What Can Music Education Learn From Tech Startups


The People’s Music School in Uptown just launched tech pilots with five startups.

– Staff writer

Stephane Collopy (left), strings teacher at The People's Music School, works with a student and Youtopia practice partner. (Courtesy of The People's Music School)

Stephane Collopy (left), strings teacher at The People’s Music School, works with a student and Youtopia practice partner…

A 40 year-old music school in Uptown is taking a tech-forward approach to improving music education.

The People’s Music School, a free music school in Uptown, is partnering with five music tech startups to launch pilot programs that infuse tech into their lessons and classes. In return, the startups will get feedback and data from teachers and students to aid product development. President and artistic director Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa, a former consultant at Bain and accomplished pianist, believes taking a startup and tech approach could improve access and efficiency in music education.

“There is so much tech that is related to music, everything from Guitar Hero to sound engineering equipment,” said Matsuzawa. “Some of the most advanced tech is music related…But nothing has been applied at a broad scale in a school setting.”

Here’s the thing, according to Matsuzawa: learning music is pretty inefficient as it stands today. There are a variety of stakeholders who aren’t always on the same page (a tutor assigns practice to a musician who is held supposedly held accountable by a busy parent). Teachers still often write music quizzes and lessons by hand. Students in group classes struggle to get adequate individual attention. (more…)

David Bowie: Invisible New Yorker

JANUARY 16, 2016

About 10 years ago, the playwright John Guare got a call asking if he wanted to meet David Bowie to discuss a theater project.

As Mr. Guare remembered it, Mr. Bowie was “in a very dark place” (it was shortly after he had had a heart attack onstage in Berlin), and a mutual friend, the English producer Robert Fox, was trying to coax him back to a creative life. Mr. Guare immediately said yes.

He and Mr. Bowie met at each other’s homes in New York to throw around ideas, and sometimes they went out. “We would take walks around the East Village,” Mr. Guare said. “And I was always praying somebody would run into us so I could say, ‘Do you know my friend David Bowie?’”

It never happened.

Mr. Guare was at first puzzled and then amazed at how Mr. Bowie — the stage creature, the persona, the guy he saw command an audience at Radio City Music Hall in 1973 with his spiky orange hair and snow-white tan — could walk the city streets unrecognized.

“He traveled with this cloak of invisibility — nobody saw him,” Mr. Guare said. “He just eradicated himself.”

People often forgot, but up until his death, on Sunday at age 69, Mr. Bowie was a New Yorker. He said so himself, emphatically. “I’m a New Yorker!” he declared to SOMA magazine in 2003, after he’d been here a decade.

He and his Somali-born wife, Iman, who is a model fluent in five languages, spent almost their entire marriage, more than 20 years, as residents of the city. Anyone will tell you they were one of New York’s most glamorous, graceful couples, made all the more so by the dignified and private way they lived.

And though Mr. Bowie was enormously wealthy, he wasn’t one of those rich guys who kept an apartment in the city, along with a portfolio of global real estate holdings, and flew in. Aside from a mountain retreat in Ulster County, N.Y., his Manhattan apartment was his only home.

You may not have considered all this because Mr. Bowie was an apparition in the city, rarely glimpsed. You heard it mentioned that he lived here. Somewhere downtown, someone thought. But seeing him out? Good luck.

Mexican Conductor Alondra de la Parra Makes History


Conductor Alondra De la Parra.

Conductor and pianist Alondra de la Parra is in a league of her own. And come next year, when she steps onto the podium as the first female chief conductor and musical director of the Queensland Symphony Orchestra, one of Australia’s three largest orchestras, she will live in a more rarefied space—one of the few females directing a major orchestra.

The appointment of the 34-year old made music history because the world of major symphony orchestras is still a heavily male dominated field. Just to give you the scope of the sizable gender gap, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Marin Alsop became the first female conductor of a major American orchestra in 2007. Less than a dozen women lead major orchestras.


For de la Parra, the appointment is a dream job that started when she was a teenager.

“It’s something very exciting because I have been preparing and working all my life, to be director of a fine institution,” she said from her Mexico City home. “It’s definitely a dream come true.”

While she lives in Mexico City and also considers herself a New Yorker – she was born in New York City but her family moved to Mexico when she was two – the maestra says she is more of an international citizen. In the last decade, she has spent sixty percent of her time on a plane, in the air, going somewhere. She has been guest conductor in Italy, Brazil, Sweden, Japan, and Germany, among others. In 2004, she became the first Mexican woman to conduct in New York. Last year, she became the first female and the first Mexican to lead France’s Orchestre de Paris.

Making history in classical music is part of the acclaimed musician’s DNA. At 23, she started the New York based Philharmonic Orchestra of the Americas, today an international symphony orchestra that showcases young composers and performers of the Latin American region.

Bernardo Arcos Mijailidis

“I’ve always been an advocate that Mexican and Latin American music belongs in the core repertoire of every philharmonic orchestra,” said de la Parra, which is why she was inspired to start the organization at a young age. (more…)

Big Machine’s Scott Borchetta on Taylor Swift, the Fight Against Free and Remaining ‘Bold and Disruptive’ on 10-Year Anniversary


by Chris Willman

Photo of Scott Borchetta in 2015

The Big Machine Label Group recently started a new imprint called Nash Icon for the veteran artists on its roster. But those two words are an equally fitting ­description of founder Scott Borchetta‘s status in his adopted hometown of Nashville. The Southern California native’s reputation would be set if all he had done was discover Taylor Swift. But in the 10 years since he founded Big Machine, he has gone on to become a major force throughout the entire music industry, ­breaking acts like Florida Georgia LineZac Brown BandBrantley Gilbert and The Band Perry, bringing in such heavy hitters asTim McGraw and Reba McEntire, advocating aggressively for artists’ rights and becoming a mentor on American Idol along the way.

It’s a long way for a scrappy label that nearly went out of business just a few weeks into its existence. After getting his start at, of all places, Mary Tyler Moore’s MTM imprint, Borchetta had two major gigs fall through in Nashville — first, when he was let go from his head of promotion job at MCA Nashville in the late 1990s (purportedly for his desire to blur the job-role lines and get involved in other departments), then, after he got a more encompassing role at DreamWorks Universal, seeing that entire label come to a halt. From the moment he founded Big Machine in 2005, though, he was in control of his own destiny.

The Big Machine Label Group executive team. Seated, from left: senior vp Allison Jones, Borchetta and senior vp sales, marketing and interactive Kelly Rich. Standing, from left: vp publicity and corporate communications Jake Basden, senior vp finance Mike Craft, Big Machine Music Publishing GM Mike Molinar, COO Andrew Kautz, Dot Records GM Chris Stacey, senior vp creative Sandi Spika Borchetta, senior vp partnership marketing and promotion strategy John Zarling, executive vp/general counsel Malcolm Mimms, Nash Icon Records GM Jim Weatherson, Valory Music senior vp George Briner, Big Machine Records senior vp Jack Purcell and Republic Nashville president/BMLG executive vp Jimmy Harnen. 

The Big Machine Label Group executive team. Seated, from left: senior vp Allison Jones, Borchetta and senior vp sales, marketing and interactive Kelly Rich. Standing, from left: vp publicity and corporate communications Jake Basden, senior vp finance Mike Craft, Big Machine Music Publishing GM Mike Molinar, COO Andrew Kautz, Dot Records GM Chris Stacey, senior vp creative Sandi Spika Borchetta, senior vp partnership marketing and promotion strategy John Zarling, executive vp/general counsel Malcolm Mimms, Nash Icon Records GM Jim Weatherson, Valory Music senior vp George Briner, Big Machine Records senior vp Jack Purcell and Republic Nashville president/BMLG executive vp Jimmy Harnen.

A decade on from the label’s modest start, and with Big Machine boasting 93 employees, a roster of 44 artists and a label group that includes Dot, Nash Icon, Republic Nashville and Valory, Billboard sat down with the president/CEO (and 90 percent owner) of the ­biggest little indie in Nashville history for a look back — and ahead.

You have said that you called the label Big Machine as a “middle finger” to the record business. Is that the real reason you chose that name?

You want to come up with something you think will cut through. Auto racing has been a big part of my life since I was very young. When the car feels right, it’s like, “We’ve got a big machine.” Plus, it’s the name of a song by Velvet Revolver. I remember telling Taylor [Swift] the name because she made the ­commitment to sign with us before we even had one. So when I was looking at the final list of ideas, I thought, “We’re anything but a big machine, but if we just announce ourselves as one, it’s bold and it’s disruptive and it doesn’t sound ­corporate.” The rock’n'roll of it was, “We’ll just flip off corporate, right in the face, and declare ­ourselves a big machine.” (more…)

Chris Blackwell: The Barefoot Mogul

Men’s Journal

By Mark Binelli

Credit: Photograph by Joao Canziani

One night in August, couples dining by moonlight at an exclusive resort on Jamaica’s northern coast glance up from their steamed whole fish and haute jerk chicken to take note of a latecomer who has just shuffled into the open-air restaurant. Even by relaxed island standards, the old man seems underdressed for dinner: a faded Trojan Records T-shirt, knee-length red surfer shorts, flip-flops, several days’ worth of rummy-looking stubble, his mane of white hair, or what remains of it, aggressively unkempt. Leaning against the bar as if he owns the place, the man begins pecking at a smartphone, ignoring the stares, and giving the waitress, who quickly brings him a mixed drink, a nod and a wan smile.

Eventually, when his friends arrive, he sits at the best table in the restaurant, because, it turns out, he does own the place. Chris Blackwell, the 76-year-old founder of Island Records, did more than almost anyone to transform reggae from a niche, fairly provincial music into a full-fledged international pop genre. As a visionary label exec, he signed and brilliantly marketed acts like Toots and the Maytals, Jimmy Cliff, Burning Spear, Steel Pulse, Black Uhuru, Third World, Gregory Isaacs, Junior Murvin, Sly & Robbie, Lee “Scratch” Perry, and, most fatefully, a young singer-songwriter named Robert Nesta Marley. When Blackwell met the Wailers in 1971, he quickly recognized Bob Marley as a performer charismatic enough to take reggae to rock audiences with “something about his demeanor,” Blackwell says simply, “that made you interested in him.” And, as Timothy White notes in the Marley biography Catch a Fire, Blackwell also glimpsed a sort of kindred spirit. “Like Marley,” White writes, “[Blackwell] was his own brand of eerie hybrid.” (more…)

How two former Broadway producers created an app that solves the biggest annoyance with buying theater tickets

Business Insider

Steven Tweedie
Jun. 1, 2015

Walking past Times Square, it’s almost impossible to miss the winding lines of people waiting to purchase Broadway tickets.

It’s an odd sight to behold in the age of the internet and smartphones, and it speaks volumes about how trapped in time much of the theater industry is.

Two former Broadway producers, Brian Fenty and Merritt Baer, took notice of the theater industry’s overall lack of innovation when it came to ticketing.

TodayTix founders Merritt & Brian

Both men had a background in finance in addition to their work producing, so they decided to combine the two and create TodayTix, an app that lets you purchase theater tickets at the absolute lowest cost.

“We thought about how we wanted to sell tickets and the most cost effective way to sell tickets, and then as theater lovers, how would we want to buy tickets — what’s the easiest way to see a show?” Baer told Business Insider. “The industry generally made it harder to buy tickets. Our philosophy was the exact opposite: make it as easy as possible to get tickets into the hands of consumers, and in doing so, broaden the scope, availability, and access to theater events.”

Of course, competition already exists in the mobile ticketing space from big players like Ticket Master and StubHub, but mobile tickets still don’t exist within the theater industry itself due to union restrictions. So regardless of how you purchase a theater ticket, you’ll need to pick up or print out that ticket beforehand, which is the key area TodayTix wants to differentiate itself by creating a VIP-like experience where your tickets are already waiting for you at the theater in the hand of a smiling concierge. (more…)

Meryl Streep Funds Lab for Women Screenwriters Over 40


Meryl Streep womens screenwriters lab


APRIL 19, 2015

Meryl Streep has funded a screenwriters lab for women writers over 40, to be run by New York Women in Film and Television and IRIS, a collective of women filmmakers.

The creation of the lab, and Streep’s involvement in its founding, was announced Sunday at a panel discussion presented as part of the Tribeca Film Festival.

Called the Writers Lab, the screenplay development program aims to increase opportunities for female screenwriters over the age of 40. This year the initiative will accept submissions May 1-June 1, with eight winning scribes named Aug. 1.

Among the mentors to participate in the Lab’s inaugural year are writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood (“Beyond the Lights”), producer Caroline Kaplan (“Boyhood”), and writers Kirsten Smith (“Legally Blonde”) and Jessica Bendinger (“Bring It On”).

According to NYWIFT, Streep ponied up a “significant” contribution to fully fund the Lab. The actress has been a longtime supporter of NYWIFT.

The Writers Lab will take place at a retreat in upstate New York.

NYWIFT, which presents the annual Muse Awards as well as the Designing Women honors, is an entertainment industry association that supports female leadership in film, TV and digital media. Collective IRIS was founded by a trio of women with the goal of championing the female voice in narrative film.

Further information about the Lab, including how to enter, can be found on NYWIFT’s website.

Is your voice trustworthy, engaging or soothing to strangers?

The Guardian
Winner of the Pulitzer prize 2014

Analysis of millions of audio files has led one US company to claim that their software can predict how a person’s voice will make a listener feel

Certain cues in speech are more important than others when it comes to generating particular emotions in the listener.

Certain cues in speech are more important than others when it comes to generating particular emotions in the listener. Photograph: PhotosIndia.com LLC/Alamy

Thursday 16 April 2015 07.56 EDTLast modified on Friday 17 April 2015

Few people consciously think about their voice, but the way we speak is one of the most fundamental parts of our individual identity. The intricate acoustic patterns which comprise speech affect how we’re seen in terms of our personality, our emotional state and even our professional competence, but it’s only been relatively recently that scientists have tried to delve into these complex vocal traits in more detail.

The first people in recorded history to study the human voice were the ancients Greeks, a race fascinated by the differences in the vocal spectrum and their varying impact on our emotions. Sometime in the 2nd century AD, the Athenian scholar Julius Pollux attempted to meticulously map out the full range of human vocal qualities as perceived by the listener.

Little survives of his work, apart from a detailed list describing how voices can range from being engaging or feeble to persuasive and even melodious. Pollux noted that the latter gave the impression of a cultivated individual. (more…)

Here’s Why Founders Should Care about Happiness

First Round Review

March 2015

Scott Crabtree spent 24 years climbing the ladder in the gaming and software industries, eventually leading his own engineering team at Intel. And after observing life at companies big and small, he recognized one commonality: The happiest people are the most productive. The difference was so striking to him that he retired and rebooted his career, founding Happy Brain Science to surface and share the scientific underpinnings of what makes people happy and how that makes them more effective at their jobs and in their lives.

“Happier people are more successful, more creative, energetic, resilient,” says Crabtree. “They work better together. They absorb more information. They have more tools in their tool belt to help them handle whatever life throws them. They are healthier, they live longer — and they show up at work more often.”

There’s a common assumption, he says, that you will be happy when you are successful. But the reverse is actually true, and not just anecdotally. Hard neurological science supports the idea that happy people have more capacity to succeed. And beyond that, that happiness is not a genetic mandate, or a product of circumstance. It’s a choice. Here, Crabtree boils this choice down into three opportunities for change that can make people happier. As an employee, a manager, and a founder, these opportunities are also the building blocks of high performance.


In order to be happy, you can’t rely on goal achievement. You have to delight in the work that gets you there. The most productive people in the world don’t just like what they do on an everyday basis — they enter a flow or high-performance state that brings them consistent satisfaction. (more…)

Los Tigres del Norte Make Disney’s Latin-Tinged ‘McFarland, USA’ Soundtrack Real


By Judy Cantor-Navas
February 17, 2015

Los Tigres del Norte

Los Tigres del Norte

Album from inspirational Disney movie drops as Los Tigres tour the U.S.

The great Norteño musicians and immigration activists Los Tigres del Norte bring some authenticity to the just-released McFarland, USA soundtrack album. Los Tigres’ pan-Latin pride song “América” is featured in the opening credits of the film, which stars Kevin Costner as the coach of a scrappy high school team of cross-country runners in a California farm workers town.

The album dropped Tuesday (Feb. 17) in advance of McFarland‘s theatrical debut on Friday, Feb. 20.

Music from the film includes Juanes‘ previously released single “Juntos (Together),” an upbeat message vehicle with the Colombian star’s familiar rhythmic hook. Tracks from West Coast ’70s crossover band War (“Me and Baby Brother”) and Mongo Santamaría’s 1962 “Watermelon Man” contribute to a grooving barrio vibe that runs through the soundtrack, which is more thematic than it is a faithful recreation of the film’s ’80s time frame.

“América” was the opening track on Los Tigres’ 1986 Gracias!…América…Sin Fronteras, an album that went to No. 1 on Billboard’s Regional Mexican chart and won a Grammy for Best Mexican-American performance.

“From América, I am… The ones from the North say that I’m Latino,” the song says in Spanish. “They don’t want to call me American.” The song goes on to name check Latin American countries, negating the United States’ claim to the name “America.” In 2011, Los Tigres performed the song together with Calle 13 for their MTV Unplugged album.


“Our career is based on telling the stories that our people live,” Los Tigres frontman Jorge Hernández recently told Billboard.

Los Tigres are currently on a national tour, which started in the Northeast and heads to Florida this weekend. The band will later play dates in the Midwest, New Mexico, and Arizona. Los Tigres del Norte’s tour wraps up at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on April 18.