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.


Kesselgarden: A Fantastic Klezmer Duo at Couth Buzzard This Saturday


Your weekly listen for 9/16/15 is Kesselgarden, a fabulous Seattle-based Klezmer duo. They will be playing this coming Saturday, September 19, at Couth Buzzard Books in Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, in a double bill with a five-piece band called the Klezmer Balabustas.

Couth Buzzard is a kid-friendly venue with a listening room in back, a kids area and a coffee counter with snacks and beverages. I took my four year old to a show there a few weeks ago and it was a good experience, so I am definitely planning to bring her along to this event also!

Klezmer is a musical tradition of the Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe. It consists primarily of lively dance tunes and other instrumental pieces.

Carl Shutoff of Kesselgarden was kind enough to allow me to interview him about his upcoming show. He has played the clarinet since childhood and has two grown children who are also musical. Carl was a classical musician until his son’s Bar Mitzvah, when the hired band, The Mazeltones, inspired him to start playing Klezmer.

Saturday’s show at Couth Buzzard will be a lot of fun for both kids and grown-ups. Check out the video below and see for yourself!

Kesselgarden & The Klezmer Balabustas
Saturday, September 19, 7:30 pm
Couth Buzzard Books
8310 Greenwood Ave N, Seattle, WA 98103
(206) 436-2960


Correo Aereo – Seattle-based Latin Duo

Correo Aereo

Your weekly listen for 9/10/15 is Correo Aereo, a Seattle-based latin duo comprised of Abel Rocha and Madeleine Sosin. They play a fantastic blend of traditional Latin American music and their own original songs. Abel sings & plays harp, guitar and cuatro. Madeleine sings & plays violins, maracas, bombo and jarana.

A cuatro is a small stringed instrument similar to a guitar or lute. Since “cuatro” means “four”, a traditional cuatro has only four strings, although modern cuatros may have more. A jarana is also similar to a guitar but smaller and with eight strings, and a bombo is a small bass drum.

In the video you will see Madeleine playing maracas and Abel playing a four-stringed cuatro, accompanied by a bass player.

While most people will enjoy the upbeat and passionate feel of latin rhythms, unless you grew up listening to music like this or are a trained musician in this style, you may find it difficult to relate to the rhythmic patterns (ie, you may have a hard time “finding the beat”). One of the cool things about exposing young children to polyrhythmic music such as this is that their brains, which have twice as much connective tissue as our adult brains, are actually better equipped to interpret unfamiliar patterns of sound, so they may actually get even more out of their listening experience than you!

Even if you aren’t overly concerned about polyrhythms and brain waves, Correo Aereo (Air Mail) is an energetic, upbeat duo and a rich cultural experience. They’re playing live at the FREE SeaTac International Festival this coming Saturday, September 12 at 4pm. The festival is sure to be fun for the whole family. I plan to attend with my daughter and I hope to see you there!

SeaTac International Festival at Angle Lake Park
19408 International Blvd., SeaTac
September 12 & 13, 2015, 10 am – 8pm
Admission to the festival is free.
They also offer a children’s play area which costs $5/day and opens at 12 noon.
The festival features food, arts and crafts as well as music all day.
More details here on the SeaTac International Festival Web Site

Live at SeaTac International Festival September 12


Music is Good for Your Baby’s Brain!

baby glasses 2

Your Weekly Listen for 08/27/15 is this incredible informational video! Below, you can see Neuroscience Professor Nina Kraus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinios explain how music is interpreted by your brain.

Respected studies in neuroscience have shown that young children who take regular music lessons grow up to have more connective tissue in their brains than their non-musical peers, which enhances their abilities to learn language, music and other subjects at any age.

“Musical training before the age of seven has a significant effect on the development of the human brain … early musical training can benefit children even before they’re able to walk or talk. Babies who participate in interactive music classes show better early communication skills, like pointing at objects and waving goodbye, and also smile more and are easier to soothe.” – Psychology Today

For further reading on this topic, I also recommend this short article from Psychology Today.


Great Musicians Who Learned to Play at Home With Their Families #1: John Lennon

John Lennon

John Lennon’s first and only music teacher was his mother, Julia Lennon. She played the banjo and taught him to play when he was a boy. He never had any formal music lessons.

He went on to form The Beatles and a songwriting partnership with Paul McCartney that would be one of the most successful and influential in the history of popular music.

So the moral of the story is … today, play banjo with your kid, and tomorrow, she could become a superstar! Or if not, then hopefully a happy, well-adjusted person who enjoys playing and sharing music with others and feels good about the sounds he makes. 🙂 After all, our kids are all superstars to us!

The Beatles – Yellow Submarine (Original Animated Video) (1966)


A Train Stop In Hungary: Music Modelling at its Best!

A Train Stop in Hungary (Latcho Drom)

From the mesmerizing film “Latcho Drom” (the story of the gypsies as told through song and dance).

You know how, when you’re doing something serious and grown-up, the kids just always seem to want to get in the middle of it? Like if you’re trying to balance the budget or look up something business related on the computer, or talk to your lawyer on the phone? They can sense when you’re giving something your full concentration and that’s how they know it’s important. I contrast this with the way some parents (not you, of course) sometimes are in music class, half-heartedly wagging a maraca while chatting with the mom next to them. You really think your kids are going to take this music stuff seriously?

Here, in this video, you will see the kind of enthusiasm that will let kids know that music is real, important grown-up stuff. Imagine if this was happening in your living room every weekend!


Adorable Finnish Girl Sings and Plays a Ladybug Lullaby: Viola Uotila

VIola Uotila

Here is the lovely Viola Uotila singing a traditional Finnish lullaby entitled “Lenna Lenna Leppakertu” (Fly, Fly, Ladybug) in her native Finnish, and accompanying herself on a kantele.The kantele is the national musical instrument of Finland. It resembles a dulcimer and is a member of the psaltery family (see my posts about Joni Mitchell, 12/16/14 and Grego and Mazja, 11/30/14, for more about psalteries and dulcimers).

This is a traditional Finnish “Kalevala” lullaby. “Kalevala” is the name given to the Finnish oral tradition in poetry and contains work dating as far back as the Iron age. The poems survived as a singing tradition and were collected and published by Elias Lönnrot in the mid-1800s.

This little traditional song about a ladybug is still sung to Finnish children by their parents as a lullaby.

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