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Entrepreneurial Musicianship

In her lecture at the Golandsky Institute’s Summer Symposium at Princeton University, Director of Yamaha Artist Services, Bonnie Barrett gave some great career advice for musicians, clearly inviting them to “think out of the box.” “Due to the shrinking market for traditional classical music, its “graying” audience and overall lack of funding for costly productions, the generation of the great impresarios and dedicated press coverage has vanished. Because of all this, the solo-piano virtuoso is all but dead,” she commented. “However,” she continued, “where there is crisis – there is opportunity.”

In her commitment to promoting new approaches to music performance and presentation, Barrett introduced a selection of entrepreneurial efforts within the classical- and jazz music-environment. The creative mindset and reinventing of alternative forms of representation is now being widely recognized.

Ms. Barrett gave examples making use of efficient collaboratives and giving a new angle to the concert experience which includes unusual settings, means and combinations of skills and genres. Some of these innovative undertakings are based on technical advances, some on recognition of the need to instill different marketing aspects. Barrett introduced an award winning, animated movie which,  based on the personal story of the Bulgarian pianist Nadejda Vlaeva, introduced her pianistic soundtrack in a most endearing way. Another novel example mentioned by Barrett was the classical series “Music by the Glass,” which combines music- performances at Soho’s “Louis Meisel Gallery” (Photo) with Wine tastings, paired to associate each performance’s musical syllabus.

Founded by the accomplished pianist-duo couple, Soyeon Kate Lee and Ran Dank, the series aims to develop new audiences who will respond to an experience of classical music, up close and personal, in a relaxed and communal atmosphere.

The need to identify the “personal touch” of classical music presentations beyond its usual concert hall existence is also the mission of “GetClassical,” which takes its classical music happenings to different localities, including extravagant hotspots like the Gramercy Park Hotel’s Rose Bar. Photo: Alex Fedorov GetClassical at the Rose Bar pianist Alexandra Joan

Founded by the Lavrova/Primakov musical team, LP-Classics was discussed as an empowering answer to the difficult market situation for new artists, who are struggling to sign onto established recording labels for their debut recordings which they, in turn, can use as a calling card, necessary to land performance engagements. LP- Classics gives an opportunity to both its founding artists to manufacture their own recordings, with a now rapidly growing repertoire, as well as open their prospects for collaboration with artists they discover and admire. Photo: Alex Fedorov  GetClassical at India House from left: Natalia Lavrova, David Aladashvili, Ilona Oltuski, Vassily Primakov

Technology has always had its impact of re-defining our culture, and with no exception here, an improved and facilitated technical recording process opens the door to professionally graded recordings, and for savvy self-made producers. Another astonishing and innovative result of technological refinement was demonstrated with Barrett’s introduction of Yamaha’s Disklavier Digital Player Piano. “One possible answer to the challenge of overcoming great distances and responding to educational needs is tapping into the renewed thirst for remote piano lessons, through the digital connectivity of the Disklavier,” says Barrett. It allows teachers to connect with their students throughout the world. “With its sophisticated nuances of 256 pedal strokes and thousands of keystrokes, the Disklavier recreates pianistic action with an extreme exactitude, transforming the landscape of piano pedagogy. Many top universities and conservatories like UCLA already have signed on and some, including the Juilliard School of Music, are just about to,” says Barrett. The program also enables re-creating the concerto-experience, superior to the simple  music minus one, for example, a recording of the orchestral score performed without its piano part, to be filled in by the performer.

“Through the exceptional capacity of adjustment of the Disklavier to the keystrokes by the individual performer and chosen instrumentalisation, the technology is able to follow the performer’s tempi, and yes, even recognize the performer’s wrong notes. Playback and repetitions are simply accomplished, making the Disklavier a preferred platform for many artists in a variety of educational programs, like Simone Dinnerstein’s high school outreach program watch it here, or Dan Tepfer’s (photo) imaginative jazz piano-playback arrangements. It remains to be seen if the apt description of his demonstration so far and yet so near, will truly win over fans, or just point to the one ingredient missing that would make the experience more than an experiment. Does the student need the actual stage presence of the performer or the teacher’s commending pat on the shoulder, the truly human touch – perhaps not superior in action, but not quite to be superseded by any technology either?

Photo: Ilona Oltuski – Bonnie Barrett Venerable musicians like Jerome Rose and Byron Janis have embraced the fascinating possibilities that Disklavier offers, using it in the service of special workshops and teaching presentations. The only condition, of course, is to have access to two Disklavier pianos, a laptop and the internet, and off you go readily creating complex multi-track arrangements, recording your own performance and playing them back.  But, fortunately, some musical talent still needed.



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