Alan Hovhaness Sonata for Cello and Piano, Op. 255

I don’t know why this piece, which is both moving and mystical, is so rarely performed. I can’t find a recording of it anywhere! This performance is from the summer of 2015 at the Greeencastle Summer Music Festival. The pianist is my good friend John Kamfonas; we are working on an album with this work, the Suite for Cello and Piano, and the solo cello piece, Yakamochi.

Movement 1: Andante espressivo

Movement 2: Gracioso

Movement 3 Prayer (Andante Cantabile)

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Matt Haimovitz Tonight at Miller Theatre: Bach, Glass, Yun, and Woolf. Go If You Can!

In New York and love new music and the Bach Cello Suites?

Do whatever it takes to rearrange your life and go hear Matt Haimovitz, the amazingly inventive and entrepreneurial musician who concludes a four-day residency at Columbia University’s Miller Theatre at 7:00 PM tonight, performing new pieces by Philip Glass, Du Yun, and Luna Pearl Woolf, each an “overture” to the J.S. Bach First, Second, and Sixth Cello Suites (the Sixth performed on a five-string violoncello piccolo).

You’ll be glad you did.

I was in the audience for Thursday night’s program, a brilliantly played and deeply engaging presentation of the Third, Fourth, and Fifth Suites, each preceded by a commissioned piece by Vijay Iyer, Roberto Sierra, and Mohammed Fairouz. I also attended all three popup performances at Brad’s Café, the Columbia University Bookstore, and even the Dodge Fitness Center. In each he played one of the overtures and a full Bach Suite, so I had the opportunity to hear everything
on tonight’s program.

Matt Haimovitz in Brad's Café at Columiba University. Photo by David Spelman

Matt Haimovitz in Brad’s Café at Columiba University. Photo by David Spelman

At Brad’s Café, an indoor/outdoor space at the School of Journalism, he sat against a wall as faculty and students had a cup of coffee, a sandwich, worked on laptops. I was struck by one of the finest cellists in the world quietly serenading us with Du Yun’s “The Veil of Veronica”and the Second Suite. A few of us listened closely, while for others it was background music. Two birds flew in, singly happily, as if to join in as both music-makers and listeners.

At the Bookstore, 15 or so people listened with rapt attention to Luna Pearl Woolf’s “Lili’uokalani,” written for the five-string cello on which Matt then played the Sixth Suite. A question and answer session followed, with as many questions for the composer as for her husband, the cellist.

Then at 5:00 PM, we gathered again in the gym. Matt had changed into workout clothes, and set up in the relative safety of a corner by a stairwell by treadmills and other equipment, and right next to the water fountains. It was just off the indoor running track, so joggers and runners would whiz by as he played the surprisingly lyrical and romantic Philip Glass Prelude and perhaps the best performance I’ve ever heard of the Bach G Major Suite. As he was waiting for the official start time, Matt played short bursts of the Bach Prelude as athletes ran past, just ten feet so from him and his Gofriller cello, which must be worth millions of dollars. The dance movements had a vitality and energy that may always be there when he plays this suite, but I imagine the enormous physical energy and motion in the space were something he was riding on as well.

I’ll be writing more about the entire experience soon. For now I’ll say that these four performances, in less than 24 hours, left me on an inspired high that has been looking forward to getting back to Indiana and my own cello–and to our cello students and me invading our own fitness center with Bach!

Matt Haimovitz in the Columbia University Dodge Fitness Center. Photo by Eric Edberg.

Matt Haimovitz in the Columbia University Dodge Fitness Center. Photo by Eric Edberg.

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NYC, Kullan, and Matt: Four Days, Seven Performances

Tomorrow morning I leave for my beloved second home, New York City, where I’ll be attending at least seven events before I return Sunday night: three plays and four concerts.

I’ll be staying with my daughter Kullan Edberg in Harlem, and seeing her Friday and Saturday evenings in Unhealthy, the new play by Darren Caulley, presented by the company she cofounded, the Batallion Theatre. There’s a show Thursday night, too, and tickets (all shows at 7:00 PM at the Kraine Theatre in the East Village) are here. We’ll also catch at least one Broadway matinee.

I’ll be spending a lot of time on Thursday and Friday experiencing the innovative artistry of the cellist Matt Haimovitz. Matt, the first solo classical musician I know of to regularly perform Bach (eventually with Hendrix and other covers as well) and other classical music in rock clubs, nightclubs, and bars, and one of the first to start his own very successful record label, is one of the quintessential 21st-century musicians.

Starting today (Wednesday 10/21), Matt’s doing a remarkable four days of performances at Columbia University. All six Bach Suites, each preceded by a new “overture” by a living composer (Vijay Iyer, Roberta Sierra, Mohammed Fairouz, Du Yun, Luna Pearl Woolf, and Philip Glass). Two evening concerts at Miller Theatre, and (this is where it’s really exciting for me) six free informal concerts around the campus (an overture and an entire Bach Suite at each), in locations including the bookstore, a dining hall, a café, even the fitness center. (To get the exact locations and times, follow Miller Theatre on Twitter@MillerTheatre or on Facebook.)

Matt Haimovitz, in a definitely alternative location (where, I don’t know!). 

This combination of spontaneous “popup” performances along with formal recitals in a traditional hall is fascinating. It will help build audiences for the paid events, sure (and get followers for Miller Theatre), but it also brings this amazing music to people who don’t have the time or money for those shows–or who just don’t like traditional concert spaces. “Alternative venue” performances, as we call them, are just that–an alternative to traditional concerts, not less-significant performances whose worth are determined by how they transfer audiences to the often-stuffy and intimidating buildings of yesteryear. All of us who perform outside the concert hall know that the immediacy and connection brings a special kind of connection and interaction we don’t experience in a formal recital.

In the music entrepreneurship field, we talk a lot about the developing “alternative venue” market. As far as I can tell, Matt’s 2000 “Listening Room” tour was the first by a major name in classical music to do this in a way that attracted significant attention. Matt paved the way for the Classical Revolution movement, as well as the NYC venues [le] poisson rouge, Spectrum, and Subculture (as well as the ones elsewhere I don’t know about). Even if their founders weren’t consciously thinking of Matt, his work put the idea out into the world.

Anthony Tomassini, reviewing Matt’s 2004 appearance at CGBG (the now-defunct Lower East Sider rock club) in the New York Times, wrote ” . . . I salute Mr. Haimovitz for work that is truly pathbreaking, in that he is forging entries to alternate outlets for the music he loves. . . . Mr. Haimovitz’s mission, and that’s what it is, is providing a healthy prod to the classical music world to re-examine how it reaches audiences.”

Elevn years later, performing classical music in a club is pretty ordinary. How things have changed since then–and how Matt helped change them!

With this series, as with so many of Matt’s other projects, he combines new music and works from the classical canon, and innovative, “alternative” performing spaces with a traditional one. His career is original project after original project. I’m excited to experience Thursday and Friday’s events, and I have a hunch my students and I are going to be using them as a model.

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“WOW!” (Thanks, Dorothy!)

Comforted by the presence of loving family members, physical pain lessened by the hospice-care morphine, she was lying in her own bed in the home she loved. No one knew that in only a day or two she would pass away, sooner than anyone expected. 

At her side was her priest, who’d come to offer prayers and give her not only God’s love and his own, but also to receive her love and appreciation, which had flowed through her to so many for so long. In her peaceful acceptance and embrace of the process of dying, she ministered to him, her family, and other caregivers even as they ministered to her, love flowing, as it does, in a circle of reciprocity. In his homily at her funeral Wednesday, he shared about this final visit with this parishioner he obviously admired and loved.

“I brought you a gift,” he said. Her eyes lit up as she smiled. As he placed the surprise–a communion wafer–on her tongue, she brightened even more. 

“Wow!” she exclaimed.

Dorothy Straub Genualdi entered my life when I was in eighth grade, and I can’t think of any better way to describe the spirit with which she embraced life, family, friends, and colleagues, perhaps even her transition from this life.

1972: She was in the early stages of what became a major career as a string educator. Her brother Ed and his family lived across the street from our new home in Tampa; soon he and my father were best friends. Dorothy came to visit, and walked over to hear eighth-grade me play the cello, which I’d been at for not quite two years. My new teacher had introduced me to playing with a very long endpin, which made the instrument almost horizontal. As I showed her what I understood to be the advantages, she was fascinated, and took obvious delight in what I now know was my intermediate-level, mostly-out-of-tune playing. She may not have said the word, but it was clear how she felt about me and my music (and I soon learned, about so many other children) and learning something new: “Wow!” 

1984: Twelve years later, I was working on my master’s degree at what is now known as Stony Brook University. Broke, with an assistantship that barely covered the rent for the tiny, dark basement apartment in which I was living. Life was a challenge. I was just a two-hour drive from her home in Connecticut, where she was now the coordinator of music for two school systems, and she was thrilled to have me so close. Soon she had set me up with a small class of fifth-grade boys to teach every Friday afternoon. I’d drive up from Long Island and spend the weekend in her home. Suddenly I had just enough money that I could eat, the embrace of this wonderful friend and the family of friends she had created, even a place to stay with windows! Somehow she made me feel that rather than accepting a great favor, I was honoring her and all of Westport by accepting her hospitality.

While I taught in the basement music studio, often struggling to connect with these children from my aspiring-concert-cellist set of skills and neuroses, she’d be in the kitchen preparing dinner. Occasionally she would pause to yell exhortations down the stairs. 

“Eric, just make them play in tune!”  Loving the young teachers she mentored, including me, didn’t mean she wasn’t tough with us.

Toward the end of the academic year, she brought friends down to Long Island to hear my master’s recital. Her review? “Wow!” (And I’m sure that’s an exact quote.)

In his homily, Dorothy’s priest said each one of us is a facet in the great jewel we call God, and spoke about how clear that was to as well as about her. So many times when I was deeply frustrated with my cello playing and angry with myself for not being the person I thought I was supposed to be, Dorothy was one of the people who saw part of the jewel I am. In the midst of the darkness and depression that periodically seemed as if it could swallow me up, a glimpse at myself through her eyes would help me keep going.

There were hundreds of people at her funeral. Everyone I spoke with had similar stories of this unique friend who offered transforming love while being a wise and challenging mentor.

The Fairfield County Children’s Choir (she was on their board) sang at the service with exquisite beauty. Moved and transported, I understood more powerfully than ever before how completely dedicated Dorothy was to the cause of children making music together at the highest level possible. Over and over again, she looked at them, and us, and what we did, and said, “Wow!” 

Wednesday we got to say it back to her, and to the energy that created her. I came back to my own students and looked at them through what I imagined to be her eyes. What better way to honor her legacy than to go forward and find the “wow” in everyone we meet? 

One of them could have used a bit more practice on his scales. I told him about Dorothy, and that I could hear her yelling down the stairs from heaven. Eric, make him play in tune! We laughed and did our work.



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The Franchomme Project

September 11 brought the release of the marvelous cellist Louise Dubin’s Delos album The Franchomme Project, which reintroduces the world to a wide array of music, most out of print for many decades, composed or arranged by August Franchomme (1808-1884), the greatest and best known French cellist of his day. 

Many of my fellow cellists will be inspired to explore some of this fascinating repertoire for themselves. Franchomme’s 12 Caprices, Op. 7 have sat in my library for years, but I haven’t played or taught many of them. Having heard the album, now I will–and I look forward to playing, and hearing some of my students play, his Chopin transcriptions (which the composer found delightful), “Mélodies Italiennes,” Nocturnes for 2 Cellos, Caprices for Cello and Piano, and other works, most of which have not been available in print. (A Dover performance edition of sheet music of the works on the album is being released later this year.)

Ms. Dubin’s playing (and that of her collaborators, the cellists Julia Bruskin, Saeunn Thorsteinsdóttir, and Katherine Cherbas, as well as the pianists Hélene Jeanny and Andrea Lam) is both warm and meticulous; the impeccable intonation, beautiful sound, and elegant phrasing will surely delight other listeners as much as they did me. These marvelous performances are inventive and creative, yet never overstated. They are what one of Dubin’s teachers, Janos Starker, would surely have described as tasteful (very high praise for him, indeed). I’m certain they would have also pleased Prof. Franchomme, the beloved pedagogue at the Conservatoire du Musique, who, as the extensive notes in the CD booklet explain, was as renowned for his lack of histrionics as he was for his extraordinay technique. (The notes, which provide a fadcinating biography of Franchomme as well as a thorough background of each piece, make this an album worth buying a physical copy rather than listening via a streaming service.)

Lousie Dubin is, among many things, an excellent role model for young muscians. She is developing a performing career in part with this project which is expanding the repertoire of our beloved instrument. Many of us are commissioning and creating new music; with this endeavor she is bringing delightful gems of the mid-nineteenth century to light. The works she’s brought to light are the fruits of significant labors of research, detective work, and serendipitous meetings with Franchomme’s descendents. Who knows what other delicious tidbits remain to be discovered by another enterprising musician/scholar/researcher? 

Let’s follow her example. 

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Read This Post and Get More People to Your Concerts!

What if there was one simple thing you and I could do when promoting a concert that would get more people to come? And what if it was an easy, inexpensive thing to do–no additional cost necessary?

Well there is, and here it is:

When You’re Promoting Your Event, Tell People How It Will Improve Their Lives to Attend, Not Just What You’re Going to Perform!

[Sidenote: I’m in New York (yay!–and where the weather is actually much better than in Indiana this week). On Wednesday I’m doing a teaching demonstration on Distinguishing Between Features and Benefits When Marketing Concerts for the Network of Music Career Development Officers, which includes not only people who work in career and entrepreneurship centers at music schools and conservatories, but also music faculty who teach entrepreneurship and other career-related courses.]

Overdramatic? Sure. But marketing professionals tell us that successful promotional material does just that–it tells the prospective customer (in our case, prospective audience member) how he or she will benefit from purchasing the product or service. Marketing and advertising professionals make a distinction between features and benefits. As I discuss below, most of us in classical music spend too much time on the former and not enough on the latter.

Look at virtually every classical music advertisement, press release, or promotional email. What do you see? What’s being performed. Who’s performing. When the show is. Sometimes there’s performer information (including pull quotes from reviews) and information about the works, sometimes with a few adjectives (“heart-wrenching,” “exciting,” etc.) thrown in.

Those are the details of the performance. They are are interesting–to at least some of those who are among the existing classical music audience. But rarely do they answer this question:

Why should I spend my time and money to attend this performance?

Features v. Benefits

Go to seminars and workshops aimed at people in the for-profit entrepreneurship world and read material on marketing, advertising, copywriting. Stressed over and over and over again–so much that it is a truism–is to focus on benefits rather than features in promotion and branding.

A post over at printwand explains the difference well:

  • Features are defined as surface statements about your product, such as what it can do, its dimensions and specs and so on.
  • Benefits, by definition, show the end result of what a product can actually accomplish for the reader.

Oil Gardner at provides a clear example. Two battery-extending cases for iPhones, side by side in an Apple store. One iteration (for the 4 and 4s models) stresses that the battery has a capacity of “2000mAh.”

What the heck does that tell me as a customer? Unless I am a technical geek, nothing. It’s a detail, a feature.

Hanging next to it, the next generation of the same device. “Up to 120% extra battery” life.

Yes! I got it! That’s how it will benefit me–my phone will last more than twice as long as I’m out roaming the streets of NYC. This packaging also points out that the battery is pre-charged. Great idea–it’s when my battery is running low that I’m most motivated to buy something to extend its life.

How much longer will my I be able to use my phone without recharging? That’s the benefit. (Actually, it’s still phrased somewhat like a feature. I think it would have been even better to put “Use your phone more than two times longer without recharging!” in big letters.)

Gregory Ciotti’s post Features Tell, But Benefits Sell uses Apple’s introduction of the iPod as an example.

Apple understood this when they released the first iPod. MP3 players were nothing new, and the technology trounced CDs. The problem was marketing; the right pitch hadn’t been made to explain just how much better customers’ lives were going to be once they owned an iPod.

How do you think Apple decided to frame the magic of the iPod? Around its technical prowess, or what customers could do with it?


The message was persuasive because, in the words of Seth Godin, it was all about “Me, me, me. My favorite person: me.” Gigs of data have nothing to do with me, but a pocket full of my favorite songs certainly does.

Here’s the Apple ad itself:


I like that Godin quote. “Me, me, me. My favorite person: me.” 

Well, maybe I don’t like it. After all, we want it to be all about the music, the music, the music.But human nature is human nature, and it’s a keen insight. For the audience, it’s really about what’s in it for them.

People Don’t Buy Products, They Buy Better Versions of Themselves

That’s the tittle of a recent post by Belle Beth Cooper. She points out the in the (evidently famous among marketers) iPod example, “When everyone else was saying “1GB storage on your MP3 player”, telling people about the product, Apple went ahead and made you a better person, that has 1000 songs in your pocket.”

Me, me, me.

The other day, my partner and I wandered by a Hästens bed store not far from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. That’s an expensive neighborhood, and the handmade Swedish beds must cost a fortune. We went in. There were no prices anywhere, on the beds or even in the catalog (maybe it’s one of those if-you-have-to-ask, you-can’t-afford-it places). There was a big sign over one of the gorgeous blue-and-white beds that said that three days of good sleep could change your life. On their web site, they explain,

“At Hästens, our mission is to change the way people think about and prioritize sleep so they can enjoy a better quality of life.”

Would we be buying a bed? Yes, but more than that, a “better quality of life.” Better mes. Now don’t get me wrong, they also presented plenty of features–the handcrafting, the natural materials, the old-world traditions. But that was all to support the prime message of how our lives would be better if we got one of these beds.

A post has a great graphic (to which Cooper links):

So you see how this works in the for-profit world.

That’s the thing I rarely see addressed in promotion for performing arts events. How is attending this going to make me, for the lack of better words, a “better person.”

So let’s explore this features vs. benefits issue a bit more.

The printwand post mentioned above has a several excellent examples of benefit-focused selling. One is for Martinelli sparkling cider. I used to buy a lot every holiday season for my kids, so they could have something special when the adults had Champagne or wine.

What are the features?

  • It’s inexpensive.
  • Tastes pretty good (if you like cider).
  • No alcohol.
  • It’s bubbly like Champagne.
  • Little kids think it’s special.

What are the benefits?

Well, if you drink it you don’t get drunk. You can have a good time without spending a lot of money (assuming you don’t want a buzz). Kids like it. So if you or I were creating a promotional campaign for Martinelli, you’d find a benefit to focus on for a particular market. Don’t get drunk and don’t spend a lot.

I’m not sure how to spin that. But someone did, in this case for the partying-adult market.


Pretty cool! You can have a good time, save money, and actually remember what you did the next morning.

Applying This To Promoting Events

Now we are moving into imagination mode. I think the entire field of classical music, including many of the classically-trained musicians who combine genres, can do a better job of, well, evangelizing for our art. Unfortunately, none of us have the kind of cash flow to pay for the sophisticated marketing materials of international corporations like Apple, Hästings, or Martinelli. Most of us have to be our own publicists.

Most of us have no training in this. I just received a flyer from a chamber group in which a friend of mine plays. “The XYZ Ensemble Plays Music By A, B, and C,” the time and date, the location, and the suggested donation. Which is about all most classical-music posters do. Sometimes there are more visually engaging photos, but rarely is the engaging nature of the experience communicated. Who, what, where, when? Those are features. Unless a prospective audience member happens to know the players or is really into those composers, there’s no reason to come. Especially at a time when we are looking to expand audiences, we need to find ways to attract new people to our concerts. If we start thinking about promoting the benefits of attending, we may find new areas of success.

So I’m going brainstorm a bit, using myself as an example. Let’s say I’m doing a concert of Bach Suites. “Edberg Plays Bach.” Cellist Eric Edberg (me) plays, say, the first three Bach Suites for Solo Cello.

You see advertisements for concerts like this all the time. “Gilbert Conducts Swan Lake” is on the New York Philharmonic site and in print advertisements right now. If I’m an Alan Gilbert fan and I like Swan Lake, I may be sold. If I don’t know who Alan Gilbert is and I’ve never heard of Swan Lake, or it brings to mind only images stereotypically affected ballet dancing, then I’m not going to care.

To those in my circle of friends and fans who love both the Bach cello suites and my cello playing, the benefit of coming will be self-evident. But to the rest of the world, I need (or whoever is promoting the concert needs) to let them know what’s fantastic about this music (which many of them may be unaware of), what I’m like as a performer, and why they’ll be better off for having come. And, of course, I’m going to have to play them really, really well–with life and engagement and commitment.

I’m now thinking out loud. It’s extraordinary music that takes us through virtually the entire gamut of human emotion, from calmness to playfulness to heartbreak to anger to violence to triumph, spiritual solace, and unbridled joy. And to me, the great benefit of of a well-played concert is to feel more fully human, more truly alive. It’s inspiring in very true way. (Of course, a boring concert isn’t going to inspire anyone.)

So how about:

An Emotional Journey Ending In Joyful Triumph.


Let Bach Remind You Why It’s Great to Be Alive

And then of course we’d need something about the program and what a great cellist and performer I am, why the venue is a great place, etc.

There are many dimensions to the experience of a particular event, of course. There are the visual aspects, the social aspects, the atmosphere (formal? relaxed? interactive?), and what we might call the theatrical aspects–it can be amazing to see someone come out on stage and play an entire program of music from memory, and that’s something those of us who do it all the time can forget. Depending on the audience, performers, venue, and program, there are infinite varieties of features and corresponding benefits.

The thing I’m getting at is that for individual concerts and for classical music in general, we have a great opportunity to increase our audiences if we communicate the benefits of concert attendance. Not in a “it’s good for you way,” but it an enthusiastic and energized way.

So let’s go tell people why their lives will be better for coming to our concerts. And if we don’t believe that’s truly the case, then let’s put on concerts that are life enhancing.


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Dignity, Humiliation, and Music. Who Knew?

When George Wolfe asked me to come improvise with him at a conference at Columbia University, I of course said yes. Then I saw it was the International Human Dignity and Humiliation Studies conference, I told George we might need to come up with a good rationale for the cello professor to use professional conference funds to attend this particular event.

But once I arrived at Columbia, I was struck by how much I felt I was part of this work. Humiliation and shame are not just tools of control in relationships, personal, professional, organizational, and societal. They are also deeply part of the experience most classical musicians have as we study are craft and learn our art. There are very few of us who are not on some level ashamed of, or healing from years of feeling ashamed of, our playing or singing.

For my entire life as a teacher, I’ve worked with students to learn to trust themselves and find their voices, while at the same time presenting the exacting standards that can be so intimidating and which can cause so much hurt when we don’t meet them. All along, I’ve been healing, too.

It’s what led me into the safe-space, accepting world of Music for People improvisation and the community drum circle culture articulated by Arthur Hull.

I never framed this work in terms of humiliation and human dignity before. But as I heard scholars from many disciplines around the world speak, and as we spoke together in discussion groups, I realized that I’ve been working in this field.

And that there was much I could take back to DePauw, where we are dealing with how to make the campus climate more hospitable for students and faculty of color. Where we are collectively looking for how to participate in the national and international conversations that relate to ongoing humiliation that is racism.

The contribution that George and I were able to make was to use performances of free improvisations as a model for a way of relating that is rooted in what I now realize can be called dignity. Listening. Responding. Taking turns leading. Supporting and challenging. Neither dominating or submitting.

I learned so much, too, which I’ll write about at another time. Meanwhile, it was a genuine miracle for me to discover that there was a group of people of whom I was already a part, without knowing it.

Thanks, George.

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