“I have really come to believe all the different arts is really what makes us human otherwise, we would just be a computer or machine.” Vincent James
Most people often discover their purpose as they journey through the process of creative self-expression, which then brings them joy and a sense of self-fulfillment. Our guest today, Vincent James, got to experience this transformative moment thirty years into creating and exploring the art of music and has since never looked back.
Vincent James has been circulating in the musical world for over 3 decades. He first began as a songwriter penning “Rock & Roll and Wrestling Connection” in the mid-80s that was made into a music video by PRISM Television starring Cyndi Lauper, Hulk Hogan, and Rowdy Roddy Piper. James later began managing local bands helping to book and promote hundreds of live shows.
Eventually, James elected to go the artist route and released several recordings including two national singles. Highlights included the humorous “Y2K” song that landed a local FOX news spot, a Billboard review, and an appearance on the nationally syndicated Jenny Jones Show. A few years later, James’s single “One More Night” aired on over 80 radio stations nationwide, landed a spot on the Friday Morning Quarterback radio chart, and launched his transition to Mr. Love Songs. Over the next decade, James wrote dozens of custom love songs for weddings, anniversaries, and other special occasions through his LoveSongs.com website.
Change came knocking in 2014 when James realized he wasn’t serving his true purpose. After listening to a teleseminar entitled “How Everyone Has a Book Inside Them”, James decided to publish a book along featuring inspirational music stories about how music changed people’s lives. Co-authored with his wife Joann, “88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life”: https://amzn.to/359FN2B was first published in June 2015 and features stories and anecdotes from both regular and famous musicians. Story contributors include Rick Wakeman (YES), Vanessa Carlton, Simon Kirke (Bad Company/FREE), Bobby Kimball (Toto), Bill Champlin (Chicago), Rob Hyman & Eric Bazilian (The Hooters) along with hit songwriters Seidah Garrett (Michael Jackson), Billy Steinberg (Madonna) and Bobby Hart (The Monkees). The sequel to “88+ Ways Music” was published on New Years’ Eve 2020 and is entitled “88 MORE Ways Music Can Change Your Life”: https://amzn.to/3goDePs . 80% of all “88 Ways Music” proceed from both books are donated to music education and service non-profits.
While publishing and promoting “88+ Ways Music Can Change Your Life”, James began to discover his true passion for music education. Along with his wife, they formed the Keep Music Alive organization and launched the 1st Annual Teach Music Week in March 2015 and the first Annual Kids Music Day in October 2016. Keep Music Alive officially became a non-profit in October 2017 and now partners with over 1,000 music schools, music stores, and other organizations to offer free lessons to new students and special events that benefit and celebrate kids playing music. These events range from student performances, instrument petting zoos, drum & ukulele circles, instrument donation drives, and more.
Over a dozen celebrities have signed on as Kids Music Day Ambassadors lending their name and image for the cause including Julie Andrews, Jack Black, Sarah McLachlan, Kenny Loggins, Michael Feinstein, Vanessa Williams, Pat Benatar, and more. Television and Broadway star Matthew Morrison signed on as the Official Spokesperson for the milestone 5th Annual Kids Music Day in October 2020, leading to Kids Music Day being featured on Entertainment Tonight, People TV, and Good Day New York.
In today’s episode, we will be discussing Vincent James’s experiences as he explored his art in music and how he found his purpose and passion for advocating for children’s music and storytelling.
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- It is really funny, Michael, how this all started. I bounced around through several different areas, which I enjoy and I was pretty good at them. [5:46]
- But along the way, through those 30 years, I never really felt like I was truly doing my full purpose, what I was meant to do. [5:58]
- One day, I was drawn to listen to a teleseminar training about how everyone has a book inside them they need to write. [6:05]
- I never thought I would write a book because by day, I’m an engineer, and by night, and weekends, I do all this music stuff. [6:12]
- Because I’m going back and forth. I’m not really an expert on any, like a jack of all trades, right? Who’s gonna buy a book, I’m not an expert. [6:20]
- While I’m on this call, it was like a bolt of lightning hit me what about a book of inspirational stories of how music impacted people’s lives, I wouldn’t have to write anything. [6:27]
- I would just gather stories, edit them, and then we would publish them and inspire others to play music and to share the gift of music because I know how important it is to me. [6:36]
- And then along the way, as we started doing research, this whole thing kind of morphed eventually into the ‘Keep Music Alive’ nonprofit years later. [6:46]
- So as we dug into all the research and peeled the layers back on the onion it became just amazing to me. [6:58]
- My primary focus is advocating for music and music education because that’s just really where my heart is. [7:36]
- When playing music you’re building up not only your musical skills, but your social skills as you’re connecting with your tribe. [9:35]
- When you’re playing an instrument you are firing back and forth between the left logical and the right creative sides, much more than almost anything we do as humans. [9:50]
- The corpus callosum part of the brain gets bigger for the kids that have had musical education during their developmental years and this is how we get thinkers outside the box. [10:03]
- Add on the motor skills that you have to do for your finger position. [10:11]
- The brain is an amazing thing and we’re only scratching the surface in our lifetime of what the brain is capable of. [11:56]
- If people intentionally explore different types of music along the way, they don’t just become locked in but they have to learn new things to expand the brain. [13:56]
- We ran into a fellow who is 15 years old and from the west coast and he could play 107 unique instruments on a good level. [14:52
- They credited his skills to when his mother was pregnant where they used to take the speaker and put it up to his mom’s belly. [15:08]
- Commercial break. [16:18]
- March of 2016, I came up with the idea of having a week every year where musicians offer free lessons to somebody and I put up a couple of social media posts. [18:00]
- I started reaching out to schools and so that second year, we had 23 music schools and eight states that said ye. [18:19]
- We built our homegrown database and now have like 5000 and we started reaching schools and stores t to encourage them to participate and then we just grew it organically year after year. [18:45]
- After the second or third teach music week, we ran into a girl who was doing something called kids yoga day and I wondered if there was a kids music day. [18:58]
- We looked it up and there was no such thing and we decided to start doing it where the music schools and stores offer some sort of event or promotion that either benefits or celebrates kids playing music. [19:20]
- The idea is to raise a loud enough voice so we can get the media everywhere talking about it and get more kids involved in music in the arts. [19:33]
- We work with another national organization called hungry for music where we do local instrument donation and we donate some to a local non-profit school and repurpose others that are completely broken so that it’s not going into the landfill. [21:16]
- Before we started all this, I didn’t pay much attention, I was on my own just doing my own thing. [22:11]
- But then as I started to focus on what we’re doing and the advocacy I started thinking about it. [22:18]
- I have come to believe all the different arts is really what makes us human otherwise, we would just be a computer or machine. [22:25]
- What would be the difference if we didn’t have our culture and all the different varied beautiful cultures around the world? [22:35]
- I think that’s really why we need music and art, to express ourselves for therapeutic reasons. [22:43]
- We are always looking for new stories for the music book series and we donate 80% of the proceeds. [23:48]
- For ‘Keep Music Alive,’ we are continuing to build it up year by year and we will also do our musical instrument petting zoo events around the Philadelphia area, schools and libraries. [24:01]
- We also do special ones for children that are on the spectrum where it is just solely dedicated to them, and they come in with their families. [24:19]
- I would just encourage people that whatever passion or business case, you just need to be persistent and consistent with it. [27:58]
- I believe one of the reasons we have had so much success with what we’re doing now is because we’ve been consistently doing it for seven years now building it out. 28:09]
- One of the things that I always like to share with people is that silence never means no. [28:22]
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