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Piano and Composition: Meet Manuel García-Baró

May 14th, 2020 in Blog, Faculty Spotlight with Comments Off on Piano and Composition: Meet Manuel García-Baró

As part of our ongoing series interviewing our faculty, I chatted with Manuel García-Baró about teaching at CMCB, composing, and working from home.

How long have you worked at CMCB and what do you teach?

I started teaching at CMCB on September 2013. This makes my sixth school year here. I’m part of the piano faculty and I’m also one of the accompanists at the school.

What do you enjoy most about teaching at CMCB?

CMCB is a place for people of all kinds of backgrounds and social realities. I come from Spain, a country that is a lot more homogeneous culturally and racially than the US. By teaching at CMCB I get to meet so many different kinds of people that I feel like everyday I learn something new. I also love all the outreach and social initiatives at CMCB. Music should be for everyone and I feel like I’m contributing something (however small) to social justice by teaching at CMCB.

How has it been teaching during this period of social isolation?

The first week or two were extremely hectic, trying to learn the ropes of online teaching and also coordinating a new schedule with all my students. I’m lucky because almost all my students embarked on the online learning program but that also supposed a lot of work at the beginning.

Once we all learned how to connect to zoom, setup the computers properly, etc. everything has been very smooth. Of course it’s not the same as teaching in person but I thought at the beginning that it would be a lot harder than what it actually is. There are some pros to the situation, for example I get to see and hear the pianos my students are practicing on. The possibility of sharing videos during the class is also a great resource. And there are also a lot of funny anecdotes (you can’t even imagine how many pajamas I’ve seen in the last few weeks :))

I heard that you have written a book of pieces for piano that was set to be published this Spring. I know that has been postponed due to the Covid situation. Could you talk about what brought this book about?

CMCB organizes every winter the Young Composers Festival, a weekend of concerts and seminars about composition in which the students get to play their own compositions and participate in workshops with active composers from the Boston area.

The Festival opens every year with a recital that happens on Friday night. In 2018 the Piano department was in charge of organizing this recital. I have always found that the repertoire of contemporary music for piano is either too hard for beginners or not very interesting. I wanted to show my students that contemporary music can be fun so I decided to write a piece for each one of them. Each of these pieces showcases a different technique or harmonic element from contemporary compositional languages. To make it even more accessible for the younger kids these songs depict different moments in the life of a dinosaur (Little Dinosaur is Born, Little Dionsaur’s First Steps, Dinosaur in China, etc).

The kids loved playing their dinosaur pieces and the recital was a big success. At the end of the recital, Will Fickes who was at the time the Artistic Director of CMCB suggested the idea of compiling the pieces in a book. He was also instrumental in sending my application to the St Botolph Emerging Artist Award that I won that same year and that provided me with the money to hire an amazing illustrator, Teresa Fuster, who made the dinosaur come to life in a series of great images.

The book, called “A Dinosaur in my Piano” was going to be published this Spring by the Spanish publishing house Boileau Editores, but the publishing house stopped all their activities when the coronavirus erupted in Spain at the beginning of March and at this time is hard to tell when they will be able to reopen. Hopefully, the book will be published next Fall and I’ll be able to share with my students at CMCB!

Are there any other projects that you are currently working on?

When I’m not teaching at CMCB I compose music for advertising and media projects. I just finished a Mother’s Day spot for one of the leading Insurance companies in Spain. With the Covid situation most advertising is on hold too, so I’m focusing now in longer term projects. If everything goes well I’ll be writing arrangements for a musical based in the life of Nina Simone that will premiere next Spring. I will also write music for a ballet company as well as a series of pieces based on texts from The Little Prince for my colleague Stephanie Lamprea.

A man plays piano and a girl plays flute while two little kids crawl

One of my favorite moments was from last fall’s Performathon when your daughter had some guests on stage for her performance. I think that moment encapsulated a lot of what I love about CMCB. Do you have similar moments teaching from home?

Definitely. I close the door of my studio so my kids don’t disturb my lessons but they are sometimes unstoppable! I ended with one day teaching with the three of them in the room…

Learn more about Manuel García-Baró:

He wrote music for a campaign for Samsonite. He wrote an arrangement for a friend’s album. It was recorded in Hollywood with top class musicians.  Check out his website here: www.manuelgarciabaro.com

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