Wade – 4/3

Teacher: Wade (awade@hps.holyoke.ma.us)


Hello Dear Students,

I’m posting these videos for you because Hector C., one of my  first Holyoke students, just sent them to me.  He thought you would like them (and so do I).

I became Hector’s cello teacher at when he moved to Holyoke and started in 10th grade at Holyoke High School. Since then, he has graduated high school, gone to college, joined the military, and is now a grown up with a wife and 2 children and a job.  I’m so glad that he still takes time to listen to music, to play his cello, to write beautiful songs, and to visit with me (even though right now we have to visit by Facetime).  I hope you also will love music all your lives (and keep contact with me, of course!)

All of these videos are performances of the song “Sweet Georgia Brown” which was written in 1925.  Since then, many, many musicians have performed it.  It is even the theme song for the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.

Everyone who plays “Sweet Georgia Brown” gives it their own style, even when they are playing it together as a group.  Listen to these versions and try to hear the parts of the song that always sound the same.  That is the melody.  In other words, it’s the tune of the song, where the words would be if someone was singing it. Usually the melody gets played first, and then the players will improvise Improvising means that they are making up the music they play on the spot.

1) Here are cello player Mike Karoub and guitarist Rob Bourassa playing “Sweet Georgia Brown”. Hector sent me this video because he really likes the style of the cello playing, especially the way Mike Karoub improvises. While you are listening to this, think about the fact that nobody told these players what to play; they made it up on their own.  People used to think that cello and violin players shouldn’t improvise because it wasn’t considered serious music to make up your own notes.  We were told that we must only play what a composer wrote down.  When I was in music college, I was not even allowed to take a class to learn about improvising. But luckily, now that is all different!  Isn’t it great that we can do both things– play beautiful music that someone writes for us, and also make up our own music?


2) This is Mark O’Connor, who is considered one of the best fiddlers in the world, playing violin with Wynton Marsalis, who is considered on of the best trumpet players in the world.  This performance features a lot of solos.  That means somebody gets to play the melody, and maybe improvise, while the rest of the band plays behind them.

Can you tell what instruments play the solos? There are a lot of them.  Does anybody get to solo more than one time?


3) This is the great violinist from France, Stephan Grapelli, playing with David Grisman.  Grisman plays the mandolin, which looks kind of like a tiny guitar, but it is actually similar to the violin (!). It is not a string family instrument, but it has the same string names as the violin, so sometimes violinists will also play the mandolin.

Can you see 3 major differences between a violin and a mandolin?

Watch how these players take their solos.  They seem really excited about it! Can you name the instruments that are soloing?


4) This video doesn’t have any musicians to watch.  “Sweet Georgia Brown” is the theme song for the Harlem Globetrotters basketball team.  Listen to this interesting version.

What instrument is performing the melody?

Do you hear a lot of improvising and solos, or not?

Off the topic of music, if you are interested in basketball, learn about the Harlem Globetrotters.  They were one of the first and only  basketball teams that African-Americans could play on, starting in 1927, until 1950.  They were so good that they helped break that racial barrier. They opened the door and made the NBA what it is today.


5) Sweet Georgia Brown with Black Violin and the Harlem Globetrotters.  Can you hear the original version of the song? Listen to how the performers changed it.


Which is you favorite version of Sweet Georgia Brown? What do you like about it?


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