Thursday, December 26, 2013

Five NPOs to Consider

 Five Midwest Charities That Are Moving Mountains
Even though the 2013 "Spirit of the Season" Holiday Tour has come and gone, the shaun johnson Big Band Experience mission remains. Shaun and the rest of the Big Band Experience members were honored to have played a small part in helping multiple charities bring joy to thousands of people in need. The following highlights what some of those charities do best.  
Wishes & More creates extraordinary experiences for wish children. The goal of this children’s charity is simple: grant wishes to children with terminal and life-threatening illnesses and provide hopeful hearts, happy memories and assistance to those who love them. This November, the Minnesota Wild's Matt Cooke wrote a new page in the memory book by inviting Wishes & More families to enjoy a Wild game in a box suite. 

Lunch Is Served, Inc. is a nonprofit with the unique mission of delivering simple sack lunches for working men and women who are attempting to break the chains of poverty and hunger.

Make-A-Wish® Iowa
Every 38 minutes Make-A-Wish® grants the wish of a child diagnosed with a life-threatening medical condition in the United States and its territories. We believe that a wish experience can be a game-changer. This one belief guides us in everything we do. It inspires us to grant wishes that change the lives of the kids we serve. One child, 6-year-old Esther who was adopted from Uganda, wished to go to Disney's Animal Kingdom to see some familiar animals. When her family of 17 and two helpers (picture below) made the journey from Cedar Rapids, Iowa in February of 2013, they became the largest for Wish party in Iowa history.


Open Door Mission
Open Door Mission is a Gospel Rescue Mission founded in 1954 committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness and poverty. Each day, Open Door Mission’s campus offers 816 safe, shelter beds to homeless men, women and children, serves over 2,000 hot, nutritious meals and provides preventive measures to more than 275 people living in poverty.


360 Communities
Founded more than 40 years ago by a group of volunteers, 360 Communities provides hope and support to more than 14,000 individuals each year with 11 programs in over 40 locations, including a network of five food shelves, two domestic violence shelters, two resource centers and three programs that support school success from birth through high school graduation. A group of Burnsville food shelf volunteers is pictured below. 


Friday, December 13, 2013

Five Travel Essentials for Touring Bands

Band on the Run? Bring the Five Essentials Below

The "Spirit of the Season" Holiday Tour is here and while Shaun and the gang are enjoying each stop along the way, they find themselves in the middle of a daunting artic road trip. Their Midwestern journey has inspired the following five travel essentials for a band on the road.

1) Tea
Drinking tea in moderation can be a vocalist's best practice. Hot or warm tea loosens the phlegm on a singer's vocal chords and has an overall soothing effect. For a sore throat, try a "throat coat" tea mixed with a small dose of honey. If caffeine intake is a concern, try green tea as an alternative. It's also important to remember that while tea can be a great tool, always stay hydrated with water.

2) An Opposite Genre 
Your band will likely eat, sleep, and breath the same set of songs and same genre of music for the duration of the tour. While this should be a good thing (hopefully you are performing music that you are passionate about), it can be helpful to have a completely different genre to listen to for recreation. For example, according to this article, the opposite genre of big band music is "aggrotech" music.

3) Social Media
Whether you are riding in a top of the line tour bus or something your dad lent you, a road trip is a unique opportunity to build your band's brand on social media. Facebook and Twitter pages are standard platforms, but sites such as Instagram, Pinterest, and even Snapchat are also effective ways to share pictures, video, and anything else that happened during your travels.

What's the inside of your ride look like?
4) Smartphone Apps
The smartphone world provides an ever-growing selection of travel apps that can take the stress out of any road trip. This app tracks gas mileage and this one provides a professional yet inexpensive way to film your band's most memorable encounters. There are also plenty of apps like Urbanspoon to help you find the perfect restaurant in an unfamiliar town.

5) Extra Gear
Packing back-up equipment might seem like an extra burden (and less leg room), but when someone drops a microphone on concrete, breaks a guitar string, or forgets a mic-stand, whoever packed an "extra" will be deemed a hero. In addition to packing back-up equipment, be sure to double and triple-check that you have all the equipment you need.

shaun johnson Big Band Experience

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

How Big Band Came To Be

The Origin, People, and Current State of Big Band Music

The true roots of big band music began in 1898 in New Orleans. Groups of African-Americans bought decommissioned military instruments and played them in brand new way. Their approach was unconventional and offbeat in comparison to the European concept of rhythm. When the African-American groups' new style was molded with traditional European music, the genre of "ragtime" was born.

Fletcher Henderson
Flash forward two decades - ragtime's popularity led to the birth of orchestral "dance bands". Fletcher Henderson, a chemistry major from Columbia University, left the chemistry realm and returned to another passion of his - music. By the mid 1920s, Henderson experienced mild success as an arranger for the band he assembled, which included jazz legend Louis Armstrong. When Armstrong joined the band in 1924, Henderson started to incorporate jazz and blues styles into the band's arrangements. At the time, no one had ever attempted to do so with a "big" band (Henderson's band had roughly 11 musicians). Although they quickly became known as the "best African-American band in New York", the band, Henderson, and the new genre of music struggled to gain national attention.

Fletcher Henderson 
Benny Goodman
In 1935, jazz and swing musician Benny Goodman was the leader of a talented "dance" orchestra that was set to perform as a house band for the radio program "Let's Dance". Renowned producer and friend of Goodman, John Hammond, suggested that Goodman buy a few charts (music arrangements) from Fletcher Henderson. Goodman agreed to do so and his exceptional group of musicians - who were much more talented than Henderson's band - brought new life to Henderson's arrangements. The fusion of Henderson's arrangement ability and Goodman's musicians launched big band music into the national spotlight.

Benny Goodman

The Current State of Big Band
Due to the talent and work of Henderson, Goodman, and others, the genre reached the peak of its mainstream popularity in the 1940s. Since then, performers like Dizzy Gillespie, Charles Mingus, Sam Rivers, Tony Bennett, and Michael Buble have carried the big band torch. While the big band genre's following has become intimate, many critics believe the state of current big band music performances fall into one of two states.

First, the "state of precision", in which a group's individual musicians play without ego. The goal of this state is to forgo the talents of individuals in hopes of bringing the arranger's and or composer's true intentions to life. While this state has merit, the second state of a big band is looked upon more fondly. This state expresses both the composer and individual musician completely by allowing talented soloists to enhance the composer and arrangers original song structure - without making such solos all about the individual musician.

shaun johnson Big Band Experience (BBE) is a current, yet rare example of the second state of performance that a big band can take on. BBE's "contemporary big band sound with a pop flair" is a result of the group's exceptional instrumentalists and Johnson's award-winning voice and confidence in front of the microphone.