Tag Archives: Carol Comune

Carol Comune

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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, about.me. 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 about.me, 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…

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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 card..it 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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Carol Comune

Carol Comune

Motivation…

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

 http://www.carolcomune.com/ 

 

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