A Conversation

Jan 18-22, 2010: I hosted a virtual panel on when and how artists, managers, journalists, presenters and publicists single out musicians for being "special" in their promotion and career-building efforts. Participants included musician, pianist Jonathan Biss; a manager, James Egelhofer at IMG Artists; a critic, Matthew Guerrieri, who blogs at Soho the Dog and writes for the Boston Globe; and a presenter, Michael Kondziolka at University Musical Society in Ann Arbor, Michigan. … [Read more...]

Panel Disband

Thanks to everyone who read and participated in our virtual panel last week! I'm sorry to report that you're back to Just Me now. Shoes over Schubert, if you will. If you find yourself missing my co-panelists, start reading Matthew's excellent blog Soho the Dog, check out Michael's special-by-any-definition University Musical Society series in Ann Arbor, Michigan, or--now that you know him--go see Jonathan in concert and buy his most recent CD. Which happens to be Schubert, not shoes, and is Grood - great and good. I'm not sure how you can … [Read more...]

One man’s obstacle is another’s way in

On Thursday night, my soon-to-be 82 year old Iranian grandmother sent me the following text:Hi amanda joshua bell and his friens are on pbs live in kincolon center iam having blast watching himI called her yesterday to discuss birthday plans for the big 8-2 (chugging contests, Chippendales, etc.), and she was still so excited about seeing Joshua Bell on PBS that she refused to talk about anything else. "I didn't watch it," I said. "YOU DIDN'T WATCH IT??" "Um, no, I missed it. I'm sure it will be on some other time." "Yes, tomorrow at noon. I'm … [Read more...]

Oh Mistress Mine…!

Wow...so many complex questions...and so little time this week.She IS a cruel, cruel blog-mistress.  (I think I like it.) Seriously, as I divulged in my first post (ever), I am new to this blogging thing.  So...up went my first submission Monday night...next thing I know, it's Thursday, and the tidal wave of commentary has hit.  I will try to get caught up now by addressing some of the pointed questions to me...and some of the more general ideas bandied about.  Let the jibber-jabber begin. Amanda asked: I'm … [Read more...]

You think they’ll have that on the tour?

Jonathan asked:[G]iven your desire for each audience member to have an authentic, individual experience, who are you writing for when you review concerts, and what do you hope your readers' relationship to your writing is?Being a critic is weird. All you can really do is write what your own individual reaction is, and hope it has a little bit of resonance with a reader or two. I think if you try to anticipate the reader's response--by either deliberately going with the flow, or going against it--you turn into either the worst kind of shill, or … [Read more...]

The Representative from D.C.

Anne Midgette weighs in on the discussion over on her blog The Classical Beat:I do think it's unfortunate, though, when there's no sense of a person behind the playing. Classical music can suffer from a sense of entitlement: there's an idea that the music is so great it's enough just to play it, and everyone should be in awe. Yes: the music is that great. That's precisely why the performer has to work so hard to delve into it, to bring it across, to make it more than merely notes executed well. (The same thing, incidentally, holds true of … [Read more...]

Answers for Amanda, Questions for Matthew

Amanda is, as she says, the Blog Mistress, so I'm starting by responding to her latest post. (I'm also going to try to fold as many points as possible into this post as it may be my last - I don't have any more transatlantic flights this week which will provide me with hours to write/a valid excuse not to practice.)In answering Amanda's question about where the responsibility for making concert presentations special lies, I'm going to return to one of my original points (fine, OK, Alex Ross' point, which I seem to have unofficially co-opted): … [Read more...]

Like Many Others

If I may--and I may, because I am the Blog Mistress--I'd like to steer the conversation toward classical music concert presentations. If I may--and again, I may---I'm going to quote my own blog entry from November: I saw three excellent classical pianists last week: Jonathan Biss, who performed at the club (le) poisson rouge with my client Gabriel Kahane, Leif Ove Andsnes, and Pierre Laurent Aimard, both of whom played at Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall. I went in knowing two out of three would be "special."Let's start with concerts that I … [Read more...]

Previously, on ‘Life’s a Pitch’

If you're just joining us now for the virtual panel on specialness that friends and colleagues have described to me as "intense," "required reading," and "wordy," here's what's been going on this week. If you could hear Benjamin Linus' voice in your head when you read this, that would be great. Previously, on Life's a Pitch.Jonathan issued a throwdown about how the human interest press publicists dream of actually distracts audiences from the music. He writes, "the more of a persona the person onstage has cultivated, the harder it is for this … [Read more...]

Sell! Sell! Sell!

In response to Amanda's question (James: to what extent do you feel knowing about your clients' both musical and non-musical pursuits helps you pitch them to presenters? What prepares you to defend their uniqueness, or sometimes, is uniqueness not what a presenter is looking for?), I have to start with my favorite dodge away from oversimplification: it depends. On the most basic level, greater knowledge of what my artists care about is always helpful to me.  It helps me talk to them, it helps me talk about them, it helps me get through the … [Read more...]


Matthew, further to this:As a critic, I make no bones about the fact that my own taste is highly idiosyncratic, and that I will never, ever be all things to all people. The fact that my own sense of specialness is driven more by repertoire than performer puts me, I know, in the minority, as does the nature of some of that repertoire. I'm curious if every concert or recording you preview, or every artist you profile, is special to you. As you mention in your post, and as we all know, arts coverage is shrinking. Beyond repertoire, as you write in … [Read more...]

Here’s what you missed

I'm sure you all miss me blogging about the usual highbrow fare here on Life's a Pitch. (A quick scan down the December entry titles shows Girls straddling footballs sell things, In which I am pardoned for stealing electricity, and Flacks and the City. Why do you people read this??). But I think our very...special?...guests James, Jonathan, Matthew and Michael are doing a fantastic job. They may even be out-blogging their hostess, which, I should have clarified, is Not Actually Allowed. If you're just tuning in now, here's what you missed. … [Read more...]

Not all “special” is created equal

Wow. One day, five posts (four not written by me), and a lot to think about. As I read each post the first time through, I diligently made notes. Unfortunately, if I attempted to address all of the points in them that intrigued me, at the end of the week I'd no longer be a professional pianist, special or otherwise. One thing I've noticed which I do want to address, though, is the very wide variety of attributes/activities/priorities landing under the "special" umbrella. That's natural, and good, given the different perspectives the five of us … [Read more...]

For you, special price.

I was at the Chamber Music America conference this weekend, and took a turn around the exhibitor section after one of the sessions. For those of you who have never been to a conference, artist management companies set up booths, lay out artist flyers, and sell their clients to the presenters who walk by. I realize this sounds a bit like some kind of Orientalist Indiana Jones market sequence, and that's not entirely inaccurate. Watching bookers and managers really sell their artists is a pleasant reminder that, all evidence to the contrary, … [Read more...]