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Seth Montfort
Classical pianist, composer – willing to wear the outfit it takes to bring in new audiences for classical music – “Please, let it not be a tux!”

Today’s date: June 22, 2009


Contact info: (707) 604-7600.  P. O. Box 868, Guerneville, CA  95446 

Music genre: Widest range of Classical as well as Classic Rags, Tangos and Dance Music

Featured radio spots this year: KRCB 90.9 and 91.1 FM Sonoma County Public Radio and frequent guest on KGGV LP Guerneville 95.1 FM

What the critics are saying about Seth on piano: “Dazzling” – Contra Costa Times; “Perfect interpreter of Gershwin” – San Francisco Chronicle; “Spectacular” – Sun Times; “Playing with verve and virtuosity, Montfort’s performance proved the great value of letting classical artists cut loose” – Performers’/Artists’ Voice; and “Not your typical description of a serious solo piano performance.  But then what is typical about a man who can memorize over 100 works, and we’re talking complicated works here, send them from memory to fingertips and then while he’s at it, throw in a heap of astounding technique, showmanship and sensual grace to nearly blow the roof from its rafters?” – Pacifica Tribune.

Solo performances with orchestras include: The Denver Symphony, The Jefferson Symphony, The Redwood Symphony, The North Bay Philharmonic, The Kensington Symphony, The Diablo Symphony, The National Repertory Orchestra and The San Francisco Concerto Orchestra.

Favorite tour ever – recent Central American “Temple and Jungle” tour (which was the start of a lifelong dream of playing Latin American-inspired music in Latin America). Performance venues included: Hotel Villa Maria, Merida, Mexico; Universidad Claustro de Sor Juana, Mexico City; Villa del Tepoz Fuego, Tepotzlan, Mexico; Jungla Vista Treehouse in Costa Rica; Casa Margarita Treehouse in Costa Rica and the George Price Centre for Peace and Development in Belize.

It should be noted: Composer Seth is still madly at work finishing his 2-hour unfinished ‘Aztec Piano Symphony’ and his 1-hour long unfinished ‘Old World Piano Symphony.’

Dressed for success and/or for audience head spinning and applause, he’s performed extensive ongoing series in each of the following venues: Old First Church Concerts, San Francisco; Noontime Concerts, San Francisco; San Francisco Conservatory of Music; San Francisco State University; The Lobby of San Francisco Symphony; The Green Room and Herbst Theatre of the San Francisco War Memorial Building; Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek; Pacifica Performances and The Finn Center, Mountain View.

Additional performances among his preferred more unusual venues: St. John’s Episcopal Church, San Francisco; Metropolitan Community Church, San Francisco; Brady Street Dance Center, San Francisco; Lines Ballet, San Francisco; Star Classics CD Store, San Francisco; Presidio Chapel, San Francisco; Victorian Englander House, San Francisco; Giorgi Gallery, Berkeley; JB Pianos, San Rafael; the Little Red Schoolhouse, Nicasio; Rancho Nicasio; and Music Inside Out & Center, Guerneville (Guerneville’s former Mortuary.)

In the ‘venue’ beginning: He gave over 200 performances as the highest paid pianist on the retirement community circuit including 40 performances at Rossmoor in Walnut Creek.

Extra things to know: He is the founder and Artistic Director of San Francisco Concerto Orchestra (a 20-year old, 30-piece, 200 revolving member civilization) and Music Inside Out & Center (formerly The Russian River Performing Arts Center and Conservatory of Music.)  He is also the founder and piano representative of The Mortuary Orchestra of Guerneville.

Favorite ‘gig’ to date?

“All of my gigs in the giant treehouses of the Pura Jungla Reforestation project in Costa Rica.”

Some of your early piano history?

“I won my first piano contest at age 11 performing ragtime by Scott Joplin.  At 16, I debuted Ravel’s Gershwin-and-Harlem-jazz-inspired, ‘Concerto for the Left Hand,’ with the Denver Symphony.”

How did you even come to like Joplin or Ravel as a kid?

“All my childhood I wanted to be a naturalist in the Amazon Jungle.  Not a musician.  I was training 24/7 towards becoming an Olympic gymnast when I broke my arm.  I saw the movie, ‘The Sting’ when it first came out and then learned the ‘Scott Joplin’ from the movie with my cast on.  My best friend’s mother introduced me to the Ravel.  When I performed it with the Denver Symphony at 16, she came to the concert and presented me with an autographed photo of Ravel, which her father, a famous English photographer, had taken.  I still have that.”

Didn’t you listen to the contemporary stuff of your time?

“I was introduced to modern music at the University of Colorado at around 8-years-old when my brother and I were the only ones laughing at bad modern music performed by David Burge.  The rest of the audience was slow to realize the music was supposed to be a joke and scorned us for laughing.  The audience was very typical modernist snooty and dull.  I never bought into that world that has become outdated now.”

So, who are some of the dead composers you like to play and what’s so great about these guys and gals now?

“I guess Mozart is my favorite but I don’t like to play Mozart any more than the rest.  It doesn’t really matter which of my favorites I play.  I like to get lost in different ‘worlds’ and see how far I can transform into them.  Surrender to total emptiness and then travel anywhere to fill the void with adventure.  That is what I mean by my: ‘Seth Montfort Performs Music Inside Out & Center: Traveling in Time and Space.’"

Who are some of your favorite living pianists and how come?

“Not sure anymore.  The best ones are probably often completely unknown but I like almost all of the famous legendary pianists of the past.”

What are some of your music goals?

“My dream is simple, even corny.  Keep opening mysterious dream worlds inside and – bring them out.  Stay out of the way when others unfold theirs!  But with perhaps unparalleled experience observing creative people from 31 years and 2,500 concerts behind me as a professional pianist, composer and artistic director – just maybe my ‘corny’ concept IS value squared.  I say ‘perhaps unparalleled experience observing creative people’ because my orchestra may be the only orchestra in the world or even world history whose sole purpose has been to fulfill the dreams of musicians.  Yes!  That was self-proclaimed historical importance.  But with my San Francisco Concerto Orchestra around 500 musicians to date have each fulfilled their dream to be spotlighted with the Orchestra on stage as a soloist, conductor or composer.”

Why should people come out to hear live piano music?

“It is certainly better than dead piano music.”

Are there any particular halls you want to perform in?

“I am not interested in symphony halls or Carnegie Hall, for instance.  I like unusual venues, especially so far treehouses and temples.  But I like any venue where the audience can actually see and especially hear me up close where the music has its fullest impact.”

Most amazing outfit you have worn performing and why did you wear it?

“My underwear.  I was mad at San Francisco for only printing smut so sent my own smut out everywhere out of protest only to find that taking it a step further and actually performing in my briefs was surprisingly liberating.  It has about 10 seconds of shock value and then once the music starts there is nothing in the way.  All musicians know penguin suits are uncomfortable enough to damage music making and need to be exterminated for good.”

Ever been approached by a filmmaker?

“I am currently in production for a film by Mark Pope where I play an ordinary guy who plays the piano when he becomes possessed!”

Do you have some “needs” you want to put out there to people reading this?

“Yes!  Donate money to my organization as I attract like-minded people and achieve more for each dollar contributed because every penny goes only towards music as that is what I live for.  People often love only to give money to organizations that waste it.  What is the point in that?  This would be different.”

Contributions to the San Francisco Concerto Orchestra [a 501(c)3 charity]
Tax id: 94-3227721

Tax-deductible charitable contributions may be sent to:

SF Concerto Orchestra
P.O. Box 868
Guerneville, CA 95446-0868

Seth Montfort interviewed by Jean Bartlett for GrabIt