Filtering by Category: Career

Social Media Evens the Playing Field?

Added on by Jasmine Jones.

Van writes:

Hi Greg,

What if someone cannot get a position in teaching? No network of composing, no network of performing? What should they do? Do you have any suggestions of where to start for a pianist?

Hello Van,

If you don’t yet have a solid portfolio of compositions or a lot of performing experience, a good first step might be to start posting what you do have online. The Internet has made the music world a largely democratic place. With an effective online presence, you can attract an audience and build support quickly, especially if the right people find and take an interest in your music. Previously “the right people” were a select group of influencers specific to the classical music world (recording industry executives, managers, etc.), whereas these days that group has expanded to practically anyone with a huge social media following. So start getting yourself and your music out there! If your music strikes a chord with the masses, a viral video could be all it takes to get the ball rolling in the right direction.


Personal Authenticity in Entrepreneurial Activities

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hi Greg,
I am a member of a Scottish Music Society and we are hoping to help young classical artists of great get their name in front of those that can help them launch their career. It seems to me a very crowded and ultra competitive market and that "mere" talent is a commodity. It is in the "other stuff" that positive differentiation has its best chance. I am considering doing videos for them in the vein that you have pioneered. Any advice? regards,
  - Keir Smart

Hi Keir,

I always cringe a little when I read messages like this, as if I made the Ligeti video to help my career -- or the Piazzolla, Mozart, or Moonlight videos -- or any of the videos for that matter (...besides the blatantly promotional Anderson & Roe promo video, of course)! These videos were inspired by an inner necessity: in the case of the Ligeti video, my desire to to make the angular, dissonant music relatable to non-classical audiences; in the case of the Piazzolla videos, to highlight the charged chemistry, the physical friction, and that element of danger so inherent in Piazzolla's tangos; in the case of the Mozart video, to visually communicate the joyful dialogue between the two piano parts; in the case of the Moonlight video, to inspire YouTube users to watch music performances from an aesthetic point of view and NOT a critical point of view. And knowing these videos would be watched by an inattentive, distracted audience, we presented the material very differently than we would have for an audience in a quiet auditorium.

All of that said, the videos have been extremely helpful in enhancing my solo and duo careers -- but I think people respond to the videos because they came from an honest place. Likewise, audiences react differently to authentic, honest music making than they do to insincere, self-promoting music making.

If you are helping young musicians start their careers, I advise you to try a different approach. Instead of starting backwards ("the videos worked for Greg, so let's make similar videos"), start from the foundation -- from the artist himself or herself. Find what really makes a musician tick, and go from there. Perhaps a pianist really loves the most serious repertoire -- a YouTube music video of Beethoven's "Hammerklavier" sonata would be a terrible idea because it's not suited to the medium; likewise, a showy Brahms hungarian dance music video would be a terrible idea because it wouldn't represent the artist. Rather, consider new ways to energize both the artist and the music he or she loves: perhaps the "Hammerklavier" would benefit from a different mode of performance. The piece is epic, and to think it existed within the mind of a deaf genius! What if you developed a mode of performance that emphasized Beethoven's isolation from the world ... and at that point in his life, his closeness to God? An empty church seems to perfectly capture that twisted sense of isolation and spiritual intensity. You could charge $5,000 for a single ticket to the performance, a one-on-one experience with the "Hammerklavier" -- the pianist and the sole audience member in an otherwise empty church. That could be pretty powerful.

Try considering a "new-music" advocate on for size instead. Pretend your artist wants to present a piano piece by Wuorinen. To me, his music sounds so haphazard and jagged; I could envision a wild concert experience in which the audience was in a warehouse. Imagine each person taking a couple shots (yes, of alcohol) at the start of the event (is there any other way to listen to Wuorinen??). Now imagine each audience member being given a huge canvas and materials (crayons, buckets of paint, wet cement, or whatever!) and some instructions. When the pianist begins performing the piece, the audience completely lets loose and creates individual (or communal) works of art as dictated by the piece of music. My canvas would look like a no-holds-barred explosion. This experience would be tremendously exciting and memorable! I'd literally be "living" Wuorinen's music, and I'd never listen to his music the same again. The piece performed by the pianist would be indelibly etched in my mind. I think it would have the power to be a profoundly moving artistic experience.

These ideas could enhance the communicative potential of the music, *and* they would probably generate a bit of publicity, which seems to be your goal. Consider this "ground-up" method, and see what you can construct for your artists!!

- Greg (Oct. 23, 2009)

Lime Light / Electric vs. Acoustic Pianos

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I was wondering how the lime light and how fans affect your piano playing and your day to day life. Like does the press and or fans ever make a big deal out of small meaningless things or issues unrelated to music that cause you to loose fans or for people to become more interested in the hoopla than your piano playing. I was just curious because my little cousin absolutly adores piano. I just started last year and am self taught, but I encouraged him to begin piano and he is inlove with the instrument. I'm genuinly impressed with his ability he picks up on things fast being able to see patterns in music right from the start. The hardest thing he can play at the moment is a simplifide version of Bach's toccata and fugue in D minor which excludes certain parts but I still had some trouble playing it. Anyway I wanted to ask you if people give you alot of attention or shit for things you don't want attention for or would prefer it not distracting from your skill since my cousin has a sensitivity issue where all of his nerves are hypersensitive so he cant wear certain cloths, be around certain noises ect (which may explain his versatility at piano with his really sensitive ear) and hes kinda shy about talking about his sensitivity issue. One more question. I am going to college this year and obviously can not afford the space or money for a piano in my dorm should I invest in a nice keyboard or would playing a half hour in a practice room every few days be enough to prevent my skill from atrophying.
 - Raiko

Dear Raiko,

I'll answer your easy question first -- if you can afford to buy a nice, weighted keyboard, go ahead! I love my Yamaha P90 and use it often. (This is the only time you'll hear me endorsing a non-Steinway piano.) :-)

The other question is interesting, but my response is similarly simple. Classical musicians do not suffer from the same sorts of celebrity invasion as pop musicians. Only rarely does anybody recognize me on the street. I can't imagine that strangers will start gossiping about your cousin's sex life or something similar (unless he becomes the next Martha Argerich).

Upon reflection... I suppose there are some whispers shared about Liz and me -- people are still trying to figure out the nature of our relationship. (I'm gay; she's straight; we're just good friends!) But we don't care what others think. We'd rather be our honest, authentic selves than try to shape the opinions of others. We'd rather direct our attention to more important matters -- giving a great performance! If extraneous details turn people off -- or bring in a crowd -- who cares! We're having a great time at the piano.

- Greg (October 23, 2009)

Career Advice

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Dear Greg,
I need an honest response. I'm 18 and I've been studying piano for a year and a half. My teacher studied at the Moscow Conservatory of music in Russia under Erina Smorodinova who was a student of Emil Gilels and he is incredibly talented. My first piece was a 3-movement sonatina by Clementi and I learned that in 2 months from scratch (No prior knowledge of piano or music at ALL) then I learned prelude No. 15 (Raindrop) by Chopin and mastered that within 3 months. I play both well and with much emotion. I am currently learning the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C sharp minor and I already can play two pages within a couple days. My question is what are the odds that I could make it as a concert pianist and under what circumstances. Keep in mind that my teacher continually drills exercises and other technical practices at the piano so that I am not simply attempting pieces that I have no hope of playing.
 - John

Dear John,

I started the piano when I was eight years old, and believe it or not, that was pretty old compared to my Juilliard classmates! Learning to play the piano is not unlike learning a foreign language - it's a lot easier when you are young. And similar to learning a language, its a skill that takes years upon years to master. By the time I was 18, I had spent 10 years practicing 2 - 6 hours every day, and I still had a lot to learn (and I still do!); when I went to college, I practiced even more.

The honest answer: it's very unlikely that you'll "make it" as a concert pianist, just as it is unlikely that Juilliard graduates will make it professionally as concert pianists. It's possible, but very, very unlikely. You have to love it enough to withstand setback after setback. That said, pianists have so many different roles in society other than that of a "concert pianist," roles that are important and deserve your consideration: music teacher, educational outreach performer, accompanist, composer, arranger, music series director, artistic director, researcher, choir conductor and organizer, music therapist, chamber musician, administrator, or my favorite: amateur. It's those pianists that are a part of society - pianists who aren't estranged on a stage - who really have the opportunity to make a profound difference in an individual's life in a personal way. If you really do love music, you will find a way to share it with people, regardless of your ability.

Best wishes!

- Greg

Going Pro Late

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hello Greg!,
You are such an inspiration for me! I've been playing piano since i was 8 and i am now 13 years old. Just a couple months back, I was thinking about my future, and I finally decided that I wanted to become a professional pianist. I know it would take a lot of dedication and time, but I have decided that once I get out of High School I am also going to be a Lawyer or Doctor, and I plan to make time for piano. I dont know how well that would go, because my mother does not approve of me becoming a professional, so she won't let me attend Julliard. So, do you have any advice to give me?..Do you think I would be able to become a professional after years more of training? I mean, I would like to perform, but not to big audiences and not at concerts...just at small things like Church, or weddings or such. I do not plan to travel the world and spread my piano playing. My teacher has told me that for the last two years i have been playing extraordinarily well! and he says that he is proud of me for that, but do you think with all my lawyer and doctor stuff that i'll still be able to become a professional? Once again, I dont want to be known worldwide or nationally..i just want to have the ability to play the most advanced piano pieces...thank you Greg! I hope you reply to this message!
 - Catherine

Dear Catherine,

Wow! You have big plans! ... a doctor, a lawyer, a musician! Good for you. The description you provided in your question sounds entirely reasonable. Unlike becoming a pianist, becoming a doctor or a lawyer does not require decades and decades of training. In other words, you can start training to be a doctor when you're 30, and you can still make a career out of it; it is highly improbable that someone could start playing the piano at age 30 and make concertizing their career.

I know dozens of medical and law students at Yale who majored in music before coming to Yale -- no pre-med degrees, no science degrees, no political science degrees before coming -- just music degrees. The medical school at Yale is so supportive of music that they have a full symphony orchestra; they had over 200 medical students and residents audition for the orchestra last year!

Practice hard and have fun. There is no need to stress out; with your goals, you should be able to do it all.

- Greg (Oct. 25, 2009)

My Class

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hi Greg!
I have stumbled upon a BBC documentary called "Imagine Being a Concert Pianist" and it features your piano class of 2004. From what I've understood from your teacher, Veda Kaplinsky, who is also featured in the documentary, every student in your class was (is) an exceptional talent however, she could not teach any of you how to become an artist, because the making of an artist has nothing to do with your teacher, regardless of which top-tier school you're going to. I'm not really sure what she meant but out of curiosity I looked up a few people from your graduating class and, with your exception, couldn't find much - does that mean that all these exceptional students could not find the "artist within" despite years of exceptional musical training? I see you found your path as an artist but I was wondering what happened to the rest of the bunch? I am quite aware that statistically, the chance for every piano student to be a concert pianist is very slim so I'm just curious what happens to an exceptional student who received an exceptional education yet did not have the making of an artist. Thank you so much and good luck!
 - Andrea

Hi Andrea,

I'm so proud of my piano class! Here's a quick rundown of the current activities of the other 14 members of my undergraduate piano class of 2004:

  • Brian, Hitomi, Joo-yeon, Teddy: still in school, working on their doctorate or artist diploma degrees in piano performance (they are performing and/or teaching as well!)
  • ChenXin: performing and teaching, director of NY Music & Arts
  • Elizabeth (my lovely piano duo partner): performing and teaching - and
  • Greg and Melody: touring and recording regularly as members of The 5 Browns -
  • Helen: performing and teaching - wikipedia
  • Hilary: Ah! Not sure what she's up to. Let me know, Hilary!
  • James: member of Les Deux
  • Michael: performing and teaching
  • Orion: performing -
  • Rui: performing and teaching

(If I've misrepresented any of you on this list, please let me know!)

- Greg (Nov. 6, 2009)

Dealing With Acoustics

Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hello Greg,
How do you cope with different pianos and acoustics at various venues? Any advice on that? Is it reasonable to expect one to be able to give a splendid performance on a totally new instrument with little time to try it out - if it's even a decent instrument!!
- candidmanc

Dear Candidman,

Great question! Varying concert hall acoustics (wet, dry, bad projection, misleading dynamics, etc.) and pianos (heavy action, light action, uneven action, bass-heavy, weak sound, etc.) can make for some pretty horrifying experiences as a concert pianist!

Interestingly enough, the unpredictability of it all bothers me less and less with each performing experience. What's important -- what really matters -- is that I connect with the audience. Most of the time, audience members could care less about uneven articulation or bass-heavy performance, and if I dwell on the pitfalls of the circumstances too long, I lose the ability to deliver a truly engaging performance.

Having said that, of course I adopt to the particulars of the venue: more pedal in dry acoustics, slower tempos in wet acoustics, nicer tone on harsh pianos, etc. But none of this is particularly intentional or thought out. Whenever I'm performing, I do my best to *listen* to the music I'm creating -- I listen, rather than rely on any practice room plan. This ability to live in the moment completely shapes my performance and keeps the music spontaneous, and as an added perk I'm continually reacting to any conditions related to the venue or the piano.

Happy adapting!

- Greg (Oct. 23, 2009)


Added on by Greg Anderson.
Hi Greg,
I just became a fan of yours a couple of minutes ago after watching your utube videos. I myself studied piano for 9 years, and particularly enjoyed your Mozart and Ligeti interpretations as you really seemed focussed into it. I only have a comment to make, why don't you play alone more often? I liked the girl Roe, but to be honest I think you are the star.
 - Yellow Butterfly

Hi Yellow Butterfly,

Thank you for the kind words. Regarding la lovely, literary, limber, lyrical Liz... she's awesome. We have so much fun together, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Liz and I both bring something completely unique to the table -- and by "completely unique," I mean "completely unique." I wouldn't be where I am today without her in my life. We're totally different people with a similar mission, a love for music, and a fondness for each other. Because of the mutual respect we hold for each other's differences, our time together is zany, spontaneous, and joyous. And because of our differences, our projects explode in directions neither of us could have ever imagined as individuals. There is no "star;" we're a team.

I have not abandoned my solo career. Nor has Liz. We're multi-faceted people with many passions, and we consider the breadth of our careers to be a blessing. Who knows what to expect next? We simply love knowing that we're free to do what we want.

- Greg (March 7, 2010)