The Haunted History of Halloween Music

The Haunted History of Halloween Music

Halloween has its roots in the Celtic holiday Samhain (pronounced “sow-in”). Samhain was the day before the Celtic new year, and it was believed that during that seasonal transition, that the boundary between the worlds of the living and the dead became blurred. It was believed that on Samhain, the ghosts of the dead returned to earth. This holiday coincides with many other harvest-time holidays, such as the Roman Feralia or the Scandinavian Álfablót.   Kormáks saga is an Icelandic poem from the Middle Ages that relates to Álfablót. One verse reads as such: Brightly shone the beamingbrow-moons of the goodlylady linen-dight, howlike a hawk’s, upon me;but that beam from forehead’s-bright-hued-orbs, I fear me,of the Eir-of-gold dothill spell for us later.(source) An example of what poetry from Kormáks saga sounds like. This eerie and otherworldly recounting of meeting a spirit at the harvest bonfire sacrifice of Álfablót could well be interpreted as a predecessor of today’s ghost stories or spooky songs. It also related to the Celtic traditions of “mumming” and “guising“. From at least the 16th century, the Celtic Samhain included dressing in costumes and putting on plays in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man and Wales. This involved people going house-to-house in costume (or in disguise), usually reciting verses or songs in exchange for food. One such song that may have been sung and acted out is Sir Cawline, a “child’s ballad” from at least before the 19th century. It is an English version of a much older Norse Myth, Myth of Ymir, which is associated with Álfablót and Samhain. “Guisers” would act out the fight scenes of the ballad in costume: They fought up, so did they down, they fought...
10 Incredible Ways Arts Education Improves Learning

10 Incredible Ways Arts Education Improves Learning

We all know how good it feels to pick up and instrument, draw, paint, dance, or listen to music–but did you know your favorite hobby is also proven to make you smarter, kinder, and more ready to take on life?  Scientists have been studying the effects of music education and the arts on people for years, and now the secret is out: adding music education to your day can make you the best version of yourself. Don’t believe us? Check out these 10 ways arts education can improve your life! 1. Musicians score higher on testsStudents in high-quality school music programs score higher on standardized tests compared to students in schools with deficient music education programs, regardless of the socioeconomic level of the school or school district. 2. Young musicians are more ready for school than their peersThere is a growing body of evidence that early engagement in active music-making impacts beneficially on children’s wider development. Children who participate in shared music-making at age 3 are better prepared for school experiences at age 5. 3. The arts make you more empatheticA study of the arts provides children with an internal glimpse of other cultures and teaches them to be empathetic towards the people of these cultures. This development of compassion and empathy, as opposed to the development of greed and a “me first” attitude, provides a bridge across cultural chasms that leads to respect of other cultures at an early age. 4. Music class can improve SAT scores!On the 2012 SAT, students who participated in music scored an average of 31 points above average in reading, 23 points above...
Hats off to Teaching Artists!

Hats off to Teaching Artists!

Today, our MUST Teaching Artists have their first days of school in San Lorenzo! Some are returning to the classroom for the umpteenth time, and some are stepping into their role as teacher for the first time ever.  Teaching is not an easy job, whether it’s eight hours in a classroom or 60 minutes after school. But it’s because of the dedication and love that our teaching artists put into their work that kids in the Bay Area have the opportunity to learn Piano, Guitar, Modern Salsa Dance, Comic Book Arts, and many more fun and invaluable skills. Teachers are where the pedal of arts education meets the metal of the classroom. They are the ones who inspire, motivate, and care for kids in the classroom. The task can seem daunting, and at times it can be a heavy burden, but to see the look on a child’s face when a lesson finally “clicks” makes it all worth it. Teaching Artists help students move mountains, so they can continue to do so themselves for the rest of their creative lives. Author John Steinbeck wrote: “I have come to believe that a great teacher is a great artist and that there are as few as there are any other great artists. It might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.” These individuals who spend their lives molding the mind and freeing the spirit are the heart of music education. They are the sole reason we can continue to reach more and more students every year. It is thanks to their expertise, hard...
Four BIG ways to support the arts and humanities this month.

Four BIG ways to support the arts and humanities this month.

Ah, October. Just the word conjures up images of pumpkins, warm sweaters, apple cider, Halloween, and cozying up by a bonfire. But it should also evoke thoughts of art, music, poetry, literature, and dance because October is National Arts and Humanities Month! National Arts & Humanities Month was established in 1993 and is celebrated every October in the United States. It was initiated to encourage Americans to explore new facets of the arts and humanities in their lives, and to begin a lifelong habit of participation in the arts and humanities. It has become the nation’s largest collective annual celebration of the arts. National Arts and Humanities Month’s four goals are: FOCUSING on the arts at local, state, and national levels ENCOURAGING individuals and organizations to participate in the arts ALLOWING governments and businesses to show their support of the arts RAISING public awareness about the role the arts and humanities play in our communities and lives Here are some ways to celebrate this month! Get your family, friends, co-workers, and neighbors in on celebrating the humanities with you: Focus on the arts at a local level by becoming a teaching artist or docent, visiting a museum or independent bookstore, attending your local Literature Week, visiting the theatre, or volunteering at your local library. Encourage your family and friends to participate in the arts by hosting an art night at home, going to see an outdoor concert, learning a new instrument or a new art technique. Allow your government and local businesses to support the arts by reviewing your local and state propositions before voting this November! Support local arts advocacy groups with a donation or by volunteering for...
4 Easy Ways Parents Can Support Music Education

4 Easy Ways Parents Can Support Music Education

This week’s blog post is by guest blogger Scott Jenkins. Scott is Editor at architypes.net and a writer. You can see more from him on Twitter at @scottjenkins. Thanks, Scott!  With more and more school districts cutting funding to art classes, the music classes that your child needs and loves could be at risk. And even if your child’s music classes aren’t at risk, do you know how to encourage your child to nurture their musical education? Fortunately, there are some easy ways to do just that. Here’s how parents can support their children’s music education at home and at school. Show up One of the most important things a parent can do for their child’s musical education is to show up to the concerts, recitals, and musical events. Show your support for your child and the music classes that are inspiring them by attending these events and even encouraging the school to host more of them. Performing in front of an audience builds confidence, encourages dedication to their instrument, and helps your child learn about self-control and hard work. Reward their efforts by being there and showing that you care about their musical education. Encourage practice, don’t force it Well-meaning parents can destroy a child’s love of music by punishing them for not practicing often enough. Instead of punishing your child for not practicing, work on encouraging them to want to improve. Support their practice times by offering the space and an ear, if needed, so they can get feedback. Even if you don’t know the first thing about music, you can still lend moral support and become your child’s...
Musical Instruments of the Ancient World

Musical Instruments of the Ancient World

For all the time humans have been able to hear, we have loved playing and listening to music. But when did we begin creating instruments with which to play this music? MUST Program Assistant, Megan, had the opportunity this summer to visit The Louvre in Paris and see some of the ancient Egyptian musical instruments in their collections. This got us thinking about the histories of the instruments play every day. Where did they come from? How have they changed? Join us on a brief trip through history, and learn more about your favorite instruments! The bodyThe earliest musical instruments were the human body itself! Singing, clapping, drumming on the body–the human body requires no storage, next to no upkeep, and little-to-no training to get started. No wonder it’s still one of the most common instruments today! Though techniques and styles have changed over the millennia (beat-boxing, or tongue-singing anyone?), the mechanism has remained the same! Early percussionOnce early peoples realized they could make sounds with the impact of one body part against the other, they began to experiment with using tools to make different sounds. Clappers, rhythm sticks, and percussion blocks made of shells, plants, or stone were used to keep time and accompany the voice. Egyptian cymbals at The Louvre In Mesopotamia, round 2500 BCE, images of instruments became common. Much of our knowledge of early instrument come from these illustrations and sculptures. The sistrum was an early metal shaker from Mesopotamia, with metal rings on adjustable bars, so the musician could adjust the amount of rattle that came from the shaker. These were later common in...