MUSIC MONKEYS, YOUNG & OLD :)

On Thursday, January 12, 2017, I had the honor and privilege of being a musical connector and bringing two fantastic communities together. The little music monkeys (22 children total) of Gan Chabad of the Main Line sang, danced, played and shared good times with the senior music monkeys (40 adults total) of Symphony Square Assisted Living & Memory Care. For 30 minutes straight, we waved our arms, wiggled our fingers, patted our laps, clapped our hands, played tambourines, jumped up and down, sang songs and played games. This morning’s favorites were “If You’re Happy & You Know It”, “The Hokey Pokey”, “Arms Up”, “Bouncin’ and a-Boppin'” and (my personal favorite) “Clap Clap Clap”. It was my personal favorite because all music monkeys, regardless of age and ability clapped together and tried their best. Two thumbs up and Monkey Cheer from Lori!

Rockin' out with Franklin, who asks me to sing Anchors Away every time I see him. And every time he asks, I'll sing it for and with him. Notice his double tambourine playing skills!

Rockin’ out with Franklin, who asks me to sing Anchors Away every time I see him. And every time he asks, I’ll sing it for and with him. Notice his double tambourine playing skills!

Music monkeys, young & old, sharing in the goodness of a monkey cheer together! OOH OOH OOH, AAH AAH AAH, CHA CHA CHA!

Music monkeys, young & old, sharing in the goodness of a monkey cheer together! OOH OOH OOH, AAH AAH AAH, CHA CHA CHA!

So many ARMS UP! :)

So many ARMS UP! 🙂

I am so grateful that Temma Cohen (Gan Chabad Preschool Director) had the great idea of bringing all of us together and that Jonathan Siegel (Symphony Square Activities Director) requested this to be an ongoing occurrence. The open and loving hearts of these young children bring warmth, love and light to our seniors and together, we’re building a bonded community where everyone is take care of.

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In the MMJ Studio w/ Lori

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A MMJ Movie Recommendation!

The Snowman (1982). One of the greatest winter/holiday movies of all time. Limited dialogue, beautiful music, adorable story line and the perfect length for little ones. The song “Walking in the Air” is sung by a young boy named Aled Jones, who’s now a grown man.

Video #1 is the song, as its sung in the original movie.

Video #2 is the song, as its sung with the use of modern technology, as the grown Aled sings with his younger self.

Happy Holidays from all of the monkeys in Music Monkey Jungle and go check out The Snowman, you’ll be so glad you did.

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Why was that song written?
Arms Up (On Welcome to the Jungle)

Did you know that I know just how catchy the lyrics I write are? Did you know that I know, you’re internally singing a song right now? It’s true, right? I’m aware that all I have to write is “bah dum bum bum bum” and The MMJ Theme Song or the MMJ Goodbye Song is now in your head. See, there is science behind this phenomenon of being gifted in catchy lyric writing and combining it with active cognitive growth and development. Let me give you some insight as I teach you through the song analysis of “Arms Up”.

Take a listen and watch:

I know the camera work in the video isn’t the greatest, as you can’t see all of the children actively participating in the movements, but you can see a few of them and you can certainly hear all of the guardians singing, which is absolutely essential in productive Music Monkey Jungle programming. “Arms Up” seems like a simple song that lacks lots of depth but check out everything that went into writing it.

This is the music, movement and dance concept checklist I use when writing new material. You’ll see X’s next to all concepts that are involved within the song.
music-movement-analysis-blog-arms-up

The following is further analysis and definition of the concepts. “Arms Up” includes:

  • Melody – unison singing (singing together with others).
  • Aural Development – active listening skills that coordinate with the movements.
  • Tempo – slow, medium slow, medium fast, fast and very fast.
  • Range – singing high, singing low and singing medium.
  • Instruments – shakers.
  • Body Awareness – focus on arms.
  • Theme & Variations – Theme: arms. Variations: all tempos and movements.
  • Levels – arms up high, arms down low, arms in medium space; matching the high, low and medium range of the vocals.
  • Gross Motor Skills – arms.
  • Balance/Coordination – if our little music monkeys have enough attention span to stay in one place, while singing, moving and dancing to this song; practice of balance and coordination automatically happens.

So, it’s true that “Arms Up'” is a very simple song but it certainly does not lack educational depth. And, the song was written to teach babies through 3-year-olds and then to challenge 4-6 year-olds in the concepts above. How about that for educational diversity?

 

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MMJ Private Lesson: Spotlight on Sasha (age 8)

Sasha and the wonderful world of practice!

Sasha and the wonderful world of practice!

Learning how to read music is an amazing feat. Math, science, space and sound combine outside of the body but ultimately the musician feels it within. Through my musical training as the student, the student teacher, the teacher and the performer, I’ve had some outstanding music teachers and some amazingly lousy music teachers. Those outstanding music teachers taught me how important it is to connect with my students and those lousy music teachers taught me who I don’t want to be and how I don’t want to teach.

On Tuesday afternoons, I have the honor of teaching Sasha. During her lessons I feel like I’m hangin’ out with the definitely cooler, way cuter and more comfortable version of my 8-year-old self. She asks questions that need to be asked, she has confidence that I envy and she understands things that would have flown over my head when I was 8. But the thing about us is, we “talk” music just as much as we “play” music.

The conversation we had yesterday during her lesson was about why she takes lessons with me, what she wants to do with music now and what she wants to do with music as she gets older. She shared that she takes lessons with me because she likes how I present music theory (she doesn’t even know what those words mean, I’m paraphrasing), she was too humble to say that one of the reasons she takes lessons is because she’s good at music (I made it clear to her that not only is she good but it’s OK to say it out loud, proudly) and she couldn’t tell me what she wants to do with music, she just knows she loves it and that’s the perfect answer for an 8-year-old who’s not being pushed to be older than she really is.

Little did she know that this conversation was our entrance into practicing, the dreaded music word that motivates musicians to either get better, be better or quit. See, here’s the thing, some (most) children need to learn how to practice. They need to be taught how to practice effectively, efficiently and confidently over a good amount of time. They need to understand that practice does not make perfect, it makes better and I’m not expecting perfection. They need to know that practicing doesn’t have to be boring, doesn’t have to be hard, doesn’t have to be lonely and that I am accessible when they have confusion or need help. I took the opportunity to explain this to her and then we started down this new-found and exciting practicing path.

C Major Scale. No clef, right hand finger numbers and color coded piano & xylophone charts. The goal here is for Sasha's eyes to work with her brain in connection to her fingers. Therefore, I don't want her eyes to be overwhelmed with too many music symbols. She'll learn them all, in time.

C Major Scale. No clef, right hand finger numbers and color coded piano & xylophone charts. The goal here is for Sasha’s eyes to work with her brain in connection to her fingers. Therefore, I don’t want her eyes to be overwhelmed with too many music symbols. She’ll learn them all, in time.

Sasha's fantastic "piano hand" posture, at the start of the scale. I didn't even talk to her about having "piano hands"... she's just a natural!

Sasha’s fantastic “piano hand” posture, at the start of the scale. I didn’t even talk to her about having “piano hands”… she’s just a natural!

The continuation of awesome "piano hand" posture after doing the "thumb cross under". This music teacher is kvelling at/ for this student!

The continuation of awesome “piano hand” posture after doing the “thumb cross under”. This music teacher is kvelling at/ for this student!

Bringing the sweet, little and weak pinky into the piano playing world. Sasha was a champ while working on this new-found discomfort. Nice work Sasha!

Bringing the sweet, little and weak pinky into the piano playing world. Sasha was a champ while working on this new-found discomfort.
Nice work Sasha!

We worked on the C Major Scale until Sasha felt comfortable enough to practice at home, which I truly hope she does. But, if she doesn’t, we’ll continue working on how to practice, right here in the comfort of the Music Monkey Jungle music room and I’ll exercise musical patience until we get “there”.

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Stress!

STRESS!!!!!!

STRESS!!!!!!

This time of year is more than stressful, right? And, we never know what someone is going through, even when they look like they’re put together in the nice, wrapped-up package that the holiday season is supposed to bring. So, my advice – stop, breathe deeply, give kindness, give hugs, give warmth, open your heart, open your mind, open your arms and if need be, cry… a lot!

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Fifi & Fester Return!

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MMJ Private Lesson: Spotlight on Jason (age 4)

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MMJ Private Lesson: Spotlight on Nick

Nick (age 6)

Nick (age 6)

Nick and I have been working together for 4 years. He’s a deeply spirited, fun-loving and fantastic young man and musician. When he was 2, he often attended Music Monkey Jungle performances at The Children’s Boutique and showed amazing technique with gross motor and fine motor skills, drumming with the shakers. He was born to play instruments and our musical conversations are, by-far, the greatest conversations I have during the week.

In the picture above, we worked on the musical objectives of writing, creating, understanding, performing, playing and analyzing:
1. Pitched Percussion
2. Un-pitched Percussion
3. Mallet Technique
4. Rhythm
5. Melody
6. Tri being 3; Triple-Ti and Triad
7. Patterns of Rhythm
8. Patterns of Melody
9. Timbre
10. Having creative reigns for Theme & Variations

I’ve learned a structured approach, with very laid back delivery is what makes this virtuoso thrive and that’s just what I give him when we work together. I did ask him if I could take video of him performing but he was way more comfortable with a still.

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Top 5 Kid’s Party Pointers for Parents Planning a Party

MMJ Parties

During the last 10 years, I’ve played hundreds of birthday parties. I’ve played home performances, banquet hall performances, performances in a restaurant, common room or coffee shop, performances inside, performances outside, performances with adult participation, performances without adult participation, performances in competition with a life-size Elmo, jungle gym, water slide, sand box, toys, games and food. I’ve played for a variety ages and a variety of settings, for people who know me well and for people who had never met me prior to the birthday party. You name it, I’ve played it and through it all, I’ve learned these top 5 tips, tricks and party pointers that will help you have a successful experience.

1. Go with entertainment that is right for your budget. An outstanding musical performance is fantastic but so is the always-loved, amazingly popular, economical bubble machine. Mix it with every plastic toy you’ve every owned and your party goers are bound to have a great time. Birthday parties for the babies, toddlers, preschoolers are a very big deal, there’s no doubt about it, but the party budget doesn’t need to be a big deal too.
2. Go with entertainment and entertainers who come recommended, are easy to communicate with and have samples of their work for you to observe. When someone finds Music Monkey Jungle through a search engine and doesn’t regularly attend our interactive performances, I always suggest for them to put their birthday music monkey in front of the computer and play one of our videos posted YouTube, particularly “Bouncin’ and a-Boppin'”. If the child’s response is to jump, rock out and have a good time, it’s a pretty good indication that they’ll jump, rock out and have a good time at their party.
3. Visit online resources such as Oriental Trading, USToy and Amazon for party supplies, favors and toys that are economical and come in bulk…. unless Pinterest is your thing, all power to you.
4. Know your child, know their limits and create a celebration that’s best for their senses. Honestly, take who they’ll see (that includes the entertainment they’ve never met before), what they’ll see, they’re sensitivity to loud conversation and/or music, the foods they’ll smell and taste and everything they’ll be tempted to touch (this includes the outfit you dress them in) into full consideration.
5. Parties can be quite overwhelming to plan but even more overwhelming (and exciting) for the guest of honor to attend. Give that guest of honor space to feel all their feelings. Make sure you have you have well-known loving arms for the birthday music monkey to be held and hugged in, hands for them to hold and a space where they can possibly meltdown or nap. While this might not be your ideal vision, the unpredictability of a kid’s parties is tremendous, why not cover as many scenarios that could happen as possible?

Well folks, there it is, my top 5 pointers for helping your celebration run smoothly. Here’s to good times, friends, family, good, fun, good music and laughter! ~ Lori

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