Sunday, April 25, 2010

INTERVIEW WITH PIANIST AND COMPOSER STEVEN SCHOENBERG

Today, I am happy to have composer and pianist Steven Schoenberg as our guest. Steven is a dynamic, award-winning composer/pianist whose talents cross into musical theater, classical compositions, children’s music, and solo improvisational piano performances. Steven has also scored Emmy Award-winning films for such PBS series as NOVA and Smithsonian World among others. His acclaimed recordings, Pianoworks and Three Days in May, and the newly released Steven Schoenberg Live: An Improvisational Journey, are available on CD. He regularly performs improvisational piano concerts and has appeared at concert halls throughout the United States.

Steven, thanks so much for joining us today. As you know, I am a huge fan of yours. My first memory of listening to you play piano was at your house a few years ago. We all sat down in your living room, you turned off all the lights, and then you began to play. I got shivers down my spine as soon as you touched the keys. The funny thing is that when I heard you perform a while back at Smith College, you re-created that same kind of warmth and intimacy in a huge music hall. Can you explain to my readers how you are able to achieve that in such a large space? Also, maybe you could talk a little bit about where your musical inspiration comes from during these performances.

I wish I could explain to myself how I do that. When I started improvising on the piano at age three, I remember lying in bed—and this may sound really corny—and saying to myself, “How come I can do that?” I’ve always felt that the communication I depict through improvisation was just an extension of who I am. When I walk on stage, I’m definitely nervous at first, but I don’t feel any different than when I am talking to a good friend. When I sit down and the first sound is produced, I forget about my surroundings and just become absorbed in the music that is emanating from the piano. Each sound develops from moment to moment, and hopefully, at the end, an improvisation that has structure and form has been spontaneously realized. I like to think of my improvisations as spontaneous compositions.

When I improvise, I have no idea what will happen. How a piece will begin, where it will travel to, and how it will come to an end. It’s really like a conversation. We learn the language of words from the moment we are born, maybe even while we’re in the womb. And if that is the case, then we’re also hearing music and other sounds. As we learn, we begin to understand grammar and syntax and eventually, we can communicate with each other. There is no written script for us to follow.

The same is true of music. Having access to the harmonies and scales of the universe that resonate with me, and understanding the grammar and syntax of the language of music allows me to communicate using that language. We don’t reflect upon what we are going to say in a conversation, we just talk. Somehow, through our knowledge and understanding of the language it just happens. Of course, when we compose a piece, we now have the added element of reflection and making changes. There is no time for reflection or changes in a musical improvisation. A “mistake” becomes the next place where the improvisation can develop. I could say that my inspiration comes from the integrating of all the music that I have listened to combined with my emotions, since music is a language that exists without words. Now with that said, when words are put to music or visa-versa, another powerful art form emerges. I love writing songs with my wife, Jane Schoenberg, who, aside from being a children's book author is my collaborator on musicals and children’s songs.

I love that you can work so closely with your wife. Not everyone can do that! And you both have really encouraged and nurtured your two children, actress Sarah Kate Jackson and your son Adam Schoenberg, an amazing composer in his own right. Not only have you and Jane mentored your children in many ways but other young artists just starting out. Can you talk a little about a special mentor in your life and how he or she affected you?

I'd love to! My two most influential mentors were my last composition teacher while at The Hartt School of Music and my musical theater mentor, Sylvia Herscher. Arnold Franchetti was a great teacher and prolific composer, who was a student of Richard Strauss. Franchetti’s father was an Italian opera composer, whose good friend was Puccini! Franchetti taught me the craft needed to compose. He made me understand how to derive material from a motif and how to develop that material. We did this by writing fugues, by analyzing scores, and through other contrapuntal exercises. He taught me how to be complex and sophisticated without losing the soul of a work.

School was very hard for me, as the music I composed was given very little support. During that era—the 1970’s—music in the academic field was controlled by the atonal composers in powerful positions. I remember the worst moment for me came when I proudly brought in a chamber orchestra piece that was a very lyrical composition, very well composed and orchestrated, but . . . influenced by my love of rock’n’roll and the Blues. My composition teacher at that time said, “I can do nothing with this piece.” I threw it out, and changed teachers. That’s when I found Franchetti. I wish I never threw that piece away, but I had no outside support to know that.

When my son Adam was an undergraduate student at Oberlin Conservatory, he experienced the same lack of support from many of his teachers, because his music did not reflect the music that they were writing. The same composers, who piloted the direction of music when I was in school, still influenced most of Adam’s teachers. Since I had experienced that when I was a student, I was able to give my son advice that I would like to pass along to your young readers that I gave to both of my children. When studying, do all that your teachers ask of you. Learn what they know and always ask questions when you do not understand something. When you are working on your own piece, follow what your heart says, what is inside of you, and use the craft that you have learned up to that point to make it the best you can. Composing is heart and head. What’s inside of you is what makes you unique. If your teacher has something to say that will open up a new window in your mind, then bravo/brava to him/her for exposing you to that. But if the teacher cannot support your work, then don’t let that affect you, if you truly believe you have something to say. Either open up your teacher’s mind or get a new one.

Our teachers must inspire and elevate us as we learn, and not try to make us like them. As artists, we have to become somewhat unattached to what people think, because everyone has personal likes and dislikes. We all have them. Work to your fullest expression. Master your art and be happy with what you are doing regardless of where you are in your career and don’t be concerned about the judgment others put on your work. What is important is what you think about your work.

Sylvia Herscher was a great mentor of mine in the Musical Theater world. Before she died, she received a Lifetime Achievement Tony Award. She would have been called a producer in this age, but when she worked with Jule Styne in the 1950s, she was called a production assistant and general manager. She was an agent in the William Morris Agency and later in the 60s and 70s, she headed the theater department publishing of the Edwin H. Morris Company and after at G. Shirmer. Sylvia put together and matched creative teams for many musicals. A Chorus Line being the most successful. She also saw Annie, and brought that to the Goodspeed Opera House for it’s first production. I met Sylvia after being asked to be the composer of a Broadway bound musical that never really got off the ground. I can sum up Sylvia’s wisdom and detachment by quoting her four famous words. Because it takes so long to develop a musical and most fail to make it, Sylvia taught me and my daughter to just go “on to the next.” She said it as a statement. “On to the next!”

Steven, I know you had a serious injury early on in your career, just as you were beginning to play out a lot. Do you mind telling us about that and how that experience affected and transformed the tragectory of your career? And how does it feel to be back performing once again?

Well, in 1985, I was contacted by Brian Carr, who was Keith Jarrett’s manager and at the same time was offered a contract to sign with Ted Kurland Associates. Ted’s roster included such jazz artists as Chick Corea, Pat Metheny, Sonny Rollins, Betty Carter, and on and on. Though I am not a Jazz pianist, I do improvise, and was thrilled to be represented by such a great agency and decided to go with them to begin a major concertizing push. So you see, with just those two options, my career was growing at a fairly fast pace. My two albums, Pianoworks and Three Days in May were around 20,000 each in sales, which is unusual for a classical/jazz record.

Then, in 1986, less than six months after signing with Kurland, I was playing tag with my son, who was five years old at the time. I caught him while running down a hill with him in my arms. I tripped over a rock and landed hard on my right hand, pushing my son out from under me. I broke and tore ligaments in my right hand pinky finger. I went to a major hand specialist who was Leon Fleisher’s hand surgeon and he told me the bad news. I could not perform for over three years. It was one of those worst scenario injuries. That injury completely stopped my emerging career as an improvisational concert pianist. I said good-bye to my agent, to performing, and immediately began scoring more films. Mostly PBS, BBS documentary and kid’s stuff. I gave a few concerts in between, but was always too aware of my injured finger, which made it impossible for me to totally disappear into that special place when performing. So I stopped performing altogether. I knew I would return, I just didn’t know it would take so long for me to once again feel confident to be able to improvise in public.

It feels like it is supposed to be happening now. It feels right. Two years ago, I decided it was time to do it again and I performed and recorded a concert at Smith College in Northampton, MA. I wanted to release a new CD, but didn’t feel strong about all of the improvisations so I did another concert the next year and even filmed it, in hopes of showing myself to concert producers via my website. So, my new CD, Steven Schoenberg Live: An Improvisational Journey, features seven improvisations from the first Smith College concert and two from the second.

Well, I'm sure a lot of people are happy that you are performing live once again after all these years. The music world certainly has changed so dramatically since you first began your career, although you have, of course, continued to compose. Any pearls of wisdom for upcoming musicians or composers trying to make it now in the digital age?

I’m just learning about that right now. You are right. Things have really changed from when I first started my career. CD’s are selling less and less, and digital downloads are selling more and more. The power of the Internet for publicity and to market oneself is humongous. Everyone is learning as they go. Like your blog, it’s all about making oneself as visible as possible until eventually, if you are lucky enough to hit it at the right time, people will follow you. I have no words of wisdom, other than to say, keep on producing, getting performances, sending out your music to conductors, orchestra managers, musicians, producing your own concerts, designing your website, uploading your productions on to YouTube, Facebook, My Space and any other similar site. And if you can, hire a publicist and radio person to work your stuff.

Can you say a word or two about your upcoming concert at the Rubin Museum of Art on May 7th in New York City (a concert which, by the way, I will definitely be going to!)

Talking about publicists, I hired Chris DiGirolamo, of Two For The Show Media, to work my new CD. He got word of an opening to perform at the Rubin Museum of Art, in New York, and sent my CD to them. Soon afterwards, I received an email from the Rubin, inviting me to perform on May 7th. The concert begins at 7pm. The museum has an intimate hall and it’s a great place to perform. I’m very excited about the upcoming concert. Like all of my concerts, I have no idea what I will do. Hopefully, my Muses will be by my side that evening, and I look forward to playing for you, too, Mira!

Thanks for your time and generosity, Steven. I look forward to hearing you on May 7th! See you there!

You can find Steven Schoenberg's CDs on Amazon or go to his website: www.stevenschoenberg.com to order CDs, listen to his music and see video clips of him performing. If you would like to see Steven in concert on May 7th in NYC, please visit the Rubin Museum's website for tickets:
http://www.rmanyc.org/harleminthehimalayas. See you there I hope!

Concert Info:
The Rubin Museum of Art, 150 West 17
th Street
New York NY 10011
Box office: 212.620.5000 ext. 344
Tickets: $18 in advance / $20 day of. RMA Members receive 10% discount
.

http://www.rmanyc.org/harleminthehimalayas


I think Steven’s music is some of the most incomparably beautiful music I’ve ever heard. When I listen, I am transported . . . to someplace very peaceful. If I were to be banished to an island and could take music, his would be among what I’d choose . . . and if there were only two choices, Schoenberg would be one! ~ Lee Thornton, Senior Host, Weekend Edition, All Things Considered, National Public Radio

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Fellowships & Grants for Filmmakers, Writers, Playwrights and Photographers

(PLAYWRIGHTS) The P73 Playwriting Fellowship: provides year-long comprehensive support to one early-career playwright who has received neither wide public recognition nor substantial production opportunities in New York City. Through this program, Page 73 provides artistic and financial resources to one emerging playwright as he or she develops a new play that has not received substantial prior development support. The P73 Playwriting Fellow receives a cash stipend in the amount of $5,000 and development support in the amount of $10,000 – 15,000. The fellow is expected to be present in New York City from time to time to fully engage in the opportunities that the fellowship provides.

For more information including application: http://www.p73.org/programs/p73-playwriting-fellowship/ or contact [email protected]. Deadline May 1st, 2010!

(FILMMAKERS) Reach Film Fellowship: Cinereach is currently seeking applicants for its annual Reach Film $5,000 fellowship. Cinereach is a not-for-profit founded by a group of young filmmakers, philanthropists and entrepreneurs to champion artful, vital filmmaking. The prestigious seven-month program supports young filmmakers with grants, resources, and industry mentors who help guide their short films through all stages of production. The application deadline is July 12, 2010. Applications and guidelines can be found at http://www.reachfilmfellowship.com/.

The Fellowship is open to emerging, early-career filmmakers who have completed at least one short film and completed a film studies program by summer 2010. Self-taught filmmakers may also apply, but are advised to discuss their eligibility with Cinereach staff before submitting an application. Applicants must also be able to reside in the New York Tri-State area from August 2010 through April 2011 to meet the Fellowship requirements.

(WRITERS) CEI Fellowship for Writers: The CEI Fellowship for Writers in Residence encourages cross-border cooperation and promotion in the field of literature for young writers from non EU Central European countries. This winner will receive a cash award of EUR 5,000 for a three-month stay in any of the Central
European Initiative Member States. For more information, go to: http://www.ceinet.org/content/call-applications-cei-fellowship-writers-residence-deadline-1-june-2010
Deadline June 1, 2010.

(PHOTOGRAPHERS) Audience Engagement Grant: The Open Society Institute Documentary Photography Project is offering a grant to support alternative models for presenting and disseminating documentary photography to the public.

The Audience Engagement Grant (formerly the Distribution Grant) supports innovative projects that use existing bodies of work to actively engage audiences on human rights and social justice issues. Projects should include a partnership between individuals and organizations that combines expertise in documentary photography with experience working on the topic or community the project addresses. A third distribution partner, whose expertise is in the dissemination or presentation method, may also be included but is not required. The 2010 program will provide five to eight project grants ranging from $5,000 to $30,000 each.

Optional Letters of Intent are due May 28, 2010. The online application deadline is July 23, 2010. Complete program guidelines are available at http://www.soros.org/initiatives/photography/focus_areas/engagement/guidelines


Tuesday, April 20, 2010

CALLING ALL ARTISTS! URGENT MAY DEADLINES!

(BOOK ARTISTS) Multiples/Limited Edition Proposals: The Present Group, a quarterly art subscription service, seeks artist proposals for projects that result in a limited edition, artist multiple, or multiple parts of a larger work. A $500 honorarium is awarded to each season’s artist and TPG covers production costs. We do not accept proposals for reproductions of paintings. Work must be reproducible in intent. Artists submit proposals to [email protected]thepresentgroup.com or via USPS: The Present Group Attn: Submission 593 8th St. #3 Oakland, CA 94607. For more information please visit: www.thepresentgroup.com, to download full submission guidelines: http://www.thepresentgroup.com/TPG-submissions.pdf May 3rd deadline!

(ARTISTS) Bumpkin Island Art Encampment: Request for Proposals: The Boston Harbor Island Alliance, the Berwick Research Institute, Mobius, and Studio Soto invite proposals for the Bumpkin Island Art Encampment, a five-day, public art experience in the Boston Harbor Islands national park area. Starting Thursday, July 29, 2010 and continuing through Monday, August 2, 2010, eight artist groups (one to five people per group) will take temporary ownership of eight plots of land on Bumpkin Island. As “homesteaders”, they will build some kind of home on the land, live on the land for five days, and “improve” the land via a site-specific, temporary performance or installation.

Artists will receive: A five-day “land grant” with full campsite access, ranger support and ferry transportation, a $100 stipend for basic expenses, and a supply of drinking water, production support and critical feedback from project curators.
Email proposals on or before May 4, 2010, 12 midnight EST, to: [email protected]

(ARTISTS) Visual Arts Research AND Study Grants: The Fundación Marcelino Botín awards for Visual Arts Grants for study, research and the undertaking of individual projects in the sphere of (non-theoretical) artistic work. Artists may be any nationality. The exhibition agenda of the Fundación Marcelino Botín will include an exhibition which premieres the works realized by the artists during the period covered by the grant. This is a huge grant for artists wanting to live abroad for nine months. http://www.contestwatchers.com/fundacion-marcelino-botin-grants-2010-2011/ May 7 deadline!
  • Applicants for study grants must be between 23 and 40 years old.
  • There is no age limit for the research grants.
  • Artists may be any nationality.
  • The grants are individual, indivisible and non-transferable. They do not cover family provisions.
  • The grants are incompatible with any other institutional funding.
  • After being awarded, the grants shall be effective for the stipulated period and without interruption. Grants must be initiated before the end of 2010.
***By the way...these are really large grants. I'm sorry I didn't get this to you earlier. I know the deadline is coming up soon so you might want to file this away for next year (it's offered every year). The real website for this award is a bit confusing and is in Spanish, however, there is an English translation option. I have linked the award to another site that announced it but you can access the real site via that one. Good luck!

(ARTISTS)
Public Art Commissions: Southern Exposure proudly announces a new opportunity for local, national and international artists to develop and present a new public art project in 2011 and 2012. With the support of The Graue Family Foundation, SoEx is offering an annual $15,000 award to commission a public art project in the San Francisco Bay Area. Through an open call for entries SoEx will select one project to commission and present to the public the following year. For more info go to: http://soex.org/soexgraueaward.html Deadline is May 26, 2010.




Thursday, April 15, 2010

RESIDENCY FOR ARTISTS, WRITERS AND MUSICIANS IN HUNGARY AND A MIRA'S LIST UPDATE

Oh how I missed you all! As you know, I've been very busy and was also in NY meeting with my wonderful agent and my amazing editors. (I really lucked out with this book...I am very grateful! And yes, I will write about this whole process soon...) Anyway, I'm back now and will post a new interview in the next couple/few days (this time, a composer and pianist) as well as some new opportunities—hopefully tomorrow or Saturday.

In the meantime, I wanted to let you know about a new residency in Hungary (see below) and also, to alert you to a little change in the way you can leave comments after posts. Lately, my comment sections have become spammed so I will have to now moderate them. It's annoying for all of us but that way you don't have to deal, as readers, with evil spammers telling you to click on their links for great loans (don't do it!!!) etc. Just go ahead and leave your comments---I think that you will just get a message saying that I have to approve them or something. Nothing too complicated I hope.


Here's the new residency—the place looks beautiful by the way....and more things are coming in the next couple days...

(ALL) International Authors Lodge Residency: The International Authors Lodge is currently seeking artists, writers, and performing artists for summer residency in Budapest, Hungary. This residency does cost money, just so you know...it's not one of the freebies I often promote....however, the place does look beautiful. See website for residency information and costs. There is no fee to apply.

The International Authors Lodge is an independent non-profit association based in Budapest, Hungary. The association encourages awareness and exploration of personal and creative development as well as cross-cultural exchange of ideas. The International Authors Lodge aims to generate and encourage exchange between local artists and international artists, believing that this interaction is a unique way to gain new experiences while encountering other view points and perspectives concerning contemporary art. For more info, go to: http://www.authorslodge.webs.com/

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

COMING SOON: INTERVIEWS AND MORE

Hey everyone, based on the dozens of emails I got this past week, it sounds like many of you would like to hear about the crazy process I went through—start to finish—with my book. I think I will talk about it in parts, i.e. Part One: The Writing Process, Part Two: Finding an Agent, Part Three: Sending the Book out to Publishers, etc., etc. I'll start working on that after the middle of this month. I have a bit of a crunch right now so I can't deal with it yet.

But....coming down the road very soon....a great interview with an improv pianist who also writes music for film and television....an interview with a fantastic emerging filmmaker...plus some new deadlines that will make you squeal with delight.

I have to forge ahead with this deadline (April 9th and then I'm out of town until the 14th) but after that you will get some great posts, I promise! Maybe even before if you are lucky...

Cheers to all of you and Happy Spring! I can't believe the daffodils are out and about now.
Get back in your studio and stop reading this....
Mirabee

Friday, April 2, 2010

CRANKINESS, HEALTH INSURANCE, AND PUBLISHING BOOKS

Okay. I'm done yelling. I had a bit of a cranky day yesterday. I think one of the problems is that people see the word 'grants' and they don't look any farther than that. Then they write to ask me for money. But I think another problem (and this one is forgivable) is that, for some of my readers, English is a second, if not third, language. And they don't really understand what I do. So if I shouted too fiercely at those of you who have a hard time reading in English, my apologies. (But for those of you who are just lazy and want me to give you money, I'm not sorry at all!).

On another note, several people have asked about my health insurance situation (and some of you have kindly made donations---thank you!). Here's the update: Right now, I have coverage most months, except when I get a payment from the publishing company that is printing my book. Then I completely lose insurance for about four to six weeks and have to get reinstated. It is so friggin' weird! It is Massachusetts and how they deal with not only someone on disability but also someone who is a freelance artist/writer. They just don't know what to do with me yet. So while I'm not uninsured at the moment, I have these months scattered about six to eight months apart when I lose my coverage. So hopefully I will get this worked out with them OR I just better not get sick during those times. Anyway, it's not the best situation but it's much better than other people have (i.e. those still suffering in Haiti—please see my donate button above). Anyway, thanks for asking, those of you who asked. It's probably too much info for you other folks so forget I said anything about it and let's move on!

Right now I'm in the middle of finishing some art for the advanced review copies of my book and I have an intense amount to do before April 10th. After that point, I'll have deadlines but not like I have had over the past few months. Therefore, there will be more time for you, devoted readers. And while we are on the subject of writing and illustrating books, are there any readers out there who are emerging writers who would be interested in me going over this crazy process I went through in the last couple years? (Finding an agent, preparing the book to send out to editors, going through the bidding process, then the editing process, and now the pre-production process). What a roller-coaster ride! If my talking about it would help any emerging writers out there, drop me an email or just leave a comment below.

Okay---off to the studio. I'll have more things to tell you about, regarding grants, etc., after I get through this deadline. But I'm sure you'll hear from me before then anyway.

Your Faithful and Curmudgeonly Servant,
Mirabee

Thursday, April 1, 2010

PLEASE READ THIS!

Hi there, all you artists looking for money and a variety of other opportunities. I just felt like I needed to remind some of you new people of the following:

I do NOT give out grants or help people write them.

I do NOT help people get published or help support their publishing projects.

I do NOT (unfortunately) know that much about how you can fund your graduate school education, especially if you aren't a US citizen. I am trying to learn more about this topic but there are only so many hours in the day.

I am writing this little message today because jeez, I probably have gotten about a hundred emails in the last week asking me for the above things. I really wish everyone would read the FAQs that I spent time writing. Please see my right hand side bar for FAQ links and then scroll down and peruse the labels and links for what you are looking for.

I do this for free on my own time. As much as I'd love to dump a pile of money in everyone's lap (including my own) I just can't. I'm just one little person here, out in the country, trying to limp along with little money myself. So sorry to those of you who asked me this week to give you TONS of money so you can publish your book or whatever. It ain't gonna come from this gal!

Okay. I'm done with my tough love statement for the day. Good luck to you ...and please read the posts and FAQs that I spent a lot of time writing. It would make me happy if you did that. And I know you want me to be happy. Right?

Cheers,

Mirabee

Welcome to Mira's List

This blog provides information on upcoming grants, fellowships and residencies for artists, writers, composers, and media artists. It is for serious professionals only, from emerging to mid-career to established. I also publish information for graduate students from time to time. However, I do not publish information on exhibition or publishing opportunities, nor do I advertise artist retreats and workshops that charge money. At least that is my current policy. For more info on where to exhibit or publish, please see my links section which I try to periodically update. I sift through hundreds of search engines and websites to find opportunities for YOU dear artist. In return, I ask you to pass the information along to those who need it. Also, since this is a free blog, I don't always have the time to weed carefully through everything. If you find a grant or website or residency that is not up-to-date, is dodgy in some way, or is no longer in existence, please let me know! Also, if you stay somewhere at one of the residencies I suggest and have a good experience, I want that feedback too. Please check my FAQs at the top right side bar if you have questions before starting your search. Best wishes and happy hunting!