Thursday, October 27, 2011

Take the "50-day challenge" and change the world through music!

VIRTUAL VOLUNTEERS NEEDED, anywhere in the world, starting TODAY! 
If you want to know WHY, continue reading below. 
If you don't care why, and just want to know HOW to volunteer and doing WHAT, then skip the sections immediately below and jump to the bottom! :)

Why we need volunteer participants for 50 days, starting TODAY:
Many of you already know that on January 8, 2012, Listen for Life is producing a very unique multicultural concert ( at the most famous concert hall in America, if not in the world - Carnegie Hall in NY.  The January 8th concert is featuring 8 instruments played by 8 artists representing 8 different music genres/cultures starting at 8pm. "The Power of Eight" is actually an event of global significance because three of the artist-treasures from Israel, Syria and Palestine will be flying in to perform together on one stage as a musical statement for peace in the new year. Also featured in the program will be the Emmy-Award winning Natl Champion of Vietnam (she is also an Oscar nominee), a top award winner in Hawaiian music, a Grammy-nominee jazz-piano phenomenon, a young UK violist who has already played 4 sold out world-music concerts at Carnegie Hall with Yo Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, and the Artistic Ambassador for both UK and USA who is also a Grammy-category nominee and renowned television host internationally. The program will include the NY premiere of a Native-American based piano work and the world premiere of a work for oud, viola and piano being created at the moment by a major award-winning film composer.

All of the artists are donating their performances and travel expenses in order to be a part of something much bigger than themselves - they are all Listen for Life musicians because they all share the belief that music can indeed be a common denominator, a channel of communication, and a unifying force for good in the world. They also agree that if you "change your music" you can indeed "change your life"  ....unfortunately too many people listen to one style of music or the one set of songs that play over and over on global media, without taking the opportunity to discover new sounds, new instruments, and new experiences of music listening that can enrich and elevate their thinking, their spirits or their lives. The program on January 8th in NY will bring traditional instruments of several cultures to Carnegie hall at discounted ticket prices so that families, youth, students and seniors can hopefully attend and "taste" some new sound combinations while experiencing the unity and peace that can be created through the gift of cross-cultural music. 

We hope to then replicate this concert program in other cities around the world over the next few years so that we can inspire other musicians to join us, and impact the lives of even more music listeners. But the initial January event itself is a major opportunity to let the media help us to make music listeners worldwide know of our existence and our outreach projects that can help serve their own communities. It is also a chance for us to help other causes, organizations, corporations, foundations, related products, musicians with CD releases, anyone who wants to partner with Listen for Life, to sponsor the Carnegie hall event and thus gain access to not only the live audience members but also to our global audience through our website, broadcast channels, social networks, etc. The problem is, I have been working at doing just that, for 10-12 hours per day, 6 days a week, for months now, and I am only beginning to scratch the surface of the thousands and thousands of people that we could be contacting and offering these partnerships and opportunities to, if I had others to join me in the email and media campaign. 

HOW you can be a virtual volunteer, from your own community, and WHAT you can do:
So today I realized that all I need to do (I hope!) is to let everyone KNOW that you can participate and that we not only invite you to join us, we need you to join us! I am now officially inaugurating our CHVW - that stands for Carnegie Hall Virtual Workshop. Think of a carpenter's workshop, where lots of people are busy each doing a specific task but all working to contribute their small piece to the huge edifice of a gorgeous building, or sculpture, or whatever image comes to your mind as being meaningful, beautiful and beneficial for the world. 
Since there are lots of special holidays coming up around the globe between now and January 8th, I figure at most we have 50 work days left till this globally significant event - but any publicity, media, sponsorship or advertising deadlines are a minimum 30 days or more prior to an event, of course, so most (but not all) of the tasks involving virtual volunteers online need to happen in the next 1-3 weeks, ideally. 

Things you can do:

  • using a "master copy" email I have written for various categories of media or other contacts, send it to each of the individuals on specific databases that I would share with you.
  • should you prefer making live contacts on phone or in person, using 'talking points" or "task outlines" I can send you, participate in your own local community to raise the awareness of the opportunity for partnership
  • We would welcome any and all help from those of you who are social networking gurus and can help us get the word out on your FB, twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, online media access, websites, YouTube channels, and any other social media you know! 
  • If you live in or near the NY area, we have postcard flyers about the event, to hand out anywhere you go. 
  • If you have other ideas of what you would do with our fast-approaching opportunity & event, just let me know! 
To get started, all you have to do is contact me by email and tell me how you would like to participate:

Even if you only have a little bit of free time in which to participate, it all adds up! Take our "50-day challenge" and you will see how much of a difference YOU can make by sharing even just a tiny portion of your gifts and skills to help change the world through music. Get to know us through this campaign and then hopefully you'll find that the benefits to your own life and music experience are so rewarding, you'll even decide to start a Listen for Life chapter and projects of your own initiative, someday, in your own community! 
Look forward to hearing from you, as soon as possible!   
warmest thanks for wanting to be a part of this,

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Power of Music

[This article, written by Listen for Life Founder Donna Stoering, was first published on October 18, 2011 at Reproduced with permission.]

For centuries we have intuitively recognized that certain sounds, intervals, rhythms, pitch combinations, and harmonic vibrations could all be deliberately used to affect the moods of individuals or the emotional tone of entire crowds. But more recently, we have developed the scientific instrumentation to accurately measure reactions in different regions of the brain when a variety of musical elements or pieces are heard – not even listened to, intentionally – just “heard” in the surrounding sound that is subconsciously but constantly absorbed by any human being.
It has been shown, for example, that if we want to de-stress and lower our cortisol levels, we can deliberately play very melodic, horizontal (i.e. single-instrument) pieces in a slower, steady pulse, and this sends direct messages to the part of our brain that affects cortisol levels, lowering them by up to double digits in every study done.


Again, all of this knowledge can be negatively or positively used ... some experts suggest that certain contemporary pop song composers are deliberately causing depression in pre-teen girls by using specific harmonies and melodic patterns that are known to cause this mood change in the brain: the girls become emotionally attached to the music (because they are down), therefore listen to it even more as it expresses their feelings, and therefore the record labels/media distributors make even more money on repeated downloads or song purchases.
All parents want to help their children. The one simple (and free!) thing that will make the biggest difference for our children is to proactively provide them with specific music listening experiences to meet specific needs or goals.
  • For example, research has proven that if one is studying a foreign language, putting on some faster-paced pieces by Bach in the background will greatly increase receptivity in the part of the brain that learns languages.
  • While students of any age are studying/preparing for a test, the faster movements by Vivaldi or Mozart work best in stimulating speed of thought and retention of information.
  • There have been many different tests carried out about optimal conditions for studying/memorizing, whether it is best to have no music, classical music, or any other kinds of music and the results showed repeatedly that the mathematical relationships in particular Western classical music definitely work best to stimulate learning and retention in several brain regions. The results for “other” kinds of music or no music at all, were neutral.
  • Obviously we can’t just take control of our childrens’ iPods and insist that they listen to one thing or forbid them to listen to something else. At Listen for Life we believe the solution lies in offering them a healthy but adventurous alternative and that is why we have produced the Travels with Music collection, with six hours of interactive content that offers an experience of the world, with the master musicians of those countries as the tour guides. 300 short music videos from around the world are integrated with four computer games, audio files, informational text, and links to the world-renowned artists who are all the acknowledged representatives of their cultures. This program works well for music listeners aged 4-94 and provides a fun way to re-acquaint ourselves or our families with our own musical geneology and heritage.
And that “geneology” IS important! Music therapists around the world – and even volunteers in most nursing homes – know that non-responsive injured or elderly will suddenly come to life if they hear the songs that may have played when they were in the womb or as a young person growing up, whatever the circumstance.


  • All tests have shown conclusively that babies do absolutely respond to music and rhythm while in the womb, and it is important to play calm, soothing music of any style, or classical music of any culture, when placing headphones on a pregnant belly, because music that is rhythmically “jerky” such as jazz, or riddled with angst or tense higher frequencies like, say, heavy metal, visually caused babies to become jerky, hyperactive, or rigid with tension. The same would possibly apply when choosing whether or not to attend a live concert while pregnant. Depending on the volume and mood of the music, the consequences would vary. It is absolutely wonderful, if not crucial, to listen to as much music as possible while pregnant, for the emotional and physical health of the mother (and father!) and for the goal of helping to nurture any level of musicality in the unborn child.
  • I know this from personal experience – when I was pregnant with my first child, I was performing piano concerts right up until the 9th month, and on this one particular piano concerto by Schumann, it became highly uncomfortable trying to stay on the piano bench because the baby would kick (usually low enough to hit my bladder) on every single downbeat that I played! About 4-5 months after the baby daughter was born, I was scheduled to perform that same Schumann piece again, so returned to the piano for rehearsals and I was astonished to notice that every single time I played that particular piece, she would stop absolutely still in her swing or playpen nearby, look wide eyed around the room, and then start bouncing and kicking in exactly the same rhythm with an enormous smile of recognition and joy on her face. (She went on to sing the title female role in Jesus Christ Superstar in England when she was 14, but is now a (very rhythmical) horse jumper and professional equestrian who is married to a composer and is passionate about all sorts of world music).
  • One does not have to be a professional musician to give the benefits and gifts of music to your children. All of us can sing. Babies respond to singing from the human voice more than to any other instrument – I have found that singing quite softly while making eye contact (and fairly near their faces) elicits the strongest and most alert response. Sometimes they love being bounced rhythmically while we sing something lively to them. And we all know that it puts most of them to sleep quite well if we are patient and they are not tooooo distraught.
In general we all need to remember that music has tremendous power and it is a tool we have been given for communication and enrichment. Just as people today understand that ‘we are what we eat” and have therefore become much more aware of the nutrition value (or lack of it) for each food they ingest, similarly music is nutrition for our mind and our soul – and yes, we are what we listen to.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Oktoberfest One....

We like to explain to folks that Listen for Life is "a global family of music listeners, performers, and producers, all working together to restore music as a unifying force for good, throughout the world".....and sometimes we find out that we have actually helped to accomplish that mission in a particular community, even without realizing it or intending it! Such is the case with the first annual Oktoberfest that Listen for Life was asked to help produce for a San Jose, CA neighborhood and parish this last weekend.
LfL has been involved in the area for the last 9 months or so, creating a year-round series of cross-cultural concerts and music-based events for the Race St/Rose Garden neighborhood and being held in the good acoustics and ambiance of St Leo the Great parish through the generosity and visionary planning of their pastor Fr Marcelo Navarro. When discussing a program for Fall 2011, LfL had suggested bringing in an authentic German band and doing traditional Oktoberfest music. At the first planning meeting I was in awe at the number of volunteers (from the parish, school and neighborhood) who showed up, the incredible ideas and energy that they brought with them, and the  speed with which this simple idea ramped up into a massive event with authentic German food, professional crafted desserts, special outdoor lighting to create a Bavarian beer garden area, children's games, a dancing area near the band.....all was great until I realized, with a sinking feeling, that I was being asked to coordinate the entire event and not just the music. Thankfully, a new arrival in the community, realtor Jacqueline Price, offered to put in just as many hours behind the scenes outlining tasks and connecting all of the people to do them, through constant emails and phone lists, and a rather large army of school parents and parishioners (from both the Hispanic-speaking and English-speaking communities) gradually took shape. The Don Sommerfeld band provided fantastic music and ambiance while the ticket line at the door just grew and grew. The event was a huge success in every way, and now the German Oktoberfest in this primarily Hispanic/English neighborhood is slated to be an annual happening that folks are already looking forward to.
But why is this story in a Listen for Life blog on music? Because we learned something very important through  this event as well. Music does indeed have the unique power to be a unifying force, perhaps even more-so on the local community level than on the global level where we are also frequently involved. The night of the Oktoberfest, as it was drawing to a close, several people explained to me in different ways that this was the first time in many years that the various communities within the parish, school and neighborhood had all shared in the planning, participated in the work, enjoyed the event together, and made new friends during the clean-up. The type of music was something unique to most all of them so it became the common denominator for a shared new experience.
So, for all of you Listen for Life music listeners and volunteers out there, or those interested in creating LfL chapters in other cities worldwide, take note! Look for opportunities to be a catalyst for building this unity -  donate your energies to create unique music events within the communities where you live, and involve as many of the different organizations or groups within the neighborhood as you can. Nothing is too small to be worthwhile, and nothing is too big to tackle. I am living proof that you will survive (the lack of sleep and extension of your working hours), and help will appear, and you will be so glad to have met and worked with so many new friends and wonderful people! It is a rather magical thing to suddenly realize that your "mission" has been accomplished for you, and by everyone involved. Thank you again, Oktoberfest team!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

LFL musician Vanessa Vo to speak at TEDx, Stockton, CA, Oct 12th

Vanessa Vo

will be a Guest Speaker at

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011

at the

University of the Pacific
 Stockton, California, USA
For full details of this all-day event, please visit

Vanessa will talk at around 4pm Pacific Time, on:
"Breathing New Air into Tradition"
at: DeRosa University Center Ballroom,University of the Pacific, Stockton, CA, 95204 [map]

Note: Vanessa is one of the 8 artists who will be performing in the Listen for Life 
concert at Carnegie Hall on Jan 8th, 2012. See for details.

 [added Nov 18th, 2011]: Here's the video of Vanessa's TEDx talk and performance!

[The entire day's proceedings was streamed live over the Internet at]

From the "Speakers" page at the TEDx Website:

" Van-Anh Vanessa Vo dedicates her life to creating music on the dan Tranh (16-string zither) and fusing her traditional Vietnamese foundation with a freshness of new structures and compositions.

Since settled in California, she has been a collaborator and solo artist with such musicians and groups as Kronos Quartet, Nguyen Le, Paul McCandless, Ali Ryerson, Charles Loos, SOMEI Taiko Ensemble, Wobbly World, as well as lending her talents to fundraising events for several non- profit organizations. Continually cultivates the beauty and versatility of the dan Tranh to feature her beloved instrument in an international music genre, Van-Anh has been co-composer and arranger for the Oscar® nomimated and Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary, Daughter from Danang (2002), the Emmy® Award-winning film and soundtrack for Bolinao 52 (2008), and the multiple award-winning film A Village Called Versailles (2009). Recently, Van-Anh released newest CD “She’s Not She” with award-winning composer Do Van-Anh began studying dan tranh from the age of four, and graduated with distinction from the Vietnam Academy of Music. In 1995, Van-Anh won championship in the Vietnam National Dan Tranh Competition along with the first prize for best solo performance of modern folk music. She has since performed in more than fourteen countries and recorded in many broadcast programs inside and outside of Vietnam. Her first CD “Twelve Months, Four Seasons” was released in 2002.  She lives and teaches dan tranh and other Vietnamese traditional instruments in Fremont, California."

[This page was first posted on October 1st, 2011]

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Slavyanka concert in Clovis (near Fresno, CA), Sat Oct 22, 2011

Slavyanka Men's Russian Chorus

will perform on

Saturday, October 22, 2011, 7:30pm


Unitarian Universalist Church of Fresno
2672 E. Alluvial Ave., Clovis, CA 93611
Directions / map