Season’s Greatings

Season Greeting

December 24th, 2015

A great deal, all positive, has been taking place at the Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute (ACEI).  2015 was yet another productive year for ACEI. We celebrated our 21st birthday and introduced our 7 business standard processing time; the fastest in the country. We also rolled out a monthly webinar series on topics related to Diploma Mills, the Future of Higher Education and Emergence of Online Education, as well as country specific updates. Please sign up here so you can stay abreast of upcoming webinars.

We demonstrated our commitment to the field of international education through our participation and attendance at various regional and national conferences such as AACRAO, NAFSA, AIEA, NAGAP, and SHRM, as session presenters and exhibitors showcasing our various services.  In addition, we continued our contribution to the field on topics related to international education and world cultures through our weekly blog “Academic Exchange,” and our monthly newsletter, “The Report.” As proud Charter and Endorsed Members of the Association of International Credential Evaluators, we have been actively involved in the Association’s monthly Credential Forums and helping organize its first Annual Symposium on Standards to be held on March 23-24, 2015 in Phoenix, AZ.

As we prepare to wrap up 2015 and head home to our families for the holidays, we wanted to share a few fun facts on Christmas. We all know that Christmas is a Christian holiday that celebrates the birth of Jesus. There are also several Christmas traditions that are not related to Jesus but have been adopted and included in the celebration. We’d like to share with you this video from The Business Insider that provides a list of five of the biggest traditions. Please click the link below:

The most popular Christmas traditions have nothing to do with Jesus

Thank you for following our blog in 2015. We look forward to providing you with more fun, thought provoking and insightful posts in 2016.

Have a Happy and Wonderful Holiday Season!

Our best,

The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute Team


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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

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Bier, Buchs, and Bureaucracy: The journey of an American International student in Germany



Guten Morgen meine freunds!

It has been a week and a day since I arrived in the Old World and my experience thus far has definitely been an interesting one.

Jet lag is still taking its toll, but slowly and surely I’m adjusting. The weather here is surprisingly pleasant, no thanks to rising global temperatures. Albeit, it is nice to arrive in a place in which winter has usually an oppressively bitter hold on daily life. But on average, the sun is out and there is no sign of snow or ice anywhere. People are out and about riding bikes or walking to work.

Over the course of the week, I have seen several refugee families and many refugee housing developments; usually reissued shipping containers for functional modular construction which are sprouting all around the city. Cool thing is, the German government wants integration, so they don’t make a “ghetto” and instead place all of the refugees in one or two parts of the city. The refugee housing developments are interspersed so as to minimize segregation. Seeing this really puts things in perspective for me. Here I am, a white American male, not bringing with me any heart-held entitlement but with the privilege and choice to immigrate to this country just because I want to better my education. I find myself stressing over the ordeals of travel and applying online to a school and taking for granted my situation. But it all goes away when you see how other people struggle just to live, and how people reach out to help one another in times of incredible crisis.

The other day I rode my bike along the river for about 15 minutes to the art school to which I am applying. I had been having trouble online with my application form, and found that a technical error was hindering my application process so I thought it best to consult a school official on the matter. Once inside the remodeled industrial harbor side warehouse that now housed the education institution, I had to figure out who the heck I was supposed to speak with in regards to several questions I had and my troubles with the online error. When I found the International Student Office, I was able to speak with an extremely helpful representative who informed me what to do and whom to speak with. I was referred to the school’s Registrar’s Office. Imagine that! A school problem? Go to the school Registrar. Why didn’t I think of this?! I must have been so flustered by the process itself that it slipped my mind. So I thanked and said farewell to the International Student Officer, took the elevator to the 3rd floor and walked down the hall to the Registrar’s office. Of course, the Registrar wasn’t in her office until 15:00 PM (3:00pm) that day and at the moment it was 11:30.  I took the phone number down and I rode home with intent to call and get my answers over the telephone.

When I got home from the school I called the registrar. I’ve never heard of such a Registrar in the US education system who tackles so many student and personal issues. Obviously there is a different understanding in both the job description and probably definition of “Registrar” here in Germany as opposed to the US. I say this because the registrar helped me with everything. I was all questions and she was all answers.

Now that my application error has been cleared up, I have successfully submitted my application and await an acceptance notice from the school. Once I received word that my application has been processed, I will have to have my transcripts from the US sent to school in Germany. As this procedure continues, I marvel at how lax it all seems to be. I have come here with the American mind set of “Let’s get everything done quickly and promptly” so as to ensure I get a spot in the semester come 2016. My hasty-anxious mindset has been repeatedly confronted and suppressed by a more relaxed and calm outlook presented by all of the school officials I have henceforth interacted with. It’s quite amazing, and as time goes on I think it’s this slow, “everything in time and in its place if you will,” attitude that is indicative of the surrounding cultural aura.

After submitting the application, I received an automatic reply thanking me for my interest and my time invested in the application process and an assurance that I will be contacted by school officials on the status of my application as soon as possible.

Sigh of relief.

All I am waiting for now is for the print shop to finish printing my some images for my portfolio and a response from the school before the end of the month.

At this point I think I it is safe to say that I am slowly starting to embrace this calm and stable mindset when it comes to handling the many more trials to come in my education adventures.

That’s all for now folks,

Bis Bald!


Clayton Winston Johans

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Frozen Yogurt and GUNS?

December 10th, 2015

Mother with  teenager son having serious conversation

I was horrified. My husband came home from dropping our 5 year old son off at kindergarten yesterday with a bewildered look on his face. Our son’s teacher had a message for us this morning. Evidently, he is “obsessed with guns.” What? How can that be? We don’t allow toy guns or gun play. He has never seen a gun in the media. In fact, we have gone to great lengths to shelter him from any exposure to gun violence. Guns are for hunting and guns can hurt people. So, as we say, we do not play with guns. End of story.

Not any more. The story unfolds in a new chapter now. I felt physically ill at the thought of my child running around the playground playing gun games. And, at the same time, I know that his only exposure to guns had been an occasional water pistol, which I don’t condone, but it’s happened at parties. I wondered, “Is he ‘obsessed’ because I’ve overprotected him? Is he confused by the rules of play because he doesn’t understand the reality?” I called the principal at school right away to talk about the school policy and let her know we certainly do not allow gun play at home. I wanted her to know the source had to be coming from other children that our son was emulating.

I arrived early for pick up to speak with his teacher. She assured me this was normal and workable. I left feeling a good deal less horrified, but could still feel a heaviness in my belly. So many questions arose about our society, media and how to protect children from undue worries. I know many other families, good families, who allow their children to watch and play violent scenarios. Unless I choose to homeschool, and even then, we will continue to meet this conflict.

It was hot when I picked up our son, and I was steaming inside, so we went for frozen yogurt at our son’s favorite place, Menchie’s. Lo and behold, even the ice cream parlor is having an identity crisis when it comes to violence and children. My son reached up to grab a cup, but pulled his hand back when he caught sight of the unusual image displayed on the container. Plastered on the cups were promotional images of menacing looking boys and men brandishing swords and GUNS! Yes, guns. On the ice cream bowls. Why? Really, why do we ‘as a people’ allow this sort of rampant advertising of violence to our youth? Dare I say, “Shame on you, Menchie’s, for putting ad dollars first.” Luckily, there were “regular” pink, non-violent cups available in the back. The cashier was sympathetic to my concerns. I was astounded that no one else had brought up this issue before.

So, the story continues. I do not know the answers. I know we need to keep asking questions. I have some big questions now. I’d love your feedback.

Is it acceptable for media companies to advertise violent movies in public spaces?

Do such advertisements normalize violence?

Are we as a society desensitized to violent advertisement?

Should gun play be allowed at school? At home?

Please chime in with your wisdom in the comments!

Abby Wills

Abby Wills, MA, E-RYT

Shanti Generation, Co-Founder, Program Director
Abby brings her passion for developmental education and deep respect for the tradition of yoga to her work guiding youth and teachers in contemplative arts. Abby’s approach is informed by studies in social justice and democratic education at Pacific Oaks College, as well as two decades of training in yoga.

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6 Safety Tips for Study and Travel Abroad

December 4th, 2015


“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad/Roughing It

If you are considering to participate in a Study Abroad program, you are preparing yourself for both a rewarding and exciting opportunity in your life as a student. By living and studying in another country, you will have the chance to experience and learn from a new culture through your day-to-day activities. For some students and depending on where you choose as your study abroad destination, you will also have the unique opportunity to travel to other countries and cities near you.

Setting off on your study abroad adventure can be both exciting and stressful and perhaps scary. Given the series of troubling news of recent terrorist attacks in Paris, Kenya, and Istanbul, travel can be viewed with trepidation. It is, therefore, important to observe safety and security concerns while you’re abroad to ensure you will have a positive experience and return home with fond memories.

Here are some tips we’ve gleaned from various sources (cited at the end of this blog) which we hope you’ll find helpful:

1. Prepare for Travel

• Schedule a physical checkup with your family physician
• Have any subscription medication you wish to take with you up-to-date
• Check to see if the country where you’re traveling has restrictions or requirements on vaccinations and medications needed before entry
• Sign up for State Department’s Safe Traveler Enrollment Program
• Book your Trip through a Travel Agent
• Invest in Travel Insurance
• Share your Travel Itinerary with Loved Ones

2. Research and be aware of Your Surroundings

• Study maps so you’re familiar with the area of the where you will be living and going to school
• Have a few alternate routes memorized so you don’t use the same route to school and your residence
• Be street smart and don’t fall prey to street hawkers and scammers wanting to sell you cheap merchandise
• Avoid walking at night alone in areas you are not familiar
• Take fashion cues from locals to blend in and not stand out as a tourist

3. Safety in Numbers

• Traveling in groups, especially at night, is smart
• Let friends, family, roommates know of your whereabouts daily
• If you’re traveling to another town, share your itinerary with your friends, family, and roommate
• Know where your country’s nearest embassy and consulate is and how to contact them in case of an emergency

4. Protect Important Documents and Money

• Scan important documents
• Keep your money in different places
• Lock your passport and valuables
• Use a credit card instead of a debit card
• Keep a record of your credit card information incase they are lost or stolen in order to immediately alert the credit card companies

5. Stay Connected

• Buy a Data Plan or SIM Card
• Have a locally serviced phone number
• Provide your phone number to staff at your school, roommate, friends, and family
• Have you phone properly charged and with you at all times

6. Be Aware of Current Events

• Watch and read the news
• Subscribe to online news media through apps on your smart phone, or other social media such as Twitter and Facebook for up-to-date news
• Avoid protests and demonstrations

We want you to have a safe study and travel abroad experience. These tips are not to deter you but to empower you and prepare you as you venture abroad. After all, awareness and being vigilante are traits of a good global citizen. Traits that we can use even in our own hometowns.

Useful links:

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

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Messages of Thanks on this Thanksgiving Holiday



Thanksgiving is a special time to be thankful for great families, fortunate events, caring friends, amazing communities, and all the gifts of life we’re all lucky to have. At ACEI, we’re especially thankful for all the wonderful friends, coworkers, customers, clients, and readers like you.

We have invited members of the ACEI team to share with you their personal messages of thanks.

Brian Aguilar (Administrative Assistant): This year (like every year) has been an emotional roller-coaster. I’m thankful for all the changes, which at first seem scary, but always have great outcomes. I’m thankful for all the adventures, the rough patches, the ups and downs — that have contributed to my personal development. I’m thankful for all the new people that have come in to my life, and for those that continue to be a part of it. I’m thankful for all the words of wisdom, the support, and the love I receive from everyone around me each and every day.

Mary Baxton (Senior Credential Evaluator): Now retired (from CSUN), I reflect on my career in higher/ international education and cutting my teeth on credential evaluations.  It is a passion eagerly continued thanks to working with the ACEI team.

Scott Brown (Client Relations Officer): This has been good year and I’m thankful for good health, my friends and family and for being a part of ACEI. It is a joy corresponding with our international applicants and I wish you all a very happy Thanksgiving!

Sanjin Gacina (Senior Credential Evaluator): I am thankful to be part of the ACEI family and to be surrounded by a special group of exceptional people. I am also thankful for the good fortune of a peaceful and free existence.

Clayton Johans-Winston (Client Relations Officer): I am so thankful and grateful to have been working for this incredible company, ACEI.

Katherine Kang (Senior Credential Evaluator): I am thankful for having my family with me. My son’s birthday is near Thanksgiving and due to his father’s career, he wasn’t able to celebrate with us every year. This year, all three of us were together!

Nora S. Khachetourians (Director: Evaluation & Translation Departments): There are so many things to be thankful about: a wonderful family, loving grandchildren, good health and keeping busy with work and people I love at ACEI.

Alex Martinez (Client Relations Officer): I am grateful for spending another year with my family, good health and wish for world peace and love.

Yolinisse Moreno (Director of Communications): This year and every year I am very thankful for my wonderful family, friends and colleagues. I feel very blessed to be surrounded by these people and have a roof over my head. Let’s all remember to always be kind to one another. Our kindness can change the world. Happy Thanksgiving!

John Riley (Social Media Marketing): I’m thankful for my beautiful wife, my health and the wonderful friends and family in my life.

Jasmin Saidi-Kuehnert (President & CEO): Though the new year started with the loss of a loved one, my father, it goes without saying that I’m thankful for all life’s goodness, my wonderful husband, my family and friends near and far, and my amazing “work family” here at ACEI. I feel very lucky to be in the company of dedicated and talented individuals who each bring with them their unique skills and life experiences.

Alan Saidi (Senior Vice President & COO): I am thankful for all the loved ones in my life, my two beautiful daughters and loving wife and for the beauty which is all around me. My sincere gratitude also goes to my mother and sister and everyone at ACEI.

William Thompson (Administrative Assistant): I’m thankful for this year and for working with ACEI which I view as my second family. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving!

We wish you the happiest of Thanksgivings and hope you enjoy this great holiday season!

Now, it’s your turn, what are you thankful for?

(A shout out to Jennifer Hutnich, one of our senior credential evaluators and Sal Sarhangi, our IT Manager, who were away at the time of this blog’s posting and unable to contribute. We send a big thanks to both Jennifer and Sal!)

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

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20 Facts on How the U.S. Resettles Syrian Refugees

November 19th, 2015

Syrian refugees in Belgrade, Serbia, are waiting for an opportunity to travel north to cross the border with Hungary, entering the EU [Source: AP]

The on-going conflict in Syria and the recent refugee crisis has given rise to anti-refugee sentiments in the U.S. with more than half of the nation’s governors calling for a ban on admitting refugees into the country.  Entry to the U.S. as a refugee is an arduous process and requires months and even years of screening before a decision regarding admissibility to the country is granted.

In her November 17, 2015 piece for the Washington Post, Carol Morello,  the diplomatic correspondent for The Washington Post, covering the State Department highlighted 3 important facts about how the U.S. resettles Syrian refugees.  In this blog, we have broken down these facts even further for your perusal:

  1. # of people who died since the violence broke out in Syria in 2011? More than 250,000
  2. # of people who have fled their homes? At least 11 million people in the country of 22 million have fled their homes. Syrians are now the world’s largest refugee population, according to the United Nations. Most are struggling to find safe haven in Europe.
  3. # of Syrian refugees accepted for resettlement in the U.S. since the conflict began in 2011: 2,200
  4. Rate of Syrian refugees arriving in U.S. per week: 45
  5. # of refugees to be accepted by the U.S.: 10,000
  6. # of Vietnamese refugees accepted each year during the height of the Vietnam War: 200,000
  7. # of months required to vet and screen a Syrian refugee before being admitted to the U.S.: 18 – 24 months
  8. % of refugees who are single males of combat age: 2%
  9. What is one factor for considering a refugee’s admissibility to U.S.? Whether they already have family in the U.S.
  10. How does the U.S. prioritize refugees? The vulnerable: women and children, the elderly, those who’ve been tortured, those who require modern medical treatment.
  11. Children represent half the refugees accepted to the U.S.
  12. Adults over 60 represent a quarter of the refugees accepted.
  13. How does the U.S. government screen and conduct background checks of refugees? Names, birthdates and fingerprints are run through databases, information is double checked against classified and unclassified records for consistency, face-to-face interviews with applicants are held at regional centers in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, and Egypt. If need be, refugee specialists with U.S. departments of State, Homeland Security and the National Terrorism Center, will travel to refugee camps to conduct the interviews.
  14. Who makes the final decision of whether a refugee’s case is approved or rejected? The U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  15. Do governors determine where a refugee settles once admitted to the U.S.? No.
  16. Who determines where a refugee settles once admitted to the U.S.? Faith-based and non-profit groups.
  17. How do faith-based and nonprofit groups help the refugees? Through federal funds allocated to these groups, they are able to welcome the arrive refugees and assist them with their relocation by finding them housing, enrolling them in English classes, and job search.
  18. What other services and benefits do refugees receive once admitted to the U.S.? They are eligible for Medicaid and become permanent residents which permits them to work.
  19. How long does it take for refugees admitted to the U.S. to be eligible for a green card? One year.
  20. How long does it take for refugees admitted to the U.S. to apply for U.S. citizens? Five years.

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The Academic Credentials Evaluation Institute, Inc. (ACEI), was founded in 1994 and is based in Los Angeles, CA, USA. ACEI provides a number of services that include evaluations of international academic credentials for U.S. educational equivalence, translation, verification, and professional training programs. ACEI is a Charter and Endorsed Member of the Association of International Credential Evaluators. For more information, visit

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Six Great Music Educators

November 12th, 2015

A good music teacher can infuse inspiration and instill a lifelong love of music. I couldn’t relate at all to my super straight, rigid piano teacher when I was seven or eight, plus there was simply no great music to be had in the Schnabel household, save for the 45 rpm 7″ R&B sides my older brother brought home. So I stopped taking lessons. I resumed piano lessons in the late 1960s but lost inspiration.

I bought a cheap flute in a pawn shop near USC where I was in school and had several teachers, but none worked out. One was classical only so I couldn’t relate. Another teacher later on just wanted to get high and blow. The next one left town. Four years ago, however, I found a great teacher, a multi-reed player who has taught me a lot and I’ve studied with him ever since.

So, here is my humble tribute to honor six great teachers who not only taught well but inspired many great musicians onto greatness:

Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979):

Based in Paris and living a long and productive life, she taught such a wide range of young musicians: classic titans such as Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Walter Piston, but also young turks like Philip Glass, Leonard Bernstein, and Astor Piazzolla, who studied with her and once told me “she taught me how to be Astor Piazzolla”. She also was a fine conductor, leading the Boston Symphony and New York Philharmonic Orchestras. She taught the basics to musicians and composers who were puzzled at first because they thought this was beneath their talents. Philip Glass told me that Boulanger told him to “play a C scale for the next week, and perfectly”. Her students came to realize that she knew what she was talking about.

Walter Dyett (1901-1969):

Many prominent jazz musicians I’ve interviewed credit this Chicago Public Schools music educator as starting their careers as musicians. His name was Walter Dyett, and they called him Captain Walter Dyett. He taught at DuSable High School, where he was known for being a strict disciplinarian but, more importantly, he encouraged his students to open their ears and minds to all kinds of music. Like other great teachers, he was a great motivator. He also helped students find private instructors at low cost. Among his students were Gene Ammons, Johnny Hartman, Milt Hinton, Richard Davis, Bo Diddley, Wilbur Ware, Pat Patrick, and Oscar Brashear. Quite a stable of greats, indeed.

Gerald Wilson (1918-2014):

Gerald Wilson was a jazz trumpeter and band leader, arranger, composer, host and teacher. He took over arranging duties for the Jimmy Lunceford Orchestra, replacing Sy Oliver when just out of his teens in 1939. He also arranged for Nancy Wilson, Duke Ellington, Ray Charles, Ella Fitzgerald, and many other top jazz stars.

He was host of an informative jazz radio show on KBCA in the early 1970s at 12 noon every weekday, and I listened and learned from him. He became the most popular teacher at Cal State Northridge, later duplicating this feat at UCLA. He taught thousands of students about jazz music and history, and mentored countless young musicians during his long career. He had a mind and memory like a steel trap, and could remember the set list of a Dunbar Hotel show on Central Avenue in the 1940s. He taught and inspired so many musicians who rose through his ranks and played in his orchestras: Buddy Collette, Eric Dolphy, Oscar Brashear, and many others. I would always attend his Pilgrimage Theater (now John Anson Ford Theater ) show back in the day. He lived a long and productive life teaching, arranging and conducting for Lou Rawls, Nancy Wilson, Lorez Alexandria, and others. He was truly one of my heroes. I helped arrange Mayor Garcetti’s tribute to him and presented a plaque and commendation to him at the Angel City Jazz Festival in September, 2014. He died just two days later at the ripe old age of 96.

Samuel Browne (1906-1991):

This great teacher and mentor taught many great jazz musicians during his long tenure at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles from 1936-1961, and a who’s who of great jazz musicians have sung his praises: Dexter Gordon, Don Cherry, Eric Dolphy, Wardell Gray, Hampton Hawes, Frank Morgan, Chico Hamilton, Buddy Collette, Charles Mingus and Horace Tapscott are just a few who got there chops and careers together at Jefferson High during his long tenure. Browne would scout around LA during Central Avenue’s heyday during the 1940s and early 1950′s recruiting talent from other local schools for his crack jazz orchestra. Everybody gave him the honorific title “Count” Browne à la Count Basie. Browne was one of only three black high school teachers in the LAUSD when he was hired at Jefferson in 1936, after earning a master’s degree in music from USC.

Joe Allard (1910-1991):

Joe Allard is probably the least-known of this sextet of music educators, but ask any professional saxophonist and you’ll hear plenty about him. Based in New York City, where he taught at the Juilliard School and the Manhattan School of Music, he also taught at Boston’s New England Conservatory. He played sax and clarinet for the NBC Symphony Orchestra as well as doing radio and TV shows. HIs importance came not only in teaching technique but also in the range of styles he taught. Among his students were Michael Brecker, Eddie Daniels, Dave Liebman, Bob Berg, Eric Dolphy, and Dave Tofani. Again, a who’s who of great reed players were inspired by him.

Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990):

Perhaps the greatest polymath of all, Bernstein did so many things well, and was obviously at home in both musicals (Westside Story, Candide, etc), the New York, Philharmonic, and jazz. He was a prolific writer and speaker (The Unanswered Question / The Harvard Lectures), and a champion of the new music of Charles Ives as well as Mahler’s great symphonies. His series Young People’s Concerts / Jazz in the Concert Hall brought jazz, classical, and music education to thousands of people young and old. Here is an excerpt where he is teaching the difference between classical music and jazz.

Tom Schnabel, M.A.


Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres
Blogs for Rhythm Planet
Author & Music educator, UCLA, SCIARC, currently doing music salons

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