The inaugural concert for the Middleburg Music Fest International

Last week, The inaugural event for the Middleburg Music Fest International (MMFI), was held at the luxurious and sophisticated Salamander Resort & Spa in the beautiful horse and wine country of Middleburg, Virginia.

MMFI is a nonprofit performing arts initiative that seeks the preservation, awareness and promotion of classical, jazz and contemporary music – specifically those works that highlight the role of the piano as a solo performance instrument or as part of any assembled group of musical instruments.

Nikita Fitenko

The event commenced with a concert by internationally acclaimed pianists Nikita Fitenko and Katerina Zaitseva, with a wonderful program of piano solo and piano duo works including compositions by Rachmaninov, Tchaikovsky, Chopin, Medtner, Debussy, and more – all performed on the fabulous Bösendorfer 280 Concert Grand, normally housed at Strathmore Hall and supplied courtesy of Event Patron Jordan Kitt’s Music.

A special wine reception immediately followed the performance, presented by Event Patrons Greenhill Winery & Vineyards and Boxwood Winery.

For more information about the Middleburg Music Fest, contact the Jordan Kitt’s Music near you.

Jordan Kitt’s goes to Strathmore for Europe’s Finest Pianos Concert & Show

Two weeks ago, Jordan Kitt’s Music was proud to be a part of the largest European factory piano event in area history at Strathmore Mansion, featuring a unique collection of extremely rarte pianos from Bösendorfer or Steingraeber & Söhne.

A special performance by world renowned concert pianist Eric Himy played to a capacity crowd, followed by a show and sale event on Sunday. The event also included the the extraordinary Oscar Peterson Signature Edition Bösendorfer, a remarkable instrument capable of recreating “live” performances originally recorded by one of history’s greatest jazz pianists.

Boesendorfer piano

A unique sampling of pianos from this event are being hosted at area Jordan Kitt’s Music locations throughout the season. For specific model information, call (301) 770-9081 in Maryland, or (703) 573-6070 in Virginia.

Music therapy reduces depression in young people, study finds

Music therapy reduces depression in young people, study finds

Researchers from Queen's University Belfast, pictured, and Bournemouth University found young people, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music
Researchers from Queen’s University Belfast, pictured, and Bournemouth University found young people, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music

The largest ever study of music therapy’s effect on children with depression has found significant benefits.

Recipients, aged eight to 16, also enjoyed improved self-esteem compared with those who received treatment without music, researchers from Queen’s University Belfast and Bournemouth University found.

More than 250 took part and experts said it suggested the care should now be made available as a mainstream option.

Professor Sam Porter, from Bournemouth University, said: “This study is hugely significant in terms of determining effective treatments for children and young people with behavioural problems and mental health needs.”

The research found:

:: Young people aged 13 and over who received music therapy had improved communicative and interactive skills, compared to those given the usual care options alone.

:: Self-esteem was significantly boosted and depression lowered.

:: Even after music therapy had finished, social functioning improved long-term in all age groups.

:: However, most improvements tended to be modest and short lasting and there was a higher drop out rate of 38%.

T he findings were part of a Music in Mind study carried out in partnership with the Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust.

It concluded the results of the trial strongly indicated the need for further research to ascertain what type and dosage of music therapy was most effective, for whom and in what circumstances.

Mental ill health affects up to a fifth of children and adolescents worldwide, including social, emotional and behavioural problems. Adolescent depression and anxiety frequently co-occur and extend into adulthood, the report added.

The therapy used musical experiences within a patient/therapist relationship to achieve better health.

Dr Valerie Holmes, from the Centre for Public Health at Queen’s University and a co-researcher, said: “This is the largest study ever to be carried out looking at music therapy’s ability to help this very vulnerable group, and is further evidence of how Queen’s University is advancing knowledge and changing lives.”

A total of 251 children and young people were involved in the study, supported by the Big Lottery Fund, which took place between March 2011 and May 2014.

They were divided into two groups – 128 underwent the usual care options, while 123 were assigned to music therapy in addition to usual care. All were being treated for emotional, developmental or behavioural problems.

The Northern Ireland Music Therapy Trust said: ” The findings are dramatic and underscore the need for music therapy to be made available as a mainstream treatment option.

“For a long time we have relied on anecdotal evidence and small-scale research findings about how well music therapy works. Now we have robust clinical evidence to show its beneficial effects.”

Read the full article at the Belfast Telegraph here

Towson University Celebrates a new Bösendorfer with a concert this Thursday!

Join our friends at Towson University as they celebrate the arrival of their new Bösendorfer piano with a special concert event:

The New Music Ensemble at Towson University presents a concert of contemporary music celebrating the new Bösendorfer piano in the Department of Music:
Thursday, October 27th at 8:15pm
at the
Harold J. Kaplan Concert Hall,
Towson, MD

Yamaha Clavinova CVP-700 Series Digital Piano Review

Review: Yamaha Clavinova Ensemble CVP-700 Series
by Stephen Fortner via

AS THE NEWEST and most advanced of Yamaha’s Clavinova Ensemble family of digital pianos, the CVP-700 series combines two design goals. The first is to provide an utterly realistic experience for piano purists who tolerate no compromises in sound and keyboard action, but require such digital conveniences as freedom from tuning and the ability to turn down the volume. The second goal, that of creating a “keyboard as musical entertainment center,” involves providing a huge variety of sounds beyond those a piano can make, sophisticated automatic accompaniment that makes you a one-person band, a roster of easy-play and educational features, and more. Bottom line: These new Clavinova Ensembles hit both of these goals with such high marks that I might as well have just told you that the Tesla Model S is both a “green” car and a sports car. So let’s buckle up and drive.

Yamaha Clavinova CVP-701
Design and User Interface:

I spent several days with the new Clavinovas at Piedmont Piano Company, in Oakland, California, and at PianoForte, in Chicago. Four models ascend in price and number of features: the CVP-701, CVP-705, CVP-709, and CVP-709GP. The cabinets of the 701 and 705 are more like a traditional upright piano, while the 709 sports a contemporary “floating” design. The 709GP has a compact baby grand–style cabinet but is otherwise identical to the 709. If you don’t like long reads, here’s the review: These things rock. Buy the nicest model you can afford and start getting happy.

Still with me? Then let’s deal with the most important aspect of the user interface first: the black ‘n’ whites. All models feature fully weighted, graded actions — the keys’ resistance subtly decreases from heavier to lighter as you ascend the keyboard — with mechanical escapement simulation and textured, faux-ivory key surfaces. The GH3X action of the entry-level CVP-701 uses synthetic keys; all other models feature Yamaha’s Natural Wood X (NWX) action, which, as its name implies, has white keys made of real wood. Coming from a synth-and-organ background, I gravitated toward the feel of the 701, which I found to be a bit quicker for performance techniques such as glissandi and single-note “machine gun” trills à la Billy Joel. For pianistic realism, however, the upline models are indeed a bit better, with a finger-to-music connection that, when paired with the main piano sounds, provides an uncanny sense of real hammers striking real strings.

One quibble is that none of the CVP key actions sense aftertouch: pressure applied to a key after it’s been struck and held. (Their underlying sound engines, however, can receive it as a MIDI control message.) You could argue that anything this high-end should have aftertouch — as does Yamaha’s pro-oriented Tyros 5 arranger workstation, which has a lot in common with these Clavinovas. On the other hand, I can see the case that something altering the sound after you’ve struck a key might confuse many customers seeking a realistic acoustic-piano experience. There are other ways to add synthesizer-like effects such as pitch-bend or wah-wah, including the assignable buttons as well as the left and center pedals when they’re not doing una corda and sostenuto; and a ¼” input lets you plug in an extra switch or continuous pedal. Still, experienced players might like to add, say, vibrato to a string or horn sound by just digging into the key a bit harder.

The CVP-701 is the only model that lacks a touchscreen. This means that it actually has a busier front panel, with more physical buttons for things like sound and accompaniment selection, as well as “soft” buttons flanking the color display on three sides. On all other models, categories and subcategories of sounds and styles (acoustic vs. electric pianos, pipe vs. electric organs, different musical genres and subgenres, etc.) are neatly presented on the touchscreen. So are educational features, such as the score display and guide lights (more on these later), with physical buttons geared more toward things you’re likely always to need to reach for quickly: real-time control over your style variations, song recording and playback, and the like.

The CVP-709’s home screen shows the active accompaniment style, left-hand and two right-hand keyboard layers, keyboard split point, and active song. Across the bottom are icons accessing most-wanted functions, including chord modes, score and lyric display, and system menus. There’s always a learning curve to anything that offers the depth of features of the CVP-700 line, so it helps that the displays employ consistent graphical logic and hierarchy about which functions are a level “up” vs. “down,” where you are now vs. where you were a moment ago, and so forth. A hardware button always gets you back to the home screen, which displays an overview of the sounds, accompaniment styles, and, if applicable, the Song you’re currently using.

Before even touching the accompaniment styles or any other bells and whistles, the CVP-700 series lets you play three sounds live from the keyboard: one in the left-hand part and up to two in the right. Professional synth workstations may offer more key zones and flexibility in this regard, but this seems like the Goldilocks amount for a home console instrument of this sort. The left/right split point is adjustable, and you can set a separate split point for where the leftmost key zone begins to trigger chord changes for the auto-accompaniment.

The Piano Room button takes you to this screen, which puts a piano sound in a virtual acoustic space. The Piano Room button overrides any splits and layers and puts a concert grand Voice (you can opt for other keyboard instruments) across the whole key range. Visually, you can place this piano in an acoustic space such as a stage or cathedral, adjust the effect of lid position on the tone, and more. You can also choose from a curated list of accompaniment styles from inside the Piano Room.

The CVP-701 has a rolltop-desk keyboard cover; other models embed the display and controls in a hinged fallboard that has a soft-close mechanism to prevent slamming.

Here’s a brief glossary to help you understand the features and organization of the Clavinova CVP-700 series.

Voices: Yamaha’s term for a single sound; e.g., piano, violin, guitar, synth, etc.

Styles: Fully arranged automatic accompaniment setups spanning virtually every musical genre imaginable. They play multiple Voices (drums, bass, guitar, etc.) and follow your chord changes.

Variations: Four versions of the active Style, which you can switch in real time and which progress from minimal to busy.

One-Touch Settings: These quickly assign voices to the left- and right-hand keyboard parts, designed to sound good with the active Style.

Music Finder: A “one-stop shop” that sets up your Voices, Styles, and other settings based on names that are similar (but not identical) to actual songs. Such a name is called a Record, but you still need to play the chords and melody. Which brings us to . . .

Songs: Recording of real tunes from the real world, with chord changes, melody, arrangement, and orchestration. Most song files downloaded from yamaha can display the score and lyrics onscreen, as well as support Clavinova features such as . . .

Guide Mode: When working with a song, LEDs above the Clavinova’s keys show you which note to play next. What’s more, the instrument can wait for you to find the correct note before resuming playback.

Registrations: The highest level of organization, these save almost the entire state of the instrument, including your Voice, Style, active Song choices, and any tweaks you’ve made to default settings.

The CVP-700 series’ own demo mode proclaims that it’s a piano first and foremost, so let’s start there. Two main concert grand sample sets are the prima donnas: Yamaha CFX and Bösendorfer Imperial. Both of these are the basis of several Voices (Yamaha’s term for sounds), each of which has Natural and VRM versions. Natural refers to careful multi-mic sampling, to capture the sampled pianos’ nuances; VRM stands for Virtual Resonance Modeling, which adds a user-adjustable simulation of the sympathetic vibrations that occur inside an acoustic piano between undamped strings. You’ll likely hear a difference only when playing exposed solo passages without active accompaniment, but the attention to detail here is remarkable.

Suffice it to say that both sampled instruments sound incredibly true to their genuine acoustic counterparts, and beyond that, are the most detailed, realistic, and playable piano sounds I’ve heard in any digital instrument of this kind. The Yamaha CFX sounds clear and sweet; the Bösendorfer Imperial is more dense and woody. Any unwanted digital artifacts, such as audible sample looping and breaks between velocity layers, are either nonexistent or may as well be, note decays are sustained and natural, and key-release samples are present and adjustable.

Non-piano sounds in the CVP-700 series cover everything imaginable; I have room here to discuss only the highlights. In the electric piano section you’ll find various Rhodes, Wurlitzer, Clavinet (think Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”), DX7-era digital EPs (think “Law & Order”), and even the Yamaha CP electric grand of Peter Gabriel fame. All are excellent, with bark and attitude increasing as you play harder, and many include such added effects as chorus and phaser to cop an authentically vintage vibe.

The premium EP specimens are labeled as Cool, which is one of a handful of Voice Characteristic prefixes that flag something special. In this case, Cool means only that they’re the machine’s featured electric keyboard sounds, but marketing speak aside, these tags do have some meaning. Examples: Sweet is the prefix for acoustic instruments with sampled-in vibrato, while Live is for sounds sampled in stereo. One to look out for is S. Art, for Super Articulation. These add performance gestures on appropriate sounds, such as guitar slides, fall-offs or “shake” trills for a funky horn section, and the like. You can trigger these with key velocity, the left and center pedals, or, in some cases, by playing the keys legato instead of staccato. It takes a bit of practice to master, but can add a ton of realism to a performance.

In the organ banks, Voices tagged Organ Flutes provide authentic simulation of a classic tonewheel organ (e.g., a Hammond B-3) and rotating speaker (i.e., a Leslie). A dedicated screen offers full control over drawbars, rotary speed, and the signature ping of harmonic percussion. As a veteran Hammond enthusiast, I was surprised by how good this sounded, given that the CVP is not an organ-specialist keyboard. A plethora of gorgeous church and theater pipe organs are on hand as well, as are classic transistor organs of the 1960s.

Since the first Motif synthesizer debuted in 2001, I’ve felt that Yamaha keyboards slay any competition when it comes to guitar and bass sounds — acoustic or electric. They’ve reached a new pinnacle in the CVP-700 line, whether you’re after nylon or steel strings, punk or funk, understated upright or Seinfeld slap. Many of these sounds are enhanced by the aforementioned Super Articulation. With a little attention to how guitarists voice chords, utterly realistic performances are well within reach.

Bowed strings, brass, and woodwinds are likewise impeccable, with many variations encompassing both solo instruments and sections, not to mention plenty of Sweet and Super Articulation support — more of both from the CVP-705 up. Whether you want to play a melancholy cello solo, a dramatic Hollywood string swell, the horn hits from “Uptown Funk,” or anything in between, something will hit the target.

A selection of chorus and scat vocal presets offers a good deal of interest, with some of the latter actually going round-robin through different syllables with each successive note you play. For my tastes, these stray into “because you can” keyboard-demo territory, but there’s no questioning the care of the execution.

Synthesizer Voices are seemingly bottomless in their variety: retro analog leads and basses, 1980s-like evolving digital soundscapes with lots of internal animation, Prince-style stabs and comping sounds, lush pads, and far too much more to list. I come from a multi-keyboard and cover-band background, and I’d proudly use most of these sounds on any gig where I’d normally bring a high-end professional synth like a Yamaha Montage or Kurzweil Forte — they’re simply that good. More important for the potential Clavinova buyer is that when learning popular songs at home, it’s a lot more engaging if you can not only play the correct notes but also actually sound like the record. For that, the CVPs offer an incredible sonic toolbox.

User editing of Voices is pretty basic, covering things like vibrato, brightness, harmonic content (aka filter cutoff and resonance), and application of effects. To be fair, that’s a synth player’s complaint; this will be a non-issue for 99.9% of home digital piano seekers.

Acoustic and electronic drum kits, as well as Latin and World percussion, deserve high praise, but as it’s chiefly the accompaniment section that will be playing these sounds, let’s go there.
Accompaniment Styles

Auto-accompaniment has its roots in the home organs of the 1970s and early ’80s, including Yamaha’s own Electone line, and the Lowrey Cotillion, which Australian pop star Gotye serenaded in “State of the Art.” Today it shows up in all kinds of keyboards, beginning with simple rhythms in sub-$100 portables. An “arranger” is a keyboard that offers multi-instrument orchestration, chord recognition, and real-time control of accompaniment behavior, essentially turning your left hand into a bandleader. The CVP-700 series builds in the most advanced, realistic, and musically diverse arranger features on the planet, bar none. This is in part because the accompaniment is using the same excellent sounds you play on the keys, with the CVP-709 and 709GP adding a handful of Audio Styles that incorporate real audio recordings of ace session players serving up things like rhythm guitar parts.

The Style Control section is your command center. Within a single style, you can switch among four main variations, which get progressively more “busy” as you go. This is musically useful — for example, you might like the third chorus of a tune to deliver more emotion than the first and second. You get three similarly progressive variations for intros, another three for endings, optional drum fills if you switch variations, a manual “break” (usually one bar long), and the ability to have the accompaniment start or stop in sync with your touching the keys. Of course, you can set whether a variation change happens the instant you hit the button or waits for the next bar to come around.

This is all pretty standard arranger fare. What makes the Clavinova CVP-700 series stand out is the sheer quality and musicality of the styles themselves. The most recently crafted and therefore most sophisticated factory styles are flagged by the prefixes Pro and Session, and you get more of each kind as you climb the CVP models. Even the legacy material is solid, but the newer stuff sounds more than ever as if there’s a real band in the room with you.

While playing the CVP-709, my favorite was “70s Scat Legend,” which all but convinced me that Yamaha had trapped Tower of Power inside the machine. Jazz styles range from understated grooves evocative of organ trios to classic bebop to raucous hard bop. Big-band styles passed muster with some swing dancer friends I tried them on (believe me, they’re picky), many making good use of those buttery “String of Pearls”–style sax sections.

Though I don’t expect to see a CVP take center stage at Burning Man, I was pleasantly surprised by the variety and credibility of the electronic dance music styles. EDM culture is fickle, and subgenres go in and out of vogue quickly, but there’s something here for everyone, and all of it is serviceable.

Lest I let you think that everything is more or less rock-band instrumentation, still more styles are devoted to classical music and piano-centric accompaniment. Likewise, World styles range from familiar Latin montunos to Jobim-esque bossas to recognizably Asian or Middle Eastern to things so esoteric you’d need to be an ethnomusicologist (or from the actual region) to fully understand them. Yamaha’s programmers have really done their homework.

The point of auto-accompaniment is not to merely follow your chord changes, but to do it well. Musicians who’ve used budget or older arranger keyboards know it can be easy to throw your virtual players a curve that makes them clam for a beat or so. The CVP-700 line all but eliminates this problem. There’s still a technique to “calling” smooth changes, involving the left hand moving ever so slightly ahead of the beat, but my confidence on the CVPs was at an all-time high, even though I’m not a regular arranger player.

A huge part of what helps here are the various chord-recognition modes: fully fingered, as well as easy options that let you trigger a major chord with one finger, add a key to make it a minor or seventh, and so on. Another mode always treats the lowest note held as the bass. Even slicker, a couple of AI modes work contextually, factoring in the chords you’ve played to judge where you’re going. I mostly stuck to the regular full-fingered mode, and the Clavinovas were generally spot-on at interpreting my intentions. Neither triad inversions nor chords thick with jazz extensions gave them any trouble, even at fast tempos.

Rounding out the accompaniment features are the four One-Touch Settings, which grab pre-selected left- and right-hand Voices for playing over the active style. A link button locks these to the four main style variations, letting you go from an organ solo over your first verse to a guitar solo over your chorus, and so on. You can change the default Voices and save your edited style in user memory.

If you can’t find the perfect style among the Clavinova’s phonebook-thick options, the Style Creator offers extensive facilities for rolling your own. Here, you can assign Voices to parts, set the time signature and groove/swing amount, and more. Styles can be assembled by mixing and matching chunks of other styles (intros, variations, etc.), or you can play-in every detail of your custom style to a metronome. For fine-grained tweaking, there’s even a full-featured MIDI event list editor. Importing of MIDI and SFF (Style File Format) files is also supported. Perhaps only a fraction of Clavinova buyers will ever dig this deep, but this kind of customizability is on a par with studio-class synth workstations, and it’s nice to know it’s there.
Song and Education Features

For starters, the CVP-700 models can capture everything to an inserted USB stick — what your fingers play, what the accompaniment styles play, even audio from a connected mic or line-level source — as a stereo audio file (WAV on the CVP-701, WAV or MP3 on the other models). They can also capture all keyboard parts as multi-track MIDI data, which you can then edit onboard or in your computer. If you use Style playback in your song, the Style’s parts are automatically recorded to MIDI channels 9 through 16. If so inclined, you can also play-in every track manually, choosing your Voices as you go. An event-based editor works like the one in the Style Creator.

For singing along, you can apply (and record) effects such as reverb to your vocal, including harmonies the Clavinova will generate. Different harmony presets (number of background singers, musical style, etc.) track your chord changes just like the accompaniment Styles. The quality of these harmonies is on a par with dedicated vocal processors from companies like TC-Helicon.

Those aren’t uncommon features in higher-end arrangers. What distinguishes the CVP-700s is how they can teach you to play. The CVP-701 comes preloaded with 65 songs, the other models with 124, and thanks to Yamaha’s partnership with publisher Hal Leonard, you can download more titles from a huge library at Those optimized for the Clavinova (the website makes this obvious with a “Choose Your Instrument” menu) support its learning features. No other keyboard maker has this vast an ecosystem of content.

Learn any song by following the bouncing ball on the score display. The Clavinova will even wait for you to find the right note. These features include a strip of LEDs above the keys that show you the next notes to play, and a nifty sheet-music display on which you literally follow the bouncing ball. You can set this up to show just the right-hand melody, the grand staff, chord symbols, and/or lyrics for songs that have them. Most important, in what’s called Guide Mode, the Clavinova will stop the song/accompaniment playback if you make a mistake, and resume when you find the right notes. This can be made even more forgiving with the Any Key mode, which tracks rhythm but not melody, and the Your Tempo mode, which tracks you in rubato fashion if you need to slow down and think. Karao-key mode advances the song based on mic input and any key press, and is meant for singing along.

I can’t over-emphasize how well all of this works. Sure, it’ll keep your seven-year-old focused on “Für Elise,” but I’ve used Guide Mode to woodshed cover tunes for gigs I took in spite of having too little prep time, and it’s been a lifesaver.

Related to but distinct from songs is the Music Finder, long a Yamaha staple. In the Music Finder, Records are presets that call up a Voice-and-accompaniment package for playing “in the style of” popular songs — complete with names that suggest the originals without infringing on their copyrights.

The USA Edition content package for CVP-700 series keyboards sold in the U.S. adds licensed Music Finder Records for an accompanying Best Songs Ever songbook, a Style Guide that uses those tunes to teach you how to work the Style Control section like a pro, interactive tutorials narrated by a human voice, and more.

Every model but the CVP-701 has an old-school VGA output for mirroring the display (or a lyrics-only karaoke scroll) to an external monitor. I’d like to see a more up-to-date connector used here, but there are always adapters.

Yamaha Clavinova CVP-709GP
More Features

Even on the entry-level CVP-701, the onboard stereo speakers are loud and clean enough to be heard over a roomful of guests, and don’t get crispy at high volumes. This gets only better as you ascend the line, the 705 adding a more powerful two-way system and the 709 and 709GP going three-way plus subwoofers. All models offer ¼” stereo output jacks for connection to an external sound system.

Just a couple of menu levels deep is an extensive mixing console providing volume, effects send, and stereo panning control over every part, with separate pages for your live keyboard Voices, all the Style tracks, all the song tracks, and so on. Audio effects are generous and high-quality, with graphical interfaces that bring up a suite of plug-ins for professional recording software.

All CVP-700 models can stream audio files from a USB drive and, for karaoke or practice, pitch-shift the audio into your vocal range and “cancel” the pre-recorded vocal. Sometimes the effect isn’t total, and unlike MIDI, the more you transpose real-time audio, the weirder it may sound. Still, this is heavy-hitting processing, especially for a home instrument.

With the exception of a few global system settings, anything that can be edited or changed can be saved in user memory without affecting the factory defaults. There are section-specific user areas for things like Voices, Styles, and Songs, but the most comprehensive memory slots are the Registrations. These essentially save everything about the current state of the machine, including any setting tweaks you’ve made about the mix, what the pedals do, and so on. If you’re entertaining an audience all night and have done a lot of custom prep work, one Registration per tune on your set list is the way to go.

The control panel on the CVP-709 allows most settings to be edited and saved to memory.


As long as this review is, I’ve only scratched the surface of the Clavinova CVP-700 series. Overall, they are, hands down, the best-sounding, most feature-rich, most technologically advanced instruments of their kind. While this is truest of the top-of-range CVP-709, the 701 gets a special nod as the sleeper value of the bunch. It offers most of what matters about its siblings — the smallish non-touch screen is the most visible compromise — for a lot less money than any of them.

As for the competition, your needs will determine whether there is or isn’t any. If all of the CVP-700s are beyond your budget, Yamaha’s Clavinova CLP line offers various options for a more traditional but still excellent “console” digital piano; the Casio Celviano family does a great job here at even lower prices. More upmarket, I love Blüthner digitals for their pure piano sound and daring design, but they can’t touch the Clavinovas for non-piano sounds, accompaniment, or educational features. If you want the same Yamaha CFX concert grand sound as in the new CVP line, but in a “straight” digital piano that visitors will swear is an acoustic upright, the Yamaha NU1 punches way above its price. All that said, if you need one instrument that provides both the pianistic excellence that will please traditionally inclined performers, students, educators, and parents, as well as enough electronic coaching and downright fun factor to keep beginners and casual players interested, the Clavinova Ensemble CVP-700 family simply has no peer.

Stephen Fortner has been a keyboardist since early childhood, and has played professionally since age 14. He was technical editor of Keyboard magazine from 2006 to 2009, its editor in chief from 2009 through 2015, and remains a regular contributor. He has since founded Fortner Media, a content and strategy firm serving the musical-instrument and consumer-technology industries. He can be reached at or see the original article here.

For more information or to see, hear and play one at Jordan Kitt’s Music, go here…

It’s important to tune your piano…

Any piano not properly cared for can still be put to a lot of good uses, but not necessarily the focal point of warmth and beauty in your home that you originally intended.

Every acoustic piano has thousands of moving parts, some of which directly collide with each other in an incredibly precise environment held in place by enormous pressure.

Small, unattended variances over time can create increasingly larger problems that can degrade a piano’s tone, touch and performance in such a way that might not even recognize how great it used to sound when it was properly tuned and regulated.

Make sure you keep it healthy with a tuning today from Jordan Kitt’s Music, keeping pianos sounding great for over a hundred years.

Find out more here!

Music therapy helps children, families cope with illness


Nine-year-old Hannah Gorham loves to sing.

She loves Carrie Underwood and reading Fancy Nancy books, and she adores Bear-y, the tattered stuffed animal blanket she has had since birth.

Her hero is Calysta Bevier, the 16-year-old ovarian cancer survivor from Hannah’s hometown of Grand Rapids, Ohio, who advanced to the semi-finals on the popular NBC show America’s Got Talent.

And Hannah’s therapeutic savior might just be music.

In ProMedica Toledo Children’s Hospital since Aug. 31 for severe migraines, Hannah was introduced recently to music therapy, a growing practice for hospitalized children and those with developmental or physical disabilities.

Operated through the hospital’s Child Life program, music therapy helps children and their families cope with stresses related to a child’s illness and the adjustment of a hospital stay. David Putano, a music therapist who owns a private practice in Toledo, visits children like Hannah at the hospital for weekly one-on-one musical sessions.

“When you expose people to music they love, the feeling of success, of hopefulness, reminds them of things they love,” Mr. Putano said. “At a hospital, we sometimes get away from things at home that we love, things that are beautiful.”

On this particular Friday, surrounded by stuffed tigers, monkeys, and dolls, Hannah, a quiet, petite blonde with glasses, finds her place on the keyboard and joins Mr. Putano in making music. The pair first coordinate musical notes to a preprogrammed rhythm (this, time, they choose one reminiscent of an epic space movie; Mr. Putano often uses movie references to get students in the right creative frame of mind). As Mr. Putano plays the guitar, Hannah finds her happy place on the keyboard and joins in.

“OK, start going slower, we are going to sneak up on the ending,” Mr. Putano prompts. “When I count to three, you play one more note.”

Twice, the session is interrupted so that Hannah can take medication. Then, it’s back to the beat.

Hannah watches intently as Mr. Putano searches for the perfect hip-hop beat on the keyboard. She clutches Bear-y as he explains to the young girl that there are 12 notes in music and helps her find the A note on the keyboard.

“Play whatever you want … Atta girl!” he encourages.

“You can tell when someone is really wired for music. You do really well,” he says to his tiny student as they finish up.

She smiles. Quietly.

“My favorite part was doing this with David. It made me happy,” Hannah said after the lesson. “It feels good.”

Soothing the soul

Hannah was diagnosed two years ago with Chiari malformation, a congenital defect in which part of the skull at the back of the head is too small for the brain.

“She started stuttering; she would trip over things and there would be nothing there,” said her grandfather, Rick Tolles, also of Grand Rapids.

Her mother, Heather Gorham, was optimistic that music therapy would help.

“Heck, it’s worth a shot. All of this medication is hard on her little body, but if something like this would work, that would be fantastic,” she said.

The young girl had been getting migraines for about a year, but a week into fourth grade, they became severe, Mr. Tolles said. Now, when she gets a migraine, Hannah runs to her grandfather and hides in the crook of his arm to shield herself from the light.

“I think the biggest thing is the music. It makes her rest easier — I can get her to close her eyes,” he said. “I haven’t found much else that helps.”

Music is considered to be a primary cognitive experience, meaning as human beings, we have no control over the emotions we feel when we experience it, Mr. Putano said.

“If we can identify music that a patient loves, music they have positive associations with … if we can engage them in playing music that they really like a lot, we can instantly have them experience those positive emotions,” he said.

Music versus medicine

Researchers have found that music therapy provides a diversion from negative feelings and helps manage the pain of not only adults but of children with developmental, physical, behavioral, and neurological disabilities, said Al Bumanis, a certified music therapist and now the spokesman for the American Music Therapy Association. Continued research with music shows effects on the subjects’ vital signs: blood pressure goes down, the heart rate slows, body temperature goes up; it calms and relaxes but also motivates.

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Piano music raising the bar at elementary school

Via CBS News

These days, as Michelle Miller is about to show us. thousands of elementary school students are hitting all the right notes:

The Mary McLeod Bethune Elementary School sits in a New Orleans neighborhood stressed by violence, poverty and the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina. But don’t tell that to the music teacher.

“Ooh, everybody has such a beautiful smile this morning! Good Morning!”

Pat Sylvain-Little’s music class is a world apart. And she says there’s a lot more going on here than just a piano lesson.

“It’s something about the keyboard,” Sylvain-Little told Miller. “You have so many things you have to do at once. You’re playing with two hands. You’re trying to read the music. You’re trying to count the rhythms, all at the same time. And what researchers have found is that it sparks the brain.”

Sparking the brain of a child is what motivated Lisha Lercari to create this course that’s now being taught in 14 schools in New Orleans, and 130 in New York City.

Lercari is a music teacher on a mission.

“I think children need to read music,” Lercari said. “I want to raise the bar high for them. I want them to be thinking beings while they’re playing and not just play it. It’s making it a process of thinking about it. It’s a process of using their brains.”

The education program Music and the Brain aims to instruct young people far beyond the rudiments of music.

CBS News

In 1996, Lercari read a Newsweek cover story about children’s brains and how they develop; how exposure to music rewires neural circuits; how, in one experiment, music lessons improved the abstract reasoning of preschoolers.

She then spoke to scientists and researchers, and asked herself: How could she translate what was happening in laboratories back into the real world?

Miller asked, “Why is this necessary?”

“It’s necessary because children don’t have music in their lives,” Lercari replied. “But it’s also necessary because of what it does in other areas of education. We have seen their literacy improve, we’ve seen their language skills in other ways improve. Music sticks. It enhances memory skills. It helps with attention. It helps them focus.”

Decades of budget cutbacks had led to the gutting of art and music classes, so Lercari got funding from various foundations, devised her own program, and called it “Music and the Brain.”

“You’re doing it. Very good job! I love it. You’re doing a great job. Keep up that singing!”

At PS 71 in Queens, New York, Claire McIntire has been teaching the course for 12 years, mostly to kindergarteners and first- and second-graders.

“I don’t want to be a music teacher where it’s taught like ‘drill and skill,’” she told Miller. “Like, ‘Let’s go. You gotta do it again! Again!’ and make it boring.

“When the kids come in the room, I want them to walk in with a smile. I want them to leave with a smile. I want them to feel good about it. Mistakes happen every day, and I want them to know that’s OK.”

Most schools discover the program through word of mouth. And when they do, Lercari arrives bearing gifts: “Keyboard lab with piano, music stands, and keyboard stands and headphones, piano books, teachers’ manuals, theory papers, posters that go along with every page of every book, CDs that are instructional, and CDs that are for fun listening, and rhythm CDs as well.”

Here’s how it works: Students first sing the melodies — classical, world, folk and children’s songs.

Next, they learn the rhythms. Then, the notes. Along the way, teachers add the history, geography and languages associated with the music.

And finally, practice at the keyboard. One or two times a week, 30 to 45 minutes at a time.

Miller asked, “Can anybody teach this?”

“Yeah, if they’re willing to work at it!” Lercari laughed. “I would say the only people who can’t teach this are people who probably shouldn’t be teaching at all.”

Lercari is in constant contact with her music teachers. If a technique works in one classroom, she believes it will work in another. But in all the schools, the key is finding teachers who care as deeply as she does — teachers like Pat Sylvain-Little.

“Pat is one of the most beautiful teachers I’ve ever worked with,” Lercari said. “So many kids in New Orleans need a way out of ‘No Way.’ And she makes sure they find it. Nobody fails in her hands.

“I can tell you she saw every child every day. And we watched the ranking of this school go straight up. Her kids can do anything.”

Sylvain-Little says, if it weren’t for these classes, most of her students would never play the piano … let alone have one at home.

“Parents will say, ‘I didn’t even know my child was studying the piano,” she said. “I have some children that have told me, ‘I practice on the kitchen table.’ You know, they sing the letters and go through the music. And so a keyboard is wonderful, but if you don’t have it, it doesn’t stop you.”

Claire McIntire said, “A lot of the parents will come to me and they’ll say during parent-teacher conferences, they’ll ask me, ‘Miss McIntire, should I buy a keyboard?’ And I always tell them, ‘Listen, it’s better than video games. It’s better than watching TV. And your child really loves it. So why not?’”

Lercari plans to expand Music and the Brain into many more schools.

She’s ready for battle.

Read more here
Or find out about education programs here

Science: Music makes beer taste better

Music can influence how much you like the taste of beer, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology.

Their findings suggest that a range of multisensory information, such as sound, sensation, shape and color, can influence the way we perceive taste.

The Brussels Beer Project collaborated with UK band The Editors to produce a porter-style beer that took inspiration from the musical and visual identity of the band.

The ale had a medium body and used an Earl Grey infusion that produced citrus notes, contrasting with the malty, chocolate flavors from the mix of grains used in production. This taste profile was designed to broadly correspond to The Editors latest album, ‘In Dreams’.

Then, a team of researchers led by Dr. Felipe Reinoso Cavalho, from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and KU Leuven, designed an experiment to see if the influence of music and packaging design would result in a more positive tasting experience.

They invited 231 drinkers to experience the beer in three different conditions.

The first served as a control group and drank the beer along with a bottle without a label. In this case, they didn’t listen to any specific song.

The second group, testing the influence of packaging, tasted the beer after seeing the bottle with the label.

The third group drank the beer presented with the label while listening to ‘Oceans of Light’, one of the songs on the band’s latest album which the beer was created to reflect.

Before the test the participants rated how tasty they thought the beer might be. Then after tasting they rated how much they had actually enjoyed the drink.

The results showed that those presented with the label and track reported both greater enjoyment than those presented with the beer and label alone.

Filipe said: “We have been able to see that people tend to feel more pleasure when experiencing beverages along with sounds that are part of the beverage’s identity.

“In this case, we have shown that people that previously knew the song that was used in the experiment, not only liked the multisensory experience of drinking beer more while listening to it, but they also liked the beer itself more.

“It seems that the added pleasure that the song brought into the experience was transferred into the beer’s flavor.”

Speaking about the next steps for this research Felipe said: “We want to keep assessing how sounds can modulate perceived flavor attributes of food and beverages, such as bitterness, sweetness, sourness and creaminess.

“We also want to understand how sounds can influence our decision making process, in order to see if different sounds could, for example, lead people towards healthier food choices.”

Research into the interaction of different sensory information on taste has opened up the way for food and beverage retailers to create a range of novel eating and drinking experiences.

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