Friday, August 27, 2010

GuitarTown Takes Over Sunset Strip

This August Gibson Guitar and The Sunset Strip came together to create the public arts project titled GuitarTown. This primarily outdoor exhibit features 25 ten-foot tall fiberglass Gibson Les Paul model guitars which line The Sunset Strip. Each guitar is designed to celebrate iconic musicians and locations who made the 1.6 miles so popular.
Each guitar was created by a local or nationally acclaimed visual artist depicting a musician, personality or artist unique to the Strip's history and Gibson Guitar.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Lennon's Lost Letter

It could be said that there is nothing more inspiring than words of encouragement. It could also be said there is nothing more tragic than words of your hero falling upon def ears.

A British folk signer by the name of Steve Tilton received a letter from John Lennon and Yoko Ono 34 years late. The message: “Being rich doesn't change your experience in the way you think.”
"The only difference, basically, is that you don't have to worry about money -- food -- roof etc.
"But all other experiences -- emotions -- relationships -- are the same as anybodies, I know, I've been rich and poor, so has Yoko (rich -- poor -- rich) so whadya think of that.

"Love John and Yoko."

Steve Tilston was a rising star (who like most of us) questioned the impact money would have on his life. It was 1971 when Tilston then 21 years of age, shared his thoughts in an interview in the pages of a magazine called ZigZag. It was this article that moved Lennon to pick up his pen and share honest words of encouragement.

The tragedy of this story is that the letter never made it to Tilson, but rather surfaced in 2005 in an American collectors possession. Knowledge of the letter became public when the collector reached Tilson to discuss the letters validity.

Tilson’s reaction to the prized possession he never knew was rightfully his? "It was so frustrating because Lennon even included his home phone number on the top of the letter," "I know it's silly but I wanted to ring him up across the ages."
Tilson also added that he: "felt rather angry to start with to think that someone had just sold the letter rather than passing it on to me, but you have to let these things go."

Perhaps the saying “you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone” is like pouring salt in a wound in this case, but I do believe although John’s letter did not reach Tilson in a timely manor, perhaps the message still did. John’s music was not just powerful, it was a letter of inspiration to us all.


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Please Vote for Jackie Evancho on "America's Got Talent"

2009 Session 1 Grand Prize Country Winner, Dave Tough’s song writing partner, James Breedwell, just landed a cut with the over night sensation on “America’s Got Talent”, ten year old Jackie Evancho. After wowing judges with her inspiring opera performance, Jackie’s future looks very bright, as does her chance to win the talent contest.

Jackie’s performance made her the most-searched person on Google Wednesday morning, and put her in the ranks of great performers such as Charlotte Church. Do you think shows like “America’s Got Talent” are a good way to expose artists like Jackie? Would you ever consider audition for said programs?

Please vote for Jackie Evancho on “America’s Got Talent”!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Patricia Vonne embarks on European tour

After four albums, an impressive touring schedule, and eight years in the industry, 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest Session 1 Latin Grand Prize winner, Patricia Vonne, is a seasoned veteran in the world of Latin music. Her transcendent career has combined the styles and genres associated with Texas with an innovative and exciting Latin flair. Vonne’s amalgamation of styles has earned her the title of the “Renaissance woman of Austin, Texas” by the New York Times, as well as comparisons to Calexico, The Mavericks, Lucinda Williams, and Nick Cave. This fall, Vonne will embark on her 19th tour of Europe in support of her most recent album “Worth It”. Recorded with notable Austin producer, Carl Thiel, this album is a continuation of Vonne’s exciting and intriguing musical career, and is a medium for further exploration. Featuring songs such as “Gin and Platonic” and “Castle Walls”, Vonne’s LP combines passionate love songs with heartfelt tales of empathy for a troubled friend.
“Worth It” showcases the musical talents of Robert LaRoche, founding guitar player and collaborator formerly of Virgin Recording artists "The Sighs", "drummer Dony Wynn (who has toured and recorded with stars like Robert Palmer and Brooks & Dunn, among many others) and bassist Scott Garber (whose many credits include work with Giant Sand, The Indigo Girls, Timbuk 3, Alejandro Escovedo, The Silos, The Sidewinders/Sand Rubies and Ronnie Lane, to name some but hardly all). Furthermore Rick Del Castillo of Austin’s Del Castillo brings his “wondrous gut-string flamenco guitar playing” to the mix, San Antonio’s Joe Reyes “burns on electric guitar”, and Austin pop-rock maestro Darin Murphy “wails on harmonica.”
Vonne plans to continue touring in the late summer and fall of 2010. Describing one of her performances, Maverick said "nothing could have prepared me for this extraordinary gig. You know how it is when you’ve seen the best gig in your life? Well, for me it’s probably still Led Zeppelin at the Royal Albert Hall in 1969. But this one came mighty close…." Vonne will be playing at Sam’s Burger Joint with The Texas Tornados in San Antonio, Texas on August 13, Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa August 18-22, Buddy Holly Center’s Showcase 2010 in Lubbock, Texas on September 2, Texas on Tour in Denver Colorado on September 3, and The Continental Club in Austin, Texas on September 24 before leaving for Europe.


Monday, August 9, 2010

FINALIST UPDATE: Lunic to release new single!

Lunic, an indie rock band fronted by violist/songwriter Kaitee Page, has described their sound as an “in-your-face Paramore meets Flogging Molly meets early Alanis Morissette.” With such a myriad of influences, it’s hard to categorize this up and coming New York-based band. Nevertheless, their expansive sound has won them an abundance of acclaim, and positions at many festivals and prestigious venues all over the country. These include South By Southwest, Summerfest, Surface Unsigned Music Festival, as well as opening gigs for Moby, Creed, Company of Thieves, Dredg, Meiko, Bell X1, and Hypernova. Lunic’s debut album “ Lovethief” was released on May 14th, 2009, and was funded completely by Lunic fans via crowd-sourcing website, This method of album funding gained recognition through ABC’s Good Morning America and the New York Times, and has paved the way for many independent artists.
Lunic’s new single, “Oh No Yoko!” is done recording, and ready for release. However, in order to release it, Lunic needs to raise at least 50% of their goal on Currently, they have sold 29% of their desired amount. To pre-order their new CD for $10, and listen to a preview of “Oh No Yoko!” visit Lunic will be playing on August 13 at Valentine’s in Albany, NY, August 14 at Nickstock in Owego, NY, and August 21 at WEQX Unplugged in Saratoga Springs, NY. Furthermore, they will be playing Midpoint Music Festival with notable bands such as Phantogram, Ted Leo and the Pharmacists, and Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s.


WINNER UPDATE: Brian Swartz performance at Hollywood Bowl

After starting his own group in 1996, recording a live album and a tribute to Chet Baker, and playing in some of Los Angeles’s best swing bands, Brian Swartz has secured a position as one of the most promising names in contemporary jazz. Swartz’s quintet has featured some of LA’s best jazz musicians such as saxophonists Keith Fiddmont, George Harper and Ben Clatworthy; pianists Brad Mehldau, Billy Childs, John Beasley, Bob Florence, Theo Saunders and Bill Cunliffe; bassists Jeff Littleton, Kevin Axt, Jeff D’Angelo and Darek Oles; and drummers Lorca Hart, Dick Weller and Aaron Serfaty. Along with regular performances, Swartz teaches private trumpet lessons to many young Los Angles trumpeters. Swartz’s jazz composition “Down with Downs” was chosen as a Grand Prize winner in Session 1 of the 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest.
On July 28th, Swartz had the pleasure of performing at the Hollywood Bowl with the Dave Douglas Big Band. Dave Douglas is one of today’s most influential and prolific jazz trumpet players/composers. The performance also featured bassist Dave Holland’s Big Band and the Count Basie Orchestra.


Friday, August 6, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Peter Torsiello & Liliana de Leon Have Hopes for Music Licensing

At the age of 16, Peter Torsiello had no idea that his song “Telephone’ll Have to Do,” written for his high school sweetheart, Liliana de Leon, would have such a large impact on their future. Not only did the song expose the musical chemistry of two talented artists, it was also licensed as a full feature for a 60 second spot in the primetime ABC series “Third Watch.” As their romantic relationship culminated in a marriage, Peter and Liliana’s musical connection was blooming into the popular Latin band Florypiedra. Combining Mambo and Flamenco into a style they called “Mambenco,” Florypierda has helped pave the way for many up and coming Latin musicians and have lent their craft to education and musical direction.

Recently, Peter and Liliana created a full evening presentation at the prestigious Herberger Theater with elementary school students from Phoenix, AZ. After teaching with the conservatory for over a year, Peter considers this to be one of his biggest accomplishments. Peter is also the Director of Music at Our Lady of Malibu Catholic Church in Malibu, CA and leader of St. Paul the Apostle’s contemporary music group on Sunday evenings in Los Angeles. Furthermore, Liliana has released an instructional DVD on all aspects of Flamenco choreography. In 2009, Peter and Liliana won the Lennon Award for their Latin composition “Vamo Ya,” which they hope to one day license to television and film. Florypiedra continues to tour, and regularly plays at de la Cruz Bistro in Mesa, Arizona.


WINNER UPDATE: Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers Will Release Instructional Guitar DVD

Jeffrey Pepper Rodgers is an extremely prolific contributor to all aspects of the music business. As a musician, writer, and editor, Rodgers has found an abundance of success through his published articles, full length CD’s, and books. Rodgers is also the founding editor of Acoustic Guitar Magazine and has interviewed rock legends such as Jerry Garcia and Elvis Costello. Furthermore, Rodgers teaches courses on songwriting and magazine editing at Syracuse University. He has also started a songwriter concert series and the Words and Music record label. Rodgers was a 2008 John Lennon Songwriting Contest Lennon Award winner in the Country category for his song “Fly.”

Heavily influenced by the musical style and direction of the Grateful Dead, Rodgers decided to begin incorporating some of their classic compositions into his live performances. These performances inspired the recording of “Dead to the Core,” a stripped down, acoustic album of Grateful Dead Covers. In addition to the LP, Rodgers taped “Learn Seven Grateful Dead Classics for Acoustic Guitar” (Homespun Tapes), with instruction on how to play all of the songs on the album, plus “Friend of the Devil.” The DVD is due for an August, 2010 release.


News and Updates: Session I Announcements, Facebook, and the Gulf!

The weeks since the close of Session I 2010 have flown by, and September 1st quickly approaches. We know it has been a long wait for our contestants, but in about three and a half weeks your waiting will be at an end. Our esteemed judges are still in the midst of the adjudication process, listening and re-listening to your songs as they narrow down the multitudes of entries into just a few top choices. Hang in there a little longer – we are as excited to hear the judges’ selections as you are! As you wait on the edge of your seats, why not pass the time by listening to past winners from the 2009 contest?

We know that you love reading our blog and following us on Twitter, but we also have a Facebook page, and we want you to be a fan! On September 1st, we are going to randomly select one of our Facebook fans to receive an Apple iPod Shuffle. Follow the banner below to our page, and be sure to click “like” so you have a chance at this great prize.

Many of you are already aware of the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus, a non-profit vehicle outfitted with state-of-the-art video and audio equipment from our sponsors that travels the country to help promote music education. This month, the Lennon Bus is in the running for a $250,000 Pepsi Refresh grant to help communities on the Gulf Coast. Click here to read about the bus’ Oil on Canvas project and how it will benefit Gulf communities. Please tell your family and friends about this great opportunity for the bus and vote once a day! Only the top two projects with the most votes will receive a grant, and the bus needs YOUR help!

HONORABLE MENTION UPDATE: The Premiere Praised by Critics

In addition to choosing one grand prize winner and three finalists for every musical genre in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest, judges also identify five artists to receive honorable mentions in each category. Among others in the Hip-Hop category of Session II 2009, The Premiere, consisting of David Jackman and Adam Wilkey, was chosen as one such honorable mention for the duo’s song, “Unexplained Freedom.”

The band from Arizona, who describes their musical style as a cross between “hip-hop electro rock” and “new wave grunge rap,” cites early Green Day albums as a source of inspiration. Their debut album, “London Paris New York,” was released to a plethora of positive reviews from music publications. The Phoenix New Times lists The Premiere as one of Arizona’s top twelve hip-hop acts and declares their “phenomenal album” to be “a monster mash-up of rap, rock, and new wave.” Java Magazine’s remarks are in a similar vein; writers from that publication believe that The Premiere is “teetering on the brink of stardom.”

For hip-hop fans everywhere, The Premiere is clearly a group to watch in the coming years. The duo will release a new album in 2010, entitled “Antennae,” so those interested should be sure to track down a copy.


Thursday, August 5, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Abbie Gardner Performed at Merlefest 2010

Abbie Gardner grew up in a home filled with music; her father, Herb Gardner, is a jazz pianist and trombonist. He is also the man responsible for helping Abbie find one of her current favorite vocalists and musical inspirations: Billie Holiday. Abbie began her musical endeavors as a classical flutist, but she found her true passion in 2004 when she started playing Dobro.

Since switching instruments, Gardner has released several independent, full-length albums. She also spends much of her time playing with an Americana group, Red Molly, which has also released albums of its own. The last six years have been filled with success for Gardner. Red Molly has spent much time at the top of the Radio & Records Americana chart, and Gardner herself was named a Grand Prize Winner in the Folk category of the 2008 John Lennon Songwriting Contest for her song, “The Mind of a Soldier.” Gardner went head-to-head in a fan vote-off against the other Folk winner of that year’s contest, David Llewellyn, but it was Gardner who ultimately won the Lennon Award for the category.

Gardner continues to thrive in the music community. This past May, she performed at the well-known Americana music festival, Merlefest, to an audience of over 70,000. Gardner has also begun her lifelong dream of attending music school, a testament to her devotion toward music.

Though attending music school is a time-consuming activity, Gardner still has plans for several performances later this year. Check the list below to see if she will be playing at a venue near you.

09/12/10: Jalopy Theater w/ Pat Wictor (Brooklyn, NY)
10/22/10: Poughkeepsie Tennis Club w/ Craziest Dream Band (Poughkeepsie, NY)
11/28/10: Perks and Corks w/ Marc Douglas Berardo (Westerly, RI)


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

WINNER UPDATE: Matt Cusson Signs with Spectra Records

It was announced last month that folk duo Madison Violet had won the 2009 Song of the Year award, the highest honor that the John Lennon Songwriting Contest offers. The JLSC staff looks forward to Madison Violet’s continued success in years to come, both on tour and in the recording studio.

Winning the Song of the Year is a huge milestone in an artist’s career. 2008 Song of the Year winner Matt Cusson would surely agree with this statement, as his musical endeavors have continued to flourish since last July, when he was surprised by his touring partner, Brian McKnight, the JLSC executive director, Brian Rothschild, and Maxell president, Masuru Kamemoto, with the $20,000 prize check.

In recent months when not on tour, Cusson took his talents to television where he performed as part of the house band on The Brian McKnight Show. Now he is back on the road – Cusson was selected to sing as part of the international “Man in the Mirror” tour, a Michael Jackson tribute currently in Europe. Performers on tour have hopes that “Man in the Mirror” will add dates in America and Asia in the future.

On Thursday, July 22, 2010, Cusson announced some of his most exciting news yet: Spectra Records has signed him to an international distribution deal for the song that earned him his JLSC prizes, “One of Those Nights.” This is a truly exciting adventure for Cusson, and with the great potential for success of his single on Spectra Records there is a possibility that he could release a full album through the label.


Warped Tour Winners K-Será Work With Creative Allies

Each year, the John Lennon Songwriting Contest holds a mini-contest, the winner of which gets to perform on a leg of the Warped Tour during the summer.  2010's winners, K-Será, teamed up with Creative Allies to find a designer for their T-shirts and posters. Check out the great video below for some of the action on board the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus!

Monday, August 2, 2010

FINALIST UPDATE: Casey Desmond Performed in Private Industry Showcase

Casey Desmond, a finalist in the 2005, 2008, and 2009 John Lennon Songwriting Contest (Pop, Electronic, and Pop categories, respectively), has had quite a bit of exciting news to share recently. In addition to a slew of songwriting titles she has earned over the past several years, numbering more than twenty placements in various contests, Desmond’s music has been used in a variety of television programs, and she has shared the stage and/or collaborated with many big names in the music industry: Amy Winehouse, Duffy, David Cook, Johny Lange, Ed Kowaszyk (from The Live), The Motels, Luka Rossi, and Kate Voegel. To top it all off, Desmond was recently hired as a composer for Oprah’s HARPO productions and Studio 51 film library.

Desmond’s long list of accomplishments has garnered her attention from top producers, such as Anthony J. Resta (Elton John, Collective Soul, Shawn Mullins, Duran Duran), and songwriters, such as Robert Ellis Orral (Taylor Swift, Lindsay Lohan, Love and Theft). And her high quality music doesn’t end in the recording booth – Desmond puts careful thought into her live shows. She has an education in illustration and fashion design, which helps inform the 80’s electropop style of her stage shows; David Bowie, Cyndi Lauper, and Blondie are some of her inspirations there.

Desmond will release a new EP this fall called “Heart Shaped Faces.” On July 28, 2010, she held a private preview party at The Canal Room in New York City where those in attendance got to hear some of her new songs for the first time. According to Desmond, the event was “geared toward giving fans, press, labels, and publishing companies a taste of what’s to come.”


Help Provide A Voice for the Gulf Community

Many of you are probably aware of the Pepsi Refresh Project, which awards a $250,000 grant to a cause that earns the most votes from the public. We are pleased to announce that the John Lennon Educational Tour Bus is one of the causes in this year's project. The bus travels all over the United States each year, giving students the opportunity to learn about music production and helping them to pursue careers of which they might not otherwise have been aware. If awarded the grant, the bus and its staff will participate in a project called "Oil on Canvas," in which students will use the facilities on the bus to express themselves through artwork. These paintings will be auctioned off and the funds will go toward areas affected by the oil spill in the gulf.

The John Lennon Educational Tour Bus needs your help. Please sign up on the Pepsi Refresh Project and vote for the bus every day! Voting ends on August 31st, and $250,000 will be awarded to the two causes with the most votes.

WINNER UPDATE: Color Theory Releases “The Individual Edition CD”

Brian Hazard claims that he started learning music “relatively late” in life at the seasoned age of thirteen. Though it’s true that many musicians pick up their first instrument at a younger age, Hazard’s supposed disadvantage hasn’t set him behind his peers. After being trained in classical piano and listening to a lot of Depeche Mode, Hazard has used his musical abilities in combination with his love for computers to create a style of music that he calls “electronic indie piano pop” and performs under the name Color Theory.

Since the mid-1990’s, Color Theory has released eight albums: “Sketches in Grey” (1994), “Tuesday Song” (1997), “Perfect Tears” (1999), “Life’s Fairytale” (2001) “Something Beautiful” (2002), “Color Theory Presents Depeche Mode” (2003), and “The Thought Chapter (2008). In addition to this prolific track record of album releases, Color Theory also earned a Lennon Award in the 2008 John Lennon Songwriting Contest for the Electronic song, “If It’s My Time To Go.”

Color Theory is set to release another album, entitled “The Sound,” this week, but this record sets a new standard for the artist’s creativity; in addition to giving buyers “The Sound,” Color Theory also made available a limited edition, personalized CD of unique mixdowns of each of the songs. Only twenty copies of “The Individual Edition CD” were released, making the album a true collector’s item.

For more information about ordering Color Theory’s “The Sound,” click here.