Musician of the Every-Few-Weeks

Sudan Archives, "My Strings Propagate Through Space and Time"

posted Dec 25, 2019, 9:09 AM by Eric Shieh

Last month singer, violinist, and songwriter Brittney Parks dropped her debut album "Athena" and I can't stop listening to it. Her singing is R&B and hip-hop influenced, her violin playing builds from Sudanese fiddling in West Africa, and like many pop musicians she uses electronics to loop and layer different sounds. Check out some live performances of her song "Confessions" ( for an amazing violin riff and "Nont for Sale" ( for how she fuses violin plucking, playing, and singing!

Vijay Gupta, Musical Activist & Violin Genius

posted Sep 15, 2019, 3:52 PM by Eric Shieh

Vijay Gupta auditioned and received a spot in the Los Angeles Philharmonic when he was only 19 years old, which is pretty INSANE. But what's more incredible is ten years ago he started "Street Symphony," which performs and teaches music to homeless and incarcerated groups in Los Angeles. In 8th grade this year, we'll be looking at how music affects society. If you want to learn more about Vijay's work, or just see him perform, check out his inspirational talk on music as medicine, and this funky performance with him on violin. [Click on header to get links]

Layale Chaker & Sarafand's "Inner Rhyme" album

posted Feb 20, 2019, 1:31 PM by Eric Shieh

I was introduced to Layale Chaker and her band Sarafand when I walked into Mr. Dell's room one morning at MELS and asked "What are you listening to??" I hadn't heard anything quite like the music of Layale Chaker (violinist) and her latest band, Sarafand. Layale describes her music as "counteracting stereotypes of Arabic music" and works to build a bridge between Arabic music and Western classical music. Her album, "Inner Rhyme" was just released and her band includes vioin, cello, bass, piano, and various kinds of drums. Check out the jazzy song "Relentless" and the haunting "Impressions" (London Jazz Festival performance) on Youtube! [click on post for links] 

Okay, I guess I'm a fan of Lindsey Stirling now

posted Sep 10, 2018, 5:44 PM by Eric Shieh

For several years, I'll admit that I just didn't get all the hype around Lindsey Stirling, who is one of the most sought-out violinists for video collaborations today. But sometime this past year, I realized you have to take in the whole performance--the dancing (check out the cover of It Ain't Me or Master of Tides), the costumes (Star Wars), the imaginative videos. And all her experimentation with ideas, especially in her more recent dubstep work (check out Shatter Me). It doesn't get much more fun than a new Lindsey Stirling video.

Who are those blues musicians?

posted Jan 3, 2018, 11:13 AM by Eric Shieh   [ updated Jan 3, 2018, 11:14 AM ]

Three new musicians are on the wall as part of the 7th grade case study, "De Blues." All three are current artists whose work is heavily influenced by the blues. On the right is Tracy Chapman, a multi-Grammy winning artist who has recorded many songs in the original Delta blues style, including "Gimme One Reason." Also check out her often covered blues-rock song "Fast Car." On the bottom is Ayana Witter-Johnson, a cellist and singer-songwriter whose bluesy "Ain't I a Woman" won her the grand prize at the Apollo Theater's Amateur Night. Finally, at the top is Jonny Lang, whose released two multi-platinum blues albums (the first at age 15!); we listened to his song "Lie to Me" this week in class. Check out more from these artists online and let Mr. Shieh know what you think!

Wuilly Arteaga, Voice of Resistance in Venezuela

posted Sep 23, 2017, 8:18 AM by Eric Shieh   [ updated Sep 23, 2017, 8:18 AM ]

This was a summer of protest for many of the people in Venezuela, and at the front of the protests was violinist Wuilly Arteaga. We'll be looking more at what Wuilly has been doing in our first 8th Grade case study this year, but in the meantime check out these inspiring videos on Youtube (click on post to access links): (1) Willy plays "Alma Llanera" (Soul of the Plains) in a protest, (2) Willy performs at Univision--check out his singing at the end, and (3) Willy Arteaga covers "Hallelujah" in a visit to the U.S. 

Jeremy Green, High School Viola YouTube Star

posted Sep 24, 2016, 8:20 PM by Eric Shieh

Jeremy Green started playing viola in 5th grade, and a few years later began posting incredible video covers of songs on YouTube. He writes on his website that he's interested in advocating for the viola, which often gets overshadowed by the higher- and faster-playing violin. Check out his covers of Sia's "Chandelier," Major Lazer's (feat. Justin Bieber & MØ) "Cold Water," or Drake's "Hotling Bling."

TISQ: The First Improvising String Quartet

posted Jan 27, 2016, 7:27 AM by Eric Shieh

Now that the 7th grade is learining how to improvise, it made sense to feature the first improvising quartets. Back in 1985, when the Turtle Island String Quartet (TISQ) first formed, they made headlines for improvising in concert. Take a look at their version of Jimi Hendrix's All Along the Watchtower and John Coltrane's version of My Favorite Things. Mr. Shieh is a huge fan of their viola player in these videos, Jeremy Kittel, and their cellist once wrote a song called "Julie-O" that's a lot of fun to cover.

Janelle Monáe and the Song of the Summer

posted Sep 3, 2015, 7:08 PM by Eric Shieh   [ updated Sep 3, 2015, 7:10 PM ]

[click on entry for links to audio/video] I spend a lot of time listening to summer anthems, partly to think about which ones might make good songs to rewrite for Community Meeting at MELS.  But the song that left the biggest impression this summer was the protest song by Janelle Monáe,"Hell You Talmbout," about the recent deaths of black men, women, and children. This song will be particularly relevant to our first 8th grade expedition. Also check out Monáe's thought-provoking work in "Many Moons" and of course her duet "We Are Young" with Fun. (A MELS classic!).

Miri Ben-Ari, Ambassador of Music (and Hip-Hop Violinist)

posted Sep 13, 2014, 8:39 AM by Eric Shieh   [ updated Sep 13, 2014, 1:06 PM ]

Miri Ben-Ari from Ramat-Gan, Israel was recently named an Ambassador of Music for the United Nations - Brazil.  This, after winning a Grammy with Kanye West, performing with Jay-Z, Akon, and Alicia Keys, and even playing at the White House as part of Michelle Obama's Women's History Month series.  Check out her recent practice session with DJ Total Eclipse to see some wicked fast playing and this show with D-Stroy. Mr. Shieh is also a fan of her advocacy work around civil rights, which can be seen in her "Symphony of Brotherhood" using clips from Martin Luther King.

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