Category Archives: Composers

Carol Comune

I had the privilege of interviewing pianist, composer and teacher Carol Comune back in August, 2012. Needless to say, a lot has changed since then. It seemed like a great idea therefore to catch up  – see what’s changed in Carol’s life and learn more about her current projects. A heartfelt thank you to Carol for yet another fascinating insight into her life as a pianist and composer. The original interview can be read here.Enjoy! – Malan Wilkinson
1. Which living pianists do you admire today and why?

There are countless musicians all over the world and it is a very difficult to have to choose my favorite but a few whom I admire the most are Andre Mehmari a native of Brazil – who I think is one of the most multi-talented pianist/composer of both classical and jazz/pop genres, of his time; and Christopher O’Reilly – a colleague of mine from the New England Conservatory of Music. I have learned so much from him and am constantly inspired by his amazing repertoire and versatility he brings as a host to NPR’s From the Top, as well as his own well-known piano arrangements of songs by alternative artists.

However, there is one man who, although no longer with us, was (and is) probably one of the most influential person in my career and life: Anthony Di Bonaventura. As a student at NEC, I found myself becoming frustrated with my playing and needed guidance if my studies were to continue. Bonaventura, a pupil of the celebrated Russian teacher Madame Isabelle Vengerova, took me under his wing and changed the way I saw not only music, but relationships and life. Anthony and Me138Through the Vegerova technique, I found new purpose and drive that has made me the pianist, composer, and teacher I am today. I can still hear his voice in my mind when I practice, and now I hear myself speak in the same manners as he did, to my own students.

What is even more wonderful are the accomplishments that my students are making individually through competitions and annual performances- thanks to Anthony Di Bonaventura.


2. Can you shed light on your current projects and concert schedule?

My latest and new projects:

My latest composition, The Nightingale was debuted at the Kaleidoscope Series at Rider University this past Spring 2015. I started this piece back in 2006 when my daughter was just 9 years old while we were still reading fairy tales and creativity was a huge factor in our lives. I did not, however, anticipate the adversities of raising a child that made me put this lovely story on hold until I could find the space to revive and eventually complete.
Composing has always been a gift that I could never take for granted, since the age of eight. I am a sporadic writer though the music is continuously turning in my head until I have the time to write it down, creating my next piece.

My music Variations for Piano on O God, Our Help in Ages Past (18th century Hymn of William Croft) was performed by a wonderful pianist and colleague Paul Kenyon -The concert is being presented to raise awareness and financial support for the Community Christian Service Agency, “an ecumenical organization of Christian Churches providing assistance to persons having emergency needs.” Dr. Kenyon’s program will include classical piano repertoire from across three centuries and is inspired by sacred themes of worship and praise. Starting with the music of J. S. Bach and progressing through works of Franz Liszt and more recent compositions by myself and Kirsten Shetler. In addition, this year I received the Hall of Fame Award from my high school, Watchung Hill Regional High School. It warms my heart to think that I might be inspirational for students who aspire to have a career in music!

As for upcoming projects, I do have a new venture that I would like to start on this year. I plan on composing a documentary based on a local Chinese folk song that will portray my daughter’s journey from China to growing up in the US. All of the families that I met in China in 1998 have kept in touch through Facebook and now our daughters have graduated and are off to college this Fall for an amazing journey. I just want to have pictures and music in the background for an intimate chamber piece. In 2016, I will be performing on a Westminster Conservatory Faculty Series “Captivating Imagination Through Musical Storytelling” in Bristol Chapel, Princeton, NJ.


3. How has your life as a pianist and musician changed since I last interviewed you back in August, 2012?

Since my last interview with Pianists from the Inside, I have devoted countless hours on educating myself with better ways to promote myself through social media. I have found it to be quite exciting how one can connect with the world and have met so many talented musicians in the process. Through my colleagues and even some of my students, I have learned so much, so quickly about technology it is really quite amazing.

As an entrepreneur who runs two companies, (Elegant Entertainment & Co. and Comune Music Press) as well as a private practice, my upcoming year is still unpredictable. I am maintaining my private studio as well as teaching at several accredited institutions, but I also hope to take on new ventures as they come. As I have mentioned before, I have found social media and the internet in general to be paramount to maintaining my business. I am now a part of websites that reach all over the world, allowing me to network with artists near and far. Doing this has also allowed me to take the time to listen to my colleagues and competitors regarding their businesses and music. I have been able to build my fanbase with Reverbnation; Pandora and now the new launch of Apple Music!

One website that has made a profound difference in my business is, It is a personal web hosting service co-founded by Ryan Freitas, Tony Conrad and Tim Young in October 2009. The site offers registered users a simple platform from which they can search a database of online identities like their own, relevant external sites, and have access to popular social networking sites such as Facebook, Flickr, Google+, LinkedIn, Twitter Tumblr, and YouTube.

Within the year that I started using, I have accumulated over 150,000 views and increased my fan base greatly – and furthermore, increasing sales.

I have published (Comune Music Press) and scored two new compositions for solo piano : Farm of Dreams and Reflections for the older student who would like to play a more popular/classic style or better known as New Age. I am in the process of scoring, The Nightingale – based on the story by Hans Christian Anderson.


Some other accomplishments…


My daughter Gealyn (16) and I had the honor of performing Mosaic for 2 pianos for Dianne Goolkasian Rahbee’s 75th Birthday Celebration Marathon with musicians from all over the world performing her music – River’s School Conservatory, Weston, MA.

Kaleidoscope Chamber Series: Rider University, Lawrenceville, NJ
Kaleidoscope Chamber Series presents “Ensemble for New Music,” featuring recent compositions by Westminster Conservatory composers. This Westminster Conservatory faculty series is dedicated to chamber music of all centuries, placing emphasis of repertoire that explores the tone colors made possible when voice and instruments from different musical families – string, woodwinds, brass, or keyboard – are combined. I have had the opportunity and privilege to debut my original compositions and collaborate with my colleagues annually. It gives me a lot of inspiration just knowing there is this wonderful venue to work towards.

Student Accomplishments

Westminster Conservatory – Honors Program keeps me extremely busy during the academic year coaching chamber ensembles and piano performance classes. I enjoy researching new music each year and discovering living composers to feature at the Young Artist concerts. I also accompany the Woodwind scholarship competitions early spring with challenging repertoire. In the past few years, I have become involved in several piano competitions including, but not limited to, New Jersey’s Music Fest. As a faculty member of the Westminster Conservatory, I am able to prepare my students for Music Fest-Rising Talent Competition. I have had 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Place winners for Solo and Chamber pieces culminating with performances in prestigious halls such as Carnegie Hall and Merkin Hall (Kaufman Center) in NYC.

4. How do you believe Piano music makes a difference in people’s lives?

hqdefaultI never really had an agenda when I started composing music in a marketable manner. It was about the time in my life where I settled down and experienced new chapters in my life- as a wife, mother and composer. Having a life and a family in the beautiful town of Jupiter, FL was much more relaxing compared to my residency in Boston for 20 years and growing up in a family of seven outside of NYC.

I felt like a child at the age of 40; snorkeling, kayaking, and just loving living an outdoor lifestyle in tropical weather 24/7. There was something about my reaction to the change in scenery that allowed my creativity to flow and I found myself writing for 10 hours a day for years.

My music has had many outlets from background music to being played during the birth of a child, to the Chemo ward of Carol G. Simon Cancer Center at Morristown, NJ.

There was a time when I was recovering from major surgery and my colleague and compositional teacher lent me a music book of French Carol’s and Gregorian chants from the 16th century. After my recovery and from listening to and playing through the music I was given, I wrote like there was no tomorrow from the source of energy it had given me and ended up creating, Season of the Light- a collection of Advent and Christmas carols, Gregorian chants to 16th Century French and Traditional for voice, trumpet and piano.

Every year during the Holiday Season, I challenge myself to compose a new setting and send as a Seasonal Greeting makes me feel good and my colleagues are always pleasured by the inspiration.

On a lighter side I was asked to play New Age/ classical music for a candlelight dinner affair at the New England Aquarium in Boston, MA. The dinner tables were in a spiral set-up surrounding penguins who were making quite a racket before I began playing. Within 30 minutes you could not hear the penguins anymore and the keepers of the Aquarium became concern and to their surprise found all the penguins either resting, asleep or caressed in another penguins lap…some even looked like they fell in love. So, my music apparently had quite an effect in the almost amusing manner that evening!


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Michael Price

Michael Price

You recently won a Royal Television Society Award and both BAFTA and 2 EMMY nominations for the critically acclaimed BBC series Sherlock which you score with David Arnold. Can you tell us a bit about scoring this work – the highlights? 

Sherlock’s a wonderfully written and performed series, so writing the music is about living up to what’s on screen. David Arnold and I work very closely together and get an awful lot of music written very fast!

You have also written for the Inbetweeners movie. Can you tell us a bit about scoring music for the movie? 

That was another job where we were brought in pretty late to plug a few gaps, and solve a few transitions. It’s a hilarious film, though, so mostly it was about not killing any of the gags.

You started in film music as assistant to the great Michael Kamen over 15 years ago. Can you tell us a bit about working with Michael Kamen ? 

michael was an incredibly spontaneous and generous musician, and I learnt so much about music and life that I’m only just starting to realise now. He’s much missed.

How hard was it starting in the composing industry – is it competitive?  

It’s incredibly difficult to make a full time living composing, and there are wonderful writers like Alexandre Desplat and James Newton Howard at the top of their game at the moment, so it’s as competitive as it’s ever been.

When did you start composing? 

Seriously when I was 19 or 20 years old.

In 2013, you’re hoping to record two new projects, one which is a solo album of instrumental music, and the other a collaboration with Matt Robertson and Manu Delago, both recently extraordinary members of Bjork’s live band – can you tell us a bit about this?

I released a string quartet EP just before Christmas on the wonderful Erased Tapes label, and I’m planning a full album with them, also to come out on vinyl. Then, if I can pin Matt and Manu down in one place for long enough we’re hoping to work together. Matt’s one of my oldest and best friends. I might get them to guest on my album instead, then I can take all the credit!

MP Conducting 8Future aspirations… 

Make music that I love and be happy.

Which computer programme do you use to score your work and why? 

I write in Logic, score in Sibelius and record in Protools. In general I try and use the best specialised tool for the different jobs.

Advice to young composers …

Try and keep connected to the joy of making music, and you never know where you might get to.

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Juan Manuel


Juan Manuel

What motivates you to compose?

Composing is, for me, an inner necessity: music is a fruit of the spirit that can sometimes lead us to the Absolute. When you compose, it becomes possible to fulfill the desire to create a world of your own, a personal microcosm where you set the rules and also make their exceptions. Along with my constant goals, there are everyday events that, providentially, act for me as inspirational triggers: I unconsciously absorb these stimuli before combining them spontaneously into the seed of a musical whole that may not necessarily resemble its primeval components.

Through inspiration, during an ‘inner vision’, one’s mind often hears and sees fragments of a new work before even writing its first note, as if the piece was already finished; knowledge and experience then help me to process them through work and intuition (something that reminds me the way in which alchemy processes the prime matter). And, somehow, this seems to be connected to a sense of duty: one is moved to compose what it needs to be composed (thus, avoiding superfluous initiatives), focusing on oneself as the first listener of a new own piece, but bearing in mind its future audience as well.

How would you describe your music?
My music is a faithful reflection of myself.
Within the frame of classical music, my output embraces many styles, techniques and genres while keeping an inner unity that can be often found in a sonorous discourse which dialogues with past and present towards future. You could say, in Chomskyan terms, that my music tends to manifest itself through varied surface forms which are often derived from a common deep structure. At the same time, some of my compositions are frequently nourished both by elements taken from Argentine folk music and urban dances-which I then incorporate into the classical music I write, often related to Viennese trends due to my relationship with Austria-and concepts like ‘numinous’, ‘anamnesis’, ‘unity in variety’ and ‘union of the opposites’, while containing references to fields that can range from theology to biology. By the use of different approaches and perspectives, including intertextual and ekphrastic ones, as well as by employing new technologies.
I always try to give my music a balance between emotion and thought.
Can you explain a bit about your cultural influences?
UNESCO reaffirmed in 2001 that “culture should be regarded as the set of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual and emotional features of society or a social group, and that it encompasses, in addition to art and literature, lifestyles, ways of living together, value systems, traditions and beliefs”.

Within that context, I have been always exposed to cultural diversities since I came to life, receiving influences from both my family (rooted in the present states of Spain, Italy and France, but recently settled in Argentina) and the countries where I lived and studied: Sweden (where I was born), Switzerland, Spain, Argentina, Italy, Austria, Germany and Poland. At the same time, I must also add to this those influences coming from my multiple objects of study, which I gladly absorbed as a composer, in this case, and not a as researcher (thus, avoiding any possible positivist controversy).

How does cultural influences inspire your music?

I think the way that this happens is mainly due to the interaction of the previously mentioned cultural influences I have received during my life and the generative process related to musical composition I have just described in my answer to your first question.
Are you interested in any particular kind of world music?
 In 1994 Carl Rahkonen stated that “World music means different things to different people […]. It is not Western art music, neither is it mainstream Western folk or popular music. World music can be traditional (folk), popular or even art music, but it must have ethnic or foreign elements”. In that case, I must confess that my interest comprises every possible kind of world music available: from Greenland to Antarctica and Alaska to Kiribati; from the settlements near Mount Everest to those communities close to the Dead Sea. However, in my compositional output you may usually find those elements taken from Argentine folk music and urban dances I previously cited, which I often integrate into my classical music works (as I already said, frequently linked to Viennese trends, given my relationship with Austria) without neglecting, at the same time, those elements coming from the aforementioned different cultures I absorbed.

Simultaneously, I have been always fascinated by some world music historically linked to Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and other religions.

All this explains why some of my works are entitled “Chacarera meets the Puna”, “Pésame (Actus contritionis)”, “Huayno meets the Milonga”, “Pentecostés (Veni Sancte Spiritus) “, “Chacarera endebussyada”, “De coelesti hierarchia”, “Chacarera beatboxera”, “Dialogos between Moses, Demosthenes, Virgil and Turing”, “Milonga meets Malambo”, etc.

Who has influenced you as a composer and why?

A considerable source of influences came directly from the composers I studied with during my studies and courses at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, Krakow Academy of Music, ‘Manuel de Falla’ Superior Conservatoire of Music Buenos Aires and other institutions: Krzysztof Penderecki, Kurt Schwertsik, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Helmut Lachenmann, Wolfgang Rihm and Roberto García Morillo, among others.

Other classical music influences came through some of the many composers whose works I have studied, conducted, played and listened to: from medieval plainchant to current contemporary pieces of different trends, passing through Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Romantic and 20th-century music. And, within this context, I must also mention the influences I also received from some folk and popular (including film) music I have been in contact with. All the influences I referred to previously were absorbed by me during a natural process of interaction; I consider them beneficial to me and hold them in esteem.
ABRAS-Photo-3You won the Grafimuse Prize (Brussels, 2011). Can you tell us a bit about this prize?
The Grafimuse Prize (Lachert Foundation Brussels, Deposito dei segni) is the latest of more than a dozen awards and scholarships that, thank God, I have won during the last decade (three of them in Vienna, Austria). Its artistic director was Piotr Lachert, the jury was headed by Joerg Gruenert and its organizers (IRIC Thracica was one of the partner organizations of the competition) stated that the “first contest/festival of Grafimuse is open to all musicians around the world, professionals and students, of all ages. The purpose of the contest is the creation of two-dimensional works of visual art”. The “winning works will be printed […] and will be exhibited in the following places: Chieti, Fermo, Kraków, Pescara, Sambuceto, Santos, Sofia, and Warsaw. During this exhibition, concerts/artistic happenings (instrumental, dance, vocal, and movement) will take place using the winning entries. The works will be treated as sources of artistic inspiration for improvisation, as well as graphic scores”.
Can you tell us a bit about your current composing?
I am currently working on a ‘birthday’ piece for the Ensemble Aleph (France), whose members kindly asked the composers who took part in the several editions of their International Forum for Young Composers (Program Culture 2000 of the European Union) to compose a work to celebrate the ensemble’s 30th anniversary, a composition which will be premiered in Paris during June 2013 at the Théâtre Dunois. At the same time, I am sketching a new concerto while giving shape to a number of symphonic, choral and solo works which are planned to be premiered during 2013-14 in Europe and the Americas. Last but not least, I also keep on working on various pieces related to one of my two ongoing PhDs at the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina.
Any exciting plans for 2013?

Yes! God willing, moving back to Europe, where I was born and raised, to continue there my work and studies as composer, conductor and researcher. However, in order to do so, I must call a halt to my teaching activities in Argentina, where I hold five chairs, in total, as Professor at the National University of Lanús (Techniques and Chamber Music of the 20th-Century) and the Superior Conservatoire of Music of the City of Buenos Aires ‘Astor Piazzolla’ (Analysis, Performance Practice, Contemporary Stylistics, Classical-Romantic Stylistics); and the same applies to my activity as researcher at the ‘Carlos Vega’ Institute for Musicological Research of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina. Nevertheless, I hope that going back to the Old World will contribute to consolidate and widen my current international career. May God grant it!

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Kareem Roustom


photo credit: Elias Roustom

What motivates you to compose? 

I’d have to say that the musicians for whom I’m writing a piece for are a very motivating factor.  It is very difficult for me to write a piece of music in the abstract, without a performance date or no person in particular.  When I connect with a performer and begin to understand what makes him/her excited and challenged and we can share that energy, that is very motivating.  Also, the setting of the premiere can also motivate.  Perhaps the most motivating factor is a deadline.

The other motivating factor is simply trying to get “it” right.

Composers are, by nature of their craft, tinkerers. Like watch makers always working with intricate parts trying to make the watch tick accurately but also being pleasing to the senses.  The ever elusive target of achieving fine craftsmanship, is also a motivation.

Lastly, it is simply feeling a need to say something with the utmost sincerity.  If I cannot find that feeling at the outset of writing something, it is very likely that the piece won’t see a final bar line.

These are my motivating factors for concert music.  In film, if the project is inspiring it is easy to move forward and find the right motivation.  When the film is not so good, that becomes more difficult.  Luckily, it has been a long time since I’ve experienced this difficulty.

How would you describe your music?

This is also a difficult question, as whatever I might think of it may not have any relation to what someone hears. 

I suppose it is fair to say that my music has roots in Arabic music but has branches that can go in any number of directions.

Here is one example of Arabic music roots but with a very free harmonic interpretation  <>

Here is an example of a very traditional type of writing based on a folk dance called Dabke’ <>

Do you have a preference? Film work? Concert hall or television?

I really enjoy the variety. However, concert music is the only place where I feel I can ask the really big and difficult questions in life.

It is one of the few creative outlets where I feel I am able to meditate on and contemplate the human condition in a thoughtful and mindful manner.  The constraints of commercial music (stylistic demands, deadlines, budgets etc.) aren’t there.  There is a great deal of freedom in concert music, but that freedom can also be intimidating.  Film, however, allows for a composer’s work to reach a large audience and if the film and the music have a really good synergy, it can be a very rewarding artistic experience.

Can you explain a bit about your cultural influences? How does cultural influences inspire your music? Are you interested in any particular kind of world music?

I was born and raised in Damascus, Syria and then moved to the USA for 7th grade on.  In the last decade and half, or more, I’ve been actively trying to find a way to make meaningful and thoughtful connections with the music of the Arab world, specifically the Near East. For a time that meant performing traditional and Classical Arabic music at the highest level available to me in the USA.

I’ve since moved on to really think deeply about how this music, and culture, moves me and inspires me. My work is based on finding ways to incorporate these elements into my writing in a natural way.

Rather than add these elements as a mere spice to be sprinkled on the top of the meal, I like to have these elements be part of the broth, so to speak.  In other words, I will use these elements for the foundation of a work rather than just as a coloristic after thought.

My background also includes jazz and concert music as well as a lot of other styles of music.  One has to be flexible to survive so I’ve had to wear many stylistic hats.  At times though, people want to paint my work into one corner, or say that I’m not a serious (for lack of a better term) composer because I’ve worked with artists like Shakira.  I’ve confronted this attitude from both concert music performers, other composers and non-musicians.  There still seems to be a habit to Orientalize composers or musicians who come from the Arab world. However, those performers who have taken the time to learn and perform my music have always given me very positive feedback, whether students in a university choir or world class performers like clarinetists Kinan Azmeh or Ricardo Morales.

To demonstrate what I’ve been talking/writing about, here is example taken from my chamber piece Buhur (2008).  The work is based on the poetic meters of classical Arabic poetry (called Buhur).  My goal was to see if I could re-imagine poetic meter as musical meter and this, the final movement of the work, is the result <>.

Another example is Abu Jmeel’s Daughter, which is based on a folk tale.  Here the, musical language supports the drama of the text and there are elements of Arabic folk music, avant-garde writing techniques and even influences of Ravel.  The piece was originally co-commissioned by a French ensemble so I suppose that just came through at times.  <>

Who has influenced you as a composer and why?

Anything in life can be an influence to a composer.  I suppose that this is what it means to aspire to be an artist, the we have to respond to things and people around us. I aspire to always do this with sincerity and with craft.  That said, I’m drawn to traditional music from the Arab world and beyond.

As far as Western classical music the work of Benjamin Britten is a constant source of inspiration, as is that of Witold Lutoslawski, Henryk Gorecki and many other Eastern European composers. Somehow, I find much more depth their music than in what a lot of what is happening in America these days. I suppose I’m drawn to the drama, the angst and the dazzling colors in their works.

The music of Giya Kancheli and Valdimir Martynov have also been very inspirational to me of late.  Of course, there is a wide range of other music from the Arab world (the songs of Umm Kulthum for instance) that is a constant source for inspiration.  Over the years I’ve also been involved with Early Music and I love exploring those sounds as well and finding the early connections between the East and West.

Can you tell us a bit about your current composing projects? Any exciting plans for 2013?

I’m very excited, and challenged, by a commission project to write a work for three string quartets: the Kronos Quartet, the Providence String Quartet and the latter’s students at the amazing Community Music Works program in Providence, R.I. USA (<http://www.>). The work is being commissioned by CMW and will be premiered in November of 2013.  Also in the works for 2013 is some piano music: a sextet for clarinet, piano and string quartet as well as some solo piano pieces that I’ve been wanting to write for some time.  These last two projects are still in development so I’ll announce them as soon as they’ve been finalized.  I recently completed a work for solo cello and solo clarinet.  These are shorter (about 6 to 8 minutes) pieces that are part of a series of pieces I’m writing as reflections on the ongoing war in Syria.

In June of 2010 you were awarded a fellowship to the prestigious Sundance Film Composers Lab held annually at the Sundance Institute. Can you tell us a bit about this and what it meant to you?

This was such an honor and a really fun and rewarding experience.  It is very difficult to get into this program so I was very excited, after applying for several years, to be accepted.  The program provides an opportunity for composers who are interested in film to compose music for various film cues and to have this work critiqued and guided by established film composers from Los Angeles and elsewhere.  The setting, the mountains of Utah, was stunning but most of our time was spent in little trailers writing into the wee hours of the night.  It was just a wonderful time and I was able to make some good friends in the process.

Kareem Roustom

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David Ianni

  The Composer – Part2

Are there any issues in the world of music composition that you feel strongly about?

In my early teens I used to be frustrated that contemporary music apparently had to be atonal and cacophonous to be taken seriously. At first I thought that the musicians and critics who seem to enjoy this kind of music are crazy. Or are they fooling the world? Later I assumed that something was wrong with me, since I simply could not understand the “art” of Stockhausen or Boulez for example. But then I realised that it is not my job to “judge” other people’s music or tastes, but to develop my own style and express my musical, emotional and spiritual values through my music, regardless of the styles that are en vogue.

I remember that getting to know the work of Arvo Pärt was a liberating experience for me during that period. His music helped me to understand that a diversity of musical styles is the new reality of contemporary music. There is still a place and a need for tonal beauty in music. David Ianni – Afterthought – SoundCloud – Listen to David’s work!

Can you tell us more about your new album “Prayers of Silence” that will be released in 2013?

My new album will include 15 piano pieces that I have composed over the last five years. As the title suggests, these are mostly quiet and meditative compositions, which revolve around the notion that the mother of all music is silence. The opening piece is called “Obsculta”, the Latin word for “listen”. Didn’t you once twitter about Alfred Brendel’s astute observation that “listen” and “silent” contain the same letters? Even if it is a coincidence, I feel that there is a strong connection between listening and silence, and they are the foremost requirements for music to exist. My music attempts to offer the listener a moment of inner silence and clarity. At its centre, my “Prayers of Silence” are a musical reflection of the evanescence and preciousness of life. 

Whose work do you admire as a composer and why?

I could name a hundred influential personalities that shaped my musical path, but I will limit myself to three outstanding musicians of our time. Being a composer-pianist, Leonard Bernstein has been a great inspiration for me. His music is complex, well crafted and accessible at the same time. As a performer and teacher, he brought the gift of music to millions of people. Then there is John Williams, who even at age eighty draws one immortal melody after the other from the aether as if he were picking cherries from a tree. I have always loved his music. Third on today’s list is Eric Whitacre. His way to reach out to his audience is quite amazing. Whitacre has done a lot for choral music, one of the purest and most beautiful art forms. Classical music will never be mainstreamed, but it is very important to make it accessible to as many people as possible.

It always makes me happy to see young people being moved by beautiful music. Isn’t it wonderful that music can change a life? Every time a musician touches a soul, there must be an angel in heaven rejoicing and praising God’s glory.

Click here to read Part One of interview 

Want to listen to his music? Check out his YouTube channel here

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David Ianni

(PART 1)

What motivates you to play piano?

My love for music has shaped my whole life, and it literally draws me to the piano almost every day.

I think about music most of the time, I hear music in my head, even if I am not playing the piano or listening to music. Music is holy to me and I consider it a blessing to be able to play the music by the great masters and to compose my own music.

What motivates you to compose? 

Performing classical music is a wonderful thing, and I couldn’t live without it. However, since I started to play the piano, there has also been this strong urge to create my own music. I wanted to play a kind of music that I could not find in piano literature, so I made it up myself.

My music tries to express the deepest and nameless realms of my soul. There is a sacred space of peace inside every person. I suppose that this sphere of the human interior is a common experience to every human being. That’s why people can connect to my music quite easily. There is a sense of yearning and of fulfillment at the same time.

In essence I feel that my music is prayer. If it helps my listener to communicate with God (or whatever they may call their Creator), I will feel myself all the more richly rewarded.

When did you start composing and why?

I learned to play the piano at nine and started to compose at the same time. It came very naturally. I knew that I wanted to be a composer. Improvising was not enough for me: I was fascinated by the architecture of music and I wanted to evolve and refine my musical ideas in a way that is only possible through composition. The marriage between content and form in music is absolutely fascinating. The emotional impact that music has on us, does not only come through melody and harmony, but mainly through its structure.

The musical ideas that I first hear when I write a new piece, are always part of a bigger architecture, and it is my mission as a composer to “discover” the whole piece. Usually beautiful and perfect proportions will reveal themselves if I only work and listen long enough.

David Ianni




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Carol Comune

Carol Comune


I have been attracted to the piano since I was 3 years old.  I am still mesmerized by the sounds, touch, repertoire and the ability to express one’s sentiments, passions and love all in one.

The piano has been my vocation…when I play all is well…I love the everlasting involvement of endless possibilities, and striving for the best I can be.  At the age of 8, I discovered I had the ability to compose.  It was then that I had experienced great pain through my father’s eyes when his Uncle died.  I didn’t know how to deal with this emotion and in a spontaneous way I composed a piece intuitively and my father was very comforted by its effect.

Music is continuously playing in my head, and I find myself up late at night finding music to read through and thinking about striving for beautiful sounds…evoking emotions…nuances…and how the music transcends and affects me.


 Who has influenced you as a pianist the most? (could be a teacher, friend, another pianist or family member)


There are so many people that have been involved in my journey.  First and utmost, my mother and father.  I am from an Italian background so music was in our lives all the time, from the Met Opera House that played on the radio every Saturday morning to Neapolitan songs, classical piano, records of Toscanni conducting Beethoven symphonies, Sousa Marches, Ray Charles, the Beatles, Broadway shows and even scores from Disney.

My father always played “Clair de Lune” in the evening when my mother was pregnant with me and to this day it still has a peaceful effect on me, whether I am playing or listening to it.

My piano teacher Mme. Yvonne Combe from The French School of Music, Plainfield, NJ was a very prominent person in the development of me as a pianist.  She was always very meticulous and detail oriented.  She would have such lovely stories and presentations on the music I would learn to play, and she would always reward me with incentives to practice for consistent perfect lessons.  We were always reminded that we came from great teachers that included Franz Liszt and Claude Debussy.

I continued my studies at New England Conservatory with many talented teachers/musicians, especially my mentor and concert pianist Anthony di Bonaventura, a master teacher of international stature and a pupil of the celebrated Russian teacher Madame Isabelle Vengerova.   I was always in awe of his stories about his studies with her at Curtis Institute.  For 2 years I relearned how to approach the piano through the teachings of Vengerova.  I remember when I finally understood the concept that this technique Anthony was teaching me would have a rippling effect in my life through my performances, teaching, students, and relationships in a profound way.  I was more than willing to accept this intriguing process and through discipline and Anthony’s patience I have thrived in every possible way with my playing and areas in my life.

I will always be grateful in hearing recitals of phenomenal pianists like Horowitz, Alicia de Larrocha, and great jazz musicians like George Shearing and saxophonist Grover Washington.  The one thing they all had in common, was there artistic ability to perform with great expression in their special beautiful voice that was compelling, musical and moving. Other great mentors in my life include: Jean Stackhouse, piano pedagogy; Lorna Cooke DeVaron, choir conductor; Donald Waxman and Dianne Rahbee, composition; David McCord, poetry.


Earliest memory involving piano playing?


-Performing John Thompson’s arrangement of Liszt’s Hungarian Rhapsody at a church recital with enthusiasm (the popular one used in Looney Tunes with Sylvester the Cat).

-At Christmas time, I would accompany our large Italian family while they sang Christmas carols around the piano.

-Being accepted at The French School of Music with a scholarship for Piano and Solfege.


Proudest career moments? 

There have been many proud moments in my career as a performer, composer, teacher, and entrepreneur.

Some of my most memorable ones were: receiving 1st place in “agility competitions” at the French School of Music as a child; performing piano concerto “Aubade” by Poulenc with the New England Conservatory’s Wind Ensemble and Carl Atkins conducting in Jordan Hall, Boston; purchasing my very own Steinway piano; my recordings aired on National and Commercial Radio with worldly distribution; my classical solo recitals being aired on NPR; performing at Lincoln Center; my original composition “Suite from Sleeping Beauty” featured at River’s 30th Contemporary Seminar, MA; Presentation at NEC’s Intensive Pedagogy weekend and performing our compositions “Gealyn and Me” with my daughter, Gealyn, when she was just six years old; my students becoming winners of competitions; performing in Steinway Hall, NYC; having my music played on the NBC Today Show; and becoming a Steinway Artist .


In your opinion, what are the most important qualities in a great pianist?


When I listen to a pianist I am in awe of the ones who take me on a journey that is full of excitement, drama, inspiration and evoking emotions.  I love to loose myself in the music.  Instead of hearing a piano, it should be an extension of the performer that communicates with depth and perception for the listener to hear and feel.  A great pianist not only has great technique but is convincing with their intentions and intelligence of the music. I want to hear a beautiful tone through sensitive expression with breath and a great sense of rhythm.


The biggest challenge you have overcome (in piano playing)?

For me, the biggest challenge that I have overcome has been learning to control my nerves before a performance, which seems to be an ongoing process, and yet there are always so many more that just happen and need to be redefined.

Any tips to aspiring concert pianists?

Perform and accompany singers, instrumentalists and learn to breathe with your music.  Find your own voice and study as much repertoire as possible including chamber music and concertos. Go to all kinds of concerts from orchestral to broadway and experience life in different places.

(Also, any extra comments are greatly welcomed – about anything in piano playing you feel strongly about!! )

I can’t imagine living life without music, I hear it, sleep it, and live it.  I can honestly say that my enthusiasm and passion for it never ends and I continue wanting to learn all I can.  It brings me such joy and I am grateful when I know that I have made a difference and touched someone with my compositions and performances.


“Carol Comune an American composer, pianist and teacher, has recently written a six movement piano suite based on the enchanting Sleeping Beauty tale and doubly gratifying in that the work is so imaginative and colorful.” 

Donald Waxman, composer and pianist 

Galaxy Music Corporation a division of ECS Publishing 



Filed under Composers, Interviews