“Rich in content…a very useful addition to any music education library!” Children’s Technology Review
The story behind Travels With Music.
Donna Stoering, Founder & Artistic Director of Listen for Life, and the originator of LFL’s Travels with Music series, shares the story of its beginnings:
“I was traveling as Artistic Ambassador for both the USA and the UK, while designing and hosting television programs about music on a variety of international networks. While performing in Hong Kong I was invited to meet with the president of the popular StarTV network on AsiaSat. He explained to me that Hong Kong teachers had read about the positive academic influence of studying Western classical music, so all of the students were now required to take classical piano or violin lessons while the parents (who were raised on Chinese classical music and knew nothing about Western instruments) were expected to help their kids practice after school each day. Meanwhile, the grandmothers were concerned that their grandchildren, studying Western classical music, would soon lose all connection with their own rich traditions and instrumental heritage. And indeed the networks’ market research (sampling a mere 3 million of their viewers!) had showed them that the strongest desire of viewers was for a program or series that could be enjoyed by all 3 generations in the home, contrasting Chinese classical music with Western classical music so that all age groups could learn about both traditions.
With these market research statistics in hand, the executive at StarTV inquired whether I would consider moving to Hong Kong for 2 years to oversee the design and creation of this very series, in a digital format, adding an online educational component as well. I deeply love Hong Kong and wanted very much to live there, but other commitments made that impossible at the time. However, I told him I would get back to him about the program.
The following week I was performing and teaching in India, and happened to meet the head of one of their primary broadcast networks at a reception. When I described the Hong Kong request to him in conversation, he became extremely excited, explaining that they were looking for exactly the same program, but contrasting classical Indian music styles with Western classical music, because all of the older generations were fearing that their youth (being raised on the newer Bollywood styles) would lose all sense of connection with their rich classical traditions. He asked if Listen for Life could create an interactive online broadcast series for them as paid downloads and promised us an initial “trial run” of 16 million subscribers!
Well, there was one slight problem. With all three of these networks, they would be paying our development, design and production costs and we would receive a small percent of revenues from each broadcast, advertisement, download or licensing fee. But the networks, not Listen for Life, would own the content and products, and meanwhile we would be spending 2-3 years creating essentially the same program three times over for three different cultures.
In discussing the opportunities with our board, we concluded that if we raised the funds and produced it ourselves, we could design the series to contrast the “classical music cultures” of many different regions of the world, all at one time, making it more interesting for viewers worldwide and more entertaining and educational for those who couldn’t travel to see those locations in person. I christened the series “Travels with Music”.
We began filming and interviewing some of the master musicians I had met in my global travels, and we raised the funds to create a pilot show, which I happened to have with me when visiting a friend who is a professional educator in NY. I showed her the intended television series pilot and she began jumping up and down, explaining that social studies teachers in particular were “always looking” for multimedia content that could “hook” their students’ interest beyond the “boring textbooks” and bring these cultures to life. She urged us to “forget the networks” for the time being, break up the long programs into 1-2 minute video segments, and add interactivity as a fun way to access the interviews and live performance footage which we had, by then, archived for this program.
So, upon my return to our production centers, we convened a “think tank” that included well-known educators at all levels (K-12 and university), cultural anthropologists, sociologists, ethno-musicologists, animators, game designers, video editors, sound engineers, graphic artists, production managers, and of course musicians of all countries and genres. Together, we selected 15 cultures for which LFL had already amassed footage, and we divided literally hundreds of hours of interview and performance videos into nearly 300 short video segments, arranged in 30 units (2 units per culture) comprising (along with the audio clips, informational text, and other features) a total of 6 hours of course content, all created (at the time) in Flash, and delivered via interactive DVD-ROM.
We were fortunate to receive glowing product reviews and recommendations from a variety of educational journals and media influencers. We decided to market the program as an educational resource for a wide variety of subject areas. Our “initial adopters” spread the word to other teachers and curriculum directors, and TWM has since been used in over 150 school districts in the USA and in several other countries as well, teaching a wide variety of curriculum areas – Cultural Diversity, Cultural Literacy, ESL/EFL/TESOL, Geography, History, Music, Language, Tolerance, Anti-Bullying and Special Education – through the common denominator of cross-cultural music.
DONNA STOERING – Founder & Artistic Director
Donna is an internationally-renowned musician, recording artist, Marshall Scholar, keynote speaker and performance coach at the world’s major conservatories who began giving public concerts (as a pianist) at the age of five and first sang on television at the age of fifteen. A protégé of the late Sir George Solti, she has toured the world as an Artistic Ambassador for both Great Britain and the USA, performing as concerto soloist with the major orchestras, conducting musicals and concert-opera performances in both London and Barcelona as well as the choral groups of the principal cathedrals in Italy and Great Britain. While living and performing in Europe she coached opera stars of La Scala, Munich and London opera houses and those singers all encouraged her to perform as a vocal soloist as well as a concert pianist, so she began accepting solo roles in Requiems and other works. Composers, intrigued with the rare timbre of her voice, then began creating and/or arranging new works for her to sing as soloist with a variety of groups, including the Russian men’s accapella group Slavyanka, with whom she has performed in Croatia, Bosnia, and other countries.
PETER MAUND – Executive Director
A native of San Francisco, Peter Maund studied percussion at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and music, folklore and ethnomusicology at the University of California, Berkeley. A founding member of Ensemble Alcatraz and Alasdair Fraser’s Skyedance, he has performed with early and contemporary music ensembles including Alboka, Anonymous 4, Berkeley Contemporary Chamber Players, Chanticleer, Davka, El Mundo, The Harp Consort, Hesperion XX, Kitka, Los Cenzontles, Musica Pacifica, Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Voices of Music, among others. Presenters and venues include Cal Performances, Carnegie Hall, Celtic Connections (Glasgow); Cervantino Festival (Guanajuato), Confederation House (Jerusalem); Edinburgh Festival; Festival Interceltique de Lorient; Festival Pau Casals; Folkfestival Dranouter; Horizante Orient Okzident (Berlin); The Kennedy Center; Lincoln Center; Palacio Congresos (Madrid); Queen Elizabeth Hall (London); and Tage Alter Musik (Regensburg). He is the author of “Percussion” in A Performers Guide to Medieval Music, Indiana University Press, 2000. He has served on the faculty of the University of California, Berkeley as well as in workshops sponsored by Amherst Early Music, the San Francisco Early Music Society, the American Recorder Society and the American Orff-Schulwerk Association. Described by the Glasgow Herald as “the most considerate and imaginative of percussionists” he can be heard on over 50 recordings.
In addition to his work as a performer and music educator, Peter Maund served as Director of Business Development for Sibelius, USA, a leading music software company. He headed the company’s US launch of digital sheet music in 2000, and continued through Sibelius’ acquisition by Avid. In 2009 he joined Legato Media as VP of Business Development, continuing to focus on the digital distribution of sheet music, audio, and video in the music education market. His work with non-profit arts organizations include several years as a board member and president of the San Francisco Early Music Society, as a business development consultant for Los Cenzontles Mexican Arts Center and he currently serves on the Arts and Culture Commission of Contra Costa County.
Listen For Life
Over its 15 year history, Listen for Life, a 501(c)(3) non-profit headquartered in Oakland, CA, with affiliate studios in 45 countries, has positively impacted the lives of 10,000,000 people in 55 countries through its cultural diversity outreach projects, education products, unique live events, and music-themed TV programs.
In doing so, Listen for Life has amassed a library of over 400 hours of proprietary video of Master Musicians from cultures around the world performing original musical compositions on native instruments, in studio and on stage, and being interviewed in their native languages about their craft, their country, their way of life, and their musical culture.
The mission of Listen for Life is to preserve these musical cultures, to introduce the world to their Master Musicians, and to promote cultural diversity through the integration of this amazing content into the classroom and homeschool learning experience.
Cultural Infusion (new partnership)
Travels with Music is a proud partner of Cultural Infusion an innovative arts education company based in Australia.
Together they reveal world cultures through music to promote intercultural harmony.
Music is common to all, it is deeply woven into the fabric of every society and integral to humanity as a species. Music provides the perfect means to open the door of exploration into other cultures and we present a range of music centered educational programs for all ages. Music by its very nature is integrative and interdisciplinary. It provides the perfect means to increase engagement through its incorporation across the curriculum.
For more information on our programs please visit:
Credits for Travels with Music™ Series One
Listen for Life Productions:
Founder & Artistic Director Donna Stoering
Executive Director Robert Anderson
Executive Producer Terry Lamb
Chief Technical Officer Venkat Ganesan
Post-Production Supervisor Mabel Valdiviezo
Audio Post-Production Fey Adelstein
Voice-overs Erica Allen
Text Editor: Donna Stoering
Research and Writing:
Translators Ricardo Lopez
Computer Programming: (design, interactivity, database development)
Raj Ojha (choose a country section)
Ashley Kayler (games, treehouse, and learn a skill sections)
Database/Asset Management Andrej Hronco
Motion Graphics Adad Warda
Educational Materials Victor Spiegel
Teacher’s Guide Compilation Natalie Glatzel
Listen for Life HQ Staff:
Robert P. Anderson (in-house legal department)
Ed Davis, Corporate Attorney (Duane Morris LLP)
Controller Terry Anderson
Office Assistant Midalia Lebron
Liisten for life CTO Ian McLaren