A song is not just a song

A song is not just a song

Ok, so yesterday Jensen was working on a song and during the lesson Patrice gave her a couple of pointers. I’m always stunned that with minor adjustments Patrice has the ability to make it sound even better. It’s like she exactly knows what a song needs to give it that ahhh effect. Means you have great “ears”. The song was already good, but with the advice she gave it actually strengthens the composition even more. Being able to do that is not only skill, it’s also talent and experience. The students here pick that advice up very fast. Without hesitation they know exactly what the teacher means and they have no problem with the execution at all.

Later that evening I saw the Freshmen of this pop program perform. Their repertoire this semester is Motown. There are 5 groups and each of the groups have to perform the same 3 songs. In this case “My Girl” and “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” by the Temptations and “BabyLove” by the Supremes. Besides that the songs are good, there’s so much more to learn about the songs than just the music and lyrics.

Before each performance the teacher (in this case Patrice) asks the students detailed questions about the song, like, who plays guitar on the track, name all the Supremes (not just Diana Ross...lol), what is that sound you hear snapping in the background? In this case it’s not just about playing and singing the song, but also how to really listen to it and learn the story behind it. Know the history and get the right background information. As a result the students will have the ability to paint the complete picture. Besides that it enlarges the musical knowledge and gives them the ability to use that information during future performances and they can pass it on. I must say those Freshmen did not disappoint at all. Ofcourse there are a couple of flaws, but they’re new and still learning. I loved the fact that one of the students was so prepared that she even dressed up as a Supreme.

The 2nd year students have really grown since I’ve seen them last year. This session was led by Sean Holt who is a Professor of Practice at USC. Sean has worked with artists like Santana, John Legend, Bruno Mars, Mary J. Blige, Gloria Estefan, Michael Bublé and numerous others. He is the kind of teacher who knows what he’s talking about and is very driven to make sure the students receive the correct information. Just like Patrice did at the previous session, he’s asking questions about the story behind the songs as well. What really surprised me was the setlist. It’s such a breath of fresh air to see students play music of Boz Scaggs, Chaka Khan, Bon Jovi, Pat Benatar, Heart, amongst others. To be honest I’ve visited a couple of schools and I’ve never heard the students or teachers address any of these songs. Patrice told me that together with Sean, they created a list with various songs and the students have to pick which one they’re playing.

It really impressed me how this pop program is making sure each genre, style and the most important eras in music history are being represented. When asked why that is, the answer is actually pretty simple. This way when a student enters a gig in the future they can play along with any tune, any genre, any style. They would know what it sounds and feel like and when someone calls and offers you a gig, you don’t have to sell them NO or I don’t know, cause you do.

When you see the content of the program and the schedule you’ll notice the hard work that goes in it. They’re all driven and ofcourse one more than the other, but the end result is pretty amazing.

So that was my experience yesterday. Today I visited the Grammy Museum, I’ll post about that later this week.


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