Acknowledging the Music Instructor Who Brought You Up

By Evelyn Simonian 

It would be the most optimum by far for any musician to have music lessons from an early age, routinely and progressively. It goes without saying that quality of instruction is of utmost importance, as per an earlier article. A good instructor instills the musician with a solid foundation of fundamental truth, and cultivates the blossoming of virtuosity, all in a systematic manner that is not strained or rushed, but follows a line of organic development. To give the analogy of cheesemaking, if the talented student is the rennet, the instructor is the milk.

Having good instruction is so integral that it is customary for even word-class classical performers to publicly acknowledge the primary teachers who brought them up, such as in biographies, concert programs, liner notes, etc. It is usually a hallmark of prestige for the performer to validate their instructors in such a way. It is a feather in their own cap. A good instructor who is the primary one to bring up the musician is worth his/her weight in gold.

But what about those talents who are entirely self taught? Look, we understand that life produces various circumstances and that people come from all walks of life, some privileged, some underprivileged. For example, a child may possess an innate talent and passion for music, yet they may be from an environment so underprivileged that their parents or guardians may not even be able to afford lessons, let alone an instrument. Many try their best to realize their dream somehow and do the best they can within their ability. This is usually the factor behind self-education.

While there are some definite huge talents who have manifested themselves this way, the truth of the matter is that their spectrum of ability and potential could have blossomed tenfold, had they had the advantage of nurturing instruction. Think of the ingenious old man who lived in the Mississippi Delta during the early turn of the twentieth century, who had nothing but a guitar, a pick and his own voice. And look at what soulful art he created on his own. Now, think if that same individual had the advantage of a quality instructor who taught them about music and cultivated their talent for maximum potential. Their soulful expression of their art is inherent. That would not change. But their breadth and power to express that would put them on an even higher plateau, perhaps another Mozart.

There is another factor where some musicians feel they do not need instruction, that it will only impede their creativity and undermine their artistic integrity. This stems almost exclusively from bad instruction. As covered in one of my earlier articles, bad instruction does more harm than good. No instruction is almost better than bad instruction as poor teaching can ruin one's musical appreciation. Good instruction does the exact opposite of what some fear, in that it empowers and brings out maximum creativity and ability to express one's artistic integrity.

Interestingly enough, the ones who most commonly shun instruction are those musicians whose proclivity or gift is in composing or songwriting, more so than those who are virtuosic with an instrument or voice. There is a human tendency to be impatient when it comes to creativity. Obviously, this is more evident in creative minds. This is because the life force can "create" something instantaneously. Close your eyes and envision something, no matter how fantastic, elaborate or surreal. You envisioned it within seconds, didn't you? That's how the basic essence of you works. Those whose passion is to create something aesthetically, such as a composer or songwriter, for example, operate their minds with such lightning speed. To then learn such basic things as notes, etc., seems tedious to them.

The truth of the matter, however, is that music, while spiritual in nature, requires material world components to manifest, such as soundwaves, timing, etc. So as fast as it is to envision a creative concept, it is quite something else to transfer it into actual music that is heard by others and not just inside the composer's head. The good instructor will know exactly how to cultivate this in the talented mind and bring it out with its maximum energy and force.

The accomplished musician who has been fortunate to have a main instructor who has almost mentor status will hold that person up as a trophy, because they are not only crediting them, but are showing their own prideful identity as a musician. If one fails to do this, it is an indicator that they are not actually as accomplished as they purport themselves to be.

© 2017 Evelyn Simonian.

2018 ESSENCE Festival Initial Line-Up Announced July 5-8 In New Orleans




ESSENCE wants you to grab your squad and plan your trip as it announces its exhilarating initial talent line-up for the 2018 ESSENCE Festival, taking place July 5-8 in New Orleans. The nightly concert series keeps the spotlight on women, featuring electrifying headline performances from Janet Jackson;Mary J. Blige; a headline set featuring Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, with special guests Snoop Dogg and many others in a special curation by The Roots; Xscape; Fantasia and Miguel. *Additional acts will be announced in the coming weeks.

This year's Festival will feature chart-topping names and inspiring experiences across four days of music, culture, empowerment and entertainment. The electric nighttime concerts will feature more than 40 acts and will take place across five stages at the Louisiana Superdome—including the Festival's renowned Mainstage and four intimate Superlounges. For the first-time, the Festival will also feature an ESSENCE Superlounge with a unique DJ-curated experience—with offerings by actor/DJ Idris Elba, MC Lyte and more. Also, for the first-time, the Festival welcomes an interactive music experience with The Read's Kid Fury and Crissle hosting a Superlounge.

*Artists scheduled to perform at the nightly ESSENCE Festival concerts over Fourth of July weekend at the Louisiana Superdome include: Janet Jackson; Mary J. Blige; Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, along with Snoop Dogg and more in a special curation by The Roots; 112; Daniel Caesar; D-Nice; Doug E. Fresh's Legends of Hip-Hop Show featuring Big Daddy Kane, Kool Moe Dee and more; DVSN; Fantasia; H.E.R.; Idris Elba; Kelela; Kelly Price's For The Love of R&B featuring Dave Hollister and Vaughn Willis; Kevin Ross; MAJOR.; Mali Music; Marsha Ambrosius; MC Lyte; Miguel; Mykia Jovan; Ro James; Teddy Riley's New Jack Swing Experience featuring Wreckx-n-Effect, Blackstreet and Guy; The Read's Kid Fury and Crissle; VICTORY, Xscape and many more to be announced soon. Mainstage host: Roy Wood, Jr.

"In 2018, women are at the forefront of a seismic shift reverberating across the cultural landscape, and this movement comes to life for our community at the ESSENCE Festival," said Michelle Ebanks, President, Essence Communications. "Some of the most iconic female artists and powerhouse performers of this generation—Janet Jackson, Mary J. Blige, Fantasia and others—embrace ESSENCE and the Festival as a sacred space to entertain, inspire, revel in culture and be renewed."

Weekend ticket packages are on sale now with prices starting at $150. For information about ticket sales, accommodations and the latest news about the ESSENCE Festival® visit EssenceFestival.com.

Join the Festival community: Follow us on Twitter @essencefest #EssenceFest and become a fan of Festival on Facebook. The 2018 ESSENCE Festival® is presented by Coca-Cola®. State Farm is a major sponsor. ESSENCE Festival is executive produced by Essence Communications Inc., and produced by Solomon Group with the ESSENCE® Empowerment Experience executive produced by GeChar.

*Artists subject to change.


Long-time musical bandmates of the legendary Harry Belafonte to present an evening honoring the music and legacy of the icon on Thursday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m.

The work and life of legendary artist and activist Harry Belafonte will be celebrated during a concert at Aaron Davis Hall on Thursday, March 1, at 7:30 p.m. “Turn the World Around: The Music and Legacy of Harry Belafonte” will present audiences with a special evening of songs and stories in honor of and on the icon’s 91st birthday. Presented by City College Center for the Arts (CCCA), the concert will showcase performances by members of the Belafonte Alumni Group, a collection of artists who have toured with and shared the stage with Harry Belafonte for decades, including vocalists Ty Stephens and Branice McKenzie and pianist/Belafonte musical director Richard Cummings Jr.

Always in the vanguard, Harry Belafonte has had a remarkable career spanning the industries of music, film, theater and beyond. Belafonte first garnered international acclaim in a singing career that introduced global audiences to calypso music with hit songs such as “Banana Boat Song (Day-O)” and “Matilda”; he went on to star in groundbreaking films including Carmen Jones (1954), Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) and Buck and the Preacher (1972). In addition to a pioneering entertainment career, Belafonte is renowned as an unflinching fighter for social justice. His dedication to humanitarianism has included working as a civil rights activist alongside Martin Luther King Jr., fighting in the anti-apartheid movement, organizing the 1985 “We Are the World” famine relief song and working to end countless other injustices around the world.

The “Turn the World Around” tribute concert will allow audiences to experience a multimedia event including songs from the Belafonte catalog performed by those who know him best as they share anecdotes of their time with the legend both onstage and off. As they celebrate Harry Belafonte’s life and his many contributions to music and political activism, Stephens and McKenzie will be joined by fellow Belafonte Alumni Group members, including La Tanya Hall, Sam McKelton, Sharon Brooks, Gabrielle Lee, Deborah Sharpe-Taylor and Roumel Reaux. They will be accompanied by Emanuel “Chulo” Gatewood (bass), Damon DueWhite (drums), Gregg Fine (electric guitar), Paul Ricci (acoustic guitar), Neil Clarke (percussion), and John F. Adams (keyboard). Under the musical direction of Richard Cummings Jr., the evening will include renditions of hit songs including “Turn the World Around,” “Try to Remember,” “Jamaica Farewell,” “Banana Boat Song,” and more.

“This production is part of the development of an ongoing tour of this material designed to expose audiences everywhere to Harry’s music and to his amazing life. There is no one carrying his musical legacy forward, thus far. It’s up to us,” stated Ty Stephens, event organizer and member of the Belafonte Alumni Group.

“Twenty-eight years ago, Harry Belafonte gathered a committee of artists, community leaders, and politicians responsible for creating one of the most memorable events in the history of Aaron Davis Hall. The event was a special ABC Nightline Town Hall Meeting with Ted Koppel and Mr. Nelson Mandela. We have never forgotten all that Mr. Belafonte has done for Aaron Davis Hall and this community and it is only fitting we participate in this special celebration in his honor,” said CCCA Managing Director Gregory Shanck.

Tickets, $30 general admission and $20 for seniors and students with valid I.D., are available for purchase online at www.citycollegecenterforthearts.org or by calling the box office at (212) 650-6900. Patrons wishing to buy tickets in person before the March 1 concert date may visit Aaron Davis Hall Tuesday through Friday from 12 noon to 6 p.m. Aaron Davis Hall is located on the campus of the City College of New York, at West 135th Street and Convent Avenue (129 Convent Avenue).

City College Center for the Arts can be followed on Twitter at @ccnyarts. For more information on the “Turn the World Around” tribute concert and other events at Aaron Davis Hall, visit citycollegecenterforthearts.org.


The Belafonte Alumni Group includes music director Richard Cummings Jr., vocalists Ty Stephens and Branice McKenzie, and production manager Steven R. Jones, who together have dedicated more than 50 years to supporting the great work of Harry Belafonte from one corner of the world to the other. The Belafonte Alumni Group was organized to celebrate the iconic performer—his music, his commitment, and his courage to create a world of compassion, insight, equity and service. Journalist and broadcaster Daa’iya El-Sanusi and a host of rotating artists who have performed with Belafonte through the years are also part of the group.

Richard Cummings Jr. is a pianist, composer, arranger and conductor who worked as musical director for Harry Belafonte for nearly two decades. He has performed and recorded with Mr. Belafonte as well as with Dianne Reeves, Letta Mbulu, Hugh Masekela, Wayne Shorter, Melvin Van Peebles, Jon Lucien, and many others.

Branice McKenzie is a vocalist and composer who has performed on stages everywhere, from Moscow’s Tchaikovsky Hall to New York’s Carnegie Hall. She has shared the stage with artists including Harry Belafonte, Roberta Flack, Gregory Hines, Carly Simon, Miriam Makeba, Hugh Masekela and Ledisi. As a composer, her work includes the Off-Broadway hit Shades of Harlem and the upcoming family musical Planet for Children. She is an artist-in-residence at Oakland School for the Arts in California and is founding minister of music at Heart and Soul Center of Light in Oakland, California.

Ty Stephens is a vocalist and songwriter who has performed or appeared with Harry Belafonte, Gregory Hines, Phyllis Hyman, Patti Austin, Jeffrey Osborne, Smokey Robinson, Liza Minnelli, Natalie Cole, Ledisi, and more. He has appeared on Broadway in the original productions of Sophisticated Ladies and Marilyn: An American Fable and in the hit Off-Broadway show On Kentucky Avenue.


The City College Center for the Arts hosts an ambitious, year-round calendar of student and professional performances. The mission of the City College Center for the Arts is to provide a creative arts center and focal point for the City College of New York, building a sense of community within the College, elevating the profile of Aaron Davis Hall in the greater New York area, and connecting the College to the surrounding community through the arts.



FYP is a comforter, keeping you and your partner warm with music that makes your body respond to the rhythms with your dedications and requests, via phone, postal, and email for "The Rollcall". A perfect way to end your Sunday with Ré Antoine.

To listen Live or Listen to past shows go to:

Check out interviews from Sculler's Jazz performers on WMBR with Re' Antoine in conjunction with N.E. Informer newsmagazine.

Click on above logo to take a look the
"Soul-Patrol Times" Calenda

Or For Those Of You Who Like Lists

in Funk, Jazz , Soul, Rock, Blues and Culture

As selected by the Soul-Patrol Board of Directors, we think these are the tops in Funk, Jazz , Soul, Rock, Blues and Culture. Take a look and see if you concur...

Click here to review Soul Patrol Tops For The Millennium