Get On Up! Get Into It! Get Involved!
Not too long ago, two of my colleagues in the music biz - longtime veterans of classic pop & soul - bemoaned what they are seeing as the demise of contemporary music. With much of commercial radio playing tunes with questionable lyrics, whiny vocals as well as sampling more & more older recordings, my two friends felt that the era of solid songwriting, musicianship, arrangements, production & performance has come to an end. The response they received varied - from agreement to argument.
But one person had some food for thought - if this demise is happening, what are these folks and other veterans doing to help preserve and pass on their knowledge to the next generation - regardless of whether the current music industry welcomes their help or not. I happen to agree with this responder and that is indeed the challenge music folks are facing today. Therefore the next series of articles under the banner "Get On Up! Get Into It! Get Involved!" (with a big thank you to the late Bobby Byrd) will focus on how "everybody over here" (thanks, JB!) who love music can help the industry maintain the foundation of excellence set forth by those before us.
PART ONE - GO TO CHURCH, GO TO SCHOOL
It's been known for at least three centuries (yes, I said centuries) that the best talent came from two places - church and school, the diamond mines of singers & musicians honing their skills and being nutured by those leading them like raw jewels being refined by an appraiser. My advice - get up on a Sunday morning and check out the church choir - their soloists and backing musicians. Offer services to the parish's minister of music as a musician or even a contributor of original music. If a musician owns a studio or has access to recording equipment, record the singers for an album they could release to help raise funds for the church. This worked for a west coast-based youth choir who cut a record they sold to offset travel expenses to music conferences. Copies of their disc fell into the hands of
disc jockeys in San Francisco who then had several requests after airing a track called "Oh Happy Day". The result was a major record contract for the group who then changed their name from the Northern California State Youth Choir to the Edwin Hawkins Singers.
As far as schools are concerned, check the community calendar for concerts given by middle or high schools. Call up the town's board of education & offer to be an "artist in residence" - a musician who works with school kids, exposing them to genres of music not normally offered in the curriculum. This would be a great way for those who composed and/or recorded classic soul & pop tunes to introduce them to young folks in school choirs and symphonic orchestras. How about a song review of a composer's work? Schools across the country have staged their own productions of "Leader Of The Pack" (the late Ellie Greenwich) and "Smokey Joe's Cafe" (Jerry Lieber & Mike Stoller).
Here's a few suggestions - "Sideshow - the music of Bobby Eli & Vinnie Barrett", "Shop Around! The works of Smokey Robinson!" In fact, the composer themselves can offer their services to schools who want to stage a song review of their work (again, kudos to the departed Ellie Greenwich who did so for "Leader..").
NEXT CHAPTER - BE A COMMUNITY MUSIC ORGANIZER