Introducing African-American History Month through Music and Art by Deborah Takahashi

February is African-American History Month and libraries all over the country are celebrating this month with a variety of programs and displays. For teens, music and art are tools that will bring them together regardless of their race, religion, sex, and abilities so let’s use these art forms to celebrate this important event in a creative and innovative way. Here are two ideas that will appeal to teens and help them become part of a bigger conversation when it comes to equality and freedom.

record-828983_640Blues & Civil Rights Movement Listening Party

With the return of the record player and vinyl, teens can meet up and listen to a variety of Blues artists while learning the history of the Blues. Select a few artists and throw together a PowerPoint, or Prezi presentation, to provide a little background information about the origin of the Blues and how this genre provided momentum for the Civil Rights Movement. Once you have selected artists, play tracks that will interest teens and throw up the lyrics, or provide handouts, so they can read them while they listen. Once they have finished listening to the tracks, ask questions about the songs and see what kind of responses teens come up with. Here are a few examples from youTube that will definitely illicit interesting conversation:

Just like the traditional book club, we can form the conversation in a similar fashion where the lyrics become the story. Have teens write down their initial thoughts of the songs before discussing the meaning of the lyrics. When everyone has had a chance to write down their thoughts, ask teens to share their interpretations. Once everyone shares their findings, discuss how these ideas convey the meaning of the song. Let teens know that no one has a right or wrong answer, but do ask if this discussion has provided a better understanding of why these songs were incredible tools to help bring awareness to the Civil Rights Movement. If you have the time, or want to turn this program into series, expand upon your program by including the songs of protest of the Vietnam War and the rise of the Black Panther party to inner city violence and the birth of Hip Hop.

If your library doesn’t have access to a record player, you can easily purchase CDs and play them through a sound system. If you have the ability to purchase a record player, it will introduce teens to wonder of record players and provide them with actual evidence as to recording music tracks have evolved over the decades. You can easily purchase a record player on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, Target, and Best Buy. As for the vinyl, you can also easily purchase these online or in stores that carry vinyl. I highly recommend visiting your local record store because you may be able to find used records, which will save you money, but make the experience even more awesome.

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In the Know: August 2014

I was having a serious Cady-with-a-d Mean Girls moment two weeks ago as I walked into my first day in a new Teen Librarian position. Would the teens like me? Would they pity laugh at my jokes like the kids at my old job did? Or would I be just another crusty shushing-machine to them? It’s the time of year when teens across the country make that same terrifying walk into new schools, new grades, and new hormone-fueled social challenges, so let’s give them some extra special love from the library this week.

As for me at my new job, I discovered that a level 50 in Skyrim and knowing the lyrics to “My Songs Know What You Did in the Dark” can get you a long way. Sometimes all you need is to know a little bit about one thing that interests a teen and you can spark a relationship. Learn a little more, and pretty soon they’ll be saying “hi” to you by name. Keep at it, and they might start liking you enough to actually take your reader’s advisory suggestions.

It’s good to be in the know. Here’s some stuff teens are talking about in August 2014.

The band Five Seconds of Summer, or 5SOS (pronounced “5 sauce”), is currently touring the U.S. with One Direction and gaining popularity. The band, comprised of 4 Australian teenage boys, is often compared to their British your-mates, though they seem to be attempting a more punk rock image. (Attempting is a key word here.) Their self-titled debut studio album was released in the U.S. on July 22, and hit number one on the Billboard 200. Learn more about them here.

The 2014 Teen Choice Awards aired on August 10. Big winners were The Fault in Our Stars, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, and Divergent (films); Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort (actors); Ariana Grande, Ed Sheeran, and One Direction (musicians); Pretty Little Liars, The Vampire Diaries, and The Voice (TV). Selena Gomez received the Ultimate Choice Award. The show also introduced a new set of web awards honoring a new breed of YouTube and social media stars. See the full list of nominees and winners here.

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App of the Week: Discovr

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Music Map

Title: Discovr by Filter Squad

Cost:’ Free

Platform:’ iOS 7.0 or later on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad (optimized for iPhone 5)

Over the last several weeks, I’ve been busy spreading the word about one of my library’s Teen Read Week programs, Express to Speak. The workshop is the culminating event of our second annual writing contest and will focus on hip hop and spoken-word poetry. With Teen Read Week and hip hop on the mind, I was inspired to “Seek the Unknown” through Discovr, an app created for music exploration.

There are a few different apps on the market designed to introduce listeners to a variety of artists (e.g. Spotify, Pandora, etc.), but Discovr offers something unique–interactive Music Maps that draw connections between similar musicians. Start the process by searching for a musician, and the app will create a map with new bands. If you wish to expand your options, tap a musician and watch the map grow. Continue reading

YA Programming Behind the Scenes: DJ Mixing

DJ mixing ‘ is’ essentially’ creating a continuous musical track by combining songs or sounds, mixed together using loops, scratching, or other techniques.’ The Teen Advisory Group tends to be drawn more to geeking out, crafting, and competition. But as this has a much cooler vibe than most, this program brought in some guys that had never shown up at our events before.

713 DJ Mixing

For this event, we bought one basic DJ mixer (the MixVibes Ion Discover DJ with MixVibes Cross) which works with your desktop computer’s iTunes. Basically it can pull all your iTunes songs straight into the MixVibes Cross software where you can then mix up the songs, scratch, loop, and create playlists. Some accomplished DJs you might know include DJ Jazzy Jeff, David Guetta, Swedish House Mafia, DJ AM, Fatboy Slim, Deadmau5, Grandmaster Flash, Spinderella, DJ Skribble, Samantha Ronson, and Jam Master Jay, and while the DJ mixer software is simple to use,’ it has enough bells and whistles for a beginner to play with. Continue reading

App of the Week: Sing! Karaoke

Sing!Title: Sing! Karaoke‘ by Smule

Cost:’ Free (additional credits must be purchased or earned for some songs)

Platform:’ iOS 5.0 or later on iPhone, iPod touch and iPad; Android 4.0 and up.

So you may not be an American Idol or the Voice, but who doesn’t like a little friendly, musical competition? Sing! gives smartphone and tablet users the opportunity to compete karaoke style from anywhere. ‘ Sing the words on the screen, and earn points for rhythmic and vocal accuracy. ‘ If you are especially proud of (or amused by) your performance, you can share the recording with other Sing! users and watch it climb the “Hot Performances” list. ‘ There is an additional option to share your talent via facebook, twitter, and other social media sites, or if you’re feeling a bit shy, you can keep your performance private. Continue reading

Live Music in Chicago

by Colleen Seisser

Chicago is famous for it’s rich history of Blues music. ‘ However, like many urban areas today, there is some fantastic music being made in Chicago. ‘ On the right night, walking into any local bar or restaurant can be a treat for your ears. ‘ I got in touch with a local Chicago musician, Tim Seisser, and asked him for some recommendations for great venues for live music in Chicago. ‘ Tim has been playing bass all over the Chicagoland area for about ten years, so he knows a thing or two about the Chicago music scene. Here are some of his picks and why:

1. Reggie’s Music Joint

Reggie’s is located in the South Loop and has two venues (Reggie’s Rock Club: the bigger stage and Reggie’s Music joint: the restaurant/bar with live music), while also housing Record Breakers, a huge record store onsite. ‘ Parking is ample around Reggies, and it is easy access via public transportation. ‘ You never know what you are going to hear at Reggie’s–Rock, Punk, Rockabilly, Blues, Jazz–it is an establishment that is made for a music fan.

Tim says: Reggies is a great south loop location with amazing food, consistent good music, and a large variety of good beer on tap. ‘ Cover is usually pretty cheap.
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App of the Week: Shazam

Title: Shazam

Cost: Free

Platform:‘ iPhone, iPod touch, iPad (requires iOs 3.0 or later), Android, Blackberry, Nokia, Windows Phone 7

I like to listen to public radio on my way home from work because the DJs’ select from a diverse library of’ tunes. I cannot tell you how often I hear a new, exciting’ song but’ miss the artist’s name. Desperately clinging to a few lyrics, I hurry home and try to put my reference skills to use. Sometimes I find the song, but’ just as often,’ the song is lost forever, only a’ hazy’ melody in my head.’  For music lovers, this week’s app is truly magic: Shazam!

Press the button on Shazam, and the app will listen for a few seconds, matching tunes with a database. The screen pops up with the album cover, the artist’s name, and a list of other ways to interact with the song.’  Share it with a friend via Facebook or Twitter, read lyrics in time with the song, check reviews, browse related You Tube videos, and buy tracks from iTunes.’  If you pay to upgrade the app, you can also add the song to Spotify and receive recommendations for similar music. Continue reading

App of the Week: SoundCloud

Title: SoundCloud

Cost: Free

Platform: iOS 4.0 or later, Also available in the Android Market.

Launched on January 12th of this year, SoundCloud is not the first sound recording app, but I would argue that it is certainly the most polished. SoundCloud gives users the ability to record sounds, with the choice to then share them publically with friends and followers or keep them private. When you first employ the app, you will be prompted to create a free account by designating yourself a username and password along with the option of adding a photo to your profile. The next step is to choose sounds or people to follow. By searching for people, you can find your favorite music artists and the new sound bites they record. Just like with Twitter, real bands have the “Official” seal of approval on their account so users know that it is, in fact, the actual artist or band behind the account. This is a great way to hear new music that hasn’t even been released yet. Fans can get a sneak peak of what is coming down the pike and musicians have the ability to get their music out before the album is released.

Not only does this app have excellent features for music fans, but it’s also, ideal for aspiring musicians. SoundCloud is the perfect way for budding teen artists to record their sounds and share them with the world. The sharing featuring links to Facebook to help the user locate friends who also use the app as well as to post sound recordings, for others to hear. Within the app there is a tab called “stream,” where you can look at recent activity within your follower community. From there, you can also listen to new sounds complete with timestamps noting when they were originally posted. Continue reading

App of the Week: Michael Jackson The Experience HD

Title: Michael Jackson The Experience

Cost:’  $4.99
Platform: iPad: requires iOS 4.2 or later

When Michael Jackson The Experience came out for Xbox Kinect every teen in my library wanted to give it a whirl, but some were too shy to shake it in front of their peers. This excellent iPad app is a great alternative for teens who just aren’t comfortable doing their best rendition of “Thriller” in front of an audience. In this format, they can let their fingers do the dancing and save themselves some humiliation, all while taking part jamming out to MJ’s classic hits like “Beat It,” “Smooth Criminal,” “Blood on the Dance Floor, “and much more. Don’t see your favorite song included in the game? No worries, you can download other songs through the in-app purchase function.

The game functions by using your fingers to make a series of swipes across the screen, following the prompts for each impending dance move. When this happens, the Michael Jackson avatar comes to life and performs real Michael Jackson signature moves. Thankfully, the game is not sensitive to how large you make the signs or where on the screen you make them; just as long as you perform the correct “swipe motion,” your move will be properly executed. The animation and game graphics are amazing and will not let you down. Continue reading

App of the Week: Cambox

Title: Cambox
Cost: .99
Platform: iOS


The cam is for video, the box is for beat.’ With Cambox you can create, record, and share video beatbox creations.’ Capture a sound in each of eight boxes to create your “kit”. Once you have sounds you can play them like drums. Tap them in any order to create a steady rhythm or something else entirely.

A friend showed me this, and I immediately thought of how much fun it could be with a group of teens. Unfortunately, the writing of this post didn’t coincide with me seeing any teens, so I had to make do with the things in my kitchen. Continue reading