Long-Term Benefits of Music Lessons

By SINDYA N. BHANOO

NEW YORK TIMES

Published: November 11, 2013

Childhood music lessons can sometimes leave painful memories, but they seem to carry benefits into adulthood. A new study reports that older adults who took lessons at a young age can process the sounds of speech faster than those who did not.

“It didn’t matter what instrument you played, it just mattered that you played,” said Nina Kraus, a neuroscientist at Northwestern University and an author of the study, which appears in The Journal of Neuroscience.

She and her collaborators looked at 44 healthy adults ages 55 to 76, measuring electrical activity in a region of the brain that processes sound.

They found that participants who had four to 14 years of musical training had faster responses to speech sounds than participants without any training — even though no one in the first group had played an instrument for about 40 years.

Dr. Kraus said the study underscored the need for a good musical education. “Our general thinking about education is that it is for our children,” she said. “But in fact we are setting up our children for healthy aging based on what we are able to provide them with now.”

Other studies have suggested that lifelong musical training also has a positive effect on the brain, she added. Dr. Kraus herself plays the electric guitar, the piano and the drums — “not well but with great enthusiasm,” she said. 

Rare Encore at the Met as Mexican Tenor Stirs Crowd

By MICHAEL COOPER
April 26, 2014,
THE NEW YORK TIMES

There was a time, early in the 20th Century, when programs at the Metropolitan Opera warned fanatical opera buffs, in capital letters, “POSITIVELY NO ENCORES ALLOWED.”

The rule has since been relaxed only a handful of times in recent decades. But on Friday night the Mexican tenor Javier Camarena joined the small coterie of opera singers who have literally stopped the show at the Met when he got such a thunderous ovation in Rossini’s “La Cenerentola” that he was compelled to give an encore of his bravura aria “Si, ritrovarla io guiro.”

The only other two singers to have sung encores during Met performances in more than half a century, by the opera house’s count, were Luciano Pavarotti, who sang one during a performance of Puccini’s “Tosca” in 1994, and the man Mr. Camarena was filling in for on Friday night: the star bel canto tenor Juan Diego Flórez, who sang an encore in a 2008 performance of “La Fille du Régiment” and in a 2012 performance of “L’Elisir d’Amore.”

“My God, it’s so exciting,” a beaming Mr. Camerena said, slightly out of breath, in a brief interview backstage after the performance ended. “To feel this reaction from the public — it was like a big mountain of roars and bravos and applause. It’s really overwhelming. Fantastic.”

It was quite a feat for a stand-in. His role, playing the the prince opposite Joyce DiDonato’s star turn as Cinderella, was originally to have been sung by Mr. Flórez, who announced earlier this month that he would withdraw from the first few performances due to illness. Mr. Camarena, who had just had a triumph at the Met in Bellini’s “La Sonnambula,” agreed to step in.

He got rave reviews. Anthony Tommasini of The New York Times singled out his singing of the second act aria, writing that Mr. Camarena “dispatched the aria’s impetuous runs — capped by thrilling top notes, including an effortless high D — finally finishing with a glorious high C that he seemed almost reluctant to cut off.” He wrote that the opening night ovation lasted so long that he expected Mr. Camarena to return for a bow, but he did not.
On Friday night, the ovation was again tumultuous, with several members of the audience jumping to their feet – which is unusual, mid-performance.

Mr. Camarena, who had exited the stage as the ovation continued, said: “I was waiting, because last time, there was very long applause, and I was behind the stage and was trying to think, what do I do? Do I come back, or stay? What’s going to happen?”

This time, he came out again, and not only bowed but repeated the second part of the aria, hitting another high D.

Now, given Mr. Camarena’s reception, there may be suspense about whether Mr. Flórez will return, as scheduled, to sing the three final performances of the opera, including a May 10 matinee that will be transmitted to movie theaters around the world as part of the Met’s “Live in HD” series.

Mr. Camarena is currently only scheduled to sing the role one more time, on Monday night.GrabberRaster 0441

photo:Marty Sohl/Metropolitan Opera

Meryl Streep To Play Opera Legend Maria Callas In HBO Film

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by Jenni Miller

Meryl Streep is no slouch when it comes to transformative performances, but the latest legend she’s set to play will make Anna Wintour look like a pushover. Streep has signed on to star as Maria Callas in an HBO adaptation of “Master Class,” an award-winning Broadway play by Terrence McNally that takes place in 1971 at Julliard. In the story, the unforgettable diva is teaching a class while contemplating her astonishing career and dramatic life, which includes a torrid affair with Aristotle Onassis that ends when he leaves her for none other than Jackie O.

“Master Class” will reunite Streep with Mike Nichols, who worked with her on “Angels in America,” “Postcards From the Edge,” “Heartburn,” and “Silkwood.” The movie will start filming in January after Streep finishes an entirely different sort of musical performance in Jonathan Demme’s “Ricky and the Flash.” Streep, who stars as an aging rocker, has even been getting some guitar-picking tips from Neil Young for the role. No word yet on whether or not she’ll be attempting Callas’ famous bel canto.

Callas, who starred in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s “Medea” in 1969, is the subject of a number of projects in the works. Faye Dunaway, who starred as Callas in “Master Class” in 1997, directed and stars in a biopic about the singer that has been in limbo for years. In 2013, she told The Independent “about three quarters of the film has been shot, we are going to film the rest of it soon.” Meanwhile, Niki Caro (“Whale Rider”) announced at Cannes that she will begin production on a biopic about Callas this fall. Meanwhile, the opera singer did take a stab at acting onscreen herself; she starred as Medea in Pier Paolo Pasolini’s take on the Euripides play.GrabberRaster 0245

Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease: study

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BY David Harding
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Singing show tunes helps fight off dementia, Alzheimer’s disease: study
A recent research study found that those suffering from moderate to severe dementia did particularly well singing show tunes from movies and musicals such as ‘The Wizard of Oz,’ ‘The Sound of Music’ and ‘Oklahoma!’ in group settings and had a marked improvement in their remembering skills versus those who simply listened during the sing-alongs.

The hills are alive with the sound of music, which could help people with Alzheimer’s stave off the effects of the debilitating disease.

A study by U.S. scientists has shown that the brain function of those suffering from dementia can be improved if they belt out their favorite show tunes.

Researchers working with elderly residents at an East Coast care home found in a four-month long study found that people who sang their favorite songs showed a marked improvement compared to those who just listened.

Among the songs sung during 50-minute sessions were hits from “The Wizard of Oz,” “Oklahoma!” and “The Sound of Music.”

The most improvement was among those sufferers with moderate to severe dementia.

Jane Flinn, one of the scientists involved in the study who works at George Mason University in Virginia, concluded singing was beneficial.

“Even when people are in the fairly advanced stages of dementia, when it is so advanced they are in a secure ward, singing sessions were still helpful,” she said.

“The message is: don’t give up on these people. You need to be doing things that engage them, and singing is cheap, easy and engaging.”

Why singers like Sam Smith, Adele and Meghan Trainor are going silent

Posted July 28 2015 — 7:54 AM EDT
BY: Eric Renner Brown

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Back in February at the Grammys in L.A., Sam Smith joined Mary J. Blige on stage for a rousing performance of his smash hit “Stay With Me.” It was a triumphant moment for the artist, who picked up multiple awards for In the Lonely Hour, one of the biggest albums of 2014. But three months later, his luck ran out: He suffered bleeding on his vocal cords and had to cancel a run of tour dates. After undergoing a procedure and resting up for just under two months, he returned to the road for his U.S. trek. “My throat is looking bloody fantastic,” he wrote on Instagram July 16. “So it’s amazing news.”

Smith isn’t the only artist to recently suffer in silence. Meghan Trainor postponed shows in July due to a vocal hemorrhage, while back in 2011 Adele, the singer with the golden voice, was plagued with a polyp, which can develop if bleeding is left untreated. Artists ranging from Steven Tyler to Julie Andrews to John Mayer have also had to mute their pipes to heal. “I’ve been on tour for the better part of this year, which has been amazing but can be a lot of work for my little vocal cords,” Trainor tells EW. “They’re like muscles, and I feel like I basically pulled a muscle.”

If it seems that visible cases of vocal-cord issues among music’s MVPs are on the rise, they are. So what’s behind the recent spate? “Most of the performers that I care for, they know how to sing,” says Dr. Steven M. Zeitels, a leading surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital who has treated Smith and Adele. “More often than not, the injuries occur because of their unbelievable work ethic. I don’t think there’s an increase in injuries. I think it’s being diagnosed more frequently because of awareness.”

Back in February at the Grammys in L.A., Sam Smith joined Mary J. Blige on stage for a rousing performance of his smash hit “Stay With Me.” It was a triumphant moment for the artist, who picked up multiple awards for In the Lonely Hour, one of the biggest albums of 2014. But three months later, his luck ran out: He suffered bleeding on his vocal cords and had to cancel a run of tour dates. After undergoing a procedure and resting up for just under two months, he returned to the road for his U.S. trek. “My throat is looking bloody fantastic,” he wrote on Instagram July 16. “So it’s amazing news.”

Smith isn’t the only artist to recently suffer in silence. Meghan Trainor postponed shows in July due to a vocal hemorrhage, while back in 2011 Adele, the singer with the golden voice, was plagued with a polyp, which can develop if bleeding is left untreated. Artists ranging from Steven Tyler to Julie Andrews to John Mayer have also had to mute their pipes to heal. “I’ve been on tour for the better part of this year, which has been amazing but can be a lot of work for my little vocal cords,” Trainor tells EW. “They’re like muscles, and I feel like I basically pulled a muscle.”

If it seems that visible cases of vocal-cord issues among music’s MVPs are on the rise, they are. So what’s behind the recent spate? “Most of the performers that I care for, they know how to sing,” says Dr. Steven M. Zeitels, a leading surgeon at Massachusetts General Hospital who has treated Smith and Adele. “More often than not, the injuries occur because of their unbelievable work ethic. I don’t think there’s an increase in injuries. I think it’s being diagnosed more frequently because of awareness.”