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VALLEY ROUNDUP | Granada Hills

Lesson of Music Is Focus, Students Told

November 09, 2000|GRACE E. JANG

Professional harmonica player Tommy Morgan told 200 Porter Middle School music students Wednesday that the skills he learned from years of practicing music helped him to excel academically--and achieve a fifth-degree black belt in the Korean martial art of hapkido.

"As a byproduct of studying music, you do better work," said Morgan, who holds a bachelor's degree in accounting and a master's in music composition, both from UCLA. "When I was a teen, I'd practice for several hours a day and eight hours on Saturdays. [Martial arts] and studying require focus. With my music practice, the dualism was so easy. You just transfer one to the other."

The West Hills resident, whose extensive resume lists performances on such film scores as "Dances With Wolves" to albums by Barbra Streisand, said his interest in music began when he was 3 and flourished in the 1950s with music classes at 66th Street School in Los Angeles.

Since 1981, Morgan, whose given name is Tom Edwards, has made annual visits to music teacher Michael Rotman's classes to play for the students and talk about the nature of the musical recording industry.

"It's my way of giving back," Morgan said. "This is a dimension that's slowly being lost in budget cuts. It shouldn't be."

Although he began playing the piano and later the violin and the guitar, Morgan said he stuck with the harmonica because "it chose me."

"The harmonica allows me to express what I want," he said. "It found me."

Eleven-year-old Michelle Kim, who has played the flute for more than four years, said her instrument also "found" her. The sixth-grader, who practices two hours a day, agreed with Morgan that music does help her to better focus on her studies.

She said Morgan also taught her another important lesson.

"Music's not about money," said Michelle, who hopes to play professionally some day. "You do it because you love it."

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