Happy Holidays!

I’m pleased to share a piano method booklet for children that I developed with my Grandfather, Marty Gold. Marty is a wonderful musician who has enjoyed an amazing career in music. In fact, he’s the reason I became a musician. Recently, he told me about a piano “tent” he created to help kids learn the names of notes on a music staff. The story goes that Nabisco was going to put one in every cereal box back in the 1950s, and then pulled the project for fear there were not enough pianos in US homes. We decided to do the project together and make it available to friends of “Debbie and Friends.”

The following widget has a download link for a free copy of the Learning to Play Piano book and piano tent PDF files. A printed version of the book will be available soon. In the meantime, please let me know how the tent and method book are for your children!

Special thanks to Robert Heath of Barkley Studios for designing the keyboard tent, Greg David of Planet Sunday for the cover art image, and Shawn Girsberger for the book layout and design. What a dream team!!!

And, for the adults out there interested in learning to play the piano, I highly recommend the Berklee Keyboard Method online. Classes start Jan. 8.

All the best,

-Debbie

The following is part two of the Kindie Music article that Kyle Bylin wrote for Hypebot. The article is pasted below. The original piece can be found here.

Thank you again, Kyle Bylin and Hypebot!

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December 8, 2010

This is part two of my interview segment with Debbie Cavalier, who’s a children’s entertainer and vocalist for Debbie and Friends, a kindie music group. She’s also Dean of Continuing Education and Chief Academic Officer at Berklee College of Music. Joining Cavalier in this interview is Beth Blenz-Clucas. She’s the founder of Sugarmountain PR, a firm that specializes in raising awareness children’s and family-friendly music. In this interview, Cavalier and Beth Blenz-Clucas talk about the challenges of marketing kindie music and reaching a younger audience.

Hypebot: The traditional way of marketing music has been to slam as many artists against a wall, see what sticks, and then try everything to get that those particular artists to reach critical mass. Through MTV, in store promotion, and massive radio campaigns, major labels attempted to break through the clutter.

How does marketing children’s music differ from other genres? How are artists today connecting with parents and giving them reasons to buy?

Debbie Cavalier: I think there are a lot of similarities in marketing kids/family music to the commercial fare.

In addition to being the Dean of Continuing Education at Berklee, I also consider myself a student because I am constantly learning from our innovative online curricula at Berkleemusic.com with such online courses as Music Marketing: Press, Promotion, Distribution, and Retail, Online Music Marketing: Campaign Strategies, Social Media, and Digital Distribution, The Future of Music and the Music Business, Music Industry Entrepreneurship, Online Music Marketing with Topspin, and more. I’m fortunate to work with the likes of David Kusek, Michael King, George Howard, and so many others who are at the top of their game in the area of music marketing today.

As a result, I use Topspin for direct-to-fan marketing campaigns and direct sales (you can see examples of this on our home page and music page). Facebook and Twitter are effective communication and community-fostering tools, as is our monthly email newsletter. We have a presence on myspace, but I don’t think that expands our reach too much these days. Our live performances are our best means for fostering strong connections with our fan families and I use the tools previously mention to stay in touch.

Online social media and marketing tools certainly do help to expand our reach. Indeed, there are schools in Brazil and the UK that listen to our music and watch our cartoon music videos but would never have heard of Debbie and Friends if it weren’t for my YouTube Channel or my Topspin campaigns. That being said, the fan families that are most excited about Debbie and Friends are the ones who have seen us in concert and attend show after show, bring their friends, retweet our messages, share concert photos, videos, etc.

Beth Blenz-Clucas: You have it, Debbie. With children’s music, it’s all about direct connections with the fans. Parents need to know that your music will appeal to their kids and that they’ll learn something from it. Kids love it when they get a hug or a shout out from their favorite performers.

Hypebot: Direct-to-fan platforms empower artists by putting the tools to distribute, market, and monetize their music in their hands.

What are the challenges that kindie artists face in attempting to cut out the middlemen and go direct-to-parents?

Debbie Cavalier: I think I answered this in the other questions, however, I will say that the parents of the families that come to our shows are young (certainly younger than I am!). They are technically savvy and are most comfortable staying connected to Debbie and Friends via Facebook, etc. Email is also a great way to communicate with our fan families. I build email lists at my concerts and fine-tune my newsletter outreach so that it’s effective, but hopefully not annoying.

Do the music consumption habits in the kindie music audience differ from those that are affecting the record industry? How are artists designing experiences that appeal to both the younger audience and their parents?

Debbie Cavalier: I believe kids/family artists have always strived to create musical experiences that appeal to the whole family: kids and their parents/caregivers. Indeed, I only want to write, record, and perform music that appeals to me in addition to the kids and families in our audience.

Regarding consumption habits, as I mentioned in an earlier question, digital downloads make up just 10% of Debbie and Friends’ music sales. A physical CD is a tangible “gift” that parents, grandparents and caregivers give to my audience. Kids/family music purchases are not direct to fan, but rather direct to caregivers of our fans. I believe over time we’ll see a decline in physical sales, but for now, it’s strong. Post concert sales are always strong and online sales of physical CDs are consistently strong for Debbie and Friends. I believe the same is true for my colleagues in the field.

Hypebot: I’ve been a songwriter for a number of years and if you told me to write a song for kids my first take would be to try to talk about eating your veggies, brushing your teeth, or just, you know, things kids can relate to.

Do we wrongly assume that kids music should be about these subjects?

Debbie Cavalier: That’s exactly why our genre gets a bad rap in some circles, Kyle! Kids/family music doesn’t need to be simple. Again, the songs “Rainbow Connection” and “Being Green” have resonated with kids (and adults) for 40 years. Those songs have very interesting melodies, complex chord progressions, and strong lyrical phrases.

They are about complex and important topics such as diversity, self-esteem, and acceptance even though the target audience for those songs is preschool. Quality music and high production values are what matter most. The messages/lyrics need to be age appropriate, of course, but never dummed down. You’ll know the minute you start to share a song with kids if you’ve hit the mark!

Beth Blenz-Clucas: I agree. If you think of the children’s songs that have the most staying power – Peter Yarrow’s “Puff the Magic Dragon,” or Raffi’s “Baby Beluga,” they tell a funny or compelling story. Look at the old nursery rhymes and songs. They all have something deeper going on. Kids are people too – just littler! They think and dream all the time.

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Hap Palmer

I’m thrilled to tell you about a wonderful educational resource for families and education professionals called BAM Radio Network.

Bam’s co-founder and renowned educator, Rae Pica, recently invited to be part of an interview on Bam with legendary music educator Hap Palmer. Hap is an innovator in the use of music and movement to teach skills and encourage the use of imagination for kids. His music has received numerous honors. Hap’s music was always a big part of my work as an elementary music educator years ago, and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with him and the host of the show, Maryann Harmon!

Here’s a link to the show. I hope you enjoy it!

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littleairplane

This summer, I attended a three-day intensive course entitled “How To Make A Great Preschool Series.” It was offered by Emmy Award-Winning Josh Selig’s company, Little Airplane Productions in NYC.

It was an incredible experience and I learned so much! The presenters were a never-ending A-list of truly accomplished and dedicated professionals. During the three day program, I learned about pitching, writing, curriculum development, directing, music, legal, and production aspects of both live-action and animated preschool programs.

The overarching message I came away with was “through education, anything is possible!” The presenters were incredibly informative and encouraging, and they all offered to help the attendees beyond the conclusion of the academy.

Much like Berkleemusic students, the attendees were an eclectic mix of diverse professionals with a common passion and a desire to learn more. Whether it’s music, preschool program development, or any professional pursuit, I’m constantly reminded that continuing education and lifelong learning is key to a successful and rewarding career.

Thanks Josh Selig, Tone Thyne, Jeffrey Lesser, and Melinda Richards and all of the Little Airplane Academy staff and Instructors for an amazing experience and a reminder that anything is possible through education!

Digging into Topspin

Feb 21 2010

It’s true that in addition to being the dean of continuing education at Berklee, I am also a student. I learn so much from our Berkleemusic students, instructors, and staff on a daily basis.

Just last month, we launched a brand new online course by Michael King entitled Online Music Marketing with Topspin. It’s a brilliant combination of cutting edge, best practices in online marketing wrapped around the new direct-to-fan sales and marketing platform, Topspin.

The course is extremely popular and by the tweets and blog posts of our current students, it’s a hit! For me, the course and the Topspin platform provide practical tools that I’ve been able to use immediately with my own kids/family music project, Debbie and Friends. With very little effort, I’ve created streaming audio and video widgets, as well as “email for media” widgets, like the one shown below.

When logged in, my Topspin account shows me all of the additional “shares” this widget has and the number of hits it’s getting in each location. The email for media widgets are so effective, in fact, that my email list is growing in a way that only used to happen at shows. It’s very exciting to see how well it all works, and I’ve barely scratched the surface of what this platform can do!

The Topspin account interface is easy to get around and the tools provided are extremely practical and useful for today’s aspiring musician (author, etc.). Next month, when it’s time to release our new CD, I’ll begin digging into the sales functionality of the Topspin application and will have more to report. In the meantime, what has your experience been with Topspin so far?

As many of you know, I have a children/family music project called Debbie and Friends. It’s a fun, creative, musical project that allows me to try all of the wonderful things we teach online in music production, songwriting, arranging, and music business, while making connections with families through music.

For the past eight months, we’ve been recording our second CD, More Story Songs and Sing Alongs, and finding many teachable moments for families with young kids throughout the process. The following post takes apart a rhythm section recording of our new song “So So Happy,” and allows kids to listen to each track individually. I originally posted this on my kid’s and family music blog, Kids Music Matters. The response has been so positive that I thought I’d share it here as well, for those of you who may want to explore the recording process with your kids.

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In the Recording Studio with Debbie and Friends!

First, let’s listen to the whole song. Then we’ll listen to the individual parts (or tracks) we recorded.
So So Happy – in production by Debbie and Friends

With our producer Mike Carrera guiding the way, we recorded the rhythm section tracks for “So, So, Happy” (drums, bass, guitar, and piano). Let’s listen to each individual rhythm section instrument we recorded for “So, So, Happy,” and meet the players. (Some you may recognize as your Berkleemusic instructors.)

Drums with Bill D’Agostino.

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Bill D’Agostino on drums.

Drums – So, So Happy by Debbie and Friends

Bass with Danny “Mo” Morris.

Danny Mo
Danno Mo on bass.

Bass – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Guitar with Kevin Belz.

Kevin
Kevin Belz on guitar.

Guitar – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Keyboard with Dave Limina.

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Dave Limina on piano (also plays organ).

Keyboard – “So, So Happy” by Debbie and Friends

Now that you’ve heard the different parts, challenge each other to listen for the individual instrument parts when they are all mixed together. I hope you and your family enjoyed exploring the recording process. It’s fun to do this with other recordings you listen to together as well.

I’m delighted to announce the new Berkleemusic online learning environment will be unveiled this Fall term. Our new learning platform has been tested in a number of courses over the past few semesters with great success. The feedback from students and faculty has been extremely positive, and we’re looking forward to sharing it with the rest of our student body this Fall term.

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The new Berkleemusic learning environment makes its debut this Fall 2009 term.

The new learning environment will contain an enhanced feature set with many of the tools our students have been asking for, including:

- a real-time “Web Conferencing Tool” that allows for text, audio, and video-based meetings.

- the addition of “RSS” feeds.

- enhanced communication features including a student “Quick Nav.”

- a “Polling Tool” to help establish weekly chat times and to weigh in on course-related topics.

- a “Calendar Tool” to assist with planning and scheduling of both course-related and personal dates.

- a “Flash-based Recording Tool” to record and submit assignments, and for instructors to provide audio feedback.

- a brand new “Look and Feel” for the learning environment that has been designed and tested for readability and ease of use.

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Funk/R&B Guitar topic in the new Berkleemusic learning environment

All of us at Berkleemusic are incredibly excited about the new learning environment and look forward to sharing it with our students this Fall Term beginning September 28!

Pat Pattison is a world-renowned lyric writing instructor. In addition to being a Professor at Berklee College of Music, he presents songwriting clinics all around the world. Pat has taught thousands of aspiring songwriters and several of his students have won Grammys, including John Mayer and Gillian Welch.

Every time I have the good fortune to see Pat “in action” with a student and a song, I’m amazed by his ability to transform songs from good to great in a matter of minutes with very practical techniques. Here’s one example:

We are very fortunate at Berkleemusic to have three online Lyric Writing courses authored by Pat. I can tell you firsthand they are outstanding courses that will change the way you write and provide you with a powerful songwriting toolkit to use for years to come.

Classes start on Monday!

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Matt Marvuglio, Flautist, Prof. Performance Division Dean, Berklee College of Music

Memorizing music is an important function for all musicians. Matt Marvuglio, Berklee’s Dean of the Professional Performance Division, has developed a multi-modal approach to memorizing music that can be put into practice and applied immediately.

Below is an excerpt from his Artisthousemusic article entitled Memorizing Music. In addition to being a dean at Berklee, Matt is also a Berkleemusic online instructor and course author. Basic Ear Training and Basic Improvisation are two of his online courses.

The biggest fear of memorizing music is forgetting. Forgetting usually happens when a retrieval strategy breaks down. It happens to everyone if you don’t process the music in a number of different ways. We need to process music in a number of different ways so you will be confident that you will not forget. This way, if one system breaks down, the other one can take over. Maybe a better way of describing playing music without reading it would be “internalizing” the music. Let’s talk about the different ways that you can internalize a piece of music through different memory systems.

Visual is the most common memory system through which we all relate to the world. For some of us, this is the way we learn music. We read it. When you close your eyes, you can visualize the part and see the page in front of you.

Tactile is the memory system through which we can feel the music by fingering the instrument. You can remember how a passage feels and you can reach for it. Through this system you can recognize familiar patterns such as scales and arpeggios. Musicians who don’t read can rely upon this memory system.

Aural is the memory system through which we can hear the music. Solfege is a system of study that clearly identifies the pitches in a systematic way and helps us build our aural perception. Scale degrees are assigned numbers or syllables and you identify chromatic alterations and key changes.

You need to use all of these systems and be aware of what you are seeing, feeling, and hearing when you practice. Also, it is important to isolate each system to fully understand what’s happening. This is a great way that you can put your music theory and solfege to use. Everyone will have a different memory system that is stronger based upon how you practice and learn music. Click here to look at a passage from the J.S. Bach Minuet in G and put it through the different memory systems.


Community!
Whether online or off, we all want to be part of one.

Berkleemusic’s continuing education students tell us that a sense of community is one of the most important parts of their online educational experience. Throughout a 12-week semester online, students network and study with classmates from all over the world. The course community helps students form lasting connections that live beyond the semester and into their professional lives.

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We have a number of tools, both asynchronous and real-time, available to students to foster communication and collaboration in any given Berkleemusic courses. They are a:

Discussion Board

– A “meet and greet” at the beginning of a course
– Lesson-specific questions presented by the instructor
– Student-generated questions or ideas
– Assignment feedback: instructors and classmates review and critique lesson assignments each week.

Chat Tool

The chat tool is used for a weekly office hour also known as a class meeting. The students and instructor spend an hour chatting about the lesson of the week. Sometimes, an instructor will invite a guest artist or industry luminary in to participate in the chat.

In addition to the discussion boards and chat tool, there are instructor announcements, private messaging for confidential exchanges, and even email to help to keep the communication flowing and the course community collaborative.

How important is a sense of community to you in your online education? What are some of the ways that help you feel part of an online course community? What’s lacking? What kind of tools or interactions would you like to see?

I look forward to your responses!