Interview with Daniel Pollack

We are honored to present an exclusive interview with Daniel Pollack, legendary pianist and Professor of Piano at the University of Southern California’s Thornton School of Music. Bakitone’s Sergei Kuznetsoff and Alexander Kato-Willis met with Professor Daniel Pollack to get his perspective on the competition world today.

What would you suggest to a young musician so that he or she may obtain management in the current classical music world?

There is no simple answer to this. Clearly the best route for a young artist today is a competition, but not just any competition – rather one that offers awareness and visibility for the contestants (i.e., a well-publicized event as in the recent live streaming of the Chopin Competition held in Warsaw last October). The competition should not be just a monetary prize, but should offer live concert performances, potentially recording opportunities and have an overall reputation of the highest of standards. I am speaking of about a half a dozen competitions worldwide. The issue is that managers “sell in” a young artist to concert organizations that, in turn, have the goal of a “sell out” or minimally, a near sell out. If the young artist carries a first prize, that goal can likely be met.

Continuing on the competition route, there are other ways for non-first prizewinners to get their career on track. There are some examples of non-first prize winners that received more publicity or acclaim than the first prize winners, as in the case of Ivo Pogorelich, who years ago competed in the Chopin Competition and was eliminated in the second round, but because of loud protests headed by then jury member, Martha Argerich, (who went against her fellow jury members proclaiming Pogorelich as a major talent), it catapulted his career. There was another incident during the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in 1998, where Freddy Kempf turned out to have far more audience success than the first prizewinner and he, too, caught the attention of European managers and subsequently, his career blossomed. There are other opportunities for jumpstarting a career that can, initially, bypass a manager. Let’s start with conductors. I would advise young artists to find the means, whether through connections, referrals or just personal drive to meet, interest and play for orchestra conductors. It is a strong way of getting managers’ attention - and then, potentially, backing into a manager’s contract.

There is always the private connection or person that can open a door to a manager, but for that to happen, I would advise young artists to seek performance opportunities, even if small, local ones, where they can be heard, opening up the opportunity for someone to tell someone, and so on. Sponsorship is now playing a large role. Many managers are no longer asking for commissions alone. They want to be paid in advance for the work that they do in order to reap concerts for two or three seasons ahead for their artists. Corporate sponsorship in now abundantly available as are grants, and I would urge young artists to explore this route.

But the biggest new opportunity that allows a young artist to be heard is, of course, the Internet. Now, instead of waiting to be discovered or favorably endorsed by the press, young artists can also take charge of their own destiny and introduce themselves to audiences and build that audience in many meaningful and creative ways. They can share news of their career or a prizewinning performance in a competition with a worldwide audience live, or within a matter of days. They can produce videos and podcasts and then drive views through the social networks - probably one of the quickest and cheapest ways to garner attention – basically creating one's own publicity to attract both concerts and managers. The Internet also offers a wealth of information on how to accomplish almost anything that could be relevant to building a career.

However, it is hard and relentless work. Whereas before a manager would take care of all that,

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