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July 2010 Archives

Michael and Marisa
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Walking down street crop IMG_5006 compressed.jpgMeet Marisa, who's 13, and her brother Michael, 12. They live with their parents in Boston and are just your average tweens, involved with school and friends and hobbies.

Well, average except for one kinda big thing: together these sibs are a musical duo who perform live for huge audiences and are about to release their second album, an EP titled "It's Like That." Michael and Marisa (he plays guitar, she plays drums, they both sing and co-write most of their songs) have been busy opening for artists such as David Archuleta, Mitchel Musso, and Drake Bell, and are on the road to really bright music careers.

Recently, in the wake of the Phoebe Prince incident and other similar stories, the pair co-wrote a song called "The Same" that tackles the issue of bullying. We thought it was pretty cool that this bro and sis have come so far in such a short time doing something they love, and were happy to get a chance to chat with them recently.

IML: Nice to meet you guys! How has your summer been so far?

Marisa: We've been performing a lot. We went on the Bamboozle tour and we've been doing the Camplified tour, so that's a lot of fun, and a bunch of shows in between.

IML: You've been busy for sure! So tell us how each of you started performing music.

Michael: I was like born loving music. Our parents actually owned a toy business and I never wanted any toys unless they made musical sounds! I just wanted CDs and stuff. And instead of DVDs, our computer could only make VCDs. I made those with a bunch of videos I did to dances to songs when I was 4. I wanted to pick up the guitar because all of the music artists I was into played guitar, like Avril Lavigne and Shakira. So I picked it up when I was 6. Marisa was playing the violin and hated it and quit, and then she picked up the drums. And then after a few months of me performing solo, she joined in.

IML: When did you actually realize, "Hey, we could do this together?"

Marisa: A lot of times, I would be practicing drums and he would be practicing guitar. We have a setup in our basement where both instruments are next to each other, so we would usually practice together...Then we just started trying songs and stuff. Michael would play a song and I would play along to it to practice. We just loved playing together, and we kept doing it!

IML: That's how great bands start. What do each of you like best about the instrument you play?

Marisa: I like to hit things! Also, I'm a perfectionist and I like to have everything on time, so I can be consistent and keep the beat going. But whenever I want, I can fill in something to spice it up. It's not like I'm stuck in a certain chord structure like piano or guitar. I can add whatever I want, whenever I want, and it won't change the song.

Michael: Well, I'm more of a creative and laid-back kind of person, and the guitar...I'm very flexible in my moods, and with guitar you can pretty much play any type of thing on it. It's really a "me" type of instrument.

IML: Where do you get your ideas for songs?

Marisa: A lot of our songs are about doing things to make the world a better place. "I Bet I Could" is about helping the environment, and "The Same" is about stopping bullying. We really like to write something about making a difference. We'd rather not just do nonsense singing about anything, but rather, something that could change the world.

IML: Do you keep a journal and write down lyrics? Or do you come up with the melody first?

Marisa: Sometimes, a hook will be in your head and you'll be like, "This is really catchy, maybe I can add lyrics to this." And sometimes a topic will hit you in the middle of nowhere. When we wrote "The Same", there was a lot of attention on bullying nationwide after the Phoebe Prince incident. So we thought we should write a song about bullying, and we started with lyrics on that one and added music after.

IML: You mentioned Shakira and Avril Lavigne. Who else influences you?

Michael: The Beatles have been a huge influence on us because our parents always played them around the house. It grew on us since we were little and we've always loved them.

Marisa: I've always loved No Doubt with Gwen Stefani, and AC/DC. We like Lily Allen, too. We once got to sing on stage with her, actually!

Michael: I'm a big fan of Paramore and Lady Gaga. And Drake Bell.

Compressed M and M  close up sofa IMG_4657.jpgIML: That's a good variety! You're close together in age and you spend a lot of time together. How are you different, personality-wise?

Marisa: We actually have a song called "Me With You" about our different personalities. As Michael said, he's laid back while I'm a sort of Type A and a perfectionist. If you were to tell us to draw a picture of something, we'd just draw the complete opposite thing! We have completely opposite personalities, but we get along so well because of it.

IML: How can it help you to be so different?

Michael: Here's an example. I'm very good with the computer. The school actually calls me the Tech Man! Marisa had a Keynote project to do and she's was worried about her effects not working, so I helped her. And if I have a research paper, she helps me get organized.

IML: Do you have normal sibling rivalry?

Marisa: Not really! It's actually kind of funny. We get along really well. I don't know if it's because we're so close in age, but we're best friends and we hang out together all the time. Sure, little tiny things pop up but we never have big fights.

IML: What do your friends and classmates think of your music and your career?

Marisa: School is pretty much just normal for us. We're regular kids who also have this music career going along with it. We're really busy, but otherwise our friends treat us like anyone else. Maybe if we perform at a talent show it gets crazy. Or when they come to see us at shows, they're like, "Oh my God!" They support us a lot, it's really nice.

IML: What kinds of reactions have you gotten from audiences?

Marisa: It's so funny to see all the different audiences we get. We've played at nightclubs and kid-friendly places too, and kids and the grownups both like our music. We play rock music you'd hear on the radio as well as our originals. The older and the younger enjoy the music and it's really great.

Michael: We just came off the Bamboozle tour, and that was a lot of people in their 20's and 30's. They really liked our music. Then you compare that to when we opened for David Archuleta...that audience had the same reaction. It was so cool to see.

IML: What's been your favorite performing experience so far?

Marisa: I remember our first show when we played in Hollywood at the Whiskey a Go Go and the Roxy Nightlucb. We were little, like 8 and 9. It was our first "far away from home" big show on a big stage at a nightclub. We were really excited and I just remember the moment thinking, "This is incredible!'

Michael: I really liked opening for Drake Bell because I've always loved his music and acting since I was very little. Every morning before school I set my alarm to blast Drake Bell and wake the whole house up! When I finally got to meet him, it was actually at the Whiskey A Go Go sound check and I played one of his songs and he said he thought we were really good. So he invited us to open for him and it was so fun. He's such a nice person.

IML: Who else have you meet that was really exciting for you?

Marisa: David Archuleta is really nice. We met Lady Gaga, the Jonas Brothers. Avril Lavigne a couple of times. Fergie and the Black Eyes Peas. Gwen Stefani and No Doubt.

IML: So basically, you're meeting all of your idols!

Marisa: Yeah, it's amazing! And we found out that they're just regular people. Sometimes with celebrities, you think of them as aliens or in a different world, and it's so cool to find out they're just like you, they're normal and you can just have a conversation with them.

IML: You were talking earlier about your song "The Same," which is about bullying. Do you think it can really make a difference?

Marisa: I'm really happy that we've been doing interviews about this song and the message, because it's so powerful to have kids tell other kids not to bully. As much as grown-ups say, "You shouldn't bully, you should always be nice," it's kind of like kids hear that all the time all day long. Only kids can really prevent it. So to hear one of your peers tell you to cut it out seems to make a bigger impact. It's not like your parents telling you to clean your room, just another thing parents say. To get that message from a peer is so much more powerful and we think we can really make a difference with this song.

IML: What do other young people think of the song?

Marisa: A lot of people will come up to us after shows and tell us they really like that song, because it's so relatable. It talks about being in school, in the cafeteria, and that one person who's left out. It's from the point of view of a bystander and it talks about how you should stand up to a bully and help out that kid who's being picked on. A lot of kids tell us they really appreciate that message.

IML: Have either of you ever dealt with bullying in your own lives?

Marisa: Fortunately we haven't been bullied ourselves, but we have seen other kids at our school get bullied. One kid was constantly being harassed and stood up for him and told the principal. And it stopped! Like I said, sometimes bullies will listen to another kid telling them to cut it out, rather than a grown up telling them that would feel like a lecture.

IML: Did anyone give you a hard time about standing up for that kid?

Marisa: No, fortunately. Me and a bunch of other girls started being nice to the kid who was being bullied, and it started catching on. Everyone just stopped picking on him. Even if one person hears that song and stands up for someone, it just takes that one person to completely change everything.

IML: Thank you Michael and Marisa! We can't wait to hear more from you guys!

Michael: Thanks!

Marisa: Thank you!

When "The Same" is release on iTunes, Michael and Marisa have decided that 20% of the proceeds from sales will get donated to an organization called Kids Against Bullying. You can hear some of this song, and others, on the pair's website at

And we love this music video for their song "Mr. Know It All" -- check it out!


Celeb Scoop: Bella Thorne
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image004.jpgIf Bella Thorne's name sounds familiar, that's because you might have seen her as Nancy in the "Max's Secret Girlfriend" episode of "The Wizards of Waverly Place". If her face looks familiar, that's because Bella has been modeling since she was a baby, appearing in tons of print ads and commercials. Pretty soon, that name and that face will come together in a new Disney Channel series called "Shake It Up," which premieres this fall.

Bella, who's about to turn 13, is right on the edge of becoming a huge star. So we were glad to get the chance to chat with her and get to know this multi-talented, energetic, inspirational tween before her life changes in a big way!

IML: Tell us about "Shake It Up." It sounds great!

Bella: It's about two girls who are best friends, CeCe and Rocky. I'm CeCe and Zendaya is Rocky. It's about their friendship and them trying to become lead backup dancers on this show called "Shake It Up Chicago". And they're just testing their friendship in the meanwhile. Plus handling school and boys and life in general.

IML: How are you similar to CeCe, and how are you different?

Bella: I would say I'm very, very similar to CeCe because she's really athletic and she always has an "up" side, she's never a "down" side kind of person. She's always like, "Let's do it! Let's do it again!" She's very tough. Let's just say you can't tell her what she needs to do; she'll just do it. She's very set on what she wants to do and needs to do, and she's going to work for it. And that's exactly how I'm like her. How I'm not like her...well, she's a little boy crazy. I'm not. I'm not allowed to date!

shakeitup.jpgIML: What kind of friendship do CeCe and Rocky have?

Bella: They've been friends for a long time and they always have each other's back. But their friendship gets tested by the experience of being on the show.

IML: Do you and Zendaya get along in real life?

Bella: Yes, very much so! We actually did a commercial together a long time ago, and when I saw her at the screen test, I was like, "She looks so familiar!" and then we figured out that we'd worked together. Now we hang out a lot.

IML: What positive messages and themes do you want viewers to take away from this show?

Bella: I would say that for me, the show's message is that you always need to try as hard as you can, you always need to push yourself. You always just have to be the best that you can be. And if you know that in your heart, then that's all that matters.

IML: That's a great message!  A lot of kids will relate to that. Did you have a lot of dance experience before you got this role?

Bella: I've been dancing all my life, but I never did it seriously. I started three months before I went out for this show, and then I've been taking classes ever since!

IML: What's something really cool and new that you've learned in your dance training?

Bella: A lot of things! Entertaining, for instance! I've learned how to dance really, really fast. And hip-hop, very, very hard hip-hop.

IML: Do you have to wear knee pads?

Bella: Yes! And elbow pads! Once I got all bruised up, and they were like "Get her some pads!"

IML: What's a typical day like for you? How do you fit everything in between work, and friends, and school, and everything else?

Bella: It's very different if I'm not on set. If we're not shooting, then I sleep in, I do schoolwork. I eat, I dance, I do some art and make some clothes with my sister, spend time with my mother and my family, then I go to two dance classes, then I come back home and eat dinner, watch a show, and then I go to bed. But if I'm on "Shake It Up," it's like, wake up really early, hustle your bustle, get ready and make sure you look good before you go to set. You practice dance, eat on set, you do lots and lots and lots of schoolwork, you do blocking, you shoot. It's just a really crazy day. I go home, take a shower, then I get into bed and watch a movie and fall asleep...And then do it all over again the next day.

IML: The show premieres in the fall and people are already getting excited about it. Once it's on the air and hopefully becomes a big hit, you may find yourself in a pretty bright spotlight for the next few years. Do you feel like you're ready for that? Have you learned anything from watching the careers of other Disney Channel stars?

Bella: I've learned what NOT to do. You really just have to be yourself through everything, no matter what somebody says. I guess I learned that from watching these careers. I think I'm ready for it...and I can't wait!

IML: That's good! So if you find yourself a real model to other young people, what would you like to do with that opportunity?

Bella: I've always wanted to be a role model to somebody, so I feel like this could be a great opportunity to show myself to the world. I'd like to help other kids with dyslexia, because I'm dyslexic. It was very hard, and I know that what I went through, other kids are going through. I think that everybody needs somebody to really look up to and know that even though you're going through a tough tie, you'll get over it.

IML: How do you keep up your friendships with this crazy schedule?

Bella: We always meet up at dance...Dance is where I get to see all my friends. We also go out to movies when I'm not working, or bowling, or they come over and we paint. And barbecues! I definitely have time for friends, and I'm glad.

IML: You have three siblings who are also actors. How do you all get along?

Bella: We're a really close, close family. My sister Dani used to share a room with my other sister Kaili and she was sleeping in my room for a while, so I asked her to move in to my room. So we're roommates right now and it's like a sleepover every night. And I love my brother Remy...they're always weird, those brothers, but you gotta love them!

IML: Do you and Dani ever have room-sharing issues?

Bella: Not really, fortunately. Dani and I are very different in our own ways but we love the same colors, like aqua and pink. My room is pink, pink, PINK! I wanted to paint splatter it aqua because I"m big on paint splattering, but my mom said no. I can understand how other kids have problems like that. Sometimes you disagree, and you have to disagree to really keep friendship and family. Because if you're all so perfect all the time, it just doesn't make sense!

IML: What else do you like to do in your spare time, besides painting?

Bella: I love to do soccer. I'm actually really good! I'm not so good at basketball. I love to sew with my sister Dani. We always make clothes.

IML: How cool! Do you sketch out a design first?

Bella: Sometimes we'll sketch out something and sew it together, then we'll fix it, and wear it and see how it fits, and wear it it's a bunch of steps. We do weaving and stretching...I wore one of my shirts to rehearsal today and the choreographer was like, "I'm bringing you a shirt to do!" I love to sew and sketch. Not people, I'm not so good at people. I'm good at objects and rooms. And I love to paint. And I love to sing! I'm taking guitar lessons and I'm going to take piano lessons, because I think the piano is so amazing and beautiful.

IML: It seems like you're into a lot of different things!

Bella: That's another way I'm like CeCe. We both want to try all different kinds of things and really experience life full-out. If you hold back, like they said, in 30 years you might be like, "Why didn't I take piano?"

IML: Is there a cause you're really passionate about?

Bella: These days I'm starting to get into the Humane Society and wildlife organizations. With every check I get, we donate a percentage. We also go to the local pet shelter and give food, blankets, and toys. I love to go and pet the animals and give them some love...I love the kitties so much! That's why we have so many pets...

IML: Uh, how many pets do you have?

Bella: Um...a lot! My mom thinks we have too many. But when I'm older I'm going to get a big house and the outside it going to be really gated so the cats can't get over the fence. It's going to be a sanctuary for cats and kittens, and I can give them all the love they need!

IML: That's a great goal! One more question: what would people be surprised to learn about you?

Bella: Hmmm...well, I read insanely a lot! I read a 430 page book in two days...I'm just reading constantly. I just love reading. I'm a fanatic. Every time we go to the store I get a bunch of books.

IML: What have you read recently that you loved?

Bella: There's a book called "Fang," it's about winged children and it's really awesome. I also like "Ghost Girl," "39 Clues," "Emily the Strange," and "Hex Hall."

IML: You do read a lot!

Bella: It's how I overcame my dyslexia. Reading...and work.

IML: Bella, thanks for chatting with us! You have a lot of good things ahead of you and it sounds like you deserve them all. We're very excited to see the show!

Bella: Thank you so much!

Get Your "Wheel Houz" Spinning!
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You asked for it (and asked for it, and asked for it, and asked for it...) and now you got it: a brand spankin' new game from IML! Wanna be one of the first to try it out?

wheelhouz.gifWheel Houz is really cool...well at least, we think so. It's a chance to create something -- a wheel -- that represents who you are, and gives you (and others) a way to look at yourself in some interesting ways. At first it will seem a little like a quiz, asking some questions. Then you get to have fun with pictures and patterns. You'll end up with a Wheel that's sort of like everything about you, all at once, all in one place.

From there you can print your Wheel or email it to a friend. And then, here's another thing we're excited about: you can use your PBS KIDS GO! username to save your Wheel to the IML Wheel Houz Gallery and even to your own private gallery so you can keep track of all the Wheels you make. If you don't have or don't want a username, you can still make Wheels to print and send, and view the Gallery. You can also talk about your Wheel on You Said It page.

Thanks to all you IML'ers for your patience, because many of you have been waiting and curious about this new game. And thanks to PBS for the funding to make this possible (and the people who donate to PBS, of course).

Now, go make some Wheels! We're eager to see what you come up with!


Summer Theatre listing
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We got one calendar listing for a summer youth theatre performance from an IML'er. Keep 'em coming!

Writes Vanya, 12:

"In Chatham University, Pittsburgh, PA, there are two summer camp performances on the 29th of July starting at about 6:30 and ending around 9:00. One is a play, called Holka Polka, and one is a musical, called the Point of the Pyramid. I will be in both! I'm the girl with blond hair to her shoulders and blue eyes, plus black rectangular glasses. I'm the sassy witch, Zorka, in Holka Polka. Come if you can! No autographs, please! LOL!"

Thanks Vanya! We hope some IML'ers in the Pittsburgh area can come see your sassy witch in action!

We Heart Summer Youth Theatre!
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Hey, what have you been doing so far this summer? Hanging around? Camp? A family trip? Or just doing your best to stay (a) cool and (b) sane?

Some of you IML'ers might be lucky enough to spend extra time doing a thing you love, like a sport or hobby. We were thinking about what these might be. That's when we remembered that a lot of you are into music and drama, and are hopefully getting a chance to explore that this we took a stroll on YouTube searching for youth theatre videos. Bingo!

If you want to see what some other tweens and teens have been up to, or just need a fix of "Glee"-like fun, here are a couple of our favorite clips.

The WOW Youth Musical Theatre in Weymouth, Dorset in the UK really did wow us with "We Will Rock You" by Queen:

Members of the Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center's Youth Repertory Theatre rehearsing "My Junk" from "Spring Awakening":

It's early in the summer still, so we hope there will be more videos giving us a peek at the amazing productions young people are putting together...all over the world, really. Are you part of an upcoming performance that you'd love other IML'ers to see? Whether it's theatre, music, dance, or anything else you're excited about, write to us and tell us more (we'll post info on the shows so people who live nearby can check them out) and if possible, send us a link to the video online. If you want to write anonymously, you can always use our Write To Us page and leave out your email address.

Advice for Summer Stress
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What? "Summer Stress?" How can there BE such a thing?

familyvacations1.gifSummer's supposed to be a time to let loose, have fun, take vacations, hang with friends and family, and generally enjoy life, right? Well, yeah. That's what the TV commercials will have you believe. But it's not always like that, is it?

Reading through your Advice questions lately, we're reminded of how some things can make summer a less than carefree season for many tweens. You know, things like:

Moving. Your BFF may be relocating with his or her family to a new state. Or maybe it's you who's headed somewhere new. Summer's a big time for this. It's never fun, but there are ways to deal. Check out IML's advice on what to do When Your Family Moves (there are tips in there for when it's a friend who's moving).

Being home alone. You're on vacation from school for a few months, but your parents probably don't get the same break from work. You may find yourself with a lot more solo time in your home than usual. And maybe that's not always a good thing, if you're bored, scared, lonely, or an alternating pattern of all three. Once again, we suggest a visit to our Home Alone section for help, or even just to sound off on the You Said It page.

Family vacations. Ah, the joy of riding in a car or airplane with your loved ones for hours on end. NOT! And then there's what happens once you get there. In between the Kodak moments, a family trip is not complete without arguments, annoyances, mishaps, and possibly some weird relatives too. And yes, we have advice on how to not just survive, but actually have fun amid all the craziness.

Starting middle school or high school. Many IML'ers have already written in to express their worries about moving up to a new school this fall. It's normal to feel some anxiety, especially if you and your best friends are headed to different places, but there are definitely things you can do now to make the jump easier. Check out our advice on Middle School and High School and you're bound to feel a little better...or at least prepared.

Summer camp. If you're an old pro at summer camp, you're probably counting the days until you leave for this year's session. If this is your first year or you're headed for a new home away from home, that can be a little terrifying. Never fear! IML is here with a whole section on Summer Camp.

The purpose of all this? We just want IML'ers to know that it's okay NOT to feel like every minute of summer is pure, unfiltered joy. It's just a time of year, not a break from real life and all its problems. If it seems like everyone else but you is having a blast...chances are, they're really not. But hopefully, with a little information and problem-solving -- whether you find it here at IML or somewhere else -- you can make the best of whatever the summer has in store for you!