Jazz Appreciation Month at MPL

Thelonious_Monk,_Howard_McGhee,_Roy_Eldridge,_and_Teddy_Hill,_Minton's_Playhouse,_New_York,_N.Y.,_ca._Sept._1947_(William_P._Gottlieb_06201)We realize it’s almost over, but we couldn’t let April pass without acknowledging Jazz Appreciation Month.

Jazz, swing, bebop, cakewalk, even the blues that birthed it (along with spirituals and African polyrhythms)—whatever you may call the music—is bigger than one blog post. But if you’re new to jazz, hopefully we can provide some sort of introduction; and if you’re an old cat, perhaps we can introduce you to something new.

Getting started

Better people than us have provided better introductions to jazz: Ken Burns, Bob Blumenthal and Herman Leonard just to start. (By the way, all these links lead you to books, music and films that you can check out for free from Mentor Public Library.)

So let’s talk about the music and its early practitioners. The earliest jazz music came out of New Orleans: pianists like Jelly Roll Morton, clarinetists like Sidney Bechet, and trumpeters like Bix Beiderbecke and Louis Armstrong.

Some modern musicians still make jazz in the style of the old Hot 5s and 7s, for example, the Preservation Hall Jazz Band.

Back then, jazz was mostly dance music: the emphasis was on syncopated rhythms, strong melodies and catchy improvisations. The harmonies and rhythms were not yet as complicated as they would become during the bebop era.

Big Bands

What started as the realm of solo pianists and small groups grew until bandleaders had entire sections of brass, woodwinds, percussion and sometimes even strings at their disposals.

Composers like Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Woody Herman and Buddy Rich took the music to new places, incorporating aspects of classical, world, Broadway and even rock ‘n roll into their songs. Meanwhile, the Gershwins were using jazz as the basis to create some of the most memorable show tunes of all time.

The Big Bands were often accompanied by singers who became just as (or more) famous in their own right: Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra and more. (That’s right. Ol’ Blue Eyes got his start singing with the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra.)

When we think of jazz, we tend to think of this era—with its Dukes and Counts and Cabs. You could argue that jazz would get more complicated and even more popular, but it would never be bigger.

Bebop

Musical genres tend to evolve overtime. The Beatles may have been influenced by the 1, 4, 5 chord changes of the blues, but they grew it into a wall of sound. Kanye West may work with Rick Rubin, but the final product is going to sound a lot more complicated “My Adidas.”

Jazz also evolved from the swing of Jelly Roll to a dense jungle of chord changes, overlapping improvisations and unorthodox (sometimes dissonant) harmonies. This jungle’s name was bebop.

Thelonious Monk would integrate seemingly atonal and arrhythmic strikes in his arrangement. John Coltrane and Miles Davis would use modal (as opposed to diatonic) harmonies in their solos and arrangements. Charles Mingus would take the lessons of Ellington and stretch them into suites depicting anger, depression and contemplation.

Jazz grew from dance music to almost anything you could imagine sonically.

Fusion

Let’s be honest. Genres are arbitrary things. Whether you’re bluegrass or blues, bebop or hip-hop, you’re still using the same 13 notes. So it’s unsurprising, natural even, for genres to meld.

Just like the Gershwins combined jazz and classical, Weather Report would fuse jazz and funk, Miles Davis would combine bebop and hip-hop and Herbie Hancock would mix everything with everything.

It’s unsurprising that jazz would fuse with other genres. After all, one of its patron saints—Duke Ellington—was influenced by everything from Tchaikovsky to the music of Asia

Modern

So what is jazz today? Is it swing? Big band? Bebop? Fusion?

It’s all of that and more.

Dr. John is keeping the New Orleans sound strongBranford Marsalis performs a lovely Coltrane homage, and Takuya Kuroda uses hip-hop breakbeats in his percussion on his newest album, Rising Son.

Jazz has more faces than a hydra, and it’s adding more all the time.

But enough of me talking. I suspect you’d rather listen to some music.

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Studio MPL kids make their own version of Munch’s ‘Scream’

Colin creates his own version of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" during Studio MPL on Monday.

Colin creates his own version of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” during Studio MPL on Monday.

Studio MPL—Mentor Library’s art club for kids—looked to painter Edvard Munch for inspiration last Monday.

Munch is best known for his Expressionist painting, The Scream. Using Much’s painting as a reference point, the kids drew their own emotions or (if they couldn’t decide which emotion to draw) made their own versions of The Scream.

The young artists used crayons, colored pencils, markers and chalk—whatever best expressed their feelings.

Gavyn uses markers to express her emotions.

Gavyn uses markers to express her emotions.

Every month, the kids take on a new art project. They’ve created imaginary friendsmade sun catcherspainted sunsetsweaved and even garnered inspiration from Jackson Pollock.

Studio MPL meets on the third Monday of each month. If your kid likes art—any kind of art—they can join the fun!

Next month’s session will be May 18 at our Main Branch. You can register for it here.

For more photos from Studio MPL, check out our Facebook page. For more information on programs and events for children, teens and adults at Mentor Public Library, visit our online event calendar.

Mya mulls over what to draw during Studio MPL.

Mya mulls over what to draw during Studio MPL.

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Enjoy Free Comic Book Day at Mentor Library

If your kid loves reading, writing or drawing comics, then they'll probably love our Comics Club.

If your kid loves reading, writing or drawing comics, then they’ll probably love our Comics Club.

Free Comic Book Day is this Saturday! Kids can come to Mentor Library’s Main Branch and get new, free issues from all the top comics publishers—Marvel, DC, Boom, Bongo, Image and more. (The comics have been donated by our friends at Comics & Friends!)

You may be confused and wondering, “Aren’t all of the comics at Mentor Library free?” And, yes, we have thousands of comics and graphic novels that you can check out without cost.

But Free Comic Book day is a special, once-a-year event where kids can read new stories from all kinds writers and artists—not just superheroes either. It’s a fun way to expand your horizons without having to spend any cash.

So drop by and pick up some comics while the supply lasts. (And, once more, because we can’t say it enough, thanks to Comics & Friends!)

Our Comics Club doesn't just read and talk about comics. We write and draw our own sequential art, as well.

Our Comics Club doesn’t just read and talk about comics. We write and draw our own sequential art, as well.

If your kid loves comics, then they’ll probably love our Comics Club too.

Our Comics Club is for any 8- through 12-year-old who likes to read, talk about, or draw sequential art. (Not just superheroes either. We love everything from Amelia Rules to Batman to Bone.)

Our Comic Club meets from 7 to 8 p.m. on the first Tuesday of every month at our Main Branch. Our next meeting is May 5.

At a typical meeting, the kids talk about a special theme. Then we introduce the kids to graphic novels and comics that can be found in the library’s collection.

We close out each meeting with free time for the kids to draw or read.

To register a child for the Comics Club, call the library at (440) 255-8811 ext. 221.

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Investment Basics: Where to Start

Fill that piggy bank by investing.

Fill that piggy bank by investing.

Even the least money savvy of us have a vague appreciation of investing. It seems like a good idea in the way that it would be better to eat more vegetables or learn a second language.

But investing can be intimidating. What if you make a bad investment and lose your savings? What’s the difference between investing and putting your money in a 401(k) or IRA?

To answer questions, the Society for Financial Awareness provided an introduction to investing as part of Money Smart Week at Mentor Public Library.

Here is some of the information and advice they shared:

Why invest?

There’s more than one reason to invest. First, I assume you want to retire some day. Wise investments can hasten that day.

Moreover, you know how inflation works. If inflation rises three percent each year, then $200,000 today will have the purchasing power of $59,142 in 40 years. In other words, your money will be worth less money.

Through the power of compound interest, investment does the opposite of that. It makes your money worth more money.

When you invest, you don’t just earn money from your initial investment, the interest from your investment also accrues interest. This can really add up over time. If you invest $5,000 a year for 30 years and see a six percent annual growth rate, then you’ll make $395,291—more than twice what you would have if you just stored that money in shoe boxes beneath your bed.

No less a mind than Albert Einstein said, “The most powerful force in the universe is compound interest.” And, yes, we realize his tongue was in his cheek when he said that; but, still, if you want to harness that powerful force, you need to learn about investing

The sooner the better

The most important thing about investing (or establishing any kind of savings) is that you don’t want to hesitate.

The sooner you begin, the more time your investments have to grow. Playing “catch up” later can be difficult and expensive.

Identify goals and risk tolerance

What are you saving for? Retirement? Your kids’ college? Maybe a new car?

Your investment goals (long term versus short term) affect your time horizons.

In general, the longer your investment horizon, the more potentially high-reward risks you can afford to take. After all, if you don’t plan to retire for 30 years, then you have plenty of time to recover from losses.

There’s often a risk-reward tradeoff. The higher the possible payoff, the larger the potential losses. The spectrum of low-risk/low-return to high-risk/high-return goes something like this: Treasury bills, CDs, government bonds, corporate bonds, preferred stock, common stock and, finally, options and futures present the highest risk and possible rewards.

Know the different types of investments

There are different types of investments: cash alternatives, bonds, stocks, funds, and more. (However, 401(k)s and IRAs are not investments. They’re tax-advantaged vehicles that hold individual investments.)

Here’s a break down of the different options and there advantages.

1. Cash alternatives are low risk, short term and relatively liquid. Examples include CDs, money market deposit accounts and mutual funds, and U.S. Treasury Bills.

The potential return is low enough that they may not keep up with inflation, but the earnings are predictable and there’s little risk to the principal.

2. Bonds are a loan to a government or corporation. The interest is typically paid at regular intervals. They can be traded like other securities.

The risks include the value of the bond fluctuating with interest rates and, of course, default. And the potential returns are lower than, say, stocks.

However, the risks are also lower than in the stock markets and the income is both predictable and typically higher than cash alternatives.

3. Shares of stocks represent an ownership position in a business. The percentage of a business you own determines your share in its profits and losses. Your shares of stock can ultimately be sold for a loss or a gain.

Within stocks there are a lot of categories: common versus preferred; small, mid or large cap. It helps to have a professional to guide you.

Stocks historically have provided the highest long-term total returns. They can provide income through dividends as well as capital appreciation. However, market volatility or poor company performance create a greater risk to your principal.

Consequently, stocks might not be appropriate for short-term investments or goals.

4. Mutual funds  are when your money is pooled with that of other investors. The fund invests for you according to a stated investment strategy, and you own a portion of the securities held by the fund. (In other words, your investment is automatically and instantly diversified.)

Mutual funds fall all along the risk-reward spectrum. Before you invest in a fund, you should consider its objectives, risks, charges and expenses to make certain its goals coincide with your own.

The advantages of investing in mutual funds: liquidity, as well as diversification and professional management of your investments. The disadvantages: fund fees and expenses, tax inefficiencies and value fluctuations.

Picking a professional

We’ve just covered the basics here, and it can already seem overwhelming.

Frankly, when you’re talking about your financial future, it helps to have a professional’s insight and experience. A financial professional can help you determine your investment goals, timelines and risk tolerances. They can also help select specific investments, manage, monitor and modify your portfolio.

But how do you pick a financial professional that’s right for you?

Actually, that one’s easy.

When you talk to a financial professional, ask them questions. Ask them about your different options. If you don’t understand or aren’t satisfied by their answers, keep looking for the right person.

Click here for more information from our Money Smart programs.

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All smiles and sunshine at the April Showers story time

Josephine makes a cotton-ball could during Mentor Library's April Showers story time.

Josephine makes a cotton-ball cloud during Mentor Library’s April Showers story time.

For as much snow and cold as we received this summer, a little rain isn’t a problem; so we had a special April Showers story time on Monday at our Main Branch.

First, we read books with the children: Little Cloud; Tap Tap Boom Boom; and The Deep Deep Puddle.

Then, we made thematically appropriate crafts—cotton-ball clouds and lightning bolts.

Finally, we made a tasty “mud” snack with Oreos and chocolate pudding.

Sierra tries to decide how to decorate her lightning bolt.

Sierra tries to decide how to decorate her lightning bolt.

Mentor Library has story times for all ages of kids at all three of our branches.

They include songs, crafts and, of course, reading! (Occasionally, they even include a snack.)

All of our story times are free and open to the public. However, a few of them require registration because of limited spaces.

To see what story times are the best fit for your family, check out our online event calendar.

Join in the fun at Mentor Library story times.

Join in the fun at Mentor Library story times.

For more photos from our April Showers story time, visit Mentor Library’s Facebook page.

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