When Glenn Kramer visited London in 1999, the noontime classical piano concerts enchanted him. In London for six weeks while on a summer sabbatical, he checked TimeOut London in the mornings and attended the concerts, usually free to the public, during lunchtime. At Wigmore Hall, he heard Liszt’s “Benediction de Dieu dans la Solitude” for the first time.
That performance germinated an idea that would boost the classical piano music scene of San Diego, California, where Glenn made his home in 2000, not long after he returned from London. “San Diego has fine orchestras and classical music ensembles, but there isn’t an ongoing recital series like the ones I found in London,” Glenn says. An avid pianist himself—he has performed at Paris’ International Competition for Outstanding Amateurs—he also keenly felt the need for amateurs to concertize.
In February 2011, he formed AmateurPianists San Diego, with the goal of holding four free concerts a year that would showcase talented amateurs. Since that time, the organization has held six classical piano music concerts, most recently on May 5, at the new performance hall of Carlsbad Dove Library. “Everyone in the audience was a music lover,” says Gorden Cheng, one of the performers, “and it was a low pressure event, a great way to get some performance experience.”
Glenn decided early on not to hold auditions for his recitals. Interested performers may volunteer on the AmateurPianists San Diego meet-up page. “Not holding auditions is always a little risky,” he confesses, since auditions offer a checkpoint on a pianist’s readiness. “But I don’t want to limit concertizing to the best of the best. I want to open up this opportunity to pretty much anyone who wants to perform in public.”
Glenn, a Creative Director for a healthcare governance company, plans, organizes, and presides over the concerts as an act of service to adult amateur pianists and students of adult piano lessons. He also has created pro bono logos and programs for the Rocky Mountain Amateur Piano Competition and musicAppassionata. He is the founder of AmateurPianists.org, a website of news, information on competitions and festivals, and helpful links for the global community of amateur piano enthusiasts. “I love the piano so much,” Glenn says with his disarming boyish charm, “that I make time for all of this.”
AmateurPianists San Diego has held concerts at Scripps Branch Public Library, where pianists performed on a Schimmel grand piano on the stage in the library’s recital hall. Greene Music, a retail store with a recital auditorium was a venue for the February 2012 concert.
Glenn teamed up with the Paradise Point Resort in December 2011 to hold a special event that required paid tickets. After a three-course lunch, the concert presented three solo pianists, all advanced amateurs, one of whom was Glenn himself. The feature act of Paul Romero on the piano (who composes video game music for his day job) and saxophonist Brock Summers performed a potpourri of classical and popular music, from Rachmaninoff to Gershwin to Phantom of the Opera.
“We had 65 people, a really good turnout,” Glenn says with enthusiasm. “I’d love to be able to do something like that once a year.” For 2012, he also plans on two themed concerts, one for composers to perform their works, and another for pianists younger than eighteen.
Glenn says he counts on returning to London soon for more inspiration. “I kind of miss those noontime recitals,” he muses. Yet amateur pianists and classical piano music lovers alike are grateful to Glenn for bringing a little bit of London to San Diego.