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. Through 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…
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.
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?
I 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!