That $20 fiddle has taken me everywhere…

bodie mountain express

Much of my teen years and into my twenties revolved around music. I played trumpet from 6th grade onward–and wasn’t too shabby–I eventually learned a bit of piano–I can chord and keep a rhythm like nobody’s business–and a bit of signing.

My wife has a music degree and is an excellent flautist. And my kiddo is already falling into the world of musical theatre with all her heart.

While I’m no longer actively involved in the music scene, I’ll always be a musician and hooked on the power of music. I love it and always will, and love sharing great music I stumble upon through my yearly playlists.

Music can bring us all together and inspire us to be more than we believe. For some, it can take you outside of your circumstances into a new world filled with sights and sounds beyond imagination. A new world of hope and promise.

I’m a huge believer in keeping arts programs in our schools. My time in the band kept me sane in my middle and high school experiences. Without the connections I made and the love of music that gave me a place to go and hide when things got rough, which happened regularly as a chubby, geeky kid in the late 80s and early 90s, I’m not sure what I would have done, but it probably wouldn’t have been great.

Los Angeles Unified School District is one of the last school districts in the country to provide freely repaired instruments to its students. The Oscar-winning documentary The Last Repair Shop takes us behind the scenes of that work.

More importantly, we learn the stories of a few individuals and what music and this instrument repair program mean to them.

From a mother who works to support her family to a man who caught the fiddle itch so bad he just had to have a $20 violin from a yard sale, these stories will inspire and make you weep.

By the way, that $20 violin took Duane Michaels and his band, Bodie Mountain Express, all the way to opening for Elvis on his biggest night ever and around the world, and then took him to repair woodwinds for LAUSD students.

From the film-

In a nondescript warehouse in the heart of Los Angeles, a dwindling handful of devoted craftspeople maintain over 80,000 student musical instruments, the largest remaining workshop in America of its kind. Meet four unforgettable characters whose broken-and-repaired lives have been dedicated to bringing so much more than music to the schoolchildren of the recording capital of the world. Watch “The Last Repair Shop,” directed by Ben Proudfoot and Kris Bowers.

In less than 45 minutes, you’ll see these stories and some of the students touched by this program. Music has a unique power among the arts to unite so many, sometimes without words.

We must keep music in our schools, forever.

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Making Bach Accessible to Everyone Online

I know not everyone is a fan of classical music. I get it. But you don’t have to be a fan to recognize the impact that music written hundreds of years ago still has on musicians today.

Composers and songwriters still take inspiration from the melodies created by Bach, Beethoven, Rachmaninov, and many more.

Think of the possibilities with your students if you had one place to access all the available performances of someone like Bach.

Now you do. Enter the “All of Bach” project.

Since the start of this unique project, more than 350 of the total of 1080 works by Johann Sebastian Bach have been performed and recorded in special ways. They include some remarkable highlights, such as the St Matthew Passion in the Grote Kerk, in Naarden, the Six Cello Suites at beautiful Amsterdam locations like the Concertgebouw and the Rijksmuseum, and Brandenburg Concerto no. 4 in Felix Meritis, in Amsterdam.

Informative texts, interesting facts and interviews with the performers provide a wealth of background information. All the works are performed by the Netherlands Bach Society and many guest musicians, and you can watch and listen to recordings of the complete works. In personal interviews, the musicians themselves talk about what touches them in the music or why they enjoy playing it so much. In order to keep close to Bach, the recordings are made at suitable venues, but we also look for unusual recording locations. Cantatas are filmed in a church, for instance, and chamber music at the musicians’ homes or at special locations in the Netherlands.

Of course, these works are available for performance by anyone since they are part of the public domain, allowing new generations to experience the work of a master and be inspired to create their own masterpieces.