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Thomas J. West Music

Live webcam private music lessons, music education articles, compositions, clinician services, reviews

Video Gallery

The following videos were created by Tom and hosted on YouTube. There are a variety of videos here showcasing Tom's music compositions as well as providing music practice tips for both teachers and students.

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  • Great Performances: Symphony of Science ...
    by ★ Owner on August 29, 2013 at 9:19 PM
    1133 Views - 0 Comments

    John D. Boswell is one of my favorite 21st Century music artists. He specializes in taking recorded speech and turning into singing using pitch correction software, then building musical accompaniments around the melodies he has created. His work for PBS has garnered much attention, creating songs featuring public television icons Fred RogersBob Ross, Julia Childs, and LeVar Burton.

    My favorite work of his, however, is his ongoing series entitled Symphony of Science. Boswell takes presesntations by notes quantum physicists and astronomers such as Stephen Hawking. The result is a song exploring the mystery and grandeur of our universe. His newest release is a song depicting the awesome mystery and power of black holes. Enjoy.

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  • I Can't Wait To Get Back To School - Sai...
    by ★ Owner on August 20, 2013 at 10:21 PM
    1219 Views - 0 Comments

    As the states scramble to get all of their programs in line with the Federal hoops to jump through to receive flexible benchmarks for the NCLB 100% proficiency cap of 2014, more and more teachers are just getting plain fed up with the profession. There's less time and less money to do their job with, and more and more emphasis placed on standardized testing that doesn't work.

    But, in all of these negatives, a bit of levity is always needed.

    A fellow band director posted this video on Facebook, and for those of us in the profession, it's just too good not to share. The title of this video is "...Said No Teacher Ever", so keep in mind that every statement made by these two gentlemen is the exact opposite of what teachers typically gripe about.

    Teachers, have a few laughs, then go right back to doing what we do best: doing what's right for our students no matter what anyone says.

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  • Neil Gaiman's Commencement Speech 2012: ...
    by ★ Owner on August 20, 2013 at 9:41 PM
    1024 Views - 0 Comments

    Freelance author Neil Gaiman's commencement speech at The University of the Arts in Philadelphia is a testment to education in the 21st century. The old rules no longer apply. Each of us is in charge of our destiny in ways that our parents could never have envisioned. It truly is a time where, with persistence and the willingness to fail, we can discover what we love to do and go out there and do it for a living.

    "When life goes wrong," Gaiman states, "make good art. Husband runs off with a politician? Make good art. Leg crushed and then eaten by a mutant boa constrictor? Make good art.... someone on the internet thinks what you're doing is stupid or evil or it's all been done before? Make good art." 

    His commencement speech highlights what truly are the new rules of the game: love what you do, and do it a lot. Share it with those who will listen.

    Enjoy all 19 minutes of this excellent speech.

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  • Great Performances: James Hill Plays Uku...
    by ★ Owner on August 12, 2013 at 10:03 PM
    1025 Views - 0 Comments

    A friend of mine posted this video on my Facebook wall, knowing full well I wouldn't be able to resist posting it on my website. I am always on the lookout for people doing innovative things in music performance, and this is definitely unique. It's probably not an innovation that will revolutionize - well... anything, but it is still entertaining, to say the least. There really is no limit to the human capacity for exploration and curiosity, and no limit to the musician's search for the next new cool sound.

    James Hill is a Canadian ukulele wizard who specializes in mixing styles, genres, and sounds. This video is a cell phone shot from the audience at a show in Felton, California in 2011. The audience clamors for an encore, and he gives them a unique one: ukulele played using a pair of chopsticks and a comb. There's quite a lot of lead-in (he starts playing around the 3:50 mark), but his explanation of what he's doing, full of improvised quips, is worth watching. 

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  • Beardyman And The Ultimate Music Looping...
    by ★ Owner on August 3, 2013 at 9:05 AM
    1323 Views - 0 Comments

    I always enjoy catching a random TED Talk as they fly by my newsfeed. I have covered several of them on my blog in the past, most notably those by Ken Robinson on creativity and the education system.

    Today, a new TED Talk delivered by a beatboxer known as Beardyman crossed my path. If you follow any musical artists that are not mainstream, you have probably seen and heard looping artists such as Kimbra and Julia Easterlin by now. They use a looping station and an iPad, Ableton, or similar technology to record short loops of their voices, layering them into a beat, bass line, pad, background vocals, and finally singing the words to the lead on top of it all. POSTYR Project from Denmark accomplishes similar effects with a 5-voice vocal group. These artists are creating amazing pieces of music live on the spot. It's part improvisation, part composition, part performance art.

    Up until now, the nature of looping technology has made it such that the music created is extremely repetitive. Performers can turn on and off layers of sound and add effects to the loops to change their quality over time, but the music remains fairly simple in form, sharing much with the exploding genre of club/electronica music invading the laptops and tablets of America's youth, Beardyman, however, has taken live looping to the next level. His live performance rig, amusingly dubbed the Beardytron, combines looping gear and tablet controls with full 88-key midi controllers, making it not only possible for him to record and alter his voice in unpredictable ways, but also use his vocal sounds as a sound patch to perform any harmony imaginable on the keyboard.

    Gone are the limitations of looping with this new approach. Beardyman, in a very practiced and impressive fashion, seemlessly multi-tasks behind the controls as he records sounds into a headset mic while patching them in and performing sounds on the keyboard. The result is music that is part club mix, part ambient new age music, and definitely interesting. Here is Beardyman's TED Talk. Be sure to stick around for the last 3 minutes when he gets into the ambient sound demonstration.
    What Beardyman has done is basically set musical creativity into overdrive. It is now possible to take musical ideas straight from the mind and perform them in real time with only the limitations of the technology and the human's ability to process and execute the ideas holding them back. Beardyman is to live music composition what John Coltrane is to live jazz improvisation - reaching the limits of what the human brain is capable of in real time performance.

    In browsing Beardyman's website, his live show centers around the theme of "1 Album Per Hour" where he takes suggestions from the audience on topics and then creates original songs on the spot, including his own improvised rhymes. (Warning: much of his content is NSFW). He has an assitant off stage who is scouring the internet for images to throw up on a projector behind him, mixing the images with live feeds from several cameras. This is truly 21st century performance art in action.

    Performers such as these are pushing the boundaries of what we think of as music. It gives me pause to think about ways that we could possibly combine the best of the organic ensemble music-making of our heritage in choir, orchestra, and band performance with the digital capabilities of today's technology. I think that Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir is the closest thing we have so far to a blending of the very emotional and interpersonal qualities of a vocal choir and the capabilities of modern technology.

    There is so much depth and nuance to our traditional forms of music-making. Wind bands, orchestras, and choirs have a firm place in our educational system, and for good reason - those forms of expression lend themselves to music as a field of study intellectually. There is much to be gained by incorporating modern technology into this mix. After all, at one point in our history, the clarinet was a new invention. Being able to manipulate the organic sounds of a music ensemble with live looping technology, or producing an album of music composed with these capabilities in mind. Is this on anyone's radar?

    This article (c) 2013 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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  • Great Performances: Electric Guitar Perf...
    by ★ Owner on July 30, 2013 at 3:49 PM
    1172 Views - 0 Comments

    Here again is another example of what happens when a young person finds what they have a high aptitude for early on and devotes their time and energy on mastering the skills of music performance. This YouTube video, posted less that 24 hours ago, already has over 5,000 plus views and has been picked up by Lifehacker and other sites.

    Fourteen-year-old "Tina S.", a student of Renaud Louis-Servais, performs a cover of Patrick Rondat's guitar adaptation of the Presto movement of Vivaldi's "Summer". The performance speaks for itself. Pick it up on iTunes here.

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  • Great Performances: Eric Whitacre's Virt...
    by ★ Owner on July 17, 2013 at 11:23 AM
    1160 Views - 0 Comments

    Virtual Choir 4
    Eric Whitacre Virtual Choir

    I took a few moments out of my continued preparations for this weekend's VoCALnation festival to finally watch Eric Whitacre's newest Virtual Choir offering. I have featured his previous three installments on my site in the past, and was expecting another great effort. My expectations were totally shattered and I sat transfixed by Whitacre's video for his original composition Fly to Paradise.

    The numbers are staggering: 8,409 VIDEOS FEATURING 5,905 SINGERS FROM 101 COUNTRIES. What else could you do with them but build a city? The sheer amount of work that goes into sorting those videos, let alone compile them, lift the audio tracks, edit, mix, and master each of them is nothing short of mind-boggling. The computer-animated angel in the video strikes me as a bit early-two-thousands-ish, but the cityscape and the images of the featured soprano soloists on billboards is humbling.

    The song itself, in typical Whitacre fashion, features lush chords crafted with emotional direction and aesthetic beauty. Choir purists will balk at the electronica accompaniment, but Whitacre and his team (including a cappella community member Peter Hollens, who supplied the guide tracks and recorded his own performances) have produced true 21st century art with this video. It transcends the first three virtual choirs and elevates the choral art form into a place among and above the vast ocean of quarter-inch-deep, overproduced electronica, dubstep, and club music.

    Now the only question is, how do they top themselves next time?

    Fly Me to Paradise is available on iTunes, Amazon, and Spotify worldwide. Visit the VC4 YouTube page for links. Enjoy this stirring video.

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  • Great Performances: The Real Group Pass ...
    by ★ Owner on June 12, 2013 at 8:26 AM
    1186 Views - 0 Comments

    This has been a week of YouTube magic! This is my third "Great Performances" post in a row, because the amazing performances just keep on coming.

    The Real Group is back with their second video from their "Sodermalm Sessions" live recordings. Yep, that's right - this is from a live recording. Yes, there is post production clean-up and some camera editing, but the precision and artistry of The Real Group is hard to fathom. Attending one of their live shows is definitely on my "to do" list. Enjoy.

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  • Great Performances: Philadelphia Orchest...
    by ★ Owner on June 10, 2013 at 8:47 PM
    1139 Views - 0 Comments

    When a group from The Philadelphia Orchestra found itself delayed on the tarmac for three hours waiting for their flight from Beijing to Macao as part of the 2013 Residency & Fortieth Anniversary Tour of China, a quartet of musicians decided to provide a "pop up" performance for the passengers.


    Juliette Kang, violin

    Daniel Han, violin

    Che-Hung Chen, viola

    Yumi Kendall, cello

    The piece is the final movement of the "American" string quartet by Antonin Dvorak

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  • Great Performances: Cluster Vocal Sings ...
    by ★ Owner on May 17, 2013 at 2:33 PM
    1341 Views - 0 Comments

    I've been a big fan of Italian a cappella group CLUSTER since I saw them live at VoCALnation in 2012, and their new single just hit YouTube and iTunes today. It's a cover of Italian band Matia Bazar's hit song "Ti Sento". Cluster brings their own style to this tune with jazz harmonies, a deeper groove, and a vocal guitar solo. I'm looking forward to the upcoming albums (that's with an "s") that Cluster is currently working on.

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  • Great Performances: The Real Group Perfo...
    by ★ Owner on May 10, 2013 at 7:56 AM
    1338 Views - 0 Comments

    I am a big fan of vocal jazz, especially unaccompanied vocal jazz. My all-time favorite vocal group is and will always be The Singers Unlimited. Among their many jaw-dropping recordings, one of my favorites is this rendition of the 1947 song "Nature Boy" written by Eden Abhez and made famous by Nat King Cole.

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    The Singers Unlimited were one of the most influential groups in American history, and yet they fly under the radar for so many people who consider themselves vocal music fans. One of the many groups that The Singers Unlimited has influenced in measurable ways are Sweeden's perennial vocal jazz artists The Real Group. They have been touring the world for over 28 years and continue to deliver the kind of jaw-dropping harmony that began with the overdubbing vocal masterworks of Gene Puerling.

    Here is a new recording of The Real Group performing their own arrangement of "Nature Boy" for a live audience. The precision of intonation and artistry of this recording, especially in a live setting, is nothing short of amazing. While there certainly were post-performance adjustments and mixing made to the video, none of that takes away from this performance. In fact, it enhances it.

    "Nature Boy" is one of my most favorite songs. There is something about its melancholy words, chromatic melody, and underlying harmony that makes the main message of the lyrics that much more poignant. It's as if the song's statement of wisdom, which is "The greatest thing you'll ever learn in just to love and be loved in return", was discovered by the boy through many personal trials and tribulations despite his youth.

    I hope you take a moment to put on some headphones or go to a quiet space to listen to both The Singers Unlimited version and this new recording.

    This article (c) 2013 Thomas J. West. All content on ThomasJWestMusic dot com is licensed under a Creative Contributions Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 License. Please contact the author before publishing on or off-line.

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  • Great Performances: Kevin Olusola Cellob...
    by ★ Owner on May 1, 2013 at 9:50 AM
    1206 Views - 0 Comments

    Kevin "K. O." Olusola is a classically-trained cellist and a professional beatboxer. He has risen to prominence as one half of the rhythm section of YouTube sensations Pentatonix. He was first asked to join Pentatonix for their run on season 3 of The Sing-Off when they saw his first celloboxing video.

    While Kevin is touring and recording full-time with Pentatonix, he still practices cello daily and has returned with another solo cello/beatboxing performance. This time, it is a cover of Rhianna's popular "Diamonds", a song I find mind-numbingly repetitive in its original release. There is hidden emotional depth to the song, however, as Kevin demonstrated. It was also demonstrated recently by the Northeastern University's Nor'Easters a cappella group during their championship performance at the 2013 International Championship of Collegiate A Cappella.

    Kevin's prowess on the cello is quite obvious, but to combine that with equally skilled vocal percussion is indeed a rare ability. I look forward to seeing much more from Kevin in the years to come.

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