Thursday, February 17, 2011

What Can Michael Teach us About Performance?

So, I have the flu this week and to pass the time I'm watching "This is it".  (Michael Jackson's last documentary.)  I hadn't expected to want to show it to my music students, but now I think I will.  There are some things about him and his work ethic I want them to see.

Now, I know I'm not the only one who is super annoyed by the hypocrisy of people over the whole Michael Jackson death thing.  For years, the public perception was that he was a crazy pedophile.  Then, as soon as he died, boom!  Instant genuis/success/idol/etc overnight.  Okay so in his personal life, he was a mess, had too much plastic surgery, and you'd let NEVER let your kids around him.  But---in his professional life, he really was fantastic at what he did.  A true performer. 

What I want my students to learn from Michael Jackson:

  • Work Hard - Most shows these days make it look like good performances just happen spontaneously, without rehearsal.  Most kids think that they can just "free-style" it on stage and something good will happen.  I have a hard time convincing them that a good performance take hours of rehearsal.  Well, this documentary shows just how hard and how many hours of work Michael put in behind the scenes.  Say whatever you want about him, but the man was NOT lazy!  He was committed to his work.
  • Be Unique - Michael had his own style. In clothes, in dance moves, in music.  He did not look or sound like anyone else!  I don't want my students to imitate other, successful musicians.  I want them to develop their own style.
  • Know Your Music - Michael knew his music inside and out.  Every key, tempo, pause, sound effect, etc.  He knew exactly what he wanted to hear and was not afraid to ask for it.
  • No Diva Fits - You hear a lot about famous singers having diva fits, but did you ever hear about Michael having one?  This documentary showed him letting people know when things weren't right, but he did it respectfully.  No shouting or anger.  Just "hey, this isn't here and I need it to be.   Fix it."     
  • Be Able to Bring It!  - In an age where so much reliance is given to digital editing and things like autotune, it's valuable for a performer to really be able to sing (or play) without electronic help.  Michael sang his shows live and was in tune.  You hear people like Tayler Swift and Justin Beiber sing live, and they're a quarter tone flat!  Also, I bet if Michael were to sing the National Anthem, he would've gotten the words right!
  • Be the BEST at What You Do - 'Nuff said.
Again, I would never tell my students to emulate Michael Jackson's personal life, however as far as performance is concerned, they would do well to take note!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries!

I love chocolate dipped strawberries!  They are super easy to do and they make an elegant Valentine's Day gift, that is impressive while being inexpensive at the same time.  What's not to like?  Make these for your sweetie on Valentine's Day (or just for yourself), and you will be loved!  :-)

There are only 2 ingredients neccessary:  chocolate chips and strawberries. 
Melt the chocolate chips in a double boiler.  Dip the strawberries, then dry on wax paper.  Put them in the fridge for 30 minutes so to harden. 
Important:  make sure the strawberries are completely dry.  I usually wash them the night before so they can dry overnight.  I learned the hard way that if there is any water on the berries at all, it will turn your melted chocolate in to a gloppy mess and you will have ugly, bumpy strawberries. 

Get fancy!
Now, you can get eleborate by using a variety of chocolate chips (I used white and semi-sweet), then dip them into extra goodies (like chopped nuts or cookies) as well.  Here what I did:

White Chocolate Chip Variations:
  •        Plain white chocolate
  •        Dried coconut flakes
  •        Chopped oreos for cookies and cream!  (I used gluten-free oreo-type cookies.  Paul  Newman makes a good one.) 
Dark Chocolate Chip Variations:
  •      Plan Dark Chocolate
  •      Chopped nuts
  •      Chopped candied ginger
  • Two-toned
  • Marbelized
I bet you can come up with some even better combinations!  What would you dip your strawberry into?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Hot Chocolate for the Lactose Intolerant

The weather is SO cold lately that all I can think about is hot chocolate!  Luckily, I have discovered a totally delicious way to make it without any dairy. 

First of all, I like to use vanilla almond milk.  (I think it tastes better than plain almond, soy, or rice milk.)  Now, you can either buy it OR, you can make your own!  I don't ever buy it any more now that I've discovered how to make it in my Vitamix blender.  Here's how:

Vanilla Almond "Mylk"  (Recipe from Ani's Raw Kitchen)

1/2 cup raw almonds
1/3 cup pitted dates
1 vanilla bean (Scrape the insides to loosen the seeds, then throw the bark in too.)
5 cups water
pinch of salt

Put all ingredients in a high-speed blender (I love my Vitamix!) and blend for 1-2 minutes until smooth. 

This almond "mylk" will last for a week.  I keep it in a ceramic pitcher in my fridge to use for cereal, tea, or  hot chocolate.  Also, you can use this instead of milk or cream in any recipe. 

Now for the hot chocolate part:
Heat up a mug-full of the almond milk (which ever kind you use) and add 4 spoonfulls of Godiva Dark Hot Chocolate mix.  (Make sure it's DARK.  The milk chocolate kind defeats the whole purpose.)  You will be amazed at how delicious it is!

Interesting fact:  One serving of Godiva Dark Hot Chocolate mix contains 15%  RDA of Iron.  (Says so right on the container.)  Don't you need more iron?  I think you owe it to yourself to make sure you get all the nutrients you need.  You NEED to have some hot chocolate now!  I know I do.  ;-)