German pianist Frank Dupree can be described with one word: versatility. He doesn’t think in stereotypes and has experimented with a variety of musical genres and instruments.
“Why isn’t it possible that one person plays a Beethoven Piano Sonata and improvises over a song by Duke Ellington in the same concert? I say it is! It’s all about making music,” said Frank, winner of the 2018 Opus Klassik Award for Piano Concerto Recording of the Year (20th/21st century).
Musician From The Beginning
The first instrument Frank played was the drums. As a 3-year-old boy, with two sticks in his hands, he drummed on everything. At age 4, he learned to play the piano after receiving his first keyboard under the Christmas tree. There was almost no genre which he didn’t try: classical and contemporary music, jazz, Samba or African music. He also has experimented with conducting and composition.
“Making music was like a playground of sound,” Frank said.
When he was 16, he needed to decide between piano and percussion, and his heart chose the piano.
“I love playing this instrument and in its generality it allows me endless musical possibilities, except unfortunately the art of vibrato,” he said. “But sometimes the question does pop into my head, who would I be today if I had decided to become a professional percussionist? Maybe I would have bigger biceps.”
As a child, Frank tried out the new melodies on his little keyboard and someone rang at the door, he always asked his mother: “May I play for her/him?” Now, he still has the same feeling being on stage.
“I want to share my music with people. Isn’t it beautiful to fill a big hall with sounds? … This is what I like the most,” the now 27-year-old said.
Playing For The Crowd
One of Frank’s top bucket list wishes has always been touring around with a band, and this past November he performed a jazz tour throughout Germany with Mini Schulz, professor in Stuttgart for jazz bass, and jazz drummer Obi Jenne. Because the colleagues have roots in classical music, the performances included Debussy, Kapustin and Gershwin, in addition to Bernstein and Duke Ellington.
In 2019, Frank has already given his debut in Madrid. For the rest of the year, he is planning concerts at Wigmore Hall in London, the Konzerthaus Berlin and the Elbphilarmonie in Hamburg. He also is a member of the university council at the University of Music Karlsruhe with a special focus on supporting the students there, in addition being a music ambassador of his hometown Rastatt. Through these opportunities, Frank will widen the awareness of classical music and invite some of the best musicians for a concert series.
“Sometimes people think music is something unnecessary or take it for granted, because they don’t understand how important music is in life. Music feeds the brain, it improves our dexterity and our social skills, it can reduce our stress level in the daily life and it increases our concentration. It doesn’t matter if you listen to music or if you are actually exercising it. When we clarify this and we find creative ideas to communicate that music is as important as water and bread, they will understand,” he said.
His latest project is called “PianoPulseProject”. It is through this project he combines all his skills into one program: playing the piano, conducting, drumming, jazzing, composing, and working with different media.
He had the idea to create musical films with a film producer from Frankfurt. Every video project starts by finding the right piece. He then arranges it for all the instruments he is able to play. Then the filmmaker and Frank brainstorm about finding a story behind the music, and look for the right location. It is finally then they start the creative process: recording the music and making the film.
There is four films done with a fifth on the way. The aim is to reach younger people with classical music via Facebook or YouTube with pieces of the 20th century that are moving between jazz and classical music, such as Leonard Bernstein’s “The Age of Anxiety”, his Second Symphony.
Frank thinks artists, concert organizers and institutions like orchestras need to be creative.
“In my opinion, we need to create new concepts, special programs that are mixed with all kinds of music to build sensible bridges between the genres which could mix orchestral works with chamber music or solo pieces and we need to get out of our comfort zone, the concert halls,” he said.
To learn more about Frank Dupree, visit his website.