We had the good fortune of connecting with Charles Szczepanek and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Charles, how does your business help the community or the world?
Music being the abstract thing that it is, what I do affects people in a multi-pronged way. First, and most generally, there are people who are simply listeners of music. Most people I know listen to music in their car going from place to place. Many also listen to music while they work and while they workout. Even if those people don’t actively engage with music, they are likely spending hours each day consuming it and enjoying it all the while. Those facts make music marketable to nearly every person on the planet. To reach those people and help them relax and be more productive at work, I have a branch of compositions dedicated to being lighter, easier to listen to, not so distracting, but still tastefully written. I believe that music plays an integral role in society helping to calm anxiety, relieve tension, and bring inner peace. Whether or not you’d choose to listen to my music or my genre of music is beside that point, because I think we can all agree that humanity turns to some form of expression in music when an escape or a release is needed. Some of my other music that may be more challenging to play better fills a gap that musicians and music teachers have experienced for years, providing new opportunities to play favorite songs without resorting to elementary sounding arrangements. I also release teaching and “tutorial” videos on my YouTube channel, all for free, that expose anyone interested in learning concepts typically reserved for a very high level of academia. I bring concepts that I developed collegiately to anyone who wants to learn them. This opens a door that is typically closed to any music hobbyist and gives them the means to experience some very advanced ideas in an easy to understand way.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
You could say that the brand of “Charles Szczepanek” launched in 2016 with 2 professional performance videos of solo piano arrangements for the holidays. They were accompanied by the launch of a very small online store where sheet music for those arrangements could be sold and delivered digitally. I had spent years studying classical piano (I hold both bachelor’s and master’s degrees in piano performance), and equally as many years performing some of the world’s greatest instrumental music ever written. I wouldn’t trade those experiences for anything! But I’ve always had a desire to write music of my own and share that with others. Since those video releases in 2016, nearly all of my musical endeavors have focused on either original arrangements or original compositions. Music, as a product that hits our ears, appeals to our soul, and can’t be seen but only heard, has a reputation for being difficult to talk about. That being said, I knew I wanted to reach people on a few different levels: as listeners of music, as audiophiles, as teachers of music, and as pianists. Every new piece I write, record, and release sheet music for, needs to meet my personal requirements for all 4 of those categories. A huge part of what inspired me to start this business was my own lack of satisfaction on all 4 of those levels with music that existed. For example, I’ve played at many holiday parties over the years, but when I’d go searching for good music to perform there would be very few choices of interest. Why? Nearly all of the choices available would be written for young music students with undeveloped technique. The arrangements wouldn’t be difficult to play, but they were also musically unsatisfying for both me and an audience. My 2013 album, “Winter Day Dreaming” was born out of this necessity to create satisfying music that fit the holiday season. When I couldn’t find it, I made it myself. My 2017 album, “Keys to the Cinema” was also born from this same need. I had books and books of very famous music from the movies already arranged for the piano, but they didn’t sound all that close to the original soundtracks! At the time, I was on a mission to help show people in our modern day that movie scores have strong roots in classical music, and I simply couldn’t show that online or in live performance with the arrangements that existed. New ones needed to be created that did the orchestrations justice. Again, after searching and coming up 75% or more empty handed, I decided to fill the gap by creating the arrangements myself. Four years later, my own compositions and arrangements have reached nearly 1.5 million listeners and my sheet music is distributed by the world’s largest internet retailer Musicnotes.com.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
I love coffee and espresso and I could easily make an entire trip just about visiting great coffee shops! In my neighborhood, we have the Queen Creek Olive Mill. It’s not obvious, but they have a coffee shop there, Superstition Coffee, that brews my favorite doppio espresso in the entire country! There’s a place in the commercial district of Boston that’s great, and another that I really like in San Francisco, but having that caliber of beverage just a couple miles from the house is amazing. We’d probably start every day there and grab one of the Olive Mill’s tasty cinnamon rolls at least once or twice. I’m a bit of a foodie so there are plenty of places I love to eat around town, but a few stick out in my mind. Ghost Ranch in Chandler is a fantastic place for southwestern food that’s super flavorful and colorful with a nice kick of heat. Steak 44 in Phoenix serves the best steaks and king crab/shrimp mashed potatoes! They also make my favorite Manhattan. Zinc Bistro at Kierland Commons is a great place to get some unique French dishes and they always seem to have the most mouth-watering specials! It’d also be important to spend some time in downtown Phoenix near the arts district. Symphony Hall, The Herberger Theater, The Orpheum, and more venues are all within walking distance of each other. During the cool season, you could pick just about any night, head down there, and find a great show. Afterward, don’t forget to hit up The Nash a few blocks away for some nice jazz and a post-show cocktail!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There have been so many influential people in my life, it’s hard to choose just one! Dr. Daniel Horn, Prof. Robert Hamilton, and Paul Harvey Jr. all helped to form my understanding of music, the piano, and the expression of emotion through art. Despite each of them being important in my life at different stages, I am grateful to still maintain relationships with all three. For the past 9 years, John McDonough has been extremely supportive. Although not a musician, John asks the right questions at the right time to keep inspiration flowing, has a sound business mind to bounce ideas off of, and is always ready to jump in and help in whatever way he can, be it a recording session, video shoot, or concert!
Other: https://charles-szczepanek.myshopify.com/ https://www.musicnotes.com/sheet-music/artist/charles-szczepanek
Aimee Bustos, Maria Fields