Adventures in Concert Presentation: John Kamfonas at the Greencastle Summer Music Festival Wednesday

John Kamfonas

John Kamfonas is a young pianist (early twenties–to me, that’s young; he’s about my son’s age).  He’s playing tomorrow (Wednesday) night on the Greencastle Summer Music Festival, a series of 12 Wednesday-evening concerts I organize (or as the say in NY, “curate”).

To me, John’s a great example of a next-generation musician.  He’s a terrific classical pianist, who just received his Master of Music from the Manhattan School of Music (MSM).  (Which is where I met him, when I sat in on some guest presentations at the MSM Center for Music Entrepreneurship). He also improvises and plays in a rock band.

We ended up sitting next to each other when a large group went out for burgers and beer after a presentation by David Cutler, the Savvy Musician himself. When John told me about his improvising and rock lives, I thought he might be great to invite to play in Greencastle. I love his musical diversity, and his youth and rock-music interest might appeal to a younger-than-usual audience. To me, the question for classical-music presenters and performers is how to we attract younger audiences and maintain artistic integrity?  One part of the answer is presenting young performers (with whom young audiences can identify) who play classical and original and/or non-classical music.

So while I was in NY, John, at my invitation, dropped a CD off at my building (ah, how nice it was to have a doorman!) and sent me an email proposing a program with improvisations, classical music (Brahms, Liszt, and Hadjidakis, the latter arrangements of Greek folk tunes) and some rock music–improvisations on Michael Jackson tunes.  Sounded great, and since he’s young and didn’t need a big fee (yet), we could afford to fly him in.

We’re having a “Meet John Kamfonas” pizza party tonight for college and high-school students in town.  That’s proved to be a bit challenging.  There are relatively few DePauw students on campus for the summer, since we don’t have summer classes. I don’t have the contact information for that many of them, and have had to recruit my kids and their friends to pass on Facebook invitations.  I also had to ask friends to host the party at their house, since I don’t have a piano.  They are big supporters of the festival, so they were happy to do it, but I hate asking for help with stuff (something I’m working on).  Since I just got back to Greencastle a week ago, and was shy about asking someone else to host a party, word may have gotten out too late for a big turnout.  We’ll see.

I also asked John to make a YouTube video or two we could use to introduce him–he made four!  I don’t know how much of a difference they’ll make in a small town, but I do know that a number of people appreciate videos on concert venue websites as they decide whether a concert is interesting to them.  This is something Greg Sandow talked a lot about in his Juilliard class: both using videos and having performers talk about themselves and what their personal connection to the music.  They’ll be in my next post.

Meanwhile, in addition to Facebook invites and email invitations, there’s been an article in the local paper and it got picked up by the DePauw site.  My guess is the the DePauw PR director decided to do a story on it because presenting a program combining classical music, improvisations, and Michael Jackson relates to my sabbatical research.

I’ll let you know how the party and concert go!



Filed under attracting younger audeinces, audeince building, Center for Music Entrepreneurship, Festivals/Series, Greencastle Summer Music Festival, John Kamfonas (piano), Manhattan School of Music, Sandow, Uncategorized, Young Performers

4 responses to “Adventures in Concert Presentation: John Kamfonas at the Greencastle Summer Music Festival Wednesday

  1. Outside of Greece, Hadjidakis is probably the most well known Greek composer. His Pote Tin Kyriaki (more famously known internationally as “Never on a Sunday”–hell, my mom even knows that song in Thai) has been sung and recorded by so many folks over the decades, it’s just incredible how many versions exist of this. It’s one of the few composers we play several tunes by in il Troubadore. I really wish I could come to this, but of course I teach on Wednesdays so probably won’t be able to make any this summer. Next summer I will make sure to leave my teaching schedule open so I can make it up–just hope you keep doing things in this direction then!

    • Why am I not surprised that you not only know *of *Hadjidakis but a lot * about* him as well? Would love to have you here–and next summer you gotta play, especially as we are moving in the multi-genre, mashup direction. This series cries out for Klingons!

      • That’s the pleasure of working in the musical circles I do, I get to learn so much about composers I would never have had the chance to know about. Hadjidakis’ “Never on a Sunday” has become something of a staple for folk dancers and the Greeks will line dance to it anytime they hear it. I know I’ve danced to it a number of times when I was going to the Louisville Ethnic Dancers weekly open folk dancing.

        That tune is also considered a standard for Lounge acts–I think in some ways, the 50s and 60s was a much more international scene in the pop world compared to how so much of today’s pop world is dominated by music from Britain/America–all these wonderful tunes that were pop sensations coming from so many different countries.

        It’s great that many classical musicians are “going back to their roots” in a manner of speaking. I think some of hat is the recognition that Classical Music’s pretense at being “international” really means something different than we think. I think Anne Midgette sums up that conceit the best in her review of the Japan NHK Symphony Orchestra.

        The lone Japanese work on the program, “Green,” was commissioned by the NHK from the late Toru Takemitsu in 1967, and showed the fallacy of thinking that a Japanese composer represents Japan; influenced by Debussy, it revels in timbre and rhythmic subtlety, sending shoots of sound curling out of the winds, emerging from the strings.

        There’s so much great music out there, and so many great composers–the vast majority of which aren’t working in the Western Classical Tradition (or Western pop tradition for that matter). I hope the concert went well and am really bummed I had to miss it, though for once it was a good day of lessons from my kids!

        Oh, and I’d love to play and certainly have plenty of genres to pick from–count me in anytime!

      • Thanks again. The “back to his roots” aspect was nice. And it helped make for a nicely balanced programs, with his leaning-towards-new-age improvs, the Hajidakis, the Liszt and Brahms, and what I guess you’d call a fantasy on a MJ tune.

        We’ll definitely book you for next summer!

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