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Culture Bully’s Donors Choose Blogathon

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Donors Choose Blogathon

In October 2008 Culture Bully published a 60 hour blogathon as a fundraiser in support of music development and literacy within the Twin Cities. In the process of doing so, the site solicited reflections, music, and essays from local artists who spoke to the following question: “How did you get into making music, and how did arts education (or lack thereof) affect you and your music?” The responses were diverse and incredible.


The Closet: An Essay on Music Education by Sean McPherson of Heiruspecs

I was sitting in a closet that holds the basses and guitars at St. Paul Central High School, starting to cry. I was just learning to hate the tears, to fight back the tears and I was just trying to take a moment for me when no one would notice. I walked in pretending to look for my bass and just collapsed in there. There was a dispute within the school music community about who could play at the Multicultural Festival. Namely, could one person play in multiple bands at this festival, one that had a bigger audience than any other school event? I played in about four bands at the time and my big ass ego wanted them all to play. I didn’t think much about inclusion, or student rights, I felt that if I made time for all these rehearsals and all these bands I should be able to play in all of them. I didn’t have the vision or the maturity to see what a community I was in, how much everyone in these classes worked hard and deserved their time to play. What I knew was that people were pissed at me and a couple other people who played in multiple bands. I felt like the extra work I put in was slapping me in the face. My teacher, Red Freeberg, had just defended the idea of limiting each person to playing in one band. I felt shocked that he would do that, it felt like a personal attack on me. And he was such a proponent of treating the school like the real world, and running things from a business point of view. I started to feel broken and defensive as the plan molded into reality in the class. So I stepped into the closet after class.

Red walked into the closet and leaned against the counter like it was a coffee shop. He asked how I was doing and I mumbled basic nothings. My heart knew that nobody was out to get me, I was just starting to learn that the world wasn’t out to help or hurt me. It just was, and I just was, and the loneliness of this world was starting to sink in. Red teased my mumblings into sentences. He let me know that the hard work I was doing was going to give me a lot to look forward to, in life, in music, in the world. Red sprinkled his words to let me know that no part of me should feel like it’s wrong to try hard, to play in a lot of bands and the rest. But he let me know that I had to handle things. I had to make peace with what was bothering me so I could go out into this world proud. He helped me realize that a lot of my issues were with myself. There were things I was waiting for people to say to me so that they could let me look at what I already knew was wrong. I knew that I was being possessive of things I should be inclusive with. I knew that I was bringing the same bullshit that kept me off the sports field in high school into the arts world. I was being an arts bully, Red didn’t need to tell me that and my classmates didn’t need to tell me that. I needed to start telling myself that. Red’s words that day continued his teaching that helped me find myself as a young adult.

I came to Minnesota a brat. I probably won’t leave Minnesota until I stop breathing and by then people will have forgotten that I was a brat, but I showed up all bratted up. My dad was coming in to be the President of Macalester and I was the tenth grader fascinated with music trying to find a high school. When your dad is going to be the President of Macalester everybody treats you pretty good and everyone has an opinion about what you should do for school; everyone’s daughter goes to Cretin, or brother-in-law teaches at Edina, or noticed that Eagan has a good jazz band. I heard about a lot of different high schools and all of them sounded way better than the little high school I was coming from in Massachusetts.

At Mount Greylock High School in Massachusetts there was a cork board next to the front desk. You got on that board if your sports team did good or if you won a scholastic or music award. That cork board was the congratulations distribution center for the school at large. In high school you either get noticed for doing good or doing bad. So if you weren’t on the cork board or in the principal’s office for buying weed, you were keeping your head down looking forward to graduating and getting the fuck out of Berkshire County. There was no chance you’d get on the cork board if your band won a demo contest in the local paper, or if you’re band was picking up paying gigs in ninth grade. I know cause I did that shit, my friends did that shit and my brother did that shit before me. It’s a great thing to bitch about, being in the paper is good enough, playing music is good enough. No one set up a system to honor, criticize or cultivate popular music students. And you’re left confused about if your shit is good. If no one asks if you’re doing good with the band stuff, if it’s working out, if you’re getting the right gigs you forget to ask yourself.

And when I got to Minnesota I thought I might have a shot at that being different. It was a shock to hear about multiple choices for schools. I sat stunned as I realized that I was moving to a city; having been raised in a town of eight thousand this was all a bit to adjust to. I saw some great facilities and met some great teachers at Edina and Saint Paul Academy but when I got to Central it felt good primarily because it scared the shit out of me – and that’s a good feeling to a lot of ninth graders. It scared me because I came from an area where I knew everyone and where most people were white. Saint Paul Central was one of the largest places I had ever been and by far the most diverse up to that point. At 10 a.m. my tour guide opened the door on Red’s class and there was a full live hip-hop band going through some songs. I basically shit my pants. My tour guide walked me around the rest of the recording program’s area until we found Red. Red was deep in discussion with a student about a recent performance. Red was asking questions like “did you pass out fliers after the show?” “did you connect with the audience?” “did you get paid well?.” I didn’t know teachers were allowed to ask these questions, but honestly, why not? These are the same questions I ask my friends today after gigs we play.

My tour guide tried to interrupt Red during this discussion so I could meet Red. Red told my tour guide “I am in the middle of a serious discussion with a student about his performance and you will have to wait, please give us some privacy.” I knew then that this was the education I needed. Having a teacher that would take those first couple coffee shop, open mic gigs seriously and give you attention was such a breath of fresh air. It truly changed my life. I saw a path, I felt respect for what I was doing. I felt like the powers that be at the school respected music, honored it, and cared about supporting it. Red had us sitting down making plans for what we wanted to achieve during a given year and how we were going achieve those goals. He had us put our posters up on the wall so we had something to work towards. I started going to the shows, studying, practicing and my second year I started putting posters up on the wall. I started Heiruspecs with Felix and I worked constantly at getting our shit together.

And when I was sitting teary-eyed in that closet I was in serious need of a pep-talk, because I felt like all that work had driven a wedge between me and people I cared for. I don’t know why I needed to hear what Red started to say that day, I don’t even remember everything that Red did say. But I know that I walked out of that closet being OK with struggle, with conflict, with shortcomings, with growing up as a work-in-progress.

Red said, “you have to make it so you can deal. You don’t have to please anyone else, but you have to make it so you feel okay. If you feel OK telling everyone in these classes that you want to play in every band that gets to play at the Multicultural Festival bill then do that. If that’s really how you feel you probably wouldn’t be in here feeling the way you are. I know you’re strong, so if you’re feeling this way, it’s you, not them. You have to do what you need.” And at that point it felt like a good pep-talk. I felt like Red had put in place what I already knew but I was starting to stand up, I was feeling better. Then Red threw me for a loop. “If you need to learn how to read music, learn it. If MacPhail wants you to learn it and you don’t, fuck ‘em. If you need to lose some weight to deal, then do it. If you don’t, don’t worry about it. If your parents need you to lose weight, fuck ‘em. But if you need to, just handle it. You can handle it, you can make it work out.” Red put a responsibility in my hands that I hadn’t carried. He was taking big risks on big topics, I was struggling with my weight, I was struggling with a lot of things he was touching on.

He just put me in the path of myself, I started to know who I had to please, who I had to answer to. I remember that day sitting in that closet closer to Red in every way than I ever had been. I felt like I had a blank calendar and I could solve whatever problems I wanted to, whenever I could. I started to catalog my needs and my goals. I learned how to stand up for myself not for the purpose of winning but for the purpose of reaching the goals I wanted. I stopped wasting as much time wondering how other people felt about what I was doing when what I was really wondering was how I felt about what I was doing. I walked out of the closet with Red and I felt like there was things I could never tell anybody else he said, he talked about my weight, he said fuck a lot, it was unique in many ways for a high school student. I walked out of that closet feeling different, someone who was learning to love the struggles and the tears of life, knowing that I was on a path.


Aaron Pollock of QuarterAcreLifestyle on Music and Arts Education

I first got into making music at age 10, back in New Zealand. I was starting off at a new school and had great envy for the kids who got to play before the school assemblies. The band consisted of all the music students; 10 guitars, two banjos, bass guitar, drums, flute… about 15 people total in the band. But the best part was seeing the three drummers sharing the set. I thought to myself “this is the coolest school ever!” From that moment I started drum lessons and got myself into the lineup. I’m so grateful to have been introduced to the drums and music performance at such a young age.

Arts education has been so important! I’m also an art director, and I’ve found that both my art and music development have been fueled by an early arts education. As a result I’m continually trying to blur the lines between design and music, and that’s probably why our sound has a cinematic quality to it. We create as many purely instrumental tracks as we do with lyrics. Sometimes the inspiration comes from an image, a tone, texture or a color, and the idea of music as the soundtrack to that picture. I attribute a lot of our musical aesthetic to our education in the arts.


Aby Wolf on Music and Arts Education

I’ve been singing as long as I’ve been breathing, according to my mother. She played the piano while I was still in the womb, so by the time I was born I was no stranger to melody and harmony and a steady beat. Long into my childhood, I recall singing and dancing in the living room while she practiced her songbook. I’ve always had a keen ear for harmonies, to which I attribute this early shared musical experience with my mother.

I played percussion in junior high and high school marching band and pep band (”Wipe Out” was my jam). I also sang in the choir, qualifying for the Illinois State Music Festival in both my junior and senior year. I’m from a village (literally) in rural Illinois called Scales Mound, and it’s amazing (but no surprise) that I had one teacher in school to help me cultivate all my musical skills from kindergarten to graduating high school!! Thanks, Sharon Phillips. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that I was her star pupil in competitions and concerts for a great deal of my youth. Growing up as a talent in a small town pretty much spelled out my innermost dream: to live and breathe as a musician and an artist.

I’ve lived in Minneapolis now for nearly nine years, and I sought one-on-one vocal jazz instruction at MacPhail School of Music for a few semesters. After that, I joined Omaur Bliss’s band for two years before stepping out to focus on my own material. I’ve been studying with my teacher, Myo-O, for two years now, and am very close to releasing my first solo album!

Growing up in such a small environment was pretty limiting in a lot of ways… On one hand, all I had to inform my knowledge of music in school was the curriculum chosen by one woman…for all thirteen years! We didn’t catch a whole lotta classic rock in Scales Mound School, or even get very deep into the greats of jazz! My musical food consisted mostly of popular music and classical. On the other hand, Sharon Phillips single-handedly nurtured my musical education for a long time, drove me to contests and festivals–and I consider myself fortunate to have had such a passionate teacher.

Did I turn out alright given my limited situation? Yes. I’m excited to be exactly where I am on my musical path, and I appreciate all the guidance thus far. Could I have benefited from a broader spectrum of musical education in my school? HELL YES. Without a DOUBT. Who knows what opportunities would have come my way with a better education.


PREMIERE: Aby Wolf “Drama Queen”

Aby Wolf’s only upcoming scheduled show is set for December 13 at the 400 Bar, playing with The Honeydogs and Aviette. In the meantime, here’s a previously unreleased track entitled “Drama Queen.”


Big Cats! on Music and Arts Education

I got into making music through public school actually. In fourth grade, we had this day where the music teacher brought in all the orchestra instruments so we could choose one to play if we wanted. I don’t know why they didn’t show us band instruments, band must’ve been full or something. Anyway, I wanted to play drums, because obviously drums are cool. But my school had this weird rule where you had to have two years of piano lessons to play drums. I guess to handle rhythm and hands doing independent stuff. Which sucked, because my beats would probably be waaaaay better if I could play drums.

So, since I couldn’t play the kit, I chose the biggest orchestra instrument there was. String bass. I ended up loving it and playing all through high school. Private lessons, school orchestra, extra super nerdy youth symphony stuff, all-state. So, I was a huge orchestra nerd but it actually worked out pretty well, because I learned music. So when I started making beats, or playing in rock bands, I could apply what I already knew about theory and performance and all that to my own music. Plus, an upright bass is a pretty banging thing to have laying around when you’re making rap music. So those seventeen years of public education did me pretty well.

Arts education has had a huge impact on my life. One of my two favorite teachers ever was my high school art teacher. He is one of the main reasons that I went to college for art, and now am pursuing a career in art ed. Without art and music in high school, I would have either dropped out, been really bored, or doing drugs. (haha) How much more cliche could that sound? It’s true though. By my senior year, four out of my five classes every day were art. The other one was AP statistics which mostly involved me playing Tetris on my graphing calculator and failing to hit on the cute girl sitting next to me.

Art and music classes were where I learned a lot about myself, about how to express myself creatively, where I hung out, where I made friends. But I also learned how to work with others, how to focus creative energy, how to talk about art and music (which is something that seems completely foreign to a lot of artists and musicians), how to work with a deadline, etc. All of those things are now a part of my music, and just my life in general.


PREMIERE: Big Cats! “Civilization Goes Like This”

Already having created some of the year’s best beats with Sleep Tapes Big Cats! is now releasing “Civilization Goes Like This,” a track produced exclusively for Culture Bully’s Donors Choose drive. Big Cats! can next be seen out in Cincinnati, Ohio as he participates in the Scribble Jam Production Battle on October 25.


Big Zach of Kanser on Music and Arts Education

Like most rappers I started writing raps in high school ninth grade. I got a little jump on making music because I met Ant when I was 16 and he would let me come down to the basement and record my first weak little songs. This was before the days of laptop Pro Tools or high school recording programs where lots of young people have excess to make songs. So having my own recorded songs on original beats was pretty advanced at the time. Ant thought I was weak though, which I was at the time, so he came over to my crib when I was living with my grandmother and helped me set up my own four-track studio (half to be a nice guy and half to get me and my friends out of his basement). By the time I turned 19 I was like “We can sell these songs.”

I didn’t take music in high school, I tried to learn how to play a couple instruments when I was young but didn’t seem to have the knack. I think it’s a positive thing that some local rappers are in the high schools or at community centers teaching rap to young kids but I’m glad I grew up right before that era. I learned how to rap the organic way: freestyling in ciphers, doing shows and sitting at the crib spending hours trying to figure out methods of writing raps. I did learn a lot from emcees I was around when I was young, and I still do. Steel sharpens steel so if you’re around other motivated fresh emcees you’re gonna naturally learn more.


Bill Caperton on Music and Arts Education

I started out playing in school band, clarinet and saxophone. In high school I was involved with the Recording Arts program at St. Paul Central. We used to throw shows at VFWs, sober clubs and churches; anywhere that would take us. It’s turned into a much bigger part of my life than I ever imagined then.

Having a supportive and instructive arts education had a HUGE impact on my musical life. These programs allowed us as young fledgling artists to experiment and often fail, while supporting the exploration. Additionally, the people I met early on in these arts education programs have stuck around and become a true part of the both my and the Twin Cities at large musical community. Those relationships started and were nurtured in the arts education programs we were lucky enough to be a part of.


Black Blondie on Music and Arts Education

Liz Draper: My father is a professional drummer so I was around music my whole life. I remember taking naps in his bass drum ’cause it was the kind that had an open front and he had stuffed foam in there to dampen the sound, but to me, it was the coziest fort in the house. Arts education had a huge affect on myself and my music. Visual arts and music class kept me interested in my education. When I outgrew what was being offered in my small town, I was fortunate enough to be able to leave and attend two arts high schools (Interlochen Arts Academy, MI and Perpich Center Arts High in Golden Valley, MN). Without these options I may not have even graduated high school, but instead I was able to channel my energy in a positive way, and get scholarships for college.

Tasha Baron: My earliest memories of making music are of being about three years old and pressing down the sustain pedal on my mom’s piano and making the biggest, loudest, murkiest layers of sound possible. When I was nine I started taking piano lessons, later followed by flute and trombone. The music education that I received in the public schools played a huge part in how I developed as a musician and as a person. I was introduced to experimental improvised music, jazz (Abdullah Ibrahim, Coltrane, Eric Dolphy, Mingus…), learned about and used alternate forms of music notation, music theory, given an assignment of composing a piece for orchestra (which was played by the school orchestra), played in a contemporary music ensemble, woodwind choir, jazz band and orchestra, all in public middle school and high school!

Kahlil Brewington: I was introduced to music at an early age. My father and grandmother were both successful musicians and so of course I was exposed to it and wanted to create music also. I didn’t have any formal training, but I did learn from other musicians, and by practicing and listening to as much music as possible. I don’t think it is necessary to have formal training, but I do think musical knowledge, passion and understanding are essential to creating music.


Brandon Bagaason of Big Quarters on Music and Arts Education

I was in church and community choir as far back as I remember. I also started playing Trumpet in fifth grade and played through high school. And I think that reflects on my parents, that music was valued at home. My dad played in a band in high school, they called themselves International Dateline. My mom told me to write a rap song, she told me to make my own before I had ever considered it within the realm of possibility.

I’ve been privileged. I took part in many art-related workshops as a young person, nine and 10 years old – visual art, theater and music. In high school, I didn’t have the same kind of access. And I think that lack of led me to value music and seek outlets, especially in hip-hop. Now, Zach and I run a music studio for young people at Hope Community – as well as facilitating songwriting and recording workshops in and around Minneapolis. I don’t think music education is necessary because it could be a career path – it is necessary, because some will choose music to express themselves – for most, it will give them experience to be more well rounded and contributing members of society.


PREMIERE: Brass Messengers “Mask on the Mantle” & “Instead”

Brass Messengers are an eleven piece band, “based around the Gypsy Brass styles of Romania, we have added our own take on American Country Music, Latin American Dance Rhythms and Afro-Pop.” Here are two brand new tracks from the group.


Brian Halverson of The Honeydogs on Music and Arts Education

I talked my folks into letting me move to guitar from piano in eighth grade – at the time (1983) I wanted to emulate the metal bands I was into at the time. I would watch MTV with my guitar and learn parts (if they were faking them correctly in the videos) and eventually developed my ear for learning from the recordings. Between the piano and the guitar I was able to figure out most guitar parts and bass lines. This kicked me into forming my first cover band in late ninth grade. After three or four years and various cover bands I started to work on writing original tunes and playing in “originals only” bands.

We had to be in choir in fourth grade. In fifth through eighth grade we had to be in either band or choir. It was quite painful for most (myself included) because you didn’t get to play any “cool” instruments or learn “cool” songs but, it was a great program and opportunity realized in hindsight. In ninth grade it was optional so I bailed on the trumpet and immersed myself in the guitar.

In eleventh grade my sister pretty much forced me to audition for guitarist in The J.B. Singers run by James Bontrager at Kennedy High School in Bloomington, MN. We had regular performances and concerts at the school, attended regional and national competitions, and even booked money gigs to fund the program – what great exposure to the music biz. The uniforms were corny and so were most of the standards we played but every year we had a “Pops Concert” wherein anybody from the choir or the J.B.s could tryout with any tune they wanted – solo or in groups. It was a chance for people to express themselves using the tools they developed over the years. I made the most of this opportunity and through this I learned to improve my singing and ear for harmony and was exposed to many new styles on guitar.

James Bontrager was a huge influence on myself and many other students, most of which went on to careers in music. He poured his mind, body, and soul (and even his own money) into the program for so many years. It was a ton of work keeping it alive year after year but he did it.


Casey Garvey of Yer Cronies on Music and Arts Education

Short answer: Naturally. Long answer: It was a way too keep sane and perhaps not sane in those dirty high school years. Back then we all played together in late night basements with the windows open just because it made sense, it was natural. After high school we were distanced from each other because of college in other states, but now we’re all back together again, naturally.

We have have different levels of art education (especially referring to music). I don’t think we’d be here doing this today if it wasn’t for some sort of art education in our glory days, which undoubtedly sparked the need to create in some way. After the initial spark, it gets a little hazier, which is why I think our band works so well sometimes; someone went to school for music, someone didn’t go to school for music, someone didn’t go to school… it’s a mix bag of education or a lack there of and it just happens to work out perfectly.


Charlie Parr on Music and Arts Education

There was always music around my house growing up, and my folks always made sure I had access to instruments if I was interested in trying something. I wasn’t a very good student, so I taught myself how to play guitar (and still am). Music’s always been very personal to me, maybe because I’m self-taught. I’ve never had any real art training, but I have sought it out on my own.


Chris Perricelli of Little Man on Music and Arts Education

Ever since I bought my guitar at age thirteen I’ve been creative in coming up with my own songs. My folks played a lot of music around the house, especially The Beatles so I grew up on the late 1960s early seventies music. Eddie Van Halen made me want to play guitar. Jimi Hendrix made me want to explore the instrument even fuller with passion. I played trumpet in middle school and was always in choir. The most interesting thing to me was learning to listen to tonal relationships and how the part that I was singing and playing sounded with what I was hearing around me. I learned that my part was part of creating something as a whole. Everybody played there part and it created something wonderful.


Dan Israel on Music and Arts Education

Well, a lot of the impetus really came from my parents, who encouraged music-making at an early age. I was basically forced to take piano lessons from about age six to age twelve – at which point I decided I was more into guitar and they let me take lessons on that instead. But clearly, the background I had from taking piano lessons (even if, at the time, I felt it was just a burden) was a huge help to me with making music, and I really feel strongly that every child should have the opportunity to learn in that way, which really helps kids understand the fundamentals of music.

I was lucky enough to go to public school in a really excellent school district, St. Louis Park, where arts education was seen as a high priority and was properly funded by the city and the citizens of the school district. So I think it played a major role in keeping me interested in creating music. When kids get arts education in school, it gives them a foundation for branching out on their own and learning how to make their own music as well. It’s as much about “encouragement” and “sparking interest” as it is about “learning to play a particular instrument.” So I feel really strongly that arts education ought to be a huge priority for public schools, and there needs to be a steady stream of funding across the board (not just for wealthier school districts) to keep that important aspect of education rolling.


PREMIERE: Dan Israel “Think I Know”

Following last year’s critically acclaimed Turning Dan Israel is prepping the release of a new solo acoustic album, his first since 2002’s Cedar Lake. Israel will be opening for Yael Naim when she plays the Cedar Cultural Center on October 22, and also for Loudon Wainwright III at the Guthrie Theater on Nov. 17. Here is a cut from his forthcoming release entitled “Think I Know.”


Danny Jack of The Danny Jack Fiasco on Music and Arts Education

I started playing music when I was about 14. I got my first electric guitar and was hooked on Nirvana. A couple years later, I moved to the acoustic guitar and started actually writing original songs with that and have been ever since. Music education wasn’t really a focus for me. I primarily played songs on guitar by ear or by trial and error. However, I took every art class offered and that was my form of creative expression in school.


Dearling Physique on Music and Arts Education

I got into music seemingly late when compared to others who go on to pursue it as a career. I’ve got a pretty extensive background in acting, and having participated in a lot of youth theater I was never far off from music. I wrote a lot of silly songs, sang, and played around with the sound of my voice a lot. Around the age of seventeen I started going mad thinking of new ways to express a bunch of things I wanted to say. I remember it vividly: sitting in my bedroom and making this very honest goal to write a real song with a deep meaning…if even only to myself. Within a four hour period I had written words for not one, but two songs complete with melody. But, there was a problem! I had absolutely no experience playing an instrument, and similarly knew nothing about song composition. I went on educating myself about all things music. From theory, listening to new and strange things and an excessive amount of failed attempts at collaboration with other trained musicians. Finally I started teaching myself day by day how to write what I heard as fitting music to accompany my words. I can’t label myself a music genius, but I have found an amazing creative outlet and am entirely comfortable with the approach I’ve grown into.

The fact that I had no music training when young makes me feel less confined by the (sometimes) creative boundaries a classically trained musician might face. I speak on behalf of some musicians who have communicated this very restraint to me. It’s all just very dependent on the person and their own individual abilities. So essentially, I approach my songs in a most open-minded way. It might almost be considered some form of sound design opposed to actual “songwriting.” I just enjoy manipulating the sounds on my keyboards with very few limitations.


Eric Busse of Mel Gibson and the Pants on Music and Arts Education

I’ve always been interested in making things while at the same time being extremely lazy. I got into listening to music after hearing Nirvana in the early 1990s. I started playing guitar but never got very good. Then my sister’s boyfriend, who was living with my family at the time, bought a Korg workstation keyboard. It had a built in sequencer with which you could lay out 16 track songs. I remember thinking that I wanted one as soon as I saw what it could do. So, I put all my effort into getting a keyboard.

I don’t remember exactly how long that took, but I think I got my first keyboard when I was 16 or 17. I immediately began to make sequences and would write some of the parts that would go into the (largely unheard) first Mel Gibson and the Pants project three or four years later. The thing that I liked most about sequencers was that I could do everything by myself. I had no band (I lived in the middle of nowhere) so being able to create entire songs with just one piece of equipment was essential. I didn’t know how to play piano, so being able to layer parts and make my songs sound much fuller taught me a lot about simple things like chord and song structure. I later went on to take piano lessons for a while, but nothing taught me as much about making music as sitting in my bedroom by myself arranging songs on my sequencer.

When I went to University I worked at a television station in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. I worked overnights by myself so I’d bring in a keyboard or something to play during the night. One weekend, I had to train in a new guy on overnights. When I showed up, he was out in the parking lot smoking and playing a broken acoustic guitar. That new guy turned out to be Ryan Olson (of MG, Digitata, Building Better Bombs). He asked me what music I was into and when I told him the Residents, he pretty much asked me to join MG then and there. We recorded some things at work (and accidentally blew out the control room speakers with an accordion), but eventually Ryan wrote his resignation to TV-13 on a piece of toilet paper. I didn’t see him again for a few months.

One day, while I was sleeping at around two p.m., Ryan burst through my bedroom door unannounced. I was wearing only tighty whities but Ryan seemed unfazed. He was wearing a Limo Cab hat, which was this super shady taxi company in Eau Claire. He said that we had to record at his parents house. Then he left and again, I didn’t see him for maybe a month or two. It was a coincidence that would have us meet again. I was at a party with some of my friends. We were all pretty drunk so we decided to call a cab. Ryan shows up to give us a ride. So, we took my friends home and I rode around in Ryan’s taxi for a while and we listened to tracks he’d been working on. After that, we started recording at Ryan’s house regularly.

We eventually had a 19 track project that we decided to put out by ourselves. There were something like forty or fifty people who had recorded at Ryan’s house so I was always being introduced to members of Mel Gibson and the Pants that I had never met before. Sometime before it was released though, Ryan decided to move to San Francisco.

That was when fate would intervene for a second time. In honor of Ryan’s departure, I decided to smoke some illicit substances with a few of my friends and fellow MG members. A few days later, I got a random drug test at work. Not knowing what else to do, I left the TV station to itself for a few hours and met with those same friends again. I had to quit the job, but it pushed me out of my comfort zone (I’d worked there for over two years). After that, I became friends with JR (MG rapper), Drew (MG drummer), and Riley (MG guitar player). We started getting ambitious and kept the project together while Ryan was away. We played a few pretty successful shows when Ryan came back to town (including our first show in Minneapolis after which our DJ was arrested and our car impounded for three days) and eventually we all decided to move to Minneapolis. We moved, got a new bass player/neuroscientist (the amazing Ben Clark), and the rest is history.

I had very little formal training in music. Just getting out and doing it has always been the best way to do it for me. I was in high school band, but it contributed next to nothing to my development as a musician. I also listened to very little music when I was younger. I think that lack of musical background led to me being a relatively clean slate. I couldn’t sound like anyone else when playing, because I had so few influences. I just played what I could play.

I’m an English teacher in South Korea now, so I guess my writing degree in University has helped me somewhat, but the most important part of my high school and college years was learning to play my keyboard and sequencer, and then learning to play in a band. Ryan was always the one whose vision we were following with MG, but I don’t think we ever really realized that vision. He would tell us something to play, and we’d try to play it in our own way. I’m sure the results were nothing like Ryan had imagined, but that is what our music would become. During the years that I was performing and writing with a band, I stopped sequencing almost entirely. Though I was growing in other ways, I felt like my only real talent was going nowhere. That is why I decided to leave. I bought a cheap, early ’90s sequencer (much like the one that was in my first keyboard) and moved to Korea. For the last two years I’ve been writing my ass off and I feel the same excitement for music that I felt when I first began. I’ve more or less given up trying to really excel at an instrument and instead focus on just writing something that sounds good to my ears. I’ll be moving back to the States next fall, and I look forward to getting back into the swing of things, but with an entirely different way of working.

I left the band in 2006 when I moved to South Korea for something to do. I fully intended on rejoining the band after one year, but here it is late 2008 and I’m still in Seoul. In these last two years, I’ve been concentrating on writing and sequencing music for both MG and my own side project, Medici Slot Machine. In a way, I’ve been more productive since I left than I ever was when I was in Minneapolis. I’d be nothing, though, if it wasn’t for my friends back home and my band.

This is really the first decent Medici Slot Machine song. It is called “Sleep, Baby” and we recorded it in just a day or two (which is why the quality isn’t so hot) for a movie that we made called Savage Lanes. The movie was about why I moved to South Korea. The song was recorded in the original MG style with Ryan bringing in various musicians to track over the original ideas laid down by him and myself. With any luck there will be many more Medici Slot Machine songs coming in the near future.


Eric Silva Brenneman of Quilombolas on Music and Arts Education

My parents would most likely respond that I’ve been performing in one way or the other since I was a very young child. As a toddler I would always ask for certain records while I was bouncing around on a little horse. The music was my babysitter. I was also fortunate to grow up in a very musical family on both sides. From my paternal grandmother who has been teaching piano for seventy some odd years (and continues to do so…), to my aunt who got me started around age four, to my uncles in South America who combine multiple bottles of liquor and multiple instruments and then jam all night at the barbecue (and continue to do so…).

As I mentioned, I started on piano with my Aunt Barb, but after a few years, I discovered the cello and from there, I couldn’t put it down. As time passed, I learned the trumpet, which later turned into the euphonium (baritone). I kind of pushed myself to run around the orchestra and try to learn the basics of everything. This payed off as I was elected drum major of my high school marching band my last two years. In my early teens, music in Nebraska took on a very different meaning when I discovered Nebraska’s greatest cultural export right as they were leaving to make it big in California: 311. In addition, for a teen, The Edge was just a little cooler than NPR Classical Radio. Between 311 and similar bands, to the dismay of my private cello teacher, it pushed me and other very talented teens to start rocking. Drums and guitars were all over, nobody played bass guitar. I figured with my cello background I’d go for it, and I found my place (though I love playing drums and guitar too!).

I had dabbled in composition and songwriting as a kid, but I really started to put it together as a teen. I started writing music for cello and for the rock bands I was playing in. Mind you, most of it wasn’t that good, but it was a good foundation. I do remember this cello solo my aunt and I wrote as tribute to the sudden death of a beloved teacher of mine. In fact, she taught my aunt and dad too, so it was pretty special to put that together for her memory. From there, I just kept building the house.

Arts education was absolutely fundamental in my development as a professional musician. There is no way I would be where I’m at today without the musical knowledge I gained from the amazing and very patient teachers I was blessed with from elementary to high school. I am a product of both public school music education and private lessons that focused on the Suzuki method. While private lessons were intense and enabled me at one point to travel around the Mid-West competing and have some great accomplishments, the public school music teachers were the ones that taught me how to play the instruments, would stay after school to answer my questions, and most importantly, taught me how to play in ensembles and work with many different people on many different instruments. In a sea of very competitive, driven, and many times socially-awkward music kids, I was pretty easy going. Maybe too easy going; I think it sometimes annoyed my private cello teacher, Dr. Johnson (RIP). He certainly taught me a lot, but being cool among other musicians was not something I learned from him. That came from learning to balance the ego and learning to be a team player through Mr. Jank’s orchestra, Mr. Crowl, Mr. Roebke, and Mr. Duensing’s bands, and Mr. DeWalls’ choir. It’s kind of funny, when you think about what kills bands, it’s not usually a question of talent. From garage bands to double platinum sell-out-the-Metrodome-bands, it’s usually the ego battles. I’ve been pretty sensitive to this and have wondered where it came from. I must admit, in hindsight, it makes sense now.

To tie it all together, I would say that public music education is more important than any other “required” subject that politicians and administrators claim matter or need for their test scores. It’s so much deeper than learning how to play an instrument and performing for your grandparents every couple of months. You learn socialization skills, you learn how to “harmonize” (pun intended!), and that is something you can carry and apply to anything else as life moves on, long after that trumpet gets filled with cobwebs. Where the hell is my trumpet anyway? Nebraska? I’ve got to get back at that bad boy!


EZRA of Death Ray Scientific on Music and Arts Education

I got into making music the same way I think most people do: I had a lot of unsuccessful bands in high school. I started out as a drummer for a reggae/blues/rock band called Rezin, but that fell apart because the frontman just wanted to make one hit song and retire to Jamaica and he used that attitude to basically dick around on chat rooms a lot instead of rehearsing. Then I formed a two man industrial/progressive/Hip-Hop band called Vas Deferenz with a friend of mine – he played keyboards and programmed music; I played drums; we both rapped. That just kind of gradually faded out, though we did play one show together at the old Eclipse Records, and it also got me started on rapping in front of crowds, which is what I do now.

Arts education has definitely affected my music a great deal over the years. I started out as a drummer in eighth grade band and continued throughout high school. I consider that the beginning of my interest in making music, and I have to give thanks to the teachers who helped me understand music on a deeper level than I likely would have just from listening. College also really helped me in making music: as a film student, I had access to sound gear as well and got a lot of practice for the real thing by making self-produced, self-recorded vanity albums; college has also helped me network with other musicians and potential fans.


PREMIERE: EZRA “Cold Prayers”

In support of the Donor’s Choose drive EZRA of Death Ray Scientific just sent over an unreleased track called “Cold Prayers.” Death Ray Scientific will be hosting a CD release show at the Dinkytowner on October 31 and the first 50 people in the door get a free CD – you just can’t beat that!


Gigamesh on Music and Arts Education

I took short-lived piano and guitar lessons when I was pretty young but eventually took up trombone in school concert band and bass in jazz band. Around the same time (junior high), I started tinkering with MIDI programs. This eventually led to a strong interest in electronic music, which has lasted most of my life.

Arts education was pretty strong all through my early schooling and I think it has been CRUCIAL to get me to where I am today. Not only did it teach me the nuts and bolts of music, but the experience of practicing and performing with other students was valuable in many non-musical ways.


PREMIERE: The Great Depression “Stainless (10 Years On)”

Here is a new recording of “Stainless,” a track originally written in Minneapolis in 1998 and recorded for The Great Depression’s debut album Heaven is Becoming. The band’s latest release, Forever Altered, is available worldwide.


Guante on Music and Arts Education

I always had a love for music, particularly early-to-mid-90s R&B, Boyz II Men, Prince, stuff like that. Wasn’t a great singer when I was young, so I started writing songs and poetry. Discovered hip hop, which was a legitimate venue to publicly read poetry for an audience (these were the days before I really knew that slam and spoken-word existed), so I started rapping. Music to me is very much about sharing and community – I never wanted to be some genius writing poems in my basement that no one ever read. The final push over the edge for me was being randomly assigned a roommate in college who was a hip hop producer. Weird how life works out like that.

I’m lucky enough to have a “formal” arts education on top of hours and hours of informal hip hop and slam education (trial and error, listening, revising, building with community, etc.), at least a bare minimum. Learned how to read music and play saxophone in school, even took some music theory classes. Also got a standard academic introduction to poetry. Now, I have a lot of problems with how poetry is viewed/taught/learned about in high schools and universities, but I also understand that traditional thought isn’t necessarily bad – I learned a lot about poetry in school that really helped make my decidedly non-academic writing (raps, slam poems) a lot better. I’ve always had a foot in both worlds, so to speak.

The biggest thing, however, is that being an arts educator in the public school system has taught me a lot about art. I never had poetry or hip hop workshops growing up, but I’ve been teaching them for years now, and I’m always learning. When you’re forced to educate others, you really have to examine your beliefs, philosophies and artistic strategies. I never know exactly how much impact I’m having on the students, but I know for damn sure it’s making me a stronger artist.

Maybe I shouldn’t say that; I DO know that the workshops have a major impact on a lot of students, and I’ve seen kids who have no interest in school suddenly become much better students simply because they want that First Wave scholarship or the privilege to attend the afterschool spoken-word club or whatever. Whenever you can make school a less oppressive, soul-sucking place, you’re doing something positive. Arts education is absolutely instrumental in that, and a whole lot of people have no idea how much damage it would do if all these programs lost funding. We’re really talking domino-effect stuff. And unfortunately, in troubled economic times, the arts are often first on the chopping block. But I’m hoping that through the work we do, we can prove our worth.


PREMIERE: Heiruspecs “Let It Fly”

Heiruspecs will be having a CD release show at First Avenue for the band’s forthcoming self titled release on December 13. Here is a track from the release entitled “Let it Fly.”


PREMIERE: High on Stress “Alcohol Smile”

High on Stress will be playing Little Man’s CD release show on November 8 at The Entry before heading out to California for a few dates at the end of the month. The band will also be playing this Saturday at Stasiu’s. Here is a previously unreleased studio version of the band’s song “Alcohol Smile.”


Ian Jacoby of Laarks on Music and Arts Education

I got into making music pretty early in high school, probably like halfway through my freshman year. We had a fairly good jazz program at school, and I was one of those dorky guys carrying around a trombone at 6:45 in the morning. I went from that to upright bass. I got slightly cooler, but it got even harder to carry an upright at 6:45 in the morning. I went from bass to piano. It’s probably the coolest of the three, but don’t even get me started on trying to lug one of those around. It’s not happening.

Anyway, I had a couple of really great teachers in high school that gave me a huge appreciation for all things musical. Probably the best was Mr. Brown. The guy had like a doctorate in trumpet (for real, a fricking doctor of trumpet) and he’d say all these weird things to us to get us to practice. During my junior year we had some budget cuts, and they ended up terminating his position. It was total bullshit, and we were all pretty irked about it. I think that the football team had gone like, 0-10 that year and we were all just wishing that they’d fire the football coach or close the stadium or something. That didn’t happen, so to retaliate a bunch of us who played in the pep band wrote this really sarcastic song called, “If there weren’t sports, I’d kill myself,” and we’d sort of play it and roll our eyes while the jocks called us names. We were sort of jerks. Don’t get me wrong, I think that sports and music can coexist, but at my school it didn’t necessarily happen that way.

I was writing an article for a magazine called Volume One about a math professor who is trying to map out why we like music. He cited some source that said basically everything we know about music comes to us between the ages of like six and 17, like that time is just crucial to development. He believed that it was as important as math or science or whatever. I’m hopeful that as science progresses, we’re going to see that the kids humming stupid nonsense in class were actually the ones getting it right. I hope that’s true anyway, you know, for my sake.


Indigo on Music and Arts Education

I got into making music when I realized that there was an entire movement behind Hip Hop. I found in music a way to express my views and make a difference in my own life and hopefully in others. KRS One and Erykah Badu really inspired me to speak on self worth, conflict resolution, and spiritual expression. I was always a poet and wrote songs occasionally, but recognized I could make a bigger impact by dedicating myself to my art. Since there were so many talented emcees and producers in the Twin Cities at the time, it became obvious that that was where I belonged.

Music class was always my favorite time of the day in public grade school. Music arts was way under funded then, as it is now, and class really consisted of no more than singing in our seats with a few instruments passed around. What I really loved was when our teacher would let us all come up to the front of the class to sing and dance to Bill Withers “Lean on Me.” My best friend and I would sync up our dancing and sing our hearts out. In retrospect it inspired in me a passion for performing. Although art’s education was not abundant, I used to rock out my after school latch key programs. I would choreograph entire performances to my favorite songs and have my friends and I act out scenes while the other kids sat in the auditorium to watch. I took piano class in fifth grade that helped me learn some of the basics and about classical music. I feel like music class and arts education need to be stressed so much more in schools though, because music and art offer people a deeper meaning and motivation in life.


Inga Roberts of The Parlour Suite on Music and Arts Education

Music just happened on us. I love it! Couldn’t live without doing it… just kind of comes out. As for composing for a group, I think that Joel, Leah, and myself add something unique. Joel is a self taught guitar player, Leah has a choral/folk vocal background, and I have a classical past. We’ve been writing since we can remember; I remember composing songs on the paddle boat at the cabin, for my grandma Ruth – silly stuff. “You need to write that down,” she would say… and now I am. We haven’t gone to college and gotten a degree in music making, but we have learned a lot from private lessons – and just from playing with each other. There are so many resources to learn music – be it listening to a CD and truly hearing the elements or taking private lessons from an instructor.


Jenny Dalton on Music and Arts Education

I’ve been making music for as long as I can remember, even before I can remember. My first memories of making music were when I recruited my brother and sister to be in my band when we were toddlers. We played the blues on plastic toy instruments. When I was in elementary school, I started playing on a tiny synthesizer and continued onto the piano. I never took lessons, but taught myself how to play by ear. When I learned how to have my left hand, right hand, and voice all doing different things, that’s when I started to write the kind of music that I still make today.

In school, I loved being in choirs. When I was in the third grade, I sang a solo part in a play that caught the attention of a prestigious choir director in the audience. I joined that choir and met some great friends, went on fun retreats, and became a section leader. Those were some of my favorite memories. By the time I got to high school, the choir director there didn’t like my friends and me very much (we got into trouble a lot), so he put me in the lowest level choir. I always felt bitter about that and thought, “someday I’ll show him.”


Jeremy Messersmith on Music and Arts Education

I remember learning how to play the recorder when I was in first grade. We played some stirring renditions of “Three Blind Mice” if I remember correctly. I had a lot of fun making up my own melodies and discovering that you could make little embellishments that made the written melody sound more interesting.

My parents were both band geeks, so when I was eleven or so they took me to the music store and had me try out some instruments. My dad was a trombonist and was eager for me to follow in his footsteps, but I was too small and could hardly hold one. We compromised and stayed within the brass family by getting a trumpet.

Improvisation was a regular part of the church band that I played in growing up. Often it was twelve to fifteen people all playing different instruments with little to no written music! I think it taught me the importance of listening to what other people are playing around you and finding your place.

I played in band in junior high for three years. It was a little strange because I was home-schooled so my mom would drive me to the school and drop me off for just one class! I find it hard to believe that I could make the music I write now without the music education I got as a child. Even though I don’t play trumpet as much as I used to, the foundations of melody and ear training still come in handy. Music education was a big source of confidence for me as a child. I wasn’t exactly athletic or even that interesting, so music was one of the only things I was really good at!


PREMIERE: Jeremy Messersmith “Tube Socks and Tennis Shoes”

One of the most critically acclaimed songwriters in the Twin Cities, Jeremy Messersmith will kick off a string of dates in mid-November as he heads through the Midwest on his way to New York. Fresh off the release of The Silver City Messersmith recorded this song, “Tube Socks and Tennis Shoes,” exclusively for Culture Bully’s Donors Choose drive.


Jonathan Ackerman of The Moon Goons on Music and Arts Education

I’ve just always been fascinated with music and all kinds of it. I started collecting records when I realized that I could buy most albums that I wanted on record for a fraction of the price of a CD. From there I just became more obsessive and had more money to spend on them. I just love music and everything that goes with it.

I was always supported as a kid, but my parents never would pay for me to take up an instrument. Maybe being deprived of that has driven me to what I am now. I do find that the more I listen the more I find new things that catch my ear. It’s a constantly evolving process and I’m excited to see where it takes me.


Josh Grier of Tapes ‘n Tapes on Music and Arts Education

I first got into playing music when I was a kid. I started playing the flute when I was seven. My brother had just started playing the piano, and I was jealous. We had some neighbors up the street whose kids played flute, so I decided that I wanted to play the flute. Luckily my parents were kind enough to indulge me. When I was 15 I started getting bored with just the flute, and I decided I wanted to learn to play guitar. One of my friend’s dad’s gave me some lessons and I just started playing guitar all of the time. It was pretty much the best thing ever.

I was lucky because my middle school and high school had good band and art programs. I really didn’t think much of it at the time. I just figured every school encouraged the kids to do what they wanted to do. A career in music was definitely something that my high school teachers presented as a viable option (which seemed totally normal, but I’ve since discovered was not necessarily typical of other people’s high school experience). So I think my educational experience definitely encouraged me to pursue music.


Justin Vernon of Bon Iver on Music and Arts Education

My Dad taught me a few John Prine songs on the guitar when I was a kid; it all started there. Well, specifically, high school Jazz band was everything for me musically. It really taught me the correct way to be apart of and operate in a musical ensemble, mentally and emotionally.


Kevin Dorsey of The Histronic on Music and Arts Education

I got into making music mostly due to my brother and family. My brother is a very talented singer, piano player, and all around musician. I can remember being very young and sitting at the top of the stairs listening to him play our Yamaha acoustic piano and thinking to myself, “I want to be able to do that.” I also remember being easily effected by music, and knew at a very young age that music projected and portrayed emotion.

I started making and writing music on an old Macintosh computer that had a MIDI sequencer installed. I enjoyed making simple pieces, and knowing that what had been created was unique. At this point I was only 10 years old, thus I had a long way to go, but it was a start.

Arts education has had one of the biggest influences on our development as musicians. All three of us started the elementary school band program in the Wayzata school system (this program is now no longer available at the elementary school level, which is a real shame). Our drummer Matt was, you guessed it, a drummer. Our bass player Bill started on trombone, and I started on baritone (switching to Tuba the next year).

I was involved with this program for eight years, from fifth grade to 12th grade, and can honestly say without this incredible program I wouldn’t be the same person I am today. We were taught the circle of fifths, rhythm exercises, all major and minor scales and arpeggios (two or three octaves), electronic music, music history, music theory, and how to play in an ensemble. These skills are vital to becoming a solid musician, and have helped immensely in my career. I have arts education to thank for the merit scholarship I received to attend the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music.


Kid Vicious on Music and Arts Education

I grew up in a house of music fans, so naturally when the opportunity arose to try out for band in fifth grade, I went for it. I was determined that my fingers were too small for my first choice of saxophone so (thank god) I was given my second choice of drums. Thankfully my parents were supportive and a year or so later I was given my first drum set, which I used and abused for the next sixteen years. I took lessons outside of school for jazz and rock drumming, and got my technical education from the marching and symphonic bands I was part of at middle and high school. Without those countless hours of practice and preparation for parades, halftime shows and competitions, I wouldn’t be the drummer I am today. And without music in the schools, I might not have been a drummer at all.


Krista Vilinskis of Tinderbox Music & Princess Records on Music and Arts Education

My dad is a huge Elvis Presley fan. He introduced me to Elvis’s music when I was eight and soon I had my first idol. My dad would spin records from The Beatles, Janis Joplin, Credence Clearwater Revival, The Kinks, Eagles, Rolling Stones, The Zombies, Gordon Lightfoot and Beach Boys. During college I studied abroad in England for a year and the music scene was exploding with artists such as The La’s, The Stone Roses, Blur, Catherine Wheel, The Auteurs, Slowdrive, Lush, Happy Mondays, Inspiral Carpets, Chapterhouse, RIDE and Supergrass. I was hooked and switched my major when I returned from England. I had to work in this industry.

Once I returned from studying in England, I immersed myself in classes pertaining to music and film. It changed my life and I found a new obsession. My classes helped me to digest music in a different light. I was driven by the need to understand how songs were written and what makes a song so amazing. I was excited by how a specific music composition could make or break a scene in a film or television show. I was lucky enough to have a university that specialized in Mass Communications and through our university’s TV station (UTVS), I started my own music television show called Whack!, which was similar in format to early MTV. I was able to use the universities high-8 cameras and set up in-person interviews with my musical idols such as Chris Mars from The Replacements, Uncle Tupelo, Gigolo Aunts, Frank Black and Green Day. That experience opened many doors for me. Once graduated from college, I was immediately able to work in the field of my choice thanks to the background and education my university classes provided me.


Kristoff Krane on Music and Arts Education

It started when I was six or seven. I would beat on pots and pans in the kitchen and drive my mother crazy. I found that I had a sense for rhythm. I joined the Boys Metropolitan Choir at the age of eleven and sang my heart out until I thought I was too cool to do so. At the age of thirteen I started listening to the Dangerous Minds soundtrack (most specifically Coolio’s “Gangstas Paradise). As time went on I combined the singing, rhythm and rap and began to freestyle with my friends at the park, parties, etc.

After exhausting this outlet I found that I had a niche for writing. I found writing to provide me with a sense of security and used it as a form of release as far as expressing my self which, at the time, was wrapped inside a confused adolescent core. At the age of nineteen I began listening to underground hip-hop (most specifically Eyedea, Oliver Hart, Atmosphere and Heiruspecs). I found that there was rap out there that was attempting to communicate a message and that was what I had always wanted to do….INfluence people in some way.

At the age of nineteen going on twenty I was put in a situation where I broke the law and wound up in a county Jail for four and a half months. It was an experience that really forced me to look inside of who I thought I was, dissect this image and attempt to explain the journey that I was on; it just so happened to rhyme.

It was then when I decided that I knew I would use music to impact others in a “positive way” ( in a way that would remind others that they are not alone with the pain they feel or the confusion which they may be going through). Here I am now… trying the best I can to do just that.

Well, having experience with the boys choir helped me have a better understanding of using my voice as an instrument and to treat it like one. Choir in school helped me in the same way. Basic art class in high school showed me that, “In the world of art… anything goes… anything can be used as a tool to help build one’s piece of expression.”


Lazerbeak on Music and Arts Education

I got into making music pretty much because of the band program in my grade school. My folks really wanted me to learn an instrument, and I decided that the saxophone looked pretty awesome. I started in fourth grade and really enjoyed it. I had always really loved music, and it was sweet to be able to actually learn songs (especially the Pink Panther theme, which I totally ruled at). Embarrassing side note: I definitely performed a duet of “A Whole New World” from the Aladdin soundtrack at a sixth grade recital. Yikes. Once junior high started I met a bunch of kids in band that new how to play guitar. I had gotten super into indie rock and so I bought a cheap guitar. It definitely made it a lot easier to figure out since I already had some sense of how music worked from the previous years of band. In the summer going into eighth grade I finally knew the basics enough to start my first and only band. We called ourselves The Plastic Constellations, and we most definitely cut our teeth at school dances and birthday parties. Good times.


PREMIERE: Little Man “I’ve Got My Money On You”

Little Man will be hosting a CD release show at The Entry on November 8th for the band’s new album Of Mind And Matter. For more information on Of Mind and Matter, head over to the band’s MySpace page. Here is a new song from the album, entitled “I’ve Got My Money On You.”


Love In October on Music and Arts Education

Erik Widman: My first memories of music are listening to records while spinning around in my parents’ big leather chair when I was two or three years old. We had a piano in our living room which I started playing on my own at a very young age. Later I took formal lessons, but never really learned anything from them because I didn’t understand the music. I started playing music by ear instead and started writing songs. I played music I wanted to play, not music I was told to play. When I was older I picked up other instruments like guitar, drums, bass, and synthesizer. I’m still learning new instruments today; my music education never ends.

I grew up in Sweden, and we had a very good music education program through our school. We had music teachers that offered private lessons at very affordable rates during school hours. They would just come and get us out of class. We also had mandatory music class through ninth grade. In class we would learn to sing, play instruments, and learn about modern and classical music history. I was also lucky enough to have a great guitar teacher who taught me a ton of music theory in jazz, blues, and Swedish folk music. I incorporate this theory into the pop music that I write today, and I think that is what makes our sound unique. Because of this we have a different approach to song writing than most rock bands do.

Kent Widman: Most of my music education came when I lived in Sweden. The music departments in schools are bigger over there, with a wide variety of instruments and styles of music for students to learn. Even outside of school, there were a lot of events for young musicians to participate in and learn about the performance aspect of music. I was fortunate to take advantage of these opportunities. The biggest difference I notice is that they nurture musician right from the beginning and even when they are professionals. It is the government’s responsibility to provide music education outside of school as well.


Love in October “Like Nothing Ever Happened” (Live @ Dunn Bros) Video

Recorded exclusively for Culture Bully’s Donors Choose drive, local quartet Love in October recently stopped by the Lyndale Avenue Dunn Bros and performed an impromptu version of “Like Nothing Ever Happened.” In addition to Friday’s show at The Revival in St. Cloud, Love in October will be playing the University of Minnesota with Hot Hot Heat on November 14.


Lucy Michelle on Music and Arts Education

I’ve been playing piano ever since I was six and surrounded by great music all my life. To me it’s like sleeping, or eating, or drinking water or anything that humans need to do to even exist. But I don’t think I really started making music until I was out of high school, yes, I’ve been playing music for a while but playing music and making music are two different things. You can play anyone else’s song but to write your own is whole other game. When I moved out of my parents house the room I was living in was hardly big enough for a bed, let alone a piano, so I thought of the smallest and quietest instrument that I could attempt to learn and asked my Grandpa if he could find me a ukulele (he’s pretty good at finding deals). So he sent me one and I started making my own music, and I think it was the one thing that was really able to keep me sane during my freshman year in college.

I went to Central High School in St. Paul for three years and then transferred to South High School in Minneapolis for my senior year. I was just talking to Charlie Smith of Military Special the other night and he reminded me that at one point him, Joe Schweigert (Military Special), Chris Graham (one of the Lapelles), Peter Leggett (drummer for Heiruspecs) and I were all in Jazz Band together with Mr. Oyen. Obviously our musical education had something to do with where we are now cause all of us our in these great local bands. Matt Oyen pushed us all to really work together and listen to each other, I think Jazz band was one of the most important parts of my high school career, ’cause it really inspired me to perform and gave me the opportunity to express myself in ways that I felt I couldn’t do with my other school work. Since I couldn’t get enough of jazz band I joined MITY which was taught by Scott Carter, Cory Needleman and Chris Thomson over at Macalester College, three of my most favorite teachers. I learned so much from my instructors and from everyone in the band, I was introduced to so many musicians and so much music that I feel has had an extremely profound effect on how I write/listen and play music today. Without my musical education or experiences there is no way that I would be were I am now, and I am so thankful to the all the of my teachers and friends along the way, as well as my parents who forced me to practice even though I really didn’t enjoy it… at the time.


PREMIERE: Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right”

Still riding high after winning this year’s of City Pages’ Picked To Click poll Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles will be taking up a weekly residency next month at the Nomad World Pub, playing each Thurdsay with a different cast of support in tow. Here is a studio version of an old live favorite, the band’s rendition of Bob Dylan’s standard “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right.”


M.anifest on Music and Arts Education

I fell in love with music naively and as an innocent third world child. Writing came earlier to me, but I was terrified of sharing any parts of what I would transcribe in solitary moments. I started subconsciously understanding music by listening to a plethora of cross generational music. Unearthing my grandpa’s vinyl collection during my teenage years was a significant step in me getting more consciously excited about the music past the level of just an appreciation of words. I remember myself and a friend of mine, Blitz (who is in New York now), attempting production with little or no resources and a great vision. It was a delightful learning experience and an utter product failure. I loved every bit off it.

Later on in college I was in a bit off a hiatus from creating/learning music. I re-linked with one of my rhyme partners in high school; he was in a band in college. I also finally met with O-D and other Hip-Hop producers who were fully immersed in Hip-Hop production and did dope work. This is when I actually started to create songs worth listening to. It all sort of came together in 2005. I had experimented, collaborated, and come to a certain maturity about writing and making music from the bottom up with collaborators I was in sync with.

I have no formal arts education; it’s nothing to gloat over. On the contrary, I have a great appreciation for those that pursued and mastered their craft whether in formal or informal school. It however means I had (and still have) to do a lot of learning by trying and failing – and also listening to copious amounts of music to learn what works emotionally and what doesn’t. Basically, I have an avid fan’s perspective in making music. I can hum you bass lines from soul songs, and mimic Tony Allen drum patterns but I can’t talk a lick about what major or minor notes Bob Nesta sang in. Maybe I don’t have the burden or luxury of using any sort of rhythmic or melodic formula an arts education could have provided. I’m always learning and feeling different energies of creativity. It’s all a work in progress.


Maria Isa on Music and Arts Education

I came into making music because I grew up around musicians, and I was influenced by different styles of music through the many vocalists in my family. My grandmother, Aminta Ortiz-Perez from Ponce, Puerto Rico, sang Tango, Boleros, and Plena; my grandfather, Felix Jesus Perez from San Juan, Puerto Rico, played the trumpet and was a vocalist; my aunt, Mila Llauger, sang Jazz back in the 1960s and 1970s, making a name for her in the Chicago Jazz scene, as well as touring with Tony Bennett and many other greats. What really caught my attention were the presence of Salsa artists Eddie Palmieri and the late “King of Latin Percussion” Tito Puente, both of whom would visit my family each time they were booked to perform in the Twin Cities.

La India performed at the Northrop Auditorium on the University of Minnesota campus in 1997, and she invited me (ten years old at the time) to come on stage with her. I heard her being backed by an amazing orchestra, on a big stage, and a packed crowd with tremendous positive energy. It was the best feeling in the world… the warmth of stage lights and great ambiance of the sound.

Leaving a Salsa-Jazz concert, to a home where my brother and older cousins would be holding cyphers over beats, writing in black books capturing the smell of Sharpies, my cousins spinning on cardboard boxes in the basement while the elders drank rum, played dominos, banged congas and continued to talk about the old days in New York and Puerto Rico… I loved it all. It was real, and I knew that performing the fusion that surrounded me is what I wanted to do for a living. These are the ingredients of my stew.

If I didn’t have any arts education I believe I wouldn’t be where I am, as an artist, today. In 1992 my aunt Mila Llauger and my mother Elsa Vega-Perez opened El Arco Iris Center for the Arts in St. Paul, MN. El Arco Iris Center for the Arts is a non-profit organization with a mission to preserve the Afro-Caribbean and Latino cultures through the arts.

I began my arts education there, learning about subjects my school hadn’t provided. I was raised performing and learning about the traditional rhythms of my Puerto Rican ancestry, as well as folklore dances, songs, rhythms and crafts from Mexico, Colombia, West Africa, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, and Panama. We were taught by some of the best in the field, ranging from local, national and international known artists. El Arco Iris brings together a blend of cultures through the arts and the politics of culture.

Take each opportunity and experience it as a lesson; always study the different sides of a subject. Take advantage of the privilege that is the human mind. As in any field, an education is the most important tool for success, and nobody can have too much of an education.


Martin Devaney on Music and Arts Education

I started playing music when I was five. I can’t remember if it was at my parents insistence or my own interest. I took violin for a couple years and then joined school band playing clarinet and later saxophone. Things continued from there… Arts education was tremendously important in my continued interest in various musical endeavors. It also provided a structure, which helps for when you decide to make music on your own. I cannot emphasize how important arts education is for young people.


Mei-Ling Anderson of The Wars of 1812 on Music and Arts Education

The four of us in The Wars of 1812 have been making music for most of our lives. I think that somewhere, we all have cassette tapes we made as children, playing cover songs through small practice amps. The band as it is now is a result of connections we had made in various music circles that overlapped throughout high school and college.

Our band grew out of an album that Bobby Maher (drums) and Peter Pisano (guitar/vocals) created their last year of college. I had met Bobby in high school (at jazz camp) and he asked me to play bass with them for a live show they were asked to do. We had so much fun rehearsing and playing together that we decided to take a week and record an album that summer. We initially brought in Bobby’s friend from high school, Peter Rosewall, to engineer the album, but we quickly decided that he should also play keyboards on every song. None of us went into recording the album with the intention that we would start a band, but a year later we moved to Minneapolis in order to play music together as much as possible.

I can’t emphasize enough how critical arts education is. I wouldn’t know some of my best friends, including Bobby and Peter Rosewall, without having had an arts education available to me during high school. My father and Rosewall’s father both teach music by profession, so we were really lucky to grow up around people who taught us its value. If my high school hadn’t been able to afford an upright bass, I would never have been able to travel to places like New York and Chicago. Music, theater, singing, liberal arts, and visual arts are all things that have greatly defined who I am and the things that I love.


Michael Rossetto of Spaghetti Western String Co. on Music and Arts Education

I was at a neighbors garage sale when I was eight or nine and they had a steel string guitar which I strummed with my thumb for hours. The next day I had a blister covering most of my thumb. From then I moved on to strumming tennis rackets. At 11 I began guitar and at 20 I began banjo which is now my first love. In a time of unemployment and a rough winter of 2003, I began the Spaghetti Western String Co. group with Nicholas Lemme and today we are three records deep with much more to come. Ethan Sutton joined in 2005 and Paul Fonfara began with us in 2006. Everyone in the group has their own origin stories but mine stems from the garage sale guitar and years of watching Mister Rogers Neighborhood- excellent music on that program for kids.

I was fortunate to have a great music program in middle school with a separate guitar program for general music students. These classes introduced me to the musical possibilities that can be realized with a cheap plywood guitar and a good instructor. From there my instruction came from other musicians – from my cousin who played blues in his garage to Leo Kottke. When I started on banjo, my education was from the records of my heroes; Earl Scruggs to Bela Fleck and everyone in between.

Over the years I’ve studied with other players, learned theory and technique; but have found that I’ve learned more from spending an afternoon picking with the Swsco. guys or with other local players. What makes Swsco. functional as an ensemble is that all of us have a music education background – chord theory, harmonic/melodic theory etc. as well the will to create music for the sake of making noise. When I listen to tapes of our rehearsals or our records, I hear the “schooled” parts in songs where we used our knowledge of composition, chord theory, harmony etc. and I also hear the parts where we are just playing… and improvising. The contrast between the two makes for interesting music. At least we think so.


Mike Massey of City on the Make on Music and Arts Education

All of us in City on the Make grew up in South Minneapolis. My first experience in “making” music was with Mischa. We made a rap tape in seventh grade called People Eaters. Before that I took guitar lessons (side story: shout out to Bill, Mike and my cousin Matt for taking me to get my first guitar) at Abe’s Music Shoppe on Nicollet, and when they closed, I sort of started listening to too much Wu Tang to continue playing the guitar. Mischa however, stuck with it. You can kind of tell. Anyways, we made a rap tape called People Eaters and it was absolutely terrible.

As Mischa and I were pushing cassette tapes at Anthony Jr. High, Colin and Stephen were getting schooled in music at Ramsey Jr. High, where there was an emphasis on fine and performing arts. Colin and Stephen have been playing music together since they were like seven. In this lies the origin of what we call the “no look pass.”

High school comes, all of us get to South High, start a funk band with a bunch of other friends called Public Access and play shows in church basements and coffee shops, and putz around with that. Eventually, through the goings on of life, our consistent group shrank down to the four of us. I had moved away to Milwaukee for my first year of college and came back to find these guys playing in their basement regularly again. So we started playing rock and roll.

Now we play some rock and roll. And try very hard to keep both People Eaters tapes and Public Access CD’s suppressed.

Well, as stated, Colin and Stephen were brought up in the public schools under dedicated teachers (Tom Wells is a very fine fellow indeed) and because of this, have some formal training. It’s not a stretch to say that this band wouldn’t exist were it not for people like Tom Wells and the programs and incentives that made Ramsey a fine arts-public junior high. And on the other hand, I never took a music class in school, but despite that, always found some way to make music with my friends with what was available. So our backgrounds go both ways and meet in the same place. There is always possibility for creativity, especially if it develops early on in life, or in the progression of one’s identity. Programs like Ramsey’s music department are very vital to our conception, as are things like the Walker Art Center’s Teen Programs department. They give an outlet to youth, who through no fault of their own are restless. Arts Education gives agency to kids to both discipline and expand themselves, instead of write them off or judge them for their reactions to their environment. It’s important to be exposed to new ideas as you grow up, and equally important to have people, not just family but also people out in the rest of the world, who believe in you as more than just a nuisance or a liability.

I also want to express the importance of all ages shows at the time we were growing up. Places like Eclipse Records on Grand in St. Paul, the Foxfire Lounge, Bon Apetite, 7th Street Entry All ages shows and Intermedia Arts. All Ages shows were much more prominent in the late 1990s than they are now. Without these, I don’t know if I or we would have ever developed the drive and desire to perform and contribute in a live setting.


Military Special on Music and Arts Education

Charlie Smith: Like any toddler who stumbles upon things that make noise, though my ear is a little more refined today.

One of the defining moments of my musicianship was when I joined St. Paul Central High’s jazz band in my junior year. I was just starting to get my feet under me and needed someone to encourage me to take risks. Without Central’s music teacher, Matt Oyen, I wouldn’t have decided to go on to study music in college and undertake this ridiculous pursuit of making it my profession. He actually taught many fine musicians in the local scene today in that jazz band: Peter Leggett of Heiruspecs on drums, Lucy Michelle on bari sax, Chris Graham of the Velvet Lapelles on guitar, our bassist James Shaff, and Joe played a pretty mean trumpet back then. Studying music in Italy was a pretty big eye opener too.

Danell Norby: I actually just kind of fell into making music. I’ve spent a lot of my life thinking about music, discussing it with friends, going to shows, reviewing albums for my college’s music magazine, but never seriously thought about making it myself. I had all but abandoned the handful of instruments I’d taken up as a kid, but when Joe asked me to join Military Special, it was a chance to put all of those hours of music lessons to good use. It’s been really great to learn how a piece of music comes together, and I’m now trying to get more involved in that process.

Music education gave me an appreciation for music that I might not have been exposed to otherwise. I wouldn’t say that it influenced my current tastes, but it definitely helped to develop my passion for music in general. Beyond that, it laid the foundation for everything I currently know about music. I probably wouldn’t be playing an instrument today if the opportunity hadn’t been presented to me earlier in life.

Joe Schweigert: Um, really, my mom forced me to take piano lessons. And my Fisher-Price xylophone. One of my first memories of Peter is seeing him walk on the bus in first or second grade with his little guitar case. It was the cutest thing in the world.

I was fortunate to have a lot of arts education in my life. My grade school music teacher getting me to sing “Brother John” in a round was huge. Really though all I learned about music came from public schooling, no joke. I would be jacked without it.

Peter Blomgren: I started playing guitar when I was five—classical guitar. The first few numbers included “Hot Cross Buns” and “Mary Had a Little Lamb.” It was pretty real. And I still remember how to play them. Though, I don’t really know how much you can rock out “Hot Cross Buns.” Yeah, and I took classical lessons ’til I graduated from high school. And then I stopped, but I think the main turning point in my musical career was when Joe and I were sitting in his parents’ old house and he showed me what a power chord was. And then I learned how to rock. And that kind of changed my whole outlook on music.

I went to Perpich for a little while and I learned a lot about how music works that I wouldn’t have otherwise known,, like some jazz theory and stuff like that. I’m not as good at the jazz as I’d like to be, but… just gotta keep playing I guess.


PREMIERE: Military Special “We’re Science (Chris Heidman Mix)”

Military Special will play at the Kitty Cat Klub on Saturday, November the eighth with Chicago’s Bat Masterson, and the Twin Cities’ own Circle Olympix (formerly Squareshooters). For more information on the band’s music and their upcoming shows please visit their new website. Here is a Chris Heidman remix of the band’s “We’re Science,” produced exclusively for Culture Bully’s Donors Choose drive.


Muja Messiah on Music and Arts Education

I’ve been freestylin’ and writing since I was 12 or 13 but I didn’t start “making” music until I was about 18. I moved into a crib on the Southside with four of my closest homies and we coped an emax two and some techniques and got down to business. Every day we would wake up and try to out do each other. That’s when I really began to sharpen my skills. Back then everybody wanted to DJ, produce and rap so the kitchen was always full with too many cooks in it. As time went on the ones who were serious continued and the ones who weren’t kind of fizzled outta tha picture. I don’t think I’ll ever stop making music. It’s something that’s just in me. {No homo} lol

I remember watching Fame when I was a shortly and wondering why we didn’t have any schools like that in here in Minneapolis. I’ve wanted to make music and act ever since I could remember but never really had an outlet to express myself. It’s just now getting to the point where Minneapolis has certain places and forums where you can express your talent. I’d like to believe that it’s because of the work me and my generation put in. Opening up doors that weren’t open before. With that said Minneapolis could still use a lot more schools and programs that specialize in the arts because as an artist I feel so many talented children are be deprived from answering their calling. Everybody hasn’t got money to go to L.A. or New York… But you see it changing. You see Josh Hartnett doin’ it, you see Atmosphere doin’ it, and you got the Cohen Brothers filming movies right in our own backyard. It’s a beautiful thing to see it happen right before your eyes. Word!


Nathan Tensen-Woolery of Ghost in the Water on Music and Arts Education

Both Mandy and I got into music pretty young. Mandy started singing in church at a very early age. I had loved music all through my childhood, and finally began to take lessons (cello) at about age seven or eight. But as far as actually making music… I think I wrote my first songs when I was in my early teens. We actually started making music together when we were 16. We both grew up in a fairly small town, so the avenues for making music were primarily church and school.

I can’t express enough how important arts education was to my development. Honestly, I am sure that I would not be doing what I am today had it not been for arts education in public schools. My very first instrument was the cello. Without elementary school orchestra and the instrument they supplied I never would have had studied music at all. The thought of actually being a musician never
would have occurred to me had it not been for that early exposure to music and it’s performance.

Oh, and art class… What a wonderful thing high school art classes are! It’s the safe haven for all of the misfits and weirdos! But, in retrospect, I learned SO much just hanging out in the art room, chatting with the teacher and the other students. Had it not been for those experiences I would not be the person I am today. No doubt about it.


Nick Leet of High on Stress on Music and Arts Education

I’ve been into music since I was a little kid listening to the Beatles and Prince. I always wanted a guitar but didn’t buy one until I was 15 years old. I started off learning a few Nirvana songs and after that I found more satisfaction out of writing my own songs. I didn’t have any sort of formal guitar lessons. I had a lot of friends who played so I literally watched their fingers to see what they were doing. I knew I wanted to play music but I needed to know how so I was a sponge soaking up all that I could from the people who were doing it.


Nobot on Music and Arts Education

Adam Tucker: I came into music early as my parents were both music majors (teaching and musicology) and my dad was still a performing jazz drummer. My desire to play and make music definitely stems from my parents acquainting me from a very young age with both the listening and performance aspects of the art – I’ve carried more than my share of my dad’s drums! I did the standard piano lesson thing for years, then picked up bass my freshman year of high school and guitar in the middle. Since then there really hasn’t been a time when I haven’t been in at least one band. Once you’ve played live or heard a song you wrote played for an audience you never want to let that feeling go, be it heavy metal or jazz or whatever.

Without playing jazz piano and bass for four years in high school and classical/jazz bass for four years in college I would never become as comfortable with and knowledgeable about music and performance as I am now. The strictly technical aspects aside, being able to sit down with lots of musicians, both older and younger, over the years of my schooling in many different formats was one of the most valuable parts of my arts education experience. I definitely wouldn’t have had the chance to play and learn with so many talented people, or have had the opportunity to meet other musicians through them without school assistance. So thanks music teachers, I wouldn’t be myself without you, keep fighting to keep the arts alive in schools!

Kyle Vande Slunt: Like Adam I came into music from a very young age because of my parents. Both played instruments (clarinet and trumpet) and were avid music listeners. My mom would always make up and sing her own harmonies to songs we listened to in the car, while my dad would not turn off the engine and get out of his car until a song he enjoyed was over. Both have stuck with me as I continue those habits today. I wanted to play drums in middle school but when I auditioned my skills on the snare drum my instructor said “have you tried the trombone?” It was a love hate relationship but the trombone carried me all the way through high school and my BA in music. While it wasn’t really making music, I’ve been manipulating sound for as long as I can remember. I would run and hide from the loud vacuum cleaner and cover my ears only to discover that if I press and release my lobes I could create an analog low pass filter. This is how I spent the majority of my childhood, along with making sound effects with my mouth for imaginary movie trailers and cartoons. I realized at a very young age that sound was my life. Sound is music and music is sound.

Oddly (or sadly) enough, Adam and I went to the same University for our music degrees. I can’t stress how my experience shaped my life and thus Nobot’s. I had the opportunity to learn and be challenged by incredibly gifted and talented professors. I was able to perform in Jazz Bands, Orchestra, Wind Ensemble, and other group ensembles. It also gave me a platform to experiment and give the first electronic performance by a student in the school’s history. My knowledge and teachings in theory, analysis, composition, and history are present in everything I do that is related to sound (composition, recording, performing, sound design, mixing, etc). One brief example: If you listen to our song “Drinking Progress” you’ll hear a sample of a Renaissance motet (Machaut’s Mass) being manipulated in the beginning. This piece was part of my required listening and analysis for one of my history classes. I wouldn’t be where I am today without it, and I wouldn’t have the skills I have now. I’m a dedicated life solider in the front lines for keeping music and the arts alive in schools and other community organizations.


PREMIERE: Nobot “Electricity, Electricity”

“Electricity, Electricity,” is a cover of the Schoolhouse Rock original and was recorded by Nobot exclusively for Culture Bully’s Donors Choose drive. Nobot will be performing with Tartufi and Dearling Physique as a part of No Surprises at the Nomad World Pub on October 25.


Paul Pirner of The 757s on Music and Arts Education

Music was a part of growing up in my family. We all started playing multiple instruments at a very young age and they were scattered around the house like toys; we weren’t given the choice of not playing an instrument, and so it seemed unnatural not to. Plus, it sounded cool, and I wanted to be able to do that.

In music class, people who were into it just kind of gravitated towards each other, and the music room became kind of a club house for us. I met Moses Jackson in second grade at Kenwood, and he introduced me to The Sugar Hill Gang and Queen in 1978. He wanted to rap, I could keep rhythm for him on this crazy coconut looking thing the music teacher had in the music room, we got a bunch of other kids together and did our thing at a talent show, people cheered and I was hooked. Music does so much for brain development that I can’t even start to describe the benefits; rhythm helps in math class, lyrics help in English; it lets you see the thoughts between the thoughts.


Prof Lukas on Music and Arts Education

Freestyling. That’s how I got into making rap. The first time I just let my mouth run, and it actually rhymed, I was hooked for life. There’s millions of people out there who know what I’m talking about. That feeling of pure consciousness and unconsciousness at the same time. Total focus. It’s like crack.

As far as making music goes, I went to school at a place called Ramsey IFAC in Minneapolis. That school was the shit. I don’t know if they still got it the same way, but it was mandatory to play an instrument there. So it wasn’t a coincidence that all my close hommies all had a general knowledge of what music was, and how to create it.

I remember sitting in the orchestra, a complete fuck up, Gampo Style. I never paid attention to shit. I would be sneaking around under the chairs trying to look up skirts, going around sticking gum on dudes jeans. I couldn’t read music. Still can’t. But when it came time to learn new songs, I was always down. I would play my violin super quiet the first couple time through a song. One thing that Ramsey gave me was an ear. Even if I don’t play an instrument, I can pick it up, and play a half-assed tune in a couple minutes.

As far as Art education in general, I’ve had that. I did my time at a college called MCAD. Those dudes are for real about that shit. I paint, draw, design. All that. Got to love it. I would say I approach visual arts the same I do my music. I jump in quick, then refine my way out to the finish. The creative process, for me, is almost exactly the same. What up Mike, what up Stazi, get your learn on. Go to my MySpace. Add me on Facebook as Prof Lukas. Love me hard.


PREMIERE: Roma di Luna “Never Surrender To Silence”

Roma di Luna have only a few scattered shows scheduled before the end of the year, including a gig at the 331 Club on November 22 and one at The Cedar Cultural Center on December 23. In the meantime here is an amazing previously unreleased track from the duo, “Never Surrender To Silence.”


Suzanne Vallie “Keep Away”

Here, Suzanne Vallie offers the story of how her song “Keep Away” was born. Draped across a backdrop of summer memories, Vallie describes the track as one full of free spirited influence and thoughts of friends – two of the best things this world has to offer.

On “Keep Away”:

Originally, this song was a joke. I made it up on a drive to Duluth to make my friend laugh. But once I played it on ukulele, it turned pretty. It reminded me of lurid, spooky summers spent in South Dakota. When I was young, I’d watch the cars cruise in endless circles, going one town over and then back down Main Street. Girls hung their legs out the windows and the guys were 10 years older and spit out the windows. When Orion Treon (Plastic Chord) added guitar in the studio recording, I begged him to make it sound dirty like a tuned-up muscle car. When Dave Anderson and I did the mix, I wanted it to flirt like the girls who smoked outside Dairy Queen; funny, pretty, sexy, and a little scary. I dedicate it to Tanya G.’s homemade tattoo. She didn’t regret it. The world flipped her off first.


Tay Zonday on Music and Arts Education

There’s a better question to ask: How did everybody else get into being silent? I ask myself that question a lot when I’m not making music. Usually there are things causing the silence that I need to confront and resolve. Then the music just happens.

My mother was trained from a very young age as a vocalist and a pianist. Her parents aggressively primed her to be a successful performer. It didn’t happen, largely because there were no opportunities for a young, black, Coloratura Soprano in the early 1960s. Despite growing into a competent musician, my mother felt that being forced into a rigorous study of the arts created a context where she never truly enjoyed music. She ended up becoming a successful professional but in a manner that was largely separate from her music.

With this backdrop, my mother never forced any of her children to pursue an arts education. But the door was always open. Sometimes I wish I had been pushed a bit harder, but who knows? Everybody spends the rest of their lives armchair-quarterbacking about their childhood. I never earned formal credentials in the arts. I try to be the best musician that I can be today, which often involves being the best student. Education is where you choose to be a student, whereas schooling is a context in which being a student is chosen for you. They can overlap.


Todd Casper of The Great Depression on Music and Arts Education

When I was in second grade, my music teacher, Mrs. Dawson (Go long term memory!), called my parents and suggested I audition for the Madison Boy’s Choir. My parents, being for the most part non-musical, had never heard of such a thing but I auditioned anyway and was soon sight reading music for voice. My experiences there led to playing first viola then trumpet in the school Orchestra. With the dawning of MTV, of course I promptly dropped everything and began to learn how to play the parts to my favorite albums (Devo, Icicle Works, The Clash) and was soon writing and recording my own songs.

I now live with my wife in Copenhagen, Denmark and work as a composer for Documentary films. I also write and record albums as The Great Depression and have been releasing them through Fire Records of London since 2001.

In summation, it was the initial encouragement of my second grade music teacher that sent me down the path I continue to walk (occasionally stumble down) today. I hope that, through your efforts, you are able to bring attention to the need for Arts/Music Education in the American public schools and that, through the wisdom of caring and knowledgeable teachers, other kids can have doors opened to them that they might not have found otherwise.


Unicorn Basement on Music and Arts Education

Deanna Steege: I’ve always been into music and thought it’d be awesome to be in a band, but didn’t really think I could until college. There weren’t any women in the local Iowa music scene I grew up in, so the thought of me being in one seemed impossible. Moving away from home and meeting people who expanded my music taste beyond the handful of punk bands and crappy emo music I listened to in high school energized me and inspired me to start making music. I realized hey! there’s more to music than a sad kid playing in a ring of candles and punk bands who all sound the same! once max and I moved to Minneapolis we delved further into the local music scene, meeting countless bands who have supported us from the beginning. They’ve pushed us as we’ve pushed each other to continue to create new music and tour the country.

I think the arts and music are extremely connected, they definitely overlap in our songwriting process and performances. I’m not sure if it’s from arts education that I became interested in making art (other art forms such as painting and drawing) but I think it was more so due to the people I’ve surrounded myself with who continually fuel my desire to create. I find it extremely sad that when funding for schools gets cut because it’s these two categories that feel the economic crunch the fastest. Sure it’s important to give kids adequate education on subjects like science and math, but without the arts playing an important role in their schooling, they’re missing out on enhancing their creativity in a way other subjects can’t do.

Max Clark: I was totally 14 and I had this awesome friend who wailed on me with major sweet punk records. Growing up I mostly listened to the Lion King soundtrack over and over like eight times a day and drew pictures of Lion King characters hanging out together like awesome friends. I drew pictures of Batman and the Joker on giant paper bags and gave them to my mom. I stopped that when I started watching my Ramones VHS over and over. Basically I realized that if these punk kids can be super awesome and not even be as good at music as Cyndi Lauper or Paul Simon then I can do what I want to also. I told my parents that and they didn’t believe me. So I never stopped. One day my mom and dad will look at me and say something like, “You are really good at everything you do and we are super proud of you!” But until then I will keep telling them, “I am really good at everything I do and I think everyone is capable of awesome amazing things. It is just a matter of believing in yourself and fighting for those dreams and never giving in even when people tell you that you can’t live your life the way you want.” It is easy to say I believe in you and that you can be anything you put your mind to but it is much harder to really believe that your 22 year old son who has just graduated from college with a degree in Marketing is actually capable of becoming successful filmmaker or that your daughter is going to just make art for a living. The reason that is so hard is if you never learned to believe in yourself on that level.

I was totally encouraged in the visual arts. I think I showed some basic proficiency early on and people got tricked into thinking my Lion King drawings were awesome. I was never good at drawing roses. I am working on that lately. I always felt like the art department was completely insufficient and underfunded when it was present at all but it was in those classes that I learned to value creative expression and to value myself. Maybe I do both of those too much though. I believe in people in crazy amounts I think we can all accomplish anything and do exactly what we want to if we refuse to let anything stop us. I could not have that faith in other people on the level I do if I didn’t first find it in myself. Living life is like casting a miniature magic spell where you have to light five candles and make a circle with some glitter while you remember your dad. There are very integral parts that must be present and if they aren’t there the spell doesn’t work. Art and music are totally integral parts of that gigantic super awesome conjuring of education. Without the arts life would be so much less mystical and I have a really hard time finding the beauty in a world where all your spells fail.


PREMIERE: Vicious Vicious “Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor (Angus McFadden’s Brokebeat Remix)”

A b-side from Vicious Vicious’s 2003 Blood And Clover, here is the previously unreleased Angus McFadden remix of “Shake That Ass on the Dance Floor.”


Will Markwardt of The Absent Arch on Music and Arts Education

Speaking personally and probably for the rest of the band, we started out of a love of the idea of making music. There were a lot of different factors over the past five years that brought us together and made us what we are now. We are a mixture of music majors and curious creators. Above all else, we’re together because we love what we do and we love playing together. Our band comes from such a diverse background (jazz trumpet player, classical violist, free drummer) that it makes for a fascinating mishmash (at least to us).

We all started music at a young age, some more intensely than others. I played piano at six and percussion from sixth grade to about eleventh. My friend and I created this mock rap group in sixth grade called Sumo Fighters. We put a lot of time and passion into making it as ridiculous as possible. Have you ever heard a beat made strictly out of sound effects from Streets of Rage 2? That is one thing I am definitely not ashamed of. Sumo Fighters later became a label that housed the Green Olive Posse which included most of my friends from grades 6-12. It culminated into about three albums and twenty or so side projects that were mostly never recorded. I think we just enjoyed coming up with names, lyrics and album art. After that some of us continued with music, some went off to war, some got married. I chose the first option. If there are any Sumo Fighter albums floating around out there, please get in touch with me. I think my friend’s mom tossed what we had left in the garbage years ago when she was cleaning his room.

Our band is kind of like the business-oriented married man: Working 40 hours a week, only to spend all of his free time working on his lawn or car. It is a labor of love and a love of labor. Music has always been such a gratifying experience for us that putting in extra hours never seems like an issue.

Most of my musical influence has come from my peers, education in its own right, however informal. I have not had as much formal music education as the rest of the guys in the band. Some have extensive training in theory, some have played in college orchestras and jazz ensembles, but the music education I had as a kid in a band (listening to records, playing music with my friends, etc.) gave me the fundamental know-how to do what I am doing now.

If you ask the rest of the band, they would not argue that their education played a invaluable role in developing their musical abilities. It seems as though formal arts education and personal discovery/peer interaction are two sides of the same shiny coin. They both offer an infinite amount of development and creativity; it just all depends on how you approach it, consume it, study it, learn from it, grow with it.

Regardless, no child should ever be denied the option of formal music education, and there needs to be significantly more effort devoted to promoting and funding public-school music programs. Without the education I received, I might not have ever picked up an instrument. I am sure the same can be said for a large percentage of other musicians.

Creative expression is something that everyone deserves the opportunity to explore. Without the opportunity, the barrier between hearing something that moves you and being able to create something that moves someone else often becomes insurmountable. We lose our abilities to tell stories, to understand our differences, to address social and political issues, to strengthen and expand our communities. That’s what music can do. And music education teaches us how.


With considerable gratitude, the series was featured and amplified by many voices in the community, including: Aaron’s Hotlinks, Brit Rock at the Top, Cake in 15, City Pages, Come Pick Me Up, The Deets, I Will Dare, Largehearted Boy, the Listenerd, Meditation, Minneapolis Fucking Rocks, Minnesota Public Radio’s The Current, MNSpeak, MPLSSTPL, Perfect Porridge, The Rake, Rift Magazine, Rock Sellout, Sound Verite’, Twin Cities Daily Planet, the University of Minnesota’s The Whole Volume One, and Whiskey for the Holy Ghost.