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Music is such a powerful force in my life. It always has been. My mother worked hard to cultivate that. Most of my childhood memories include some form of singing with Mom. When I was three, she bought me a kid-sized Mickey Mouse-shaped guitar. We played and sang together every night.
Growing up, I participated in most musical opportunities afforded by the schools I attended: symphonic band, show choir, concert choir, jazz band. I even met my husband, Chris, while singing in a folk/rock band in college.
These days, I sing a lot with Chris at home, and I am a member of the Newton-based women’s vocal ensemble Full Circle. Experiences such as these have exposed me to musicians and artists from a variety of genres. But over the past few months, I have found other fantastic sources for learning about “new-to-me” musicians.
Students. My students are a wellspring of information about interesting, energetic, and complex musicians. Last fall, in my Media Analysis class, Meredith Lehman conducted a rhetorical analysis of alternative country. Through advising her research project, I learned about artists such as Whiskeytown, Uncle Tupelo, and Old Crow Medicine Show. In the spring, Brad McKellip delivered a speech highlighting the musicianship of The Shins.
Pandora.com. Have you heard of this website? If not, you MUST check it out. The site allows you to set up a personalized Internet radio station based on the characteristics of your favorite artists. You plunk in the name of an artist or a song and then the site generates a play list of artists and songs you might enjoy. Through Pandora, I have come to enjoy the rich, soulful harmonies of a folk/pop bluegrass band called Girlyman.
Friends. Of course, an obvious source for exposure to “new” music is through friends. A college buddy of Chris’s invited us to see The Avett Brothers in concert right before the start of the school year. I am in love with this band. They have a raw energy that soars when they play their own unique amalgam of punk/bluegrass/country.
NPR/World Cafe. Finally, I learn about a number of great artists’ musical ventures on NPR’s World Cafe. The show’s host, David Dye, highlights up-and-coming artists in addition to well-established musicians. Last week, on NPR’s Live Concert Series, I was able to listen in on a live concert broadcast of Jenny Lewis and Rilo Kiley.
What about you? Do you ever happen across “new-to-you” musicians and think, “So and so REALLY needs to hear this?” Who are some of those artists? What in your mind makes them unique and worthy of attention?
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