Tag Archives: Ed Helms

Jordan Choir Teacher, Burbank-based Composer Honored At Skirball Gala

On Tuesday evening, December 10, Jordan Middle School choir and music teacher Christine DeMore was presented with the Shining Star award along with Burbank-based composer John Debney by Education Through Music – Los Angeles (ETM-LA.) Actor Ed Helms emceed the event, held at the Skirball Center, and the entire Madrigals choir group from Jordan were part of the featured entertainment along with a number of Grammy-winning musicians.

Christine DeMore conducts the Madrigals performance of John Debney's theme from "Elf" at the Skirball Center. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Christine DeMore conducts Jordan’s Madrigals choir and LAUSD youth orchestra members in a performance of John Debney’s theme from “Elf” at the Skirball Center, backed by Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

As Vocal Music Director at Jordan Middle for the past 14 years, Christine DeMore oversees five award-winning choirs, comprised of 300 students – a full one-fourth of the school population, focusing on a classical choir program. The choir groups at Jordan, especially the primarily 8th-grade populated Madrigals, are also recognized as one of the top show choirs in Southern California. Many of these students go on to be soloists and members of John Burroughs High School’s nationally recognized choir program.

Mrs. DeMore accepts the Shining Star award with an inspiring speech. (Photo Courtesy of Cathy Jaramillo.)

Mrs. DeMore accepts the Shining Star award with an inspiring speech. (Photo Courtesy of Cathy Jaramillo.)

Mrs. DeMore also directs Vocal Ensemble, an auditioned group of 12 voices, known for their a capella work. Every year, as Mrs. DeMore explains the choir program to parents, she emphasizes the college-level vocabulary and music theory she teaches to the children. In addition to vocal music, Mrs. DeMore teaches general music classes as part of the 6th grade elective program.

“I started teaching in college but I didn’t get this fabulous job here at Jordan until later in life. Children have fabulous imaginations at this age and if you can draw on their imagination, they can make incredible sounds,” commented Mrs. DeMore. “It’s more fun to teach and work with children because they sing with imagination.”

“What’s unique about Jordan kids are the sounds they make – their willingness to imagine sound and make that sound,” Mrs. DeMore added. “It’s all about how you design that sound, and they are such willing players.”

Jordan Madrigals perform with Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band, directed by Christine DeMore. (Photo Courtesy of Nadia Naffa

Jordan Madrigals perform with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band, directed by Christine DeMore. (Photo Courtesy of Nadia Naffa

“What interests me is education, even more than music. Any type of music interests me, and in an educational way. I’m always wondering how to find a better way to teach kids: how much can you get from them; how high can the expectation be?” Mrs. DeMore went on to explain. “The more I expect, the more I get. The more music I give them, the more they want. They’re insatiable. So I’m always curious about schools that are low performing – they’re middle schools like us. How come the expectation isn’t that high? How come I’m not seeing that across the board?”

“It has to do with educating and with kids coming out of college – who’s guiding you to take on a group of children and make something special? You have to have a personal drive. That’s what I like about teaching at USC, to see these teachers in the final phase of their master’s degree. I’m telling them: ‘You must set your expectations high. Here’s how to get there, here’s how to do it. But go out and be the best you can be and try to get more from kids.'”

“It’s just the expectations seem so low so much of the time and that’s what’s mind-boggling,” continued Mrs. DeMore. “I think what we do isn’t that special, but there’s never a free moment. There’s always work happening. You’d think kids would reject it and not want to work, but that’s not true. They want more.”

Violinist Julie Gigante (who presented the award), Christine DeMore, David DeMore and Ella DeMore at the pre-gala reception. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Violinist Julie Gigante (who presented the award), Christine DeMore, David DeMore and Ella DeMore at the pre-gala reception. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Mrs. DeMore serves on the faculty of the USC Thornton School of Music, Master of Arts in Teaching program, teaching “Choral Conducting in the Classroom” and “Vocal Pedagogy” for choral and instrumental music graduate students. In 2008, Mrs. DeMore was awarded Burbank Teacher of the Year award and the Los Angeles County Teacher of the Year award. She and her husband David have two children and three grandchildren.

“Typically we honor those individuals that may fly under the radar and are very well-respected in their field. After Christine DeMore was nominated, I went to see her teach and I was blown away,” commented Victoria Lanier, ETM-LA Executive Director.

Composer John Debney speaks with a teen reporter on the red carpet. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Composer John Debney speaks with a teen reporter on the red carpet. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Award-winning composer John Debney was honored as well that evening with the Shining Star. Mr. Debney’s score for The Passion of the Christ was nominated for an Academy Award and he has scored box-office hits including Elf, Bruce Almighty, The Princess Diaries 1 & 2 and Iron Man 2. Mr. Debney recently scored The Call with Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin and Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher. Currently, he is working on Draft Day with Kevin Costner, SpongeBob Square Pants 2, and the TV mini-series Bonnie & Clyde.

Mr. Debney was born in Burbank and grew up in nearby Glendale. His studios are located in Burbank and he has performed at Providencia Elementary as part of the ETM-LA enrichment music classes. He, his wife and children also reside in the area. In his acceptance speech, he spoke of the challenges a musician and composer faces, including rejection, and lauded perseverance.

“Receiving this wonderful honor has touched a special place in my heart. Being able to give back to children by helping foster music education in our schools is of paramount importance,” commented Mr. Debney, after the event. “Music can enrich a child’s life in so many ways. It helps develop the mind and the heart. It is an outlet and a unifying force for good between all people. That is why my wife Lola and I felt that this organization was one we wanted to be a part of. Education Through Music LA helps so many kids, and we are honored to be a small part of this amazing organization.”

Ed Helms serenades the signed banjo auction winners. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Ed Helms serenades the signed banjo auction winners: Michael Giacchino, Michael Gorfaine, Richard Kraft and Randy Spendlove. (Photo By Lisa Paredes)

Mr. Helms entertained the guests throughout evening with song, comedy and some auctioneering. A group of four music industry executives bid $10,000 each for four signed banjos and a song made up on the spot and serenaded to them by Mr. Helms. Monica Mancini performed her father Henry’s classic “Moon River” with Gordon Goodwin’s Big Phat Band. Lisbeth Scott performed music from The Passion of the Christ with Chris Bleth, Steve Erdody and Mike Watts to a hushed audience.

ETM-LA’s Shining Star Award is bestowed upon one educator and one composer at the Annual Benefit Gala. The annual fete brings together some of the largest names and personalities in the music and performing arts arenas, and serves as a fundraiser to support ETM-LA’s ongoing partnerships and programs at certain LAUSD and BUSD schools.

“It’s is an amazing team of supporters and is making a real difference in children’s lives,” stated Ms. Lanier. “We are committed to honoring these composers and educators who do so much to further musical education for children.”

Christine Demore poses with some of the members of the Jordan Midd;e School Madridals on the red carpet at ETMLA's annual benefit gala at the Skirball Center. (Photo By Lisa Paredes.)

Christine DeMore poses with some of the members of the Jordan Midd;e School Madridals on the red carpet at ETMLA’s annual benefit gala at the Skirball Center. (Photo By Lisa Paredes.)

Last Tuesday’s event raised more than $200,000 for ETM-LA’s programs, via online and in person auctions and personal and corporate donations. The nonprofit will hopefully reach their goal of $250,000 once all the donations are tallied.

Education Through Music started more than 20 years ago in New York City as a nonprofit organization dedicated to provided music teachers and instruments in public schools. Now in it’s eighth year in Los Angeles, ETM-LA has partnered with several schools in LAUSD in addition to BUSD’s Providencia Elementary and Washington Elementary, at which they provide weekly music teachers and present special guest artists, including Mr. Debney and Mr. Helms.

Past honorees include Academy-award winning composers John Williams and Michael Giacchino and educators Reggie Andrews and Julie West, among others. The Honorary Chair Committee include Jon Favreau, Mayor Eric Garcetti, Jane Kaczmarek, Ellie Kemper, Garry Marshall, Rickey Minor, Ivan Reitman, Tom Shadyac and Mary Steenburgen.

Funny man Ed Helms Stops By Providencia Elementary for Laughs and a Lesson in Music

The multi-talented, Ed Helms (The Office, The Hangover 1 & 2, and The Lorax) visited Providencia Elementary School this week to promote music programs within the local districts.

Lonesome Trio introduces our local kids to bluegrass music. (Photo by Deborah Dodge)

As an advisory board member of Education Through Music-Los Angeles (ETM-LA ), Helms and
his band, “Lonesome Trio” were invited to perform for local Burbank children. The Providencia Elementary students were the recent winners of an online contest that involved 9 other schools
from surrounding areas, including other Burbank schools, Los Angeles and Compton Unified.
Lonesome Trio gave two performances and showed off their original bluegrass tunes. One performance was geared for the younger kids (K-2nd) and one for the older kids (3rd-5th).  Before the singing began, Helms introduced his band mates and explained which musical instruments they would be playing and what they were called.

(L-R) Jacob Tilov, Music Director Victoria Lanier, Ian Riggs, Principal Jennifer Culbertson. and Ed Helms (Photo by Deborah Dodge)

The first was Helms’ guitar, which all kids seemed very familiar with. The second was the soft-sounding, melodic mandolin, played by Jacob Tilove and the third and final instrument was the
deep-sounding bass, played by Ian Riggs. When Riggs walked out on stage with the giant, wooden bass the little K-2nd graders gasped and a sea of, “woahs” filled the air. The unexpected reaction from the kid-filled audience made the teachers and the trio chuckle a bit. It is all perspective; the bass was bigger than any child in the entire room. Picking up on their amazement and being the famous comedian he is, Helms quickly joked, “ After you play the bass, you can then take a nap in it”. His impromptu one-liners kept the young belly laughs rolling.

Being a smaller school, it was a huge accomplishment to win the online contest. Ten schools in total, vied for the honor to have Helms visit their school. (Photo by Deborah Dodge)

Riggs gave a sample of what a bass sounds like by playing a few funky low-notes, which got the kids all snapping as if they were tiny beatniks transported from the late 1950’s.

After the quick lesson on the names of instruments, Tilov, Riggs and Helms started out with a funny song about ‘being a family, eating Cheetos and fighting about the car’. The upbeat, acoustic song made the children clap, sway back and forth, sing and laugh.  After they finished performing three kid-friendly songs, Helms opened up the floor to some questions.

During the Q & period, Helms asked if any of them had seen, “The Lorax”. When a field of tiny hands shot up in the air, he then had them guessing which character he had played. The hint was to recite

The very well-mannered students wait their turn to ask Ed Helms questions about his career in music and acting. (Photo By Deborah Dodge)

one of his lines from the movie as, the “Once-ler”. The kids all cheered once they were able to put the voice with the face.

One gregarious 5th grader raised his hand and asked the inevitable and unavoidable question, “Was it fun being in, The Hangover”? Helms sheepishly admitted he had starred in the smash adult-comedy hit, and then replied in a very humorous manner by saying, “It’s a movie none of you should know about…” This time, the adults gave a knowing laugh as most shook their heads and smiled.

He continued to discuss how music in schools is so important to children and their development. Helms shared his advice by saying, “I love to play music as you’ve just heard and I think it’s very important. It’s something you all should

(L-R) Stan Carrizosa (Superintendent), Ed Helms, Peggy Flynn (Arts Coordinator) and Tom Kissinger (Director of Elementary Education) (Photo by Deborah Dodge)

foster, work on and try to get better at. Music is something you can take with you throughout your entire life.”

When asked about the music program and how Helms got involved, Victoria Lanier, the Executive Director of ETM-LA expressed, “Our mission is to promote and provide music education in disadvantaged schools as part of the core curriculum to enhance students’ academic achievement, and creative and overall development.  As an advisory Board Member of Education Through  Music-Los Angeles, Ed Helms is a huge advocate of music education for all children and champion of our mission. This visit is a part of the vital work we do to nurture our students’ development and achievement through music –

Jacob Tilov sits down as a 5 yr-old fan thanks him for visiting his school. (Photo by Deborah Dodge)

to provide quality yearlong, sequential and comprehensive music instruction to disadvantaged school as well as to inspire the children through special guest artist visits. Education Through Music-L conceived of the contest to decide which school would receive the visit, to get the school communities involved and engaged in their music programs, and to help spread the word about the mission of ensuring in-school music education for every child.”

In a world where budget cuts are unfortunately very common and music being one of the first programs to be eliminated, we as a community are thankful to ETM-LA for inviting Ed Helms and band mates, Jacob Tilove and Ian Riggs, to share their talent, time and words of wisdom with the students at Providencia Elementary School.

Film and TV and star, Ed Helms talks to our local students about the importance of music in schools. His quick-wit and improv expertise kept the kids' attention throughout the assembly.

Research has shown that music study enhances teamwork skills and discipline. In order for an orchestra to sound good, all players must work together harmoniously towards a single goal, the performance, and must commit to learning music, attending rehearsals, and practicing.  Perhaps these little minds from Providencia Elementary will soon pick up an instrument and explore the musician inside each of them. I know some have already started playing and let’s hope they continue to develop their own special musical talents.

There are many reasons for students to explore the world of music: Music study changes the brain and makes kids smarter, teaches them discipline, a sense of achievement, and it’s fun! Adults can benefit from learning to play an instrument too because it helps the mind to be alert and remain active eventually helping to sharpen the memory. I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.

People can learn more about Education Through Music-Los Angeles’ programs by

www.facebook.com/etmla (Facebook)
@ETMLosAngeles (Twitter)

You can also check out Ed Helms’ band at:

Providencia Elementary School, ETM-LA and the very talented, Lonesome Trio pose for the camera. (Photo By Deborah Dodge)