Donovan Johnson / Blog

John Denver-How he's affected my life and my style

I have a real soft spot for John Denver. He's affected me in many ways, from musical influence to "long distance friend." How could this be you might ask? I'm a New Age piano pianist, not a folk guitarist! And how do I explain this "friendship" with him? Well, it's all about how you look at the word friendship and what that means.

Of course, I never met John Denver, although I wish I had. I think he would have been a great guy to hang out with for an afternoon. And I guess that's what I'm talking about here. When I listen to the music of John Denver, I feel a connection to him that I can't describe as anything but friendship. It's welcoming, accepting, deep, reflective and hopeful. Sometimes he asks the hard questions, and sometimes he just likes to keep it simple. He sings, and he listens. It's almost as if you know him, because he bares his soul to his listeners in a way that few other musicians are brave enough to do. If this isn't a form of friendship, I'm not sure what is.

Musically his melodies are some of the most beautiful ever written, and the way he uses his voice to communicate these melodies comes straight from his soul. It strikes a chord deep within every person who's open to hearing it, and in so doing moves the energy from the mind to the heart to the Spirit. There's also a very natural element to what John does, which seems to connect the listener to the forces of nature and world that we live in through music. His chords and chord progressions take you from the mountains to the plains to the ocean, the planet over. Add to that lyrics with a message and you have something that is truly remarkable, and rarely seen in mainstream music.

So yes, I'm a New Age pianist. But having listened to John and his recordings with love an passion I've been able to adopt many of the same elements into what I do. I don't have the lyrical component in my music, as I'm an instrumentalist, but to me that doesn't really matter as the music speaks for itself. You can hear some of John's "licks" in my piano style, but more importantly you can experience much of the same feel in what I do. I've tried to recreate that sense of oneness that John was able create with such ease. And while I'll never be as good at it as he was, I'd like to think that I succeed to a degree. Everything that I write is inspired, in the beginning, by something natural. When I create, I see rivers and streams, greening spring and falling leaves. And I communicate that in my performances and recordings.

So It's clear that John Denver has influenced what I do, and affected my life a large way, and I thank him dearly for that. He'll never know it, at least not in a physical form that interacts with me directly. But I think he did know that he was changing lives, and that it was his pleasure to do that. He was an artist and a servant to man. I salute him, and hope one day, to meet him in the "Big Sky Country." Thank you John.

Donovan Johnson is an internationally recognized New Age pianist and recording artist. His music combines folk, classical and contemporary styles to create a unique sound all it's own, and is available through many websites and radio stations. To learn more, visit his website at www.donovanjohnson.net. Or visit his online New Age piano radio station at www.enlightenedpiano.com!

Give New Age Piano A Chance!

Have you listened to modern piano music lately? By modern I'm talking about piano music that's been written in the last 20 years. This genre is often referred to as New Age piano, contemporary piano, etc. and takes many different forms. If you haven't given it a fair shake recently, then this blog is for you.

Let's be honest, modern piano music has somewhat of a bad rap. Immediately one might think of "fluff" piano music, with little substance. Another thought that may come to mind is "meditational" piano music, which for many people could mean the same thing as boring. And to make matters worse, many people add the "cheese factor" to the list of their ideas about modern piano music, above and beyond the many other misconceptions. And yes, these are all misconceptions about what we call "New Age" piano music.

This is a genre that is constantly evolving. When it was in it's infancy, it was beautiful piano music. But today, this style of piano is becoming something truly amazing. If you were a David Lanz fan 15 years ago, you're going to have to get rid of some of your ideas about what modern piano music is today, because it's changed. It's become more involved, more intricate, more energetic, more beautiful than ever before. It's also becoming more and more popular; the idea that this genre has outlived itself is flawed. Today, there are scores of listeners of New Age piano music the world over, who are fans of this genre specifically, and who listen to it more than any other genre in their collection.

Many classically trained pianists mistakenly lump New Age piano music into a category that means "less skilled," "less complicated," and not as worthy of praise as the works of the great masters. I find this sentiment to be extremely shortsighted, and unfair to the composers of today who are working hard to create beautiful art. And I would remind these people that there are a good number of New Age pianists who are trained at the Julliard level. Michael Dulin comes to mind.

Sleepy? Boring? Sure, Contemporary piano can be these things. But doesn't every genre have it's share of "sleepy" and "boring" composers? And how is this any different? "Meditation music?" Some of it. And that mood does have it's place. But the best of today's New Age piano music is a combination of quiet and reflective with energetic and refreshing. Composers like Matthew Mayer embrace all of these elements, and create a flow in their performances and their recordings that holds the attention and peaks the interest of the listener.

To understand today's piano music one must listen to it without making assumptions, and without the preconceptions they may have regarding what it is. And one must listen to more than just one composer. Don't like one? Try another, there's lots of it out there! One must be willing to explore this style and come to understand it for what it is: another one of the many valid, creative art forms that is unique to the era that we live in. So, have you listened to modern piano music lately? If not, get out the ipad and prepare yourself for a journey that will take you places you haven't been yet. I think you're going to find there's a lot more waiting for you along the way than you'd imagined...

Donovan Johnson is an internationally recognized New Age pianist and recording artist. His music combines folk, classical and contemporary styles to create a unique sound all it's own, and is available through many websites and radio stations. To learn more, visit his website at www.donovanjohnson.net. Or visit his online New Age piano radio station at www.enlightenedpiano.com!

Donovan's Tour To The Deep South (Written on 9/7/12)

Having been back for a week now, and having had time to reflect on my tour to the deep south, I can tell you that it was absolutely a success and a great pleasure to perform for the people of the southern states. It was a great experience! And a very different one.

Being from the Midwest, a trip to the deep south was full of surprises. Culturally very different, and historically set apart from the northern states, the deep south was a place I'd go back to perform for anytime. The Midwest is know for it's friendly people, but I have to say that the south has some of them most hospitable folks I've met in all of my travels. They'll talk with you like they've known you all their life, and tell you all about themselves without any prodding. I find this quality to be very endearing. In addition, they were willing to help out with the tour in any way possible, and really went that extra mile to make me (and my travel companion Richard Carr) feel at home.

Our trip took us to San Antonio TX, Houston Tx, Baton Rouge LA, New Orleans LA (two concerts), Mobile AL, and Memphis TN. Kevin Higgins at The Alamo Music Center does a lot of work to help out the Wounded Warriors Project, and was kind enough to let us stay with him for the evening. In Houston we met Dave Smith at the Houston Piano Company (which is a gorgeous hall, by the way). Dave has a passion for what he does as the sound and light tech, and offered us some great wine and conversation after our show there. It was truly a pleasure to spend an hour with him before moving along to Baton Rouge.

There, we met Raph ONeill at ONeills Pianos. This man really went out of his way to make sure that we had a nice crowd for the afternoon concert. After a great show, we made our way to New Orleans where we would meet up with Cindy Scott, her husband Bill Fernandez, and the wonderful folks at Community Church UU. This was the most warm and inviting group of people we could hope to find in a far away place. After performing the church service, Cindy and Bill took us out for lunch. Then, after a concert that evening at the church, we met up with them at their house and had a wonderful evening of wine, dinner and conversation.

At Lafargue's Pianos in Metaire, we were able to catch some of the best video yet for our youtube promos. Lance Lafargue was a true gentleman, and has invited us to come back to play anytime. From here, we made our way to Broussards Pianos in Mobile Al. Christy and her husband Chris were excited to have us there, and provided a very nice punch and dessert reception after our show there. It was a pleasure to work with them. Finally, we ended our tour at Amro Music in Memphis, in their beautiful hall, on a beautiful Steinway. The perfect ending to a successful tour.

Would I go back? Absolutely. And when I do, I'll let you know I'm in the area. In the meantime, I'm currently gearing up for my next leg of the 2012 tour with Kai Miano of Bad Homburg Germany. We'll be performing in Nashville TN, Chattanooga TN, Birmingham AL, Knoxville TN, Asheville NC, Louisville KY, St. Louis MO and Omaha NE. If you're in any of these area in late September, please consider coming out and being a part of our experience. If you love fresh, original piano music, I can guarantee you that you won't regret it.