Successful Musicians Podcast Episode 5
Interviewee: Marvin Goldstein
Interviewer: Jason Tonioli
Hey, this is Jason Tonioli. I’m a piano player that grew up believing it wasn’t possible to earn a living and support a family with music. I’ve proven that idea was wrong and I’ve met hundreds of other people who have found success with their music. This podcast features stories of musicians who have found their own personal version of success and fulfillment in both music and life. This podcast is meant to inspire musicians and help them believe in their abilities and motivate them to share their talents with others. This is the Successful Musicians Podcast.
Jason: Hey, welcome to the Successful Musicians Podcast here. I’m here today with Marvin Goldstein, one of my good friends. We’ve been talking for years and years. I actually grew up playing his piano books, but when I got to finally meet him. It was one of those words like, “Oh my gosh, I used to play your stuff in church.”
So it’s kind of a pleasure to have you on here Marvin, but hopefully this will be a way to have some people introduced to some of the great music and especially to hymns. I mean, you’ve been doing hymn music for years and years and years. You’re probably one of those musicians that I feel like, you can sit down and just play anything in your head. Just sit on the couch and do the same thing and I’m honestly super jealous of that but when I think of successful musicians, you’re one of those people, especially the piano. So welcome so much to the podcast today.
Marvin: Thank you, Jason! This is great that you’re offering this and offering whatever it is we’re gonna give young musicians or any musicians to be able to have more passion on what they do and have a purpose for what they do.
Jason: I think one of the things that’s really driven me to start doing these interviews is as I was a kid growing up, I always felt like there were certain jobs or things or careers that people would pursue or that you wanted to pursue but you’d be told, “You can’t make money as a musician, you can’t support a family as a musician” and so just in the back of my mind, I was always like, Oh, it can’t be done. And I know there are so many people that have been told that and my hope is that if you’re a musician and that’s what you love doing doesn’t mean that you have to support your family with it. By interviewing and just hearing people’s stories like yours. They didn’t say, you know, that’s kind of like me, right? We’ll get some ideas and at least be able to find some more joy and be able to find success, whatever that success might look like to a person. So as we dive in, I guess maybe tell people a little bit about how you started doing piano? I’m sure you had, I mean Long bench practice or maybe not?
Marvin: Actually, they asked me to not practice.
Marvin: [laughing] I was nine years old, and they said “Please stop. Your dad’s trying to watch television. Please stop practicing.” So I practice at nine years old Jason, three hours a day.
Jason: That’s why you’re better than I am.
Marvin: No, no, There’s no better than. Nothing. Competition. There’s nothing going on anywhere, remotely about any of that. The idea that people are told that it’s going to be hard to make a living is something they should never say to anyone. The passion of doing music is within yourself. It’s given to you by the Lord. It’s just a beautiful thing to keep doing because you love what it does for those that you’re able to perform for. It’s got not much to do with yourself but it’s really not. When You realize that you got to make a living at it. But then again, it’s not so bad to have another profession in mind, too.
Jason: For sure! When was that point where you’re like, you know what this might be able to be a career? And when did you decide music was the thing you might want to do?
Marvin: Well, I did so much of it. Now you got to keep in mind a musician at my age, going I’m 72 years old in June and starting in 1959. There was no internet Jason. There were no cell phones. There were no distractions or no hurry. Got to do this. Gotta get that done. You go outside to play for a while with your friends, you come back, there’s a piano sitting right there and that is mainly your only focus. There’s nothing else to do. So you have plenty of time.
Now, parents may take away their cell phones and don’t let them watch the internet or anything for a while. Maybe they’d have a chance but I started to actually feel I could make a living at it perhaps when I was 20 years old.
Jason: Did you do the career path where you went to school and got a degree in piano and like a career path?
Marvin: I did not get a degree in piano. I got a degree on the French horn. I just did the piano, and loved the piano. At 17 years old, the piano teacher, who was my last piano teacher, said to me, “I can’t teach you anymore because you’re not playing what’s on the page.” So I said, “Okay.”
So, the French horn was my focus and in Europe and the Middle East and this and that. And then, as I did more and more music, to plan for a lot of things and pay for anything and everything I could find. I started making a little bit of money, but then I said “Maybe I’m not making enough money that I better do something else.” And that was about 22 years old. I got a master’s degree on a French Horn and a bachelor’s degree. I studied in Tel Aviv University and also in Salzburg, Austria at the Mozart school.
Jason: What do you remember most about when you went to school? I mean, what were some of those lessons that you could pass on to somebody and felt like you learned there? For both of the schools. From a music standpoint for somebody who probably will never get to go to Mozart school. Or Tel Aviv? What are the big takeaways as you think of those years?
Marvin: Oh, it’s just to saturate yourself and keep challenging yourself and you’ve got to always do the hard parts first. Everybody that gets a piece of music does all the easy parts a 100 times, they gotta go back and do the hard parts. They need to spend more time on that. When they master that music, move on and it’s just a matter of repetition with matter of hours and hours and more hours. That’s not so great. But if you want to be better than anyone else ever gotten to. I’ve never achieved that but I’m good enough that I am pleased as to what I’ve done for other people – 60 recordings, and 16 music books.
Jason: What made you decide to make that first music book? How did that happen? Because a lot of people think oh, if I can write my first music or book then I’ll be successful. How did that go down?
Marvin: I was intimidated, and said, Will people like this? Well ,if they like what I’m doing live, maybe a piano person could then play it. And maybe they like what they’re doing so I found out in a very unique way. I did the first book and I was at church one day, in the hallway, in a different city, I heard my music being played in the chapel. And no, it wasn’t me playing. I walked into the chapel. There’s this guy sitting at the piano playing my arrangements. I know right there and think I have a way to get these books out and I have a way that people would like to have more of them and they consistently have. It kind of just falls in your lap.
The Music Business is nothing. I don’t think you can go from A to Z and orchestrate a career. I don’t think so. I just don’t. Anyway, there’s a lot of joy in it, a lot of happiness from it. If money is the objective, you might as well go to another profession.
Jason: What advice would you have for an outside person that’s maybe just deciding you know, hey, I really would like to figure out something music. What advice do you have for that young college kid kind of person knowing what you’ve gone through through the whole business?
Marvin: That’s probably not answerable. Just like somebody who wrote to me the other day and sent me a text with a piece of music in their picture and said, “Do you think my girl can play this?
What do you mean? I don’t have any idea what they do or where they are, whatever.
How long does it take to play something like this? I don’t know. If you could play 10 minutes a day, it could take you three years. If you play three hours a day, it could take you two months. I don’t know the answer to these questions. It’s too tough. It’s not a cookie cutter answer. There’s nothing there.
Jason: I know a lot of people from the business side, if they aren’t going to do a career with that. If they do look at your business, learning about business, what would you say some of your major takeaways with that has been making a career of your music?
Marvin: Well, if you’re in, you better be all in. Follow the people that are successful. Get some hints from them, just like you’re providing this to people that are gonna listen. You just have to figure out what people are doing. You don’t need to do exactly what they’re doing but you have to dabble in any possible avenue to get your name out there. If people are starting to want it and buy it, you got a big clue right there. Let’s do more of it. If no one ever wants to buy after listening to it, go to law school.
Jason: As we talked in the past, I think just recently you were in a piano museum or something, you’re playing on some golden Steinway. Tell me about some (like one or two)of your favorite performance places you’ve ever gotten to play piano or coolest place you play on?
Marvin: Oddly enough, the coolest place I’ve ever performed was not on piano. I play in the Sydney Opera House in Australia. 4000 people in the audience. Yes. Oh my gosh. It’s hard to give you the feeling. The second is the tabernacle at Temple Square. Maybe then it’s the concert hall in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Maybe somewhere in Italy. It’s there somewhere in South America. It’s all happened in the last 20 years of my career. I’ve been doing this for 63 years. So if we get into it we don’t have enough time now but it will probably orchestra or show people what for me to get to a certain point yet my path is not necessarily anyone else’s.
Jason: Right? I think as I look at my own career and I look at other people, everybody thinks I’m gonna get that big break and there’s thinking of the one person or two people out there that seem to have gotten some big break. But the reality is, if you actually get to know him, it’s probably been a 20 or more year success cycle of them practicing and learning and meeting people and working hard. I’ve yet to meet anybody out there in the business, made music a career where it’s just happened really, really quickly. It’s not overnight, it is about 20 or more years in a lot of cases.
Marvin: So it is not an overnight success, it’s 40 years. Yeah, the biggest thing I can tell your audience or pianists or whoever it is, is this one thing.
Offer anyone, wherever you’re at, to play for them. When you find there’s a meeting or there’s a banquet or there’s whatever, offer to play for free. Play for people and work your way into everything. Then somebody will invite you to do the next one and the next one and the next one. You can’t just stay at home, practice three or four pieces, doing better than anyone’s ever played them and no one ever hears it.
Jason: I think for a lot of musicians that I know, oftentimes they’re quiet and very private people and the whole idea of selling or getting yourself out on social media makes you want to throw it off. It’s like, oh my gosh, I don’t want to put a picture of myself or video but the reality is if you do want to share and I think to bring joy to other people, it’s just one of the things that you have to do and as much as you dislike or feel uncomfortable doing it, you won’t be able to share your talents if you will just hide it all the time.
Marvin: Music has the ability to bring joy. There are just people playing, even for themselves. To get a lot of joy knowing that producing something that we’re given to them, whether they ever pay for anyone else in the world. If they want to do it that way. Fine.
Jason: I think a lot of people are like, “Oh, success with music. Success might actually be just being able to play a song at home for yourself and just enjoy it and that’s totally fine. I think just because somebody thinks you have to go out and put a record out there and have a platinum record or sell millions of dollars of music. That’s probably not a realistic goal for a lot of people and nor is it. I found a lot of times that money, even if it does happen, that’s not what brings the joy and the fulfillment with that music. It’s just fulfillment valid when you’re touching somebody you’re connecting on an emotional level with music for yourself or when you’re sharing that moment with other people. At least that’s for me. What do you think? You’ve been doing this a lot more years than I have.
Marvin: Well, the beauty of music to me is the spaces between the notes that you play, the pauses. While you’re given the joy, it’s not necessarily hearing the notes, it is where the pauses are, where you’re able to reflect and think. Given the presentation and a couple notes, you pause, you’re getting in the way and what they could feel. I heard you play, I never met you. I was over the jealous kind of thing in my life as far as being in competition. It did not matter at all but I heard you and went, “Whatever he’s doing is really good. He’s really good. He’s thoughtful. He’s just playing for people to feel things. He’s not trying to show off. He had the ability to show off but that gets you nowhere. Showing off? Forget it. And then people can see that they don’t want to pay for that, they want to pay for what you’re gonna give them, not what you’re going to give yourself.
Jason: I still remember me being down in the recording studio, one of the times with Chuck Myers. He’s worked with so many amazing people over the years. He’s worked with John Schuhmann and the piano guys. You know Chuck has done a lot of Disney movies – Star Wars 8… The guy’s incredible. And it was really early on when I was down there and I remember him, it was a simple song. And it just wasn’t this real showy type of song and arrangement I was doing. Remember going in there I kind of apologized like oh gosh, we could make this work notes on the chords or can you jazz it up or add some more things like? He told me, “One of the hardest things to do is to keep music simple and when you can, strip out all of the extra layers and the notes. He kind of told me he goes Look, people fill in the notes, lots of orchestra and other stuff on top. It’s way harder to write simple music. Even when you’re playing a piano I think that’s great you can use it. They don’t listen to the piano and everybody’s like wow, that was amazing. But realistically, they want to listen to crazy ups and downs. Exhausting listening if you do it all day long and it’s cool to play walks in. Well, I think you’re exactly right with the spaces. The breathing. It’s kind of like breathing is music. It’s alive.
Marvin: The purest example that maybe some of your audience has never heard… This is the name of a composer that epitomizes the simplicity and power of music. Look up Janice Kapp Perry. She is a composer that has written children’s music and other music. She ‘s 83 or 84 years old right now. Again, if some of your audience wants to know who it is, look up that music you’ll find simplicity and music at its finest.
Jason: She’s incredible. Probably one of the best. She’s one we should for sure get in this podcast. She’d have some words of wisdom that I think would be awesome to share with a lot of people.
Marvin: Actually four or five recordings are her music. I told her personally. I just want to thank you for giving me a platform of beauty to be able to perform for people and years past. I think I’m the only piano she’s ever collaborated with a solo instrumental album in her career.
Jason: Awesome. Very cool. Marvin, usually we offer some sort of gift in here on the show notes. So is there anywhere that you’d like people to go check out if they want to learn a little bit more about your music?
Marvin: Well, I mean marvingoldstein.com
Jason: In the show notes, for those that are listening, I’m gonna put a link in there and I’ve got a free song of yours. I know we’re gonna share with people. Go check it out. Marvin’s music is some of the best out there. So if you’re a piano player, definitely look in the show notes or go subscribe to the podcast. You’ll be able to see that link in there and hopefully it’s something that’ll make you want to go. So 16 books you’ve done now?
Marvin: Yeah! I am the best pianist that I’ve ever known and the most humble. There it is. [laughing]
Jason: …and one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet. You’re awesome. Thanks so much. For sure get you back on the podcast again another time. I appreciate you.
Hey, it is Jason here and I hope you have gotten a lot of value out of this episode. Be sure to check out our show notes to learn more about our guest for today and if you’d like to support our podcast, there’s a few things that you could do to help us grow.
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Finding success and fulfillment in the music industry is possible. Looking forward to seeing you in our next episode 6.
How to Connect with the Featured Guest:
“I am the best pianist that I’ve ever known and the most humble.”
Joining our podcast today is Marvin Goldstein, an internationally acclaimed pianist, piano performer, arranger, music producer, composer and entertainer for over 50 years.
Goldstein has recorded over 50 albums. He also has arranged multiple piano solo arrangement books. Goldstein is listed in “Who’s Who in Music” in European Cambridge, England. He has extensively traveled and performed at places such as the Sydney Opera House, the Jerusalem YMCA, Europe, Egypt, South America, Canada, Mexico and more.
What You’ll Learn
In this episode, Goldstein shares how he started learning piano at 9 years old, his experiences in the music school, his favorite performances and what made him decide that piano is the career he wants. He also shares his advice to those who are still starting down the music path and how to start to get people to notice your music.
Things We Discussed
- his advice to the younger generation who are still figuring out if they will pursue the music path
- his major takeaways from his career
- his perspective of what the true beauty of music is
- which musician/composer he looks up to
Connect with Marvin Goldstein
Connect with Jason