By Bria Hilliard
“I think people want to be moved, transported, and communicated with on a very meaningful level as great music can,” said Jeffrey Siegel. “I am an ambassador, if you will for great music and being able to provide the listeners with this very special experience with great music in a listening, enriching, and a musically accessible way.”
Jeffrey Siegel’s Keyboard Conversations are designed for him to play great classical music for his audience while speaking to them about the piece of music they are listening to. By doing so, Siegel believes that he is making the art of listening to classical music more “user-friendly.” During his Keyboard Conversations, Siegel selects specific pieces that he has mastered with the intention on breaking it down for the audience. Siegel begins many of his conversations with a brief history on the piece, which gives the listeners and opportunity to envision the story behind the music. He then plays the piece of music in its entirety and at the end, allows the audience to ask questions about the piece.
Siegel has paved the way for audiences of all ages to better understand the eloquence and technique behind many famous musical pieces written by great composers. Siegel travels throughout the U.S. and to several other countries to share with his fans the very same concepts that made him so passionate about the music he plays.
Born into a musical family in Chicago, Siegel believed that not becoming a musician or learning about music was “to be a fish out of water.” He began to study music at the age of five then gained a greater focus on music while in high school and performed many concerts in his late teenage years. Siegel’s father, who was also a musician, did not want him to pursue music as a career because it would be hard to make a living out it. “Wanting to be an actor or a dancer or a musician is one thing but being able to do it and earn your living at it is a very different thing,” said Siegel. “I’ve been very fortunate to be a musician and to give concerts and to make this my way of life.”
Despite his father’s wishes, after graduating high school, Siegel attended and graduated from The Julliard School in New York City.
After graduating The Julliard School, Siegel continued on to become an internationally acclaimed solo pianist, playing with some of the world’s finest orchestras. Siegel has played internationally with orchestras such as the London Symphony, Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestras, and Moscow State Symphony, to name a few. He has also played with orchestras within the United States such as the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, to name a few. In addition to playing with prominent orchestras, Siegel has also played with many prominent
conductors such as Zubin Mehta, Sir Simon Rattle, Leonard Slatkin, and many more. He also recorded several albums of classical pieces, his latest being The Romantic Music of Chopin and The Miracle of Mozart.
Learning to play classical pieces at the same level as Jeffrey Siegel is not something that can happen overnight or be taught through a few piano lessons. Playing an instrument such as the piano requires much time and discipline, which is why many great composers began at such young ages. Siegel defied the odds creating a career around his passion for music and decided to share it with the world so that others can be inspired to appreciate and understand classical music. He has created a fan base that has spread throughout the United States as well as internationally of people who are in awe of how great a soloist he is.
“A genius musician is somebody who can prove their own quality through the depth of their lived experience and look forward into a sonic fabric where nothing yet exists and create something of such classic beauty that it lasts for centuries,” said Dr. Michael Woods, Professor of Music at Hamilton College. “I don’t question that he does this and I’ll tell you why. If he didn’t possess this quality, why in the world would he even go to the extent to evolve conversations around each one of those pieces?”
Dr. Woods brought up a very
interesting observation of Siegel’s playing skills that focused on the way his hands moved and looked on the piano. A way of playing the piano that is “all his own”, Dr. Woods mentions that Siegel’s hands look a little heavy, thick and muscular adding that he does not move his hands off of the piano unless he has to. This sets Siegel apart because he plays with his hands flatter than most classical pianists do, allowing a specific amount of weight to his touch that adds quality to everything he plays. “He is a walking, talking keyboard encyclopedia,” said Dr. Woods. “Only a person of tremendous magnitude would take on such varied masterpieces to preserve.”
Although Siegel is highly achieved in his skill, he believes that he has not yet reached his greatest achievement but says that his goal is to try to bring the joy of music to as many people as he can. It is a part of his goal to create an inviting and exciting introduction to classical music, exposing younger audiences to the listening experiences they are missing out on. He mentions that classical music has an appeal that will remain evergreen amongst his audiences.
“Classical music is the best that has ever been and what it has to say, to offer and to communicate never goes out of style,” Siegel said. “My goal is to continue to bring these programs to the people.”
The Magazine Writing Profile Series is a weekly series that features artists performing in the Utica area, but not on the Utica College campus. Stories are written in magazine style, and submitted to The Tangerine by UC students in JLM 363—Magazine Article Writing.