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TACO Pop-Up Orchestra on the “Green” a Huge Success! Summer 2016

TACO Pop-Up Orchestra on the “Green” a Huge Success!    Summer 2016

A warm, sunny evening, children playing and people wandering the streets, bright umbrellas and colorful Adirondack chairs were the backdrop for the orchestra setting up on the green. August’s First Friday coincided with the closure of one block in downtown Los Altos, which was covered in astroturf. TACO was the first musical group to play on the green and what a fabulous event it was. Embracing low expectations, TACO defied the odds! We had 68 musicians show up to play and miraculously we had a well balanced orchestra. A saxophone solo and a trombone choral interlude were highlights. Show tunes, a couple of familiar classics, jazz and pop filled out our fun set-list. Laughter floating from the orchestra and the audience, chatting alternating with intent listening while we played, friends and family smiling and watching our focus were all part of the experience. A couple of earnest and accomplished youngsters joined their older relatives to play with us. Two very accomplished strangers, enticed by the “Pop-Up Orchestra” publicity posters, surprised us by showing up to play. And sight-reading together, after one rehearsal, was fun for all. Thanks to the Los Altos Community Foundation and their organizing committees for First Friday and 3SG (Third Street Green), for hosting our TACO Pop-Up Orchestra! We had a wonderful time. Our next TACO gathering will kick-off our Fall season. We meet September 25th, October 30th, and November 27th. Sign up through our Contact form on this website. Join us for TACO music making...

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TACO POPS UP ON THE 3rd STREET GREEN 2016

TACO POPS UP ON THE 3rd STREET GREEN 2016

The Terrible Adult Chamber Orchestra (TACO) will join other musicians filling the streets of Los Altos with live music on First Friday, August 5th. TACO brings their fun and light-hearted approach to the 3rd Street Green (between State Street and the North Parking Plaza). TACO will POP-UP on the Green from 6 to 8 pm. Restaurants and shops will be open late. Bring a folding chair or come early to enjoy an Adirondack chair on the Green. The orchestra includes musicians of all ages with a range of skills from beginner adults to experienced performers. TACO will play a concert of fun and familiar music, including pop, show tunes and classics. Directed by Cathy Humphers Smith, this multi-generational orchestra plays with the goal of having fun! TACO will perform in their non-performing way, always with fun, maybe stopping and starting a few times in unexpected places, anything to lower expectations and invite cheerful relaxed music-making. The set-list includes a variety of types of music all arranged for orchestra. TACO will play music from two movie soundtracks: the Sound of Music and Pink Panther, and the pop tune Viva La Vida by the British band Coldplay. They’ll play a jazzy rendition of an early Cakewalk and Lullaby in Birdland with a saxophone solo. What would an orchestral concert be without two familiar classical tunes: the beautiful 4th movement from Brahms Symphony No. 1 and Farandole (dance from L’Arlesienne Suite) by Bizet. Another dance tune will be a Latin cha-cha. They’ll play Appalachian Lullaby, an orchestral version of the children’s song All the Little Horses, which will be combined with the famous Ashokan Farewell, famous as the soundtrack to Ken Burns Civil War documentary. However, Ashokan Farewell was actually written in modern times as a farewell tune for a camp in upper state New York. And what would a summer concert be without the famous Stars and Stripes Forever! TACO is a non-profit under the fiscal sponsorship of the Los Altos Community Foundation. For more information go to www.tacosv.com. Photo credit: Ellie Van...

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Music Education

Music Education

If you are reading this, there’s a chance you are a musician. And whether you are an accomplished professional or an amateur, you are able to read and play music. Think about how you learned to do it and who taught you. You probably learned as a child. Was it a parent or friend, a private teacher or a school teacher? Did you take lessons for a long time? Do you play many instruments? Are you self-taught? Do you play by ear? So many things go into our development as musicians. Most likely you took lessons somewhere in school or privately, and there are people you remember who taught you. Now as an adult, you’ve continued your development as a musician. Whether it’s to learn to play a second or third instrument, or just improve your skills on one, there’s always more to learn and you can always get better. How can we do that and how do we continue to enjoy it? Many young people stop taking music lessons when they are made to feel inadequate or incompetant. Teachers along the way have an enormous impact on inspiring students to grow as musicians. And they have enormous power to turn children off to music. Adults are equally sensitive to feeling criticized as they unveil their vulnerabilities and play an instrument in public. Adult beginners have the extra challenge that they’ve lived long enough to have heard wonderful music and in their heads, they expect and hope to sound the same. Their challenge is to let go of expectations and allow themselves to explore and learn, without being so self-critical that they can’t enjoy the practice they need to improve their skills. There are more people than teachers involved in creating a nurturing environment for anyone who is learning. The parent who won’t allow their teenage drummer to host band practices in their garage because they’re too loud. The siblings who cut off the strings of their brother’s violin because they can’t stand the screeching. The alcoholic piano teacher from the conservatory who told a college student she lacked the fundamentals and shouldn’t waste her time in lessons. The wife who won’t allow the husband to have a chamber group practice in their home because she can’t stand the noise they make. The husband who banned the Scottish wife a chanter because he just couldn’t stand the thought of her learning bagpipes, even though she’d wanted to since she was a kid. The wife who refused to allow her husband to practice his beloved banjo, and insisted her husband play guitar, because she couldn’t stand it. The teacher who told the child to stand and hand out programs and Not to sing! At the other end, there were all the people in your life who supported and allowed you to develop your musical skills to become the musician you are. Your parents let you host your rock band in the garage, even though it involved apologizing to the neighbors occasionally. Your partner welcomes your hosting chamber groups at home, because there is a joyful sound in adults laughing and joyfully making music together. Your friends and teachers encouraged you to keep on trying to sing on pitch, to play on pitch, to lift your head high and enjoy making music, because we can all do it. As adults who enjoy playing an instrument, you can also have an impact on inspiring the children around you to know they can do it too. And you can have an impact on the other adults around you, by appreciating and welcoming practice, chamber groups of all kinds of collaborations, and participating in the multiple and varied musical groups in our communities. Think about the...

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TACO acknowledged for significant contributions to the community April 2016

TACO acknowledged for significant contributions to the community April 2016

The Los Altos Community Foundation celebrated their Honorary Founder John W. Gardner’s legacy at the 2016 Gardner Awards Dinner on April 7th.  TACO was recognized  as an inclusive organization where musicians have a place to make music and merriment, build community and create opportunities for members. The event highlighted 26 volunteers who exhibit civic entrepreneurship and service in the community. Among the honorees receiving Gardner Awards was TACO founder and director Cathy Humphers Smith. Cathy accepted the award in the company of several musicians and friends of the orchestra, on behalf of ALL of the musicians and volunteers who make up the TACO...

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TACO receives recognition

TACO receives recognition

TACO Founder Cathy Humphers Smith will be honored at the Los Altos Community Foundation’s Gardner Volunteer Award Dinner on April 7th. The Gardner Award is given to outstanding volunteers in our community who have exhibited civic entrepreneurship and service. Cathy will be honored for her 5+ years of leadership and dedication to TACO, and for all of the work she has done to make TACO such a huge success. Join TACO members on April 7that 5:30 at the Crowne Plaza Cabana Hotel (4290 El Camino Real, Palo Alto). Tickets to the event can be purchased  online by clicking this link: https://lacf.smalldognet.com/erp/donate/create?event_date_id=1198 At the bottom of the Checkout page, in the Comments space, add that you would like to sit at a TACO table. This is a fun event and we can all sit together and cheer Cathy on when she receives her award. Hope to see you there!  Alison Kibrick (Piano)...

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TACO, a sight-reading orchestra, enters 6th year of fun sessions! 2016

TACO, a sight-reading orchestra, enters 6th year of fun sessions! 2016

Prima Vista is Italian for ‘first view’ and in music it is also called ‘sight-reading’. In TACO, we sight-read as an orchestra every time we get together, playing through a piece of music for the first time as a group. How do we do it and why is it important Sight-reading is important because it helps you become familiar with a lot of repertoire. In contrast to learning one piece in greater depth, sight-reading many pieces improves your musical literacy. You learn to look ahead and predict what’s coming in the music, and with time, you get better at reading notes and rhythms faster. You develop the ability to play under pressure and the more you practice sight-reading, the better you get at it. We take for granted as musicians what the process is for sight-reading or sight-singing, however, there is a methodical strategy we go through. The first step is to relax, take deep breaths, and start to look at the music. At all skill levels, nerves can get in the way of your ability. However the basic requirement of sight-reading is the same no matter what your technical skills:  you need to know how to read the notated rhythms and pitches to play on your instrument. If you can read music, you can sight-read. Simple. Breathe again! Knowing the composer’s name tells you the period and style, from which you can make guesses about what the music should sound like. Then look at the title which may summarize the vision of the composer and give you some clues as to the intent and meaning of the piece. Then we look at the tempo, check out the time signature, note the key signature, look through the music for changes, check out the dynamics, look at the beginning again, skim over the easy parts and review the challenging parts, look at the last line of music. Then we go back to the beginning and now play it. It’s always helpful to play first at a slow tempo to get a feel for the notes, before we play a piece at the intended  tempo. Sometimes in TACO, we play through errors and the group as a whole stays together. Other times, we stop and start when we really get off or different sections are too apart to pull back together. There is value in both fixing mistakes and in being able to continue playing despite mistakes. In TACO we become familiar with huge amounts of repertoire by sight-reading through many tunes each time we meet. And with practice sight-reading, musicians of all skill levels develop the ability to play each new piece of music more easily. We’ve got lots of fun new music to play over the next six months and we always have a lot of fun doing it! Join us. And...

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