Monthly Archives: November 2011

A cappella music, which seems like a new fad right now, actually started in the 15th century as a type of church music sung without accompaniment. Recently, it has grown in popularity at high schools and colleges where a cappella groups arrange pop songs. Using only their voices, the group creates a background of music, mimicking the sounds made by drums, guitar, piano, etc., while one person sings the lead.

NBC’s show The Sing-Off has moved a cappella a little bit higher into the mainstream by hosting a competition where the winning group takes home $200,000 and scores a recording contract with Sony. On Monday night The Pentatonix took home the season three championship title, and I have to admit they were my favorite from the beginning.

Singer-songwriter Sara Bareilles was a judge on the show, and she shared some insight on a cappella music with New York Magazine. When asked why people are either obsessed with a cappella music or hate it and she replied, “I don’t know why it’s such a hot bed of dispute; it’s interesting. My sister did it when I was growing up, so it was always something I sort of revered and couldn’t wait to be a part of. I love that in the a cappella community, we’re all sort of self-professed nerds and we wear that badge with pride. Like, ‘Yeah, we’re music nerds, get over it!’”

After a quick trip through the blogosphere it seems like New York Magazine is right when they say people either love it or hate it. Here’s what others say.

Lisa Notes loves a cappella music: “You take ownership. There are no instruments filling in the gaps for you. You’re on your own, sink or swim. That means sometimes it can sound fairly rough, but other times, it can send chills down your spine when you hear nothing except a beautiful blend of human voices.”

Vocal Blog writes about the love/hate relationship promoters have with a cappella groups: “Promoters hate a cappella groups, because they are eccentric niche artists on the music market. Promoters love a cappella groups, because it’s easy for them to do radio interviews and mini-showcases including live singing and beatboxing.”

The Contemporary A Cappella Society has one blogger who hates female a cappella groups: “No one wants to hear 15 girls sing high F’s. Could you please just pack it low? Sopranos come a dime a dozen and I know that they’re pretty much who auditions for you, but you don’t need to make them all sing in the stratosphere all of the time….actually, you don’t need anyone singing in the stratosphere any of the time.”

A cappella is certainly more loved than hated at my college. Out of our three a cappella groups, the all-male group, Ithacappella, is the most popular. People wait in line an hour before the doors open to secure the closest seats and the largest assembly room in the Campus Center fills to standing room only with people lingering outside in the hallway.

Perhaps the most well-known a cappella group is Rockappella who have produced more than 20 albums. They have performed with the Boston Pops Orchestra, on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and even made an appearance at Strings Music Festival in 1999.

So are you with the love crowd or the hate crowd? Should we bring another a cappella group to the Strings stage?

Posted on November 30, 2011
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As I mentioned last week, Spotify has paid all the royalty rights to broadcast songs to its listeners. So if the service is free and Spotify has to pay to stream songs, then how does it operate?

The free Spotify service takes advantage of advertising to cover some of its costs. Every now and then the music is interrupted for a radio ad. Some ads also pop up on the Spotify interface while the music is playing. As far as I can tell, there is no way to minimize or close these ads before their allotted screen time is over. In this way, the advertising is less like the banners you see on websites and more like TV commercials where you have to wait the five minutes to get back to the show.

Spotify also offers a premium service. For $4.99 a month users can access the service ad free, and for $9.99 a month they can use Spotify on a mobile device. As smartphones are becoming more and more popular, this option will probably appeal to more consumers. Those who want to have all the latest music at the gym, in the car, and other places iPods are commonly seen, may switch over to using a cell phone and Spotify.

So these two ways are partly how Spotify hopes to make a profit, but what about the artists?

Spotify is legal because it has contracts with the record companies. The record companies in turn have contracts with their artists. Since record labels are private companies it’s not possible to determine how much money individual artists will make from Spotify. Information is Beautiful has an interesting chart comparing what artists make versus the record companies.

So will Spotify increase or decrease album sales? Some argue that Spotify will decrease album sales because no one will buy music they can get for free. MusicOMH blogger writes, “Ownership of music will become meaningless and people will no longer feel the need to possess something which is available free on tap to their laptop or mobile.” But others, like Kenneth Parks, Spotify’s chief content officer, believes Spotify may increase music sales. He says “There’s no evidence of our service cannibalizing music sales. On the contrary, there’s evidence that we’re generating new revenue from a demographic that hasn’t purchased a lot and are now reengaged.”

So what is the answer? Probably both. Some might buy more, some might buy less. In my point of view, Spotify should only increase music consumption, rather than eliminate it. Let’s look at an example. As of September 2011, 10 million copies of Adele’s 21 Album had been sold. If those were all purchased at an average price of $9.99 on amazon.com, then that would be a profit of $99,900,000. Now let’s say each of those people who bought the CD listens to it only once on Spotify. And let’s say Spotify only pays royalty rates of one cent per listen. Just that one album alone has already made an additional $1,100,000.

It remains to be seen how artists and record labels will benefit from Spotify, but it’s hard to argue against a service that generates revenue for the music industry. Whether it’s listening to an album at a friend’s house, checking out a CD from the library, or looking up a song on the internet, music sharing is here to stay.

Posted on November 22, 2011
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My favorite memory of Strings is, “The Persuasions singing Happy Birthday to Gloria Gossard.”

The Persuasians at the Strings Tent – 1995
Gloria Gossard

With Thanksgiving less than a week away, we want to say “thank you” to Gloria Gossard. This remarkable woman had a contagious sense of humor, a love of the community, and a generous spirit. Gloria Gossard began her work with Strings Music Festival in the late 1980s and went on to become a board member from 1993 to 2000. She loved attending Strings concerts and set the record for the most concerts ever attended.

In the community she is remembered as the 1998 Philanthropist of the Year, the 2000 winner of the Hazie Werner Award for Excellence, the 2008 winner of the biennial Steamboat Springs Heritage Award, and for the Gloria Gossard Park on Emerald Mountain. From history, to the arts, to the environment, Steamboat Springs would not be what it is today without her.

Posted on November 18, 2011
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On a snowy Steamboat weekend with the mountain not yet open, I decided to get myself up to date on the newest music software: Spotify.

After navigating to Spotify and clicking sign up, my Facebook account information was automatically entered and all I had to do was accept the terms of agreement. No new username, no new password, no new endless pages of information, and I was in. After a quick software download I had a whole new music library at the tip of my fingers. Or should I say libraries.


Growing up at the brink of the digital music sharing age I’ve used it all, from Napster to LimeWire to Pandora. But my favorite experience to date has been iTunes. Arriving at my dorm for my first semester of college, I immediately plugged in my laptop, subwoofer, and speakers so I could listen to music while I unpacked. When I loaded iTunes, I noticed that half a dozen other libraries had popped up on my computer. I clicked on a song from another library and it played in my room through my speakers. It was only my first day and I was already in love with the college life.

After further research, I discovered that this type of music sharing was known as a peer-to-peer network. I could listen to music from anyone logged on to the dorm network who shared their iTunes library. I didn’t own the music, it wasn’t physically on my computer, but I could listen to it.

Logging into Spotify for the first time brought me back to those early college days of music sharing. Except this time I wasn’t connected with only the few hundred people in my dorm, I was connected with the millions of other Spotify users. Spotify searches the internet for songs and then streams them to the listener.

And the reason why it’s caught on so quickly is that it combines features of some current music software; you can listen to a specific song, like looking it up on YouTube, play random music of the same genre, like Pandora, and make playlists like iTunes. In fact, Spotify basically borrowed the entire iTunes interface, and it’s so similar that iTunes users will have no trouble navigating the features. And all those iTunes playlists you created for the gym, the car, and when your friends come over automatically sync to Spotify so you can keep them, change them, or add to them. Now you don’t actually have to own the music; you just have to search for it.

Spotify vs iTunes

Spotify also brings me back to my college dorm years of listening to my friends’ music. On the right hand side of the interface I can see a list of my Facebook friends that also use Spotify. Clicking on a friend, I can see his top artists, top tracks, and any playlists that he’s made public. Friends can also send music to my Spotify account if they want me to hear something. Joining Spotify Social also lets you see what your Facebook friends are listening to in real time.

Eliot Van Buskirk, music technology expert, tells NPR: “It gets closer and closer to that original Napster feeling. ‘What do my friends have? Can I have that?’ And now it’s like, ‘Yes, you can.’”

Unlike the other music sharing services that have been disbanded, Spotify has all the legal rights to broadcast the music. Check back next week for another post on Spotify’s business plan and how artists and record labels may benefit.

So what will Spotify do for Strings? Well, this past summer I was asked to create a playlist for the Encore dinner. After perusing my classical music selection, I realized most of what I had was piano music and not all of it was appropriate for background music. I ended up pulling together a mix of pieces from our past Strings Highlights CDs, which left me wanting more. Next year, when I need to make a playlist I will have a much larger variety of music to choose from. And instead of loaning someone my iPod and hoping that “Evacuate the Dance Floor” doesn’t accidentally start playing, all I’ll have to do is share the playlist on Spotify and whoever decides to DJ can log on and use it.

Posted on November 15, 2011
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…the Music Directors.

John Sant’Ambrogio

Andrés Cárdenes is the best music director ever.
-Kathy and Keith

Andrés Cárdenes Rocks!

Andrés leading and conducting the orchestra in the fabulous Pavilion.
-Cheryl Kutscher

Mom and Dad, thank you music family! We love piano!
-Isabel and Tino Cárdenes

Andrés Cárdenes and Monique Mead

Did you know that our Music Directors help out with Strings all year round? When they’re not in Steamboat they are lining up musicians for the next summer and choosing music for the program.  Our past Music Directors have been John Sant’Ambrogio (1988-1993), Yizhak Schotten and Katherine Collier (1994-2008), and Andrés Cárdenes and Monique Mead (2009-present).

Posted on November 11, 2011
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Amazing Grace. Taps. America the Beautiful. These and other patriotic songs and hymns are playing around the nation this week at memorial services and parades honoring and remembering our veterans.

In 1919 President Wilson first proclaimed November 11 as Armistice Day: “To us in America, the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory, both because of the thing from which it has freed us and because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…” The day originally honored veterans and remembered soldiers lost in World War I.

Today we still celebrate Armistice Day, now known as Veterans Day, on November 11. But for some veterans, the music associated with Veterans Day strikes a deeper chord. 

One group of veterans meets regularly at the Veterans Affairs (VA) clinic in southern New Jersey. They gather together to listen to Dr. Mary Rorro play her viola. You can watch the video below to see one session and hear some of the stories from the veterans themselves.

Dr. Rorro picks familiar songs that may evoke a specific emotion or recall a particular memory. Some are upbeat and lively while others are mournful or calming. This music therapy program helps the veterans cope with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The American Music Therapy Association has shown that music therapy has many positive effects for those dealing with PTSD. Music therapy can reduce anxiety and stress, positively change mood and emotional states, and enhance feelings of control, confidence, and empowerment.

“At times, music can serve as a springboard during discussion,” Dr. Rorro says. “You can feel the weight of some of the emotional state of the group.”

Many veterans are unable to find the words to talk about their experiences. Listening to music in the company of others with similar experiences allows them to better cope with feelings, emotions, and memories.

“Music gives all a chance to express ourselves, to share our souls, to share our feelings with each other.” -Participant, Nordoff-Robbins Center for Music Therapy, New York University

Most people know someone who has served or is currently serving our country. To celebrate them this Veterans Day, bring them a little music. Whether you’re a musician yourself and play them a tune, bring them to a concert, or send them a playlist, music is a great way to share a moment.

Posted on November 9, 2011
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Strings Music Festival Guild 1990

“I remember the first Guild. I was there when we coined ‘Noteworthy Affairs.’”

My favorite memory of Strings is… “the many years I volunteered for Strings and my years with the Guild. I have many wonderful music friends and memories from those days.” -Ann Perry

The Guild of Strings Music Festival has been around almost as long as the festival itself. The Guild began in 1990 and was started by Gloria Smith, Molly Cox, Criss Fetcher, Lynn Greco, Ja Hanson, and Carol Ryan. Nine of the original Guild members are still involved with Strings today. Back then their goal was to organize and help Strings with fundraising events.

And they are still at it today. This year, they raised $25,000 for Strings Music Festival through events such as the Kitchen and Garden Tour and the Silent Auction. They are also a critical part of our concerts, providing leadership for the other community volunteers. To get involved with the Guild, email chloe@steamboatvillagebrokers.com.

What is your favorite Guild memory?

Posted on November 4, 2011
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