Deaf man is amazingly self taught on the piano

via the Hamilton County Times

Does Kyle Thomas know how beautifully he plays the piano?
He’s been told.
The Noblesville resident can hear the piano. But he can’t tell if it’s in tune.
He can hear the volume, but he can’t distinguish the pitches.
Thomas, who was born deaf, has played the piano since he was 12.
“I taught myself,” said Thomas, 41, who can distinguish between high and low, loud and soft, fast and slow.
Just like learning any new skill, playing the piano takes practice to do well. “It’s easy for me now, after all of these years,” said Thomas, who has developed a technique and understanding of what goes into the music, structure and theory.
He plays so beautifully that he’s often sought after for local community theaters.
“It is amazing that he can play when he basically cannot hear the music,” said Jan Jamison, director of Westfield Playhouse’s production, “33 Variations,” on stage weekends through Feb. 18. The play, interestingly, goes back and forth examining the creative process between Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Diabelli Variations” and the journey of a musicologist who has ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, to discover why Beethoven, who while growing deaf, was compelled to write 33 variations on a simple theme.
“I looked at Beethoven’s music and decided it would be a worthy challenge,” said Thomas, whose livelihood is warehouse work at the Amazon fulfillment center in Whitestown. “I would consider several of the variations to be among the most difficult pieces I’ve played.”

During Westfield’s play rehearsals, I watched and listened as Thomas sat at the baby-grand piano in his borrowed black tuxedo with tails, loud crazy-patterned socks and long, thick beard that he’s he’s been growing for a year.
He played the variations throughout the play as they were mentioned.
But how does he do it? “With my hearing aids on, I do hear the piano, just in a different way,” he said. While hearing aids don’t correct hearing loss in the way that eyeglasses correct vision,” he said, “For me, they amplify sounds but don’t necessarily help in clarifying them.”
He said, “So I have to rely on visual cues in addition to what I’m able to hear.”
During his play rehearsals, he develops a sense of timing and learns exactly what to listen and look for, he said.
“If I make a mistake, I know it mostly in a visual or physical sense. My fingers may slip, or my timing is off, or I know that what I’m playing doesn’t match what i’m reading on the sheet music. So I correct things to the best of my ability.”
Thomas said neither of his parents are deaf nor is he aware of any family history of deafness. When he was a baby, his parents noticed that he wasn’t responding to auditory stimuli, and doctors confirmed that he was indeed deaf. His mom actually taught at Indiana School for the Deaf but said her son didn’t show any interest in learning to sign as a child. So he was put into Washington Township Schools in Marion County. At school, he used hearing aids and other assistive-listening devices.
Looking back, he’s always been performing in some way. As a kid, he acted out fairy tales, put on magic shows and participated in the usual school programs.
As for learning the piano, both sets of grandparents had pianos in their homes, so he “did the usual banging on the keys.” And he said, “My childhood friends usually spoke of music lessons as being boring.” But it wasn’t until he saw the movie, “Great Balls of Fire!” in 1989 that he thought, “Wow, I wish I could play like that.” He started teaching himself, used old lessons books from his grandparents, then took lessons from his church organist.
A turning point in his life occurred his freshman year at North Central High School, where he was cast, in 1991, in the play, “Children of a Lesser God,” about a deaf student and her teacher, and he began to learn American Sign Language beyond the basics. Then, he played in his first musical, “The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd.” From that point on, he was involved in so many shows that he lost count.
He was on stage in most shows, acting and, if it was a musical, dancing and lip-syncing. And then he started getting asked to play the piano in shows.
Read the full article here

3D Printed Robot Accompanies on the Keyboard

Watch out Chopin: a Polish university student has programmed a robot to play the piano. The musical robot, which pushes piano keys using pronged 3D printed fingers, was developed specifically to accompany its creator while he plays the violin.

The student behind the project, Wojciech Świtała, was inspired to program the 3D printed robot as part of his master’s thesis project at the AGH University of Science and Technology in Krakow.

Through the project, Świtała found a creative (not to mention, entertaining) way of combining his studies in the faculty of electrical engineering, automatics, computer science and biomedical engineering with his passion for playing music.

While the piano-playing robot admittedly does not have the musical chops of a human pianist (or perhaps even a relative novice), the robot is capable of carrying a tune and provides a nice, simple piano accompaniment.

The robot itself is based on one of Mitsubishi’s robotic arms, which Świtała equipped with a 3D printed hand (more of a prong) and programmed to play certain melodies on the piano. That’s right, the robot doesn’t just play one series of keys, as it can actually be “taught” different sequences.

Świtała explains that users simply have to click virtual piano keys in a computer program and the sequence will be saved and sent to the 3D printed robot, which will then “learn” the melody and can play it back when placed in front of a keyboard.

Of course, because the robot isn’t equipped with a set of ten fingers—like most pianists are—it is quite limited in terms of its musical capabilities. What the two-pronged robotic arm can do is play two keys at once, and press them in good time. In the video demonstration, you can even see the 3D printed bot hit a cymbal!

Świtała admits that the robot is in its early stages and that there are still some significant kinks to work out in its operation. For one, the sound of the robot’s motor is not ideal for producing music (unless you’re specifically looking for a technological buzzing), and the robotic arm is still quite slow.

Read the full article here at 3ders.org

Or learn how to play a lot better than the robot by going here…

Pastor plays the piano in a flooded home…

A man whose story and video went viral after he was captured playing a piano in his flooded Texas home has a new piano.

Aric Harding of Friendswood, Texas, returned to the waist-deep floodwaters in his family’s home after Hurricane Harvey in August to get some of his children’s belongings. His home was one of 350,000 destroyed by the rising waters.

He said he stopped at the piano, which belonged to one of his sons, and had a friend record him as he played it.
The Harding family’s home was flooded by Hurricane Harvey in August.

“For us, it’s a piece of music being this universal language for everyone. It’s always been a big part of my life. My family’s always been very musical,” he told ABC Houston station KTRK-TV. “From the moment we get up in the morning to the moment we go to sleep, we’ve got music going on in our house.”

At that moment, Harding said, he hoped the video would lift his children’s spirits and show his son his beloved instrument was still working.

“It was kind of the first time for me that I had sat down and been still, you know since the storm. And so it was, it was an unintentional special moment,” Harding said.

He then posted the video online with a Bible verse about having hope. The video circulated on social media, eventually reaching Grammy-nominated singer Vanessa Carlton, who then asked how she could get the family a new piano.

Harding said the family had to get rid of the old piano — with its rusty strings and broken bass board — after it was destroyed in the floodwaters.

“She [Carlton] literally just calls me one morning like, ‘Hey, this is Vanessa,'” Harding told KTRK. “To have that kind of generosity, you know, to come about, that’s just one piece of the generosity that has happened not only for us but for other people in this area.”
PHOTO: Aric Harding poses with his family. Harding said that playing the piano and music in general was a big part of his life and his familys.Aric Harding
Aric Harding poses with his family. Harding said that playing the piano and music in general was a big part of his life and his family’s.

Harding, a father of seven, received the new piano Saturday. Having a piano back in the house was a big deal, especially for his son Rylor, who is back practicing, Harding said.

“Just being blessed to even have the chance to own one of these is amazing,” Rylor said.

Others have also donated pianos to the family, so Harding and his father plan to get them to residents who lost theirs in the area, as well as piano students.

“Hopefully, we can keep passing this forward a little bit,” he said.

read more here at abc news…

Jordan Kitt’s Music helps Strathmore introduce more than 12,000 students to classical music

National Philharmonic welcomes more than 10,000 second graders to the Music Center at Strathmore during the annual Strathmore Student Concerts from now through Thursday, Nov. 16. The purpose of the program is to expose every Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) 2nd grader to a live performance of classical music.

The students learn about classical music and prepare for the concert hall experience during the month of October.

For many young people in Montgomery County, the National Philharmonic is their first exposure to classical music. The orchestra was a founding partner in the annual Strathmore Student Concerts, a hallmark education initiative that welcomes every Montgomery County Public Schools (MCPS) 2nd grader to the Music Center concert hall for a live performance. The National Philharmonic, Strathmore, and Montgomery County Public Schools are shaking up the annual concerts with a new conductor, new repertoire, and new vision to better serve students.

National Philharmonic Associate Conductor Victoria Gau is now at the helm. She worked closely with key partners and educators to create an experience that aligns with evolving MCPS curricular goals. Gau wanted students to leave the concerts with a better understanding of how they process music and how it can elicit specific emotional responses. The lively new format explores rhythm, dynamics, tempo, and musical texture—foundational elements of the concert experience that can make a piece feel happy or sad, serious or lighthearted, contemplative or full of unbridled excitement.

To reinforce these touchpoints, Gau selected music that bridges the classical canon and new works, demonstrating that classical music is evolving. Works by Beethoven and Brahms are paired with compositions by American composers Leonard Bernstein and Jennifer Higdon, and music by Mexican composer Arturo Marquez. Gau was also conscious to include gender and ethnic diversity to reflect demographics in the County and show that anyone can enjoy and be a part of classical music.

The concert also includes a new commission from Bethesda-based composer Charlie Barnett, Second Grade Second Line, a short participatory work that introduces different sections of the orchestra—woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings, and keyboard.

Students are engaged through call and response, clapping, and percussive music-making from the audience—National Philharmonic musicians even get in on the fun from stage.

Gau has maintained a relationship with National Philharmonic since 2005 and joined National Philharmonic’s conducting staff in 2010. Gau is in demand nationally as a youth orchestra festival conductor. She is also Artistic Director and Conductor of the Takoma Ensemble and Capital City Symphony, where she has written and performed annual family concerts for 20 seasons.

The 2nd grader student concerts represent a $185,000 investment in public education, with sponsorship provided by The Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, GEICO, and Jordan Kitt’s Music.

via Mongtomery Community Media.  Read more here…

Adaptive music lessons give kids a place to be themselves

via NPR

The benefits of music on individuals with autism are widely known. Improved focus, advances in speech and language, and better motor skills. But sometimes it’s about the growth that you can’t quantify in numbers.

On a Tuesday night in a sleepy plaza in Penfield, the Music Education Center is buzzing. Kids are in the waiting room, parents are catching up and students are practicing anything from trombone to piano.

Noah Svokos is a curly haired 13 year old who has been taking piano lessons for 5 years at the center.

The facility is open to anyone but they have a focus on adaptive music lessons, for individuals with disabilities.

Noah’s dad Tony Svokos brought him to class, and said over the years he’s seen his sons confidence grow, his memory get sharper, and he can remember notes and song titles and adapt these skills to his day to day life. Tony says places like this center are essential.

“Like it or not, there is a bit of a stigma still when it comes to special needs kids, kids who have autism. Thankfully, the awareness is growing and there are a lot more programs now. Even at his school he’s got integrated classrooms.”

A lot of Noah’s classmates have grown up around kids with autism Tony says, so they don’t treat them any differently.

“But there are a lot of other places out there who have no contact with kids like this. And it can be nerve wracking sending your kid to a place like that where you’re not sure if they’re going to be accepted, you’re not sure if their insecurities are going to get really, really magnified by negative experiences.”

The music education center started in 2004, co-owner Sarah Jamison tells me. As a graduate of the Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam, she never really pictured her career going down this path, but the students kept her coming back.

“It really brings a lot of light into their lives. There’s a lot of other things they might be struggling with in school or at home and music ends up being something that they’re really good at and that they can be proud of and show off to their friends and family. And that’s probably the best thing about our job is just seeing that.”

Read more here!

The 2017 William J. McCormick Teacher Grant Awards

This past Saturday, October 14th, Jordan Kitt’s Music presented the William J. McCormick Jr. Teacher Grant Awards to four area teachers. These grants are designed for the continuing music education of the teacher, or as a scholarship opportunity for a student in need.

The awards were presented at the annual MSMTA Conference at the University of Maryland this past weekend, and recipients were:


Sylvie Beaudoin

 


Immanuela Gruenberg

 


Matthew Palumbo

 


Alice Shiu announcing the award for Bonnie Pausic (in absentia)

The award is funded by Jordan Kitt’s Music as a way to help foster the continuance of excellence in music education in the Washington Metropolitan area, and is named after the modern founder of Jordan Kitt’s Music, William J. McCormick Jr.

Jordan Kitt’s provides the new organ for National’s Park

For Matthew Van Hoose, the Washington Nationals’ playoff run will start on a low note. In the way that only a music professor can be, Van Hoose is psyched about the ultra-deep, bleacher-shaking registers of the team’s brand-new stadium organ.

“This thing has a ton of extra bass,” said Van Hoose, the Nats’ official organist, as he twiddled a few foghorn notes from the bright red, W-emblazoned, three-keyboard instrument that was installed last week at Nationals Park. “It’s good to have a little time to get used to it before the playoffs.”

Van Hoose was running the Viscount Sonus 60 through some test riffs during the Nats’ low-stakes final game of the regular season Sunday. This was basic baseball organ-izing: a little of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” to goose a placid crowd during a visit to the mound.

But come Friday, he knows the mood will shift from the carnival calliope of regular games to the “Phantom of the Opera” drama of a post­season sell­out against the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. When 41,000 fans stand to shout “Charge!” at that classic stadium prompt, Van Hoose will be playing an organ of 41,000 pipes.

And just in time, the front office has equipped him with an instrument boasting considerably more musical muscle than the Hammond keyboard he was tickling before. This is an organ a guy can be proud of.

The Viscount was made to order in Mondaino, Italy; shipped to New York; tuned up in Harrisburg, Pa.; and, during the Nats’ final road trip, fitted in a former radio booth on the second floor of the press box high above home plate. Above the three tiers of keys are rows of tonal couplers (“tremolo,” “piccolo,” “vox humana,” etc.). Below are crescendo and swell pedals and, just off the floor, a fan of skinny pedal boards spreading out from Van Hoose’s busy feet. It is an instrument fit for an octopus.
Van Hoose musically responds to the action at Nationals Park on the new organ. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)
He uses his eyes, hands and feet when he plays. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

“I’m thrilled,” said Van Hoose, 46, who was dinking away at a kiddie keyboard when he got into baseball at age 3 in Norfolk. “It’s kind of like going from a plastic bat to a wooden bat.”

[Waiters, students and veterans belt out the national anthem for the home team]

The upgrade included a room of his own. Before, his portable keyboard was tucked into a corner of the control room with the crew that pumps sound effects and recorded music through the stadium speakers.

Now Van Hoose sits alone, following the prompts of DJ Daniel Zacharias through a video monitor and a headset. They take turns mixing sounds into the action, a sample of “The Price Is Right” uh-oh music when the Pirates’ first baseman drops a foul ball, a little polka ditty by Van Hoose for the crowd to clap to as Anthony Rendon steps out of the batter’s box.

“Rendon steps out a lot,” Van Hoose said, looking down at the field, his hands on the keys. “He gives you a lot of opportunities for prompts.”

Van Hoose’s bench is within leaning distance of the open window at his shoulder. If he were to start rockin’ it Ray Charles-style, you could imagine him pitching himself down to the club seats.

“I really feel like I’m in the park now,” he said as fan noise and fall air wafted in.

The team wouldn’t say what the instrument cost, only that the desire for a true stadium organ came from “the highest levels of the organization” and that they acquired it through a partnership with keyboard dealer Jordan Kitt’s Music, now “the official provider of pianos and organs for the Washington Nationals.” The same model is advertised for about $20,000 on European websites.

Nats owner Mark Lerner said his family has long wanted to pump up the pipes as part of the game-day soundtrack.

“My family has always valued the role of music in the overall experience of attending a baseball game,” Lerner said. “We have always wanted to upgrade our organ, and we are all so thrilled about this amazing instrument and how it will contribute to our fan experience.”

Organist Matthew Van Hoose plays the new instrument high above the crowd at Nationals Park. (Michael S. Williamson/The Washington Post)

Lerner’s 91-year-old father, principle owner Ted Lerner, was a Washington Senators fan back when Merv Conn played his electric accordion over the loudspeakers between innings.

“Ted is old enough to remember when they had marching bands at ball­parks,” said Phil Wood, a Washington baseball historian and commentator who has a picture of Conn on his office wall. “This is an ownership that cares about the traditions of the game.”

It can be hard to gauge whether younger fans, raised on walk-up music and video clips, feel the same thrill of an instrument so redolent of Cracker Jack and 50-cent beer. A brief survey of ticket holders Sunday suggests that many assume those quick organ takes on the “Mexican Hat Dance” and “Zorba the Greek” are just buttons on a synthesizer.

“I had no idea it was a real organ,” said Sadie Cohen, a fan from Fairfax at the game with her brother. “They should show him on the scoreboard.”

Wood said he settled a bet recently when a couple stopped him in the stadium. She thought the organ music was live; he thought it was canned.

Read more here

Jordan Kitt’s provides Yamaha CFX grand for Chick Corea performance

Jordan Kitt’s was chosen to supply the Yamaha CFX concert grand piano for the upcoming Chick Corea/Steve Gadd performance from Thursday, October 5th through Sunday, October 8th at Blues Alley in Washington, DC.

Here what artists have to say about the CFX:

Chick Corea and Steve Gadd’s musical partnership is the stuff of legend. But the music is always new. Since Gadd became the very first electric Return to Forever drummer (true story), these two have turned out one game-changing record after another: The Leprechaun, My Spanish Heart, Three Quartets and Friends. Now, co-leading a band for the first time, they pick it up where they left off, this time with young guns filling out the lineup: Lionel Loueke, the Benininan genius on guitar; Steve Wilson, Chick’s Origin protege, on sax and flute; the great Carlitos Del Puerto on bass; and Venezuelan master Luisito Quintero on percussion.

For tickets, visit here

Teenage pianist faces Harvey with courageous piano performance

HOUSTON (KTRK) —
In the aftermath of Harvey, heartbreaking tales of destruction and loss across Houston were countered by those of individuals and organizations that put their lives on hold to shelter, feed, and console the thousands that lost their homes, possessions, and sense of security.

Houston’s music scene was no different.

The video below, filmed during floods caused by the hurricane, profoundly captures a small experience of what many of the city’s professional and amateur musicians faced during and after the storm.

Ever see a robot play a piano?

Automatica – Robots vs. Music from musician Nigel Stanford is a follow up to 2015’s viral video, Cymatics – Science vs. Music which showcased a brand new synthesis of music, art and physics.

For this latest visualization, it explores how close we are to seeing AI robots performing instruments and blending in with normal human activity.

Stanford is seen rocking out with his KUKA robots, where the mechanical arms move with accuracy down to 0.03mm, and are programmed with a software called Robot Animator that allows them to strum a bass, scratch on a turntable, and tickle a synthesizer.

Stanford also shared, “I’m sure that in the future it will be possible for AI to write great music but it shouldn’t concern musicians or anyone else for that matters.”
Read more here