Meet Cory Lavine!

On March 1st, Enlightened Piano Radio announced its top three nominees in six solo piano categories, each of whom is guaranteed a spot to perform in to perform in the 2016 Enlightened Piano Radio Awards Concert on board the Carnival cruise ship Triumph (October 6-10, 2016). To my surprise and delight, several artist friends of mine were among the nominees. Curious to find out more about the journeys that led them to receive this honor, I decided to ask them some questions and am delighted to share their answers with you. 

Today I would like to introduce you to Cory Lavine, whose album Out of the Blue earned him a nomination for New Artist of 2016.

Pam: When you first started writing music, at what point did you realize you wanted to be a composer?
CoryThere is something about composing I have always liked. According to my piano teacher, when I first started piano lessons at age nine I was able to put melodies together. When I was about 16 years old I decided wanted to become a composer. I started getting into synthesizers, drum machines, and the like. I also started getting into computer sequencing and notation.  My first computer was a Commodore 64! Whether composing was something that came to me naturally, the equipment, or a combination of both, I loved it back then and still love it today!

Pam: What or who were your early influences?
Cory: Some of my early musical influences were classical piano and rock ‘n’ roll. When I hit my teenage years rock n’ roll started getting more and more of my attention. It was around this time I made one of the most difficult decisions of my life: I told my piano teacher I wanted to stop taking lessons as my creativity and influences were starting to take me into a different direction. To say the least, this was an emotional time for both of us.
During my sophomore year in school, there was a rock band called The Edge who performed at my high school in upstate New York. My school was small with a graduating class of about 115.  So having a band come all the way from Florida to perform in our school was a HUGE deal! They were with a company called Young American Showcase who did anti-alcohol/drug abuse assembly programs using Top 40 rock ‘n’ roll music. At that time, YAS had four other bands touring across the country, each band averaging twelve shows a week for ten months straight. When I first saw them perform, I said to myself, “I want to do that!” They even talked about auditions!  However, graduating from high school was a prerequisite for joining the company, as was being a Christian.  So over the next two years I focused on practicing hard, getting good grades, and graduating. And in 1990 my goal became a reality. I was selected from a national candidate pool to play keyboards with a band called Free Fare. 

Pam: Where do you get your ideas come from?
Cory: Good question! Sometimes I wish I knew; believe me, I could create a lot more music that way! Most of my ideas, though, come from within. I start with the simple things I love to do such as listening to music by other artists, going for walks, reading books, and talking to people. All of these put me in a better frame of mind for inspiration – and maybe, just maybe, some music might come out as a result of it.

Pam: What do you usually start with when composing a new piece?
Cory: Most of the time, I just sit down and start playing the piano and let my emotions guide my hands to whatever keys they fall on. Sometimes the piece is in a major key; other times it might be minor. It all depends on my mood! I start like that. Sometimes I’ll just start with the right hand and then add the left, and other times vice versa. That might sound simple but for me it’s not always the case. 

Pam: How do you compose?  Are you sitting at a piano?  Do you work at a computer or using manuscript paper and a pencil?
Cory: When I compose, I’m sitting down at my keyboard and my Mac. I have a Yamaha Motif XS8, an full-size weighted keyboard. I play directly from the Motif into Sibelius, which is a notation program. The main thing was making sure the sheet music matched up to the recorded version! This was a little tricky due to the fact that the album was recorded in 2013 and I didn’t begin transcribing the sheet music until a year or so later. It took some time at first and I did use a pencil to mark up the music when I printed it out. I like having the music laid out in front of me when I am working. I also discovered early on the wisdom of using a laser printer as opposed to an ink jet printer, especially with printing out 51 pages of music to be corrected – many pages more than once! That’s a lot of black ink and cartridges. It adds up!

Pam: What are your biggest challenges as a composer?  
Cory: For me, one of my biggest challenges as a composer is finding ways to translate an idea or an emotion into music. Major key or minor key? Slow or fast? Loud or soft? Sometimes it’s best not to be dwelling too long on these decisions because they can take away from – or in some cases totally block – the inspiration and creative process. Again, I usually just jump right in and start playing. Remembering to hit “Record” on the keyboard or recording it on the computer is important as I want to make sure I capture that first burst of inspiration right then and there.  It is frustrating when I forget. Fortunately, I did hit “Record” for a few songs that didn’t make it onto my first album.  By capturing those ideas, now I have a starting point for my next project.  However, it might be a  little challenging going back to those ideas after months or years and trying to recreate them.  What was I thinking or how was I feeling when those ideas first came through? It remains to be seen whether or not I will be able to expand upon on those earlier ideas or not.

PamDo you find inspiration from other composers?  Which ones?
Cory: I do find inspiration from other composers. Back in 2009, I met David Nevue, David Lanz, Joseph Akins, and Philip Wesley for the first time. They performed in the Sound Kitchen, a prominent studio here in Nashville. I had never seen them nor had heard of them or their music before. However, after hearing their performances up close and personal, I began thinking “I can do this! I can do this!” As a result, I not only received the inspiration I needed to get back to composing music after 25 years as well as the inspiration and motivation to build a website, release an album, and create a songbook as well. Seeing concerts in person or streamed live on the internet are great ways to be inspired. It’s very, very powerful. Definitely check it out!

Pam: Are there any non musical influences that are important to your music?
Cory: Sure, Pam. This kind of goes back to your earlier questions about where my ideas some from. I love the outdoors and going for walks. This helps not only to clear my mind, but it also helps when it comes to sitting down and composing. People also play an important part in my music.  I’ve always enjoyed meeting people. After spending time talking with them and exchanging stories, I often take something away from the exchange that I can later use in my music.  For instance, my singles Give Thanks, Child’s Wish, Andante, and Little Dance were all a result of personal interactions.

Pam: What do you say when asked to describe your music?
Cory: “If you take the music of Jim Brickman and George Winston, put it into a blender, and hit Blend, then you’ll have Cory Lavine.”  If you like soothing, soft solo piano music, then my music might be what just you are looking for. It will help you to relax and may even put you to sleep.
Speaking of which, one of my classmates from high school purchased my album and told me her three-year old daughter might be my youngest fan! When she goes down for her nap, the only thing she wants to listen to is my album.  Her mother can’t believe it and just laughs! 

Pam: So you think about your listeners when you’re composing?
Cory: I do. When I’m composing, I think a lot about my audience. Will people be simply listening to my music or will they be interested in performing it also? Regardless, I believe creating music that has feeling and emotion is of the utmost performance. If I can’t move MYSELF to do that, then I am not going to move my listeners either. It’s that simple. My song Child’s Wish was probably one of my most emotional pieces I connected with off my album. With this song, as with all of my pieces, I tried to immerse myself in the music – not to allow myself to become distracted. In this piece, I wanted to be true to the young girl and to the family I was writing the song about, and to be true for those who would be listening to it. I teared up not only after meeting the family but also when it came to composing the piece. It all boils down to honesty and expression. If I can focus on that as the end result, then hopefully my listeners will take away much more than just the experience of listening to (or playing) a piece of music. They’ll have a song that they can really connect with as well.

Pam: What is the piece of music you are most proud of?
Cory: Wow, this is a tough one.  I might have to say Out of the Blue. The way this song came about and the way I got back into my music after so many years is just short of a miracle! This song really ties together everything about my faith, life, and my music. I believe it represents the best of me as an artist and also those who played a part in my journey. 
This song was so far removed from anything else on the album that I wasn’t sure at first if I was even going to use it. But after thinking long and hard about how everything came to be in both my life and in my music not only did it make it onto the album, but eventually it became the title track.

Pam: What are you working on now?
Cory: Right now, Pam, I’m working on getting my music out there. This past Saturday, April 16th, I played my album at a wedding here in Tennessee. A local bride-to-be discovered my music through her fiance’s mother. As a result, both wanted me to play at her wedding. This was the second time since its release in September that my music has been featured in a wedding. The first time was at a wedding in Wisconsin.                                                                                                                                                                                            
Pam: Anything else?
Cory: Sure, a couple of things. First don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t be whatever it is you want to be in life. You have to believe in yourself. Sometimes it’s going to be two steps forwards and four steps back. When that happens, you pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and keep moving towards your goal. Period.  Perseverance is key. Second, I believe you need to be passionate about whatever it is you want to achieve in life. That passion and drive will get you through anything or anyone that’s standing in the way of you and your dreams. And sometimes, that one thing or person holding you back may be yourself. There will be setbacks and times when you feel like giving up.  But as long as you believe in yourself and remain passionate about your goals and dreams, there is nothing that can stand in the way of you achieving them. 

Recently, Steve and Chrissie Sheppard of United Kingdom based One World Music Radio did three audio segments on the debut release of my album. The first segment was the Album Show which goes into detail about each of the songs off the album; the songs are played in their entirety. The second segment was the Featured Artist, in which Chrissie interviews me via Skype. Last, Steve did an Album Review. This is about 7:25 long, and a great way for new fans and listeners to get a preview of what my debut release is all about. For the month of March, my album debuted at #3 on their One World Music Radio Top 100!!  For the month of April, I found out Tuesday I dropped three places to #6.  With the help of your readers and mine, listening to those different audio segments, we can send my album Out of the Blue up the charts to the #1 spot!  And I am the Artist of the Month for April!  Hopefully this time next month I will be able report back to let you know “we” made it to #1! All of these audio segments can be found here on MixCloud or at my Blog page.

If your readers, Pam would like to learn more about this, my music, or about myself, they can visit my website, Cory Lavine. On my Blog page, for instance, your readers can get more information about my music along with the stories and comments from my fans. The About page reveals more of my personal story. And finally, to keep up to date with all the latest developments surrounding my music, you can sign up for my monthly newsletterIn-tune.  I would love to hear from your readers.

For one’s “Streaming” pleasure, my music can be found online at Whisperings Solo Piano Radio, Enlightened Piano Radio, Spotify, SoundCloud, Solo Piano, and others.

In closing, I would like to thank you so much, Pam, for the honor and opportunity of sharing a little bit about my life’s journey and music with you and your readers. It’s been fun.

Cory Lavine
Pianist & Composer
Nashville, TN. 

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Thank YOU, Cory, for sharing so deeply of yourself – not only in this interview, but also in your willingness to host a GIVEAWAY! That’s right – one lucky reader will receive your choice of a copy of Cory’s CD or sheet music book Out of the Blue. All you have to do to be entered in the drawing is leave a comment mentioning your preference for winning a CD or a book of sheet music. The winner will be chosen at random at midnight on Sunday, May 1, 2016. For a second chance to win, leave a question or comment at Cory’s blog, where this interview also appears. Good luck!