By day Alberto De Salas works as a business analyst in New York City, but on evenings and weekends, he transforms into the founder of the Amateur Classical Musicians Association (ACMA).
In anticipation of ACMA’s concert at Carnegie Hall on October 29, Alberto granted GRAND PIANO PASSION™ this exclusive interview and original video found at the end of this posting.
Carnegie Hall has played a role in your life since your childhood.
I was born and raised in New York City, and I actually lived two blocks away from Carnegie Hall until I was eighteen. I studied piano there in one of the administrative building’s practice rooms with an older lady who was a teacher, already retired.
When I was seventeen, my Dad was diagnosed with cancer. I reduced my courseload in college to help look after him, and I also worked as an office security guard in lower Manhattan to help pay for his treatment. He died after a one year battle. I left school for a year and worked to help support our family. My Dad’s illness was expensive, and unfortunately we didn’t have much financial security following his demise. When we moved, I sold my Baldwin upright piano. I didn’t have another piano for nine years.
In my late twenties, I decided the piano was something I should get back into. Even though I decided not to become a professional musician, I still felt like music was my true vocation.
So you enrolled in the Julliard Evening Division to study classical piano music?
Yes. What I enjoyed about Julliard was that it forced you to raise your commitment to the music that you were performing. As musicians, sometimes you fall in love with a piece, but for some reason or other can’t play it, at least in a public forum. You had to be intelligent in the choices of pieces you were picking.
And you had to be well prepared, and to know what you’re were going to say. What was your musical statement? Julliard instilled in students the responsibility towards an audience to entertain them, to take them someplace. People will walk away having felt better for having listened to you.
How did the Amateur Classical Musicians Association get its start?
After I finished at Julliard, I didn’t feel there was a place for amateur musicians who are working people but who still have a voice. In 2005 I printed out 50 or 100 flyers advertising an amateur forum and put them all over New York City. Didn’t take off.
Two years later, in 2007, I tried again, and this time three people were interested. I rented a hall above a Catholic elementary school in the Upper West Side. The next month—that was back in September 2007—twenty people showed up. Since then, we’ve held monthly recitals or concerts. By now, we’ve held a total of 50 concerts in all.
Tell us about ACMA’s upcoming concert at Carnegie Hall on October 29th.
This is our third time playing at Carnegie. In 2009, we played at Weill Recital Hall, and then last year we played at Zankel, the hall that holds over 600 people, and this year we’ll perform there as well.
One of the reasons we perform at Carnegie Hall is to legitimize to the New York City audience and community that amateur musicians can be as entertaining and as technically dazzling as professionals. That’s a strong belief that I have. An amateur is a person who does what they do for the love of it. Sometimes they practice their art against great personal and external obstacles.
This is not just my dream; it’s everybody’s dream. We’re going there together.