The Most Heard, Least Known Composers In America
Category Archives: Stories
March 4, 2014Posted by on
For the past few years Stephen Arnold Music has worked closely with an inspirational organization that has grown close to our heart: Little Kids Rock.
This innovative nonprofit transforms the lives of children by restoring and revitalizing music education in disadvantaged public schools all over the United States.
A bit of background: today millions of American children receive little to no music in their school curriculum. Major budget cuts continue to force school music programs to close, particularly in schools serving low-income communities.
Little Kids Rock partners with public school districts, training teachers with a groundbreaking curriculum. The nonprofit also donates all of the instruments and resources necessary to run the schools’ music programs.
Last Saturday, March 1st, I had a rare opportunity to sit in on one of the Little Kids Rock eight hour training workshops for instructors as they initiated the launching of 60 Dallas Independent School District schools.
That’s right, not six or 16 but 60 DISD schools. For a guy who grew up in Dallas, I can’t tell you how proud that makes me.
It was time consuming, painstaking work lead by Little Kids Rock founder David Wish and music director Scott Burstein. The pair led 25-plus DISD teachers (all of whom graciously donate their time) through a marvelous process on how to teach the curriculum. The seminar included everything from holding a guitar and a pick to tuning an instrument, to warm up exercises and learning songs (with “one-finger chords”) all the way through songwriting techniques.
Can you imagine the delight of seeing a second or third grader write and perform his or her song? The one-finger chord process was simply amazing: the very idea of playing The Beatles’ classic “Eleanor Rigby” with just one finger was unforgettable.
Since founded 12 years ago, Little Kids Rock has taught more than 120,000 schoolchildren to play guitar, piano, bass and drums. Currently, there are chapters in 25 cities with over 1,200 dedicated teachers at the helm.
But if you think the best part is the music, the lessons, or even the songs they learn to play, think again. It’s the fact that children with arts instruction are three-times more likely to continue their education and even earn a degree.
This program also gives schoolchildren something to look forward to. It provides confidence and, most importantly, teaches kids how to express themselves, literally transforming their lives. Simply, music is the vehicle that can make a significant difference in their lives.
One of the first things Little Kids Rock does in workshops is to show a video clip of renowned bassist Victor Wooten, a five-time Grammy Award winner who plays with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones. In Music as a Language Wooten makes the case for learning music in the same way as we learned our first language, calling for a more natural, less academic approach. He makes the point that, as babies, we weren’t taught our first language or corrected when we made a mistake. We didn’t have to write out our ABCs (read music) before we talked (played music). We didn’t even know we were beginners and got to ‘jam’ with people much better than us. Wooten draws on his own musical education as an example of how taking this approach can deliver great results.
It’s a powerful message, and to hear it from one of the world’s best players is even more inspiring.
I’d been at the workshop since 9 a.m. and at about 4 p.m. I was exhausted, but energized. But that’s when the real fun began. Little Kids Rock brought four or five students from DISD schools to perform. A pair of guitars, a bass, drums and a singer, all playing original compositions they had learned and perfected through the program. Before Little Kids Rock, not one of these musicians had ever so much as picked up an instrument. It was truly inspirational!
For years when people would ask me, “What comes first, the words or the music?”
I’d always say, “The deadline.”
After the Little Kids Rock workshop in Dallas, I think I’ll modify my stock answer. What comes first, the words or the music?
(For more information on Little Kids Rock click here)
February 14, 2014Posted by on
Would Peyton Manning or Richard Sherman play football during intermission of a Bruno Mars concert for free?
Because that’s exactly what Bruno did at their game a couple of weeks ago…
Bruno Mars is at the top of his game.
His second album, Unorthodox Jukebox, is at the top of the charts (as was his first).
In just three years, five of his songs have reached number one….
Forbes ranked him number one on their 30 under 30 list last year, and Time Magazine named him one of the top 100 most influential people…in the world!
Yet he was paid zilch for his performance that day, in front of 82,000 plus fans!
Granted, it was the Super Bowl, perhaps the most popular sporting event on the planet….but nothing?
I think an argument could be made that Mars is as skilled at his craft as any pro athlete is at theirs…
So it made me think:
The NBA…would Lebron James or Kevin Durant work (b/c that what Mars did – worked) for 30 minutes, for free, at a Justin Timberlake show?
MLB…would Derek Jeter or David Ortiz do a freebie at a Cold Play concert?
The NFL claims exposure was his payment, but does Bruno Mars need the exposure?
If we decided that exposure for one of our singer/songwriters was payment enough because of the popularity of a prime time show, a lawsuit would surely ensue.
Mars seemed to be okay with it, as was Anthony Kiedis and his crew, because of the once in a lifetime opportunity.
What do you think?
December 2, 2013Posted by on
Seasons Greetings, Everyone!
The holidays are here, and this year has a special meaning. I’d like to invite you to help us raise awareness for a great little cause with a very big heart.
It’s Little Kids Rock, a fantastic nonprofit dedicated to revitalizing music education in America. With your help, Little Kids Rock provides free instruments and music lessons to underserved public school kids, coast-to-coast.
Last year we produced a special CD called The Six Strings of Christmas, an album of holiday arrangements performed by our family of studio musicians — those great players we work with every day. They donated their services, and we all donated our time to make it happen, resulting in a collection of 16 great acoustic yuletide classics all played on a six-string… well, with a few 4, 8, and 12 strings thrown in just for fun.
Thanks to the generosity of clients and friends like you, we were able to give $3,000 to Little Kids Rock.
We’re at it again this year, and here’s the best part: just like last year…100% of each $9.99 CD purchase goes directly to Little Kids Rock.
One of my favorite videos is watching the faces of these kids as they each receive a guitar at this Little Kids Rock workshop.
You can click here to learn more about Little Kids Rock and listen to The Six Strings of Christmas CD by clicking here.
Thank you so much for you help. Happy Holidays, and thanks for helping Little Kids Rock!
September 20, 2013Posted by on
Go take a look at your DVD/BluRay collection. Go on … we’ll wait.
Notice anything in common? They all have some kind of “Dolby” somethingorother, right?
But have you ever wondered, “Just what the heck is ‘Dolby’?!” Well, that question has a few different answers.
Ray Dolby, who passed away this week at the age of 80, was a multi award-winning engineer whose contributions to the sound of our modern world can’t be overstated. He is best known for his pioneering noise-reduction system. What is noise-reduction? For that matter, some younger readers might even be asking, “What is noise, and why does it need to be reduced?”
For those of us who can remember the days before CDs (and long before the mp3 was even a glint in the milkman’s eye), our first exposure to the Dolby logo was likely on — what was at the time — the most portable method for listening to your favorite music: the Cassette Tape.
Youngsters will never truly understand just how bad these things sounded. Analog tape is inherently noisy. There’s actually an audible hiss screaming from the speakers at all times. Cassettes were just terrible … but they got us music junkies through the day.
While not as bad as the commercial cassette, the multi-track analog tape used in professional recording studios suffers from this same deficiency. In order to minimize the underlying noise, Ray Dolby invented a system that kind of changed everything. Ignoring for a moment the highly technical wizardry involved in actually pulling this off, the concept itself was brilliantly simple:
Since the noise on analog tape is consistent and predictable, it’s fairly easy to counteract with a two-step process. As you’re sending a sound to tape, you first pass it through a circuit that makes it louder in the same frequency range where the tape noise lives. Any part of the original sound that is similar to the tape noise gets boosted as it’s being recorded. Upon playback, you pass it through a similar circuit that decreases the volume of that frequency range.
What does this do? It essentially “turns down” the noise without turning down the sound you actually want to hear, and you end up with a much cleaner and clearer recording.
So what does this have to do with your movies? Well these days, not so much, actually. One of the great things about digital recording is that there is no noise inherent in the recording medium. You can record very quiet sounds without having to worry about that nasty hiss swallowing it up. Lucky for us, Mr. Dolby didn’t stop at noise reduction.
He and his fellow engineers at Dolby Laboratories created practically everything involved in modern surround sound systems. From innovative encoding techniques that deliver six (or more) discreet channels from a two-channel signal on a strip of celluloid, to standards and specifications on where you should put all those speakers in your living room, every blockbuster on your shelf owes its sound to the inventive minds of Ray Dolby and his team.
So the next time you hear something behind you and have to pause your movie to see if it was really there, you know who to thank.
August 30, 2013Posted by on
Everyone’s got that dog-eared book that’s barely held together at the binding from so many reads. Or that old holey t-shirt you can’t stop wearing. Or a ratty pair of sneakers you’ve had since high school. They’re comforting and comfortable and loved from overuse.
Instruments are very much the same – they grow with a person over the years in a symbiotic relationship. Dings and scratches mysteriously appear and eventually turn into holes and cracks. But rather than diminishing their sound, or appearance, or even their value – these are battle scars that define the personality of an instrument.
In recent years the ‘Road-worn guitar’ has become a sought-after item. Fender regularly distresses new guitars to give them that old feeling. But you can’t build “Trigger” in a day (Willie Nelson’s beloved classical guitar). It takes years of playing, frustration, and ‘eureka’ moments.
There are LOTS of guitars here at our studio, many dating back decades, even a century or more. And plenty have been played and played and played. But there is at least one guitar here that really shows what the power of playing can do to an instrument.
It’s a 1970 Guild D-40 NT. Serial number 48537. Its fret board is literally gouged out from thousands of hours of playing. Its pick guard not only isn’t there, it was essentially falling apart around the sound hole until a luthier worked his magic. The finish on the back of the neck is visibly worn off, as it is on the back of the body from rubbing against a belt buckle as it was played on stage.
On a personal note, I learned guitar on this Guild and it’s still almost my favorite acoustic to play (my own 2000 Martin D-28 has top honors!)
But don’t take my word for it – see for yourself in these pictures. And if you’ve got your own road-worn guitar we’d love to see it.
August 16, 2013Posted by on
Four years ago this week Les Paul died at the ripe old age of 94. It was truly the passing of a legend. And whether you were born in 1920 or the year 2000, he’s profoundly affected your life, and you might not even know it!
As a performer and musician, his TV and radio program “The Les Paul & Mary Show” was syndicated into millions of households and made him a star. Between 1945 and 1955 he notched over 20 top 10 hit songs, including 3 number ones. His lightning fast guitar licks influenced a generation of rockers, from the Beatles to Billy Gibbons. Steve Miller actually learned guitar from Les.
And while his influence as a musician is solid, it’s his innovations in how people heard his music that still affects us today.
Les didn’t actually invent the solid body electric guitar – Rickenbacker beat him by 8 years in 1932 – but his designs and innovations were integral in the evolution and popularization of it. The iconic guitar that bears his name – The Gibson Les Paul – was famously played by the likes of Neil Young, Slash, Jimmy Page, Duane Allman and Bob Marley, to name but a few.
His early recordings were the first to utilize Sound on Sound and Multi-track recording, and he’s credited with the development of overdubbing, close-micing, and tape delay & phasing as effects on his recordings. He essentially created and developed modern recording techniques (take THAT pro-tools!)
In an age where digital recording hardware and synthesized sounds can be bought for a few hundred bucks, the idea that a young man would tear apart his folks’ radio, or mount magnetic rods into guitars, or fill a guitar with plaster-of-Paris to stop vibrations; to actually create his own disc cutter assembly from used car parts (his original experiments with Sound on Sound recordings used acetate discs rather than magnetic tape) all in the quest to create or record or amplify his music is literally extraordinary.
So next time you’re tuning up your new axe or listening to the latest top 40 radio hit, take a moment to remember Les Paul.
He was a true renaissance man, and the world is quite a bit louder – and better sounding – thanks to him.
June 17, 2013Posted by on
So once again Promax is upon us and SAM will be there to booze and schmooze with the best in the TV broadcast industry! We’ve got some new products to roll out – including the industry’s first fully searchable, keyword tagged online delivery for our syndicated packages - and if you’re attending the Station Summit in Las Vegas, then you won’t want to miss our legendary after hours Acoustic Jam Session (now in its 3rd year!)
Stephen will be presenting as part of a panel called “Hits and Misses 2013″ in Promax LA. on Thursday, June 20th (check your conference guide for time and locations). He and other top producers, composers and music supervisors will look at case studies of where music did and did not work in particular projects. Stephen’s been asked to present as an expert on custom music and sonic branding, which we’re very excited about! Check him out on this list of Promax speakers here »
And don’t forget to stop by our ‘booth’ on the floor whether you’re at Promax LA or Station Summit where you’ll find 4 guitars on display in museum style displays for 360 views. 3 are from Stephen’s personal collection and featured in the book A Story of Six Strings. The 4th display will be one of 2 guitars we’re giving away – either a 1930s National TriCone resonator replica (produced by Johnson) or a Neil Young SIGNED Fender Tele. So stop by, have a chat, drop your card in the box and maybe walk away with an awesome guitar.
Good Luck and hope to see you there, whether LA or Vegas!
For more info on both conferences:
April 19, 2013Posted by on
We came, we saw, we ruled the Roulette table. NAB 2013 was quite an experience…. from DTS’s 11.1 Surround Sound Headphones to the American Idol judges that seemed to be at every session. But alas we were not there to purchase the latest technologies or try our hand in a singing competition but rather for a chance to meet clients, colleagues and eat pricey dinners on the company credit card!
Special thanks to all our sub-publishers for sitting down with us – particularly Fred and the lovely Lynn Woods at Red Igloo, Jean at Music for Productions and Paul Gulmans at Music Director who still does NOT eat fish despite us taking him to a seafood restaurant…
Also, station owners Carole and Peter Kozloski from WAGM for a fantastic breakfast, Adam Routh and Patrick Wilson of PMOL for their lovely bottle of scotch that still hasn’t made it onto the boss’s desk, and of course the On-Air Promotion boys at Las Vegas’s KVVU-TV for showing us around town Tuesday night and introducing us to Corona martinis (very fancy)!
Finally what a great creole meal at Emeril’s with Fox Business’s Ray Lambiase and CNN design guru Jonathan Kemp.
And, of course we met Elvis – he’s much shorter in person!
Until next year, hope to see you there!!!
March 22, 2013Posted by on
Remember the video clip of violin master Joshua Bell that went crazy viral some 5 years ago? Perhaps the most gifted violinist alive, hardly noticed, playing in DC during rush hour at an underground metro station…currently, the Youtube video is at 4 million plus views and counting.
As the below story reads, aside from being a virtuoso, Bell is somewhat of a techie…he’s up on all the latest devices, apps and video games. But among all of his modern age digital devices, his highest of hi-tech equipment is the violin he used in DC that day– his 1713 Stradivarius violin. To be clear, 1713 is not the model number…it’s the year the instrument was made.
Here at S.A.M. we work for a man who, like Bell and violins, is passionate about guitars. Not only playing, but collecting, and writing about, and admiring…the curves Bell speaks about in the excerpt below holds true for guitars too:
“You could think of the violin as an incredible piece of technology, perfected in the 17th century. Every little curve has a reason — it acts as a sophisticated speaker system, and no one has been able to improve on the design.”
Read more about Bell’s hi-tech 18th century violin here.
March 21, 2013Posted by on
So an interesting thing happened last week. A very good, but only moderately popular* TV show that was cancelled in 2007 (!) was very suddenly brought back to life by its loyal fans. Granted, it’s only coming back as a movie and not a full TV series, but it could kinda change everything. Rob Thomas (no, not that one) the creator of Veronica Mars decided to give Kickstarter a try … and the response was instant and huge.
But before I go any further, just what the heck is Kickstarter?!? In short, it’s “a funding platform for creative projects.” Backers pledge money to creators so that creators can complete their project. In return, backers receive … whatever they were promised by the creator of said project. And here’s the really great bit: If a creator doesn’t reach their funding goal, no money exchanges hands. A backer’s pledge is not collected until the end of a set time period, and then only if enough people have pledged enough money to reach the monetary goal set by the creator. Think of it as pre-purchasing a product that will only exist if enough people decide they want it.
Okay, back to Veronica. As I said, the response was incredible. Rob had set his time limit at thirty days and his goal at $2,000,000 … and reached it in roughly nine hours. Keep in mind, this money was pledged in small amounts by over 50,000 people. So for about forty bucks, a diehard (no, not that one) fan could help bring his/her favorite show back to life … no ‘record label’ required … and receive in return not just a movie version of their favorite TV show, but also some very interesting exclusive merchandise. Like I said, it kinda changes everything.
So what does this have to do with anything? Well, while Kickstarter has been around for a few years, this really proves in a pretty public way that it really works. And that opens up a whole new avenue for independent musicians and artists of all stripes. No longer do you have to rely on record labels or wealthy patrons. Now, you can go straight to your own personal social network (virtual and flesh & blood) and whatever fan-base you may have cultivated, and use those connections to fund your project. It also exposes your work to an audience that has never heard of you. Plus (and this might be a bit of a negative, actually) you’ll learn very quickly just how much support your supporters are actually willing to give.
But don’t take my word for it; go check it out. There are a lot of really creative people out there offering some pretty cool projects (everything from music to art books to card games to innovative electronic devices). You may find something wonderful from someone you’ve never heard of that you just can’t live without. Here’s one to get you started
* okay, for a UPN show it was VERY popular, but we’re talking UPN here