Our guest today: Cosmo Buono
Cosmo Buono is a Steinway Artist and the Chairman and CEO of Alexander & Buono International. He played in major capitals and festivals throughout the world. In addition to performing, Mr. Buono has distinguished himself as not only as a sought-after piano coach, but also one of the foremost teachers of the Leschetizky Method in the United States.
Leschetizky was known for producing pianists capable of “a resonant, almost voice-like quality” on the piano. Advocating rich, expressive playing, Cosmo discourages students from note-perfect performances that lack enthusiasm, and in favor of a complete understanding and communication.
Cosmo, alongside Barry Alexander, who appeared on an earlier episode of Feisworld Podcast, are founders and CEOs of Alexander & Buono International (ABI). Together with experts in the industry, they provide consulting services to accomplished and rising musicians.
ABI offers a number of worldwide music competitions including piano, voice, string and flute. Each year, they bring together some of the most committed and talented students from around the world to a music festival they created. The festival includes intensive training and opportunities to perform at renowned venues in Europe that help young musicians excel in their music career.
One of my favorite quotes from ABI is:
“We treat classical music like any other business, while showing clients how to assess, market, and develop their skills in order to create greater visibility and awareness of their work.”
In this conversation, Cosmo walked us through not only the field-tested methodologies from ABI, but also related his own experience as a young musician tracing back to when he was a young boy and through his education at the Juilliard School.
What makes this episode extra special is that ABI is also one of Feisworld LLC’s proud clients. I hope you get a sneak peak into the work I do for Feisworld, our services and offerings that drive generate results for our clients, and more importantly – why we build lifelong relationships with them beyond the duration of the project.
If you find this conversation any bit helpful, please consider sharing with your family and friends.
To learn more about ABI, please visit their website: http://www.alexanderbuono.com/
To learn more about ABI’s international music competitions (they are accepting applications now for Piano and Flute): https://www.alexanderbuono.com/competitions-overview/
Watch our conversation and New Paradigm, New Imperatives: Barry Alexander & Cosmo Buono at TEDxNashville
- [06:00] How is your professional life today? How has this journey been so far?
- [09:00] You have a very peaceful approach to how things changed toward music and the industry. Are you aware of this? Is this on purpose?
- [11:00] You mentioned that the students’ personalities matter a lot and that you encourage them to find themselves. How do you do that?
- [14:00] Fei and Cosmo sharing experiences about how music move people beyond the intellect right into the emotions.
- [19:00] When did you discover that you liked to play the piano and that you wanted a career in music?
- [23:00] What would be your advice to students studying music or playing the piano, who are struggling with a particular teacher?
- [26:00] What were your transitions from Bard, to NY University to Julliard?
- [28:00] What was it like for you to be in a very competitive school like Julliard?
- [33:00] Could you tell us a bit about your early stages as a pianist? How were your piano competitions when you were young?
- [36:00] How do people support your foundation and organization?
- [41:00] How is your teaching methodology and why is it so effective?
- [44:00] Can you share the ABI response to feedback and musician’s fear to play?
- [48:00] What are the biggest fears and doubts your students have? How do you teach them to overcome them?
[07:00] This wonderful music could possible die if we don’t do something. This music is such an intricate part of our legacy and heritage as human beings and it is the greatest part of the human spirit I think. It is my great passion, my great delight to work with people. Our business bring people to the 21st century.
[09:00] When I work with students I encourage them to bring their own experience. Music is really just dots on a page. And unless someone interprets them, they remain dots on a page. Everyone’s personality must come into this.
[11:00] Music should be a celebration, and learning should be a celebration. You can bring knowledge to a student, and also make it happy and joyful.
[16:00] We are not doctors, we can’t cure people with illnesses, but we can move them, and bring them to a higher level spirit.
[24:00] I think it’s important that one educates oneself. You are not gonna get all the knowledge, even if you have the best teachers, and certainly if you are dealing with not the best teachers. I always encourage students to be their own teacher. To me, as a teacher, the best thing I could teach someone is to be independent.
[29:00] There is an environment where people start to feel ‘if I can pull you down, then I can get a step higher’. It doesn’t work that way. You have to develop yourself, you have to have a good business sense, but not a cut-throat one. Many schools like this are more anti-art than pro-art.
[50:00] If there’s something I could leave people with, it would be ‘believe in yourself, do you work and it’s going to be fine…
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Fei Wu 0:01
Hey, hello, how are you? This is a show for everyone else. Instead of going after top one person on the world, we dedicate this podcast to celebrate the lives of the unsung heroes and self made artists.
Cosmo Buono 0:37
This wonderful music could possibly die if we don’t do something about it. And it is such an integral part of our legacy and our heritage as human beings and is the greatest part of our human spirit, I think. And so it is my great passion, my great delight, to work with new books. And unfortunately, a lot of musicians are stuck in the 18th and 19th centuries. And we really have to bring it up to the 21st century, in order for us to move forward with us. When I work with students, and I love working with students is to encourage them to bring their own experience to music. Music is really just dots on the page. And unless somebody interprets, they remain dots on a page or they remain the color. If you just plug them in the words of the RIP, and the spirit, everyone’s spirit, everyone’s personality must come into this. We’re not doctors, we can’t cure people of illness, but we can move them and bring them to a higher level when their spirits are so good. You have to be practical and that’s part of our the biggest mission of our, of our foundation is to teach students how to be practical, how to be business people, and how to go about their lives in that way. Yeah, maintaining themselves as artists as well. If there’s one thing I can leave people with is, believe in yourself, do your work, and it’s gonna be fun
Fei Wu 2:33
Hello, everyone, it’s your host Faye Woo and I’m here for a brand new episode with a longtime friend. Cosmo Blondell. Cosmo is a Steinway artist and the chairman and CEO of Alexandre and Bono International. He played in major capitals and festivals throughout the world, in addition to performing Cosmo has distinguished himself not only as a sought after piano coach, but also one of the foremost teachers of the law Shecky method in the United States. Pianists capable of a resonant, almost voice like quality on the piano, advocating rich, expressive playing, he discourages students from the no perfect performances that lack enthusiasm, and he’s in favor of a complete understanding and communication of music. Cosmo, alongside Barry Alexander, who appeared on a much earlier episode of the face roll podcast, our founders and CEOs of the Alexander embryonal company, they offer consulting services to individual musicians. They run a number of classical music competitions including piano, voice, string, and flute. They also have a festival that runs each year, which brings students to different countries, often in Europe for intensive training that help them excel in their music careers. I have witnessed so much of their dedication, hard work, wisdom, that’s often counterintuitive from what you learn in music schools. My favorite quote is, abs focus is to treat classical music like any other business, while showing their clients how to assess market and develop their skills in order to create greater visibility and awareness of their work. I had the opportunity to ask Cosmo Oso about his childhood, and how he developed a lifelong interest at a very young age but more importantly, the figures and teachers who really encouraged him to pursue his love for music. Today, ABI is one of FaZe world LLC is proud clients as well. So I hope you get a sneak peek into the work I do for my clients and how I choose to help businesses like ABI thrive in the competitive market today. To learn more about our work, you could also Is it face world.com For slash work? Please help share this episode with your connections that could benefit from perhaps thinking differently on how to be a musician or an artist. Without further ado, please welcome Cosmo Bono to the face world podcast.
First of all, welcome to the show Cosmo. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long while I’m so glad we can make this happen.
Cosmo Buono 5:40
Well, thank you. It’s wonderful to be here and wonderful to be talking with you.
Fei Wu 5:43
Likewise. And, you know, we recently got together with you, Barry and Adam. And that conversation really sparked and piqued my interest to say, we have to do this right now, ASAP, because you have just this wealth of knowledge. And when it comes to classical music, specifically to piano but also for the past 10 plus years, probably much longer. You’ve been a huge advocate, in my opinion, to really not only promote your own career, but help those out there of many ages, not just young kids, but starting with young kids all the way through to people I know some of your clients may be in their 70s and 80s. And still very interested in learning classical music. What has this journey been like for you at a high level? I know, it’s kind of a grandiose question, but what is it like for you professionally,
Cosmo Buono 6:41
when you know, I always tell young people, a professional is not always what you think it’s going to be. When I was a student, I thought I was going to be solo pianist, than most of my performing career was as part of a forehand to piano team. And now I’m working with the foundation. And that’s where my heart is, that’s really where my passion is, because this wonderful music could possibly die if we don’t do something about it. And it is such an integral part of our legacy and our heritage as human beings. And it is the greatest part of our human spirit, I think. And so it is my great passion, my great delight to work with people. But you know, the world has changed. And mainly because of the internet, I think and businesses have to change. And our business certainly has changed as a result of it. And unfortunately, a lot of musicians are stuck in the 18th and 19th centuries. And we really have to bring it up to the 21st century. In order for us to move forward with this.
Fei Wu 7:51
It’s it’s really interesting to talk to you about this. And for the we’ve also been working closely for the past year or so. And I have, you know, firsthand, insider view to the business model. And I’ve grown even more interest in developing that relationship with you and also with your students and clients as well. You know, when I watched you play, I had the pleasure to kind of watch you play the piano and Berry was singing and that moment, kind of really sort of stuck with me all these years, I think it’s been seven or eight years. And just for you personally, the way you play the piano it just so enjoyable. I know you’ve been doing it for a long time. And versus some of the the pianists that I have have encountered, maybe somewhere younger, you feel like they’re fighting something. And then there’s some part of them. To me, when I see some of my own age or younger, they’re thinking this form of art, like you’ve said, may or may not exist, you know, X number of years from now on, people are losing the training, and yet they have chosen such career. I feel like maybe there’s some sort of internal conflict that will come out while they play. But you have a very peaceful approach to to this. This is intentional. I mean, have you ever thought about that yourself?
Cosmo Buono 9:11
Yes, actually, I have. First of all, thank you for the kind words. And thank you for all the help you give us because I don’t have the skills that you have. And you really do help us move our mission forward in ways we could never do it ourselves. But to your point about about young musicians, one of the things that I do when I work with students and I love working with students is to encourage them to bring their own experience to music. Music is really just dots on a page. And unless somebody interprets them, they remain dots on a page or they remain mechanical. If you just play them in the way that they’re written. And the spirit, everyone’s spirit, everyone’s personality must come into this and how you I love that passionately about music because I can encourage a student. But what is this about? What is a Nocturne about what is tranquillity about? Well, for me, it might be very different from 10 Other pianos, and that’s what I encourage. Because when you buy a ticket to go to a concert, you want to be there for two hours. And you want to hear what the person who’s who’s communicating this beautiful music has to say about.
Fei Wu 10:29
Wow, that’s such a unique point of view. I remember both my cousin’s learning piano with their teachers, and there was, and the teacher is always incredibly strict, and the kids are not having fun. But I have had the pleasure to watch the end of one of your lessons. As we’re at your home one day, and the kid was smiling. And I could tell, you know, young kid, maybe around 10, or even a little younger, that he was given, he was empowered to express himself, even at a young age. So based on what you just told me, there is a sort of a unique proposition, in my opinion, in teaching, is that the student’s point of view personality that actually matters, versus all of us still at an older age to say, Who can I mimic? Who can I become, instead of really finding mice myself?
Cosmo Buono 11:25
You know, first of all, I think that music should be a celebration. And learning should be a celebration. And if it’s not, it’s not going to be fun. And you can, you can bring knowledge to a student, but also make it happy and joyful. And even with a young person, I’m glad you brought up a 10 year old because even with a young person, you can ask them, What does this mean to you and get them thinking in a creative way? Get them thinking about music as a language, music as an art, which they are there to express. In my studio in New York, I often have people from all over the world. And people have different experiences with life. And I think that’s another part of music is that? Yes, maybe Beethoven wrote this in the 1800s in Vienna, and his life was quite different from ours. But what he was thinking about are universal truths, freedom, love, tragedy, we all experience all of it. And we may experience it in a different way. And it’s up to me as a teacher, to encourage a student to think in those words, think individually and present this to an individual way. When you’re studying a piece of music, you’re always making choices. A composer may write a tempo. Well, what is the tempo? If I say to you fast, but as fast, it can mean different things to different people. What does loud me, soft me, and you’re making all these choices, and it’s deliberately vague. And what I hope I can do with students is to help them to fill in that vagary in their own terms.
Fei Wu 13:10
You know, so unfortunate in school systems today, even in the US the emphasis on art in general, meaning fine art, music, as an art, dancing as an art have dissipated, you know, over the past couple of decades. And even I felt it when I was in school, that so much emphasis on physics and math and chemistry. Now, as a 34 year old, I realized in my professional life, I have barely used any of those knowledge. I would have much enjoyed, you know, your teaching even just the way that you articulated that without me becoming a professional pianist. Recently, from recently isn’t a year ago, I had that I went to visit, actually at the sander theatre watching Ben Zander actually conduct a orchestra for the first time going there on purpose. And he he’s phenomenal, very well known in the industry. And I was sitting there by myself on very hard benches with people twice my age, with a couple of young kids dragged along by their grandparents and remember Xander said that your when you listen to this piece, doesn’t matter. What a beautiful day that you know, it is outside, you will probably start crying. You start to feel emotional. I thought it was so silly. I was thinking like, I’m perfectly happy right now. There is just no, I mean, that’s just classical music doesn’t do that for me. But I swear the moment they started flying, I don’t know what was going on. I literally just started bawling. I just started crying. And I noticed at that moment, I may have been alone in that and I felt almost embarrassed because nobody else near me was you know, getting so emotional. From that point on I was thinking What is happening? I don’t even understand the music. So that was really phenomenal for me.
Cosmo Buono 15:08
And music has the power to move beyond the intellect right into the emotions, you know, music is just as a therapy for people who have mental problems, or emotional problems. And it’s used as a very effective one because when words won’t do it, often the music will, and is such an integral part. People have studied cavemen and the writing’s on the cave, and what which they can’t interpret. They think it might have been music, they think it may have been them trying to write down some aspects of music. I think it’s just so integral to our souls. And I think we’re happier as people because of it. One concert I will never forget was in Bologna, Italy. And this was many years ago. And after the concert, a man came back with a woman who spoke English. Because despite my name, I only started studying Italian when I was 40. But this man came back and through the, the, his his companion, he wanted to tell me that he came into the theater with a terrible problem. And he wanted to thank me, because for two hours, he didn’t think about that problem. And, you know, we’re not doctors, we can’t cure people of illness, but we can move them and bring them to a higher level when their spirits are. So
Fei Wu 16:37
wow, we were all at Cirque du Soleil watching the Atherton twins. And I felt like there was some parallel to that of me, you know, going to classical music concerts, and also watching the circus of people kind of being able to transform you for a while, even if it’s not, even if it’s temporary. For me, I feel like it’s a permanent effect, really be able to transport you to a different place altogether. Well, you had described, I know of several musicians one, which is, you know, one of your students, George COE had, you know, told me the same thing when he was performing somewhere in Europe. And he was maybe 20 At the time, and, and the Jewish, an older Jewish woman, believe it was in Poland walked up to him 7580 years old, and, and told him that she began to remember herself as a young girl in Poland. And that is magic.
Cosmo Buono 17:39
Yes, it truly is. You know, when we’re young musicians, often we go into elderly homes or prisons, to play, because it’s a performing experience. You have to practice learning to be a performer, you just don’t, you’re not born doing that sort of thing. It’s like public speaking, you have to practice and learn how to do it. And it’s such a moving thing. I don’t think any performer will ever forget that experience. Because often, it’s on some of the only contact they have with a world that’s gone for the elderly people. And you might play a piece of Chopin, which reminds them of an experience. And again, it’s going beyond their circumstance and transporting them to a different world. And regarding the circus, Olay, I had a wonderful time because I cannot imagine the type of things that they do. And the discipline it takes. And yet, it’s the very same thing is as music, it takes many hours, a great deal of discipline. But when they were up there, doing these incredibly incredible things, I was just delighted at the fact that it looks so easy for them, and they were having the time of their life doing it. So I think there is a parallel there.
Fei Wu 18:54
I must ask about your childhood, because we started talking about that at dinner. And I just want it that conversation that go on. And it’s so fascinating to see such a poise such an accomplished Steinway artists like yourself, to really remember, you know, when you’re a little, little kids, so I want you to kind of tell that story again, you know, when did you discover that piano? And then the fact that you wanted to play what age was that? Well,
Cosmo Buono 19:21
actually, the piano was my earliest recollection. My sister played the piano. And I remember the first thing I remember hearing was, was her playing the piano and I wanted to do it. And of course, I pestered her mercilessly because I wanted to do what she was doing. And it’s always been a part of me, and I was very fortunate when I was foreign. My parents decided to have to give me lessons. There was a woman who actually was from Boston and was living in New Jersey, where I grew up and she had such a wonderful way about her, she, she became a second mother, she led me into this music. And she would talk to me and to talk to me as a human being not teacher to student. But and even when you’re playing the simplest of things, you can talk about the sound that you’re producing, how do you want to sell? What Why is it good? Why is it not. And this was a tremendous influence. Unfortunately, I lost her as a teacher, because she was married to a concert pianist who was tragically killed on his way, from a concert in the Midwest. And she moved back to Boston, but I saw her as an adult, and it was a very, very happy reunion. That’s the other aspect, teachers can have such a profound influence on the development of a human spirit.
Fei Wu 21:39
And clearly, you had the pleasure to experience that firsthand. And also that was your very first experience learning imagine somebody who is destiny to become a pianist, but because he or she had a terrible teacher, as a first teacher, and what if the child decides that this is no good anymore, you know, that encounter, like you said, I think it’s profound and and, you know, certainly very lucky to have that.
Cosmo Buono 22:05
Indeed, and I’ve had my share of the other type of teachers, there was one I was, I was always trying to be a good student, but there was one where my parents would drop me off, and she would scream at me for a solid hour. And all I wanted to do was get away from her. That’s that was, that was my biggest moto. And to me, it just doesn’t work. As I said before, I think learning should be celebratory, whatever it is that you’re learning. I always love teaching and not just professionals I love to work with with young people. And it’s interesting that they’re very happy to give me the reviews of their teachers in school. And the ones that they really, really love, are the ones who they feel are concerned about them becoming better about that communicating a passion for the subject that they’re teaching.
Fei Wu 23:00
And just in case, there are students who are practicing the piano or another form of music or different instrument who is listening to this right now. And who may be struggling with a particular teacher where moment maybe a parent thinking my child is not enjoying this. There’s a really strict teacher, I thought it was a good idea. Maybe not, or a student who’s really struggling to learn from someone but still has the passion for music. I mean, what’s your advice, and it’s a it’s a tough one to kind of break it down. I think
Cosmo Buono 23:34
it is tough because the student, especially as a child doesn’t have a choice, and things. But you can move outside of it. One of the things that I’ve always had a great passion for for music and learning. So I read biographies of composers the way most people read novels, because I just I just love knowing about this. And I think it’s important that one educate oneself, you’re not going to get all the knowledge in school, even if you’re dealing with the best teachers, and you’re certainly not going to get if you’re dealing with a difficult teacher. So I always encourage students to be their own teacher. And to me, as a teacher, the best thing I can teach someone is to be independent, so to read, to listen, of course, and to listen to a lot of different types of performances of music, to go to art galleries, because composers did not live in a vacuum. They were very much aware of what other arts, the other arts were doing. Read. Beethoven was a very erudite man and a great reader. He read some of the earliest translations of Shakespeare into German. That was kind of unheard of that was the cutting edge at that time. So that’s why I would advise the students and also I would advise anyone if you want to do something, don’t let anybody tell you no I had a recipe, one of the first Steinway artists and one of the great pianists of all time, and who had an enormous career was told the 21 they’d never be a pianist who should take up the trombone. Well, he just wouldn’t take no for an answer. And half the time I think with life, if you won’t take no for an answer, you can succeed.
Fei Wu 25:23
I like that. You know, I know I jumped around a little bit, but um, another element of your career is, you were trained in several colleges. I was reading your Wikipedia page, I notice Bard and notice New York University and of course, a Juilliard. So what’s the I guess, the relationship or the transitions there? Are you undergrad at Juilliard? Or like graduate students, perhaps
Cosmo Buono 25:49
No, I, I did undergrad work at Bard and NYU. And that was very positive right now. Ford has its own conservatory. And in those days, Ford was a college. And it was wonderful. There was like a kid in a candy store. I could take classes in German literature, and art and science and all sorts of things. And it was, I found it to be a very positive influence. As I was, of course, developing as a as a pianist. I took a Masters of Juilliard, NYU, came in between because I was taking classes also at NYU, and what are the things I was interested in? And, you know, students asked me, should I go the conservatory route? Or should I go the college route? And that depends, it depends. Because some students aren’t ready for the intensity of a Conservatory where it’s music, music, music, some need a little breathing time to, you know, which I needed, I don’t think I would have done well, in a conservatory as an undergraduate. And I needed that time to develop myself not only intellectually, but as a human being, you know, and that was a very, very good step for me. But you know, one size doesn’t fit all. And I try When students ask me about, what would you suggest as far as college goes, I try to get to know the student, sometimes the least name colleges, there’s a teacher there that I think would really be great for the student. So I think everybody has to find their own path. And I think that’s helpful in life anyway, because school is wonderful and important, but it’s a means to an end. And after after school, you still have to find your own path one.
Fei Wu 27:41
Yeah, exactly. So but your Juilliard experience. The story you told me was interesting, too. I hope you don’t mind sharing again. What was it like for you to be in a relatively small and incredibly competitive school?
Cosmo Buono 27:54
Oh, it’s competitive. Make no mistake. There’s a student that I’m working with now. And she’s, she’s, I’m working professionally with her. And she just finished her Master’s at Juilliard. And she had come from the Cleveland Institute. And she was very polite. I said, Well, how was Juilliard prepared to Clinton? She said, Well, Cleveland was a little friendlier. Let’s put it that way. Julia, it’s a very competitive place. And I mean, you can sit down at a lunch table, and somebody will tell you about you’ll never have my double thirds. And you know, you think it’s something I ate? Or is it you know? And that, you know, and, unfortunately, people sometimes think if I can make you feel bad, somehow that makes me better. And it doesn’t work that way. There’s room in this world for everybody. And I can’t blame the school. I can’t blame anything. But it’s just there is an environment where people start to feel if I can pull you down, then I can get a step higher. And it doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to develop yourself, you’ve got to have a good business sense served by but not a cutthroat. And these schools, sometimes the environment is more anti art than it is pro lifts the great composer list conservatory started around his time, he was very fearful. And again, conservatories do great work. I’m not knocking conservatories, but I think sometimes the environment can be just too overly competitive in an unhealthy way.
Fei Wu 29:48
You know, that sounds a familiar to me. And people have the mindset of a zero sum game. If you are winning that means I must be losing that we cannot I somehow progress together?
Cosmo Buono 30:02
Exactly, exactly. We have to support each other. And in this grade I, you know, I often think about, for many reasons, not just this, but the statement, Michelle Obama said, when she said, those of us who’ve made it to the top of the ladder should not push down on those worst are still climbing. And I think that’s such a profound statement for all aspects of work, and certainly for the site. And it just, it just makes me kind of crazy when we’re dealing with the greatest utterances of human spirit. And then we turned around with trying to, to move somebody in the back. It just life just doesn’t work that way, you may succeed a bit. But what costs? And the other thing is people have to understand, what is it that they want out of this, you know, living the life of a touring artist, it’s not so easy. You live as a suitcase, you’re often traveling to the airport to catch a plane to go to the next city. It’s not the easiest life in the world, especially if you want a personal one. And a lot of people are brought up to think, Well, I’m only a success. If I have long legs career. Well, that career may suit languange, just perfectly, but it may not suit and anybody else that way. And it was in my lifetime. Two is, there was a point in my life when I was playing concert after concert. And I played four concerts in a row in Italy. And you know, after the last one, I thought, Wow, is this really what I want to do? I want to think about music, I want to study I will play the same song over and over again. And you know, do the program, go to bed, get up, catch the train, do the rehearsal, do it again. Nothing wrong with that. It just started not to see me as well. So you have to find your niche. And you have to find what’s happy, and I don’t perform much anymore. I do practice. But doing the work that I’m doing with with helping other artists. I think this is the happiest time of my life.
Fei Wu 32:18
Yeah. And you’ve done a tremendous job. This is something i i get to really witness firsthand. I mean, meaning I get to see their rough cuts of videos of these classroom, I get to see the promo videos. And, you know, I know this is something that if you don’t love what you do, you wouldn’t be doing it, you wouldn’t start the, you know, the foundation. And, you know, I still indulge in the episode recorded. We’re the bearer Alexander. So I mean, oh, nearly three years ago. Now, I mean, one day, literally having some downtime, or struggling to work a little bit, I will listen to that, you know, it’s really uplifting to know that there are people who care and knowing that being a classical musician or an A classical artist, is a can be a tough path, and you are there with them, you know, every step of the way or as needed service, as needed as they choose to is really helpful. So could you maybe tell me a bit about the early stages of maybe starting with the piano competition? Were you surprised about the sort of the evolution of that? Where did this start?
Cosmo Buono 33:26
Well, first of all, I was started piano competition. A friend of mine suggested it. And I said to her No, no, they only they only select mechanical players. Players will never make a mistake, but there’s no music being made. She said, Well, why do you have to do the same thing? You could do something different? I thought well, yeah. Right. So we started that. And I will choose judges that will always pick someone who has a personality. In fact, one of the judges is 80 year old man who’s been going to concerts for 70 years. And these are the people you want to want to communicate with. Not necessarily other musicians, but the ones who buy the tickets as the people who just have a passion for music. And then after I met Barry, he worked with me with publicity on this and it started to develop further. And then we formed a vocal competition, a flu competition string competition. We watch NATO every other year. And so that’s been a great source of joy. And we give everyone a debut at Carnegie Hall. And so the times the credential that they will have, and then any way that we can advise them any way that we can help them with issues that they encounter along the way with their career. We’re always here to help and I have to say, you know, I’m very optimistic about this work. We were in Boston just a couple of weeks ago. And we were talking to Brendan Murphy at at Steinway at Steinert. There. And he introduced us to David Pruitt, who’s the head of the music department at UMass Boston. They have built an incredible facility. It is gorgeous state of the art, brand new. And I thought, well, this is wonderful that this that the State University is making this commitment to the arts. And so we’re going to be helping them hopefully, they’ll become an All Steinway School, hopefully, we can help them develop their their concert series. And it’s wonderful. It’s wonderful working with these people who share the same passion. And that goes back to the point of competition, we will have to work together. We’re all in this for the same goal. Yeah, we all want to be successful. But we all can do as well.
Fei Wu 36:04
And then on top of the competition, you and Barry started the foundation as well. So for people who out there don’t have one where don’t know that the nature of this that, you know, there are donations, and there are support from these folks who then enable you to be able to, you know, the select the students were be able to provide this education to people who might not be able to afford it. I mean, there’s a lot going on there. Could you maybe articulate and maybe share some of the insights there to why you do it and how you go about it?
Cosmo Buono 36:38
Certainly, well, first of all, we started the foundation during the deepest recession in the United States is that we’re still spending people told us we were crazy. But we’re still standing, I’m happy to say. And it’s it’s wonderful to find people who do share our passion for this, maybe not involved in music, but they do understand the importance of this work. And guess what we tried to do is to help with the development of music, whether it be an individual artists that we’re working with, or as an Boston, which we’re hoping to do with UMass, or just providing events at Carnegie Hall or even private events where people where young artists can perform. And they can also meet people who could be helpful to them along their career. Also training artists. You know, one of the things that we tell artists is, congratulations, now you’re a small business, and you have to treat it that way. Because the days when you could be an artist and just play well practice, and somebody’s gonna come along and help you or go on forever, I’m afraid. So you have to be in business. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s not a dirty word to be a business. You know, I always tell people about great composer George Frederick Handel. He spent the last years of his life in London, although he’s born in Germany. And when he came to London, he was known as a great composer of opera. Well, London wasn’t interested but they were really interested in oratoria, which is like opera, but it’s based on a sacred text. There’s no acting there, no costumes. And so handle thought, well, here’s an opportunity. I can save money because I don’t have to have the sets and the costumes. And this is what they were interested in. Well handle was such a huge success. Now handle died in 1759. He left so much money that foundation was started that continues to this day, to give money to people. You have to be practical and that’s part of our that’s really perhaps the biggest mission of our of our foundation is to teach students how to be practical, how to be business people, and how to go about their lives in that way. Yeah, maintaining themselves as artists as well.
Fei Wu 40:00
And one of the, I think the the way he articulated, it’s already shed a lot of new light on parents and students thinking that you can just be a great musician and the world will, everything else will take care of itself. It’s almost the same same mentality of you. And I heard this multiple times before that if somebody ends up at Harvard, he or she’s all set for the rest of their lives, and it’s not true. And I, you know, I personally know a lot of people who struggle after graduating from such schools, you know, mentally physically and career wise. And so, when I watched the video, one of the Class series called the master class, you know, I saw that you you teach, which is really magical, each student will have anywhere between five to 10 minutes, and they will play a short piece. And I see you and Barry comment on their, their behavior, and just like an a micro behavior micro moments, that after you mentioned, I was like, oh, yeah, that’s obvious. And then literally, immediately after that comment, they go back to play the piano, and they’re a different person. I could see that on video. So how do you go about the witness? Is there a methodology? I mean, what, what is the structure in your mind to kind of transform somebody in a short period of time, as well as kind of an ongoing basis?
Cosmo Buono 41:22
Well, again, it’s working with the individual, and then the individual personality, not everybody’s gonna come on stage in the same way, then look at this one. But if somebody’s just friendly by nature, that’s what they should emphasize. If someone is no more thoughtful by nature, that’s what it is. It’s taking what’s natural, about the human being, and magnifying it. Because I always tell students, you’re a performer from the moment the audience sees you coming on stage, because they’re getting an impression of you. And if you look, but I always tell them, if you look like you’re going to the gallows, that’s not a good thing. You have to be confident, but you don’t want to be arrogant. Looking, because that sets people off. So there there is that. And you know, it extends in so many ways, not just how you present yourself on stage. But how you present yourself in to other people who can be helpful, for instance, awesome. Artists have rehired because the board likes them. Well, you can’t go to a cocktail party and say, yep, no. Yep. You have to be able to talk to people. So listen, I say to people, well, if they say, Well, I don’t know, I don’t know what to say to these people. I said, well, first of all, ask them a question about themselves. People love to talk about themselves. Have you ever lived? Have you lived your whole life in Boston? Have you? How long have you been involved with the with the organization? Just anything? You know, Do you like baseball, whatever it is, just get them talking about themselves. And you’ll find common ground for a conversation. So going back to presenting yourself, that’s a big, big part of it. And really, as an artist, too, it doesn’t matter how you feel on a particular day. If you’re spiritual, low, low, whatever it is, you have a job to do. And that’s what Barry and I always tell people do your job. This is a job and you go out and you do it, and you do it to the best of your capacity.
Fei Wu 43:37
One of the lessons I love and I keep, I write it down, I have, you can’t really see it. But on my computer, there are moments or quotes I take from my guests, and in particular to add to what you said, you have a job to do. And the students response on I hear them say that what is your number one fear does students sitting down thinking you have a concert of coming and they would say almost simultaneously or individually, but it’s all very consistent, is the fear that they won’t be accepted, they will be rejected that people won’t like what they hear. And the AVI response to that is, you know, you have a job to do, and that’s outside of your control. And, you know, you can’t control that people don’t like your hair don’t like the way you were, you know,
Cosmo Buono 44:27
I’ll take it even one step further. I tell them, if you’re doing it, right, somebody’s not gonna like you, because you’re expressing a personality that some people will like, and some people won’t like, just as humans as an individual. And so you can’t worry about that. Some people believe it or not, don’t like Beethoven. Okay, that’s fine. Some people are passionate like me about Beethoven. You know, it really doesn’t matter in the long run because life goes on. Everything’s fun. One of the most devastating things for an artist is when you get your first bad refill. And I tell everybody who wants to go on this career, you’re going to get a bad review. I can probably, quote, my first bad review to you. But But the great reviews, are they just kind of Oh, that’s nice. They just kind of go, and you’ve got to find a balance, you’ve got to say, Am I doing what I should be doing? Have I prepared? Well, have I thought about this? Am I expressing the music the way I should be? If you’re doing all that, forget about what anybody says negatively, because it doesn’t matter truly doesn’t matter. I love
Fei Wu 45:45
that. And you pointed out the bad review, like, like an author releasing a book, there’s always gonna be that one star review. And, you know, when if based on star system, and sesco nakshi said, Has anybody ever learned anything from a one star review? The answer is probably no. I mean, it just outrage from people towards you. But instead, I mean, I typically don’t, even if I were to buy an Amazon product, I do not go to the one star review. Instead, I might look in a three star review, if somebody really prefer something, but just a few things that might not work for them. That’s much more reasonable, and much more useful.
Cosmo Buono 46:25
I do the same thing. And I’m kind of, and then I think to myself, you don’t even though these people, you know what, you know, maybe there was a motive behind it. And when people tell me, Oh, you’ve got to see this Broadway show, because the refills were incredible. I think, Well, that’s nice. I may or may not like it, because I don’t know, the reviewer. I don’t know what the reviewers looking for, or cares.
Fei Wu 46:49
Yeah, or what the motive is, or whatever that person’s had a bad day.
Cosmo Buono 46:54
But just, if there’s one thing I can leave people with is, believe in yourself, do your work, and it’s going to be fun. You know, I once took a number of students to the concert by a 90 year old pianist, or a wild roll wild was quite legendary. He died a few years ago. And I took them back. And I said, Earl, what would you say to these students? And it was so touching, because here’s a 90 year old man talking to teenagers. And he said to them, don’t be afraid. Just don’t be afraid. And, you know, when I meet, I’m one of the older people, but when I need people who are even older than I am, that’s usually what they say is don’t be afraid. Life works itself out. And there’s always a new path to find. And that’s been the story of my life, frankly. So that will be
Fei Wu 47:56
Wow, I love that. Looking back as I get older, I you know, if I were to say something to my 20 year old self, also, I think I would don’t be afraid is the way to go. Because you you know, on one hand, the lecture of being a young person, but there’s so many doubts and what, you know, you’re surrounded by doubts from other people, like how do you see yourself a really flourish? And you may see the possibility of that. But this is beautiful. He said,
Cosmo Buono 48:24
we’ll keep at it. Yeah.
Fei Wu 48:26
Thank you so much Cosmo. Thanks so much for your time.
Cosmo Buono 48:29
That’s the Adam take care of yourself. Yeah,
Fei Wu 48:31
likewise, bye. If you enjoy what you heard, it’ll be hugely helpful. If you could subscribe to the face roll podcast. It literally takes seconds. If you’re on your mobile phone, just search for face world podcast in the podcast app on iPhone, or an Android app such as podcast addict, and click subscribe. All new episodes will be delivered to you automatically. Thanks so much for your support.
Transcribed by https://otter.ai