The Gilmore Keyboard Festival: Life Lessons for Marketers

The Gilmore Keyboard Festival: Life Lessons for Marketers

As told by NK brand strategist, Paul Wilson.

The show goes on, virtually.

Live music is changing this year. Since 1989, the Gilmore International Keyboard Festival has become world-recognized for identifying and promoting exceptional young keyboard artists from across the globe, and highlights always include performances by renowned masters. The Festival, based in Kalamazoo, Michigan, utilizes numerous performance venues over two weeks, and features more than 100 concerts and 40 pianists.

The 2020 Gilmore Keyboard Festival is going “Virtually Gilmore” this year. Instead of audiences gathering in concert halls, only a few exceptional talents will provide streamed concerts, and highlights from past exemplary performances will be made available on The Gilmore website through mid-May.

There really is an art to listening.

You should know the Festival is about more than piano; it is a spectacular celebration of creativity, artistry, and mastery. Of course, the piano is the centerpiece instrument, but in the non-virtual, unplugged version of the Festival, the keyboard is the tool for expressing the deep truths of music, of storytelling, and engaging an audience with music’s treasure. It is an artist’s festival, first and foremost.

You don’t have to be a pianist, or even a musician, to learn something valuable. Several years ago, Yo-Yo Ma and Emanuel Ax presided over a Master Class, coaching young musicians and inspiring anyone within earshot of these musical geniuses. I expected lots of Italian phrases and musical pedantry, because I incorrectly thought a Master Class would be about technique; it’s not.

Yo-Yo Ma carefully listened to a piano-cello duo flawlessly perform a section from “Peter and the Wolf.” He asked the artists to explain their interpretation of the music, paused, and then instructed them to “tell the story differently…what if Little Red secretly wanted the wolf to catch her?” He didn’t give technical instructions to gifted technicians, but asked them to interpret the story differently. They played again, guided by a more interesting story, and produced a breathtaking result.

Finding significance in a time for pause.

Emanuel Ax stopped a pianist who was rushing through the rests in his music. “Don’t rush a rest! Everyone expects musical notes,” he explained. “The rest is the most important note in music, because silence is abnormal. Make your audience long for and anticipate the end of a rest.”

May the music continue, and your story thrive.

It may be a keyboard festival, but there are takeaways for anyone listening. Elevated brands need to tell their story differently, sometimes even creating a new story, to remain relevant and interesting. And to draw attention and distinction in a noisy advertising environment, quiet is often an effective surprise. It makes our audience lean in to hear what our brand is saying.

Enjoy The Gilmore’s virtual virtuosos over the next two weeks, and make plans for the next biennial Festival in 2022.

  • Posted in: Thoughts
  • Friday, May 01, 2020.

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