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The Loog Guitar Revolution: Guitar Lessons for Kids Will Never be the Same

loog_slider01As a music educator and performer, I’m always interested in learning about new products and tools that can help students succeed.  When I discovered the Loog Guitar, a 3-string interchangeable guitar designed with children in mind, I immediately took notice.

I was excited to find out more about the Loog because I took guitar lessons when I was 8 years old, and it proved to be easier said than done. The guitar was added to the list of instruments that were uncomfortable for my tiny hands (which I thought would grow eventually, but never did – to this day, I still struggle to reach the octave on the piano!).

I became discouraged and quit after about 6 months, and eventually took up the ukulele many years later – which has been much easier for me to maneuver but even now, the ¾ size guitar is problematic for me.

Many of our TakeLessons instructors prefer not to teach guitar to young children for this very reason.  Now, with the Loog Guitar in the picture, instead of teachers having to focus on finding alternate fingerings and keeping a frustrated student focused on the difficult task of mastering an adult-sized instrument, they can focus on teaching the child to make music!  And isn’t that really what it’s all about?

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to interview Rafael Atijas, the creator of the Loog Guitar, who provided insight into how his concept came about and what the benefits will be for children who want to learn the guitar.

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When did you realize that there was a need for a guitar made especially for kids?

I saw my 6 year old niece trying to make music with one of those $30 guitars when I thought “There has to be a better way.” It was then that I realized that kids’ guitars are usually just cheap, scaled-downed replicas of classical guitars.  They are not really designed with kids’ needs, comfort or even safety in mind.

Where does your knowledge of guitars come from?

I studied guitar and was in different bands during high school and college (as was almost every other kid I knew). I was very much into rock music and at some point I just fell in love with guitars – especially vintage electric guitars.

What age group do you feel would benefit the most from the Loog Guitar?

Time will tell, but I think kids ages 6 to 9 will be the ones that will get the most out of the Loog Guitar, since this is the guitar that allows them to build chords without the need to form complicated shapes with their little hands.

Where did you get the idea to call it the “Loog?”

It is my subtle but very meaningful homage to Andrew Loog Oldham, the first manager and producer of The Rolling Stones. I always found him to be a fascinating character (I’m a rock nerd, as you can see) and back when I had a band, I had a chance to meet him and he was super kind to us.

What types of learning materials are you planning on coming out with to assist with the learning process?

We plan to include a manual on how to play with three strings, and we will also offer video tutorials on our website.

What does this product mean for kids who have an interest in learning guitar?

Kids will have a friendlier instrument that will stimulate them to make music and get creative with it. What I like about the Loog Guitar is that it works whether you already know how to play guitar or not. And that’s what I hope it means to kids who have an interest in learning guitar: a fun and easy way to play music.

Anything else you wish to add?

I am truly humbled by the response the Loog Guitar project got on Kickstarter (the website that helped raise the money to launch the product), and one of the things I like the most is that so many people from the education field have reached out to me and had very positive things to say about the Loog Guitar. I know TakeLessons.com reaches a lot of music teachers, so I want to use this opportunity to extend my thanks to all of them.

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There you have it, folks.  I’m personally thrilled that there is now a product out there that will make learning guitar simpler for young children.  For teachers, what have you experienced in teaching guitar to young children? Parents and students, what are some of the challenges that you’ve faced learning guitar yourself or watching your child learn guitar?  I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave comments below if you feel so inclined!  Now if only I could travel back in time and learn to play guitar on the Loog, maybe I would have stuck with it! To learn more, visit www.loogguitar.com or check out the Loog Guitar in action below:

The Loog Guitar in Action from Loog Guitars on Vimeo.

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Monet Payne is the Community Manager for TakeLessons.com. She is dedicated to providing the latest on music education and technology to those who seek it. By night, Monet is a professional singing actress, starring in musicals, operas, and everything in between. Monet has her Bachelors in Music, with a concentration in Vocal Performance, and enjoys teaching voice, involving herself as Vocal Director in several productions. She proudly co-founded a non-profit organization for Voice Education and her next venture will be to start her own theater production company.

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NAMM Announces Best Communites for Music Education

BCMEThe National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM) has revealed this year’s list of Best Communities for Music Education in the U.S.  The announcement was made during last week’s National Wanna Play Music Week celebration, an annual event which highlights the importance of music education programs in schools and promotes the benefits of playing music for people of all ages and skill levels.

This year’s survey recognizes a total of 174 school districts across 30 states for their commitment to providing music education for their students.  According to the NAMM Foundation, the “Best Communities” designation represents both a distinction worthy of pride and a call to action for local music education advocates to help preserve their current music education programs.

Teachers and school district administrators participated in a web-based survey to select this year’s winners.  Districts were measured across curricular and programmatic criteria, as well as public support of their music programs.

The complete list of Best Communities appears below, and can also be viewed online at www.nammfoundation.org.

Abington School District Abington PA
Acalanes High School Lafayette CA
Albion Central School District Albion NY
Ann Arbor Public Schools Ann Arbor MI
Arlington Independent School District Arlington TX
Avon Lake City School District Avon Lake OH
Baldwinsville Central School District Baldwinsville NY
Baltimore County Public Schools Towson MD
Bay Shore Union Free School District Bay Shore NY
Bay Village City School District Bay Village OH
Beachwood City Schools Beachwood OH
Bedford Central School District Mount Kisco NY
Bedford Public Schools Temperance MI
Belmont Public Schools Belmont MA
Benjamin Franklin Classical Charter Public School Franklin MA
Berea City School District Berea OH
Bergenfield Public Schools Bergenfield NJ
Bethel Public Schools Bethel CT
Boerne Independent School District Boerne TX
Boyertown Area School District Boyertown PA
Brighton Central School District Rochester NY
Canfield Local Schools Canfield OH
Central Cambria School District Ebensburg PA
Central York School District York PA
Chesapeake Public Schools Chesapeake VA
Cheshire Public Schools Cheshire CT
Clarence Central School Clarence NY
Clark County School District Las Vegas NV
Clarkstown Central School District New City NY
Clovis Municipal Schools Clovis NM
Cobb County School District Marietta GA
Colonial Elementary School Plymouth Meeting PA
Conestoga Valley School District Lancaster PA
Connetquot Central School District Bohemia NY
Cottonwood Elementary School Wright WY
Cumberland Valley School District Mechanicsburg PA
Cuyahoga Heights Local School District Cleveland OH
David Douglas School District 40 Portland OR
Decorah Community School District Decorah IA
Denton Independent School District Denton TX
Dover Area School District Dover PA
East Meadow Union Free School District Westbury NY
Edmonds School District Lynnwood WA
Ephrata Area School District Ephrata PA
Fargo Public Schools Fargo ND
Fayetteville-Manlius Central Schools Manlius NY
Fort Bend Independent School District Sugar Land TX
Fulton County Schools Atlanta GA
Gotha Middle School Windermere FL
Great Falls Public Schools Great Falls MT
Great Neck UFSD Great Neck NY
Greenwich Public Schools Greenwich CT
Guilderland Central School District Guilderland NY
Gwinnett County Public Schools Suwanee GA
Harford County Public Schools Bel Air MD
Henrico County Public Schools Richmond VA
Herricks Union Free School District No. 9 New Hyde Park NY
Hershey Middle School Hershey PA
Hewlett-Woodmere Public Schools Woodmere NY
Hidalgo Independent School District Hidalgo TX
Hilliard City School District Hilliard OH
Hilton Central School District Hilton NY
Homewood City Schools Homewood AL
Honoka’a High and Intermediate School Honoka’a HI
Hopewell Valley Regional School District Pennington NJ
Hortonville Area School District Hortonville WI
Hudson School District Hudson WI
Huntsville Independent School District Huntsville TX
Hurst-Euless-Bedford Independent School District Bedford TX
Independent School District 279 – Osseo Area Schools Maple Grove MN
Indiana Area School District Indiana PA
Irvine Unified School District Irvine CA
Island Trees Public Schools U.S.F.D. Levittown NY
Jenison Public Schools Jenison MI
Jericho Union Free School District Jericho NY
Johnson City Central School District Johnson City NY
Katy Independent School District Katy TX
Klein Independent School District Klein TX
Lawrence Township School District Lawrenceville NJ
Lee County Schools Opelika AL
LeRoy Central School LeRoy NY
Liverpool Central School District Liverpool NY
Longwood Central School District Yaphank NY
Loudoun County Public Schools Ashburn VA
Lower Merion School District Ardmore PA
Lynn Public Schools Lynn MA
Manhasset Public Schools Manhasset NY
Massapequa Union Free School District #23 Massapequa NY
Memphis City Schools Memphis TN
Metuchen Public Schools Metuchen NJ
Midway Independent School District Waco TX
Millard Public Schools Omaha NE
Milpitas High School Milpitas CA
Mineola Union Free School District Mineola NY
Montgomery County Public Schools Christiansburg VA
Monticello Central School District Monticello NY
Mount Lebanon School District Pittsburgh PA
Nanuet Union Free School District Nanuet NY
New Hartford Central School District New Hartford NY
Newfield Elementary School Newfield NY
Newtown Public Schools Newtown CT
North Allegheny School District Pittsburgh PA
North Babylon Union Free School District North Babylon NY
Northport East Northport Union Free School District Northport NY
Northwest Independent School District Justin TX
Northwestern Elementary New Tripoli PA
Nutley Public School District Nutley NJ
Oceanside Public School District Oceanside NY
Olmsted Falls City Schools Olmsted Falls OH
Open Door Christian Schools Elyria OH
Oppenheim-Ephratah Central School St. Johnsville NY
Osage County R-II Schools Linn MO
Paramus Board of Education Paramus NJ
Pasadena Independent School District Pasadena TX
Pasco School District #1 Pasco WA
Pendleton School District 16R Pendleton OR
Pennsbury School District Fairless Hills PA
Pequannock Township School District Pompton Plains NJ
Perrysburg Exempted Village Schools Perrysburg OH
Pine City Public Schools (Independent School District #578) Pine City MN
Pittsford Central School District Pittsford NY
Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Placentia CA
Plano Independent School District Plano TX
Plymouth Canton Educational Park Canton MI
Plymouth Community High School Plymouth IN
Port Jefferson School District Port Jefferson NY
Potsdam Central School District Potsdam NY
Princeton City Schools Cincinnati OH
Propel East Turtle Creek PA
Putnam Valley Central School District Putnam Valley NY
Quaker Valley School District Sewickley PA
Randolph Township School District Randolph NJ
Ridgewood Public Schools Ridgewood NJ
Roanoke County Public Schools Roanoke VA
Royalton-Hartland Central School District Middleport NY
Rush-Henrietta Central School District West Henrietta NY
San Diego Unified School District San Diego CA
Santa Monica-Malibu USD Santa Monica CA
Sayville Public Schools W Sayville NY
Scarsdale Public Schools Scarsdale NY
School District of La Crosse La Crosse WI
Shaker Heights City School District Shaker Heights OH
Shaw Visual and Performing Arts Elementary Saint Louis MO
Simsbury Public Schools Simsbury CT
South Huntington Union Free School District Huntington Station NY
Spokane Public Schools Spokane WA
State College Area School District State College PA
Stow-Munroe Falls City School District Stow OH
Syosset Central School District Syosset NY
The School Board of Polk County, Florida Bartow FL
The School District of Hillsborough County, Florida Tampa FL
The Sycamore Community School District Cincinnati OH
The Troy School District Troy MI
Torrington Public Schools Torrington CT
Township of Union Public Schools Union NJ
Trinity Area School District Washington PA
Virginia Beach City Public Schools Virginia Beach VA
Wappingers Central School District Wappingers Falls NY
Washington County Public Schools Hagerstown MD
Washoe County School District Reno NV
Wayland Public Schools Wayland MA
Webb Bridge Middle School Alpharetta GA
Webster Central School District Webster NY
West Genesee Central School District Camillus, NY
West Hartford Public Schools West Hartford CT
West Irondequoit Central School District Rochester NY
West Lafayette Community School Corporation West Lafayette IN
West Milford Township Public Schools West Milford NJ
Westborough Public Schools Westborough MA
Weston Public Schools Weston MA
Willard R-II Schools Willard MO
Williamsport Area School District Williamsport PA
Williamsville Central School District East Amherst NY
Woodside School Woodside CA

Wanna Play Music? Take Part in Music Monday on May 3!

WannaPlayMusicWeek10During the week of May 3-7, musicians, schools, and other organizations across the country will come together in support of the fourth annual National Wanna Play Music Week, sponsored by the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM).  This week-long celebration highlights the importance of music education programs in schools and promotes the benefits of playing music for people of all ages and skill levels.  NAMM is also a TakeLessons organizational partner, which is why we are proud to support this event and power the lesson locator tool on the official Wanna Play Music website.

The week will kick off with “Music Monday” on May 3, an event in which schools, community and professional organizations will perform one piece of music simultaneously at 10 a.m. Pacific Time, 11 a.m. Mountain Time, 12 p.m. Central Time, and 1 p.m. Eastern Time.  NAMM hopes that by having everyone sing the same song at the same time, music will transcend all genres and unite people through the melody and the act of performing the piece together.

NAMM is also encouraging people to pick up an instrument of their choice and play any time on May 3 as part of the Music Monday celebration.  This is the sixth year that NAMM has supported Music Monday, which is also hosted by the Coalition for Music Education in Canada and has grown to more than 2,000 schools since its inception.  You can register your school or organization as a participant in Music Monday by e-mailing musicmonday@namm.org.

If you plan to take part in Music Monday on May 3, tell us how you’ll be getting involved!  Will you be participating in the group song, or playing an instrument?

Looking to increase your brain power? Take music lessons!

Music BrainIt is never a dull day here at TakeLessons. Our phones ring throughout day with people looking to get started with music lessons. Many of the inquiries are parents looking to get their children started with lessons – guitar lessons, piano lessons, singing lessons – even accordion lessons! The reasons they us give range from “my 4-year-old daughter has a voice like Beyoncé” to “my 17-year-old son needs to start focusing on something other than football.”

We hear it all. Well almost…

One thing we don’t really hear is, “I want to increase my child’s mental ability and therefore, I would like to get him/her set up with guitar lessons.”

With all of the articles published that show the importance of music on brain development, it’s actually amazing that we don’t hear this kind of request more often. Is it because people focus on the entertainment value of music while the developmental component is secondary?  Are they even aware of the added benefits of musical education? Does the parent that hopes her daughter becomes the next big pop star realize that while this may not occur, her daughter’s singing lessons are actually helping to enhance her small motor skills, auditory senses and ability to communicate?

Regardless of the reasons our students start taking music lessons, we are happy to have them on board and encourage them throughout their journey. With our S.T.A.R. Program™ and our Lesson Success Journals™, we keep our students motivated and excited to take their next lesson. If one of our students actually becomes the next big pop star, we will be their #1 fan; but we’ll be just as supportive when another aces their upcoming algebra or language test. We are proud of them not only for their musical accomplishments, but for whatever else they set out to do and achieve.

If you are interested in learning more about the effects of music on brain development, you should check out the article below titled “Music Lessons Boost Brain Powerfound on Fox News last week. You can also read the full article located here –  http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,572551,00.html

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Music Lessons Boost Brain Power

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Researchers found a correlation between early-childhood musical training and improvements to nonverbal reasoning, verbal ability and motor skills

WASHINGTON — For those who seriously practiced a musical instrument when they were young, the experience was more than just entertainment. Recent research shows a strong correlation between musical training for children and certain mental abilities.

The research was discussed at a session at a recent gathering of acoustics experts in Austin, Texas.

Laurel Trainor, director of the Institute for Music and the Mind at McMaster University in West Hamilton, Ontario, and colleagues compared preschool children who had taken music lessons with those who did not. Those with some training showed larger brain responses on a number of sound recognition tests given to the children. Her research indicated that musical training appears to modify the brain’s auditory cortex.

Can larger claims be made for the influence on the brain of musical training? Does training change thinking or cognition in general?

Trainor again says yes. Even a year or two of music training leads to enhanced levels of memory and attention when measured by the same type of tests that monitor electrical and magnetic impulses in the brain.

We therefore hypothesize that musical training (but not necessarily passive listening to music) affects attention and memory, which provides a mechanism whereby musical training might lead to better learning across a number of domains,” Trainor said.

Trainor suggested that the reason for this is that the motor and listening skills needed to play an instrument in concert with other people appears to heavily involve attention, memory and the ability to inhibit actions. Merely listening passively to music to Mozart — or any other composer — does not produce the same changes in attention and memory.

Harvard University researcher Gottfried Schlaug has also studied the cognitive effects of musical training. Schlaug and his colleagues found a correlation between early-childhood training in music and enhanced motor and auditory skills as well as improvements in verbal ability and nonverbal reasoning.

The scientists also discovered that different instruments appear to cause a varying modification within the brain. Changes in the brains of singers occur in slightly different locations than those seen for keyboard or string players.

The correlation between music training and language development is even more striking for dyslexic children.

“[The findings] suggest that a music intervention that strengthens the basic auditory music perception skills of children with dyslexia may also remediate some of their language deficits.” Schlaug said.

Schlaug reports that tone-deaf individuals often have a reduced or absent arcuate fasciculus, a fiber tract connecting the frontal and temporal lobes in the brain. Reduced or damaged arcuate fasciculus has been associated with various acquired language problems like aphasia and also dyslexia in children.

Still more evidence that formal music training strengthens auditory cortex responses came in a study performed by Antoine Shahin, now at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio. Shahin believes that musical training gives an individual the
acoustic responsiveness of a child some 2 – 3 years older. In talking about the affect of music on the brain, he said the studies do not necessarily show that musical training leads to enhanced IQ or creativity.

Shahin said that when a person listens to sounds over and over, especially for something as harmonic or meaningful as music and speech, the appropriate neurons get reinforced in responding preferentially to those sounds compared to other sounds. This neural behavior was examined in a study that looked at the degree of auditory cortex responsiveness to music and non-familiar sounds as a child ages.

Shahin’s main findings are that the changes triggered by listening to musical sound increases with age and the greatest increase occur between age 10 and 13. This most likely indicates this as being a sensitive period for music and speech acquisition.

Glenn Schellenberg from the University of Toronto directly addressed if musical ability makes a person smarter. Such assessments concerning children are always difficult because of the influence of other factors, such as parental income and education. Nevertheless, he found that passive listening to music seems to help a person perform certain cognitive tests, at least in the short run. Actual music lessons for kids, however, leads to a longer lasting cognitive success.

The effects of musical training on cognition for adults, Schellenberg said, are harder to pin down.

This article was provided by Inside Science News Service, which is supported by the American Institute of Physics, a not-for-profit publisher of scientific journals.

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Why You Should Never Underestimate the Power of Music

MusicThere are many different articles on the benefits of music education out there but we recently found one that had such a strong impact on us, we had to share it with all of you. Here at TakeLessons, we always speak about the power of music and have our own personal accounts on how music has helped us individually, but we found this story truly amazing. Thanks to Michael Shasberger, Adams Professor of Music and Worship, for producing this article with an inspiring story about the medical miracles of music therapy and the importance of music education on the development and socialization of human beings.

The following excerpt was taken from Westmont Magazine in an article titled “Better Minds Through Music” by Michael Shasberger.  You can read the entire article by clicking on the links following this excerpt.

In 2007, one of our violin students nearly died in a car accident and lay in a coma for several weeks. Doctors told the family there was little hope of recovery. He did regain consciousness, however, and while he had limited speech, he couldn’t form cogent thoughts or recognize simple objects. Case workers predicted months or years of therapy and doubted he’d recover his intellectual capabilities.

His violin professor visited him in the midst of these assessments. At the time, the student was doing tests that determined he couldn’t recognize or name simple objects such as a spoon. Then Dr. Phil Ficsor took out his violin and put it in the student’s hand. Perplexed, the student was unable to name the instrument and said he didn’t know what to do with it. Dr. Ficsor put the bow in his other hand and encouraged him to try. Moments later he was playing music from memory that he’d studied a few months earlier. Two months later he was back in school playing drums in the Chapel Band and violin in the orchestra and taking a full academic load. Music played a seemingly miraculous role in a recovery that exceeded the doctor’s wildest imagination. But it wasn’t miraculous. It was the result of violin studies this young man began at the age of 6. The musical resources of both his brain hemispheres were so strongly developed and linked that they could pull together when linguistic skills, which operate in only one lobe, couldn’t. His parents’ investment in musical studies —and the resources committed to his high school orchestra —made the difference. What happened to this student vividly illustrates the value of music education.

Wow! To read the entire article, visit http://blogs.westmont.edu/westmont_magazine/?p=1554

Gifted Education 101: Enrichment opportunities for your musical child

Here is an awesome article originally posted by Alina Adams from NY Gifted Education Examiner about the power of music education:  Philharmonic

When Farah Taslima’s parents immigrated from Bangladesh, they didn’t dream that their 12-year-old girl’s music would someday be performed by the New York Philharmonic. Even if they had, they never could have imagined it would happen in North Korea….

The 106 members of the Philharmonic returned Thursday from a historic visit to North Korea, which is locked in frosty negotiations with the United States over its nuclear weapons program. It was the biggest American delegation to visit the communist country since the Korean War.

The pinnacle of the trip was a concert broadcast to the world last Tuesday. And the next morning, four members of the orchestra and four North Korean musicians performed an octet by Felix Mendelssohn, with Taslima’s piece squeezed in at the end.

“It was a wild-card thing,” said Jon Deak, a Philharmonic double bass player who runs the orchestra’s teaching program for child composers….

She had originally written it for the entire Philharmonic two years ago, and it was played at one of the orchestra’s Young People’s Concerts at Lincoln Center.

But she scaled down the work for a smaller group of musicians – clarinet, violin, cello and double bass, including the Philharmonic’s top violinist, concertmaster Glenn Dicterow….

Farah, who attends a gifted children’s school at Manhattan’s M.S. 54, started composing as a third-grader at P.S. 199, where Deak – also a composer – introduced his Very Young Composers program sponsored by the orchestra.

For the musically gifted youngster more interested in jazz than classical music, the NY Gifted Examiner spoke to David O’Rourke, Artistic Director of the Jazz Standard Youth Orchestra (JSYO), about opportunities available for boys and girls with his organization.

 

 

According to O’Rourke: Jsyo

At a time when
arts education programs in public schools continue to diminish, it’s
imperative that we ensure all school-aged children have access to a
quality education that includes music. Studies have shown that music
study improves children’s SAT scores, basic math and reading abilities,
self-esteem, empathy for various cultures, interpersonal communication
skills, self-expression, and the list goes on and on.

For the
eighth consecutive season, the Jazz Standard, the nation’s premier jazz
club, and JSYO, a breeding ground for NYC’s talented young musicians,
are providing numerous performance opportunities, priceless musical
education and insight from today’s top jazz professional musicians, as
well as collegiate auditions and scholarships for hundreds of children
between the ages of 11and 18,  all while motivating the next generation
of up-and-coming artists.

The vast majority of our JSYO
alumni pursue music in college, many testing out on several of their
first year courses due to their performance experience with us. Little
did I realize when we launched this program in 2002, that through music
I would find myself helping to prep kids for their college auditions,
helping place some of them in performing arts high schools, alongside
helping to develop prodigious young talent. We audition kids from La
Guardia High School, Jazz at Lincoln Center, and the local community
and schools to identify students to participate in the program each
year. We see a trend developing where our musicians are coming to us at
an increasingly younger age while their level of playing is already
quite developed. Our youngest members are 11 years old!

In
addition to the kids’ private teachers and school band directors, the
JSYO provides these youngsters with the greatest of all teachers:
regular live performance. We launched JAZZ FOR KIDS, a weekly
performance at Jazz Standard that involves the JSYO playing for the
general public. JAZZ FOR KIDS offers our student musicians the
opportunity to play exciting new arrangements of big band classics such
as St. Louis Blues and Don’t’ Be That Way, Big Band charts such as Miles DavisSo What,
and jazz compositions by the likes of Duke Ellington, Cedar Walton, Wes
Montgomery
, and Charlie Parker. For the audience, which usually
consists of families and their impressionable children, JAZZ FOR KIDS
provides an opportunity to connect with the music in a lively
environment.  To learn more, visit www.jazzstandard.com.