EducationWatch: YMF Gala Benefit

Event honoring Tom Hormel and Richard M. and Elizabeth Sherman raises funds for youth music programs
Laurel Fishman

Actor Dick Van Dyke recently hosted the Young Musicians Foundation's 54th Annual Gala Benefit in Beverly Hills, Calif. The fund-raiser honored GRAMMY winner Richard M. Sherman and his wife Elizabeth and there were musical tributes to the Sherman Brothers (Richard and Robert), who composed the scores for Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Mary Poppins among other works. Also honored was environmentalist/composer Tom Hormel, who received YMF's Humanitarian Award. Gala proceeds will support 16 Los Angeles-based and national YMF programs including a music camp, an innovative harp program for elementary students, mentoring and teaching in disadvantaged schools, scholarships for advanced music study, community outreach, and free concerts by the YMF Debut Orchestra and chamber groups.

In related news, YMF recently kicked off its 2008–2009 concert season in Los Angeles with performances by the YMF Debut Orchestra, the second-oldest pre-professional training orchestra in the United States made up of 71 of the area's most talented 15- to 25-year-old musicians. For more than 50 consecutive seasons, the orchestra has performed free public concerts throughout greater Los Angeles, with audiences totaling more than 5,000 annually.

Author Mary Ellen Geist made a Bronx, N.Y, book-signing appearance on Nov. 18 at the Beth Abraham Family of Health Services' Institute for Music and Neurologic Function, which is led by executive director and renowned music therapist Dr. Concetta Tomaino. Geist discussed her book Measure Of The Heart, and spoke from personal experience about the compelling evidence of music's power to help in reconnecting with a loved one afflicted with Alzheimer's disease. Geist's appearance was due in large part to IMNF's groundbreaking work in music therapy, and sales from the book signing will support its programs. Additional funding for IMNF music therapy and research has come via a grant from the New York State Department Of Health, which has been used to develop and teach therapeutic rhythmic programs for nursing homes around the state. IMNF's work has yielded Rhythmic Activities For Everyday Care, an instructional DVD/handbook available at low cost to the public.

Finding The Groove: All Kinds Of Kids Making All Kinds Of Music, a pilot project consisting of live multimedia concerts and online social networking, held its premier event on Oct. 19. The gala concert took place at the Hilbert Circle Theatre in Indianapolis and featured original music videos submitted by 7- to 14-year-old musicians presented in a multimedia format and created in partnership with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra. Young Indiana musicians, high school music organizations, and nonprofit community groups also performed at the concert. Finding The Groove's future plans include another Indiana-based concert scheduled for spring 2009. Finding The Groove was created by arts education advocate Leslie Stifelman, executive producer of HBO's acclaimed The Music In Me documentary series about children's music making, and the organization's Web site features kids from diverse backgrounds sharing videos of their music.

Held Nov. 18–21 in Dallas, the National Association For The Education Of Young Children Annual Conference & Expo provided one of the more valuable professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators working in young children's programs and for professionals preparing early childhood educators. In learning about this year's best approaches to quality early childhood education, more than 20,000 conference participants interfaced with a wide range of renowned experts. Among the presenters were GRAMMY-winning children's musicians Cathy Fink & Marcy Marxer, whose "Sing, Move & Groove For Healthy Kids" session featured music and activities to promote good health, with movement, sign language, art and sing-along components. As part of their tour schedule, Fink and Marxer will present their third Family Jamboree series with special guests on Jan. 10 in Virginia. The all-ages event will include welcoming kids, parents and families to perform on their own and onstage with the duo and a jam session where all can participate by singing or playing a musical instrument of their choice. Fink is currently a Trustee in The Recording Academy's Washington, D.C. Chapter.

The centennial celebration of "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" on Oct. 11 at the National Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum's commemorative concert in Cooperstown, N.Y., gave baseball-loving families an opportunity to experience music appreciation, cultural education and sing-along participation. At the event, folk artist/author Jerry Silverman performed spirited versions of songs from his The Baseball Song Book book/CD package, which includes selections of the earliest baseball songs from 1867 through 1922. Similar to the book, Silverman's commentary-filled concert demonstrated how musical styles have progressed throughout the decades while also integrating historical context regarding the lyrics and themes expressed in these baseball-inspired songs. A prolific author, Silverman has penned more than 200 offerings including folk song collections, anthologies, and method books teaching various musical instruments.

(Laurel Fishman is a writer and editor specializing in entertainment media. She reports regularly for and GRAMMY magazine, and she is an advocate for the benefits of music making, music listening, music education, music therapy and music-and-the-brain research.)

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