Acoustic Pie Newsletter, November 2008

November 7, 2008

Hi, everybody!


I’m writing this from an Amtrack train on my way from Del Mar to Carpinteria.  My mom and I are going to hear Ellis Paul tonight at Russ & Julie’s famous house concert series.  Ellis Paul at a house concert.  Yes, I am very excited.   I’ve seen him at venues ten times as big as Russ and Julie’s house and it’s partly because they have such generous supporters who will underwrite an artist of this caliber that makes this possible for the rest of us.  Acoustic music fans are the best.  House concerts are the best.  I’ll let you know in the next newsletter just how wonderful it was.  And here’s what else is on my mind today!


  1. What’s New
  2. New Blog:  “Music Lessons ~ Killing the Joy”
  3. Jimmy Webb
  4. Show Blurb:  The Swell Season


1.      What’s New


I have a new Featured Artist at Acoustic Pie ~ Jakob Dylan.  I just loved his new album “Seeing Things”.  You can read a bit more, get links and photos, and view my two different favorite YouTube videos of Jakob on my MySpace page and at Acoustic Pie. 


Have you noticed the new “What’s New” corner of the Acoustic Pie home page?  Over on the left-hand side?  I’m trying to put a little note and link there whenever something new goes up on the website.  For example, I always place a link there when the new Top 20 for the month is posted.  


2.      New Blog:  “Music Lessons ~ Killing the Joy”


At an election party on Thursday night a man was telling me about his beautiful grand piano that sits in his living room and never gets played.  Ever.  He loves music.  He studied classical piano as a child.  He felt he should own a piano.  He believes he should play it.  But he isn’t drawn to play the difficult classical repertoire that he eventually came to appreciate, if not love, as a young person.  Don’t you hear this story all the time?  I find it so sad and so frustrating.  And that’s what my latest blog is about ~ teaching music to people in a way that will give them the tools for a lifelong connection to music.  I post all blogs at both MySpace and here at the Pie blog site in case you have a preference.


3.      Jimmy Webb


I don’t have the patience to note the time/date/radio frequency of specific radio shows and then try and remember to listen to them.  So I listen to Internet radio and XM satellite radio and just catch what comes.  Last night, I caught the most amazing show on XM’s The Loft.  The Mixed Bag Radio show was interviewing Jimmy Webb and Glen Campbell.  I’m a huge fan of Jimmy Webb’s songwriting and I even wrote a blog about his songwriting book Tunesmith which I called “What Jimmy Says”.  I think “Wichita Lineman” is about as pretty as a song gets and I can still be moved by the images and soaring chorus melody in “Galveston”.  Jimmy was giving his rather typically lengthy metaphysical descriptions of his processes while Glen kept saying very earnestly how he mostly focused on “trying to sing in tune”.  And then, without any introduction, they started playing “Wichita Lineman” live, right there in the studio.  Glen was singing and it was definitely Jimmy on the piano and I think Glen was playing the electric guitar leads.   It was beautiful and powerful and I felt like I was eavesdropping on a historic event.  And I felt so lucky to have caught that musical moment.  That’s what radio is all about.


4.      Show Blurb:  The Swell Season


My concert buddy Jimmy and I caught The Swell Season duo at the SDSU Open Air Theatre last month.  A very fun show!  Despite the concrete bleacher seats!   And House of Blues police-state management!  The Swell Season is Glen Hansard and Marketa Iglova of the movie “Once” fame.  They wrote and performed all of the songs for the very charming movie and played many of them along with some new works at the concert.  I can barely sit still for a full show with opening act any more but we even stayed for the encores and I was glad we did. 


Thanks for reading!  If you want to talk, you email me directly at or leave a public comment here on the blog!   



November 2008  


Top 20 Songs on Acoustic Pie Radio, Oct. 2008

November 3, 2008

I have so~o~o~o many favorite Gregory Page songs that it’s just plain silly to single out one. But, if I did decide to attempt such a silly thing, I might just pick “Bumblebees and Me” (see no. 9). And, I notice that Gregory is the only San Diego artist in the Top 20 this month. Speaking of favorite songs… I believe “Empty Chairs” at no. 11 is probably my favorite Don McLean song of all time. So simple and so beautiful. You can listen to it at his MySpace fan page at

I suppose we should just get used to seeing Krista Detor on the Top 20 list (no. 7). You all seem to vote her back on most months! Excellent taste! Have you noticed Storyhill in the rotation (no. 19)? They’re an acoustic duo out of Minnesota. I love their work ~ tons of energy and harmonies.

Thanks for voting everybody! Thanks for listening!

Acoustic Pie

Top 20 Songs on Acoustic Pie Radio
October 2008
Artist ~ Song ~ Album

1. Tracy Chapman ~ Unsung Psalm ~ Telling Stories
2. Mark Knopfler and Emmylou Harris ~ All the Roadrunning ~ All the Roadrunning
3. Eliza Gilkyson ~ Tennessee Road ~ Your Town Tonight
4. David Wilcox ~ Falling For It ~ Airstream
5. Still on the Hill ~ Take Me to the Other Side ~ Ozark: A Celebration in Song
6. Nancy K. Dillon ~ O Susanna ~ Just Let Me Dream
7. Krista Detor ~ Aurora Means Dawn ~ Wilderness Plots
8. Janis Ian ~ The Great Divide ~ Folk is the New Black
9. Gregory Page ~ Bumble Bees & Me ~ All Make Believe
10. The Garden Verge ~ Shadow of a Habit ~ Shadow of a Habit
11. Don McLean ~ Empty Chairs ~ Solo
12. Catherine MacLellan ~ Snow Day ~ Church Bell Blues
13. Stacey Earle ~ If It Weren’t For You ~ Simple Gearle
14. Patty Griffin ~ Mary ~ Flaming Red
15. Kris Delmhorst ~ Galuppi Baldessare ~ Strange Conversation
16. Girlyman ~ Easy Pearls ~ Joyful Sign
17. Catie Curtis ~ Sing ~ Sweet Life
18. The Weepies ~ Little Bird ~ Hideaway
19. Storyhill ~ Highlight ~ Storyhill
20. Stephen Fearing ~ Johnny’s Lament ~ Yellowjacket

Music Lessons: Killing the Joy

November 1, 2008

I was drinking my afternoon iced mocha on a bench on the San Diego State University campus where I work when I heard the most beautiful harmonies. I looked up and saw two young girls walking toward me, maybe 14-15 years old, singing a vaguely familiar pop song. They were at the head of a pack of young men who were all carrying electric guitar cases and drumsticks. The smaller of the two girls was singing lead and strumming the unamplified electric guitar slung around her neck. The taller was providing the vocal harmonies. They were lovely girls and a teeny bit self-conscious, singing and strumming and striding along the busy path. But what I mainly noticed was that they were having so much fun. They were bursting with the kind of joy that springs from a favorite song and the power of being a part of that song ~ with the joy that is a naturally occurring inclination, arguably a genetic predisposition, in just about every age and every culture of human beings. And I thought, as I often do, that nurturing that joy should be the paramount goal of music lessons.

I found out later that this group of happy kids was on campus attending the Power Chord Academy’s Rock ‘n Roll Music Camp. They were coming from a music lesson. And they had been so inspired that they couldn’t stop singing and playing even as they made their way across campus to return to their dorm rooms. Why is this so surprising? It shouldn’t be. Children are universally drawn to music. There’s some pleasure response that is programmed into our genes. Yet I know that most kids leave their piano and clarinet lessons wanting to get as far away from their instruments as possible. Playing music becomes a chore sandwiched between dusting and taking out the garbage. Kids have to be forced to “practice” something that is a natural, primal source of happiness and satisfaction.

Obviously, I’m targeting conventional, typically classically-based, music lessons ~ the kind most of us adults reading this went through. The kind where the principle goal is to learn to read musical notation and your first “pieces” are limited to the simplest versions of the least interesting of the classical repertoire. I do believe there are valuable mental and cultural gains that are attained with that approach. But unless the pupil is a budding Mozart-style wunderkind who came out of the womb humming Rachmaninoff concertos, I think it’s an excellent way to squash the passion and rob a child of her chance to really experience the wonder of music, the elation of being a participator and the exhilaration of being a creator musically.

The most important goal of any music lesson should be to provide the student with the ability to play the music they love and to create their own music. In a single piano or guitar lesson a child can be taught two or three chords and be singing along to a simple version of a favorite song within 30 minutes. There is no need to insist on “practicing”. She’ll be dying to learn more chords so that she can play more songs. And by the time a child has five or six chords under her fingers, there are few who won’t feel that urge to write something of their own. We have a natural drive to create and to participate musically. Why do we countenance a style of music lesson that kills this natural joy?

If you’re looking for a music teacher for your kids, think about what your goals are. If your goals are strictly to provide mental exercise and the ability to play Hayden sonatas, then you’ll have no trouble finding qualified teachers. But you also have a very high chance of producing a grown-up who gives up her instrument and any form of musical study by the time she leaves home. If you want a child who connects with music, who will exercise her creative muscles, and who will develop a lifelong avocation, perhaps even a passion, then find a teacher who will help her to play music she loves and will give her the tools to create her own music and to discover new music loves. Find someone who will focus on ear training and chord theory and supplement with music notation reading. Someone who will encourage them to play the music they already love while introducing them to the wonders of Beethoven and Jobim. “Discipline” and technique are inevitable with this kind of guidance. And joy, too. Did I mention joy?

Acoustic Pie