Review of The Songs of Hollywood by Philip Furia & Laurie Patterson

The Songs of Hollywood

I can’t think of any other title that would be more appropriate for this book. It might be a plain and simple name, but let me tell you, this book is chock-full of “songs of Hollywood”!

Personally, I love some of those old classic songs and dance numbers that Hollywood incorporated into their 20th century movies (especially “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers”). And even though the music style in movies has greatly changed since the “golden age,” I still really enjoy and gravitate toward music/dance movies that are well done and artistic.

Although I didn’t read this book cover to cover, from what I did read, I could tell the authors put many hours of hard work into this project because of the careful attention to detail and timeline. The book includes many, many lyric excerpts  as well as thumbnail pictures off to the side of certain movies-which I believe kept it more intriguing and visually appealing. Along with excerpts and pictures, each chapter includes lots of historical notes about songs, artists, song writers’ perspectives, the movie, the time period, or the entertainment industry itself. The book does reference some not so “golden” incidents from history, so just be aware of that if you pick it up to read.

Songs of Hollywood did delve into some songs and movies that followed the 1920-1950’s era, such as “Mary Poppins” and “Mr. Holland’s Opus,” but it primarily seemed to track the progression of songs that hit the limelight during the “golden age.”

Like I said, I didn’t read this all the way through, but I enjoyed what I did read and getting a history lesson in one of the biggest industries of our society! If you’re in need of a helpful resource to prepare for a workshop, group class, or are just interested in the evolution of 20th century Hollywood music, The Songs of Hollywood would be a great place to start. At the back, the book has several pages of chapter references, a credits section, a general index, and a song index.

After writing my review, I found this endorsement on the back of the book and wished I had seen it earlier because it would’ve saved me from having to write anything:

The Songs of Hollywood is a brilliantly researched, highly entertaining cornucopia of facts, tracing and defining the evolution of the use of songs in film. It’s a fascinating read, bursting with information about the great songwriters, performers, producers and directors who transformed a novelty gimmick into an art form.”
-Richard M. Sherman, Composer/Lyricist of Marry Poppins, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, and The Jungle Book

MTNA Live Streams Masterclasses

As you probably noticed, I’m not live-blogging the MTNA conference this year. After getting married in December, I decided that it would be good to take this year off of my various travels and extra events to re-focus and make my husband and children my first priority. I am loving being a wife and mother and enjoying learning a lot from this new role God has given me.

I haven’t heard if anyone else is live-blogging the conference (feel free to share any links if you know of someone who’s blogging!), but I was excited to see that MTNA is live-streaming a couple of masterclasses this year. The first one has passed, but you can still catch a live stream of the Spencer Myer Masterclass tomorrow (Tuesday) morning at 9:00. This is a great opportunity to get in on a little bit of the conference virtually even if you can’t be there in person!

Review of Madge’s Notebook: A Piano Tribute to the Hunger Games by Rebekah Maxner

(This book is not licensed or endorsed by Suzanne Collins or Lions Gate Entertainment.)

Let’s say you want a new piano book for your intermediate/late intermediate student. But not just any book. You want one that’s going to get them pumped, kindles an interest in classical music, and integrates movie-like themes, yet is challenging all at the same time. If that’s what you want, then Madge’s Notebook: A Piano Tribute to the Hunger Games is the way to go!

I have only seen The Hunger Games movies, but from what I gather, Miss Maxner seems to be quite versed in The Hunger Games series. She has used that knowledge to put together a very creative and unique music book containing songs that capture the series’ setting and story really well, while tastefully interweaving snippets of famous pieces (“Ave Maria”, “Imagine”, etc). At the back of the book you can find what themes she incorporated into her songs.

When I was younger (and even now) I loved playing chilling soundtrack songs! I got goose bumps everywhere when I could finally play Pirates of the Carribean, but you know what was so great? I loved the feeling of playing something that sounded grand and elaborate, something that you could listen to on a CD. I believe some students will feel similar about Madge’s Notebook. Even though Madge’s Notebook isn’t a motion picture score, it’s well done “inspired by” music; and a motivated and hard working student will grow a lot from learning these songs. More than that, they’ll be one step closer to being able to play the original versions of historical pieces and pop songs they love!

Just as a side note, there are some pretty tricky rhythms and notations, and I found hearing some of the songs played on Rebekah Maxner’s YouTube channel quite helpful.

Rebekah Maxner’s YouTube Channel

To get your own copy…
Notekidds Website

Perspectives on Distance Teaching

Even though I took the plunge into teaching piano lessons long distance (via Skype) 3 years ago, I still find it insightful to read others’ thoughts and perspectives on the topic. This article by Dan Severino Two Different Animals – Online Teaching vs. Studio Teaching is extensive and full of helpful thoughts for both those considering teaching long distance and those who are already doing so in some capacity.

Friday Film Find

Thanks to one of my studio families for sharing this fun and inspiring video clip with me!

Review of Tito Puente-Mambo King by Monica Brown

I was halfway through the illustrated children’s book when all of a sudden I thought, This doesn’t sound like a fictional story. Sure enough, once I got to the end of little Tito’s musical journey I discovered he was no fictional character!

Tito Puente – Mambo King by: Monica Brown

In fact, the reader experiences quite a fascinating ride following the life of musician, Ernest Anthony Puente Jr. “King of the Mambo”, with the book’s energy-filled pages and bilingual aspect. (When I first started reading the book and flipped to the first page, I thought it was only in Spanish and had no idea how I was going to review it! …then I saw the English text above the Spanish.)

Tito Puente-Mambo King is very vibrant, faster paced, and quite colorful-wonderful components to keeping a reader (especially a child) engaged in an illustrated story. If it’s artfully done, like this one, I say the more for a child to look at, the better! Plus, on top of it just being a story, you get a music and general history lesson.

At the back of the book, there’s a short biography of Puente Jr. that you can read and learn all sorts of facts about him. And if you’re bilingual, you can even read the biography twice!

I have to say, in spite of not being particularly fond of bilingual children’s books or this style of illustration, my hat is off to Miss Brown for creating such a fun and enjoyable book. It was well done.

Review of The Piano Bench Mag

Karen Gibson, publisher of The Piano Bench Mag, has established an “on the go” music magazine for teachers! Whether waiting for an appointment or just sitting at home, you’ll find a plethora of different ideas in her monthly publication.

The magazine has a specific topic for each month. December focused on Practice, January was Games, February takes a look at Students, and the most recent focuses on Technique. I really like how Gibson includes a variety of articles, as well as resources and helpful tidbit pages. I am much more inclined to look through an entire magazine if I can acquire information apart from just reading articles. Each monthly issue seems to be pretty substantial, too, so you’re pretty well guaranteed a good amount of information and ideas!

If you’d like to purchase an issue or subscribe to The Piano Bench Mag – providing resources and inspiration for piano teachers, it’s available for mobile devices through Apple Newsstand and Google Play (for Android). You can also find The Piano Bench Mag on Facebook.

To try it out, I downloaded it to my iPhone Newsstand (which I have never used before) and I could navigate it pretty well, but from what I could tell, the formatting for the iPad version looked nicer.

If you want a free 3 month subscription, be one of the first three to comment “subscribe me” and the free subscription will be yours!