Living the Classical Life has become one of my favorite pursuits ever since we started the project—originally as simple conversations about music and life, with my friends. The show has grown and developed from that which I did all along to find my own—which is to ask questions from the heart.
I have always admired Charlie Rose and "Inside the Actors Studio." I never dreamt that in my own way I could host musicians and talk about their lives, work, and process. For an aspiring young musician, the anxiety and uncertainty surrounding a life in music can be overwhelming.
Thankfully, there is much to be learned from a musician's inner world, insights, their struggles and experiences, and above all their passion—all of which are at the heart of this show. I hope the humanity of my guests will inspire and encourage others.
I grew up in postwar Munich listening to classical music. It was the only "extra noise" permitted—six children were all my parents' ears could handle. No music lessons, for the same reason. However, we did sing a lot—German "Liedgut" in four-part harmony—which prepared me for my years with the Munich Philharmonic Choir. I've always been a music lover and avid concert-goer. But not until teaching German to students from the Oberlin Conservatory and the Cleveland Institute of Music did I begin to understand what it means to "live a classical life." Getting to know many of these students during their undergraduate years filled me with admiration for their determination and courage. The passion and sacrifice it requires deeply moved me. It takes more than a village for a classical musician to succeed, no matter how talented and hard-working.
My very special friendship with Zsolt, whom I met during his freshman year, led to the idea of producing a candid, intimate interview series that brings a whole new dimension to understanding classical music. "Living the Classical Life" would not be possible without Pete and Liz whose total engagement, artistry, and professionalism create each episode. Famous or just starting out, our guests speak about how they deal with failure and success, shoot for the stars, look for a quiet niche, or survive the global high-wire circus. They generously share their most intimate experiences and their wisdom--all for the love of music.
I've been making movies for a long time. I shoot, direct, cut, write, produce, and sometimes teach.
Liz and I were doing a short documentary about Zsolt. We'd done a few different shoots, in different settings, with different friends of Zsolt. We kept coaxing his friends to ask Zsolt questions so that he'd reveal more of himself on camera. They tried, but Zsolt is wonderfully modest, and kept turning it around to ask questions of his friends. Jeez that was frustrating.
One day, as I was looking through the footage for those rare moments of Zsolt-candor, I realized that what he was doing was interviewing these people. And they were saying interesting things about themselves. He was drawing them out in an intelligent, relaxed, and empathetic way.
I hastily cut together an episode, our first, in which he interviews a wonderful cellist named Joshua Roman. I called it "Zsolt Bognár & Friends" because, at the time, that's what it was. I showed it to my partner Liz and she loved it. Then we showed it to Jutta, and she was excited.
As the series evolved, we began to include guests who weren't friends (yet) and our viewership expanded. We needed a more inclusive name for the show, so I suggested a phrase that I'd been using as a subtitle, to describe the show's essence.
And here we are, Living the Classical Life, surprised over and over by the number of people, all over the world, who like the show and want more. Money is still a major problem, because we have high production standards, but The Show Must Go On!
Before meeting our host Zsolt Bognár I had no connection to classical music. I grew up listening to jazz and rock 'n' roll. I thought that classical music was stuffy and not for me. What a surprise I got as I was initiated into this world.
One of the things that I'm most proud of is the fact that, even though this is not the kind of music that I'm well versed in, I'm able to produce a show about it that I believe is of an incredibly high-quality.
Living the Classical Life is one of the most satisfying and rewarding things I have done. I look forward to each shoot because I know that I'll learn from our host, from our guests, and from the other technical craftspeople who work with me. It's lovely to realize that no matter what your age or background there are reservoirs of knowledge to be found everywhere. I feel lucky to have found these wonderful collaborators. Here's to many happy shows to come.