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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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  • An Open Letter to Educators
    by ★ Owner on April 29, 2010 at 6:48 AM
    2140 Views - 0 Comments

    Dan Brown is a former college student who, disgusted with the waste of time of the "cattle call" lecture classes he was sitting through, dropped out of school and pursued his own education online. His message is timely and very necessary. I agree with most of what he has to say, except for two things: 1. Higher Education is not the "end all be all" of informational power, even in the traditional institutional education system. 2. Public Education IS reinventing itself to match the rest of the world - painfully slowly. The question really becomes: will public education change in time? As more and more informational offerings become available through internet sources and civic groups that specialize in one particular kind of information (magnet schools, sport centers, etc.), public education is going to be stripped down to core the core curricula of math and language arts only, without the enriching subjects like the arts and physical sciences. Students will spend part of their week in core classes online and spend the rest delving into focus areas they are passionate about. Share this video with a teacher you know.

  • Great Performances - The Hellcats Drum C...
    by ★ Owner on April 13, 2011 at 3:13 PM
    2135 Views - 0 Comments

    Precision, consistency, and pagentry. The Hellcats Drum and Bugle Corps is a ceremonial unit attached to the U.S. Marine Corps Band at West Point. Here, their drum line puts on an exhibition performance at the 2010 Drum Corps International World Championships. These men are carrying on a legacy in rudimental drumming that stretches all the way back to the founding of West Point in 1778. Learn more about the Hellcats here.

  • Great Performances - McChesney Trombone ...
    by ★ Owner on October 27, 2010 at 8:48 PM
    2124 Views - 0 Comments

    Back in high school, during my formative exposure to jazz music via my two best friends from concert band (both saxophonists), I was introduced to two amazing artistic talents: Charlie Parker, and the Parker tribute band known as Supersax. Parker, one of the innovators that ushered in the be bop era of jazz music, was known for his technical pyrotechnics on the alto saxophone. Supersax took Parker's transcribed solos and arranged them for the sax section of a big band (two altos, two tenors, and a bari), turning Parker's genius into a stereophonic voice with 5-part harmony at 200+ beats per minute. This Great Performance reminds me a lot of those early days of my jazz exposure. Vituoso jazz trombonist Bob McChesney arranged the Cole Porter tune "I Love You" for four trombones and then recorded his performance of all four parts. The accuracy and virtuosity of this recording is astounding, and following McChesney's score on the screen as he plays is equally as impressive as listening to old recordings of Bird and following along in the Omnibook.

  • Ben Cameron On The New Performing Arts R...
    by ★ Owner on September 10, 2010 at 9:46 PM
    2096 Views - 0 Comments

    Once again, another fantastic talk has become available from - this time, the speaker is Ben Cameron, Program Director, Arts, at the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation in New York, where he supervises a $13 million grants program aimed at the theatre, contemporary dance, jazz and presenting fields. In this video, Cameron discusses how the explosion in digital and internet technologies has threatened the performing arts industry and yet has set the stage for a new cultural revolution. Cameron compares today's arts revolution to the religious revolution of the 16th century. They share many points in common: the religious revolution was a product of a sudden increase in technology in the form of the printing press; the religious revolution made information available to the masses rather than controlled by an institution; the religious revolution did not result in the end of institutional religions, but their role had to change. In much the same way, we are experiencing a cultural revolution in the performing arts. Digital technology has made it possible for anyone to become an author, a music composer, a choreographer, a movie director. The internet has made it possible for anyone to distribute their artistic creations to an international audience. Cameron quoted others saying "The means of artistic production and distribution have been democratized for the first time in history... Who doesn't know a fourteen-year-old who is hard at work on her second or third movie?" Cameron states quite accurately, in my opinion, that our culture is shifting from being arts consumers to being arts participants. He mentioned a phrase I had not heard before - this cultural shift is bringing us "Pro-Am's" (Professional Amateurs). Cameron sees the traditional performing arts institutions in desperate need of making the shift to becoming what he calls hybrid artists: people or institutions who create art for civic change. "...making art together to bind a community of disparate citizens to social change." This, in my experience, is spot on. Music education is in the same boat - if we as a profession do not find ways to connect to the entire student body and provide ways for students to create and perform music they can relate to, we are performing ourselves right out of a job. Some other great quotes from this talk: "To conspire literally means to breathe together." "The arts invite us to look at our fellow human being with generosity and curiosity." "We are bound together by commmon cause, to promote a more thoughtful, substantive, empathic world order." Take about fifteen minutes to listen to this dynamic speaker.

  • Paul Nowell Covers Mike Posner's Please ...
    by ★ Owner on February 13, 2011 at 1:06 PM
    2094 Views - 0 Comments

    Today, a friend of mine shared this video on Facebook. I have had a few exchanges with Paul Nowell on Twitter (@jazztrombonist) before seeing this performance. Paul shows that sometimes pop music such as this has some hidden depth to it that can be coaxed out of it with the proper adaptations. I'm a big fan of musicians who cover a piece of popular music and reinvent it. When done well, reinventions bring out nuances in the original song that sometimes enhance its effectiveness. For a comparison of Paul's arrangement to the original, click here.

    At the end of the video, Paul gives us a funny little invitation to subscribe to his YouTube channels. You might just take him up on it.

  • My First Twitter Screencast
    by ★ Owner on August 20, 2009 at 8:05 AM
    2076 Views - 0 Comments

    My first attempt at a Twitter screencast. Excellent!

  • Great Performances - Richard Stoltzman P...
    by ★ Owner on February 11, 2011 at 7:54 PM
    2058 Views - 0 Comments

    Clarinet is my primary instrument. As a lover of all kinds of music and all kinds of musical instruments, I can honestly say that every mature musical instrument (meaning one that has been mechanically and acoustically improved over time by scientists and craftsmen) has aspects of its sound and the way it is used in music that I find enjoyable.

    The clarinet, besides being an instrument capable of great dexterity and virtuosity, has a depth of tone quality and breadth of playing range that few instruments can match. While many instruments require vibrato to "warm" the tone for a more expressive presentation, the clarinet can use simply its round, full tone in the lower register and its clarion upper register to great expressive effect.

    The Andante movement of Aaron Copland's clarinet concerto is one of my favorite pieces of music and a great example of the expressive capabilities of the instrument. Richard Stoltzman's performance is flawless and beautiful. This piece, along with the accompanying movements, were originally premiered by jazz legend Benny Goodman, who was equally at home in the classical realm.

  • Eric Whitacre's Virtual Choir 2011 Conne...
    by ★ Owner on April 7, 2011 at 10:12 PM
    2028 Views - 0 Comments


    In the moment when the camera pulls back and we see all 2052 singers orbiting director and composer Eric Whitacre, we get a glimpse of something truly bigger than ourselves.

    Riding the success of the first installment of the Virtual Choir , Eric Whitacre and his team have created something truly breathtaking and important with the 2011 performance of "Sleep". The 2011 Virtual Choir video features 2052 performances of 'Sleep' from 1752 singers in 58 countries, individually recorded and uploaded to YouTube between September 2010 and January 2011. The true magic of this project is not in the performance of the music, however, but in the ability of the internet to bring together human beings from all over the globe with the common goal of creating art.

    One of the comments left on the YouTube page says it best: "This is what the Internet was made for. Not for giving people their 15 minutes of fame. Not to view videos of them acting idiotic, and not a way to spew hateful words. The Internet was made to bring us together and make us feel connected. It is because of this need to feel bonded to one another that something so beautiful like this could be made. I strongly hope that you will take the time to listen to this great accomplishment in music, and take comfort in knowing that you're not alone."

    Music connects human beings in ways that transcend any boundaries we create with our boarders, our languages, our customs, and our self-imposed conventions. Thank you very much, Mr. Whitacre and your co-creators, for showing us the potential we have for understanding one another in new and intimate ways thanks to the rapid progress of technology.

  • Welcome to My PLE!
    by ★ Owner on June 5, 2010 at 12:52 PM
    2003 Views - 1 Comment

    A 7th grade student gives a tour of her personal learning environment. This project was conducted as part of dissertation research implementing the use of networked learning and construction of personal learning environments in a 7th grade life science class. Welcome to the future, folks! Who needs a backpack anymore?

  • Great Performances - Rockapella Sings El...
    by ★ Owner on July 11, 2011 at 7:50 AM
    1994 Views - 0 Comments

    Ok, I admit: I've got contemporary a cappella on the brain right now. We just had a combined rehearsal of the two summer Project-Philly a cappella group last night, and we're in the final 3 days of Project-Philly's Kickstarter campaign (we only need $230! Please help if you can).

    Today's Kickstarter update featured a classic Rockapella arrangement sung by the current incarnation of Rockapella. While watching that video from their recent Japan tour, I saw this one on the sidebar. "Ellie My Love" is one of my favorite originals that Rockapella has put out. Scott Leonard wrote and sings lead on this track, and this performance is rather subdued than the album cut in terms of vocal pyrotechnics. This rendition puts an even sweeter touch on a touching ballad.

    As I become more involved as an a cappella singer in my spare time, both performing with live groups and in recording and mixing my own a cappella tracks, I appreciate all that much more the showmanship, skill, and microphone handling technique that Scott displays in this video.

  • Great Performances - Stephen Colbert and...
    by ★ Owner on April 3, 2011 at 9:15 PM
    1989 Views - 0 Comments

    Note: this video has been removed from YouTube. You can see the official version here.

    By now, if you spend any length of time at all online, you have probably at least heard about the viral video "Friday" by middle-schooler-turned-pop-star Rebecca Black. Her video has spawned quite a wave of attention, both positive and negative. The song itself can at best be described as "catchy" and at worst as "a pathetic attempt at a real song". The lyrics are particularly poor, and Miss Black's vocal technique is quite "untrained". If you haven't seen it yet, watch the original.

    This song has over 82 million views as of this posting and has spawned several dozen parodies. Conan O'Brien created his own version called "Thursday," claiming Rebecca stole his idea. There's a Bob Dylan version, and on and on.

    In a totally unrelated story, Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report recently sold a painting of himself for $26,000 in an auction in New York [link]. In an effort to get more people to bid, Colbert claimed that fellow late night host Jimmy Fallon was going to match the final amount and that all proceeds were going to further childrens' art education. However, Fallon never actually agreed to such an arrangement.

    So, being a good sport, Fallon made Cobert a deal - if Jimmy could match the sale price of the painting, $26,000.00, on a Donors Choose campaign, Colbert agreed to come on the Fallon show and sing his own rendition of "Friday." The Donors Choose campaign raised over $65,000.00 and Colbert delivered on his promise below, with a special cameo appearance during the middle of the song.

    Colbert, self-admittedly "not a singer" does an admirable job of managing the rather simplistic melody of the song, and Jimmy Fallon's auto-tuned entrance is quite funny. The over-the-top "epic" pagentry of this performance is a great parody of the orignal song and a true satire of the ridiculousness that is often American pop culture.

    The original video of Friday sparked some interesting discussion on the Music Professional Learning Network as well. What are the implications of a video such as this for music education?

  • Great Performances - Jake Shiambukuro Pl...
    by ★ Owner on January 27, 2011 at 9:20 AM
    1897 Views - 0 Comments

    Few people are a better example of what happens when you take your passion, no matter how obscure it may be, and pursue it as far as you can than Jake Shimabukuro.

    About a year ago, I watched his YouTube video of his ukulele performance of The Beatles' "While My Guitar Gently Weeps" - a video that really launched him as an international sensation and as of this writing has topped 7 million views. This morning on Twitter, one of the members of the Music PLN discovered his performance of "In My Life" and I figured it was time to check back in on Jake and see what new performances were out there.

    This video comes from the TEDxTokyo conference and it is 22 minutes long. It features Jake talking about his beginnings as a ukulele player in Hawaii, a charming story about playing for the Queen of England, and four performances: a flamenco song entitled "Let's Dance", his redition of Brahm's "Ave Maria", the tune that made made him famous "While My Guitar Gently Weeps", and the song he played for the Queen - "In My Life". In addition to the obvious virtuosic technique, musicality practically drips off of his instrument.

    Jake said "I truly believe that the ukulele is the instrument of peace." The top rated comment for this video on YouTube stated "Truly, this man is a favored son of the islands, taking aloha far beyond our seas."

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