Archive for 2011

Seasonal Selections

Friday, December 16th, 2011

‘Tis the season to drag out the carols and traditional songs.  But do we mindlessly mouth the well-worn words of all those all-too-familiar Christmas standards?  We asked the Simply Music staff to tell us about their favorite seasonal songs, and discovered a treasure trove of unexplored gems.

As a starter, we note that a few years ago the BBC conducted a poll to determine the best Christmas carol.  The winner was In the Bleak Midwinter by Harold Darke (on iTunes).  Let’s see how others’ opinions diverge from this:

Stacie explains, “My favorite Christmas song is one that is not well known and has a funny name. It is called Ding-a-Ling the Christmas Bell by country singer Lynn Anderson from the early 1970s. It is about a bell that rings off key and ends up saving Christmas. I like it because it is not over-played like most Christmas songs on the radio, it has a nice lesson about acceptance, and every time I hear it, it brings a tear to my eye and I am flooded with happy childhood memories of decorating the Christmas tree and opening presents with my family”.

Samantha‘s favorite seasonal song is O Holy Night, especially when performed by Nat King Cole. 

As a country and bluegrass performer, Gretta goes for anything with a twang in it:
Christmas Time’s a Comin’ —  Ricky Skaggs, Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas — Little Big Town, Merry Christmas Baby — Elvis Presley & Gretchen Wilson and The Friendly Beasts — Garth Brooks

Mel has very eclectic tastes, including  Deck the Halls by online music pioneers Pomplamoose (and sales benefit the Richmond Book Drive) and the unusual reinterpretation of The Twelve Days of Christmas from Straight No Chaser.

Gordon says:

“The Pogues’ ‘A Fairytale of New York’ is very confronting Christmas fare, but what an uplifting tune!

How to Make Gravy:  This humble ballad from Aussie bard Paul Kelly has all the elements of a great story: tragedy, hope and redemption.  Just the thing to bring you back to those Christmas values of family and forgiveness.

And we all need to get funky at Christmas.  For that, you can’t can’t go past James Brown delivering Santa Claus Go Straight to the Ghetto“.

Here’s Robin’s choice:

“I always watched the Peanuts holiday specials as a child.  I really related to the piano music and Schroeder, the child prodigy!  
My other favorite Christmas music is from Raymond Briggs, “The Snowman.”  I find the beautifully animated story, told only with music, to be so moving and the music is simply gorgeous.
Finally, as a child, I loved the Christmas Carol:  It Came Upon a MIdnight Clear.  The Christmas story is told so beautifully and it always filled me with so much joy and emotion.

Jy gives us a few verses of ‘My Dreidl’:

“I have a little dreidl, I made it out of clay

And when it’s dry and ready, then dreidl I shall play

Oh dreidl, dreidl, dreidl, I made it out of clay…

I have a little dreidl, I made it out of straw

It went eighty miles an hour, and broke the speeding law

Oh dreidl, dreidl, dreidl…

I have a little dreidl, I made it out of bread

I never really spun it, I ate it up instead

Oh dreidl, dreidl, dreidl…

I have a little dreidl, I made it in my mind

Imaginary dreidl, it’s the hardest one to find

Oh dreidl, dreidl, dreidl…

I have a little dreidl, I keep it on the shelf

If you want to sing more verses, you can make them up yourself!

Growing up in a big Jewish family with a lot of music and a lot of noise, I loved this one because everyone made up new verses and it was always really funny.  Watching old and young so seriously working to create hilarious verses — each one outdoing the next, without knocking over the 15 or so fully-lit menorahs (candelabras) was quite the holiday adventure!”

Mary K‘s Christmas is nicely noisy:

“Our family favorite, hands down is Handel’s Unto Us A Child Is Born.  It has been a long standing tradition on Christmas morning to blast the kids out of bed by playing this about as loud as our speakers could handle.  Paul and I would get up early and finish any last minute Christmas ‘choirs’ while listening to Handel’s Messiah. Then when we just couldn’t wait any longer Paul would put this piece on at ear piercing volume and the kids knew it was time to get up.  Once when the kids were about 7 and 5 Scott found the tape in the car and insisted we play it.  Of course to keep with tradition it had to be at full volume.  Imagine the sight, it is 100 degrees outside, we have all of the windows rolled down and we are signing at the top of our lungs Unto Us A Child Is Born in the middle of July.  Even now with adult children we always start Christmas morning with this piece loud enough that all of the neighbors know the Ferreters are opening gifts.

Warning:  This song is to be played very loud for maximum enjoyment!”

Leave a comment telling us your favorites!

Talk Music with Dr Katrina McFerran

Friday, December 16th, 2011

From Gordon Harvey

Dr Katrina McFerran is a music therapist, researcher and a senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne.  Author of many works including Adolescents, Music and Music Therapy, she has a special interest in reaching adolescents through music, but she has wide experience of many aspects of music therapy.  We spoke to her about this under-appreciated field, where much wonderful work is done using music’s unique ability to help us connect with the world.

Use the player below to listen to the interview.

Teacher of the Month – Elliette Boumeester

Friday, December 16th, 2011

From Mel Karajas

Since her beginnings as a Simply Music student, Eliette Boumeester has grown and expanded her musical horizons in multiple directions, including becoming a singer-songwriter and one of the youngest ever Simply Music Teachers, much of it happening under the cloud of serious illness. She tells her story to Mel Karajas and shares a song reflecting her journey.

Can you please let us know a little  background about your musical development?

Music has always been a huge part of my life really.  When I was little, my parents sat me down and said “you need to learn a musical instrument”. I began playing violin but we moved from Canberra to Melbourne when I was 5 so my lessons didn’t continue. I started playing piano with David Bremner then with Gordon Harvey when I was 6. My Dad has always played piano, he’s a really talented Jazz player, so I have grown up with piano in the house and loved it so that was where I started.

You started playing at such a young age. What was it that had you stick with music?

Music for me has been always been a way to express myself. My Dad had cancer when I was 9 so it was almost an escape for me. It was a way I could express my feelings like if I was angry or upset. Music is so important in people’s lives … it’s therapeutic. Whether it’s teaching music or playing it, I get something out of it that I can’t find anywhere else.

You are one of the youngest Simply Music teachers. What made you take the leap from learning Simply Music to teaching it?

I was 14 when I started teaching. It got to the time when I was 12 or 13 where I questioned how far music was going to take me … was it going to be a career choice? I needed something more than school, sport and music lessons. I knew I loved kids and teaching so I thought about piano teaching but wasn’t sure how to get started. My Dad suggested teaching Simply Music and because I already loved the method where I didn’t have to learn scales or do exams I went from there and haven’t looked back. It’s been fantastic.

As a person and as a musician, how do you think the teaching has developed you?

I definitely think I’ve grown as a player and as a teacher. You get so much out of teaching so you learn as you go. I’ve always struggled with the theory side of things. When I sit down with my students and they ask me questions about major or minor chords or keys, I can explain it and it makes sense but if I need to write it down it doesn’t. I guess it’s like teaching Mathematics. When you are saying it out loud it becomes more clear than when you would just be trying to figure it out in your head. Having these conversations with my students helps me ‘say it out loud’ so I learn with them. It’s a really cool two way street.

As a person, teaching has helped me mature as well. Just having to arrange schedules and speak with parents it was all really daunting at first. I really wasn’t sure how I’d do it, especially marketing myself. Now I see how much fun it is and how much I get out of it emotionally, physically and musically. It’s really amazing.

You had a health scare a sometime ago, can you tell us a little about that?

Sure. I got a virus called the Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Basically, I got a cold then a week later my hands and feet were going numb and I was very dizzy. Normally when I have a cold I’d say ‘oh well, life goes on’ and I don’t worry about it because I’m so busy and don’t have time to slow down just for a cold. It got really bad so I took a day off school and just slept. My hands and feet went numb again but I thought maybe I’d just slept on my side for too long. I went to the doctors and he gave me antibiotics for blocked ears and sinus infection. The next day (Thursday), I was dehydrated and vomiting so went to the doctor again that night and was sent to hospital. ER ran all sorts of scans and tests as they thought there may have been something wrong in my brain. The following night (Friday) they moved me to the ward and let me know I had Guillain-Barre and that meant that my body was basically shutting down because I didn’t have enough white blood cells to fight that bacteria. I had to have a blood transfusion to try and slow it down but the reality was I would be paralysed and lose my ability to walk. That night I couldn’t breathe anymore so the Saturday morning I was moved to ICU as the doctors said the disease wasn’t meant to progress this fast. I had to be put in an induced coma for the doctors to get on top of it. My family came in to tell me everything was going to be OK but I had no feeling below my knees and my arms barely had any strength to brush my teeth. I woke up Monday morning and couldn’t move or open my eyes. If you were to touch my shoulder I couldn’t tell you if you were hot or cold but I could hear everything that was going on around me and was aware if you were in the room. They moved me into another hospital, in an adults ward, where I was on a lot of medication so don’t really remember much of that week. I had to relearn how to do everything again. How to breathe, walk and feed myself. You have to relearn how to use your muscles again as the sheath around your nerves is damaged. Every nerve in your body is kind of disconnected then has to grow back. So it is something you can come back from which was always a positive but we weren’t sure to what extent. The results vary by age so being 16 was a big advantage. There was another girl who was 19, had Guillain-Barre and after 8 months was still in a wheelchair. My recovery happened really fast, in 3 months I had walked out of rehab on crutches. My Dad was surprised as he thought any sort of recovery would be at least 6 months away. Learning to breathe again was incredible. You have different levels of Life Support and pressure support that helps you breathe. Then you have the CPap machine and after 2 minutes on that I thought I was going to suffocate. The nurses kept me going by pushing me to do more all the time. I was in the ward for about 2 weeks and had been told by a students’ parent who worked there that I would be there for 6-8 months which got me really upset.  A wheelchair had been sitting in my room all of this time and the nurses wanted to get me up and moving. After desperately not wanting to be in the chair, they lifted me in and wheeled me around. I still remember being taken to a window where it was bright and sunny and seeing a woman walking her dog. It made me realise that I had gotten comfortable not doing anything and that I didn’t want to live my life this way. I am only 16 and want to travel next year and be energetic. In time, I was taken off my breathing machine, my nerves repaired so I now had feeling and there were still more ups and downs where you had to push the boundaries of what you think you can do. Playing the piano again after such a long time was just an amazing feeling. There was always music going on in my room which was an incredible environment to recover in. It kept my mind busy and motivated which was really important.  My friends constantly visited and kept my room decorated so all of this was really positive in keeping my spirits up and recovery fast.

On the ward, I made sure I went to the piano once a day. That was really scary. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to play again as I had to retrain my hands to move and my fingers weren’t working. The hardest thing to face was not being able to play as I did before. I was determined to make sure I could. Playing was a really good way to keep motivated as I couldn’t walk just yet so it gave me something else to focus on. I even wrote a song on the ward to get a few things out of my system which really helped.

Can you tell us a little more about the song and where it’s taken you?

Sure. I entered my song into a secondary school competition throughout New Zealand. I applied last year and made the top 50 and was able to achieve the same this year. They gave me some money to professionally record and I got on their CD. It’s been amazing but also quite scary to write a song then record it and have people listen to and judge it. To send it in to a competition and have very important people in the music industry give their opinion about it is quite daunting. It got some really great feedback though which is reassuring.

Would you recommend the experience to someone else or encourage your students to enter their songs into a competition?

Definitely. Unless you put yourself out there, you’ll never be heard. It’s  a career path I want to go down so I’m always jotting things down in my note book. I even ask my students to write me a song as there is always a great story behind it. Music is such a diverse language that no matter who you are or where you are in the world you connect with it. It comes with so much emotion and feeling. You might not be able to sit down with someone and tell them how you feel but when you are writing a song or singing it, you can. I did a research project this year on music therapy as I was just so fascinated on how much music was a part of me getting better. It was on all the time from when I woke up to when I went to sleep at night. There was an experiment in America on kids with cancer. They got them to write songs and encourage song writing. These kids couldn’t communicate with doctors as to what was making them sick, what was adding to their pain or if they were scared. They were really closed off. There was a girl who was quite musical who bcame the face of a recording device that they bring into the hospital in a bus. The kids came up with really amazing songs about how they were feeling. Things that they couldn’t talk to anyone about, talking about doctors or treatment or being sad and upset. This is why I think if you write a song you should share it. I can understand why people would see sharing your private thoughts as daunting but the other thing is that other people relate to it. Everyone feels a little shut off or embarrassed and thinks they shouldn’t feel how they feel but in reality there are millions of people in the world that feel exactly the same.

What a wonderful perpective to have as a teacher knowing that this is what your students will go through.

Exactly. Sometimes they will come to me with songs that they write and I’ll ask them what they were feeling when they wrote them or what is the story behind it? Sometimes they are willing to share and others there is more to it than they want to share. But the fact that they can write lyrics about it or put their feelings on the keys is incredible. I’m not a great poet but if I put it to music then it is something completely different for me.

We’ve included the song you spoke about here but have you created any other work?

Yeah I have. My dad had stage 4 cancer when I was 9 so song writing has been a big thing for me since I was small as a way to get everything out. I have written quite a lot of songs and have gone to music school the last 2 years for song writing courses. Sometimes I get stumped on how to put my feelings into words so some songs take longer than others where other times I feel like just putting absolutely everything into it. I think simplicity of songs is so important. If you have a message don’t make it complicated … it doesn’t need to be. My organic songs are always better than the ones where I’m consciously trying to get across a specific message. In this song I wanted to get the message across that if you believe enough in something it will happen … absolutely. I could easily have sat in my room for 3 months being angry at the world and depressed about my situation but the reality is there was nothing to blame for this, it just happened. If I had’ve caused this then would have been something to be angry about but this was nobody’s fault, it was just life. So I just kept setting goals and saying that I would walk again and I will be out of here by Christmas. That happened. I was out a month earlier than that and on crutches when most people thought I might be home for Christmas and if I was it would be in a wheelchair. It’s all about your mindset. If you are committed to the idea that you can make it happen then you will and I strongly believe that. If you want to lie down and take life’s down side nothing good will come of it.  In this song I really wanted to tell my friends how much help they were and that I didn’t have much to say but we fought and got through it together. The first verse opens with ‘I feel cold, I feel numb, I feel nothing’. This song took me about 5 months to write and figure out where I wanted to start. That line really summed up where I was at in the beginning and physically as well … I really didn’t feel anyting. It’s a very emotional song for people that know the message behind it. I’m working on a music video for it at the moment and was asked ‘do you want to incorporate the illness and real story into it or do you want to people to subtley figure it out for themselves?’ I could do a hospital theme or empty bed theme but I didn’t want the video to be too heavy. The other 2 verses are quite light where the second verse says ‘I love the way that you kiss, you kiss my hand’. The third verse is about my friends and how they pulled me though. The bridge is about a ghost calling me into the darkness. It was a hard song to write but I’m really glad I wrote it. It really helped me get my head around everything that happened and what I wanted to remember.

You have a fantastic mind set and are physically healthy again. Where do you see yourself going with this? Is music a big part of your future

Definitely, I want to make music my career. Whether it’s performing or teaching or directing and producing I’m not sure yet. I want to come to Australia and study. I’m planning on going to the Australian Institute of Music in Sydney which is a huge goal of mine. Really I have nothing to lose and if you picture yourself doing something in the future you just need to work hard and be committed then it’s yours. It’s about building my confidence up now and launching into the big wide world. I can’t wait to learn from the important people in my life. I really just want to instill into people that no matter what trouble comes your way, when you are positive and surround yourself with great energy, you really can accomplish anything.

Listen to Eliette’s song Believe



The Art of Coaching

Friday, December 16th, 2011

From Robin Keehn

The term “Coaching” brings many things to mind but perhaps the most common is the image of a professional sports coach—like Vince Lombardi or soccer coach Luiz Felipe Scolari. Professional sports coaches train athletes to perform at their very best. They spend time each day taking athletes through a series of physical and mental challenges that improve their concentration, strength and performance.

In Simply Music, we rely on two important coaches to help students play the piano; the “Method Coach” and the “Life Coach.” The Method Coach is your teacher. Your teacher’s role is to give you the learning tools and strategies so you can learn foundation pieces, arrangements, accompaniments and how to compose and improvise.

Here is another way to think of your Method Coach. You might be familiar with the Simply Music “Restaurant” Analogy.  Imagine a chef who is going to prepare a meal in a fine restaurant. At the beginning of the week the chef goes to a grocery store and gathers the best ingredients. Once he has them, he returns to the kitchen and spends the next days chopping, dicing, pureeing, and preparing the ingredients.  When you come for dinner, he serves it up.

There were two critical activities—first, he visited the grocery store. Your Method Coach IS the grocery store!   When you come to class, your Method Coach gives you the finest ingredients. The ingredients include learning tools and strategies like “controlling the events” and the “external speaker.” They also include learning your pieces through shapes, patterns, chord progressions, rhythm and melody diagrams and more!

The second critical activity is where your LIFE Coach comes in!  When you take those ingredients home, the real work begins. You spend the next six days chopping, dicing, pureeing and working with the ingredients. In “real life” these activities might be watching your DVD, playing and checking your playlist, listening to your CD, clapping and transcribing rhythm patterns, writing measures of intervals, practicing chord shapes for accompaniment or working on a composition.  When you come back to class, you serve up the great meal (pieces of music) you’ve prepared.

So, just like a chef has help in the kitchen, your Life Coach is your help at home.  Your Life Coach is a critical part of your success in learning to play the piano. Your Life Coach comes to your lessons with you and hears and sees everything that your teacher does with you. He or she understands what you have been learning in class and the value of what you have learned.  He/she understands the nature of the long-term relationship of playing the piano and so your Life Coach is the person you can count on to protect your practice time and keep you going when you hit a valley or plateau.  So, why does the Life Coach do this? Because your Life Coach wants you to have music as a lifelong companion and knows that his or her support will be the most critical factor in your achievement of that goal.

Life Coaches, did you hear that?  You will be the reason that your student succeeds in retaining music as a life long companion!  You will be challenged on many levels through the process, but what a wonderful opportunity you have to teach your child how to maintain a long-term relationship. Your commitment and support will help your child not only in piano but in life.   Your child will know and understand what it takes to stay in school, hold a job, go to college, be married, and even raise children because each of these require a long-term commitment. What a gift to help them mature into young adults who have already experienced success in this!

Student of the Month – Bradley Hughes

Friday, December 16th, 2011

From Leanne Van Heerwaarden

Bradley is a Simply Music student who has acquired music as a life-long companion. He is a musician, a composer, an accompanist and an arranger – all by age 16. Bradley is also a very respectful, imaginative and dedicated student.

Bradley began simply music lessons in 2005 when he was 10 years old. He was one of the first students I started on Simply Music and is my longest learning SM student at present. It has been wonderful to watch him develop from a very beginner into a musician who has music as a friend for life.

Bradley began lessons in a group with several other students and stayed in that group for around 135 lessons, where they completed Level 7. He then continued on privately and has now had 266 lessons. He has a wonderful grasp of key, scale, transposing, dynamics and the functional use of music theory in the practical things he plays.

Over the years Bradley has been diligent in maintaining his playlist and putting in regular practise time each week. He has persevered through the ups and downs of a long term relationship and I cannot remember a time where we had to talk through motivation issues for him to remain learning. When I asked Brad’s mum if he had ever asked to quit she replied,  “In fact when he has, in earlier years, complained about not wanting to practise, I have given him the option of stopping lessons, and he has quietly decided to practise after all!!”

Bradley has absorbed all the wonderful things that Simply Music offers – playing blues, improvising, accompanying and arranging – to name a few –  and he has also drawn from other musical experiences that he is involved in. At age 14 Bradley began playing the trumpet and now plays in a local amateur orchestra with his mother who plays viola. Bradley is also doing Year 11 and 12 music at school and this has given him a great outlet for performing and utilising all his skills he has learnt in Simply Music.

In the school class setting, Bradley becomes the arranger – working out chord progressions for songs like Stairway to Heaven and My Immortal by ear – and then transposing them into a key that suits the others in the group. The school guitar teacher one day heard an electric guitar solo happening only to find that it was Brad on the keyboard. In piano class I can give Brad a melody, like Sibelius’s Finlandia, and he can work out what chords fit best with the melody and perform it.

As many students do, Bradley struggled with reading music from the notation at the beginning of the process. He persisted and today can look at a sheet of music, find the pitch, find the patterns and shapes and put the sheet music away. Earlier this year Bradley performed, for a school music concert, an arrangement of Bach’s Toccata in D minor. He received great responses and went home and pulled out his book of Classics, found them on YouTube to see what they sounded like and came back to class the following week having learnt Solfeggio by C.P.E. Bach.

In 2009, Perth teachers held a combined concert to record students for a You Tube representation of Simply Music. Bradley at 14 can be found at playing Shadow from Level 8 and Church Song from Level 7 with his own added variations.

Bradley is presently in Level 11 – though we have deviated with many other additional projects this year. He is progressing through the Jazz programme and has completed Accompaniment 2. Bradley writes beautiful compositions and I have recorded and attached his most recent for you to listen to. It is called Redemption.

Listen to Bradley playing Redemption

Music Production – Logic v Pro Tools

Friday, December 16th, 2011

From Chase Moore
Making your own music has never been more accessible.  People of all ages are setting up home studios and discovering how easy it is to use a computer and a little basic recording gear to make high-quality music they can proudly share.  Entry-level software programs like Garage Band and Fruity Loops can produce amazing results, but you can also quickly move up a level or two and be working with the same music production programs that you find in the top studios worldwide.
Of those, there is an endless debate between the two major programs, Pro Tools & Logic. It can be compared to Nike vs. Reebok or Coke vs. Pepsi. Digidesign first launched Pro Tools in 1991. By 1997, this Digital Audio Workstation software had become the industry standard for audio recording, mixing and mastering. Logic is a software created originally by a company called Emagic. In 2002, Apple acquired Emagic. In 2004, they released Logic Pro 6 which launched it to the forefront of the digital audio world.

If you compare the two, they both have unique properties but similar functions. Pro Tools is known for its user friendly audio editing & compatibility. Logic is infamous for having a plethora of software instruments and effects that come stock with the program. 
Logic is labeled as more of a producer and composers program. It has a simple, yet highly functional look that is very similar to other Apple products. With all of the instruments that come with the program, as well as many available additions, Logic comes equipped for you to fully compose, produce and record audio in the same session. It’s a very self-contained program, as you don’t have to purchase any extra hardware to begin working.  There is a natural upgrade path from Garage Band, as the programs work in similar ways, and Logic can read Garage Band files.

Pro Tools is renowned for its audio recording and editing ability. In the past, users have needed special interfaces that only work with the program. When Pro Tools 9 was released, this changed and the program is now able to use most commonly available audio interfaces to communicate between instruments, microphones and the software. Pro Tools is more of an industry standard program, as you’re going to find it in 95% of major recording studios. The audio editing functions in Pro Tools are very user friendly, as it doesn’t take much to fully track & edit as many vocal tracks as your system can handle. It’s a very flexible program, with multiple versions available to suit your studio needs whether it be in your bedroom or in a professional recording studio. The price of Pro Tools is higher than Logic, but its expansion and compatibility options are more robust.

For me, I use Pro Tools because I am so familiar with the key commands and my own personal system I have developed over time. On the contrary, I’ve seen an engineer use Logic to fully mix and master an 84 track Rock composition that would trump any attempt of mine to mix the same song. I could make a long list of pros and cons between the two programs, but it really comes down to preference. It doesn’t necessarily matter what you have, it’s all about how you use it.

Song of the Month – Silent Night

Friday, December 16th, 2011

From Elizabeth Gaikwad

Elizabeth Gaikwad is the creator of the very popular Songs For Children 1 program, as well as the forthcoming Duets 1 and Songs for Children 2.  Just for the festive season, she has put together a version of Silent Night, which can be learned on multiple levels.  Firstly, it can be used as a simple accompaniment for anyone who has experienced the first few steps of the Simply Music Accompaniment program.  
Elizabeth has also put together a more developed variation of the accompaniment, with more sophisticated chords and a graceful bass line.
She steps you through both versions in an audio tutorial, which will have you playing in no time.
Players who are at the music-reading level can also teach themselves the variation from the notation version or perhaps read the melody and play the chords in the left hand.

Download the song sheet here

Listen to Elizabeth’s tutorial using the player below

Review – 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die

Friday, December 16th, 2011

General Editor Robert Dimery

This book was first published in 2005.  If it were published for the first time today, I wonder if they might be tempted to call it “1001 Albums You Must Hear Before They Die”, because, despite some efforts by the industry to prop it up, The Album seems to be becoming a 21st century dodo, or at best an object of appeal to a fringe market.  As a member of the Album Generation, I mourn its decline as one of the downsides of the download era.  The hours spent poring over every detail of a gatefold sleeve while sinking myself into the extended indulgence of a long saved-for LP, are among my favourite musical memories.  I even loved the smell of them.  The album isn’t dead yet, but even when you download a full album (which most people don’t) there’s more than ever the temptation to cherry-pick the tracks that have instant appeal and quickly reject the ones that, had you spent time immersing yourself in the whole package in the proper order, you might have eventually recognised as slow burners.
The passing of the Album is not entirely the fault of downloading culture.  In the days of the CD, it had become bloated with alternate mixes and filler material that were the inevitable result of record companies’ desire to give us our money’s worth and ensure every moment of a 75 minute CD was occupied.  Who hasn’t skipped a track that just didn’t seem to fit?  How many albums have you bought with four or five good songs and a bunch of duds?  That’s why a book like this is a handy reminder of what a great album is – a total journey in which you are picked up, transported to new places, and returned with a sense of completion and fulfilment.
The very eclectic selection covers the full glory days of the album, from the first LP records in the mid-1950’s to the mid-2000’s.  It includes track listings and other helpful information.  The selections are inevitably very much personal responses from the selectors, as they should be, so you’ll find plenty of surprises and probably a few opportunities to violently disagree.  One of the things that makes it more than just another (albeit very large) list is that the number of contributors is large and diverse.  No matter how knowledgeable you are, you’ll likely find things in here that you’ve never heard of, but that mean a lot the the writers.  I would encourage you to explore the personal in the articles – read for historical context and musical background, but look out for where the writer shows you how they are touched by the music – that’s where the real substance is.
For a total immersion experience, I highly recommend this hefty volume.  Buy it before The Book suffers the same sad fate as The Album.

From The Founder

Saturday, September 24th, 2011

This is a longer post than usual, so please be a little patient with me. I have so much to be appreciative of. Last Sunday was the 10-year anniversary of the tragic events of 9/11. I spent much of the day reflecting on what life was like at that time, and, what has happened since.

Simply Music was very much impacted by the events of that day, and the direction of the organization was forever changed.  Here’s a quick background about where we were then, and where we are now.

I first released the Simply Music program in January of 1998. By the end of 1999, I was operating several studios in Sacramento and, in addition, Gordon Harvey and Kerry Hanley had established a small group of teachers in Melbourne and Perth, Australia. We were a very small operation at that time. Towards the end of 1999 I had an opportunity to market a Learn-at-Home program that I had developed. An investor came on board and over a three-month period we launched head-on into a USA national TV marketing campaign.

This response to this was immediate and enormous. Simply Music went from being a very small, $250k per annum business, to instantly generating revenues of approximately $1 million per month.  It was an overwhelming experience, and we were totally unprepared. We had no access to critical data, our administrative systems were hopelessly, overloaded, our costings were completely inaccurate, and, it wasn’t until 90 days later that we discovered that the entire project had been running at a loss and we had accumulated very significant debt.

When I realized this, I immediately took the program off the air, and systematically began to overhaul the entire project from the ground up.  Many people, aware of our situation, stepped in and offered all sorts of support, and it was this that carried us through the following year.

18 months later, right when we were down to the very last of what financial resources we had access to, we had re-invented the entire project and pooling the very last of what finances we had, we invested in a national campaign. It’s success was critical to our viability as an organization.  With all systems go, and with all media having been booked and paid for, the campaign was set for launch on the early morning of September 13th, 2001.

The events of September 11th, 2001 brought a shocking halt to the entire venture. It was a tragedy that consumed the attention of the nation, and much of the world in fact, and nobody had any interest in watching anything else on TV other than the news. I was stunned with what had happened – deeply affected by the death and pain and suffering of so many and at the same time, sick to my stomach as to what impact it would have on ability to keep the possibility of Simply Music alive. Truthfully, it was a time when I really had no idea whatsoever as to how we would be able to get through this.

48 hours after the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings, I wrote an Open Letter to our staff, teachers and community.  Here is what I said at the time.

September 13th, 2001

To all Simply Music teachers, staff, partners and associates….

I want to say a few words about the current state of affairs and its untimely impact on the Simply Music project.  Needless to say, the world has been forced to turn its focus and attention on the tragic events surrounding the destruction of the World Trade Center, the attack on the Pentagon and the unavoidable and horrific reality of terrorism.  I am deeply saddened by the loss of life, the extent of personal tragedy and the display of humanity at its worst.

The effects of this reach beyond the obvious, and this is clearly a multinational issue.  Closer to home, it has had a dramatic effect on the Simply Music project.

As you all know, Simply Music has unfolded in stages.  First, its creation, development and codification, next, the establishing of our teacher base in Sacramento, Perth and Melbourne.  In 2000, we launched our Learn-at-Home programs nationally, and immediately thereafter, the voluminous growth challenged us beyond our capacity.

The last 15 months or so have been very complex and difficult times.  With essentially no revenue, and the burden of significant and lingering debt created by the breakdowns of our initial launch last year, we have called on the physical, emotional, spiritual and financial support of many individuals.  It has been an inspiring and emotional time for me to see so many people, in both Australia and the United States, make personal and oftentimes very significant sacrifices in order to support this project and maintain its ‘life-line’.  Our ability to be where we are now, is clearly a function of your support, assistance and contribution.  It’s what good people do when they know they are being told the truth and have a heartfelt belief in what they are supporting.

In many respects, over the last 15 months, the combined efforts of the Simply Music ‘team’, have been directed towards a national re-launch.  Although we have uncovered many opportunities and have begun dialog, at various stages of development, to partner in other projects that represent enormous opportunities for us, the first step is to re-generate a revenue stream.  In the life of this project it is a critical resource and the only means that we have to allow us to proceed and take advantage of the myriad opportunities that we are surrounded with.

There is an economic reality to this and any business.  Ours, quite simply, is that we have poured all of our efforts into sustaining ourselves for however long was needed in order to be in a position to re-launch our campaign.  All of our remaining and gathered financial resources were invested in this new beginning.  We have chosen to do this via a national TV program, this time however surrounded with new vendors, media buyers, duplication and fulfillment house partners etc., etc.

The campaign was to begin today.  In our eyes, we had an eminent victory in our sights.  We had been able to meet head-on, and overcome the problems and challenges involved in sustaining ourselves until such time as we could re-emerge.  Now, with the obvious and appropriate national attention on the World Trade Center tragedy, we are facing what, in all likelihood, will be another major setback.  The reality is that, although we have been able to get through up until now, it may take several months for the mindset of the people in the United States to return to a place that would allow our type of campaign to re-launch again.  Our challenge, more difficult now than ever before, is to find a way through this.

I am confronted with a paradox.  The problems that I am addressing with Simply Music, are minuscule in comparison with the loss of life, the devastation and severity of the tragedies that thousands upon thousands of other families, individuals and businesses are having to deal with today – none of which anyone could have predicted a week ago.   Notwithstanding, it is our own immediate reality, and those circumstances surrounding the Simply Music project, that I am faced and charged with the need to resolve.  I believe that I have a personal and spiritual duty to do that with courage, clarity, wisdom and high-spirits in the face of adversity.

I want you all to know that the Simply Music project is in a fragile and difficult position.  I also want you to know that while that fact is real, we are absolutely steadfast in our commitment to bring this wonderful project to fruition.  The bottom line is that we will continue to honor our responsibility to the project as a whole, and to you all as individuals. God-willing, with your continued support we will succeed in finding a way through this.  This is a project that is meant to be, and any great endeavor that stands to make a major social contribution, will have challenges and problems of equal proportion.

I am asking for your continued and renewed support.  If there is any way in which you can find an additional means by which to support us, now is the time.  For some of you it may mean taking on an extra few students, for others, including those who have been waiting for specific projects to come to fruition, it may represent the gift of more patience.

This is a time when we have an opportunity to consolidate and, to whatever extent is possible, be united.  Although a significant part of the success of this company rests in my hands, the majority is distributed across the shoulders of us all.  Thank you for the role you play in that.

As an Australian citizen and U.S. Permanent Resident, it is a privilege for me to live in this extraordinary country.  There are a great number of individuals here with an abundance of strengths and qualities that, as a whole, create a culture that has every right to claim itself as a world leader.  Although my roots and foundations are Australian and in my heart it represents ‘home’, it is here in the United States that I live, and it is here that I believe I am meant to be in order to give birth and wings to the Simply Music project.

In conclusion, while your attention, thoughts and efforts may be focused on whatever part Simply Music plays in your life, I ask that your concerns and prayers go out to the victims, families and loved ones caught in the aftermath of the current tragedy.

With kind regards,

Neil Moore


And now here we are!  10 years have passed. We have a thriving organization that has had healthy growth, year after year, over the last decade.  We have a vast network of educators throughout the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. We are now in preliminary discussions about moving into Europe and Asia. We are free of operational debt and are profitable. We have established relationships with institutions that are now coming to fruition in new and unique ways. We are working with Hohner corporation, a multinational instrument manufacturer who are the largest in their field, and, in partnership with them, we are converting our curriculum to the accordion. We are making great progress in converting our curriculum to braille for sight-impaired suitability, and we are introducing our curriculum into a school for the deaf that is the largest in the USA. We are currently in the development stage of a scientific study into Simply Music’s impact on neurology, specifically, brain telomeres. We have new programs being developed, new and far-reaching opportunities that will expand our global outreach, and numerous other possibilities that will dramatically impact our ability to contribute music to the world.

Simply Music is fundamentally, factually alive and thriving!

I appreciate the support of all of the children and parents who learn with this method. I appreciate all of our remarkable educators who are so steadfast in their commitment to the vision of a world where everyone plays, and, in particular, I am deeply appreciative of all of our staff, educators and community members who were a part of Simply Music on September 11th 2001, who stood by us, who lent their support and who contributed to our ability to keep this possibility alive.

Although Simply Music is not a product of 9/11, it was given wings in a new way because of 9/11.  I would love to believe that, for all of those people who lost their lives, they may somehow know of the many great futures that emerged out of their loss, and, as one of the organizations that made it through that difficult time, tens of thousands of people around the world have been contributed to, and millions of people in the future will be contributed to, as a result.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Neil Moore

Founder and President

Simply Music International