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Composer and pianist Sam Post is educating new generations about classical music.
ou know your career’s on the rise when Yo-Yo Ma and Renée Fleming ask you to perform with them at the Kennedy Center. For lifelong Washingtonian Sam Post playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” at the Kennedy Center Arts Summit last year led to a composition project with the San Francisco Symphony. When he’s not traveling around the country to perform, the composer and pianist can be found at Washington’s Levine School of Music, educating students at the very school he attended growing up.
“My teachers [at Levine] helped me step into new sounds, ideas and genres,” Post, 31, says, mentioning Irena Orlov and Carlos Rodriguez specifically. But they also instilled in him an appreciation of the greats, including Bach, Mozart and Beethoven. Educated at Yale and Northwestern, the cerebral composer has many thoughts about the status of classical music today, and how education can not only keep it alive, but see it thrive. “In the academic world, there’s a lot of pressure for people writing new music to
be ‘original’,” Post says. “But that’s overdone, in my opinion. There’s a lot of music being written today that’s crazy experimental and avant garde, but the problem is that people don’t really like that music. It’s become a burden on the industry.” Post, who has released three albums (one that is entirely Bach variations), doesn’t mind being considered “old-school.” “The idea that beautiful and compelling melodies and harmonies are dated is a very strange concept and I can’t sympathize with that point of view,” he says. “A lot of modern classical music aims to be radically different from music that came before it, but I like to let my ears and experiences be my guide, and as a result my music has a closer connection to my favorite composers, even as it combines different styles and goes in its own direction.” Most recently, Post found himself drawn to ragtime. His latest album “Dizzy Days” is his take on the turn-of-the-century musical style that “spawned a century of syncopated American music.” “I used to think that the best music had already been written, that it was all in the past, which I think is a common attitude for people raised to play/love the classics,” he says, adding that recent influences like his favorite living musician Gabriela Montero have led him to revise that stance. Last summer, Post founded a chamber group, Kassia Music Collective with Washington composer and violinist Bernard Vallandingham to continue his mission of making contemporary classical music accessible. “I want people to realize that music can be very intricate, complex and sophisticated, but at the same time very beautiful and at times very simple,” he explains. “The best music should catch your ear and catch your attention and you should like it the first time, but every time you listen it should get better and you should notice new things.”
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