From Gershwin to Garland: A Musical Journey with Richard Glazier
7:30 p.m. Monday
WFYI (Channel 20)
While his classmates at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School were listening to disco, rock and punk, Richard Glazier had other priorities. Like Gershwin and Garland and Irving Berlin. And playing piano.
You'll hear that music and more in From Gershwin to Garland, Glazier's PBS pledge special, which he says will air on more than 100 public television stations this month. (It's also available for sale at richardglazier.com.)
In the show, Glazier performs selections from the Great American Songbook, including Rhapsody in Blue, Over the Rainbow and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. He tells stories too - like about the letter he sent, when he was 9, to Ira Gershwin, and the response he received. And about his conversations with Academy Award-winning composer/arranger/conductor Johnny Green.
Glazier, who earned his bachelor's and master's degrees from Indiana University, spent somewhere in the five-figure range shooting the hour long show last July in hopes of interesting PBS. When I caught up with him last week, he'd been making the rounds of public TV stations in California, where he's lived for the past 10 years, to further entice audiences to listen to him play the music he loves.
"This is working out beyond my wildest expectations," he said. "I never thought it would get this far."
He said he's working on a sequel, Richard Glazier: The Musical Journey Continues, which will include more performances as well as interviews with celebrities talking about the music.
Here's what else he said.
NUVO: I don't know what the rest of your life has been like, but I'm guessing this has to be one of your best months ever.
Glazier: Absolutely. This is certainly a culmination of my life's work, to get my work out there and be seen this month by literally hundreds of thousands of people. It's very exciting.
NUVO: How does one get a PBS special?
Glazier: There's a program director at a PBS affiliate that picks the programming. This TV show I have is made available through American Public Television, which distributes to public television stations across the country. Each station votes whether they're going to air the program, and they have the autonomy to air it whenever they want.
NUVO: Do you donate the program to PBS?
Glazier: There's a negotiation, but it's nominal. This is not about money by any stretch of the imagination. This is about getting my performances out there, getting what I do out there and spreading the word about what I love so much. That's what this is about.
NUVO: Did you make the show and then present it to PBS?
Glazier: That's exactly what I did. I made the show at my local affiliate here in Sacramento, KVIE, and they got on board with it and believed in it and liked it after it was finished. They helped me take it to the next step.
NUVO: You grew up in a world of rock and roll. What made you gravitate to this music?
Glazier: I was a strange little kid. And I'm kind of an old soul. I hung around my family who's a little bit older, my aunts and uncles, and danced to my own tune, so to speak. All the other kids were doing stuff; I was going to the public library and going to the Goodwill and Salvation Army, look for 78 (rpm) records.
Also, I was finding myself artistically too. That's when you're forming your musical foundation and also defining yourself as a human being.
NUVO: I think composers hear the music in their head before they write. How did George Gershwin hear compositions like Rhapsody in Blue?
Glazier: I think that depends on the composer. That was true of Mozart. When he wrote down music, he was just writing it down. It had already been worked out in his head. That was true of Hitchcock when he made a movie. Every scene was completely envisioned in his brain. He saw the whole movie in his mind.
But other composers, they'll write something, they'll change it, they'll revise, they'll try a different idea. When George and Ira Gershwin worked together, Ira would say, "George, if you turn this phrase around a little bit, I can fit this lyric in and it might work a little better."
NUVO: I wondered if George heard Rhapsody in Blue in his head.
Glazier: I think so. He certainly had the concept and the major idea. There might have been revisions and changes as he wrote it down. I can't say for sure. And of course, Rhapsody in Blue was written in only three weeks and barely finished when it premiered because he forgot that (bandleader) Paul Whiteman had commissioned him to write it.
NUVO: In the special, you tell the story of Johnny Green asking you to play Gershwin's Concerto in F and saying your rendition would tell him everything he needed to know about you as a pianist. But you don't tell us what he said afterward.
Glazier: I have gotten several remarks from people who've seen the show and said the same thing. There was discussion when we made the script that I should go into it. My director nixed it, and that turned out to be a huge mistake. I should have elaborated. That's the one thing in the whole show I regret I didn't do.
What he said after I played it, actually, he wrote a letter to me and he said, "Congratulations to you. I was enormously impressed and I wish you well and a wonderful career."
NUVO: Having this show air across the country really increases your visibility.
Glazier: That's the whole point. And you can't put a price tag on that. And I feel that I've given some nice, entertaining programming that fits in the PBS mold very, very well.