Raggin' Jazzin' Rockin' by Susan VanHecke

Cindy: I love when I find a nonfiction book that does something new. Music informational books are few and far between considering how much music means to teens. Of course, by the time you purchase and process a Justin Bieber biography, it seems there’s a new kid on the block so it’s hard to keep up. The names may change, but many of the instruments stay the same, and school bands are here to stay, budget cut worries aside.  So, I was jazzed when I got my hands on Raggin’ Jazzin’ Rockin’: A History of American Musical Instrument Makers (Boyds Mills 2011).

The eight-chapter book gives the history of some of the most famous names in instrument history including: Zildjian cymbals, Steinway pianos, Conn Cornets, Martin guitars, Ludwig drums, Hammond organs, Fender electric guitars, and Moog synthesizers. Each chapter starts with a teaser about the musician who invented the famous brand, like Avedis Zildjian in 1623 Constantinople, a metalsmith who was given his last “cymbal-maker son” name by the Sultan who admired his work or 8-year-old William Ludwig whose father wanted him to play the violin rather than the drums. His father was a professional trombone player and “didn’t think drumming required serious musical skills.” Eventually Ludwig’s passion for drums won out, but not until he had worked through a variety of “real” instruments.  Many of the musicians found a unique way to improve the instruments they loved and some could not contain their creativity and spawned side inventions. Did you know that Larry Hammond of electric organ fame also invented 3-D glasses, and less popular, an electric card-dealing bridge table! There are great family photos to illustrate the chapters.

The book also gives sidebar information with photos, diagrams, and period advertising about the instruments themselves, and about famous legendary musicians who have played them. No Justin Biebers here, but you will find the likes of Eric Clapton, Buddy Rich, Ringo Starr, and George Gershwin.

The chapter about C. G. Conn of Elkhart, Indiana, strikes a personal chord with me. In addition to Conn manufacturing cornets, the C. G. Conn Company became the oldest continuous manufacturer of band instruments in America. I lived just down the street from this factory and later we’d moved across the state line to Michigan but I bought my flute from them when I joined the school band and took it there for service. The company played a big part in encouraging school bands, including founding the Conn National School of Music in Chicago to be the first “band teacher” training school in the country.

Your 784’s will welcome this book.

For more Nonfiction Monday blog posts, head to The Swimmer Writer today!



About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

1 Comment on "Raggin' Jazzin' Rockin' by Susan VanHecke"

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  1. I love picture books about music, musicians, instruments – so I have a feeling I’d enjoy this book. We once had a “Picture Book that Sings” theme where we feature songs that have been made into lovely picture books (e.g. Joni Mitchell’s Chelsea Morning, Forever Young by Bob Dylan) – this one also looks very inviting. Thanks for sharing.

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