginning of August) for the entire month. When the Spanish colonized Latin America, Dia de los Muertos was shortened to three days and moved to coincide with Allhallowtide, so that it is now also celebrated from October 31 – November 2.

This playful animated music video illustrates the ‘escueletos’ (skeletons’) adventures as they rise from their tomb, eat, drink, dance and play, and then return to their rest at the end of the day. Below are lyrics for the song “Los Esqueletos” as I sing it in class. These lyrics are slightly different from the lyrics in the video.

    Los Esqueletos

Cuando el reloj marca la una
los esqueletos salen de la tumba

(tumba, tumba, tumba-ba, tumba, tumba, tumba-ba)

Cuando el reloj marca las dos
los esqueletos salen comen arroz

Cuando el reloj marca las tres
los esqueletos van al reves

Cuando el reloj marca las cuatro
los esqueletos marchen al teatro

Cuando el reloj marca las cinco
los esqueletos pegan un brinco

Cuando el reloj marca las cinco
los esqueletos se pegan un brinco

Cuando el reloj marca las seis
los esqueletos juegan ajedrez

Cuando el reloj marca las siete
los esqueletos se montan en cohetet

Cuando el reloj marca las ocho
los esqueletos comen bizcocho

Cuando el reloj marca las nueve
los esqueletos cantan y beben

Cuando el reloj marca las diez
los esqueletos se bailan a la vez

Cuando el reloj marca las once
los esqueletos corren veloces

Cuando el reloj marca las doce
los esqueletos descansan por la noche


When the clock strikes one
the skeletons come out of the grave.
At two, they eat rice.
At three, they hang upside down.
At four, they go to the theatre.
At five, they jump up and down.
At six, they play chess.
At seven, they ride a rocket.
At eight, they eat cake.
At nine, they sing and drink.
At ten, they dance all together.
At eleven, they run fast.
At twelve, they go to bed for the night.


“A Spoonful of Songs” Book & CD Release!

Your weekly listen for 10/22/15 is yours truly! Since last spring I’ve been researching the origins of songs, recording, mixing, writing, revising and re-revising sheet music, and receiving much-needed assistance from several wonderful friends. Now, finally, it’s finished!

“A Spoonful of Songs” is a collection of twenty-one of our favorite songs from class, recorded professionally with some very talented guest musicians and notated in written form with beautiful illustrations, which, unlike the books & CDs you receive in class, is available for sale to the general public. The official release date for both book and CD is November 17. However, you can pre-order copies on my website now, and you are invited to attend the CD Release Party on November 22. There will be pizza, and you can meet the band!

Click here to listen to the ‘sneak preview’ song!

Also, please join us to celebrate on November 22! Email me to book a reservation and be sure to tell me the number in your party.

“A Spoonful of Songs” CD Release Party:
Sunday, November 22, 4-6pm
Capitol Hill (exact location will be sent to you in a private email after you confirm your reservation)
Suggested Donation: $20 adult, $10 kid (this pays the musicians and also covers the cost of pizza and other snacks which will be served)


Raising a Global Musical Citizen

kids in a circle

Your weekly listen for 10/14/15 is adorable 4-month old baby Asha dancing an irish jig in a Jolly Jumper. As you may have guessed, this week’s music theme is … Irish!

Some parents in my music classes might wonder why I think it’s important to expose young children to music from around the world (last week, African, the week before, Romani, before that, Klezmer).

According to a recent article published on, “The best musical library for your child includes a wide variety—a mixture of genres.” (Read the whole article here.)

Lily Levinowitz, professor of music education at Rowan University of New Jersey, compares the music you play to the foods you serve. “Create an ear food buffet,” she says. “Your musical menu should consist of songs from your culture and those around the world.”

In my ten plus years teaching guitar to children, I discovered that many of my students didn’t actually listen to music outside of lessons at all! Many students came to me unable to identify a single genre of music they liked, or any musical artists other than Taylor Swift and Jason Mraz. That is not to criticize Taylor Swift or Jason Mraz – they are both very good at what they do – but there is a whole world of music out there besides the Top 40 pop charts.

And as this video clearly shows, it’s never too early to start raising a global musical citizen!


Children’s Clapping Games

Your Weekly Listen for 10/7/15 is a video from the Africa Heartwood Project featuring three African children’s clapping games.

Virtually all cultures around the world have clapping songs and games played by children. In all likelihood, musical and rhythmic clapping games date back to prehistoric times, and have been found in the folklore of ancient Rome, Britain, Africa, Asia, Australia and many other regions around the world. In North America, familiar clapping games include “Pat-a-Cake”, “Miss Mary Mack”, “Pease Porridge Hot” to name just a few.

According to a study by Dr. Idit Sulkin and Dr. Warren Brodsky at Ben Gurion University in Israel, hand clapping songs improve children’s cognitive skills. “There’s no doubt [hand clapping games] train the brain and influence development in other areas,” said Brodsky. Read more about this study here:
Hand Clapping Games Improve Child Cognitive Skills

African music is characterized by complex polyrhythms so it’s not surprising to find complicated rhythmic sequences even in children’s musical games from Africa.

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