U.S. Supreme Court declines plea of ban on religious music at N.J. schools

“Silent Night" and other religious songs will remain off the program at holiday concerts in South Orange-Maplewood schools after the U.S. Supreme Court declined today to take up a plea of the district’s ban on celebratory religious music.

The nation’s highest court ended a case that dates back to 2004, by deciding not to hear the petition brought by Michael Stratechuk, a parent who sued over the policy that bars presentation of religious songs.

The 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban last year, and Stratechuk tried to take the case to the higher court.

Stratechuk, a musician whose two sons were in seventh and ninth grades when he brought the case, could not be attained for comment.

In a statement, school Superintendent Brian Osborne said the policy "was adopted to endorse an inclusive environment for all students in our school community. We have always felt our policy was constitutional and are pleased with the outcome."

In the 1990s, South Orange-Maplewood adopted a policy banning the use of religious songs in school performances. But the district enthused controversy in 2004 when a memo was issued to elucidate the policy, extending it to vocal and instrumental performances.

The policy came under fire from traditional groups and drew protests in South Orange and Maplewood. Opponents organized an "illegal" night of Christmas carols, Hannukah songs and other musical pieces in December 2004, according to Muise’s petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The policy roofed religious songs of all faiths.

The case was brought under the Establishment Clause of the First modification, which requires the government to be neutral toward religion.

The whole idea of variety and lenience, you learn those traits by understanding other people’s traditions and religious traditions.

The South Orange-Maplewood policy, which says its goal is to "foster mutual understanding and respect for the right of all individuals regarding their beliefs," permits religious music to be taught in the curriculum. But the music cannot be used to celebrate religious concepts, events or holidays.

By banning it from performance, the district essentially kept religious songs out of the program. Teachers tend to have students learn in class what they’re going to perform.

Despite the district’s stated policy, prior to 2004 some holiday concerts did contain Christmas music. In 2003, for example, according to the petition, one holiday concert included "Joy to the World," "O Come all Ye Faithful," "Hark, the Herald Angels Sing" and "Silent Night."

The policy also prohibits any printed programs for any Holiday concert to have any graphics which refer to the holidays, such as Christmas trees and dreidels.

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Bamboo Instrument Keeps Tradition Alive

After school every day, some 50 Indonesian children and teenagers between the ages of three and 17 meet at this workshop. They train themselves and play a traditional bamboo musical instrument called the angklung.

It started out with just a few children in the 60s, but now about 600 people are enrolled in this team.

"This bamboo instrument workshop aims to conserve the art by bringing its essence into a performance art which is acceptable so that it will not die out." Each instrument produces only one note.

"Practicing bamboo instruments can train people to be restricted, therefore bamboo instruments are used as a device to strengthen team-building in an association, for example. To play a bamboo device you have to be in a group, you can’t play it alone."

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Apple changes tune on music downloads

APPLE is allegedly talking with the major record labels about a subscription music service that would give customers unlimited access to songs for a monthly fee. Apple iTunes boss Eddy Cue was on the phone with music executives recently trying to build out how the partners can move forward, the New York Post reports.

One source said the service could have tiered pricing ranging from $10 to $15, although there are matters to be ironed out, including how much music would be included in each tier and how long consumers would be able to access that content. One top music executive said the labels are supportive of the idea and believe it could re-energize digital music sales.

While album downloads have been on the rise, single track sales were flat in the first half of 2010 compared to the last year. Speculation that Apple would initiate a subscription service has been kicking around for years but the news that music service Spotify will be part of Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 release on October 11 revived industry chatter.

Spotify is a European music service that has yet to broadcast in the US. The company’s faltering block has been its free ad-supported streaming music business model, as the record labels prefer a paid subscription model. It is supposed that there would be some demands for an Apple subscription service, but it wouldn’t be universal.

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How trendy variants to the regular string quartet

Classical Quartet

Traditional Quartet comprises flute, violin, viola and cello. The alternative of the first violin with a flute creates a lighter tone to the band as woodwind instruments do. The sound of the flute can also travel additional thus very suitable for spread-out, outdoor events. The range is the same as the Trilogy Music String Quartet.

Classical Trio

Standard Trio is flute, violin & cello. This smaller collection is suitable for both indoor and outdoor performances. The repertoire remnants unchanged.

String Trio

Music String Trio consists of two violins and a cello. This trio maintains the same proper classical core as that of the String Quartet but is suited to smaller functions.

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Taylor Swift Mine Music Video Teaser

Taylor Swift Mine Music Video Teaser – Taylor Swift will go throughout the ups and downs of a relationship with Toby Hemingway in her new music video for her single “Mine.” She has teased fans with shots from the video, together with some teaser clips and still images. Her upcoming album is highly expected by fans and the juicy teasers are only going to create more anticipation.

The fragment shows the couple holding hands, nestling on the coach, enjoying a long walk on the beach and getting engaged. There is also a print of the two of them on their wedding day.

The prints allow fans to get a look at the music video before it is released and have created more anticipation for the upcoming video. It is also supposed that Swift will be having an on-screen kid in the music video.

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MTV Unveils Music Meter: A Hot 100 for the Social Media Age

Today, MTV launches its Music Meter, a new artist ranking service aimed at turn over traditional music charts. Rather than simply track CD sales (who buy those anymore?) and radio airplay, Music Meter ranks the top 100 artists bubbling up on a variety of non-traditional platforms.

By tracking an artist’s social media buzz (tweets, blog posts, articles) and streams (YouTube, Vevo) in addition to purchase data, MTV’s chart shows a more real-time representation of up-and-coming artists. It will revive daily. The chart is based on velocity rather than total popularity, so it will only show artists who are raising quickly not those who are sitting in the No. 1 spot.

"Let’s not always have the big guys on top let’s invite users to discover performers that they may not know they love yet," says Shannon Connolly, VP of Digital Music Strategy at MTV Networks. "We chose to strip out the most popular artists that you see dominating all lists so you won’t see Gaga or Bieber."

Instead, users will find an eclectic mix of rising stars–those buzzing on the indie scene that has yet to go main stream. Each artist is featured in a widget-style box that provides news, tweets, videos and song previews and purchases via Rhapsody.

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MGMT to winner the Future Music Festival

New Yorkers MGMT are set to winner the Future Music Festival with their psychedelic sound. By Craig Mathieson.

Most days now, it’s far easier to be in MGMT. The panic-stricken highs and unforeseen lows of 2008, when the New York duo of Ben Goldwasser and Andrew VanWyngarden were alternately celebrated and savaged as the future of pop music, have dissipated.

Their much-scrutinized debut, 2007′s Oracular Spectacular, now has an heir, last year’s gladly eccentric Congratulations, and the pair can now enjoy the prospect of a long-term career making music.

”We never determined that this is what we’re going to do,” Goldwasser says, calling from Manchester in Britain the morning after a sold-out gig. ”But something occurs and one thing leads to another and one day you realise this is your career.”

The band, who play the Future Music Festival on Saturday next last night’s show at the Enmore Theatre, are comfortable in their own communal skin. Their three on the road musicians – bassist Matt Asti, drummer Will Berman and guitarist James Richardson – are now fully fledged band members, lightening the communal burden.

”We’d have driven each other wild if we hadn’t added some more people to the band,” Goldwasser sighs. ”They add to the nature of the band and we’re all on the same page imaginatively.”

”One of the hardest things is that at this point in my life, I don’t have that many things I feel that way about – you lose that sense of the supernatural,” Goldwasser says.

”One of the things we do again to ourselves is that kids really do know what’s going on in so many ways.

”We didn’t really appreciate what Oracular meant when we put it out, or even when people started act in response. But from meeting people at shows, particularly younger people, it was clear what it meant to them.”

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Jeremy Camp to star in new web series

Award winning entertainment company, Paulist Productions, is pleased to announce its new venture in the rapidly expanding world of internet television with the brand new web series, Tyler’s Ride. Acclaimed Christian singer, Jeremy Camp joins the cast in his acting debut, as Jesse, an aspiring Christian musician and mentor to Tyler, the lead character.

“Jeremy Camp is a natural for the role,” says Father Frank Desiderio, Executive Producer of the series and President of Paulist Productions. “Jeremy was our first choice of all actor/musicians we looked at for the role.”

Also starring Grant Alan, Natalie Wachen and Ker’in Hayden, Tyler’s Ride is the story of 23 year-old Tyler, super-cool, super-senior in college, who is living the dream life in LA. Tyler shows up for his birthday party expecting the keys to a new car; instead, his Dad, “Mr. Tough Love”, kicks Tyler out of the house and cuts off his credit cards. Reality soon hits him square in the face. Then he meets Jesse, a musician with a dream, courage and convictions.

“It was a joy to work with people in the film industry whose purpose is to share their Christian faith and really make a difference in the world,” exclaims Camp. “Tyler’s Ride was a blast!”

Web TV is on the rise with hit shows such as Quarterlife, Prom Queen and Roommates grabbing the attention of teens and parents across the globe. With this market virtually untouched by faith-based producers, Paulist Productions moved into the void and created the Tyler’s Ride series aimed at this demographic.

Desiderio explains, “I’ve been convinced since starting to work in Hollywood that there are lots of creative, Christian artists and a large audience for their work; but, the problem in the past has been connecting the two. Broadband media allows us to bridge the gap between them. Paulist Productions creates entertainment to reveal the presence of God in the human experience. We share God’s good news with new media; we aspire to lead the way in producing internet entertainment that helps people meet life’s challenges.”

YouTube and Axiom TV, a platform that is both family-friendly and technologically sound, will host the program.

Tyler’s Ride will premiere April 22 on YouTube and Axiom TV with new webisodes each week. The series will also appear on the show’s website at www.tylersride.com.

About Jeremy Camp

With sales of over 2 million units, three Gold records, 13 back-to-back No. 1 radio hits, American Music Award nominations and five Gospel Music Association “Dove” Awards, Jeremy Camp’s career is on a steady climb. He has been featured in nearly all major Christian media outlets and has also garnered consistent coverage from publications such as Pollstar, Billboard and R&R. In 2007, Camp branched out of his comfort zone of music and stepped into the world of television, hosting the Gospel Music Channel’s Christmas At Union Station concert series, and is set to make his acting debut on Tyler’s Ride. Camp is currently on the road with the “Boomin’ Beyond Measure Tour” with TobyMac.

About Paulist Productions

Since its inception, Paulist Productions has created projects for film and television that are incisive, illuminating and faith affirming. The company was founded in 1960 by the late Father Ellwood “Bud” Kieser to produce the syndicated series, Insight, which went on to win five Emmy Awards® in its 23 year run. Throughout its history Paulist Productions has won numerous other awards including the Christopher Award, five Gabriel Awards, the Toronto International Film Festival Award, International Film and Video Festival Certificate for Creative Excellence, the Aurora Gold Award and a Special Achievement television that are incisive, illuminating and faith affirming. The company was founded in 1960 by the late Father Ellwood “Bud” Kieser to produce the syndicated series, Insight, which went on to win five Emmy Awards® in its 23 year run. Throughout its history Paulist Productions has won numerous other awards including the Christopher Award, five Gabriel Awards, the Toronto Award in 2002 from CineMedia. Additionally, Paulist Productions has worked with a stellar line up of talent including Carol Burnett, Rod Sterling, Walter Matthau, Ed Asner, Martin Sheen, Jane Seymour, Ron Howard, Michael Crichton, Patricia Heaton and Blair Underwood to name a few. Continually striving to stay cutting edge with today’s media and technology, Paulist is pleased and excited to enter into the world of web-based television with Tyler’s Ride.

For more information about Tyler’s Ride and to preview the trailer, please visit www.tylersride.com.

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Family Force 5 New EP “Dance or Die&quot

On the brink of a highly anticipated sophomore release, Family Force 5 revs up with brand new material on iTunes, including both a three-song EP Dance or Die available this coming June 3rd, as well as Blingin’ Blogs Volume 1, a collection of 12 audio blogs with over 70 minutes of content available May 27th.

The Dance or Die EP will include three new songs available for .99cents each on iTunes. Fans will also be able to pick the packaged album up at tour dates beginning with the Warped Tour this summer. Blingin’ Blogs Vol. 1 will go for $5.99 on iTunes and offers a collection of 12 blogs with over 70 minutes of the world according to Family Force 5.

The upcoming sophomore album from Family Force 5 is slated to street Fall 2008, with 10-plus songs. In the meantime, fans can catch a preview of new music and their explosive live show on summer tour dates including Ichthus Festival, Alive Festival, Creation East, Kings Dominion, Rock The Desert, Power Light Festival, Lifelight Festival, and 40 cities nationwide on the Warped Tour running June 21st – August 17th.

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Lady Gaga rules MTV Video Music Awards 2010

Washington, (ANI): Pop star Lady Gaga took the MTV Video Music

Awards by storm as she won in eight of the 14 categories in this year’s event. The categories in which Gaga took the moon man home are Video of the Year, Female Video, Pop Video, Collaboration, Dance Video, Choreography, Editing and Direction for her album ‘Bad Romance’.

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Toronto’s Marian Cheney awarded music teacher of the year

Toronto citizen Marian Cheney has received the teacher of the year award from MusiCounts, a musical education charity.

For the past 20 years, Cheney has taught at Queen Victoria Public School in the Parkdale neighbourhood in Toronto’s west end. Her policy is that children should be able to join band or choir regardless of musical aptitude or financial situation.

She’s also credited with co-writing the school’s current theme song. Hard-rockers Billy Talent presented Ms. Cheney with the award at an occasion on Thursday.

Ms. Cheney and her school each received $10,000, sponsored by the band.

“Having lived in the west end of Toronto … this is extra special,” Billy Talent singer Ben Kowalewicz said in a release. “Having teachers like Marian gives us all hope that the kids of tomorrow are in good hands.

“Our music class in high school [where we met 17 years ago] had a huge impact on the band as we got to meet like-minded people and start the creative process of learning our instruments.” 

Said Ms. Cheney: “Music has the power to change lives.”

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Barlowgirl to launch “Million Voices” Fall tour

Fervent Records’ sister rock trio BarlowGirl is excited to announce their Million Voices fall headlining tour with fellow Christian artists Jimmy Needham and Brooke Barrettsmith. Starting in Texas on September 10, the tour will run through mid-November and focus on encouraging audiences to speak hope, truth and love to others.

BarlowGirl has also partnered with Mercy Ministries and will share about the organization at their live concert events, urging those in attendance to get involved and help support young women at Mercy who face life-controlling issues. The group plans on raising $1,000,000 to build a new house for Mercy Ministries, whose waiting list is in the hundreds. Each of the members of BarlowGirl has a heart that beats for the young people of this generation struggling with issues such as eating disorders, depression, etc. and is committed to ministering a message of hope to their audience. “We have such a heart for the broken and are honored to come alongside Mercy Ministries’ work in transforming the lives of young women from the inside out,” says BarlowGirl.

Since 1983, Mercy Ministries has provided life-changing services to young women who suffer from various debilitating conditions including drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, depression, physical and sexual abuse, self-harm and unplanned pregnancies. The residential program, which is free of charge, offers individualized programs, counseling, nutrition education, fitness instruction, life-skills training and educational opportunities to a diverse population of young women from various socio-economic backgrounds. It is Mercy Ministries’ goal to have each young woman discover purpose in her life and bring value to her community. Mercy Ministries is a global organization with locations in the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Peru. For more information about Mercy Ministries, visit www.mercyministries.org.

The Million Voices tour is already scheduled to make a stop in the following cities:

The Woodlands, TX

Waco, TX

Albuquerque, NM

Mesa, AZ

Oceanside, CA

Camarillo, CA

Bakersfield, CA

Redding, CA

Vancouver, WA

E. Wenatchee, WA

Spokane, WA

Kennewick, WA

Salt Lake City, UT

Clarksville, TN

Minneapolis, MN

Greencastle, PA

*More dates to follow*

Read our interview with Barlowgirl here.

Read our review of How Can We Be Silent here.

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Sound Spectrum G-Force with Music visualizes

Music visualizes have long been with us in well-known products such as Windows Media Player or Winamp, more newly these have also found there way onto phone, mp3 players and other such devices. G-Force provides the vital elements for visuals in products such as Apple’s iTunes, Windows Media Center, Windows Vista OS, and more..

G-Force is a stand alone product which plugs into your favorite music player or can also work with line in audio sources. This gives the user the flexibility to prefer a variety of music sources for their visualization.

Sister product also is a music visualize/screen investor that produces photo-realistic scenes based on cloud pattern with stunning colors

With inspiring cloud designs and amazing imagery is the ideal companion to relax with whilst playing your favorite music.

Together with the cloud scenes also displays real life scenic photos with animated cloud scenes for the last ambience.

Installation of both products is simple and simple with the usual windows wizards

The Gold version also includes a toolbar where visual basics can be chosen and customized. Features can also be forbidden and instant screenshots snapshots.

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Sanctus Real lead singer Matt Hammitt to release solo album

Multiple GRAMMY-nominated, Dove Award winning Sanctus Real lead vocalist Matt Hammitt announces the release of his first solo album, Every Falling Tear, on Sparrow Records Sept. 13. Organically sparked by the rich joy and pain of life over the last year that strengthened Hammitt’s faith and solidified his resolve to lead his family well, these new songs are his most deeply personal to date.

Encouraged by his Sanctus Real band mates to release these songs and to share his story through the songs that are meant to provide hope for people that are in crisis, Hammitt’s journey to the new album started with the current, critically acclaimed and best-selling Sanctus Real album, Pieces of a Real Heart.

“The bridge lyric in ‘Redeemer’ says, I don’t have every answer in life / But I’m trusting You one day at a time / ‘Cause You can make a weak heart stay alive forever,” reflects Hammitt regarding the current hit radio single from Pieces of a Real Heart that is Top 15 and continuing to ascend the Billboard radio charts. “Those lyrics, along with songs like ‘Keep My Heart Alive,’ ‘Dear Heart,’ and then the album with a broken heart on the cover, came out on March 9 of 2010. One month later on April 12 my wife, Sarah, and I found out that our son, Bowen, was going to be born with a severe congenital heart defect called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome.”

Pictured (l-r) are: Emmy, Matt, Bowen, Sarah and Claire Hammitt.

The whole album became a prophetic glimpse into what the Hammitt’s were about to go through, and proved to be a source of hope as Matt and his wife, Sarah, take care of Bowen “small victorious one,” who was born Sept. 9, 2010 and has now gone through two heart surgeries, an infection and other complications since being born.

“I will never forget the night of his first open heart surgery – we got a call in the middle of the night that Bowen’s heart had stopped beating,” says Hammitt on a SanctusReal.com video blog encouraging people to share their stories of redemptions. “The redemption that was for me, in probably this most broken time of my life, was that all the treasure in this world, everything I put my hope in here in this life, was burned away in that moment. I could clearly see that the only real treasure I have is the hope that I have in Jesus Christ. Bowen’s doing great now, he’s making an incredible recovery and the fact that we still have him; we thank God for that every day. We’re eager to see what God continues to do through his life.”

Born out of the heart of a father, wrestling with his pain, but buoyed by his faith and love for his family, Hammitt’s main impetus for writing the songs on Every Falling Tear was to play them at Bowen’s bedside in the hospital, with the hope that they would be a source of comfort for his family, as well as a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the midst of their uncertainty.

“A lot of what we went through with Bowen was really hard on my wife and I emotionally, and I felt and understood the pain of others going through similar circumstances as us. We also met families at the hospital [C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI] whose children had either just died or were on the verge of dying, and it felt like they were losing hope. One of the main reasons for recording these songs was to go back to the hospital and hand out the music to help lift these families out of despair.”

Having already recorded and handed out demos of songs in the hospital, Hammitt also sang “All of Me” on ABC World News with Diane Sawyer http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WoeGKOXeO-s. The studio recording of this song is now available for the first time through digital retailers, including iTunes and Amazon.com. “All of Me” will be the first of four tracks from Every Falling Tear to be released each month leading up to the full album release in September.

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of Every Falling Tear and its singles will go to benefit the Whole Hearts Foundation, a new foundation Hammitt has set up to help families going through similar challenges as himself. Providing assistance for families of children affected by congenital heart defects, additional details on the foundation will be announced soon.

As his solo project’s first single is released today, Sanctus Real’s fastest-selling GRAMMY and Dove-nominated, fifth studio album Pieces Of A Real Heart continues to sell over 130% ahead of the band’s last GRAMMY-nominated album. The album has also sparked two No. 1 songs, “Forgiven” and “Lead Me,” the latter having been heard by well over 100,000,000 people at radio and receiving the first-ever song endorsements from Focus on the Family and FamilyLife, as well as gathering two “Song of the Year” Dove nominations. The success of the singles helped pave the way for the band to become Billboard’s No. 4 most played Christian band of 2010 at radio. In all, Sanctus Real has gathered 14 No. 1 and Top 5 radio hits so far.

Sanctus Real creates compelling, authentic music that lives up to the meaning of its name: to be Holy (Latin meaning of “Sanctus”), and its members are about living out their lives as “real” Christians, not only on the stage and as they interact with fans, but also in the quieter moments of their lives as husbands and fathers. Matt Hammitt’s solo album carries this idea forward.

For all the latest on Matt Hammitt and his family, see www.bowensheart.com.

Read our interview with Sanctus Real.

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Update on: Red involved in serious car accident

Rock band Red was involved in a serious vehicle accident Tuesday, November 27, 2007, at approximately 6:30 AM CT. The band was heading west on Interstate 24, less than 20 miles from Nashville, Tenn., returning home from a concert in Hilton Head Island, S.C., the night before. Despite major damage to the band’s van and trailer, no serious injuries have been reported.

Update: Merely three days after a vehicle accident that completely destroyed the band’s van and trailer, rockers Red are back on the road, heading to its concert at the Sokol Auditorium in Omaha, Nebr. with Seether. Beyond some bumps and bruises, the band did not suffer any major injuries. All five members of Red are extremely thankful for all of the prayers and support during this time.

Second update: Randy recently spoke up about the accident in a MySpace page bulletin:

Hey Everyone,

Just wanted to fill you all in on the latest. Since the news of the accident, emails and phone calls came pouring in so thank you all for your overwhelming support. We have recieved over 2000 emails so we will not be able to reply to them all but know that we will at least read them all.

I will not even begin to go into detail about our injuries because Kelly is the most important thing right now. We are banged up but Kelly will be off his feet for at least a month, maybe 2. He is in OK at a burn center. We talk to him every day and it has been difficult so far to carry on a converstion with him because of his pain medication, but he assures us that he is ok and he is in great spirits. He just wants to heal and get back to doing what he loves.

Alot of people want to know "what kind of band RED is" We are a group of guys that beileve in something bigger than all of us…someone who reveals himself to us in sometimes the most extreme ways…God. If that concerns you, we can’t apologize. We believe that it is he that allows us the life experiences that we all learn from and cherish enough to write songs about. Songs that will encourage others to get out of their own situations and find hope. It is supposed to be about the music!

What have we learned??? We have learned that life can be given and taken in a second. Life is a gift to be cherished with friends and family and we cant spend our time here hating and judging each other. Inspiring others to do something good is our business and you guys are our family out on the road. Gear is replaceable but people are not and when something really bad happens, our friends and family are who we call first.


**Be sure to visit the band’s MySpace page to watch a video about the accident, including footage from the scene.**

Read our interview with Red here.

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A Music hallway rock to Its Own Beat

There is regularly a moment early in any concert at Barge music when even spectators who have spent many evenings inquiry music in this transformed coffee barge find themselves speculate why they couldn’t have found amazing to do on dry land. The barge, moored on the Brooklyn side of the East River near the River Cafe and a stone’s fling from the Brooklyn Bridge is a ship, after all, and it is given to the tender rocking motion that mariners love and landlubbers can find gently disconcerting.

But element of the magic of Barge music is that you rapidly forget about the motion. When you take your seat, you features a stage set before a great window that offers a fantastic view: the river, with its varied transfer, and the looming cityscape of inferior Manhattan. The presentation, by an expansive roster of customers, as well as visiting ensembles and soloists, are classically so involving that they cover even the view.

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Captain Hollywood (Tony Harrison) called The Pioneer Of Eurodance will release a Greatest Hits Album on 12 May 2010. He will be a special guest on the DJ Bobo Fantasy Tour where he wil announce and present his new album. This is a 20 years Anniversary album with 15 biggest hits and 4 new songs among them a featuring of Turbo B. www.captainhollywood.de

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Lori Peters parts ways with Skillet

According to a recent blog entry at Skillet’s MySpace page, lead singer John Cooper reports that longtime drummer Lori Peters has recently left the band on good terms. Here’s John’s report:

Hey Panheads! We are out on tour bringing the rock to Winter Jam and loving it! Thanks to all of you who have already come out and supported us!!

I am writing an email to let everyone know about a change in the life of Skillet. Some of you already know, or have been speculating that Lori our drummer is no longer with Skillet. Unfortunately, this is the case. Lori told us about two months ago that she feels that it’s time for her to come off of the road and start a new chapter in her life. We are of course going to miss her!! I wanted to let you all know sooner but the task of finding another drummer and getting prepared for this tour right on top of Christmas was overwhelming. On top of that Lori was finishing up the year and helped us train a new player so it was a bit premature to make any announcement.

Lori’s last show with us was New Years Eve where we rocked it out together for one last time! She is going to miss all of the loyal fans who have been so supportive of the "coolest chick drummer ever!"

Lastly, we wanted to wait to make this announcement after we had a new drummer in place so there would not be those who think that Skillet is over. We are far from it! So as you know know we are losing an awesome girl drummer, and replacing her with another awesome girl drummer! We will let you guys know more about the new member soon, but for now, her name is Jen Ledger; she just turned 18; and she is looking forward to rockin your faces off!

As always, stand and be strong,

John Cooper

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Google plans to launch music service: Report‎

The Wall Street Journal reported that Google Inc is planning to launch an online music downloading service tied to its search engine a move that would pit it against Apple Inc and its popular iTunes site.

Google’s plans are still unclear, but it has been "stepping up conversations" about offering music services online as well as over mobile phones that use its Android operating system, the Journal said, citing people familiar with the company’s talks with the music industry.

It was vague whether Google had signed deals with record labels, the report said, adding that the launch of a music downloading store was still months away.

Google and Apple have become competitors since the launch of Google’s Android operating system, a rival to Apple’s iPhone.

Google was not available for comment.

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Pillar bassist Michael “Kalel” Wittig leaving group

Longtime bassist for Grammy nominated and Dove Award winning hard rock band Pillar, Michael “Kalel” Wittig recently announced that he will leave the group to pursue other opportunities. Among his new ventures are artist management/marketing/consulting company JMA Music, and Stars Go Dim, a band he created with former Pillar drummer Lester Estelle.

Wittig first informed fans of his departure from Pillar late last month on Facebook and MySpace. In a statement he said, “It’s been an amazing 10 years of my life that I will never forget … There are many reasons why, but it is just the right time … I feel very blessed to have had the opportunity to be a part of something that has changed so many lives.”

In addition to spending more time with family, Wittig plans to focus his energies on JMA Music, a management/marketing/consulting company he developed with partner Joey Avalos in 2007. An astute businessman, Wittig has always had an interest in artist development as well as a desire to “give back to these younger groups and help them to be their best.” JMA Music’s current clients include emerging bands One Minute Halo (myspace.com/oneminutehalo) and A Road Less Traveled (myspace.com/aroadlesstraveled). For more information on JMA Music, visit www.jmamusic.com.

And while investing in up-and-coming artists, Wittig will continue to hone his own craft, joining up with former Pillar bandmate Lester Estelle, Joey Avalos (Justifide, Sky Harbor) and Chris Cleveland for pop/rock band Stars Go Dim, a significant departure from the Pillar sound. The group will release its debut EP October 21, 2008 in advance of a full-length project, Love Gone Mad, produced by Estelle, next year. Currently Stars Go Dim is booking dates throughout the Midwest. A tour itinerary will soon be posted at www.myspace.com/starsgodim. For additional info on the band, visit www.starsgodim.com.

“I am grateful for the early enthusiastic response to Stars Go Dim,” says Wittig. “It’s been exciting to work with this band from the ground up, and I am eager to move forward with our first record and tour.”

Michael “Kalel” Wittig began his music career more than 12 years ago. As a member of Pillar, whose career sales currently exceed 700,000 records, Wittig has toured internationally, produced six Radio & Records No. 1 hits, charted on Active Rock radio, won three Dove Awards, received a Grammy nomination and been spotlighted by major media outlets including Bass Player magazine, MTV, and Fuse TV.

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Delirious Breaking up in 2009

Delirious has announced on their website that they will be breaking up in 2009. According to the press release the decision came about because of Martin Smith’s desire to be released from the band to pursue other interests and spend more time with his family.

Read our interview with Delirious here. 

Read article about Kingdom of Comfort here.

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Behind the Scenes with Mat Kearney Part 1

Part 1 of a series in which Mat Kearney talks about the making of his new album City of Black & White.

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Michael Tait to join Newsboys!

After 22 years and more than 2000 shows, newsboys frontman Peter Furler will no longer front the band in concert. Michael Tait will be touring with the band as lead singer with Peter making special appearances throughout the year.

Peter will continue with the band and his trademark songwriting and production will remain as he focuses his professional career toward future newsboys recordings.

Michael has been on the road with the band over the past weeks working alongside Peter in what has been a positive and enjoyable experience for both parties. It has been a graceful process that both Peter and Michael have worked through as they prepare to make the change in the coming weeks.

Peter states “newsboys to me has always been a mission, and I entrust Mike, Jeff, Jody and Duncan to continue all that is in store for us as a band. I’m looking forward to focusing on the band’s studio career and spending time in my own bed after many years in a tour bus and hundreds of thousands of miles on the road.”

Wes Campbell, newsboys manager explains, “While the decision to replace Peter on the road was a painstaking one, when the idea of dc Talk vocalist Michael Tait was presented it was a no-brainer to all of us. No one can replace Peter, but we know Michael will bring a new attitude, energy and vocal style that will thrill our audience. To be able to continue a world class show and still have Peter behind the scenes guiding the career and making of newsboys music is a huge opportunity for all of us. It’s amazing that after many years of touring with dc Talk in the 1990s that in 2009 our paths would cross once again. It’s an exciting time for all of us.”

“For years, dc Talk and newsboys have been family and thus shared the same loyal and adoring fans, says Michel Tait. “When I received the initial call from newsboys to consider joining the band as lead singer, I was speechless! I immediately sought wise counsel and flooded the heavens with endless prayers for insight and vision, and I soon received a clear and definite peace. Last weekend, I had the opportunity to perform my first show as newsboys’ frontman to an audience of 12,000 people. I was completely wrapped in love and support by newsboys’ fans, who are clearly the best fans on the planet. Now I know this is exactly where I belong in this new and wonderful moment in my life’s history. This is a definite highlight of my career and for my 20+ years of walking with Jesus, and I am humbled, proud and privileged to call myself a newsboy.”

In the coming days Peter will be releasing a personal statement on the band’s website in more detail.

The band has recently finished recording its new studio album, In The Hands Of God, which features Peter as lead vocalist on the entire album. Street date for this record is May 5th.

With five gold albums, sales exceeding six million units, more than 20 No.1 radio hits, and a mantle of Dove Awards as well as Grammy nominations, newsboys has achieved phenomenal success in its two decades together. Known for its amazing live performances and groundbreaking tours, the band continues to sellout festivals and concerts worldwide, satisfying diehard fans and winning new ones in the process.

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