Hudson Valley Musicians
From classic rockers to child prodigies, the Valley is home to a seemingly endless number of gifted musicians representing every genre and age group. This all-access pass introduces some of the area’s leading established artists, each paired with a promising local up-and-comer. Take a glimpse at some of the hottest talent north of NYC
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Pianists Alice Burla (left) and Bar Scott
Photograph by Michael Polito
Currently lives in: Woodstock Hometown: Wynnewood, PA.
Singer, songwriter, pianist, guitarist, author — is there anything the talented Bar Scott doesn’t do? Her soothing folk and jazz songs evoke a sense of calm, while her clever lyrics paint a portrait for the listener. And boy, can she nail a cover of “Dream a Little Dream of Me.”
How long have you been playing piano? I played on the sly whenever I could as a kid, but I didn’t do it publicly until 1995 when I did a piano track on my third album Confession. I never studied piano, or music for that matter. What did you play prior to that album? I was more known for my guitar playing and vocals before. How did you pick up acoustic guitar? I took some lessons because I realized that I needed some way to accompany myself. If I told someone I was a singer, they’d always ask me to sing for them, but I wasn’t brave enough to sing a capella back then. Musical influences? I loved Motown and funk growing up, but I also loved the Beatles, Carole King, the Carpenters — I know, I know — and anything in the top 40. These days, I listen to a lot of classical. Chamber music that involves a piano or a cello is my favorite. Current projects? I am always working on a new batch of songs. This one’s taking an exceptionally long time because I’m writing a book about songwriting right now, and it seems my brain can’t handle writing songs and writing prose at the same time. Previous accomplishments? I’ve recorded six full-length albums of original songs, one collection of hymns, a collection of standards, a Christmas record (not my favorite), and a collection of folk songs that I recorded with an old boyfriend in our living room. I’ve also produced a coloring book for little ones that has a music component so they can sing and draw at the same time. How did you come up with that? It was originally a friend’s idea. She lightheartedly suggested it, but I thought it was brilliant. It’s called Sing and Draw; it’s paired with my folk album and available online. Favorite thing about performing? The audience. I’m really surprised and honored that people show up when I perform. What a thrill! I feel like being onstage is the most comfortable place in the world. Best thing about living in the Valley? The mountains and the freedom. I’m a big hiker. Where do you go? I like checking out local spots. I hike daily by Overlook Mountain; there are several lesser-known paths there. Can you let us in on one? If I tell you, it won’t be a secret anymore. You also mentioned freedom; what do you mean exactly? It’s multilayered. I love how expressive people are here, with the ways they share their points of view and creative energy. But self-expression is much more acceptable here than many places. I sometimes forget that when I’m on the road.
Bar Scott and Alice Burla
Currently lives in: Ossining Hometown: Toronto Age: 14
Watching Alice Burla play classical piano is a captivating experience. Between the effortless way her hands fly over the keys and the beautiful sounds that fill the room, it seems almost impossible that Burla is barely a teenager (she turns 14 this month). At age six, this musical prodigy became one of the youngest students ever accepted to the pre-college division at Juilliard; she’s already wowed audiences at home — last summer she played at the Maverick Concerts in Woodstock — and around the world.
How long have you been playing? I started at age two, but began lessons at four. Do you practice often? At least three to four hours a day. Is there time to do other things? Yeah, I love dancing ballet — I’ve been doing it since I was four years old. I also like swimming and reading. Proudest musical accomplishments? So far I’ve performed in 10 countries, playing solo recitals and concertos with symphony and chamber orchestras. And in January 2009, I had a European tour and performed in Germany, France, Italy, and Poland. Favorite place to perform? It’s hard to say, there are a lot. I love Europe; but Japan was amazing, too. Is the reaction to your music different overseas? Yes, but the level I have to play is completely different. I feel like I have to work harder in other countries. But I just pay attention to what I’m doing and try to do my best; I don’t play just to meet their expectations. Current projects? I’m just working on my solo program and concertos which I will possibly play with an orchestra. And last year I was filmed for a movie, Wall Street 2 — it’s a sequel. What was that like? It was so exciting. I played a piano prodigy, but I’m not sure how many scenes I’ll be in. It should be out in the fall. I met Michael Douglas and talked to Shia LaBeouf. What’d you chat about? He just came in and we talked about all kinds of things, kind of like we were old friends. When he left, the makeup person said, “Okay, you can scream now.” I was like “Oh my God!” Musical influences? I have a lot. Sometimes just listening to a recording of [Vladimir] Horowitz is a huge inspiration; pianists Emil Gilels, Martha Argerich, Sviatoslav Richter, and my teacher Oxana Yablonskaya. What do you like about performing onstage? The feeling of having it all to yourself. It’s your time to shine and you make the best of it. It’s just amazing because you can control the audience’s emotions. There are times when I get so deep into the music, I completely forget about the fact that I’m onstage, in front of tons of people. What’s next? I’ve been invited to attend the Mozarteum International Summer Academy in Salzburg, Austria, which will be held this month. It’s a world-famous festival with the highest level of professors and students.