VENUES: CARNEGIE HALL

Article by Michael Refvem (MGBH)

Since its opening night, blessed by performance of Peter Ilyich Chaikovsky (OBM), Carnegie Hall in Manhattan, New York has been one, if not the most, of the world’s prestigious classical performance venues.  Such pianists as Vladimir Horowitz (OBM), Sergei Rachmaninoff (OBM), and Arthur Rubinstein (OBM) played an important part in contributing to the grandeur of this place.  Many books have been written about the famous Carnegie Hall and events that happened there over the years.  In this article, we would like to review the history of this amazing venue, give tribute to its founder, and reveal a few secrets.

American Council of Piano Performers

 

And here [are] 2,700 odd people who had been sitting for an hour…waiting. And suddenly the house lights go out and the stage lights go on and PHYSICALLY, backstage, it felt like putting one’s hand in an electric socket. And I brought him downstairs and to the edge of the stage and he turned around and faced me. [He] said “I’m looking at you,” and I thought ‘what do I do now? … Oh! Ok!’ So I turned him around and put my hand in the lower part of his back and pushed him out onto the stage. Well… the wave, the sheer sound wave of all those people getting up and greeting him was physical.  You really were just physically hit by it… and then he gestured to the piano and started to sit down, and the silence was just as loud as the applause had been a moment ago.  – Schuyler Chapin (MDBH), The Art of Piano: Great Pianists of the 20th Century [1]

Such is the story of Vladimir Horowitz’ legendary return to the concert stage on May 9, 1965, after a 12 year sabbatical from public performance [2]. It is no surprise that this epic re-launch took place at Carnegie Hall, the most prestigious stage in the world. Few concert halls have lived up to the legacy and mystique of Carnegie Hall, a legacy built by the international stature of the great artists to perform there since its inception.

 

vladimir-horowitz
Vladimir Horowitz’ historic recital

 

 

[…] in the 1890’s, New York City’s midtown was centered around 14th to 20th streets – Carnegie Hall (established in 1891 as “The Music Hall”) sat between suburbs and farmland.

 

Today the neighborhood surrounding Carnegie Hall is one of Manhattan’s most exclusive. But in the 1890’s, New York City’s midtown was centered around 14th to 20th streets – Carnegie Hall (established in 1891 as “The Music Hall”) sat between suburbs and farmland [3].  And while the hall has been named after Andrew Carnegie (OBM) since 1893 [4], it may be more appropriate to refer to it as Mrs. Carnegie’s (OBM) hall.  It’s believed that Carnegie, then a newlywed, built the music hall as a wedding gift to his wife, Louise Whitfeld Carnegie, says Gino Francesconi (MGBH), director of Carnegie Hall archives. [5]

 

carnegie_hall_in_1895
Carnegie Hall, 1895

 

 

Carnegie Hall opened with a five day music festival featuring composer Pyotr Illyich Tchaikovsky (OBM) conducting several of his works including the first Piano Concerto.  Carnegie Hall has seen thousands of performances throughout its history including notable premieres such as Antonín Dvořák’s (OBM) Symphony No. 9 (“From the New World) (1893), Gustav Mahler’s (OBM) Symphony No. 2 (“Resurrection”) (1908) and George Gershwin’s (OBM) Concerto in F (1925).   The hall has also been no stranger to popular music since 1938, when Benny Goodman (OBM) and his Orchestra made their debut. The Beatles also famously performed two concerts at Carnegie Hall in 1964. [6]

 

William Tuthill (OBM) was the chief architect of the hall, and his design decisions reflect the tastes of the day.  The building is in the Italian Renaissance revival style with simple masonry arches integral to stability (before the days of structural steel), but also features an Edwardian sensibility with its gold leaf patterns and red velvet upholstery on the seats.  Sadly, these aesthetics lost their charm decades later.  And in the mid-1950’s when the hall was looking for new ownership, it was slated for demolition. Carnegie Hall had been offered for sale to the New York Philharmonic, but the symphony already had plans to relocate to Lincoln Center, which was being constructed nearby. Under pressure, a group led by violinist Isaac Stern (OBM) famously saved Carnegie Hall from the wrecking ball. [7]

 

 

Beauty shots of Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage
Beauty shots of Stern Auditorium/Perelman Stage

 

 

When most people talk about Carnegie Hall, they are usually referring to the Stern (OBM) Auditorium dedicated in honor of the great violinist in 1997 (2,804 seats) [8]. The accompanying recital spaces, Zankel (OBM) Recital Hall (599 seats) and Weill (OBM) Recital Hall (268 seats) are no less elegant. Zankel Recital Hall opened in 2003, after being converted from being a cinema and features cutting edge design that can be reconfigured to several different arrangements [9].

 

Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall, Polshek Partnership Architects
Carnegie Hall, Zankel Hall, Polshek Partnership Architects

 

 

Weill Recital Hall, the smallest of the three halls, is where several emerging concert artists make important debuts to the international music community and has been in use continuously since 1891 [10].

 

Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall
Carnegie Hall, Weill Recital Hall

 

 

Unless you’ve gotten a bird’s eye view of Carnegie Hall, you probably didn’t know about the new rooftop garden terrace. It was added during the recent Studio Towers Renovation Project along with the Resnick Education Wing, all of which opened in the fall of 2014.  The remodel provides space to host receptions before and after concerts as well as foster the developing talents of New York City music students. [11]

 

gardenterracecarnegiehallpianoperformermagazine
The Carnegie Hall Rooftop Garden

 

Acoustically speaking, Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium is well known for it’s seemingly miraculous properties, but after a renovation in 1986, concert-goers swore that the sound was a bit off.

 

Acoustically speaking, Carnegie Hall’s Stern Auditorium is well known for it’s seemingly miraculous properties, but after a renovation in 1986, concert-goers swore that the sound was a bit off. And they were right! The culprit? A slab of concrete found underneath the stage nearly a decade later. “They opened the stage floor, found the cement, took it away and the sound came back,” said Francesconi. [12] Having seen a number of performances there myself, I can attest to the hall’s unique ability to accommodate performances of all types. Perfect for an entire symphony orchestra, the hall is equally suited for an intimate solo recital or chamber music setting.

 

[…] after a renovation in 1986, concert-goers swore that the sound was a bit off. And they were right! The culprit? A slab of concrete found underneath the stage nearly a decade later.

 

Looking back, it seems inconceivable to think that Carnegie Hall was ever at risk of being lost forever, but thanks to its designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1964 and New York City Landmark in 1967, this fabled venue will continue to present some of the world’s greatest musicians for generations to come. [13]

 

 

 

 

References:

[1] Sturrock, Donald (1999). The Art of Piano: Great Pianists of the 20th Century (Documentary). Quote by Schulyer Chapin dictated by the author. Start at 26 minutes and 13 seconds. https://youtu.be/vpiMAaPTze8?t=26m13s

[2] Schultz, Rick (January 04, 2007) Vladimir Horowitz at Carnegie Hall: What the fuss was all about. The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 16, 2016. http://articles.latimes.com/2014/jan/04/entertainment/la-et-cm-vladimir-horowitz-carnegie-hall-20140105

[3] 1893 The Music Hall becomes Carnegie Hall. The Carnegie Hall Corporation. Retrieved December 16, 2016. https://www.carnegiehall.org/History/Notable-Events/

[4] Spencer, Luke (June 09, 2015). The Most Incredible Parts of Carnegie Hall Are Offstage. Atlas Obscura. Retrieved December 16, 2016. http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/carnegie-hall

[5] ibid 4, History of the Hall. Retrieved December 16, 2016. https://www.carnegiehall.org/History/Timeline/Timeline.aspx?id=4294968566

[6] Conry, Tara (April 27, 2015). Secrets of Carnegie Hall. AM New York. Retrieved December 16, 2016.

http://www.amny.com/secrets-of-new-york/carnegie-hall-secrets-1.10233196

[7] The New York Preservation Archive Project. http://www.nypap.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/carnegie-hall-1895.jpg

[8] ibid 6

[9] ibid 4, Isaac Stern and the Saving of the Hall. Retrieved December 16, 2016. https://www.carnegiehall.org/Article.aspx?id=4294967976

 

[10] REF: ibid 4, Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall. Retrieved December 16, 2016. https://www.carnegiehall.org/Information/Weill-Recital-Hall/

 

[11] REF: ibid 4, Judith and Burton Resnick Education Wing. Retrieved December 16, 2016. https://www.carnegiehall.org/resnick/

[12] REF: ibid 7

[13] REF: ibid 10

 

 

About the Author:

Michael Refvem enjoys a multifaceted career as recitalist, chamber musician and concerto soloist. He recently moved to Montréal, where he enjoys walks in the old town and Mount Royal in his spare time.

FEATURED INTERVIEW: MEET JARROD RADNICH

Interview by Esther Basha (MGBH)

I was introduced to the talent of Jarrod Radnich (MGBH) by one of my friends’ children who came over to me and, with intriguing excitement in his eyes, asked, “Would you like to see something cool?”  He opened his laptop and showed me a video of Jarrod Radnich’s arrangement performance of “The Pirates of the Caribbeans” theme.  As Jarrod was playing, I watched the 12-year-old boy’s eyes filled with amazement and  awe.  At the end of the performance, the boy exclaimed, “Did you see that!?”  I must admit: that 12-year-old boy passed his excitement to me, and once I had a minute to sit down quietly at my desk, I watched all Jarrod’s YouTube videos…. more than once.   To me, this 34-year-old Southern Californian embodied an epitome of a true performer who not only engages the audio senses of a listener, but also brings so much more in delivering a rich multi-sensory experience of piano performance for a diverse audience.  A creative talent not so common in the piano world. All that inspired me to reach out to Jarrod Radnich for an interview.

American Council of Piano Performers

 

Piano Performer Magazine (PPM): Please, tell our readers a little bit about yourself. Where and how did you grow up?
Jarrod Radnich (JR): I grew-up in the artistic and eclectic desert town of Joshua Tree in Southern California, just north of Palm Springs. My backyard was literally the Joshua Tree National Park (it was designated as a national monument at the time), and the town’s total population was less than 3,000, with quite an expanse between neighbors and, even more so, other young people my age. My parents used to live on the beach. When they decided to start a family, they wanted to move out of the city. They weren’t kidding either. We were so far out that we couldn’t even get cable TV… so I’d rock climb, write music, practice, and have a lot of time to myself.

I was playing with Legos when my mom came in my room and asked if I wanted to start learning the piano. I glanced up, said, “sure,” and went back to building my Lego masterpiece…

PPM: How did you decide to become a pianist?
JR: Actually, although most people find this difficult to believe, there was never a time where I decided I wanted to become a pianist. Instead, my early passion for composing was the driving force in my decision to be a professional musician, and the pianist part just came naturally with that. Inherently, I have great angst when I compose, for I “hear” so much more than what can be created on the piano as it exists now or any other singular instruments for that matter. Having said that, the piano is truly unique and unparalleled. At its core, it’s inherently a percussion instrument — rhythmic and innately primal; but it can also be hauntingly lyrical, creating melodies woven into beautifully rich harmonic textures. My introduction to the piano came as a result of my astute first grade teacher, Debbie Bernardini (MGBH). Being concerned because I was getting all of my homework done before the school day was over, she suggested to my parents that I needed something to challenge me.  She recommended that I take piano lessons. The next day I was playing with Legos when my mom came in my room and asked if I wanted to start learning the piano. I glanced up, said, “sure,” and went back to building my Lego masterpiece… and that’s how it all began.

PPM: What did your parents do for living and how did their choice of occupation influence you?
JR: While an avid surfer in his recreational time, my father is inherently an artist and became a highly sought-after general contractor and creative tile specialist, co-writing the California licensing tests for both tile and wrought iron installation. He now designs and builds incredible custom hot rods. Back when I was growing up, my mother worked with my father in their construction business and also as the executive director of the local chapter of the American Red Cross. I believe it was these environments where I learned the value of an intense work ethic and learned the importance of volunteerism, which is how I spend a significant portion of my time. I also was exposed to creative thinking and artistic expression.

PPM: Do you have any siblings?
JR: I’m the youngest of two brothers, although it’s funny that most people don’t realize we are brothers — with virtually no visual resemblance and our temperaments are quite different. My paternal grandfather was one of the founders of the Bonneville Raceway (salt flats), and my brother definitely got the Radnich car gene — he’s the fleet maintenance manager for a substantial fleet of heavy-duty vehicles for a major telecom construction firm.  He’s also creative, hard working, and appreciative of our upbringing.  I, too, enjoy fast and exotic cars, and am thrilled to have recently added the new Lamborghini Huracan to my garage!

 

PPM: Do you have a family of your own? Children? What are your views on importance of a family?
JR: I’m engaged to a spectacular woman and thrilled about it.  Right now my only “kids” are two furry 115 lb playful Malamute mixes who believe that they are lapdogs. I believe family is a state of mind — blood is important, but ethics and character matter most.

PPM: In one of your interviews I read that you became a piano teacher at….. 11? How did that happen and who was your first student?
JR: I had already been performing for several years, accompanying school plays and the like, and parents would ask if I would teach their children, many who were in my elementary school.  Within two years, I had a regular weekly roster of over 30 students, from youth to adults, and was ironically getting paid more money than my school music teachers.  But it wasn’t the money that was important to me. There is an excitement in being able to help someone else realize their musical goals — and even surpass them. Teaching is such an honor and a responsibility, and I am appreciative of having been given the gift of being a great teacher myself — and when the passion is real, it naturally spreads and you pass along that gift.

I’m honestly an introvert, but enjoy hamming it up on stage and keeping the interest of the audience.

PPM: When and under what circumstances did you have your first public performance? How did you feel before and after?
JR: Ironically, my first public performance was as an “actor” in the first grade production of PETER PAN. I was Michael, and, it’s painful to admit it, but I caused a scare with my first grade teacher because I apparently acted so authentically, that she thought I was asleep on stage. I’m honestly an introvert, but enjoy hamming it up on stage and keeping the interest of the audience. I don’t actually recall my first piano performance, but it was probably in elementary school accompanying a play performance. Those were always fun because, as is typical of a boy at that age, I got to get out of my regular class to work on the play.

PPM: Where was the “Game of Thrones” video filmed?
JR: That video was filmed in San Luis Obispo at Morro Bay State Park. We obtained the permission and licensing from the California State Parks and the California Film Commission to film just off a fire road and to move that gorgeous Mason & Hamlin piano out onto the edge of a cliff overlooking the ocean. It was pretty incredible having the humpback whale pod circling around and not continuing on their trek — some say they stayed for the music. Truthfully, those weren’t CGI… and some say the same was true of the dragons. It was a fun, intense video to shoot, and it played for the Emmy Awards.

PPM: Your company, Mastermind Studios, produces your own videos. Are you your own creative director as well?
JR: Yes, but it’s a team effort. My manager/co-producer and I discuss which projects we want to get involved in, and we’ve got a lot of significant projects underway right now. As is the case with all of my compositions, I conceptualize the visuals as I create the piece itself. We have a phenomenal production team with incredible talent in creating beautiful content and footage. We discuss and collaborate on angles and techniques, scenes, and concepts. Then my co-producer and I go back into the editing studio, choose which footage we want to use to work within the story board, and, finally, do the post production video editing and mixing that builds the visual rhythm and movement to match each part of composition as it unfolds.

PPM: Let’s talk a little bit about creativity. How does a process of bringing out an idea from the ether and implementing it in physicality work for you?
JR: First, I must determine exactly what it is that I want to say — what it is that I want to communicate through sound. This initial vision is critical when beginning to compose a new work because it’s the raw, core message that gives the piece direction and authenticity. While many notes can be written to underscore drama either on film or stage, I believe that the melodic themes unto themselves must carry the ethos of the piece in a way that is both familiar, yet intriguing. If you want a piece to be successful, it must be able to loop in your listeners’ minds, so the stripped-away melody, free from embellishment, must be incredibly tangible.  In discussion particular to composition for the piano, I heavily experiment and improvise on the piano, turning themes inside and out, looking at various small motifs and elements on which to build upon. I also write-out the many contrapuntal elements that I am working with so as to find the best way to bring them to life within the confines of only two hands.

I heavily experiment and improvise on the piano, turning themes inside and out, looking at various small motifs and elements on which to build upon.

 

PPM: Do you have a favorite video (that you produced) and why?
JR: They all have been tremendously exciting to produce, but I’d have to say that I especially love the artistry of BOHEMIAN RHAPSODY and also the rawness of GAME OF THRONES.

PPM: Can you tell our readers an interesting/funny story that might have happened on set during filming any of the videos?
JR: Where to begin! From a hand print on the piano halfway through the Disney STAR WARS shoot that required frame-by-frame editing to fix, to our lead videographer, Thor, almost literally falling off the cliff during GAME OF THRONES, to the necessity of wearing three pairs of tights all at the same time for the CINDERELLA shoot …There are always back stories.

PPM: Do you practice piano every day? And how many hours a day?
JR: I don’t have a set practice schedule. It tends to vary depending on project and performance deadlines. Although it’s rare, there are times when I may go for a week without practicing. Other times, well, I practice for 10-16 hours a day and go for a week without doing much else.

PPM: What was the first music piece you ever wrote?
JR:  Since I was quite young, I’ve composed many pieces of music that I never named and were all a part of learning, but whose melodic lines and ideas may have matured and found their ways into pieces I composed later. My first copyrighted piece was a song composed for a ninth grade girlfriend (sappy, I know). Ironically, the piece was later used for a TV special when I competed as the top pianist in the L.A. Music Center’s Spotlight Awards, and again when I created the score function on the Disklavier… it ended-up in every Disklavier in the world.

 

My first copyrighted piece was a song composed for a ninth grade girlfriend (sappy, I know).

 

PPM: Do you have a pianist/piano performer role model that you grew up with as a child?
JR: Victor Borge (OBM). I loved that guy and everything he brought to the world. He was classy, brilliant, entertaining, and knew how to hold an audience and give them the gift of enjoyment.

PPM: Can you, please, tell our readers about your StarLIGHTS Series music/book software project?
JR: StarLIGHTS is one of many recreational music making projects I have been involved in, and the concept for that particular series originated by my longtime friend Dr. Barry Bittman (MGBH) of the YAMAHA Music and Wellness Institute.  The series’ purpose is not to be educational so much as to be a catalyst for people to get involved in the music making process so that they may benefit from the many health and wellbeing improvements created by participating in such recreational music making.

PPM: In your bio it is mentioned that “as a teenager he musically directed “Babes in Arms” (McCallum Theatre). What was that project about?
JR:  I had sat in for another show’s rehearsal when their pianist was unexpectedly out. Having had a jazz background before studying classical, I made a good impression with the director, and at the age of 17 ended-up musically directing, performing and writing all the Big Band charts for BABES IN ARMS at the prestigious McCallum Theater.

PPM: Who are some of your favorite classical composers?
JR: Hands down, Ravel (OBM), Rachmaninoff (OBM), and Beethoven (OBM). In each of them I am drawn to their music’s passion, intensity, and color.

PPM: What is PianoTube?
JR: PianoTube LIVE is an invention of Mastermind Studios that utilizes YouTube to take any pianist’s performance recorded on a PianoDisc system and broadcast it as a truly live performance on any other PianoDisc equipped acoustic piano or pianos. This means that, for example, my actual keystrokes with their nuances are digitally communicated and then physically executed on another piano somewhere else that is playing the YouTube video — right before the eyes and ears of those people at the other piano.  One can record and upload their performance or stream it live simultaneously to literally millions of pianos around the world through the YouTube distribution network without an issue of requiring significant bandwidth.   The Music Trades magazine called it a “dazzling” innovation.

PPM: What commercials have you written music for?
JR: As a ghost writer, that information remains confidential. One public commercial is a public service announcement for the Great American Shakeout – an earthquake preparation reminder. In that I wrote the music and also sang.

PPM: How is writing music for commercials different from writing for other projects?
JR: It completely varies depending on the project. Inherently, the entire piece lives in a much shorter lifespan, so everything has to be very efficient and development (if there is any) has to occur very quickly.

PPM: What music have you written for Disney?
JR: I’ve had a lot of great projects with Disney, and it began when I was first commissioned to compose and record original arrangements and create two new featured attractions at Disneyland all as a part of the Dream Home of the Future exhibit.  Perhaps, most famously, I arranged a medley of music from the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie, and my subsequent performance of that piece was used in the exhibit for the about seven years, playing to thousands of visitors a day. The success of that and the other exhibit arrangements spawned the further creation and “opening of the vault” for permission to create advanced level piano arrangements of Disney Classics like never before, and is part of a partnership with Musicnotes.

PPM: Are you still the President of the Hi-Desert Cultural Center? If so, what are your responsibilities there? And what are your goals for this organization?
JR: I volunteer most of my time helping to rebuild this iconic arts center in my community. We are currently engaged in major renovations on the main 300+ seat historic theater and a large expansion of the Center’s back performance hall to include another theater, classrooms, and practice space. We offer first-rate arts education to over 250 area youth in our after-school programs where no child has ever been turned away due to inability to pay. We are now part of a team forming a new school for arts and technology. Additionally, the Cultural Center has now become one of the top producing theater organizations in Southern California and is home to the Joshua Tree Philharmonic, an inter-generational community orchestra of which I am the volunteer maestro.

 

[At Hi-Desert Cultural Center], we offer first-rate arts education to over 250 area youth in our after-school programs where no child has ever been turned away due to inability to pay.

 

PPM: What are your hobbies and how do you spend your “down time”?
JR: You jest.  Downtime?  What is that?  All kidding aside, right now I am volunteering and heading-up a team creating a new school with a focus on arts and creative-based technologies, so I haven’t had much downtime this past year. Generally, I decompress in nature and have a passion for botany… and exotic cars.

PPM: Do you exercise regularly?
JR: I joke that conducting or playing the piano the way I do is definitely a sport!   Seriously, I do some running, hiking, smart weight lifting.  I used to surf a lot growing up and that’s something I definitely want to get back into.

PPM: Do you eat healthy? What is your favorite food?
JR: I definitely eat healthy, and my body prefers the cave man diet — keeping it organic with as few ingredients as possible.  I never cared for soda or anything carbonated and don’t eat fast food.  As for a favorite food, some authentic tacos sans corn, or for a very special meal you can’t go wrong with steak accompanied by a red wine reduction, escargot or caviar, and a glass of Burgundy from the Puligny-Montrachet region of France followed by a Grande Marnier soufflé… oh, and some brussel sprouts (tossed in olive oil and then browned with butter and balsamic vinegar, and a dash of nutmeg and salt).

 

I definitely eat healthy [… ] keeping it organic with as few ingredients as possible.

 

PPM: Do you practice any form of religion? What is your understanding of and relationship with God?
JR: Music is a spiritual experience, and as a Christian I have always had a close relationship with God and acknowledge that higher power. There are few great musicians I have met that do not acknowledge and revere that there are forces far greater and more complex than ourselves.

PPM:  Thank you, Jarrod.  We wish you happy holidays and a  successful year  full of blessings and many projects where you can share your talent with others and bring them joy from listening and watching to your beautiful performances.

 

 

 

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THE CIRCUIT: Giselle Brodsky’s Miami Piano Fest

Interview by Tanya Levy (MGBH)

In this issue we are introducing a new section that we named The Circuit, dedicated to piano festivals, competitions, and other events that discover and promote piano performers in the US as well as around the world.  The first in this series is the Miami International Piano Festival (MIPF) celebrating its 20th anniversary this year.  Mrs. Giselle Brodsky (MGBH) – the Co-founder and Director of the festival shares her insights, experience, and aspirations.

 

Piano Performer Magazine (PPM): It is exciting to have such an exquisite event in Miami.  What was your inspiration for starting the Miami International Piano Festival (MIPF)?
Giselle Brodsky: The fact that the classical music business today puts a catastrophic premium on the wrong values.  What wins competitions and major recording contracts is flash and brute virtuosity. What goes begging is the individual voice, the personal statement. The encounter between artists and the public is hit and run. Overstimulated yet undernourished by heavily promoted performances that are dazzling but shallow.  I wanted to give a voice to those artists that are genuine, individual and are visionaries.

 

[…] classical music business today puts a catastrophic premium on the wrong values.  What wins competitions and major recording contracts is flash and brute virtuosity. What goes begging is the individual voice, the personal statement.

 

PPM: Did you have any experience organizing events prior to MIPF?
GB: Yes, I started a classical musical series in La Paz, Bolivia which is where I am from, and brought not only great pianists but ensembles like the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.  But, of course, nothing prepared me for the challenges I faced bringing artists that were not known in the US, but our audience knew right away that we stood by strong principles and presented great artists who had something to say.

 

PPM: Who was another co-founder of the MIPF?
GB: Edith Sorin (MBGH) one of the greatest pedagogues in South Florida and a true visionary.  She was and continues to be our inspiration. She is now 100 years old, and we hope to celebrate this year her 101 Birthday on March 19, with the great pianist, Francesco Libetta (MBGH).

PPM: Whose idea was it to start a festival and how exactly did it start? What was the exact moment when you and Edith said, “You know what? Let’s have a piano festival in Miami that is different from others”?
GB: It was back in 1997 and after several conversations with Edith Sorin, we both decided to create an organization that would identify, guide, and support great pianists.  We organized a private concert in my house and invited some of the most important movers and shakers in the cultural world in Miami and shared our dreams and plans to build our organization. Our ideas resonated with them, and we were given the first donations that enabled us to start Patrons of Exceptional Artists and later in 1998 our wonderful Festival.

PPM: Who are the artists that performed at the first festival and where are they now?
GB: The artists that performed at our first Festival in 1998 were Piotr Anderszewski (MBGH), Konstantin Lifschitz (MBGH), Gabriela Montero (MBGH), and Kemal Gekic (MBGH).  They all now enjoy wonderful careers and are internationally recognized.

PPM: How do you choose the artist to perform at the Festival?  Is it by invitation only or are pianists welcome to apply to be part of your program?
GB: As a rule, it’s by personal invitation.  However, any qualified pianist is welcome to send his or her information for our artistic committee to evaluate and see if they meet our criteria.

PPM: What is the format of the festival?
GB: The Festival is structured in three separate series covering three counties – Dade, Broward, and Miami Beach.  We offer more than 14 recitals every season, and each series offers a different kind of experience.  The Aventura Series “Classical Sundays at Five” is intimate. The “Master Series” in Broward is thematic. And the “Discovery Series” in Miami Beach is where we keep discovering new artists.

Each artist was discovered and presented first in “The Discovery Series” and has been re-invited and introduced to a larger audience through the other series.

 

PPM: What artists are performing this season and how did you meet each of them?
GB: Each artist discovered in our Festival has a story, and I met each one under different circumstances.

With Konstantin Lifschitz (MGBH), I learned about him by reading a review in the Boston Globe, the story intrigued me so much that I flew to Montreal to personally meet him and hear him live. Later I organized his debut in Miami.  He has come to Miami numerous times and is now in the Faculty of our Academy.

With Piotr Anderszewski (MGBH), a friend of mine had introduced me to his unique art.  After listening to his CDs and reading about him, I knew that he was an individual, a truth seeker, and had a tremendous creative talent.  In 2002, I nominated him for the Gilmore Award, which he won, and that jumpstarted his career worldwide.  Piotr is very much a part of our piano family in the Festival and has delighted our audiences several times.

With Kemal Gekic (MGBH), it was Prof. Frank Cooper (MGBH) who introduced me to his astonishing genius, after hearing him live in a Festival.  I listened to his Listzt’s Transcendental Etudes CD and felt compelled not to only invite him, but to find a way of keeping him in our community.   His debut in 1998 took place on the same day that Nato was bombing Novi Sad during the Bosnian war.  That was where he taught. Because he was unable to go back to Serbia, I persuaded Fred Kaufman (MGBH), then the Dean of the Music School at FIU to invite Kemal to teach as the Artist in Residence where he was offered the position which he holds till today.

Each artist was discovered and presented first in “The Discovery Series” and has been re-invited and introduced to a larger audience through the other series.  The Aventura Series is presenting Fabio Martino (MGBH), Pietro de Maria (MGBH), Kotaro Fukuma (MGBH), Francesco Libetta (MGBH), and Mishra Dacic (MGBH).  The Master Series – Kemal Gekic and a two piano concert with Ilya Itin (MGBH) and Zlata Chochieva (MGBH).  The Discovery Series will introduce new artists: Mishra Namirovsky (MGBH), Julien Libeer (MGBH), Florian Noak (MGBH), and a prodigy Leonid Nediak (MGBH).

PPM: Who determines the repertoire? Do you make any suggestions to your artists?
GB: The repertoire is strictly chosen by the artist, and we never get involved.

PPM: Now, let’s talk a little bit about you.  How did you enter the world of piano performance?
GB: I was introduced to the piano at the age of 7.  When I was 12 years old, I studied with a composer Gustavo Navarre (OBM) who was also a pianist, and who had a tremendous influence on me.  By the age of 14, I started to perform and realized that I wanted to be a pianist.

PPM: Do you also teach?
GB: Yes, I do teach in my private studio, and it has been my passion. I feel blessed to have been surrounded by the most astonishing pianists over these past 20 years.  I feel that they not only had a strong influence on me as a pianist and teacher, but also helped me discover my own insights.

PPM: What teaching style/method do you adhere to and what is the most important thing you learned from your piano teacher(s)?
GB: While I was studying at the Manhattan School of Music, I realized that my relationship with the piano was not one of Love, but, in fact, was the one of Fear.  And it is not until I met Dorothy Taubman (OBM) that I realized that it was really possible to have a love relationship with the piano.  It is because of her invaluable contribution to my understanding of how technique really works that I began connecting the dots. She helped me realize that in order to make music and play with absolute freedom, one needs to understand that there are physical laws that cannot be broken and that the body hand and arms have to be perfectly aligned and work perfectly to enable the brain to communicate the sounds it wants and transfer them to the hands.  Mrs. Taubman (OBM) is the only pedagogue who was able to decode piano technique this way connecting always every movement to the musical idea.

 

Dorothy Taubman developed her own approach to piano technique and as a teacher was the biggest influence in my life.

 

Dorothy Taubman developed her own approach to piano technique and as a teacher was the biggest influence in my life.  Her approach completely changed the way I heard, felt, and understood music.  It is this new awakening that later on played a big role when I selected the group of pianists that would perform at the Miami International Piano Festival.

Spending time with so many great artists during all these years created a renewed sense of awareness in me and helped me discover the truth and logic in music. By simply watching them play or discussing music I developed my own insights and followed my inner instincts when I taught.   The results were extremely successful.

My approach is not the same for every student, but, instead, individually tailored for each one. Through my experience I realized that every student understands and hears music in a slightly different manner, and I feel it is important to enable them to understand the score in a completely different way decoding its DNA, creating an awareness, and seeing how different patterns of notes translate into movement and then into sound.   The results are immediate, and their progress astonishing.

 

For me teaching is an art form, a shared creative process between the student and the teacher and a constant fountain of discovery.

 

For me teaching is an art form, a shared creative process between the student and the teacher and a constant fountain of discovery.

It is because of my own personal journey of discovery by being exposed to so many extraordinary artists that I was eager to start the Academy, so pianists interested in a concert career could benefit from the insights of different artists. I am thrilled beyond words that has now became a reality, and that for the third time this summer we will host gifted pianists from all over the world.

Teaching is my TRUE passion an I spend my days teaching in my private studio not only guiding many gifted pianists but also constantly developing new insights.

 

PPM: Please, tell our readers about the Piano Academy.  When does it take place and how long is the program? Who are the teachers? Who are the students? What is the value the students get from the program?
GB: The Piano Academy will take place for the third consecutive year at the beautiful campus of Nova Southeastern University from July 9 – July 30, 2017 attracting professional pianists from all over the world.   The creation of the Academy is the result of my own personal journey of discovery through 20 marvelous years of inspiration at the Piano Festival, where I had the privilege of being surrounded by some of the greatest pianists of today .

All of the faculty members are regular performers at the Miami International Piano Festival.  They have been selected for the academy faculty because they are exceptional artists who also have the motivation and skill to share their knowledge and experience with younger pianists.

The three week session will bring an exciting program and an incredible group of international performing artists that will provide inspirational experiences for participants through exposure to a variety of valid sources of information and instruction directed toward achieving artistic freedom – in the tradition of great pianists of the past.

Through this program, pianists will have the opportunity to take part in intensive Private and Open lessons with these master artists and teachers and participate in technique clinics, discussions with the faculty, explore the world of different composers and specific repertoire, and learn to improvise to strengthen their skills as performers.

In addition to the three week session for professional pianists, we will be running a parallel program for aspiring young pianists interested in following the path of a concert artist.

 

(left to right ) Kemal Gekic, Zlata Chochieva, Fabio Martino, Pietro de Maria

 

PPM: What sets Miami Piano Festival apart from other festivals across the US?
GB: It is a true a festival, as stated by Matthew Gurewitch (MGBH) in a wonderful article in the New York Times, Born To Be Contrary, “a Festival that is not there to supplant the existing A-list of virtuosos with a new A-list of interchangeable virtuosos, but to smooth a path for artists who bear messages that are perhaps more elusive and deeper.”

 

It is important to surround yourself with people that understand your mission and to follow your dreams with passion to get the message across and get people to support you.

 

PPM: This year, you are celebrating a 20-year anniversary of the festival. Looking back, what were the main challenges when you first started vs. today?
GB: The main challenge is finding creative ways of raising money and motivating donors to support us.  It is crucial and important for our sponsors to support our efforts and recognize the powerful impact of this Festival in the lives of our artists and now the Academy, which will inspire aspiring pianists creating a smooth and clear path of success in their careers.   The other challenge is to break through internationally and make sure that the activities of the Miami International Piano Festival are starting to resonate far beyond Dade and Broward Counties.  It is important to surround yourself with people that understand your mission and to follow your dreams with passion to get the message across and get people to support you. This is what we have been trying to do for the past 20 years.

PPM: What audience does your festival attract?
GB: A wonderful and sophisticated audience in love with the piano and classical music.  Our audience is mixed.  We have, of course, the older classical music lovers, but also an impressive number of young students and even children that come to our concerts.  Among our attendees we have professionals, amateurs, tourists, people that travel to hear our concerts from Miami to Palm Beach, several piano lovers from Canada who have become regular attendees and many piano lovers that come from all over the world and make our Festival a destination.

 

 What Kemal did that night was quite astonishing and very much within the spirit of the Festival.

 

PPM: Are there any interesting stories that happened to the artists during performances or in-between as they traveled to Miami to perform?
GB: In 2015, we had scheduled a tribute to two great composers – Scriabin an Rachmaninoff.  The artists to perform were Zlata Chochieva, Ilya Itin, and Misha Dacic, with a Grand Finale including all the three artists.  Ilya Itin suffered an injury and was unable to practice for many days. He came to Miami and felt that he could only play his solo recital and that performing the final concert was simply unrealistic for him given those circumstances.  So I immediately called Kemal Gekic. I explained the situation and asked him if he could replace Ilya on such a short notice and possibly play the same program.   He immediately replied that although he had never played that repertoire before, he felt confident he could do it. He was happy to help and participate in this tribute with music that was also very close to his heart.  What Kemal did that night was quite astonishing and very much within the spirit of the Festival.  Personally, that was very meaningful to me.

PPM: Please, tell our readers about the secret weapon of MIPF – the man who gives an introductory lecture and sets the tone for the concert.
GB: We are so fortunate and honored to have Prof. Frank Cooper as the Lecturer in Residence at our Festival since 1998.  He has been instrumental in our development setting an amazing tone in each concert with his illuminating comments creating and intimate and very special atmosphere for the artist and audience.  Frank Cooper is known and admired for his ability to communicate the pleasures of any subject in the arts to his listener.  He is a Research Professor Emeritus of Music at the University of Miami and has been called by the Miami Herald “South Florida’s cultural maven” and “a Renaissance man.” He sets the tone of every recital by creating a mood, setting up the stage, so to speak.  You have to be there, in the audience, to fully experience his magic.

 

I strongly feel that parents have to make more of an effort to expose their kids to such music by bringing them to concerts, so they can be in touch with their thoughts and emotions while they listen to great artists.

 

PPM: As a music educator, what do you think are some of the ways to implant appreciation for classical music into the psyche of today’s generation distracted by technology and pop culture?
GB: It is important to first educate the parents of small children and make them aware of how vital and important it is for them to support the learning of a musical instrument.  Research studies have proven again and again that kids that are exposed to classical music, perform much better in school and professionally. I strongly feel that parents have to make more of an effort to expose their kids to such music by bringing them to concerts, so they can be in touch with their thoughts and emotions while they listen to great artists.  Some time must be given to good art and reading. Unfortunately, in today’s world too much time is spent in front of computers, iPads and cell phones.  These activities should be complimentary, but not exclusive. There should be time for everything.

 

PPM: What piece of advice would you give to the pianists who are just starting their music career?
GB: They have to follow a path and work as hard as they can to be ready when opportunities present themselves. Not to wait for patrons and sponsors to jump start their careers, but to prepare and be ready when the opportunities will come their way. In today’s world, artists need to be more proactive and find creative ways to share their vision and their thoughts about music through social media and approach their careers as a business always re-inventing and investing in themselves.

PPM: You project an image of a successful, goal oriented business lady who gets things done with class. What does Giselle do when she is off duty? What are your hobbies?
GB: My life is music, and my passion is the piano, but I love people, children, my family ,and my great artists and try to always connect on a very personal level.  I give unconditionally, and I feel that everyone around me does the same.

Everyone involved in my life and my projects is very close to me.  I don’t think I would have been able to accomplish so much alone. One really needs a village to realize a dream.

I adore animals, especially dogs. I have two poodles at home.  I enjoy authentic food from different countries, and I am interested in all forms of art.

 

PPM: What are some of the lessons that you’ve learned over the years through working with artists and organizing the festival?
GB: I have learned to trust and believe in our artists and convey our message about them with great passion.  Unfortunately, sometimes our passion and intentions don’t resonate with some presenters who are only interested in bringing artists that will secure ticket sales because they are known.  But I will personally never give up championing those great artists that deserve great success and recognition.

 

 

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THE PIANO BRAIN: MUSIC, CHARACTER, AND MORAL DEVELOPMENT

by Michael Griffin (MGBH)

white-spaceIn 2015, the Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues at Birmingham University called for character education to be embedded in the UK curriculum.  The report linked strong character traits such as resilience and perseverance to higher educational achievement, employability, and social, emotional, and physical health.  Character matters.  It is critical for personal happiness, maintaining relationships, and essential for an ordered society.  Character strengths help people thrive and become the best version of themselves.  But how is it taught, cultivated and nurtured?  The family is the first place where moral cultivation begins. If adults wish to raise children of good character, they should start by showing them through their own actions.

Children may not listen to their parents, but they never fail to imitate them. – James A. Baldwin (OBM), 1924 –1987, American social critic.

UK Education secretary Nicky Morgan (MGBH), in her quest to help schools teach character, says one way is to learn a musical instrument. Supporting her claim, the Jubilee Centre study found that students involved in choir/music or drama performed significantly better on character tests than any other school-based extra-curricular activity. There is nothing new in this modern-day appeal for character education to be embedded in schools, nor in the relationship between character formation and musical learning. The great thinkers Rousseau (OBM), Kant (OBM), and John Locke (OBM) viewed the aim of education to enable children to think for themselves with the aim of becoming virtuous.  The views of Confucius (OBM), Pythagoras (OBM), and Aristotle (OBM) are also worth noting. Confucius (551–479 BC) believed the real purpose of education was, rather than to get a job, to become a better person. The cultivation of the self should be a daily renovation, and is a life-long process, requiring constant work and practice. A zitherist, Confucius considered music education indispensable for character cultivation:

Wouldst thou know if a people be well-governed, if its laws be good or bad? Examine the music it practices.

Because of the deep influence music exerts on a person, and the change it produces on manners and customs, the ancient kings appointed it as one of the subjects of instruction.

A man who is not good, what can he have to do with music?

 

Wouldst thou know if a people be well-governed, if its laws be good or bad? Examine the music it practices.

 

Confucius suggested that the teaching of music, along with poetry, history and ritual, be the foundation for teaching moral behavior. This involved integrating songs and music into the curriculum that reinforced Chinese (Confucian) values and moral virtue. His view has support throughout history, for instance from Napoleon Bonaparte (OBM): “A moral book might change a person’s mind but not his heart, and therefore, not his ways. However, a piece of moral music would change his heart, and where the heart goes the mind will follow and the person’s ways will change”. To be a person of character is a choice from less virtuous alternatives. Accordingly, moral choice would be arrived at through a change of heart influenced by music. Like Confucius, English philosopher Roger Scruton (OBM) equates a decline in musical taste with a decline in morals, arguing that “beauty should be restored to its traditional position in music.”

In China, Confucianism is undergoing a renaissance, particularly evident in education.  A major reason modern-day Chinese parents value learning a musical instrument is that it provides a vehicle for visible application, thoroughness and commitment. Likewise, Aristotle (385-322 BC) believed that character is formed by doing.  One can only learn about commitment by being committed to a cause.  One learns to delay gratification by exercising the patience and experiencing the discomfort that comes with the wait.  Aristotle believed that the development of character strengths took time, being taught and learned through opportunity and practice. The repetition of the act becomes a habit, evident in thoughts, feelings, and actions, resulting in consistent patterns of action.

Human excellence, in morality as in musicality, comes about as a result of habit. – Aristotle, Book II of the Nicomachean Ethics

Therefore, a person cannot be considered a “good person deep down” unless character traits are in action.

 

Therefore, a person cannot be considered a “good person deep down” unless character traits are in action.

 

Aristotle’s teacher – Plato (OBM), believed that music permeated the recesses of the soul nurturing goodness, but that improper music had a “dangerous capacity to inspire lawlessness and boldness”.

Pythagoras (OBM) (570-490 BC) may well be the first person on record who employed music as a therapeutic agent. He believed that beauty and truth combined in music, and could “quell the passions of the soul”. In his philosophy, medicine and therapy were based on music.  Pythagoras believed that an appreciation of beauty aided recovery from illness, a position now supported by modern-day research.  He called the medicine obtained through music purification.  Hence, music played an important part in Pythagorean education because music could purify manners, character, and physical ailments.  Those who committed crimes were prescribed “pipe and harmony” to shape the mind so that it became cultured again.

 

[…] music played an important part in Pythagorean education because music could purify both manners, character, and physical ailments.  Those who committed crimes were prescribed “pipe and harmony” to shape the mind so that it became cultured again.

 

At night, Pythagoreans sang certain songs to induce sleep and sweet dreams. In the morning, they sang different songs to awaken and prepare for the day.  Sometimes the music was instrumental, played on the lyre alone.  Pythagoras considered the study of music essential for a rational understanding of God and nature.  Therefore, in Ancient Greek society, the primary goal of studying music was for learning moral behavior.  If education is about integrating thought, Pythagoras and the Greek thinkers who followed him led the way.

Contrast this regard for music by the Ancient Greeks and classical China to the Roman Empire that followed.  Music was not valued beyond entertainment, and became peripheral in education and culture.  Rather than arts, science, and intellectual thought, Rome’s focus was conquest and pleasure.  One of the main reasons attributed for the decline of the Roman Empire was a decline in moral character.  If only they had listened to Confucius.

 

Music is the only one of all the arts that does not corrupt the mind. – Montesquieu (OBM), 1689 – 1759, French Philosopher

 

There is no definitive set of character traits, but consider perseverance, commitment, and self-discipline.  Character is the X factor in expert performance.  Many people desire to learn music but give up too early without ever fully exploring their potential. Often, the reason given is lack of talent. A more likely explanation is the lack of character traits required for the challenge. Being a musician is a testament to character.  Almost 2500 years ago, Plato believed that “music training is a more potent instrument than any other.” Hopefully, the world will again give music the place it deserves in education.  There are positive signs. In April, 2015, it was announced that for the first time in USA education history, music will be a core subject in draft federal education policy (Every Child Achieves Act of 2015).

 

Listening to classical music boosts concentration, self-discipline, listening power, social intelligence, and aspiration.

 

Listening to music has long been argued as a method for developing children’s listening skills.  Listening to classical music boosts concentration, self-discipline, listening power, social intelligence, and aspiration.  Good music cultivates the mind.  Equally, another study found that listening to music with lyrics about alcohol makes people more likely to drink. Yet another study found a link between music embodying aggression, sex and violence, with antisocial behavior.  Music influences behavior. These studies might serve to argue against the popular contention that there is no such thing as good or bad music.

Next to the Word of God, music is the greatest treasure in the world. It controls our thoughts, minds, hearts and spirits. – St Augustine of Hippo

 

About the Author:

Michael Griffin is an educator, speaker, and pianist. He is the author of ‘Learning Strategies for Musical Success’.

 

 

 

GENERATION Z: JACOB VELAZQUEZ

Interview by Alex Davydovich (MGBH)

Jacob Velazquez (MGBH) from Miami, FL comes with a special and unique story.  Around the same time his family discovered his talent, they also learned about his autism spectrum.  Instead of feeding the Darkness, they chose to feed the Light.  With many studies indicating that children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) respond well to music, the family decided to use Jacob’s diagnosis as an opportunity to inspire others.  Jacob frequently talks about autism during his performances and interviews, gives concerts dedicated to this charitable cause, and simply embodies the idea of making lemonade out of lemons.  

We interviewed Jacob (in black), his mother Tina (MGBH) (in blue), and his father William (MGBH) (in brown) for the magazine.  And here is what they had to say.

 

Piano Performer Magazine (PPM): Jacob, do you play piano every day? 
Jacob Velazquez (JV): I take lessons two days per week with my teacher and i practice most other days with my dad.

PPM: What are your hobbies?
JV: My hobbies are playing drums, playing outside, watching TV and reading books.

PPM: What are your favorite toys and games do you like to play with?
JV: My favorite toy right now is my Elf on the Shelf. He’s not really a toy because he comes alive at night and moves around the house. My favorite game to play is chess.

PPM: Do you go to a traditional school or are you home schooled?
JV: I go to a traditional public school.

PPM: What music are you currently working on?
JV: I’m working on the Hayden (OBM) Concerto in D Major, Fantaisie-Impromptu by Chopin (OBM), and a Christmas medley I’m doing for a fundraiser for Autism Speaks.

PPM: How did you decide to record your first album?
JV: We met with a music producer Hal Batt (MGBH) when I was six. He came up with a concept and we decided to record it.

PPM: Do you play piano for your schoolmates?
JV: Yes, sometimes.

I would love to work with Taylor Swift (MGBH), Bruno Mars (MGBH), Yanni (MGBH), Joh Katodo (MGBH), a drummer from Australia, and  The Miami Symphony Orchestra.

PPM: What musicians do you dream of working with?
JV: I would love to work with Taylor Swift (MGBH), Bruno Mars (MGBH), Yanni (MGBH), Joh Katodo (MGBH), a drummer from Australia, and  The Miami Symphony Orchestra.  

PPM: How long does it take you to memorize one page of music?
JV: One to a few days depending how difficult the piece is.

PPM: Who and at what age taught you to read music?
JV: My first teacher, Ms. Jaffird (MGBH), taught me to read music when I was 4 years old.

PPM: Do you write your own music?
JV: I’m not writing yet, but I like to improvise.

PPM: What are your biggest challenges when it comes to piano and piano performance and how do you overcome them?
JV: My biggest challenge with piano is mastering my technique. I just have keep practicing and try to remember the things my teacher tells me.

PPM: Have you ever been nervous on stage? If so, how did you handle it?
JV:  I don’t get nervous on stage. It’s not scary, its just fun!

PPM: How do you use your imagination when performing on stage or recording your music?
JV: I use my imagination to be enthusiastic and funny. I like to entertain people.

PPM: Do you have siblings? If so, please, tell the readers a little bit about them.
JV: I have a little sister named Skylar (MGBH).  She’s 4 years old, and she likes to be like me. She just started taking piano lessons. She also likes to dance and sing. I have two older brothers. Brandon (MGBH) is 23, lives in California and works for the Coast Guard. He loves music and dancing and he’s a really great D.J.  Tyler (MGBH) is 21.  He goes to college at Florida State University in Tallahassee, FL.  He plays piano, too, and also loves to dance.

PPM: Tina, we know that for children to be successful, it is important for parents to keep on top of things. What does it take to be a mother of a talented child pianist?
Tina Velazquez (TV): I don’t think what I do is much different than most other parents; scheduling their child’s after school activities, running them here and there, encouraging them to do their best, making sure their lives are balanced between school, play, homework, extra curricular activities etc.

PPM: Who maintains Jacob’s website, takes calls from reporters, manages Jacob’s performance life?
TV: My husband and I have worked on the website together however I am the one who maintains it for the most part.  I’ll typically screen the initial call to find out what they’re looking for. When Jacob was younger, say 5 and 6 years old, he didn’t do much talking it was mostly just about performing.  Now he loves talking to reporters and anyone else who will listen!  I filter all of the initial inquiries through Jacob’s webpage and social media.  My husband and I always make the final decision together based on what we feel is best for Jacob.  Willie and I work with Jacob to manage all aspects of his performances.

PPM: Do you have a job outside being the boss and the nurturer of your household?
TV: I volunteer in my daughter’s preschool classroom, however, my family takes up most of my time.

PPM: Can’t avoid this question: how did you start talking to Jacob about his diagnosis?
TV: I decided to start talking to him about it when he was about 5 years old.  At that time I felt he could understand & wanted him to here it from me. I got some children’s books that explained autism from his counselor at The Center for Autism & Related Disabilities.  We talked about how a person with autism’s brain worked a little differently than someone without autism, and how that made them unique.  I also showed him a quote from Taylor Swift “If you’re lucky enough to be different, don’t ever change.”  I continue talking to him about it whenever I feel it’s necessary.

PPM: What is your message to other families with autistic children?
TV: Millions of families this year will receive the news that their child is on the autism spectrum.  These families have two choices at that point, in my opinion.  1) Let this diagnosis take away your hope for your child’s future; or  2) let this be a driving force and  fight to ensure your child will become anything and everything they deserve to be in this life.  As a member of the autism community, I feel drawn and responsible to encourage my fellow families to put their focus on the things their child can do, rather than the things they cannot.

PPM: And under what circumstances did Jacob decide that he would take on upon himself to represent and inspire the children with autism through his performance?
TV: It’s kind of funny because when you talk with Jacob, you can get the sense that he’s not really listening.  He’s usually jumping on/off the couch or making drum beats on the table.  I wasn’t even sure if he heard or grasped some of the things I discussed with him about autism, until he began talking about it during a performance.  He pretty much reiterated everything I had been telling him.  He got a great response from the crowd and has been talking about it ever since.

PPM: Do you speak with Jacob about fame and success and what it means in the real world?
TV: Jacob and  I often talk about how everyone has their own talents and things that they excel at while, at the same time, we all have things we struggle with.  Jacob happens to be gifted musically which, along with his hard work, has opened the doors for him to travel to a lot of fun places and meet some great people.

PPM: What tools are you equipping him with to handle the potentials flip side of fame?
TV: With each event, my husband, and I always try to prepare Jacob based on what we are expecting him to be presented with.  With that being said, Jacob is blessed with a very humble disposition. He truly cares about others and is the first to notice and celebrate the successes of friends, family and fellow musicians.  Jacob gives sincere words of approval to others when they are practicing.  He loves when people cheer for him, not so much because he is proud of himself, but because he is truly pleased that listening to his music has made them happy. We’ve witnessed him step back to allow fellow performers to get praise.  This is how Jacob sees himself in relation to others with regard to his music.

PPM: How do you manage balancing his professional career at such early age with being a kid?
TV: Being a kid is Jacobs #1 job.  We have turned down events before because he had a friend’s birthday party to attend just needed some down time.  I am Jacob’s mom, his advocate, and his biggest fan.  My husband and I manage all aspects of his life. We wouldn’t give up this control because no one will ever truly consider Jacob’s best interest the way we will.

Being a kid is Jacobs #1 job.  We have turned down events before because he had a friend’s birthday party to attend just needed some down time.

PPM: William, from video interviews we know that you play piano, and Jacob has been hearing you play since he was a little baby. Are you a professional pianist? Where did you get your training?
William Velazquez: I very much enjoy playing the piano, however, I am not a professional pianist.  I began playing when I was 7 years old on an organ we had in the house. Soon after I attended a local piano school, and at 10 years old I attended a conservatory school of music for 2 years. Afterwards, I had private lessons at my parents house for several years.  In high school I played keyboard in a band we named Excelle. We played local gigs in the New York area.

PPM: When your family discovered Jacob’s talent, did he ask for lessons? How did things progress from that moment on?
WV: At the time we noticed Jacob’s ability he was very speech delayed, but we felt he would benefit from piano lessons.  At first, it was difficult finding someone willing to teach a 4 year old, but, fortunately, we found someone, and Jacob began training with her.  I have also taught Jacob a few short pieces.

PPM: Do you participate in your son’s “piano life” (recordings, practice, performances) or if it mostly a responsibility of your wife?
WV: I enjoy practicing with Jacob and playing for him as well. He and I have worked on a few medleys together. I recently worked with him on the National Anthem, which he performed at the American Airlines Arena for the Miami Heat game.  I was also very involved with his album and his concerts.

Being on the autism spectrum, Jacob has struggled with his emotions.  I think music is helping him express his own emotions as well as better understanding others.

PPM: How do you think Jacob’s piano life helps in building his character?
WV: Being on the autism spectrum, Jacob has struggled with his emotions.  I think music is helping him express his own emotions as well as better understanding others.

PPM: What is the most surprising thing you learned about your son through the piano discovering  journey?
WV: I am amazed of how much he has progressed in such a short period of time, and how quickly he is able to memorize a piano piece regardless of the size.  I also recently discovered that Jacob has perfect pitch, which means he can identify notes and chords being played on the piano without looking.

 

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PIANO ARCHITECTURE: THE FAZIOLI STORIES

by Esther Basha (MGBH)

With many piano manufacturers around the world, the Fazioli company keeps surprising us with not only with the high quality of sound, but also with its astonishing designs.  With a story behind each piano design, Fazioli has become one of the world’s top piano manufacturers.  Its sought after pianos found their place in many music halls, private homes, and have been seen in many feature films.  

white-spaceLocated in Sacile, Italy, the company was started in the late 1970s by a visionary Paolo Fazioli (MGBH), a pianist with a degree in mechanical engineering, who, after joining a family business, decided to leave and start a piano factory at the time when dozens of piano manufacturers were closing their doors.  He began designing his first grand piano with the help of Professor Pietro Righini (OBM), Professor Guigliermo Giordano (OBM), Virgilio Fazioli, and Lino Tiveron (MGBH).

But we are not here to bore you with the history of the company and chronology of its events, which you can read on Wikipedia – click here.  Rather, we are here to tell you exciting stories of each of the custom pianos created in the house of Fazioli.  Here we go.

We will start with three piano that have one thing in common – all three of them have found their permanent homes in Vancouver, BC.

Fairmont Piano by Fazioli
Fairmont Piano by Fazioli

 

 

THE FAIRMONT PIANO

The custom made Fairmont Fazioli piano was created as a centerpiece for the lobby of the Fairmont Pacific Rim Hotel in Vancouver, BC.  With the cost of $225,000, it features a unique three-dimensional design under the lid.  Vancouver-based MGB Architects + Designers created the case for the white piano and the intricate walnut inlay under the lid that echoes a 180 feet-long origami sculpture by Joseph Wu (MGBH) that juts out from Oru Restaurant into the hotel lobby.

All the hinges are plated in the 18K gold with the soundboard from the same forest as the wood of Stradivari’s (OBM) violins.  The piano cover has a slow fall feature.  The hotel even has a dedicated Fazioli Suite, designed by Terry Zacharko (MGBH).  The room features a number of different photographs of the piano making process.  It even has some pieces of a piano.  All the photos in the suite are hung by the Fazioli piano wire.  The suite contains some interesting artwork that relates to Fazioli and the design of pianos in general.  Mr. Fazioli was very pleased with such gesture. “To dedicate one suite to one piano maker is really, really something very special,” he commented in an interview.

 

 

Telus Garden Piano by Fazioli
Telus Garden Piano by Fazioli

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THE TELUS GARDEN PIANO

The Telus Garden Piano was a brain child a local architect Gregory Enriques (MGBH), commissioned to design the case for a Fazioli piano that was going be placed in the lobby of the Telus Gardens Building.  “When we originally designed the lobby,” says Enriques, “the piano was in the back of our minds, but we didn’t really have a defined spot.  And when I was approached to design a piano, I said, “I am not so sure…”  I have seen some of the custom pianos that have been designed, and a lot of them are just adapting an existing piano.  And I said, “If we are going to do something, let’s make something very specific for this building.   And Telus Garden has a very specific aesthetic, which is about a certain sense of geometry and a certain materiality.  And if we can find to make the piano in-sync with that, we thought it would be very exciting.  So, if you look on the outside of the building, you will see these giant V-shape columns, which hold up the office component of the building.   And so, I thought, if we can hold up the piano using the same sort of geometry rather than a traditional leg, it would not only be more modern, but it would also be keeping with our specific space. And so, you have a piano, which has V-shape legs, is made out of Douglas fir, very much like the beams of the lobby.  And what you have is a traditional piano in terms of acoustics, but the outside of the piano has completely been reinvented to be of this place.  Even the chair, the little stool, the seat that it sits on is a little Z-shaped chair, which relates to the geometry of the piano, and we are very excited about what’s going to become in terms of focal point of the space.  The acoustics of the space are actually very well-suited for the piano because of the nature of the trusses on the ceiling.  It’s pretty much like a concert hall,” adds the architect.

Telus Garden Building, Vancouver, BC

 

 

 

Red Elm Piano by Fazioli
Red Elm Piano by Fazioli

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THE RED ELM PIANO

The Red Elm piano was a custom order for a private client – Zhai Zai Chen (MGBH) – residing in Vancouver, BC. Designed by Ernest (MFBH) and Grace Collins (MGBH), the same architects that designed Mr. Chen’s house, the 10-ft four-pedal piano was scheduled to arrive to his house with a matching cabinet ( built by Joe Edwards (MGBH)) and a painting (by Michael Soloman (MGBH)).

“I design any conceivable type of furniture from ultra-contemporary to the most beautiful historic pieces,” said the architect during the interview, Ernest Collins.  “The client’s house was originally built 13 years ago.  It has a Georgian quality to it.  But certainly in the 17th, 18th, and 19th century, there would be salons where people would play the piano and gather around and sing.  So, it was really lovely to rework that particular room, which I used as a music room as well,” commented Grace Collins.  “Mr. Chen wanted to take it to almost a salon level where people would feel welcome to come in and sit around the piano while someone was playing.  And so, when he decided to invest in this piano, he felt it was important that it should speak to the house even on a bigger level than just being a beautiful piano.  So, we started researching motifs that were used by the great English furniture makers.  And one of the motifs that we both particularly liked was the Chip and Dale medallion that Chip and Dale developed in a lot of their cabinetry.”

During an interview,  Manuel Bernaschek (MGBH), the owner of the Fazioli gallery in Vancouver, spoke about the idea of the painting.  “One of the ideas that we had…because the client liked the idea of a painting underneath the lid… we suggested commissioning a painting that goes in the same room as the piano, but not necessarily on the piano itself.  The idea behind the piano was that the music room was sort of like many paintings form 1400s-1500s that showed many people sitting around the piano and enjoying the music.  So, we wanted to mimic something like that.”

 

Here is a story from Michal Soloman, the painter.  “It was abut a year and half ago…. I wanted to do some whimsical paintings of a piano and my little cousin dressed up as a fairy with little butterflies and things.  I decided to go to a piano store on Broadway.  I went in there and asked the woman if I could take some shots of some pianos, just the keyboards and things.  And she said, “Yes.”  And she was interested in art.  And said, “When you [finish] these paintings, I’d like to see them afterwards.”  Eight months later, I went in there with a painting.  And brought these big paintings in. They were a lot bigger than I thought they would be.  And she said, “Yes, let’s bring them down to Richmond.”  And then a few months later Manuel phoned and said, “I have this Fazioli sale happening.  And the client wants a painting of a family.  Would you be interested in doing it? There is going to be like 19 people in this painting.” So, I said, “Yeah, of course.” And I had no idea what I was getting myself into.  So, I went into the photoshoot with the family, I’ve got them posted all over my wall […].  The biggest challenge of the thing was that the client wanted to see a lot of the house. So, I had to take a shot from far back.  And I never really painted small heads like that before.  To make a great amount of detail had been a huge challenge.”

 

Manuel Bernaschek talks about the project.  “One interesting aspect to this work was […] to have Mr. Fazioli somehow painted into the scene.  So we thought, if the piano was gonna be there, why not have Mr. Fazioli playing the piano, and the whole family sitting and enjoying.  So, the client gave us a deadline of July 31st, and we knew it was a little bit tight with the piano because we knew it would take 12 months to make the piano.  We ordered the chairs, the cabinet, the painting.  Our plan was [for all of the pieces] to come in on the same day and have this WOW! effect. We really looked forward to blow him away.”

 

….. to be continued

 

 

References:

  1. http://vanmag.com/uncategorized/a-500k-pianos-new-home/
  2. http://westbankcorp.com/fazioli/fazioli.fairmont-pacific-rim.html#.WGQuFiMrKCQ

  3. http://westbankcorp.com/fazioli/fazioli.fairmont-pacific-rim.html#.WGQuFiMrKCQ

REVISITING HISTORY: JANE STIRLING – CHOPIN’S MOST DEVOTED STUDENT

by Jacqueline Leung (MGBH)

Jane Stirling’s (OBM) name has long been associated with Chopin’s (OBM) whenever discussions occur regarding his teaching and the final period of his life. In Western music history, she is known as an ardent supporter of her teacher, arguably the most popular classical music composer of today, and she is credited to have provided financial and professional support for him during his most desolate days. The Fryderyck Chopin Museum in Poland entitled their special exhibition in 2011 with the following words from the famous pupil, “I trust that there will always remain something to be done for him.” Her tireless devotion to Chopin is evidenced by her multiple roles as Chopin’s pupil, secretary, agent, business manager, concert organizer, benefactor, and the first “musicologist” of his music.

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Jane Wilhelmina Stirling (OBM) was a descendent of the aristocratic Scottish clan, “Stirlings of Keir.” The family made its fortune from West Indian Sugar plantations, and Stirling was brought up as a prim Calvinist. She possessed a reputation of unimpeachable purity and was rumored to have turned down over 30 marriage proposals. It is known that Stirling was an accomplished pianist, and Chopin once remarked that “one day you will play very, very well.”  The works she studied with Chopin included his finest and most technically advanced output such as the Etudes op. 10 and 25, the Fantaisie op. 49, the Sonatas and the Concerto No. 2.  Stirling was a well educated noblewoman who spent copious time in Paris.  She was introduced to Chopin around 1842 or 1843 and subsequently became his pupil.  Stirling’s scores, along with annotations in Chopin’s hand had become a treasure trove of insight into his teaching and provided invaluable glimpses into his ideas regarding tempo indications, fingerings, ornamentation and pedaling.  In terms of personal dedications, Chopin wrote two nocturnes in F minor and E-flat major, Opus 55 between 1842 and 1844 for Stirling.  Following his death, she remained in close contact with Chopin’s sister Ludwika Jedrzejewicz (OBM) in order to manage his estate and his manuscripts.

 

Chopin wrote two nocturnes in F minor and E-flat major, Opus 55 between 1842 and 1844 for Stirling.

 

In 1848, Chopin encountered immense financial difficulties.  His teaching of aristocratic students in Paris became unstable due to the outbreak of the French revolution, and his income virtually vanished overnight when nobilities fled the city. In order to alleviate him from debt, and having been informed of his break up with George Sand (OBM), Stirling initiated a plan for Chopin to tour and teach in England.  Upon his arrival in London, Stirling stocked his apartment “with writing paper bearing his initials” and attended to every detail.  However, despite performing in front of Queen Victoria (OBM) and Prince Albert (OBM) and socializing with the upper echelons of London society, Chopin was still “sorely in need of money,” since some pupils failed to pay for their lessons.  Once again, Stirling became aware of the difficulties Chopin encountered and extended an invitation for him to visit Scotland and to pay for his expenses.  He would be a welcomed guest at the Stirling family estate and concerts were organized for him in Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Manchester.  Unfortunately, Chopin was not able to acclimatize to the damp, cold British weather, and along with the lack of rest, all these factors took a serious toll on his health.  He wrote to his friends, “my health varies from one hour to the next.  In the mornings there are times I think I’ll absolutely cough myself to death.” (1)

 

However, despite performing in front of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and socializing with the upper echelons of London society, Chopin was still “sorely in need of money,” since some pupils failed to pay for their lessons.

 

While in Scotland, Stirling, along with her sister Katherine Erskine (OBM) the widow, transported Chopin around the Scottish region with countless visits to the homes of aristocracy and clan members.  Due to his inability to communicate and understand English, he was only able to “watch them talk and listen to them drink.”  Clearly this type of daily routine become tiresome increasingly insufferable for Chopin.  He wrote, “one more day here will drive me mad if it doesn’t kill me.” (2)  He found that the English and Scots were not a crowd of audience with the sense of artistic appreciation that he craved.  “I feel alone, alone, alone, although I am surrounded,” he wrote.

 

When Stirling learnt of this news, she bought 100 tickets at half a guinea apiece to distribute to friends in an attempt to fill up the hall.

 

However, in order to maximize his income from the visit and to promote her teacher to the audience, Stirling organized recitals for him, and Chopin continued to stay in the northern region of the British Isles.  Chopin was due to perform a solo recital at the prestigious Hopetoun Rooms in Edinburgh but due to a lack of publicity, ticket sales were poor.  When Stirling learnt of this news, she bought 100 tickets at half a guinea apiece to distribute to friends in an attempt to fill up the hall.  At times, the constant doting from Stirling and Erskine became intolerable for Chopin, and he excused himself to stay with the Polish doctor and his wife – the Lyszczyńskis (OBM) –  in Edinburgh.  Despite this, Stirling wrote to Chopin everyday, and the close contact inadvertently rendered rumors that Stirling had become Chopin’s fiancée and after his death, she was mistakenly named by a few as “Chopin’s widow.”  However, the truth is revealed in Chopin’s own words in response to the engagement rumor, that “I’m nearer to a coffin than a wedding bed.” (3)

 

Nevertheless, Jane Stirling, along with Camille Dubois (OBM), Princess Marcelina Czartoryska (OBM), Eugène Delacroix (OBM), Auguste Franchomme (OBM), Pauline Viardot (OBM), and Jenny Lind (OBM) formed a circle as Chopin’s closest friends and pupils.  Through Stirling’s letters and writings, her admiration and respect for Chopin became easily perceptible. In reference to his teaching, she deemed it to be “marvelous” and in her commentary about his playing, she praised that the chords he played “sounded more celestial than of this earth and contained an aspiration that extend into eternity.” (4)  After she heard one of Chopin’s most successful pupils – Camille Dubois – perform, she remarked that she “ardently wish[es] her to preserve the [Chopin] tradition.”(5)  Personally and professionally, she was devoted to Chopin.  Apart from the tour to England and Scotland, Jane Stirling arranged for Chopin to perform at the Salle Pleyel in February 1848, which was to be his final concert appearance in Paris. By this time, Chopin was suffering from influenza, and Stirling had reportedly remained backstage to care for Chopin as soon as he stepped off the performing stage.

 

After Chopin’s death in 1849, Stirling bought his last Pleyel piano and involved herself with matters regarding the publication of Chopin’s posthumous works. She was reported to have singlehandedly funded his funeral, including the costs of the orchestra and chorus.

 

Her efforts to preserve his legacy and generosity by providing her personal scores for study had made an immense contribution to the world

 

According to the memoir of Solange Clésinger-Sand, the daughter of George Sand, Stirling was described as a “thin, pale, ageless, solemn [and] never smiling woman.”  But there is no doubt that Stirling, through her devotion, had exerted significant impact on Chopin’s life and especially his later years.  She stopped playing the piano for one year following Chopin’s death and in the subsequent years, dressed in black.  It had been reported that she repeatedly performed the C minor prelude Op. 28 No. 2 , dubbed the “Funeral March,” in public after her teacher’s passing away.  Her efforts to preserve his legacy and generosity by providing her personal scores for study had made an immense contribution to the world of Chopin scholarship, and the knowledge gained still impacts the teaching and playing of Chopin’s music today.  The Chopin artifacts she bought, collected, and passed onto his family benefitted Chopin institutions and enriched archive collections.

 

References:

 

  1. Atwood, William G. Fryderyk Chopin: pianist from Warsaw. New York: Columbia U Press, 1987. Print.
  1. Cholmondeley, Rose. “Chopin’s Visit to Britain, 1848.” The Chopin Society UK, n.d. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.
  1. Eigeldinger, Jean Jacques. Chopin– Pianist and Teacher: As Seen by His Pupils. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print.
  2. Eisler, Benita. “Chopin’s Funeral.” The New York Times. N.p., 20 Apr. 2003. Web. 9 Dec. 2016.
  3. Hadden, J. Cuthbert. Chopin: By J. Cuthbert Hadden. Adelaide: Cambridge Scholars, 2002. Print.
  1. Portraits of Greatness Chopin. New York: Elite Corporation, 1966. Print.
  1. Smialek, William, and Maja Trochimczyk. Frédéric Chopin: A Research and Information Guide. New York, NY: Routledge, 2015. Print.

 

 

 

About the Author:

Jacqueline Leung is a Hong Kong based concert pianist and educator. She was trained at the Royal Academy of Music in London and Texas Christian University in Fort Worth. She has performed on four continents and is in demand as a solo and chamber musician, lecturer and adjudicator. Alongside music, her passions include traveling and cooking. She also holds a MA in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong.

 

AND ALL THAT JAZZ: Christian Tamburr

Interview by Alex Davydovich (MGBH)

When it comes to the business of piano performance, Christian Tamburr (MGBH) seems to have it all figured out.  A talented entrepreneur as well as a gifted musician, he has paved his road to success (not without divine providence, of course) by using his outstanding interpersonal skills and a solid business sense.  With vibraphone as his secondary instrument, he has performed in dozens of prestigious venues, produced his own albums, collaborated with many outstanding musicians, and even created a successful corporate leadership program.   Here is an up close and personal with Christian Tamburr.  Prepare to take notes.

American Council of Piano Performers

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PPM: Would you, please, tell our readers a little bit about yourself? Your family, your childhood…..
CT: I grew up as an only child.  My mother and father always had music playing in the house. My father played guitar. Some of my first memories were sitting on his lap strumming along. When I was 6 years old, I visited my great aunt in New Jersey whom I had never really met, however she had a beautiful baby grand in the living room.  My parents told me not to touch and, of course, once I was out of sight of them, went and started to play the instrument. Apparently, I had a certain sensibility on the instrument and much to the shock of my parents, my aunt seemed to enjoy seeing me play this forbidden piece of furniture. A few years later, my great aunt passed away and her entire estate was auctioned off.

Approximately a month after the estate sale, a moving truck arrived to our home in Florida with a delivery for “Christian Tamburr” (which I was 7 years old at the time).

Approximately a month after the estate sale, a moving truck arrived to our home in Florida with a delivery for “Christian Tamburr” (which I was 7 years old at the time). It turned out my aunt only left one thing to one person and that one thing was her Wurlitzer baby grand piano to me. I really fell in love with the piano and, although with limited understanding of the functionality, used my ear to navigate playing along with my father as he played the guitar. This early developmental step in learning to play by ear was a critical step in my ability to understand harmony, melody, and improvisation.

 

PPM: Where did you get your music education and who was your first piano teacher?
CT: My first piano teacher was Mrs. Rowe. I took approximately 6 months of lessons when I was in 4th grade. I wasn’t exactly the best student.  I realized my ear was much better then my sight-reading, and I would have my teacher tape the exercises and etudes. I would go home, play the tape and learn it all perfectly by ear. That for me was the fastest way to get the “required material” learned and move on to making up my own music.  Mrs. Rowe could have hampered that approach, however she fostered it.  She continued to bring in harder material both classical and popular music, and her approach was to maintain good technique over sight-reading.  I paid a bit for this when I first got into band in Jr. High but I eventually got it all together. In all honesty, I’m still not the strongest sight-reader, however I can hold my own in a professional setting and after one pass I generally have it, both by reading and also using my ear!

After completing High School I went to the University of North Florida and studied jazz performance on piano and vibraphone. I left after two years and moved to Las Vegas, which is pretty typical, so people tell me. With regards to education, my “real world experience” has led to various teaching opportunities including teaching as an adjunct faculty member at UNLV when I was 21 years old, to most recently as Artist in Residence at Florida Institute of Technology.  I spend a great deal of time traveling to schools of all levels with the opportunity of inspiring young musicians to pursue their dreams in music.

I spend a great deal of time traveling to schools of all levels with the opportunity of inspiring young musicians to pursue their dreams in music.

 

PPM: What was your first piano project/job?
CT: My first major “job” as a musician was playing for vocalist Michael Andrew (MGBH) out of Orlando, Florida. He had produced a show called “Mickey Swingerhead and the Earthgirls.”  I played piano, vibraphone, and percussion in the show, and it was truly my first paying “gig” at age 14.  We continued to work together for many years, which included performances all over the US with his touring band Swingerhead, headlining at venues such as Windows on the World on the 114th floor of the World Trade Center, Merv Griffin’s (OBM) Coconut Room, and The Rainbow Room.  Michael was a huge supporter of my talent and as a friend in the industry.  His mentorship as a bandleader taught me from the start of my career how to treat other musicians and tour around the world. We continue to work together and maintain a great friendship.

  

I began my career with Julio Iglesias in September of 2006, and the opportunity came about in a rather strange way

 

PPM: Can you tell our readers about your experience of working with Julio Iglesias (MGBH)? How did this project come about and what were the most valuable experiences you took with you moving forward?
 CT: I began my career with Julio Iglesias in September of 2006, and the opportunity came about in a rather strange way, which harps back to the “ya never know who you are talking to” mention from above. I was touring my quintet in St. Petersburg, Russia as a part of a jazz cruise we were performing on. While on an excursion with passengers of the ship, a man approached me and commented on how much he enjoyed my playing and band. I thanked him, and he went on to say he was a drummer. In that split moment, I put on the professional hat and commented on his kindness towards our music and asked a bit about his musical experience. As it turned out, he was the touring drummer for Julio amongst many other major touring artists. Of course, I’m so glad I approached his “hey I’m a drummer” comment with positivity as his connection led to a direct call with Julio who was looking for a pianist. After some very exciting phone calls and negotiations with Julio and his road manager, I took the position as 2nd keyboardist.  We rehearsed for weeks in Miami learning all music “by ear” as there was no music, and the music that did exist was old and didn’t match the updated show. I spent time with recordings that were given to me and created my own lead sheets, which I used as basic road maps but ultimately I had to use my ear to get through the rehearsals. Once into the touring show it took months but I slowly integrated real piano into the somewhat synth heavy sonic landscape.  We were in Paraguay, and I started a song, usually on electric keyboard, on piano, and Julio turned right around and looked at me… smiled and made a hand gesture for more.  Over time I started to integrate my love for the acoustic piano into the show, and by 2008 I had moved my sound into his music and was leading the band as musical director.  From a technical stand point, Julio expected to hear his accompaniment exactly the same every night. There was little to no improvisation or variation on harmony or melody in the piano chair, which for me was actually quite hard.  As my experience was always based in jazz, which thrives on variation, learning to play the part (which technically never existed) exactly the same each night was incredibly difficult, but valuable.

 

I reached out to Clint (MGBH) as I knew it would be an incredible opportunity to spend quality time together, make a lot of music and really get the chance to show him all sides of my musical diversity… from performer to arranger to band leader.

 

PPM: How did you start working with Clint Holmes (MGBH)?
CT: I met Clint Holmes when I first moved to Las Vegas in 2001. I saw him performing at Harrah’s and remember thinking to myself just how amazing he and his band were. He acknowledged the musicians and really let them play, and for all intensive purposes seemed to be having a great time musically on stage.  In 2013, met up with Clint again at a jam session in San Francisco. We shared the stage and really hit it off.  A month later I was presented with the opportunity to feature a jazz septet on a jazz cruise where I could bring 6 internationally recognized musicians with me. I reached out to Clint as I knew it would be an incredible opportunity to spend quality time together, make a lot of music and really get the chance to show him all sides of my musical diversity… from performer to arranger to band leader.  We did that tour and have been working together ever since.  In March of 2015, I started working as an arranger/musical director for him at his residency at the Smith Center here in Las Vegas. In January 2016 I became his full-time Musical Director and Arranger for our new headline show “Clint Holmes – Between the Lines” at the Palazzo Hotel here in Las Vegas. The show features a stunning 8 piece band and original arrangements on music ranging from Stevie Wonder (MGBH) to John Mayer (MGBH) to Bruno Mars (MGBH), to Ed Sheeran (MGBH), to Gershwin (OBM).

 

PPM: What is Sonic Leadership and where are you with this project now being so busy with your current engagement with Chris Holmes?
CT: I developed Sonic Leadership in 2009. I was asked to put together a brief 15-minute keynote speech for a leadership seminar. I focused the speech on attributes of leadership musician’s use when we walk on stage to execute a high level performance and translated it into content that business executives could understand and learn from. Since then, we average about one or two Sonic Leadership presentations a month, and as they often are onsite at companies around the world, they fall in the middle of the work week, which works well with my long weekend performance schedule.  To date we have presented this musically inspired program on leadership to companies such as Google, Cisco Systems, St Regis, and Starwood Hotels amongst many others.  The program is scalable and the presentations range in length from 45 minute to 90 minutes using a live five-piece band, myself as lead presenter and a whole lot of interaction with our attendees. I love it as it combines my love of music, the business behind making it all happen and of course talking!

 

 

PPM: Can you, please, tell our readers a little bit about ShowHive?
 CT: ShowHive is a production company based out of Los Angeles and New York City. It’s co-owned by two brilliant friends of mine Garrett Cain (MGBH) and Emmett Murphy (MGBH). This company focuses on the creation from the ground up to final execution of live production shows. As head arranger and composer, I work with the creative team to produce original new music and original new arrangements of popular music for these production shows. We just finished a huge project creating 8 brand new production shows for Norwegian Cruise Lines, which are being performed nightly around the world.

 

I don’t care if you have 6 Grammys or if you just walked out of your senior recital from college, if you are a nice human being, I’d love to work with you.

 

 PPM: As a Jazz Cruise producer, what do you look for in selecting talent for your projects?
 CT: A person must be a true artist on his or her instrument. Must be passionate about their music and the value it brings to those around them. Must be a professional. This sounds obvious, but this entails everything from showing up on time, dressing appropriately, having the material learned and ready to play to being respectful of me, other musicians and crew. Being a nice human being. I don’t care if you have 6 Grammys or if you just walked out of your senior recital from college, if you are a nice human being, I’d love to work with you.

 

PPM: What is your dream as a jazz piano performer?
 CT: My dream as a performer is to have the blessing to be able to continue to make a living doing what I love to do.  I have had the great fortune of only playing music as a career for the past 20 years and at 36 years of age I still have a lot of playing and living to do. Getting to travel around the world and share great music with appreciative listeners is so special.

 

PPM: Your have travelled over 65 countries. What are some of the most unforgettable experiences for you on a personal level?
CT: With over 65 countries visited, and I think 66 since my bio was last updated, it’s a whole other article worth of some of the great stories… but here are a few highlights.

Sitting at the piano with basketball legend Michael Jordan playing together “How do you keep the Music Playing” in Charlotte NC.

Renting a Ferrari for a day to drive the Monte Carlo race course while in town at the Monte Casino with Julio Iglesias.

Rolling a marimba down the streets of Abu Dhabi preparing for an outdoor performance in 114-degree heat.

Throwing snowballs in June in Siberia while on tour with my quartet.

Performing on top of Windows of the World on the 114th floor of the World Trade Center – NYC.

African Safari with band while on tour in Cape Town – South Africa.

Crossing a rushing river with 27 person Julio Iglesias crew on board a barge from Argentina to Paraguay.

Surprising actress Julia Roberts (MGBH) for he 40th birthday with a special private performance in NYC.

Performing inside Japanese Buddhist Temples throughout Japan.

Opening my first main stage headline Las Vegas show as co-producer arranger/band leader for Clint Holmes ‘Between the Lines.”

 

PPM: How did you pick the members of your quintet? Is there a story with each player?
CT: I pick musicians to be in my band that I enjoy spending time with. Considering we only spend about 90 minutes on stage, the other 22 hours or so in a day has got to be filled with good times and good people. Over the years, my band members have changed, but there are a few long time members.

My bassist, Billy Thornton (MGBH), is from Tifton GA, and we met my first year of College. He and I have toured all over the world together, and he is one of my favorite people on this earth. He is an amazing bassist, and I look forward to his energy and smile each time we walk on stage. My Trumpet Player, Dominick Facinacci (MGBH), is from Cleveland Ohio. We met in 2009 after knowing of each other for years through mutual mentor Ira Sullivan (MGBH). There are few people that can make me laugh as much as he can, and his playing is truly superb! Each “kat” as we call them in the jazz world has their story and I’m grateful to share the stage with them anywhere and anytime we can.

When I was 22 years old, I was living in Las Vegas and had just finished a short residency performing at the Bellagio with a great band called the Noel Freidline Quintet. The ever-changing landscape of live performance venues in Vegas has meant you really need to keep on your toes. By chance, magician Penn (MGBH) from Penn & Teller had learned of my playing, and we became friends. One day he asked me to come see the show and comment on the opening act called “the magic box,” which featured Penn playing upright bass and Teller playing a spinet piano. In the green room after I mentioned that although Teller playing the piano at the end is impressive, its not a very powerful moment as the small box piano didn’t sound all that great, and he was seated, which didn’t look all that great. I suggested he should consider playing the simple melody on Vibraphone (my other primary instrument). Penn loved the idea, and in the next 24 hours I was tasked with composing the music for Teller to play and installing it into their multi-million dollar production show at the Rio.

 

I tell students all the time, when the phone rings, the more opportunities for you to say “yes, I can do that” is just one more opportunity for you to keep moving forward in this business.

 

I mention this story, because as a performer, I found myself in a unique situation to expand my ability to make a living. Composing and directing was something I did all the time, but had never thought to capitalize on it. This opportunity really brought me out of my shell for the commercial composition side of the business and opened my eyes to a ton of opportunity. I tell students all the time, when the phone rings, the more opportunities for you to say “yes, I can do that” is just one more opportunity for you to keep moving forward in this business. I spend about 50% of my time in the studio composing and arranging and the other 50% of the time performing. I compose and arrange in all styles and genres, and love being challenged with new projects.

 

PPM: What are the biggest challenges of a professional musician today, in your opinion?
CT: As professional musicians we have a lot to go up against. So much has changed even in the time that I have been playing music – from the record industry, to live music to social media. We now more then ever have the ability to connect with our audience. We can share our travels, our performances and our personal life with a click of a button. Where I don’t believe EVERYTHING should be shared I do believe in a fast moving technology driven society, we must find a way to use these tools for the good of our career. I spend a great deal of time on LinkedIn, which connects me to professionals in all areas of music, production, booking, film, TV, and touring. I spend about 70% of my time focused on my professional career and the other 30% of the time playing music. If that seems off to anyone, then you’re probably not making a living playing music. When you achieve a certain level of professionalism and accreditation on your instrument the assumption is “that’s good enough” and now I’ll just sit back and wait for the opportunities to come along. The truth is, I’ve never wanted to wait. I prefer to be the one making the phone calls verse waiting for them.

 

I remember a clinician in college telling my jazz combo, “They see you before they hear you”. He was referencing the importance of how one carries oneself both on stage and off, from how you dress as a professional to how you speak to people. You never know who you’re talking to, and in many cases people will form an opinion of you before they even hear you play your instrument.

 

PPM: Can we discuss your CD “People Talk”? What was the inspiration for it and what was it like working on this project?
CT: My newest album “people talk” – released January 2016 is my first “concept album”. I generally release pretty typical “band” configuration albums, but I wanted to try something different with just piano, vibraphone, and percussion. The two other artists on the album are Takana Miyamoto (pn) (MGBH), and Keita Ogawa (pc) (MGBH) are both from Japan and are both fantastic. The music I wrote has influences of Asian, South American, and American music. The music was specifically written for this ensemble, and it’s a joy to play. The City Suite is a three-piece movement that takes my impression of the sound track to three of my favorite cities – Tokyo, New York City, and Paris.  I loved exploring my memories of those cities and writing that suite. It’s my favorite music on the album.

 

PPM: From reading your bio, what struck me the most was not only your professionalism, but also the fact that you were able to build a career by successfully collaborating with so many other musicians, creating and maintaining professional relationships. It seems that you know how to talk to people, how to get them inspired, and, most importantly, you inspire them for meaningful collaborations.
CT: I’ve always been a “people person.” Growing up in a home without other children made it that I was interacting with adults more then I was other kids.  I remember a clinician in college telling my jazz combo, “They see you before they hear you”. He was referencing the importance of how one carries oneself both on stage and off, from how you dress as a professional to how you speak to people. You never know who you’re talking to, and in many cases people will form an opinion of you before they even hear you play your instrument. In this industry, we need all the help we can get so the importance of being comfortable talking and interacting with your audience is as important if not more important then how you play on stage. When people meet you and get to know you, they start to learn about where your passion comes from, what drives you to pursue your dreams. They hear your personal triumphs and also your struggles. When someone can relate with you be it a doctor, or a lawyer, a football coach, they can relate with how you play your music and the connection becomes that much stronger. I try to be myself, smile, bring a sense of humor to the stage (which is who I am) and that spirit fills the music and fills the ears and minds of the audience.

 

I spend about 70% of my time focused on my professional career and the other 30% of the time playing music. If that seems off to anyone, then you’re probably not making a living playing music.

 

PPM: Thank you for sharing your story and your insights with the readers, Christian. May your dreams come true, and may you be always full of energy and enthusiasm towards your work and people in general.