Another episode of the Miller Piano Podcast is here! Host, Jason Skipper sits down with accomplished pianist, composer, and award winner Ed Bazel. If you want to learn more about the ins and outs of becoming a professional musician, you do not want to miss this podcast!
- Can Music Truly Heal the Soul?
- Ed’s Interesting Journey As an Aspiring Artist
- How Ed Found His Absolute Favorite Piano
- How and Why “The River of Calm” Began
- Ed Bazel’s Upcoming CD
Jason Skipper 0:12
Welcome to the Miller Piano Podcast! I’m your host Jason Skipper, and in this episode, we have special guest Ed Bazel here visiting us. Ed has been a longtime friend of Miller Piano Specialists. He is the host of The River of Calm live stream concert series, as well as The River of Calm beyond the music podcast. Ed is an accomplished pianist and composer, and he has won many awards. Just to name a few from Miller Piano Specialists, in 2017, Ed was the recipient of the MPS Hall of Fame Award in the Instrumentalists Category. In 2018, he received the MPS Hall of Fame Award as Entertainer of the Year. In late 2019 late last year, he was recognized with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Ed, It’s an honor to have you on the podcast, welcome!
Ed Bazel 1:00
Jason, thank you so much. You should be my agent, that sounds like that’s pretty cool stuff that’s happened there!
Jason Skipper 1:08
It’s very impressive everything that you’ve done. You know, I’ve been watching the MPS Awards show last year, also online with The River of Calm. It’s just impressive everything you’ve done, so it is an honor!
Ed Bazel 1:21
I’m a lucky man. I’ll put it that way. So thank you so much for having me here.
Jason Skipper 1:26
All right. Well, as I mentioned that you have been working closely with Miller Piano Specialists for quite a while. I know you’ve been through them with the events over the years. You have The River of Calm that happens every month there at the store. How did your relationship start with Miller?
Ed Bazel 1:43
Oh, wow, that’s a good question. It started because my sister took piano lessons when I was a kid. That’s what happened. She was older than me, so my mom would drop her off and she figured, if she drops my sister off for half an hour, she might as well get me lessons too, so she can have an hour of free time. So my mom was really smart. So I started lessons at five. There’s an answer to this Miller Piano thing that I’ll get to. For 11 years kicking and screaming, and I was on a Yamaha spin at a piano at that time. I hated it until I realized that I was too shy to talk to girls, and maybe I could be good at piano and that would help. I don’t know if it did or not, but that’s another story. So yeah, I went to school, I have that business degree Computer Programming Degree and I told my mom and dad, “You know what, I’m going to play the piano for a living.” I was a professional pianist for about 20 years. Not only here in my hometown of Huntington, West Virginia, but Lexington, Kentucky and then out in Los Angeles for many years. I was the guy like In the tuxedo at the Beverly Hills Country Club, you know, of course, I could play “Misty” (Ella Fitzgerald) and yes, the restroom is that way. I always use that as a joke. It was such a great way to make a living with my hands and my soul. I realized, the more I would go into an agent’s office to pick up my paycheck, the more they would call me on the phone to do jobs and was like, “This is interesting.” So I said, “Why don’t I take that box of index cards you have of your artists?” This is really old school stuff, “And let me create a database for you.” So that’s how I got into the agency side of things. So I ended up becoming an agent in LA, a lot of work in the Asia Pacific market, and then learned the corporate entertainment market. We’re getting to Miller Piano I just want you to know that!
Jason Skipper 3:52
Oh, you’re good, you’re good.
Ed Bazel 3:53
So I had been an agent for artists like Judy Collins, Don McLean, Gordon Lightfoot, John Waite, a number of older, classic artists. Then I had an entrepreneurial seizure, which is what they call it, and I thought I could probably do this on my own. So I opened my own company. For 20 some years, we’ve had a company that produces concerts, comedians and speakers for corporate events. So that means somebody knows how to build aircraft or program software suites. But when it comes to that big company event where you’re going to have a concert, they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. So we’re the guys that say, “Hey, we’ll walk you through the process, you show up and look good, and we’ll handle the details.”
During that 20 plus years when I wasn’t a pianist, when I was working in the corporate world, which again, bookings all the way from the Great Wall of China to the US Ambassador to the Vatican in Rome and an amazing career with tremendous artists. But all that time, I wasn’t playing the piano for a living, and I somewhat missed it. I missed it more and more. I thought, you know, I’ve got this Yamaha Clavinova now that I’ve used for so long, which is an electric keyboard with a weighted action, which is really cool to have, especially with the volume control button if you are living in an apartment or had people sleeping. So that was good. I thought this piano is starting to call me again, after all these years. It’s like waking up again. So, I actually have a laminated vision board in my shower. Yes, I do. Sorry to say that, but it works! It works. People think people at Kinkos think I’m a little strange, but that’s okay.
Jason Skipper 3:55
Gotcha! That’s the best place where you get the best ideas. Isn’t it? Right there.
Ed Bazel 5:58
Every morning, every single morning. So I did have a grand piano on my vision board. So with the piano calling to me again, still booking concerts, you name it, you know Smash Mouth, Foreigner, Huey Lewis in the news and stuff, I’m still thinking there’s something missing. So I thought, I’ve never recorded a piano CD before. So, a few years back, I decided I’m going to go in and at least record a CD of my own stuff. So I went to you know, the beautiful studio here in Nashville. They had a Yamaha C7 and here I’d practice on the Yamaha Clavinova weighted action keyboard, which seems like no big deal. But when I sat at that Yamaha C7 in the studio, which is like you’re under a microscope, there’s no hiding when it comes to solo piano, none. It was like going from my Yamaha Clavinova which I would say was like beautiful Honda, you know that you’re driving or even better than that. I’m not trying to diss-service the Clavinova. But that Yamaha C7 was like a Ferrari on steroids. Oh my gosh, what an experience playing that. The difference in feel was really palpable I ended up you know, playing afraid of the keyboard because it was so expressive.
So I had to control it. So with all that said, I wasn’t really happy with that CD. I’m gonna record it another one. So, that problem with not being able to express myself, I cured it because I bought a C7 for myself, and my touch and feel are back now. That’s all because I wandered into Miller Piano and I walked in there and I remember Sherry Carlisle Smith sitting in the corner there and she gave me some space. I’m not one of these persons that want to be jumped on immediately. I just kind of want to touch a little bit. Sherry was so pleasant to work with, she made it easy for me to find the right piano. I think when you’re buying a piano, depending on where you are, and what your mission is, for me it was finding the right one that called to me that felt great with touch and feel an expression. Oh my gosh, and she found it for me. I love that piano, I play it every single day and also at night, every night before I go to bed. It’s one of those “Thank you God” moments saying I’m so lucky being able to do this. So I’m a huge fan of Miller Piano and I’m not a paid advertiser for this. Yeah, they’re great, they’re experts at what they do and they’ll find you what you want. Starting out, you probably don’t need a Yamaha C7, but if you have kids, you could start with something much smaller, more reasonable and have them grow into it. Either way, they’re a no-pressure group and as I say on our River of Calm projects, they are Nashville’s authorized Yamaha Piano dealer. That’s a big deal and Nashville Music City USA. Let’s get to Miller Piano, the more I sat at my beautiful Yamaha C7 and played songs especially in E flat, “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “Over the Rainbow,” “Till There Was You,” these are all old songs that I used to play for a living. It really started calming me down because the work of concerts can be a little bit stressful. We all have stress in our lives.
Jason Skipper 9:45
I can imagine, yeah.
Ed Bazel 9:46
The more I sat down and played the piano, the more I was relaxed in my DNA and I did have some radio experience and I wondered if there’s a radio station that offers this type of music, so I thought, “I could actually create one.” Again that entrepreneurial seizure that happens.
Jason Skipper 9:53
I love that terminology, entrepreneurial seizure.
Ed Bazel 10:08
Absolutely. So I found some software and I put a couple of my songs up there and a couple of my other friend’s songs up there. The first song I put up for friends was my friend Eric Bykales who I believe you spoke with already.
Jason Skipper 10:24
Yes, we had him! The podcast will be out soon, it’s the one right before this when that comes out, episode nine.
Ed Bazel 10:31
I better speak well of him, then!
Jason Skipper 10:33
He spoke well of you and we’ll talk about it a little bit. He talked about some other passions you guys have together. Yeah, we’ll talk about that in a moment.
Ed Bazel 10:41
Okay, no problem. At first, had Eric on there, I decided I need something calming. So I called it The River of Calm, music to soothe your soul. It started out with me and Eric, and about one listener, which was me. Music, bottom line, is healing and comforting. It might not cure everything, but it certainly is healing for your soul, your DNA. We proved this as The River of Calm, which is the riverofcalm.com. We now have over 116 independent artists on there. Some of them are Grammy Award winners. Some of them are musicians like Eric, who is Neil Sedaka’s pianist for all those years. We have Olivia Newton John’s musical director there. We have professors, we have an amazing accomplishment of independent artists who really believe that music is healing. So this goes out along with we have on The River of Calm, numerous, articles on healing, on music and health, music in Alzheimer’s, chemotherapy, dementia, PTSD and Parkinson’s. It’s a real mission of, calming and just having people take a moment to center themselves. Then lastly, we do have two things, our online podcast, which is Beyond the Music where we talk to these artists who create this music on their journey of how they composed it, their fears, their joys, etc. Lastly, we have a monthly live-streaming concert, which we partnered with Miller Piano, where we bring The River of Calm to live once a month to Miller Piano. It’s an hour show on Facebook Live, and this past month, we did The River of Calm 10x, and that was 10 pianist each playing one song within one hour. It was incredible. It wasn’t a competition, it was there for love and support. If you’re familiar with Nashville, we had the Bluebird Cafe, where songwriters come bringing their guitars and sing their songs and share their music. We’re like the bluebird cafe without lyrics for pianists.
Miller Piano has been great for this. We’ve had almost, I think around 20 different live streaming concerts, and always on a beautiful piano. That’s a Yamaha C7, nine times out of 10, which is the industry standard for recording studios around town. One thing I like about the C7 and the Yamaha is no matter where you go, it’s the same touch and feel on that keyboard. It’s very accurate, It’s very comforting, and it’s a quality, quality product for sure. Miller Piano has been great, I’m a huge fan of them and again, there is no financial gain on this. This is just the love of music, and I also admire what Ross, Sylvia, and Sherry Carlisle Smith and everyone else in promoting and encouraging the live music scene here in Nashville.
Jason Skipper 14:09
We appreciate all those words and I know that they’re so appreciative. Also, being able to host what you guys are doing there with The River of Calm the concerts that you have every month for our listeners, if you haven’t heard The River of Calm or you haven’t seen this, you can find them at your website. I believe it’s the riverofcalm.com. Also, look you up on Facebook, these are always being announced. These events are always being announced both on Miller’s page on the Miller Piano Specialists Facebook page and also The River of Calm Facebook page. Also the Miller Piano Specialists website Millerps.com. So, this is I believe is the third Thursday. Am I correct?
Ed Bazel 15:07
Correct, the third Thursday of each month. Absolutely.
Jason Skipper 15:10
Okay, third Thursday of each month. So, talk to me a little bit more about The River of Calm and the healing. It’s so captivating, what you explained and how music can heal and soothe the soul. We know how important music is in life and I think it can help people so much. Can you go deeper into that exactly?
Ed Bazel 15:33
Yeah, that’s true. That’s a good question. There are numerous scientific studies or first off, we could just bandaid this and just say, “Oh, yeah, well, I’m sure it does something.” But there are scientific studies, about the healing process on DNA level or just even if you want to get really serious. I’m reading a book telomeres, and they’re the endpoint of stem cells. Dr. Ed Park has an amazing book out about the processes of helping lengthen your telomeres which will lengthen your life. It’s about the holistic method, breathing, relaxing music, comforting music and eliminating stress in your life. We’re not going to get out of this place alive and laughing at the absurdity of it all in away. Let’s get back to music. For one thing, we have a project, which I’m really thrilled about. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this to you, Jason. But we have partnered with a filmmaker out of New York, who won the Sundance Film Festival for their work with a project called “Alive Inside” and it’s about filmmaker going and following a doctor as he went to nursing homes and put headphones on people that had Alzheimer’s or dementia and playing songs of their era and seeing scientifically how the mind comes back and recognizes that. It really does awaken those who are so shut down. So it’s a beautiful project, Aliveinside.org, and we’ve talked to them. We’re partnering on a headphone project where we’re going to use those exact headphones with The River of Calm artists music, and then bring them into chemotherapy centers, in hospitals to help comfort patients who are in the process of the absurd and surreal process of chemotherapy. That’s a big project and mission for us on that. You look around you see so many different apps that are out there. Calm.com is out there, insight time or meditation apps, but music does something on a DNA level. I’m not smart enough to explain it scientifically. But as a musician who’s lived 10,000 hours at a piano, I know it, and I’m not alone, because we have listeners in over 168 different countries right now. Wow. That all started from me at a piano with just one listener, me. It’s bigger than me, I can promise you that.
Jason Skipper 18:48
Absolutely, absolutely. I read on your website, it mentioned I think something you say, music transcends language and touches our souls.
Ed Bazel 18:57
That sounds like a pretty good idea because it does. It doesn’t matter what language you are, it just cuts across that and reaches down into your soul. There something I love about the artists on The River of Calm is the expression and depth of creativity from their soul. They’re 115 or 116 different, what I call healers. They’re musical healers, and there’s a whole profession on music therapy out there to that we could bring in somebody into discussing to really get the science behind it. Again, we’re just stating on the big picture of it, but it is very real, and I’m happy to be a part of this NFR music can help even one person, just calm themselves, and get them centered and realizing they’re okay. I think we’re on the right track.
Jason Skipper 20:01
It’s worth it for that one reason, and it seems like it’s many, many more people. So you answered quite a few of my questions. You mentioned that you’re from Huntington and you were in Lexington for a while and you were in LA. What brought you to Tennessee?
Ed Bazel 20:23
That’s a good question. I actually was in Los Angeles and really enjoyed the time out there. It was like having a front-row seat on life. Now, there were earthquakes, riots, and gunfire. That was on Monday now Tuesday, where the wildfire. [laughing] I was out there and doing fine. My parents are in Huntington, West Virginia. At that time, my dad had leukemia, and I felt kind of bad about that. I was kind of feeling a pullback this way. At that point, I was an agent for the different artists that I mentioned and learning the corporate entertainment world. I told the guy I was working for that was prior to my entrepreneurial seizure, that “Hey, why don’t I open an office for you in Nashville? It’s close enough that I can get to West Virginia much easier than me trying to get from LA to West Virginia.” So It’s five and a half hours from here, so I was able to do that. At that time. I had a young daughter. It was a great place to be, I just realized I’m like 23 years ahead of most of the people now moving here.
Jason Skipper 21:40
It’s amazing how time flies it really is.
Ed Bazel 21:42
No kidding, but Nashville’s a kinder gentler place to be. I can’t say enough about it, and I’m happy to be a part of the music industry here.
Jason Skipper 21:53
Right. Well, in our podcast with Eric Bykales, as you mentioned there he mentioned that you guys both love to fly drones. And at one point you had put together a drone business? I’m not sure exactly. He didn’t get deep into it, but is that true?
Ed Bazel 22:12
I’m not allowed to discuss anything. I’m kidding.
Yes, we both love drones. Eric is a great pilot. Drone flying can be a two-person business because one person is the pilot. The other one has a screen to direct where to fly to. So we would do this, we had a business and we still have it, but we haven’t had time for it. Where property owners hire us to survey if they’re selling a marina or they’re selling a hunting acreage or a big house for us to fly around, get aerial views, stunning views. Then we edited the film and then had our piano music in the background to cover it, so it was a lot of fun, I tell you what. Eric’s still a great pilot and his new CD, “Fire in the Sky,” that picture was taken from his front cover from the drone itself when he was flying it.
Jason Skipper 23:10
He mentioned that and that’s awesome. That just makes it so much more personal. I just asked because I love drones as well. I have a drone and I love to fly it. I had to ask that!
Ed Bazel 23:24
So you never know.
Jason Skipper 23:25
Yeah, you never know. So outside of music, of course, you have The Bazel Group, you mentioned your business. Outside of music, outside of work, and outside of drones, what else are you passionate about in life?
Ed Bazel 23:40
I’ve got a daughter who’s 26, she’s a good kid and great to have on board. I also seem to love to work out. When my dad had leukemia, I couldn’t help him I realized. So I thought to do something to help the process. So I organized and rode a fundraiser, bicycle ride from the end of the Santa Monica Pier in Los Angeles, to the end of the St. John’s Pier in St. Augustine, Florida.
Jason Skipper 24:12
Ed Bazel 24:13
3000 miles, eight states, and 278 cities and towns and about 88 miles a day.
Jason Skipper 24:19
Ed Bazel 24:20
So I’ve done that. Five marathons, I’ve hiked Mount Kilimanjaro, I’ve been to the Tour de France on a bicycling vacation twice. I’m now taking swimming lessons to be able to swim a lot more efficiently than I can right now.
Jason Skipper 24:40
Wow. Well, you’ve had quite a life so far.
Ed Bazel 24:44
I told you I’m a lucky man. And the futures yet to be invented yet, so lookout.
Jason Skipper 24:52
That is for sure. Everything’s changing, new things are on the horizon. Good deal! Well, how can listeners get in contact with you? Of course, they can come and visit The River of Calm when you’re there on the third Thursday of every month. How else can listeners find you?
Ed Bazel 25:13
Listeners can find me on The River of Calm if they need me for The River of Calm, I’m Ed@theriverofcalm.com is the email address. I’m just being very open with that. We have Bazelgroup.com. Then I’m working and I’m almost ready to record my new CD to replace the “oh my gosh, I’m on a Ferrari with steroids, Yamaha C7 issue.” So I have a piano CD website, which is Edbazel.com. Of course, Spotify, iTunes, and The River of Calm too, did I mention that?
Jason Skipper 25:56
Yes, there we go. Well, good deal. So on the CD that you plan to be recording, I understand you haven’t done this yet. How soon will that be happening?
Ed Bazel 26:05
Probably within a couple of months. I mentioned on The River of Calm, I’ve interviewed a number of the artists probably almost up to 20 right now, and everyone has a different journey. I’ve heard some who have one CD out, others who have 18 out. I’m going, “Oh my gosh, I’m a slacker!” But this stuff does not come quickly to me, I want to shape and refine it. So I have about 10 songs that currently I’m just in the editing process notation wise, to make sure that I record them and play them with the notes that are intended to be played and not just kind of faking it as I get there. I want this piece to be meaningful.
Believe me, it’s very humbling to be a pianist and play with nine other pianists that are up there like we did this past week for The River of Calm 10x Livestream. I’ve come to realize and I hope everyone else will that when you’re a pianist, it’s your personality that comes out. There’s no “Oh, I’ve got to be like him or her.” I like it to we’re all different flavors of ice cream. Each one is good enough and just perfectly who you are. To try to take that as my own advice is a little tough at times, I’m working on it. You know, I want to be the pianist like Eric Bykales or Dane Bryant or Philip Wesley or numerous others. But I realize I’m this guy that has romantic melodic lines and just what it is.
Jason Skipper 27:47
Yes! Eric mentioned that to me, that you are a romantic. It’s amazing.
Ed Bazel 27:54
Well, it’s a dirty job, but somebody’s got to do this work.
Jason Skipper 28:00
Right. Well, finishing up here this last question, what should I have asked you that I didn’t ask you that you’d like to talk about?
Ed Bazel 28:10
Wow, Jason, that’s a good question on that. I think about this River of Calm thing, and I think, “Am I doing the right thing?” Do I have my inner demons like other artists? You bet I do. Am I good enough? I don’t know. I guess I’m good enough. It’s still a journey, It really is, I think it’s everyone’s journey. I love seeing people, especially parents bring kids into Miller Piano and to watch them sit down. I want to just drop to my knees and worship them for giving their kids a chance with music. Oh, my gosh, my parents always wanted me to get a “real job.” Here I am a pianist for many years, and my mom even said at one time, God bless her soul. She said, “I think you should get a job on the Toyota factory line.” I was like, “Oh, just shoot me, just shoot me.” But for what it’s worth, I’ve been lucky enough to make a living and a career in music and have amazing experiences. I just salute the parents that are tough enough to keep their kids in lessons and then watch them blossom. You see that happening at Miller Piano almost daily.
Jason Skipper 29:31
You do. Wow. Well, thank you, Ed. This has been a great time. It’s been great to get to know you, and It’s been great. We thank you for your time.
Ed Bazel 29:42
Thank you for your time, Jason. Thank Miller Piano Specialists for me too, okay?
Jason Skipper 29:47
Oh, we definitely will. They’ll be listening as well, we’re all listening. I’ll just finish up here saying as always, to all of our listeners out there, make sure to go to our website! You can find the notes and a transcript of this episode right on our website on Millerps.com. You can also find this on Apple Podcast, Google Play Podcasts, and Spotify. Look us up on your favorite podcasting platform. Don’t forget to rate, review and subscribe. That really, really does help. Once again, thanks, Ed. I appreciate your time. This has been your host Jason Skipper, and we’ll see you next time.