Our guests today: Alexander & Buono International Academy
In this episode of the Feisworld Podcast, we invite co-founders and faculties of the Alexander & Buono Academy to talk to us about their new project – a 3-week workshop targeted at beginner, intermediate and advanced piano students (both children and adults). In a time like this, we are glad to provide art and music resources to our listeners, their families, and friends.
Feisworld has been livestreaming our podcast conversations on social media before launching on our regular platforms.
Alexander & Buono is pleased to announce the Summer Piano Institute for 2020.A fully virtual program where teaching is tailored to address the specific needs of each student, applications are now being accepted for Elementary, Intermediate, and Advanced sessions per the information below.
Now in its thirty-first year, each five-day session of the Institute will include daily master classes collectively taught by Academy Chair Cosmo Buono, and Drs. Karen Beluso and Timothy Blair, two of the Academy’s Distinguished Professors; private lessons in which teachers are rotated daily; as well as a final concert featuring the participants of each session.
Watch our interview
In Conversations with Alexander & Buono Academy co-founders and faculties – The Summer Piano (Virtual) Institute.mp3 – powered by Happy Scribe
Hey, hello, how are you? This is a show for everyone else, instead of going after top one percent of the world, we dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsung heroes and self-made artists. Hi there, this is Fei Wu from Feisworld, have your new welcome, welcome to the show. Here we help creative entrepreneurs celebrate their financial and creative freedom. We combine reflection episodes from me, yours truly, along with interviews with extraordinary individuals and stories you can relate to, learn from and share.
As a woman of color. I’ve always supported other people of color through my podcast, my documentary. I’m committed to do so as well as moving forward and I hope will plan for the long run. What can we do to truly support and love one another? You know, when we as content creators learn about creating magnetic content, that’s going to last, that’s going to resonate, we think about three things no love and trust. I’m a small podcaster, but even I have a small platform to influence and help other people.
What can you do to learn more about the world through your own eyes, your own experiences, as opposed to following the news exclusively? Certain channel, a certain party? What about we see things for what it is and see people for who they are? Look, I wasn’t sure about releasing another episode today, but I decided to do it because it’s the right time. It’s always the right time. After all, in this conversation, you’ll hear from a very diverse group of people.
You can’t see them through this audio, but you can find our livestream video on my Facebook page under Feisworld. In a time like this, I find music and art to be the best mediums for reflections, finding ourselves our own voices and take action. Without further ado, please welcome my guests today on the show from Alexander Buono International. We have Steinway artists Cosmo Buono, Timothy Blair, as well as and Juilliard graduates and Steinway employee and instructor Karen.
So my longtime friends Barry Alexander and my business partner Adam Leffert. We are here to talk about an exciting workshop, Summer Piano Institute hosted by the Alexander Buono Academy. This entire experience will be hosted virtually on Zoom. We have three workshops for beginners, intermediate and advanced students from all around the world. We want to make it accessible. When I say we, because this is a project so dear to my heart. I’ve been involved learning from these faculty members and founders of the Academy and trying to understand what we can do to make people’s lives better for kids, to be able to learn more about piano and overall music and have a wonderful experience.
I can’t wait to see you at the end of the show. The first workshop for beginners will start in June, followed by two additional workshops for intermediate and advanced learners in July. Without further ado, welcome to this new episode of the Feisworld podcast. Be well. Be kind to yourself so much. Love to this community. Take care.
All right. Hi, everybody, this is Fei Wu from Feisworld podcast on Feisworld Media. I am so thrilled today to be with such prolific musicians and digital marketers right here. And so I’m going to go around and quickly introduce them here with a bearing Cosmo, who are the co-founders of Alexander Buono International and Alexander Academy to talk about their Summer Piano Institute. And there’s an open house where you get to connect and ask questions in real time with these artists and musicians.
So without further ado, I think what I’m going to do is bring Cosmo being co-founders Timothy and Karen. Both our doctors and Karen has gotten every degree from Juilliard. I’m so impressed. And Timothy has been a long time professor teacher and I love how lighthearted you are. Always always puts a smile on my face and. And then Adam Leffert, who’s a software developer and so welcome. I’m going to throw a first question right to bear in Cosmo to talk to us about what Alexander Buono Academy is about and why are you starting this summer Piano Institute?
What what makes you so excited about that?
Well, I’ve been doing summer programs for about 30 years now, and I find that when you do them after a week, the students having done the classes and then the individual lessons and then gearing up for a performance and interacting with not only professors but with each other, they really gain quite a lot of information and quite a lot of confidence over those few days. So things are going online now and we can reach a lot more people up and doing a lot more teaching online.
And I have students from all over the world and now we can do this with the Summer Institute as well.
And one of the other things that we were concerned about with all of this was making sure that we not talk about just how to play well, but establishing in the minds of the artist a mind set that allows them to feel more comfortable on stage, understanding all of the components that go into performance and talking to them about some of their own concerns as they relate to not only just the repertoire, but also being on stage and aspects of their career that they might not be able to understand otherwise and focus in on.
Another thing that’s very important about these sessions is that they’re taught in such a way that every day students have been able to communicate with more than one professor so as to get different perspectives and different facets of an understanding of their work as they are as teachers react to that. So all of these things make for a pretty comprehensive and very complete period of learning for all the students, which they all find very helpful.
Wonderful. And I want to hear also from Karen and Timothy, whom I had the pleasure to really work with in the past couple of months and always excited to talk to you guys. Could you tell us maybe as faculty members and also Cosmo, all three of you who the students will be interacting with for an entire week, could you tell us a bit about your background, your relationship with music and piano as an instrument in particular?
Sure, I’ve actually had the the privilege to work with Kozmo the past couple of summers at his summer institute in the city, and I’ve been a piano teacher for four way too many years. And I probably care to admit I also am a pianist, of course, and I received all my degrees from Juilliard. So this is a wonderful opportunity for four students and many a couple of my students have participated as well for them to have an intense week with some quality and wonderful teachers who not only care about their, you know, the end product, but also care about the student.
You know, and educating the whole child or the whole student and to be with Cosmo and Tim is just a true joy.
I would also go on to say it’s a true joy to work with the two of you, frankly, you know, we sat down one day and realized how similar our teaching methods are and having behind lessons at age for being a professor, I don’t know, over 30 years and I’m doing for 20 years. This provides an opportunity to reach students who otherwise I probably would not be able to reach. And I think that by coupling masterclasses and private lessons and having the students experience all three of us is a very rare and unique kind of an institute.
So that’s why I’m excited about it. Absolutely wonderful working with such great colleagues, because we bounce ideas off of each other and students will get a slightly different viewpoint from each of us. One thing that we all share, Karen, that alluded to is the whole student as we try to give students enough knowledge to make their own choices so that no two students are going to play a piece exactly the same. That’s not the goal. The goal is for the students to develop an informed individual interpretation.
If I can just add this, if you don’t mind, I was doing some research on Dr. Blair and Dr. Lewis and also Cosmo. And I came to discover that in terms of not only their teaching style, but their teaching heritage, they can trace the lineage that of all of the pedagogy that they share with students all the way back to Beethoven himself. And what we now know is that two hundred and fifty of the world’s greatest pianists over the course of the last over the course of the centuries, about another 250 years, have all been traced back to the same school of thought and and teaching that stretches back to Beethoven, which makes their teaching methods as authentic and as straight from the source as perhaps anything could be.
It’s an important facet of their understanding of how the piano works and what they’re able to share with the students.
Yeah, it’s it’s wonderful and I must say that having been able to work with all of you, you know, on courses and shooting these wonderful videos, that Steinway factory to me is such an unforgettable experience. And we have also someone in the room with us today, Adam Leford, who has been working with me for a while and joined this team. And, you know, we talk about those constantly. Neither one of us is dedicated musicians as a career.
But I was just wondering, out of having known everyone for a while now, what what makes you excited about this particular venture?
And for me, being in my career, mostly a web and mobile developer and a technology person, I know that technology is for a purpose. So what is the purpose of the technology for ABI? It’s to create this space in this context. And what I’ve learned I got involved with ABI is that what is that space for? It might be for a passion performing with music or it might be a career. So whereas there’s the space of lessons and there may be talent and skill that develop over time, how do you hold the space?
How do you approach auditions? How do you create success so that you can have a career in music? So for me, using technology, whether it’s audio visual, video information architecture for the courses that we do or possibly even some some more fancy fun things in the future that we’ve started to talk about, being able to use technology to give people that opportunity is what’s important to me so they can do what they love with much of time as they want and as they have.
Mm hmm. Yeah, I absolutely agree. As a digital marketer for over a decade, I am very excited about what we’ll be working on moving forward. I know our workshops. There are three of them beginners, intermediate students, as well as advanced sessions. All three of them are geared towards learning the piano, all the techniques, working with different teachers. And I’m excited to be maybe talking about and showing some of these students, children and adults, what digital marketing means, the business of music.
And I’m excited to be joining Barry for that as well. So the next question I personally had was I was really surprised because I think about the way that we learn about anything. Oftentimes teachers don’t join with don’t collaborate as much. And I think it’s such a unique opportunity. All three of you, all four of you get along so well and yet so complementary to each other and have this opportunity. Guys, seriously, for the entire week, you’re able to learn from everybody, their master classes in the morning and sessions in the afternoon.
And being somebody with growing up in China, I must say that I feel like from from a finance and pricing perspective, it is more than reasonable. In fact, you made it really accessible to everyone to learn from people who graduate from Juilliard and to Steinway artists. So what are your thoughts behind that? Do you have any hesitations working with each other at all? And this is wonderful.
Not at all. Not at all. And as Tim stated earlier, we sat down at one point in time and realized how similar our teaching approaches are. And it was just, you know, the light bulb went off, I think, for all of us when we realized that. And I think first and foremost, we began, we have a deep respect for each other. And, you know, it’s very rare that you will get three pianists in one room working with one student and that we all have similar approaches, yet we have maybe different ideas, but we all approach things from a very similar point of view.
And normally a student gets input from three piano teachers, maybe at the end of a semester in college after a jury examination, and that’s when all of a sudden you get the input from the teachers. What’s so neat about this institute is that the ongoing the students will receive input from all three of us. Mm hmm. And what was really fun was when we did sit down that day and. I would start a sentence and Karen or Kozmo would finish it with what I was about to say, and that’s when we began to realize just how similar our approaches are in terms of just teaching techniques and talking about the score itself and how to teach a student to bring the score to life themselves.
So we’re we’re excited and we hope that our excitement will rub off. I think it’s good that we all three have been doing this work and we take delight in each other and what each of us bring to the teaching situation, and I believe firmly the students should have a number of ideas that they can start thinking and makes the students start to think, I don’t I’m not a big fan of dictatorship when it comes to anything. But when it comes to me, the student doesn’t learn if I tell them exactly what to do and only that nothing’s been learned.
And so with the three of us try to draw out the students, I think we do it with a great deal of joy in each other. The institute is just an arm of the academy. This is what we’ll be doing with the entire academy through courses, master classes and individual lessons.
Yeah, I think this environment right here, just seeing everybody smiling and I’ve joined I’ve edited videos for the master classes, there are just so much joy, so different than sort of what I grew up with when it comes to piano or ballet or anything related to arts. It’s always kids crying while the instructors are screaming. And I’ve witnessed that in North America to say sorry to my cousins. I watched both of them taking a brutal piano lessons. And this environment changed my perspective on all of that.
So I want to throw some questions back at Baring Kozmo for founding Alexander International and the Academy. What do you think are some of the differentiations and how it differs from other currently in this pandemic, other virtual piano camps and workshops? Besides that, you have such a vast knowledge from three instructors. What drives both of you?
Well, for me, I’m very pleased with the whole idea of addressing not just the talent of an individual, but everything that drives that talent so often there’s a question of people speaking about the musical abilities as though they exist separate and apart from the person that has them. And what we try very hard to do is to examine very carefully all of the components that go into not only a great performance, but great musicality, great artistry and a real understanding of every single dimension that is a part of being a musician within the framework of the pandemic.
What we have come to realize is that so many things are going to be changing, whether it’s the idea of not having as many as many performances in public spaces or just not having the opportunity to perform as much, that we’ve had to really refocus everything in a way that it’s all pretty much Internet based. And even within the the challenge that’s associated with that, there are also new opportunities. We’re going to be working with an excellent choral conductor and a man who teaches both here at Princeton and in the United States and Oxford in England.
And he’s going to be talking about an artistic reset for all of the artists and understanding of how this pandemic has impacted everything that we’re going to do going forward. And that’s very much reflective of what we feel is both the challenge but also the need for artists in terms of their really understanding how this can shape their careers, but also shape their artistic personalities in a very favorable way, as opposed to feeling as though everything is going to stop. No, this is just traveling down the road.
It’s slightly different. It’s going to still get you to the destination. And we’re very happy to be able to provide those steps that will lead to that being accomplished.
And what we’d like to do is, is produce something where there is a repository of information open to all students and this great art music is so relevant today, you can be elevated by it. You can leave your problems. You can you can. It just informs everything that we do that is positive in our lives. And that is very important to me. Also, I think teaching should be celebratory. It shouldn’t be, as just pointed out, where students are crying and carrying what they should be passionate about this because the art is magnificent.
I love that and I had the pleasure of interviewing Barry and Cosmo previously on my podcast, so I definitely encourage people to check those out as well. So I want to mention briefly about tomorrow, which is Friday, June 5th, at three p.m. Eastern Standard Time. We are inviting everyone in this room today to answer questions to anyone who is remotely interested in the sessions. And there’s no pressure. There’s no pressure in having anyone signed up. We just want to open up this conversation and talk more about how we’re conducting these sessions.
So, again, the registration link is below. We asked people to register to make the session more secure and we can also prepare for that. And so with that said, is there anything any one of you want to say about the open house, maybe anything in particular you want to elaborate on or details related to the workshops that you think people should know about?
Well, I think what we’d like to be able Karen, please go ahead.
I was just going to say one of the things that they will see is just in an open house, how we approach or answer the questions just as we are here, they’ll see that chemistry between the three of us and how we’re able to then again address each student or each, you know, each person’s question. So I think they will see us in action.
That’s what I would like to echo that a little, I think that there is an important understanding that we work to create between ourselves and the student that is not done with a template, but rather really working to understand their individual concerns and their individual needs and also helping them to develop a process by which they can get from here to there so that those problems get solved. They get addressed and they get overcome, essentially. And that’s what we feel truly makes for the difference between playing notes and making music.
Those are things that we want very much to have, all artists have. And we will focus on those kinds of things more from an individual standpoint in order to achieve that.
Absolutely. And the love of music is incredibly important, and as we learn music, one of the things we do as musicians is we’re always striving for perfection. And sometimes if that becomes the sole goal, you lose the love of music. So I think in the academy, we’ll talk about how do you really become as good as you can become at the same time, realizing that we’re here to appreciate and enjoy the music always.
And one thing that one area I’m also excited about, and again, Adam is going to support me through all of that. And one thing I want to call out and Adam, feel free to chime in as well, is that we want to offer people full support. I know this is the first time for many people, parents and students to really learn online. One hundred percent. You know, we want to make sure that if you have any questions, again, links are in the details below.
We are accepting questions. Even if you were just contemplating whether you want to join or not and how to make sure that your lighting is correct. Like you can see everybody here and, you know, what are the minimum viable product that you have in your home that you can use right away and webcams and things like that. We’re here to support you and schedule phone calls. So you’re covered. Adam, there’s anything else that you like to add from a technical perspective along the same lines we mentioned that we hope, as Faye said, we’re here to answer questions, webcams, microphones, lighting software, laptops, phones, those sorts of things.
We hope to also when people do sign up for the program, have a short time before to get them ready and check it and make sure that things are ready to roll. And then on a simple logistical level, we discussed when we planned the open house that everyone’s welcome for whatever time they have. So if you can come from the beginning, you feel like staying through the entire time. That’s wonderful.
If you if you’ve got quite a lot going on that day, you just want to kind of dip in and lurk or dip in and stay for a little. That’s OK, too. And that’s in that same sort of joyful spirit. So stop in for the whole stop in for part of it just to see what it’s like and get a get a sense. Get a taste.
Great, and I just want to call out tomorrow is June 5th. However, we do have another session coming up for the intermediate and advanced sessions on Friday, July 3rd. So, yeah. So if you happen to miss the one tomorrow, you know, we’re around again. One last thing I want to do while we’re going live is about those wonderful concert at the end of each session. And how it works is the workshop runs from Monday to Friday.
And and then on Friday afternoon, I believe, is that we will host a concert and that will be done using Zoom webinar. We have done that for Abai Alexander Bono Foundation, and that was super exciting. And that creates a fairly similar experience for people as viewers and as performers. Again, we’re going to train the train the students on how to pick the piece and how we put together a program and so they can perform so. So anything else that I feel like I missed out on about concerning the program?
I think what you’ll find is an atmosphere that’s very comfortable for doctors. It’s geared towards learning, but it’s a very comfortable atmosphere, and I believe that the best learning occurs in that type of situation.
Margaret. This is wonderful. And before we close there, anything else that any one of you would like to add, I love this so much I feel like we should do it again.
I just want to say that within the framework of the academy, we’re not only dealing with just classes that are designed with the institute, but also we will be rolling out on a consistent basis essays about composers and the guides to interpretation of their works. We’re going to be featuring interviews with artists that are working on the careers of not only just pianists, but also singers, composers, dancers, violinists. Every aspect of the arts is going to be covered within the framework of this, even to the point of interviewing people that are involved in publicity and public relations, all with a view towards having the people who are subscribing to the academy understand as many facets and as many aspects of the arts, the performing arts as possible, so that we make sure we are equipping you with as many tools as we possibly can.
And as Cosmo mentioned earlier, we are designing this academy in such a way that it will be a repository for all of the information that you’re going to need to have as an artist, everything from working on repertoire to aspects of a career like how to audition, how to manage, preparing and designing a website, even what to wear on stage when we get to that wonderful point where we’re having performances again. So it is meant to be as comprehensive as we can make it.
And we’re drawing on as many resources as we possibly can to give artists the greatest scope of information and the greatest spectrum of awareness that we can provide.
Wonderful. And there’s a lot of information coming in, coming through, and we’re going to we’re going to release them very soon on teachable in terms of the repository for all the information. So definitely sign up for the newsletter. We can’t wait to share all that information with you. With that said, I think that concludes this episode and hopefully will bring all these wonderful musicians and artists back on our show again. Hi there, it’s me again, I want to thank you very much for listening to this episode, and I hope you were able to learn a few things.
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