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Alison Chats with Swing Whistle Zing about raising a young professional musician

May 15, 2015 - 10:43am -- admin

I’d like to extend a warm welcome to Kindie musician, Alison Faith Levy
of The Sippy Cups!  Ever wondered how to encourage your kids to
follow their passions?  Today, Alison shares her family’s personal story
of nurturing the budding creativity in another professional musician in
her home, her son, Henry.  Take a moment and enjoy the story of the
musical journey this family has taken since Henry began creating his own
compositions at a very young age.  I think you’ll be inspired by this
tale of honoring creativity, even in young ones, and a mother’s love.

My 13-year old son Henry is a musician with two albums out on independent labels. He’s been called “the new Philip Glass
and the “young Mozart of minimalism,” and many articles and reviews
have been written about his electronic keyboard compositions. But to us,
he’s just our sweet, funny, creative, adventurous kid. How did he get
this way? Is it nature, or nurture, or both?

My husband, Danny Plotnick, and I are artists. Before we had Henry,
we were established as an indie musician {me} and an underground
filmmaker {Danny}. When we decided to have a child, it was of
the utmost importance to us to never lose our identities as artists. We
knew that we would raise our child in an encouraging and open-minded
creative environment.

When we went to the hospital the night I went into labor, we brought
CDs and a little boom box with us, and even in those pre-dawn hours
right after Henry was born, I remember us laying together in the bed
with Henry snuggled between us, listening to John Fahey and the [The] Sea and Cake quietly, setting a tone of music playing right from the moment he opened his little eyes.

As Henry grew, he was fascinated and obsessed with music.
We listened to a lot of bluegrass and folk music when he was a baby,
and he had a little red wooden guitar that he would carry around with
him everywhere. We couldn’t go anywhere without it. By the time he could reach the keys on the piano, he was starting to pick out melodies.

We would play all kinds of music from our collection for Henry—from
classic rock to jazz to country to folk to experimental— but he always
gravitated towards anything minimalist, instrumental, and somewhat
avant-garde. He loved the electronic music of Kraftwerk at
about 4, and at age 5 my husband showed him the film “Koyaanisqatsi”,
primarily because he was fascinated with time lapse footage, but the

soundtrack by Philip Glass changed Henry’s life. From then on he had
found the music that spoke to the deepest part of his soul, and started
to explore the synthesizer music of Terry Riley and the improvisational piano concerts of Keith Jarrett—strange for a young child, but that’s Henry! Luckily we could read his cues and see where his tastes were heading and find something that we thought would fit the bill.

In addition, Henry grew up watching me play music professionally
{with The Sippy Cups}, and watching his dad make movies and teach film
classes. We brought Henry along to countless concerts, film
screenings, and art happenings of all kinds, and he felt completely at
home around the art world from a very early age.

Henry started taking classical piano lessons at age 5, and was given
his first electronic keyboard at age 7. He started composing
immediately. We have albums and albums of his compositions – he always
recorded everything he did and gave his pieces imaginative names like
“Hot Dogs on Hum Street” and “Awakening Jupiter.”

He discovered the art of looping (recording a musical phrase,
repeating it, and layering other sounds and phrases over it) at age 10,
and has never looked back. That summer he spent about a month learning
how to loop synthesizer sounds on GarageBand and created what was to
become his first album, Fields, which was released the
following year on the Holy Mountain record label out of Portland. After
that we bought him a Line 6 looping pedal and an amplifier, so he could
loop and record himself live onto a digital recorder in his room. That
is how he records now. His most recent album, Blue Fourteen: Qualia
was released earlier this year on the British label Blue Tapes. He is
constantly recording new music, and our house is always filled with the
sounds of Henry at his keyboard or at the piano. It’s a wonderful
soundtrack to our lives.

Throughout his journey as a musician, our job has been merely
to encourage him, to provide all the tools necessary for his to achieve
his dreams, and to provide a safe and loving environment in which to
express himself creatively.
  The rest is up to him.

 For more info about Henry and his music, you may enjoy:

A wonderful article written about our family that was shared by NPR worldwide

Field 5— This is a video he and my husband made, using all footage that Henry shot.

Henry live at the Other Cinema

Excerpt from Blue Fourteen: Sun

You can also sample and purchase Henry’s music on Bandcamp.

Alison Faith Levy’s new album for children, The Start of Things is available now. For more information about Alison and her music, visit www.alisonfaithlevy.com.