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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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  • Eternal Majesty - Concert Band Music (Gr...
    by ★ Owner on April 22, 2013 at 8:42 PM
    1231 Views - 0 Comments

    Subtitled "An Homage to Nature," Eternal Majesty opens with a fanfare heralding the glorious expanse of nature. Breaking into a shimmering and energetic melody, and complete with a lyrical section in Lydian mode, Eternal Majesty is a tour de force. Instrumentation and range are written for the middle school level, but some challenging work in Eb Major make this piece ideal for an honors band or a 7-12th grade ensemble.

    This piece is available for purchase from the composer at

    Watch this video in its entirety for some annotations describing the musical aspects of the piece.

    Be sure to browse other titles for ensembles of all kinds:

    Mr. West is available for custom composition commissions for band, orchestra, chamber music, and contemporary a cappella groups:

    Eternal Majesty (c) 2009 Thomas J. West - All Rights Reserved

  • Pentatonix Takes Us On A Tour Of Vocal M...
    by ★ Owner on April 15, 2013 at 12:09 PM
    1178 Views - 0 Comments

    Pentatonix, the season 3 winners of NBC's "The Sing-Off" have yet again released another jaw-dropping video on YouTube. This time, they take us on a tour of vocal music history from the 11th century all the way up to today's mega-hits - all in 4 and a half minutes. Not only are their skills readily on display as usual, they do a pretty good job of encapsulating some of the most influential vocal music in the 20th and 21st centuries. Not everyone will resonate with all of their choices for the past several decades, but the video quite effortlessly shows how the experience of being human and making music has exploded and grown at a blistering pace over the last 100 years.

    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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  • Bobby McFerrin On Jazz Improvisation
    by ★ Owner on April 1, 2013 at 10:13 AM
    1357 Views - 0 Comments

    Bobby McFerrin is a musician I have always looked up to and admired. He embodies what I endeavor to be as a performer - someone who music just flows out of. In this video, which is a masterclass at the Aarhus Vocal Festival in 2011, Bobby explains how he was "changed molecularly" when he saw the Miles Davis quintet and how he began his process of learning to improvise. He describes how he progressed in the first six years of improvisational study from "just singing without stopping" to a fully-realized ability to improvise in his own style without imitating another vocalist. He also delivers a valuable lesson about how the audience is a part of the improvisation as a listener - fascinating.

    The principles Bobby discusses can certainly apply to an instrumentalist as well, but as any jazz player will tell you, the instrument is an additional barrier to creativity because you have to train your brain to operate the machinery in order to get your musical creativity to come forth on the instrument. Vocal improvisation is an important part of the development of any performer of jazz improvisation on any instrument. It is a foundational experience for musicians of all kinds, no matter what their area of concentration. The ability to improvise makes a musician more than just a regurgitator of other musician's ideas - it transforms them into a "composer in the moment", which leads to becoming a composer of the written score or the recording studio.

    Enjoy this 5-minute video with the master.

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  • Great Performances: Bobby McFerrin's Gra...
    by ★ Owner on January 5, 2013 at 8:32 AM
    2151 Views - 0 Comments

    Bobby McFerrin is one of my personal heroes - a musician whose technique is unquestionable, artistry is apparent, and who embodies the music he performs with every note. This video was shared on his Facebook page last evening for its 25th anniversary. Bobby won a Grammy for Best Jazz Solo Vocal for this performance. His acceptance speech also exemplifies his gracious nature and the musicianship that literally can't stay inside his mind - plus who wouldn't want to get their Grammy from Miles Davis in a xylophone suit? Enjoy Bobby's performance earlier in the broadcast of Round Midnight.

  • Great Performances: Cluster Vocal Sings ...
    by ★ Owner on July 16, 2012 at 7:43 PM
    7508 Views - 0 Comments

    This past weekend, I attended my first festival sponsored by the Contemporary A Cappella Society of America. It was a great experience that I blogged about here. The culminating event of the weekend was a professional showcase concert featuring The Sing-Off favorites Afro Blue and a vocal quintet from Genoa, Italy called Cluster. In their American debut performance, Cluster took us all on an amazing ride. Their penultimate performance at the end of their set was this exquisite arrangement of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah".

    This video doesn't quite do the performance justice, but you can still get a sense of the masterful way that Cluster uses contemporary jazz harmony to add tension and texture to various moments in the piece. When the group finished this rendition and the video ends, they received the first completely organic standing ovation of the night.

    At the concert's after-party, I told front man Erik Bosio that his arrangement is the best I've ever heard of that song in any setting, and I've heard quite a few. He was flattered and said, "Everyone in America is so nice!"

    I hope this video stays up on YouTube. Watch it while it is there. If you like what you hear, check out Cluster's website where you can buy their CD's and buy a score of this arrangement.

  • Great Performances: Mike Tompkins Does D...
    by ★ Owner on July 10, 2012 at 4:48 PM
    3992 Views - 0 Comments

    I have featured live looping artists like Dub FX in the past, and recently I mentioned Kimbra's live looping at the latest SXSW convention. Live Looping is using looping software to record short segments of music that are then "looped", or repeated. A single performer can create layers of music to perform on top of. Live looping takes skill and an understanding of orchestration. These artists make live looping look easy.

    Three days ago, YouTube a cappella artist Mike Tompkins took up a challenge given to him by his fans - to do an a cappella cover of a dubstep tune. Using Ableton Live software and some controllers, Tompkins did a really excellent cover of two dubstep artists - Skrillex and Santigold. As I have mentioned previously, dubstep is a genre of music that is exploding in popularity with high school and college age students. The dance beats and electronic sounds of dubstep appeal widely to many youth, as evidenced by the fact that Tompkins' video is alredy up to half a million views in the first three days!

  • Great Performances: Raleigh Ringers Hand...
    by ★ Owner on June 25, 2012 at 9:35 PM
    4446 Views - 0 Comments

    I typically feature music performances on this series that demonstrate amazing technique and dedication, some innovative form of music performance, or something that is just plain entertaining. While nothing here is innovative, it definitely is impressive and entertaining. The Raleigh Ringers are a handbell ensemble that can truly deliver amazing performances like this one

  • Great Performances: Mike Dawes Covers Go...
    by ★ Owner on June 22, 2012 at 4:43 PM
    4008 Views - 0 Comments

    It's hard to be in American culture right now and not have been exposed to Gotye's "Someone That I Used to Know". It's a simple song in D Dorian that has really lit a fire in the hearts of many. As with most immensely popular songs, it has been covered, reinvented, remixed, and mashed-up thousands of times on the internet. Some of these reinventions are extremely popular as well, ganering hundreds of thousands of views on YouTube. I shared one of those covers once before when the Canadian band Walk Off The Earth played the song with five people on one guitar.

    This song is simple enough that a trick like that is possible. Or, if you are a really talented solo guitarist, you can just play the entire thing yourself. Mike Dawes accomplishes just that in this video. It's all him - no overdub or compositing of any kind. Skill like this is deceptively hard - the performance is so seemless it is easy to forget that he is making every single sound, not just the melody line, two-note bass, and even percussion. This is yet another example of a performer who easily has over 10,000 hours of playing time logged in.

  • Great Performances - Contrabassoon Audit...
    by ★ Owner on April 12, 2012 at 9:12 AM
    2790 Views - 0 Comments

    Contrabassoon, self painted by Mezzofortist

    For any of us who have ever given an instrumental audition for a band or orchestra, or for those who have had to sit on an election committe or adjudicators panel and listen to performer after performer for hours, I give you a memorable contrabassoon orchestral audition. The clacking keys, the gasping for breath, and the gutteral vibrations of the big horn blend sublimely with some of your favorite orchestral excerpts, including "Also Sprach Zarathustra", the march from Beethoven 9, "Petrushka", Holst's "The Planets", some Ravel, and ending with "The Sorcerer's Apprentice" (during which I swear there is a snicker). I guarantee you've never heard those excerpts quite like this. I also love the auditioner's classic audition lines: "Can I have another go?" and "Should I call you?"

  • Great Performances - Peter Hollens And L...
    by ★ Owner on April 7, 2012 at 9:43 AM
    3515 Views - 0 Comments

    I have previously featured videos by both a cappella artist Peter Hollens and dubstep violinist Lindsey Sterling. The two have teamed together to produce a YouTube video cover of the theme from 2011 video game of the year Skyrim. It is a remarkable achievement, both in Tom Anderson's 12-part vocal score, Devin Graham's cinematography, Ben Leiberman's editing, and Bill Hare's mixing. These are all artists who are making a living doing what they love without "being chosen" by a major recording label.

    This video has had over 1 million viewers in the first two days since upload - a testament to Peter Hollens' ability to do artistic covers of material that appeals to a wide audience. You know a video is a bona fide YouTube success when fans start overdubbing and remixing it, such as this one - it's really funny.

    This video is a testament to the collaborative power of the internet and to keeping alive musical creativity in the mainstream that is more than a quarter-inch deep. The world needs more artists like these who can appeal to a mass audience and yet still bring well-crafted and aesthetically rich music and video to bear without having to distribute it through the entertainment industry's money machine.

  • Wondering - A Cappella Original
    by ★ Owner on April 5, 2012 at 8:36 PM
    2981 Views - 0 Comments

    About a year ago, I started composing and recording my own a cappella vocal tracks. It was an exercise in using a digital audio workstation and an exercise in creativity in the same project. I have done several recordings and uploaded them to my SoundCloud page. Today, I made a simple slide-show style video for one of my original songs, which I entitled "Wondering".

    "Wondering" was inspired by a ballad called "The Boy is Gone" by a professional a cappella group called The House Jacks. I had seen The House Jacks in April of 2011 and that song was on my mind when I was coming up with musical ideas to create and record.

    This track is available as a free download here.

  • Great Performances - CPFA Friday Night C...
    by ★ Owner on March 12, 2012 at 9:13 AM
    3404 Views - 0 Comments

    There are many things about working for a unique blended learning school that I really enjoy. One of the benefits are great extra-curricular programs that The Center for Performing and Fine Arts offers to its students and families. Theatre productions, Life After High School Workshops, Dinner and a Movie Nights (classic films of the 50's and earlier), and Friday Night Cafe. Friday Night Cafe features student performances of all kinds - music, skits, comedy routines, dance numbers, all volunteer and screened by our Center's Director.

    This particular Cafe was a special occasion: one of our senior students, as part of her senior project, held a silent art auction featuring artwork by CPFA students and faculty. Auction winners were announced at the end of the evening. The auction proceeds and Cafe ticket income went to Art Feeds, a non-[profit organization prodiving artistic experiences to underprivelidged children. Over $1,300 was raised through this effort.

    This performance of the jazz standard "Song for My Father" features myself on clarinet, senior Kendall Johnson on guitar, and CPFA guitar teacher Sean Townsend. It's an up-tempo take on a classic latin chart. I apologize for the video quality - it was shot on my cell phone.

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