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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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  • Why Online Education Is Inevitable
    by ★ Owner on August 27, 2010 at 12:11 PM
    1881 Views - 0 Comments

    I teach in a unique hybrid arts program attached to a K-12 Cyber Charter school. I see the majority of my students in person twice a week, and they take the rest of their coursework at home online the other three days of the week. This is a growing trend that, from my personal experience with it, will eventually be going international. This video does a pretty good job of explaining why. I am very excited to be a part of the shift that is bringing education into the 21st century.

  • Great Performances - What Pi Sounds Like...
    by ★ Owner on March 11, 2011 at 2:35 PM
    1791 Views - 0 Comments


    This video has been circulating Facebook in anticipation of International Pi Day on March 14th (3/14). It does a great job of explaining the major scale and associated triads, then shows the performance of a piece of music incorporating those pitches and chords.

    This piece is reminiscent of New Age music composed based on the Fibonacci series, the golden mean, and the ancient solfeggio scale. I find sacred geometry and cymatics to be fascinating and look forward to a future time when I can explore those concepts even more in my own compositions. My piece for concert band, entitled Diamond Dance, was based on the golden mean.

  • Retinking Education
    by ★ Owner on February 12, 2011 at 9:46 AM
    1694 Views - 0 Comments

    This video, entitled Rethinking Education, came acrosss my PLN today via Brian Wis at Teaching Music in the 21st Century. It is yet another great video showing quite plainly how professional educators need to wake up and start changing the way that they do business.

    Michael Welsh is an accociate professor of Cultural Anthropology at the University of Kansas. This video is the latest in a series of videos that take a very pro-active stance, calling educators of all levels, but espeically higher education, to do exactly as this video's title suggests, rethink the way that we teach students. You can see his other videos on his YouTube channel.

    Welsh provided very compelling information on cloud computing and the democratization of information, stating "We [our culture] are only starting to figure out the implications of this." At the end of the video, Welsh makes a statement that resonates well with me. He challenges teachers to "turn your careers just 5 degrees." This sounds very much like Dr. Joe Pisano's challenge to music educators to "spend just 10 minutes a day doing online professional development."

    In the current climate of economic recovery, budget cuts, and political initiative to reform education, the educational professionals themselves need to start doing things differently and show our culture that the mass media presentation of "teachers are the problem" is unfounded. If we don't begin to change, their profession is going to be changed for us.

    If the recent revolution in Egypt has taught us anything, it is that information is power and real change can come in a rapid fashion when people work together with a common goal.

  • Great Performances - OK, Go White Knuckl...
    by ★ Owner on September 21, 2010 at 9:07 PM
    1689 Views - 0 Comments

    OK, Go is at it again. The quartet is out with a new enrapturing music video. This one is done in one take with a stationary camera and amazing coordination between the performers, the crew, and the trained dogs. As is true with their other music, I find it to have a good bit of quality music making in it, but find the songs to be fairly forgettable. The videos they create totally suck you in, however. I really appreciate the creativity that their videos showcase. Can you imagine what the sketchboarding for this video looked like? "And then we stack some plastic trash cans like those cup stacking competitions, and then a trained dog jumps through it and over the camera, and then...." Let's hear it for creativity!

  • Great Performances: Pentatonix Run To Yo...
    by ★ Owner on January 30, 2014 at 4:38 PM
    1666 Views - 0 Comments

    As an contemporary a cappella enthusiast and part-time professional, I have been closely following the career of mainstream a cappella artists Pentatonix. It has been a pleasure to get to know many of the people behind the scenes who have helped PTX catapult into the limelight. I have gotten to see them perform live once and unfortunately could not stick around to chat with them. I really enjoy everything about their sound - they are pretty much the "perfect storm" of five voices - each person's contribution to the sound is indispensable, yet unique.

    I waited anxiously for PTX Volume II to drop, hoping that it would be the album that sealed the deal for them in mainstream pop culture. It did not disappoint. With the exception of one track, the album is really a tour-de-force of a cappella music, showing how amazing and versitile the human voice is while putting the arranging and performing skills of the quintet on prominent display on both cover songs and original compositions.

    As a professional music educator and self-confessed "chord junkie", there are few things that grab my attention more strongly than lush chords and equally lavish lyrics. Pentatonix, along with producer Ben Bram, wrote "Run to You" for PTX Volume II, and it was immediately one of my most favorite a cappella recordings of all time. Weaned on barbershop quartet music, my early a cappella favorites were the Singers Unlimited and Take 6. "Run to You" has just enough dissonance to make the point of the lyrics, and just enough emotional contouring to drive the sentiments home.

    Now, Pentatonix has released another amazing video of this song in conjunction with FifGen Films, who gave us the record-breaking video for PTX's Daft Punk Medley and many of the videos distributed on YouTube by a cappella solo artist Peter Hollens. What I love about the video is that is doesn't get in the way of the music, yet manages to make an artistic impression of its own. I spent part of the video wondering how they could have worked in the reverse footage of the snowfall while the group members sang the song. I was impressed all over again when I disovered that the group had to practice lip syncing to playback in reverse in order to make the effect. Astounding, and a tribute to true creativity at work.

    I have enjoyed watching Pentatonix grow from their formative days on Season 3 of The Sing-Off to YouTube paragons and globe-trotters. Most of the musical artists that I enjoy began their careers before I was old enough to follow them. My favorite pop artist will always be Billy Joel, with singer/songwriters like Paul Simon, Sting, and Phil Collins ranking high on my list. It is a different experience to watch a close-harmony singing group begin to take hold at what hopefully is the beginning of a long career and watch them affect popular culture.

    This article (c) 2014 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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  • Pomplamoose Reinvents Beat It
    by ★ Owner on January 23, 2011 at 10:16 PM
    1624 Views - 0 Comments


    If you've been online for very long, you've proabably already seen Pomplamoose. They are the poster children for the brave new world of democratized creativity that the internet has created. In today's world, you don't need a record label or film studio to act as your platform for getting your art seen by a mass audience. You do, however, have to be innovative and original to get noticed. Pomplamoose is all that. They don't just cover a popular song, they reinvent it and captivate with how it all goes down on video.



    This cover of Michael Jackson's smash hit Beat It does what everyone knows you shouldn't even attempt to do - it takes a smash hit song and turns it on its ear. The only thing remaining of the original song is the melody, lyrics, and the iconic guitar hook. The rest: instrumentation, harmony, and even the legendary guitar solo, are all totally reworked. The video brings across the love of music making these two have, and they even show at the end that they're in it simply to give the world a gift of their music.



    Be sure to check out the other covers on their YouTube channel. They breathe new life into trite pop songs like Lady Gaga's Telephone and Beyonce's Single Ladies.



  • Creating a Watermark on Your FINALE Musi...
    by ★ Owner on June 18, 2014 at 9:51 AM
    1536 Views - 0 Comments

    Watch in HD to see all the details on the software menus!

    Use an image editor such as Paint.NET to create a transparent watermark, then add it to your music scores in Finale. Watermarks are useful for branding your scores online or in print as draft copies to be used as samples for potential customers. This video uses Finale 2012c, but also works with other versions of Finale. Be sure to follow other helpful Music Education, Technology, and Composition videos on my YouTube channel.

  • Bobby McFerrin On Jazz Improvisation
    by ★ Owner on April 1, 2013 at 10:13 AM
    1363 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: Cluster Vocal Sings ...
    by ★ Owner on May 17, 2013 at 2:33 PM
    1339 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
    1333 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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  • Beardyman And The Ultimate Music Looping...
    by ★ Owner on August 3, 2013 at 9:05 AM
    1317 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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  • Eternal Majesty - Concert Band Music (Gr...
    by ★ Owner on April 22, 2013 at 8:42 PM
    1234 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

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