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Millennial Choirs and Orchestras July 13, 2019 Performing outside Carnegie Hall during NYC blackout with the Manhattan Henge phenomenon

Choose Light:  My Mission

The Problem

On July 13, 2019 the Millennial Choirs and Orchestras was caught in a huge New York City blackout.  Two of the three Carnegie Hall performances had already happened, but the third captured another audience: 5 million people all over the world. 

Several people finally emerged from a totally black subway where they were trapped for over an hour and as they came up onto the street, they tweeted about the “celestial sound” and how they came into “the light” hearing angelic voices to which they were drawn. 

They may not have realized it, but there is solid science behind their reaction.  It has something to do with “the Heliotropic Effect.”  Read more…

Recently we’ve seen a marked decline in civility globally.  Protests have become riots. Destruction of property and looting have become “free speech.”  Images are frequently dark, dismal, and depressing.

As a culture, have we stopped listening to each other to such a degree that the best response is violence, a shouting match, or cutting off a conversation or opinion with which we don’t agree? 

Are you concerned that our children are growing up in this extremely dark, negative, violent, garish, sarcastic, and nihilistic environment? What does their future look like?  What do visions of darkness and pessimism do to not just children and teens, but all of us?  There is plenty of research, and a substantial amount of research on music, lyrics and how it is affecting society.

The contention in our communities has several roots, the obvious being fractured families leaving children abandoned emotionally, economic challenges that threaten stability, technology that removes the personal human connection, and education-career pressures as students work their way through a system that is failing so many.  And then a pandemic unexpectedly rocks the globe bringing a level of fear children and adults alike have been totally unaccustomed to experiencing

What Research Says

All this said, scientific research cannot deny the influence of music on all of us.  It is the window to our culture, especially the vocal arts and the lyrics.  Music, especially when combined with the visual, is the most powerful of all emotional influences on the brain.  It has the power to change our mood – to make us happy, sad, or yes, angry.  It especially provides instant recall of memories in great detail. 

Brain imaging shows how music lights up the brain or muddies it. Remember this phrase “lights up.”

Numerous studies have shown that negative, aggressive, depressing and violent lyrics are connected to detrimental behaviors, such as drug abuse, alcohol and sexual promiscuity. Singers who spend a lifetime performing such lyrics also show that their lifespans are significantly shortened.  A stronger correlation exists between hip hop, rap, and heavy metal lyrics to these destructive behaviors.  

On the other hand, we know that music with uplifting, positive lyrics can heal, not just emotions, but even the physical body.  Do a search online – “TED Talks – the power of music.” You’ll find several fascinating presentations about music’s effect on the brain, the body, and the emotions.  One example is a pianist who gave birth to a 1.5 pound preemie who found NICU to be a hostile environment of loud, agitating, unsettling noises.  The baby’s vital signs were not good.  So, the mother asked permission to play her recorded piano music to this little baby fighting for her life, and shortly after, her vital signs completely turn around, and she survived. 

So, since science proves that certain music has a negative effect and other music has a positive effect, what would the world look like if we turned to positive music and messages?  Would we be able to collectively turn the anger, hatred and hostility around for our children and adults alike? 

Today Gerald Molen (Oscar winning producer, Schindler’s List), Joe Hart (Hartland Studios, developer of Technicolor and Deluxe post-production digitizing), Dr. Ted Baehr, (Founder MovieGuide.org) and I along with other experts have joined together to develop strategies to elevate the singing, music video and music recording industries. 

The Solutions

First, how do we change the false perception that darkness, drugs, destruction, and sex sells in the music industry? MovieGuide.org shows just the opposite in the film industry:  the uplifting, inspiring, positive, family-friendly films are the box office best sellers. Still filmmakers with an agenda will ignore the stats and continue to produce more dark and negative themes. 

There comes a point in time when the industry must wake up to the awful state it has helped to create and take responsibility for the resulting chaos.  Laws and regulations don’t seem to help.  We’ve had a lot of them around for a long time.  The Internet has helped smother those attempts at keeping the lid on the jar.  The realization that performing arts has a strong hand in destroying society, impacting everyone negatively, must come from within. 

How do we break through all this darkness and choose light?

Education and awareness outreach is imperative for change.  Few understand just how powerful music is and how it affects our brains, and our children’s brains. 

All Life is Oriented Toward Light

One of our team members, Dr. Kim Cameron, is an author and William Russell Kelly Professor of Management and Organizations in the Ross School of Business and professor of higher education in the School of Education at the University of Michigan.  He actively consults with business organizations on five continents, healthcare and education, federal and military organizations.

His groundbreaking research is published in a book to be released August 3, 2021, entitled Positively Energizing Leadership: Virtuous Actions and Relationships that Create High Performance.”  He sent me a copy a few weeks ago.  It’s precisely the message the world needs – NOW. 

The principles he advocates are consistent in the workplace as well as at home with family members and in our social-community relationships. Cameron’s thesis relies upon years of validated scientific evidence to make the case that all individuals are inherently attracted to and flourish in the presence of positive energy.  Our virtuous behaviors are tightly linked to our positive energy and extraordinarily positive performance in these relationships. 

The book isn’t about “happiology” or “positivity” or unbridled optimism, which have become faddish and in some settings have only served as a denial that there is tragedy in the world.  It’s about how to capitalize on an inherent tendency in all living systems to orient themselves toward light or life-giving positive energy.  It’s call “The Heliotropic Effect.”

The research shows that all human beings flourish in the presence of light or positive energy.  One example is how plants and flowers orient themselves to the sun throughout the day. 

Using this universal scientific principle, the book charts a course for how we can incorporate “light” in our communications and actions to make the changes needed in our families, workplaces, schools and community service relationships. 

Virtuosity v. Mediocrity

Dr. Cameron’s research shows a strong correlation between virtuousness, positive relational energy and positive outcomes. Before I lose anyone here, let’s define “virtuous” in context.  We often think of virtue in a moral construct.  While that is one definition, the Latin origin is “vir” – meaning “man,” or “manly strength or valor.” 

In a general sense, virtue is a high level of strength or excellence.  Likewise, in music, the “virtuoso” is the expert instrumentalist or singer who plays their instrument at the highest level of excellence. 

Recording standards in the music industry are a different story.  While studio production has been reaching “perfection” over the years, along with these technological advances comes the result of too much Auto Tune, equalizing, reverb and other bells and whistles.  First, the audience has come to expect something super-human.  Technology can now transform an otherwise untalented voice into a superstar.  So why should the performer waste time taking voice lessons when it can all be corrected in the studio?  Why should the performer try to give a pitch-perfect performance when the sound engineer can correct it in real time? The performer can listen to anything and learn to sing it on the internet. Why should they learn to read music anymore?

As a teacher and performer, I have witnessed the end result is that technology often becomes a crutch, and we’ve lost natural or authentic virtuosity and excellence, and this acceptance of mediocrity shows throughout society. 

A direct result is that approximately only 11% of young musicians can read music anymore.  Fewer homes have pianos today than decades ago when times were less affluent.  Yet reading music and playing piano are fundamental to building an organized and strong logical brain, as well as the influence on the emotional side of the brain.  So why would families not have a piano or keyboard and a child studying music and singing? 

My own informal scientific experiment with the effect of singing on the individual has been going on for many years in my voice studio.  A student will arrive and whatever the day is – sluggish, discouraging, mundane – with rare exception, that negative or neutral emotion turns completely into positive energy by the end of the lesson.  My students have confirmed this phenomenon, and I have experienced it as a voice student myself. 

What is it about music?  Studies show that when we listen to or sing certain music, especially with lyrics that are inspirational, motivational, uplifting and positive, our hormones respond with higher levels of oxytocin (which encourages calm) and endorphins (which gives us that natural high).

A Studio of Light

In short, I’m on a mission.  I made a decision to fill my private studio and my classroom at school with song choices that will help orient my students to the light.  I give them positive feedback as I critique and make corrections.  I let them know how much I love them and how proud I am of their progress.  I help my students in the school setting to know how to choose good material as actors and singers.  I encourage them to use their talents to uplift the world, not to degrade it, to stay positive and not to succumb to being a victim over something hurtful someone may have said. 

I turn down many students.  I frequently get phone calls from prospective students who found me in an Internet search or drove past the sign in front of my studio.  I ask them which style of music they relate to most and then ask them to send me an audio or video demo reel. Invariably, I get a glimpse of the predominant culture here in Hollywood. I watch studio- or home studio-produced, auto-tuned voices with bizarre, violent, angry, satanic and usually edgy, vulgar and pornographic imagery. 

Before letting them know I could not help them reach their goals, I explain what I can help them accomplish: Make positive choices so they can live happy, productive lives and face the challenges of this world.  I let them know they not only have choices, they have a responsibility to make choices that will encourage society to move toward the light, not the dark, macabre, or violent.  Then I invite them to set up a consultation so that I can share with them the research and discuss a path forward.

I typically never get a call back.  Apparently the pursuit of fame and wealth is too strong, because in today’s music culture, the negative and the dark rule.

Negativity is contagious, but positivity conquers negativity every time.  I ask my students, “How many of you enjoy being around a negative person, always complaining, criticizing and being sarcastic?”  Not one hand ever raises. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that lyrics shouldn’t ever deal with life’s tragedies.  Some of the most moving songs and scenes from stage and film tell these riveting and heart-wrenching stories.  But a lesson learned,  a glimmer of hope in the text that reflects virtuosity, a positive energy, the Heliotropic Effect is paramount. 

On the theatrical side, so much material in stage plays and in film, including teen scenes and monologues, is negative, dealing with suicide or hatred of a parent, even dwelling on hopelessness.  They tend to be completely deficient in literacy, using the overused F-bomb ad nauseam.  But research does show that familiarity is popular because it is numbing.  

That’s the vicious cycle.  It’s time to break the mold. 

Sports v. Music

Today we have so many choices.  Sports is a big one, including the popularity of dance.  Music/theatre and sports compete for space, especially in the school and after-school setting.  Team sports and choral/orchestral music both have a tremendously positive impact on teamwork, getting along, leadership and the healthy release of endorphins and oxytocin.  However, only music with lyrics set to a catchy melody and rhythm, can imprint a message and an emotion in our minds for a lifetime.  Those words change our attitudes, values and actions for good – or evil.  

The industry needs more songs written and more songs sung with lyrics that we can call upon in a crisis to help us through and more opportunity for young people to perform these songs.  

Recommended Opportunities to Sing and Learn to Sing

Many schools are failing society by limiting choices.  I’m alarmed by the shrinking music programs, and frankly the restrictions on public schools that ban some of the most brilliant music ever written from the baroque and classical eras, simply because it mentions the words “God” or “prayer” and may be offensive to some non-religious individuals.

I have encouraged all my private and public school students to learn to read music.  The best way is through participating in a choral organization.  I’ve advocated the Millennial Choirs and Orchestras, in five states and now online with members ranging in age from 4 to 84. 

I’ve just been asked to direct a Youth Chorus sponsored by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Woodland Hills, California.  I’m inviting any young singer (you don’t have to be trained) between the ages of 12-18 to join this choral organization.  The first rehearsal is Tuesday evening, August 17th, at 7 PM.  We will sing songs that teenagers will enjoy,  including Judeo-Christian songs that public schools can no longer teach.  The messages will be inspirational, motivational, uplifting and positive.  

If you or someone you know would like to join, here’s the sign up form.

I promise that I will do everything I can to provide an environment where teenagers can have a blast with their peers, and they will also learn to read music and how to sing with passion and good technique. 

I hope you will choose for your student the activities that will put positive lyrics in their brains that they can call upon when in a life crisis to carry them through.  The lyrics will give them hope and comfort in a world that is raging with anger and uncertainty. 

And as for private instruction, I hope you will choose to be a part of the positive and vibrant studio my students and I are building together.  Choose light. Sign up for private lessons, in studio or online, today.

 

Choose Light:  My Mission

Recently we’ve seen a marked decline in civility globally.  Protests have become riots. Destruction of property and looting have become “free speech.”  Images are frequently dark, dismal, and depressing.

As a culture, have we stopped listening to each other to such a degree that the best response is violence, a shouting match, or cutting off a conversation or opinion with which we don’t agree? 

Are you concerned that our children are growing up in this extremely dark, negative, violent, garish, sarcastic, and nihilistic environment? What does their future look like?  What do visions of darkness and pessimism do to not just children and teens, but all of us?  There is plenty of research, and a substantial amount of research on music, lyrics and how it is affecting society.

The contention in our communities has several roots, the obvious being fractured families leaving children abandoned emotionally, economic challenges that threaten stability, technology that removes the personal human connection, and education-career pressures as students work their way through a system that is failing so many.  And then a pandemic unexpectedly rocks the globe bringing a level of fear children and adults alike have been totally unaccustomed to experiencing

All this said, scientific research cannot deny the influence of music on all of us.  It is the window to our culture, especially the vocal arts and the lyrics.  Music, especially when combined with the visual, is the most powerful of all emotional influences on the brain.  It has the power to change our mood – to make us happy, sad, or yes, angry.  It especially provides instant recall of memories in great detail. 

Brain scans show how music lights up the brain or muddies it. Remember this phrase “lights up.”

Numerous studies have shown that negative, aggressive, depressing and violent lyrics are connected to detrimental behaviors, such as drug abuse, alcohol and sexual promiscuity. Singers who spend a lifetime performing such lyrics also show that their lifespans are significantly shortened.  A stronger correlation exists between hip hop, rap, and heavy metal lyrics to these destructive behaviors.  

On the other hand, we know that music with uplifting, positive lyrics can heal, not just emotions, but even the physical body.  Do a search online – “TED Talks – the power of music.” You’ll find several fascinating presentations about music’s effect on the brain, the body, and the emotions.  One example is a pianist who gave birth to a 1.5 pound preemie who found NICU to be a hostile environment of loud, agitating, unsettling noises.  The baby’s vital signs were not good.  So, the mother asked permission to play her recorded piano music to this little baby fighting for her life, and shortly after, her vital signs completely turn around, and she survived. 

So, since science proves that certain music has a negative effect and other music has a positive effect, what would the world look like if we turned to positive music and messages?  Would we be able to collectively turn the anger, hatred and hostility around for our children and adults alike? 

Today Gerald Molen (Oscar winning producer, Schindler’s List), Joe Hart (Hartland Studios, developer of Technicolor and Deluxe post-production digitizing), Dr. Ted Baehr, (Founder MovieGuide.org) and I along with other experts have joined together to develop strategies to elevate the singing, music video and music recording industries. 

First, how do we change the false perception that darkness, drugs, destruction, and sex sells in the music industry? MovieGuide.org shows just the opposite in the film industry:  the uplifting, inspiring, positive, family-friendly films are the box office best sellers. Still filmmakers with an agenda will ignore the stats and continue to produce more dark and negative themes. 

There comes a point in time when the industry must wake up to the awful state it has helped to create and take responsibility for the resulting chaos.  Laws and regulations don’t seem to help.  We’ve had a lot of them around for a long time.  The Internet has helped smother those attempts at keeping the lid on the jar.  The realization that performing arts has a strong hand in destroying society, impacting everyone negatively, must come from within. 

How do we break through all this darkness and choose light?

Education and awareness outreach is imperative for change.  Few understand just how powerful music is and how it affects our brains, and our children’s brains. 

One of our team members, Dr. Kim Cameron, is an author and William Russell Kelly Professor of Management and Organizations in the Ross School of Business and professor of higher education in the School of Education at the University of Michigan.  He actively consults with business organizations on five continents, healthcare and education, federal and military organizations.

His groundbreaking research is published in a soon-to-be released book entitled Positively Energizing Leadership: Virtuous Actions and Relationships that Create High Performance.”  The principles he advocates are consistent in the workplace as well as at home with family members and in our social-community relationships. 

The book relies upon years of validated scientific evidence to make the case that all individuals are inherently attracted to and flourish in the presence of positive energy.  Our virtuous behaviors are tightly linked to our positive energy and extraordinarily positive performance in these relationships. 

The book isn’t about “happiology” or “positivity” or unbridled optimism, which have become faddish and in some settings have only served as a denial that there is tragedy in the world.  It’s about how to capitalize on an inherent tendency in all living systems to orient themselves toward light or life-giving positive energy.  It’s call “The Heliotropic Effect.”

The research shows that all human beings flourish in the presence of light or positive energy.  One example is how plants and flowers orient themselves to the sun throughout the day. 

Using this universal scientific principle, the book charts a course for how we can incorporate “light” in our communications and actions to make the changes needed in our families, workplaces, schools and community service relationships. 

Dr. Cameron’s research shows a strong correlation between virtuousness, positive relational energy and positive outcomes. Before I lose anyone here, let’s define “virtuous” in context.  We often think of virtue in a moral construct.  While that is one definition, the Latin origin is “vir” – meaning “man,” or “manly strength or valor.” 

In a general sense, virtue is a high level of strength or excellence.  Likewise, in music, the “virtuoso” is the expert instrumentalist or singer who plays their instrument at the highest level of excellence. 

Recording standards are a different story.  While studio production has been reaching “perfection” over the years, along with these technological advances comes the result of too much Auto Tune, equalizing, reverb and other bells and whistles.  First the audience has come to expect something that is super-human.  We can now transform an otherwise untalented voice into a superstar.  So why should the performer take voice lessons?  Why should the performer try to give a pitch-perfect performance? The performer can listen to anything on the internet. Why should they learn to read music?

The end result is that technology often becomes a crutch, and we’ve lost natural or authentic virtuosity and excellence, and it shows in society. 

A direct result is that approximately only 11% of young musicians can read music anymore.  Fewer homes have pianos today then decades ago when times were less affluent.  Yet reading music and playing piano are foundational to building an organized and strong brain, not to mention the influence on emotion.  So why would families not have a piano or keyboard and a child studying music and singing?

My own informal scientific experiment has been going on for many years in my voice studio.  A student will arrive and whatever the day is – sluggish, discouraging, mundane – with rare exception, that negative or neutral emotion turns completely into positive energy by the end of the lesson.  My students have confirmed this phenomenon, and I have experienced it as a voice student myself. 

What is it about music?  Studies show that when we listen to or sing certain music, especially with lyrics that are inspirational, motivational, uplifting and positive, our hormones respond with higher levels of oxytocin (which encourages calm) and endorphins (which gives us that natural high).

In short, I’m on a mission.  I made a decision to fill my private studio and my classroom at school with song choices that will help orient my students to the light.  I give them positive feedback as I critique and make corrections.  I let them know how much I love them and how proud I am of their progress.  I help my students in the school setting know how to choose good material as actors and singers.  I encourage them to use their talents to uplift the world, not to degrade it, to stay positive and not to succumb to being a victim over something hurtful someone may have said. 

I turn down many students.  I frequently get phone calls from prospective students who found me in an Internet search or drove past the sign in front of my studio.  I ask them which style of music they relate to most and then ask them to send me an audio or video demo reel. Invariably, I get a glimpse of the predominant culture here in Hollywood. I watch studio- or home studio-produced, auto-tuned voices with bizarre, violent, angry, satanic and usually edgy, vulgar and pornographic imagery.  I explain what I do – help students make positive choices.  I let them know they not only have choices, they have a responsibility to make choices that will encourage society to move toward the light, not the dark, macabre, or violent.  I invite them to set up a consultation so that I can share with them the research. I typically never get a call back. 

Negativity is contagious, but positivity conquers negativity every time.  I ask my students, “How many of you enjoy being around a negative person, always complaining, criticizing and being sarcastic?”  Not one hand ever raises.  I rest my case.   

Now, that doesn’t mean that lyrics shouldn’t deal with life’s tragedies.  Some of the most moving songs and scenes from film and stage are of these moments.  But there must be a lesson learned,  a glimmer of hope in the text that reflects virtuosity, a positive energy, the Heliotropic Effect. 

On the theatrical side, so much material in stage plays and in film, including teen scenes and monologues, is negative, dealing with suicide or hatred of a parent, even the insane side of life, dwelling on hopelessness and completely deficient in using adjectives and expletives in the English language other than the F-bomb. That word is so over-used today, it’s nauseatingly redundant.  But research does show that familiarity is numbing.  So does this mean we are now a society that needs a lot of numbing? 

That’s the vicious cycle.  It’s time to break the mold. 

Today we have so many choices.  Sports is a big one, including the popularity of dance.  Music/theatre and sports compete for space, especially in the school and after-school setting.  Team sports and choral/orchestral music both have a tremendously positive impact on teamwork, getting along, leadership and the healthy release of endorphins and oxytocin.  However, only music can set lyrics to a melody and a rhythm, and the message is in our minds for a lifetime.  Those words change our attitudes, values and actions for good – or evil.  

I want more songs written and more songs sung with lyrics that we can call upon in a crisis to help us through.  

Many schools are failing society in this way.  I’m alarmed by the shrinking music programs, and frankly the restrictions on public schools that ban some of the most glorious music ever written in the baroque and classical eras simply because it mentions the word “God” or “prayer” and may be offensive to some religions. 

I have encouraged all my private and public school students to learn to read music.  The best way is through participating in a choral organization.  I’ve advocated the Millennial Choirs and Orchestras, in five states and now online.  But, I’ve just been asked to direct a youth chorus for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Woodland Hills.  I’m inviting any young singer (you don’t have to be trained) between the ages of 12-18 to join this choral activity.  The first organizational rehearsal is Tuesday evening, August 17th, at 7 PM.  We are going to sing songs that teenagers enjoy and there will also be songs that public schools can no longer teach. 

If you’re interested, here’s the sign up form.

I promise that I will do everything I can to provide an environment where teenagers can have a blast with their peers and they will learn to read music and how to sing with good technique.  I hope you will choose for your student the activities that will put positive lyrics in their brains that they can call upon when in a crisis to carry them through.  The lyrics will give them hope and comfort in a world that is raging. 

And as for private instruction, I hope you will choose to be a part of the positive and vibrant studio my students and I are building together.  Choose light.