October 26, 2008

Dallas Sights & Sounds

DALLAS, TX | Just having a little fun! Nice people, nice city.

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The Joy of Lifelong Learning

PLANO, TX | Margaret Brothers is a huge fan of and is a longtime member in Plano, Texas. One of the greatest musical inspirations in her life was her private teacher, a famed pianist Sascha Gorodnitzki, then a Juilliard faculty. In this interview Margaret shares her cherished memories of lessons learned, a tradition she hands down to her own students.


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From Houston to Fort Worth, a Success Story

FORT WORT, TX | Laurie Lee Cosby is a longtime Member. Three years ago Laurie moved from Houston to Fort Worth, Texas and quickly established a thriving private voice studio. An accomplished performer Laurie moves with ease between classical and commercial genres. In this interview we also touch on the subject of working with teenage students.


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October 24, 2008

Dallas Street Scenes

Dallas is perfectly beautiful on a warm fall day. While shooting video interviews with Dallas/Fort Worth area Members, I took a little break in downtown Dallas. Here are some photos from Historical and Arts Districts.

Lunch time. When in Texas ...


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October 22, 2008

... from music capital of Los Angeles

Oksana Kolesnikova shares this message:
PRIVATE LESSONS  Piano Lessons Los Angeles CA  Oksana Kolesnikova - Piano Teacher Los Angeles Thank you for creating such a wonderful website that - for a change - delivers what it promises and doesn`t leave you empty-handed. - Oksana Kolesnikova

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October 18, 2008

Peter Hilliard on Writing Musical Theatre

A longtime Member Peter Hilliard is a prolific musician who is a singer, pianist, conductor, arranger, composer and a dedicated teacher. As a composer he is equally at home in songwriting, opera and musical theatre writing. Some of Peter’s works for stage include Going Down Swingin’, Don Imbroglio - An Opera You Can't Refuse, The Brazilian, The Filthy Habit, and works in progress A Schooling in Love and Empty Plate In the Café du Grand Boeuf.

You have a longtime working partnership with a librettist. How do you decide on a subject of a particular musical theatre work?
Matt Boresi and I believe in having source material for all our work; nothing we do is ever completely ‘original’. Usually we base our shows on existing plays, operas, or historical events. Sometimes we start with a genre idea, and then flesh it out, for example, The Brazilian began when we wanted to write an Offenbach-style opera comique. Then we spent some time looking for a short French farce to adapt, and we found the perfect one. Our current musical is an adaptation of Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte, and it’s our third Mozart-DaPonte homage. The story is updated to a high school, and it’s a screwball comedy. Basing our work on existing material gives us a framework to go from, and an idea of where to begin.

Many composers have performers in mind as they craft roles. Do you write for specific people or specific types of voices/actors?

I suppose some people don’t write to a specific voice, but I think that’s a mistake. If you don’t write to a specific instrument, you’ll wind up writing all the songs for your own voice, which is pretty tiresome to listen to. We’re actually very specific about this. Matt and I go through the parts and dream-cast them. If it’s an opera, I say to myself, “this part is going to be Bryn Terfel, this is going to be Natalie Dessay,” and so forth. Then we listen and re-familiarize ourselves with the core repertoire of those performers and find out as best we can what those voices do well. And then we write. With a musical it’s the same, only we pick musical theatre actors or popular singers. The current show has roles for Melissa Etheridge and Laura Bell Bundy in it. They’ll never play those parts, of course, but the material is suited to their type. Musical theatre has types just as clearly as Opera has its fach categorization, there’s just not a common nomenclature. Incidentally, I’m pretty sure this was Mozart’s way of doing things too. He would write the arias at the end, after he’d met the singers, and I believe he compared it to fitting a suit to a buyer.

Compare the approach to writing a musical theatre work and an opera.

They are equally rigorous, but somewhat different in approach. An opera normally allows you far better singers, and the training an opera singer gets allows you to write very difficult music and have it come off well. In musical theatre, I’m sad to say, you are less likely to find the technical command of the instrument or the musical knowledge to work out difficult rhythms and harmonies. On the plus side, though, you are likely to find better actors. In both cases, one has to decide on a sound-world for the piece, but in musical theatre, that world is more likely to be a world of popular music. Going Down Swingin’ was a piece set in 1956, so that score was supposed to sound like the Great American Songbook, with a little rock in there. Our new musical has more rock and pop in the mix. So I spend a lot of time listening to music in the style of the piece I’m writing. When I write opera, I actually have far more freedom to mix genre and come up with my own hybrids. For me, opera exists in a place that is less culturally referential. It can really be all about what this character needs to sing at this moment. A musical is to some extent about style in addition to everything else.

If you come up with a great tune while walking in the park, what is the first thing you do?

Sing it to myself. I sing it over and over, and improvise on it, then I forget it. Brahms said something to the effect that if he had a tune that occurred to him and he had no time to write it down, he would deliberately force it out of his mind. He believed that it would come back if it was worth anything, and that it might come back better. That’s generally how I feel about it too.

Generally, do you compose at a desk, at the piano, or using a computer?

I rarely compose at a desk. I need the piano to work out the sorts of harmonies I prefer. If that was good enough for Stravinsky, it’s good enough for me. I usually run a circuit between the piano and the computer, playing and then notating. When I’m really strapped for time, it’s just the computer and me, but I find when I actually play it on an acoustic instrument, the ideas are better formed. The computer suggests things to you that don’t sound as good when you actually do them. I use Finale 2008. I’ve known it for years, and it’s like an old friend that drives me nuts occasionally.

What are some of your upcoming projects?

Well, I’m hard at work right now finishing our newest show, which is currently called ‘A Schooling in Love’ for Abington Junior High School, which will be premiered in the Spring. I’m also writing a lot of choral music; I’m trying to simplify my choral writing, and it’s taking some time. I have a short film score I’m trying to finish that is currently on the back burner. We’re also plugging away at An Empty Plate in the Café Du Grande Boeuf, but it’s a big piece, and is taking a lot of time. When I ever get some unscheduled compositional time I hope to write a song cycle for the tenor Vale Rideout, with whom Matt and I have a long working relationship and a flute sonata for my wife. But we’ll see!

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October 03, 2008

... from music capital of Littleton, CO

Valerie Mishek shares this message:

Since I joined a few years ago, I have found that the quality of my students has continued to increase. …Thank you for making your site a big part of my teaching success!!! - Valerie A. Mishek

Join | Since 1996 | USA/Canada