Michael Stosic’s inspirational Country music

Michael StosicMichael Stosic’s voice reminds me of Barry Manilow. It’s clear, pleasant and warm sounding– the kind that makes women swoon and puts men at ease.

As a singer-songwriter from Reno, Nevada, Stosic manages to evoke the feel of the Western States with his latest release, Welcome Home. This is easy-listening inspirational Country music at its best. If you like the sound of the violin, get this album!

Michael Stosic got his career started in 1986 when he released a contemporary Christian album called Brand New Love.  His music received airplay on KCMS radio, followed by a second album, Symphony of Praise, which ended up reaching listeners in 119 countries.

Stosic’s life changed when he visited Zimbabwe several years ago. He sang there, meeting children from a local orphanage only to find out later on that three of them died from malnutrition after he left. Teaming up with Feed The Nations and The River Christian Church, Stosic devoted his time and energy to helping the starving kids of Zimbabwe. Imagine this: he helped ship some 286,000 meals to Zimbabwe. That’s a lot of food.

Besides having a heart for the poor of Africa, Stosic continued releasing albums, expanding his musical pallete with a fusion of R&B and “adult contemporary” sounds.

Now on his eighth studio album, Welcome Home, Michael Stosic shares his life experiences and perspective utilizing a Country beat on songs like “Thirty-Nine Years,” which is presumably about his long-lasting marriage.

Here’s a sample of his lyrics for “Thirty-Nine Years”…

“Well we sit by our pond, drink coffee every morning. Share the newspaper, read a story that is boring. Say a few words, get up and leave without a warning. We’ve been married thirty-nine years.”

I think dads and people of faith will especially feel a connection with Stosic’s songs.

Discover more about Michael Stosic at his website.



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Julian Hartwell Project

The Julian Hartwell Project had me hooked upon first hearing their song, “Street Dreams.” It’s a fresh take on jazz music, that somehow manages to sound like something old school AND brand new at the same time. Credit the band’s homebase– Philadelphia. Consisting of many of Philly’s up-and-coming players– many out of Temple U’s jazz studies program, The Julian Hartwell Project has got the skills to make a viable career playing and touring with their unique brand of funky jazz music.

Julian Hartwell

At the heart of the sound is Julian Hartwell, who would describe himself as “Alabama-born, Philly-molded.” He’s going for a “high-energy, funky, soulful, swinging, cinematic, evocative sound” and succeeds. This is feel good music that doesn’t get too unapproachable like so many jazz groups get. Hartwell will tell you he and his bandmates are making jazz music that appeals not only to the head, but to the heart as well. That’s a good thing– a very good thing.

The band’s original compositions are multi-layered and complex, with a variety of instruments getting their chance in the spotlight, including some fun piano work on “Say No More” and nifty trumpet playing on songs like “Stay Easy Bro.”

Indeed, The Julian Hartwell Project puts value on heavy horn arrangements and high-caliber musicianship, and it shows.

Give a listen to Julian Hartwell here:

Playing piano since he was 12-years-old, Julian Hartwell has grown up to become a sought-after pianist, composer, bandleader and educator.

Having graduated as a jazz performance major from Temple University in 2014,  Hartwell is focused on his band right now, gigging around Philadelphia at places like Chris’ Jazz Café in Center City. He also teaches piano lessons, infusing them with both improvisation and fun.

Find out more about this young, cool bandleader here. Find The Julian Hartwell Project on iTunes here.

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Acid Jazz Guitarist

One listen to The Acid Jazz Guitarist and I immediately thought of the TV show Globe Trekker, a show I used to watch on PBS. It’s a long-running adventure tourism TV series inspired by the Lonely Planet travel books, and every single episode that I watched always featured the coolest background music no matter what country the host was showing off to a global audience. The Acid Jazz Guitarist’s style would fit perfectly with Globe Trekker and its audience.

Not much is known about The Acid Jazz Guitarist. He or she lists Savannah, Georgia, as homebase though the music has a worldbeat European flair. For the sake of this article, lets assume that The Acid Jazz Guitarist is male– after all, most acid jazz guitar players are– I think. Right?

Though it’s not a genre I’m that familiar with, acid jazz, the way the guitarist plays it, has the kind of groove I like.

The artist is inspired by Sun Ra, and quotes, “Music is a spiritual language, and it represents the people of earth.” He wrote me that, “I believe this. Music is my religion. And so the intent with my music is to create something authentic that represents what I feel, hear, believe and aspire to be. And so it brings me great joy to find that there are many others (via the web) who feel the same or simply enjoy what I create.”

He’s a talented guitar player, and has over a dozen releases available on bandcamp, including A Spiritual Calling. Mostly instrumental, A Spiritual Calling manages to fuse together hip-hop, R&B, soul, dance and jazz into a tasty concoction for your ears. Give “World’s Of Our Choosing” a listen for its slinky bass and lush keyboards. Put on “Love Is All Around Me” and hear the female singer sing sensually. With 18 tracks, you’re sure to find favorites.

About his style, The Acid Jazz Guitarist says, “This music is an eclectic blend of the many styles and genres of music I enjoy listening to. It doesn’t fit comfortably into one genre which can make it difficult to describe at times. There are elements of jazz, hip-hop,
lounge, soul, rock and new age. And many of my instrumentals are tools for improvisation. This is the basis of jazz though I wouldn’t consider myself a classical jazz guitarist.”

I would consider him a very talented acid jazz guitarist who makes music you can chill to– it’s the kind you close your eyes to, take a deep breath, and relax as the beat moves you and the adept guitar work makes each song an intricate ear worm for your aural pleasure.

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Rachael Sage Choreographic

How have I not heard of Rachael Sage until now? She has been an active music maker since her teens, releasing a dozen or so full-length albums. She has shared stages with Shawn Colvin, Judy Collins, Jamie Cullum and Ani DiFranco, among others. Rachael Sage, in my opinion, should be just as well known as the aforementioned artists. She’s a talented musician and songwriter– and her singing voice is appealing, too!

Rachael Sage

Choreographic is her latest album, and it is a tribute to her first love: dance. Besides music, she loves ballet, and she recognizes how intertwined the two truly are.

So what does Rachael Sage sound like?

I’d classify her sound as country folk pop, with a good dose of violin. On Choreographic, the songs were inspired by dancers and choreographers she has encountered in her life.

Her latest single is called “Try Try Try.” Hear it here:

The New York-based Sage recruited several top-notch, diverse violinists to capture what she describes as the “ballet heart” of the record. Rachel Golub (Adele, Sting) and Lyris Hung (Indigo Girls) brought their respective classical flair to the somber “It Would Be Enough” (composed for B.B. King) and “5 Alarms,” respectively, while fiddler Kelly Halloran (G Love) stepped out on rootsier tunes such as “Try Try Try,” “I’ve Been Waiting” and “Loreena.” Cellists Dave Eggar (Coldplay, A Great Big World) and Ward Williams (Brandi Carlile, Sara Bareilles) contributed a lush foundation across all of the songs, bolstered by drummers Doug Yowell (Joe Jackson) and Andy Mac. Guitarists James Mastro (Ian Hunter, Garland Jeffreys) and Jack Petruzelli (Patti Smith, Rufus Wainwright) played a wide range of acoustic and electric parts; bassist Mike Visceglia (Duncan Sheik, Suanne Vega) supplied the low-end, while dynamic keyboardist Peter Adams (Rickie Lee Jones, Juliana Hatfield) layered in organ, accordion, glockenspiel and Rhodes, throughout the album. All in all, Choreographic is a very musical album.

Find out more about Rachael Sage at her website.

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Kids and Teaching Them Music

music kidsI know a guy who plays guitar named Tommy. He asked me if I’d be interested in teaching music to kids. I said yes.

There’s a group of Christian home school moms who bring their kids to a nearby church every two weeks. The moms do a Bible study and talk about adult stuff, while the kids go to several classes: art, gym and music.

I had the pleasure of assisting Tommy with his class of older kids ages 10 and up, and then I was in charge of the class for kids between the ages of 7 and 9.

Here’s what I learned…

Kids at that young age love to move around. They can sit still for a couple minutes, but any chance you give them to walk, bounce, dance or run– they’ll gladly take it! So we played games like musical chairs. They loved musical chairs.

Next, I discovered that I wanted to teach them as if they were college students and yet they were little kids, so I had to adjust accordingly. What’s common knowledge for me is literally unknown to them, so we ended up concentrating on learning “Every Good Boy Deserves Fudge” and “F-A-C-E.” Thank God for flash cards my teacher friend lent me– the kids loved looking at the various notes and guessing which ones they were. They especially liked when I’d have three notes on the staff that formed a word like “BEE” or “DAD.”

I did not have the use of a computer, a screen or even a proper classroom setup with tables and chairs. Class was held in a noisy auditorium adjoining the gymnasium…an in-use gymnasium.

I had to make do with what I had. I went to the local library and got out picture books that showed the various instruments like drums and flutes and tubas. Like a teacher would show picture books to their class, I was in front of some two dozen little ones paging through the books and seeing how well they knew their instruments. Some of them recognized instruments because their family members played them. I was fascinated that this was all so new to most of them.

I tried to have each class meeting have an overall theme. So, the first class was about music in general. I asked each kid what they liked and got answers like “singing and dancing,” “the sound of the drums,” and, surprisingly, “Vivaldi!”

Since it was a Christian home schooling group, I talked about music in the Bible and the relationship between music and God. As a class, we came up with a list of places where music is used, from movies to speeches, parades to funerals, and then some. We talked about how different music evokes different emotions. It can be used to “scare people,” to “help them rest or sleep,” and, of course, “to dance.”

I enjoyed teaching music to kids.

We covered basic concepts like melody, harmony, rhythm, tempo, the treble clef, and musical genres.

I would use my iPhone and some big speakers to play the kids different styles/genres of music. Seeing as this was a class of Christian home schooled kids, I wanted to make sure they knew more than just church songs and musicians. They needed to know who Bob Dylan and Elvis Presley were, as well as many other famous artists, if they were/are to interact with their “unsaved” peers and elders, right? Yes!

For musical genres, I picked a song that I thought best represented a particular genre, and then one by one each student would come up to the front of the class and say one or two words of what came to mind while hearing that genre. The answers I got were, as you’d imagine, both interesting and right on. For hip-hop, descriptive words included “shaking, dancing, leaping, African tribes, a car tipping over, and noise.” Rock music got “break the door down, shake your head, a beehive on your head, guitar slammin’, knock out, and plugging ears.” Classical music made the kids say, “haunted, in the dark, dramatic, wedding, nervous, God, and parade.” Folk elicited both “happy” and “sad,” as well as “rolling down hills, falling asleep, and on a farm.” I like that the kids said “dress up, boogie, old school, and jazzy” for jazz. Blues got them saying, “patterns, mole in mouth, jump in seat, rock-n-roll, and The Incredible Hulk.” Top 40 pop garnered responses like “dance, city, cymbals, love, disco, annoying, fun, and evil.” When I played a funk-dance tune, I got some fun responses like “brain explode, ants in pants, smash a box, peppy, pool party and hands in the air!”

I love listening to different genres of music, so I wanted to be sure to cover as broad a spectrum as possible. For some of these Christian home schooled kids, they never heard Latin, Reggae or Celtic music before… With Latin music, they said words like “happy, beach, Mexico, maracas, limbo, jump, tango, and shake.” Reggae got “dance-weird, catchy, alive, mad, cry, clap, bingo, and break the floor.” Celtic music made the kids think “jig, riding a horse, lullaby, ear worm, tapping feet, colors, and the apocalypse.”

My music class also did some singing. I wanted them to do a slow worship song, but after one attempt, I knew they needed something more upbeat and simpler with less words. Besides singing “Row, Row, Row Your Boat,” I got them singing “This Little Light Of Mine” and “I’ve Got Peace Like A River,” both of which they ended up performing for their friends and family members during the end-of-the-year recital.

During the class, we also talked about fame and how it can be used for good or destroy a person. The kids tried their hand at songwriting, as well as getting up in front of each other to perform songs and dances. We covered love songs, patriotic songs, God songs, and more.

All in all, I was thankful to spend time with these young minds and introduce them to musical sounds, ideas and concepts. My hope is that they at least have an appreciation for music and all its diversity…and, at most, some of them make music their passionate hobby and/or full-time career in life. –Mark Weber

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Jack of None

Jack of None kind of scares me, honestly. One listen to their haunting song, “Mrs. Stitcher,” and I’m wondering what this band of siblings is all about. Jack of None takes spoken-word poetry and melds it with guitar-driven electronic music. “Mrs. Stitcher” uses the words “curse you” repeatedly, and I’m not liking that… but I do realize they’re an experimental rock/art band, so they’re creating something that will connect with an audience.

Jack of None is comprised of siblings A.G. Syjuco (principal composer on guitar, bass and synths), Maxine Syjuco (poet-songwriter and vocalist), and Julian Syjuco (guitar).

Jack of None

Their debut album Who’s Listening to Van Gogh’s Ear? released globally in April of 2016. Critics have called their music progressive and bold and thought-provoking. I myself am more into the cheesy pop songs from Maroon5 and Justin Bieber, but I do appreciate that there are music makers like Jack of None.

Interestingly, the Syjuco siblings have artists for parents. Therefore, it doesn’t surprise me that Maxine is both a poet and visual artist. She is known for her twisted voice in storytelling, whereas she considers the fragility of the human condition via a sonic netherworld of ghostly images. Her first book of poetry, A Secret Life, came out in 2008, and she’s had the opportunity to show her artwork and read her poems in diverse venues around the world, including stops in the Philippines, Korea, Japan, and the U.S.A.

I like that Jack of None is a family affair. Maxine’s brother, AG, got his start with an art-rock band called FAUST! That band made a name for themselves on MTV Asia, got a major label recording deal, and released two controversial albums. For a while AG turned from music to school to get his Bachelor’s degree in Information Technology and today, besides making music with his siblings, he’s also a manager for a multinational tech conglomerate.

Rounding out Jack of None is younger brother Julian who you’ll find painting when he’s not playing guitar. He is becoming known for his artistic abstract paintings while enjoying the creative process of working with his siblings to create music that doesn’t sound mediocre.

To connect with Jack of None, please visit their website here.

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Addy C sings Selena

Addy C is only 7-years-old but she’s got the moves and the voice of someone who is poised to go into the entertainment industry later on in life.

Addy C
For now, Addy C, whose given name is Adelynn Cuevas, calls Atlanta, Georgia home, where she sings, dances and plays piano. In addition to performing music, Addy C has already participated in natural beauty pageants and won several titles.

When Addy C goes to karaoke nights in Canton and Woodstock, Georgia, audiences love her. She has gained a following of fans. So, from that, it made sense to share her musical gifts online via YouTube.

If you remember Selena, you might remember a song of hers called “Como La Flor.” Addy C covers it on her YouTube channel. She’s a big fan of Selena’s style and music.

“Como La Flor,” which means “Like the Flower” in English, did really well on multiple music charts back in 1992 when it was originally released via Selena’s Entre a Mi Mundo album. “Como La Flor” went to number six on Billboard’s Hot Latin Tracks and number nine on the magazine’s Regional Mexican Songs chart. It was Selena’s third charting single off Entre a Mi Mundo, following “Buenos Amigos” and “Amame.”

Entre a Mi Mundo became the first Tejano album by a female artist to sell over 300,000 copies, and “Como La Flor” became Selena’s signature song, helping launch her career in Mexico, the United States, and other countries. Indeed, Selena became one of the most significant Mexican-American singers of the twentieth century. As the “Queen of Tejano music,” she had (and still has) a strong following among Latin people worldwide. Tragically, Selena was murdered by her crazed, obsessive fan club president in 1995.

Since Selena died, she has become a well-known figure similar to Marilyn Monroe, whose likeness and career live on with legendary status among many devoted fans. So, it’s good to know Selena’s music also lives on thanks to young singers today like Addy C, who cover her songs like “Como La Flor,” and share them online via YouTube and other websites.

Subscribe to Addy C’s YouTube Channel here.

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Alec Henderson Band

Alec HendersonAlec Henderson Band is an acoustic duo from Greensburg, PA with a classic sound that slinks along in a groovy, easy-going way.

In March of 2016, Alec Henderson and Dane Whatule went to a Pittsburgh recording studio to record Fly Away, their debut album. I’m not kidding when I say I’d pay money to download the song “Fly Away” because it captured me in just one listen– it’s that good.

Inspired by John Lennon, Billy Joel and John Mayer, Alec keeps a pop sound going while not being afraid to mix in some reggae, blues and rock.

As a guitar player inspired by the old blues greats, Alec is also keenly interested in the craft of songwriting.

“Music creates an atmosphere, and the listener chooses to enter that space with you or not,” he says. “My goal is always the same– create an atmosphere that persuades people to stay in that space as long as the music is playing.”

Though he sounds like a seasoned musician who has been playing music for decades, Alec Henderson is only in his early 20s.

Like many before him, Alec counts classic rock favorites like Tom Petty, Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix among his guitar heroes. For him, classic rock is the foundation, with blues, jazz, reggae and even Country music adding the texture to his sound.

As a teenager, Alec got his start with a rock cover band in Latrobe, PA that still performs to this day. At the age of 15, however, he became fascinated with jazz after coming across a copy of A Night at the Vanguard by jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell. He liked how artists like Burrell and Wes Montgomery and Joe Pass could make one guitar sound like three– an almost magical sound. From their approach to playing the guitar, Alec borrowed the idea of letting the bass notes ring out while playing freely on the higher strings.

Combining classic rock and jazz influences has helped create a sound with dynamic changes, interesting chord changes, and textures that keep audiences interested. Adding drummer Dane Whatule to form the Alec Henderson Band further serves the purpose of creating clever, catchy music that listeners enjoy. Visit their website for more info.


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Jeremy Bursich: Metamorphosis

Jeremy Bursich is always working on something. With several self-produced albums under his belt, he still manages to find time to host open mics, organize and perform in concerts, edit and construct music videos, and create “hellishly playful” sculptures.

With that in mind, the latest music from Jeremy Bursich is called Metamorphosis II. He wrote the album as part of the February Album Writing Month Challenge. Musically, it’s about facing the absurdity of existence and creating a purposeful path in spite of it all. “I would hope it would inspire hope,” says the creative artist.

Jeremy Bursich

Bursich considers himself an optimistic existentialist. He lives the life of a constantly evolving artist, having written, recorded and released 5 albums in the past 4 years. In addition, he has toured most of the USA.

Originally starting out as a drum and bass DJ, Bursich also occasionally played acoustic music. He was inspired by Leonard Cohen and Bill Callahan to move toward solo acoustic performances.

These days, thanks to circuit bent toys and electric guitar pedals, Bursich enjoys experimenting with different instruments and sounds. This is his time to take “a more synthetic approach to a very organic process.”

What’s something Jeremy Bursich would want listeners to take away from his music? Hope.

“I want people to know that there is hope,” he says. “I am a recovering addict and I got clean and realized I wanted to be a musician, so I became one. I realized I wouldn’t be rich and I didn’t need to be. I stopped waiting for opportunities and started creating and learning and I continue to create and learn every day. Anyone can do that. Don’t wait for it to happen. Do it yourself. You are absolutely capable.”

As an artist who loves getting feedback about his music, Bursich seeks to incorporate various creative outlets into what he does, offering people a unique experience every time they see him perform. He uses things like video montages, performance art, and sculptures to help get his messages across to audiences.

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Vocal Health For Singers

vocal healthHere are some things I learned about vocal health for singers.

Vocal cords are like a rubber band. Mucus covers them, getting thicker as you get older. Falsettos sing on the edge of their vocal cords. When you stretch the rubber bands, you get the higher notes. When you have phlegm in the morning, that is your body self-repairing the vocal cord. When you “clear your throat” a lot, that’s bad. It could lead to a nodule– a big sore on your vocal cord.

You might have vocal health issues if:
1) you have a hoarse or raspy voice
2) you lost your ability to hit high notes
3) all of a sudden your voice is a lot deeper than normal
4) your throat feels raw/strained
5) it hurts to talk/veins popping out
6) you’re repeatedly clearing your throat

The best way to help your vocal health is to drink lots of water– this will help you get rid of morning phlegm. You should have 8-12 glasses of water daily. When phlegm’s on your cords, your voice cracks– you get bad notes! It’s important to warm up and cool down your voice as a singer. Avoid dry environments– for instance, if you travel on an airplane, where the cabin air is stale and dry, drink lots of water. Aretha Franklin is famous for not allowing air conditioning in any of the venues where she sings– it would dry her out.

Also, if you’re a singer getting ready for a performance, stay away from dairy products like milk, which causes mucus. Also, alcohol, pop, caffeine and tea all dry your voice. I will share some more information in Part Two, coming soon…

If you want to warm up before singing–and you should–you should say “oooo” to clear off phlegm on your cords. Use your normal voice to do this. Gradually do a note higher/lower off the main note.

Remember, a day before AND the day of your performance, no dairy products!

Put a little lemon juice in water to help your voice– you could also use salt water.

Before singing, it’s wise to avoid yelling.

Medication might make your voice hoarse or raspy. Some mouthwash can cause phlegm.

If you have a cold and have to sing, then an hour beforehand here’s what to do:

1) fill coffee mug with hot water
2) 4-5 Halls ICE BLUE cough drops (with menthol and peppermint)– put in cup
3) add a little honey or sugar to add taste
4) stir it up
5) close your eyes– vapors burn
6) breathe it in and sip it

This will soothe your nose and throat immediately.

And finally, one more tip for overall vocal health: SMILE, it makes your singing brighter!

–Mark Weber


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