Classical Caber: Dirk plays Bach’s English Suite No. 6 in D minor

I was in another part of the apartment yesterday today and I heard Dirk playing his new piano in his studio (a.k.a his office, a.k.a. the-room-that-used-to-be-the-spare-bedroom), so I decided to film him when he started playing a piece. Turns out it was the prelude from Johann Sebastian Bach’s English Suite No. 6 in D minor… which is almost 10 minutes long. My arms got tired just watching him play it… and from holding my iPhone. There were a few hiccups along the way, but I still think he did a brilliant job of it considering he hadn’t played it in years!

(If the video doesn’t play, try putting your mobile device into landscape mode, or use this alternate link.)

WE DID IT!!! Dirk got a piano!!!!!!

Dirk's piano!

THANK YOU!!!! Thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!

We found a used Yamaha digital hybrid piano in Chicago! Thanks to everyone who supported us via the GoFundMe campaign, we made enough money to buy it and ship it home!! The movers came to pick it up yesterday, and it’s on its way to Boston!!!

Here’s the whole amazing story. A couple of months ago, Dirk and I started shopping for pianos. As most of you already know, he’s a classical musician and composer who’s been living without a piano for over 5 years. (You can listen to some of his compositions on his SoundCloud page.) To a composer, a piano is his or her livelihood and an essential tool of the trade; without one, Dirk’s creative output has suffered mightily. He really needed one. But when we went to the local dealer, we were hit with major sticker shock. Over twenty grand for a digital hybrid? Yikes! But it was exactly what Dirk needed. It sounded gorgeous, had MIDI capability, felt exactly like a full-size acoustic grand when you played it (it even had a subwoofer inside the case to simulate the piano’s vibration when you struck the keys)… and also, because of the way our house is shaped, we needed something more portable, and with its small frame (it’s about 5′ by 4′ with the legs removed) the digital hybrid fit the bill. It would have been impossible to get an acoustic piano inside without hiring a crane.

Here’s Dirk in the showroom that day, playing their display model:

We knew he needed it, but how to pay for it? We thought about saving up, asking our parents for help, and maybe taking out a loan, but we still didn’t think it would be realistically possible to get a hybrid. Dirk might be able to afford a different model of piano, but it would have to be a cheaper one, and (in my opinion, anyway) not worthy of his talents… plus we still would have faced the “how to get it into the house” problem.

Then I had a crazy idea. We’d ask our fans for help. It wouldn’t be just a money grab, though… we’d offer pledge-drive-style premiums in exchange for contributions of certain levels — for $25 you’d get a CD of Dirk’s music, for $50 you’d get a signed score, etc. Every little bit would help, but Dirk honestly only hoped/expected to make a few hundred bucks. I was a bit more optimistic, and figured we might make somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000; after all, a bunch of people had already expressed interest in his music previously, and I was hopeful that they’d come through. Dirk and I agreed to set the goal for the campaign at $5,000. We figured we’d never reach anywhere near that much, but GoFundMe allows you to keep all the donations you make (as opposed to Kickstarter, where if you don’t make your goal you lose everything)… so why not at least try to shoot the moon? We posted the campaign at about 2 pm on Friday, May 15, and hoped for the best.

We raised $5,000 in 24 hours.

We were shocked. Amazed. And felt so, so honored. We couldn’t believe what was happening… and the donations kept pouring in. Within a week we hit $10,000. People from all over the world were contributing to Dirk’s piano fund, from as far away as Portugal, Germany, the Netherlands… even South Africa and Australia! And along with the donations came all these amazing messages of support, like “Seeing the happiness on Dirk’s face as he’s playing is worth every penny” and “You have inspired me to start practicing my Beethoven again!” and “Look forward to hearing what this inspires and only wish I could do more.” Perhaps my favorite message for Dirk came from a gentleman in Walnut Creek, California:

openquoteMaybe within your body, the spirit of a composer who was around at the time of Mozart and Salieri resides, and this is his way of telling the world that he’s still here, and that he can still express himself. If you really want to thank everyone for contributing to your campaign, just keep doing what you do. Keep writing… keep performing… and NEVER stop loving it!”

We feel so blessed to have found so much love and support — not just financial support, but moral and emotional support as well — in this amazing little online community we’ve built. We were well on our way to getting the piano… much further and faster than we ever could have anticipated. But we still needed a way to find several thousand dollars more.

Then we caught a break.

Digital hybrids are a really new technology, only having been around a couple of years. They’re amazing instruments. I touched on a few of their features earlier in this post, but let me tell you a little more about how they work. They have the full mechanism of a regular piano, but without the strings, which are replaced by optical sensors. The sensors detect the force with which each string — if it had strings — would have been struck by the hammer, and reproduces the sound from a library of tens of thousands of digital samples. Hybrid pianos sound, and feel, exactly like full acoustic pianos, but because there are no strings, they’re much more compact… and they never go out of tune! Plus you can play them while using headphones, which is important for us because we have downstairs neighbors and Dirk likes to play late at night.

Because the technology is so new — and because digital hybrids are just so generally awesome — the used market for them is virtually nonexistent; people tend to buy them and hang onto them. Dirk and I had been monitoring eBay and Craigslist anyway, but to no avail. Then, after weeks of searching, I finally found one on Craigslist that had been listed not even 2 hours earlier. I emailed the guy right away. He was a music instructor from north of Chicago who’d purchased the piano for his studio a couple of years earlier. He was downsizing and no longer had room for it. Score!

In retrospect we may have been a bit too trusting, but it all worked out in the end. We had a good feeling about this guy. We vetted him as best we could. His business seemed legitimate, and his Yelp page had tons of good reviews, so we handled a lot of the details in advance: finding a mover, pre-printing a cashier’s check, stuff like that. And then finally, the moment of truth… Dirk flew out to inspect the piano and handle the transaction in person. We weren’t disappointed… the piano is beautiful. Dirk says it sounds perfect, and there’s not a mark on it; in fact, it looks like it just came out of the showroom. The guy even polished it! So… we bought it! We’re thrilled to report that the piano movers arrived yesterday to pack it up and load it onto their truck. (We decided to hire professional piano movers instead of trying to drive it home ourselves, because piano movers have special trucks and equipment to make sure the instrument arrives in one piece. Plus, they’re fully insured.) The particular company we hired is a national moving company that makes circuits around the country picking up and delivering pianos. Their route doesn’t take them to Boston until August 18, but that’s the day that we take delivery of Dirk’s beautiful hybrid piano!!!

Now comes the task of sending out all those premiums. It’s a bit daunting — as of this writing, 150 different people have donated — but we’re not skimping. We’re working on professionally-duplicated CDs with four-color inserts and beautiful artwork. The track list for the CD is set, and it includes several compositions that Dirk has never shared before, plus a few old favorites. (There’s still time to pick up a CD if you like… they’re $25 over on the GoFundMe page.) We’ve got two wonderful people designing the artwork for the CD: Yan Herbe and Betti Gefecht. Those names might sound familiar to you: Dirk and I met each of them through our fan page and we’ve shared their drawings before. Here are a couple of examples of their earlier work (Betti’s on the left, Yan’s on the right):

Dirk and I are hoping to send the CDs and artwork to the duplicator by the end of this week. The scores are being printed right now, and we have an assembly line set up at home so we can start framing Dirk’s handwritten manuscripts. Timing-wise, we have a bit of travel ahead of us — including a trip to Madison where Dirk will be judging the Mr. Wisconsin Leather competition — but we’re hoping to mail everything out by the end of the August. And between the cost of the piano, the movers, and the printing and mailing of all the premiums, we think we have enough money from the GoFundMe campaign to cover pretty much everything. Which is so incredibly amazing… all the moreso when you think that not even three months ago a brand new piano was just a seemingly-unattainable glimmer in Dirk’s needful eye.

So, in conclusion, Dirk and I just want to send out one more huge, immense, enormous, colossal, titanic, gigantic, humongous THANK YOU to everyone for the incredible outpouring of moral and financial support you’ve shown us over the last couple of months. We couldn’t have done this without you. And I also want to express my own personal appreciation as well… because thanks to you, we can all now look forward to hearing much more of my hubby’s sublime music in the weeks, months, and years to come.

With much love always,
Jesse and Dirk

All Done!

Classical Caber: Bach’s Partita No. 4 in D major

The other night while we were in San Francisco, Dirk and I had dessert at a friend’s house. A little tipsy from three glasses of wine, Dirk sat down at our friend’s piano and played Bach’s Partita No. 4 in D major — from memory — which he hadn’t played in almost a decade. Not too shabby, huh? I shot a couple of minutes of video of his performance, which I’ve posted above. If you’re having trouble viewing it on your mobile device, try putting it in landscape mode first, or try this alternate NSFW link.)

By the way, Dirk was staying at this particular friend’s house during Folsom weekend in 2011… and it happens to be the house where Dirk and I hooked up on the very first night we met. Ahh, memories.

Also, here’s a quick update on the Piano for Dirk GoFundMe campaign. And it’s good news! Dirk and I have located a used digital hybrid for sale… the only problem is that it’s out of state. Used digital hybrids don’t come along very often (it’s just too new a technology) so we’re going to try to snag this one. Dirk’s figuring out a time when he can go take a look at it, and we’re also looking into what it would cost to move it back to Boston. Fingers crossed! In the meantime, we’re leaving the GoFundMe page open for a bit longer in case you want to pick up a copy of Dirk’s music on CD or a printed and signed score. We’re also moving ahead with sending out the stuff that a bunch of you have already requested as “thank you” gifts. It’s a daunting number of items, but with any luck we should have everything sent out by the end of the month.

You guys have completely floored us with your generosity and support. This piano is going to change Dirk’s life. THANK YOU AGAIN.

Classical Caber (Victory Edition): Piano Miniature No. 10, “Gracieux”

The last 48 hours have been unbelievable. What started as an idea during a trip to a piano store a little over a week ago turned into a whirlwind fundraising effort in an attempt to get Dirk the piano he so badly needs to start composing again. To be honest, Dirk and I expected to maybe get a few bucks from you guys here and there, and every little bit would have helped a lot. But to raise over $5,000 in just over 24 hours? Dirk and I are floored. Positively floored. And moved beyond belief. Thank you so, so much… this is really going to change Dirk’s life.

Dirk said that if we reached the $5,000 mark, he would share an original composition that he’s never shared before. And here it is… Dirk’s Piano Miniature No. 10: Gracieux, the tenth in a series of 24 piano miniatures, none longer than about 3 minutes. He composed this particular miniature in the style of a sicilienne, a form that was first used for arias in Baroque operas and is meant to evoke a pastoral mood. I love how it draws you in; you can really get lost in its texture, but then at the end you can’t help but have a big smile on your face:


I know that “gracieux” technically means “graceful”, but in this case I like to think it means “grateful” … which pretty much sums up how Dirk and I both feel right now.

While we’ve already reached our $5,000 target, it’s not too late to get Dirk’s music on CD (some of which, like this sicilienne, he’s never shared before), a signed score, framed manuscript, or personalized composition! Just head on over to http://gofundme.com/piano-for-dirk and choose which option you’d like. (By the way, the pianos we’re looking at cost between $10,000 and $15,000. We deliberately set the fundraising bar kinda low because we didn’t want to lean on you guys too much, and we’re going to find a way to finance the rest, but every penny you contribute will still help a ton.)

Again… Dirk and I are completely blown away. We love you guys!

In Bed
 

VIDEO: Dirk and I go piano shopping!

Dirk’s been in the market for a piano for quite some time. The only chance he gets to play these days is on the Steinway at his parents’ house in Maine. (There’s a video of him playing it here.) But that’s an hour and half away, and as a composer, he really needs to have a piano at the ready so he can create whenever his muse calls him. So… we’re going piano shopping!

Ideally we’d get something called a hybrid, which is a digital piano with a mechanical mechanism. They’re small enough to fit in our house but still sound beautiful, plus the digital functionality would allow him to play with headphones, which would really come in handy (we have downstairs neighbors). They’re really pricey, though… the one he really likes is listed at $15,000. We’re also looking at straight-up digital pianos, which are a lot less expensive (the good ones range from $2,500 to about $6,000), then we’d eventually trade up. The important thing, I think, is just to get a keyboard in the house. Then I have a feeling we’ll start seeing a lot more compositions like these. Time to start saving money… or perhaps find a rich benefactor. Volunteers, anyone?