Music by Americans
A Nationwide Solo Piano Recital Tour Project

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"Eighty-eight keys in 50 states -- that's the idea behind "America 88x50," a project brainstormed by pianist Adam Tendler. The 24-year-old Vermont native studied at the Indiana University School of Music, then decided to stage a free concert of contemporary classical music in every state within one year, on a shoestring budget. Prep time included a 6-month stint of construction work while teaching himself pieces by Charles Ives, Charles Tomlinson Griffes, Alberto Ginastera and Aaron Copland. In the past 12 months, he's played schools, bars and regular theaters, and once drove four days straight from New Mexico to Delaware to make his next gig. Forty-nine down, one to go: Tendler brings his program home to Vermont for the project's final concert."
-from "Going Solo" by Meghan Dewald, Seven Days, Burlington, Vermont

"Pianist Adam Tendler is on a mission to bring modern American music out of the ivory tower and into the public. Giving his second concert of his planned 50 state tour, the young musician delighted the audience at the Morgantown Arts Center Thursday night, June 16. His concert featured works by Ives, Copland, and other modern American composers. Tendler is giving these concerts at no charge to the public in any venue willing to take the chance on piano works which may not be as familiar to the general public as one might hope."
-Matthew Lynn Riegel, West Virginia University, Morgantown, West Virginia

"The original concept of the program was that all the shows would just happen," Tendler said. "They weren't going to be planned." That's led to some surprises including an imromptu Fourth of July show in an oriental rug store in Missouri on a Steinway. But Tendler quickly discovered that a little logistics, however bare-bones, would make things a lot smoother. "I feel very strongly about this program," Tendler said. "This music deserves a lot more attention than it gets. It's a symbol for the diversity in American music, and a symbol for American art in general. And from there a symbol of the diversity of the American people and their culture. Every time, the ingredients make it a very different performance. The only things that stay the same are the notes on the page.'"
-Korry Keeker, Juneau Empire, Juneau, Alaska

"Eighty-eight keys in each of the fifty states. You do the math. Adam Tendler [is] a well-traveled clavierist."
-Rob Thomas, Capital Times, Madison, Wisconsin

"'It was really an experiment to see if it was possible. It's shown me that it's possible, and if it's possible this time, it'll happen again,' [Tendler] said.

"With the exception of his stops in Alaska and Hawaii, Tendler has tooled about 35,000 miles around the country in his late-model Hyundai. While he gushed about the car's performance and gas mileage, he admitted he was glad his yearlong tour was winding down, now that gas prices have topped $3 a gallon.

"Next up: landing a job with benefits. 'I'll cook pizzas if I can get health insurance,' he joked."
-Cathalena E. Burch, Arizona Daily Star, Tucson, Arizona

"Copland set out to create music that would excite the listener, and the excitement could be seen in the jerks of Mr. Tendler's head and the intensity of his gaze while he played the Piano Sonata (1939-41).

"Mr. Tendler's objective with this tour was to expose people to this American music through free concerts in smaller, unconventional venues in order to find the audience which would rarely set out to hear this type of music. He has represented four artists who, despite using the same instrument, have created such varied music. From Ives breaking out of a confining shell, to Griffes who was influenced by sounds of France, Asia, and even American Indians, and composed story-like and often dizzyingly dreamy music, to the immigrant Ginastera's varied homages to America, and finally to Aaron Copland whose work seemed steady and nonchalant compared to the rest. eyes wandered out the window, to the street where cars could be heard swishing through rain puddles, I stared at the wine and spirits store across the street, filling up with college students and winos before the 9 PM close. The music combined with my gaze to become the soundtrack to this scene - this rather New England / American scene - and I wondered if this American music means more or less to the America of today."
-Natalie Gans, Wesleyan College, Connecticut

"He had to sit on phone books and encyclopedias to reach the keys on a dusty, massive upright in a Montatna coffeehouse. As he played, half the confused clientele kept up their conversations, shouting to be heard over the espresso machines and the blenders, while the other half fled.

'"It was almost a riot,' Tendler said.

"Idaho , state number twelve, proved to be the most fun. He stayed for a week, sleeping part of the time in a 'fishead-shaped hut' on the beach.

"Friday morning, he munched an energy bar at The Mill [coffeeshop], waiting for a spot to open up on a morning radio program so he could promote his concert.

"Arts Council Director Deb Weber waited with him.

"They'd talked on the phone this fall and she was excited to have Adam come, she said.

"She did tell him, however, that this was not a great time of year with so many other things going on, and maybe he should come later.

"Adam didn't listen. 'He didn't care. He said, "I'm going to come and see what happens,"' said the arts director. 'Ultimately, he's an artist and he said that he was willing to play - even if it were just for one person."
-Cindy Lange-Kubick, Lincoln Journal Star, Nebraska

"I think that everyone agrees with me that the Adam Tendler recital was an outstanding musical experience. It is wonderful programs like this that show our students what can really be done with themusic of the piano."
-Ted Lassen, Piano Instructor at the Denver School of the Arts, Colorado


"Vermont classical pianist Adam Tendler has taken on the heart of a roving folk singer."
-Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, Wisconsin

"Pianist Adam Tendler played in our studio while on his national tour. I was really taken with his playing. It is beautiful, expressive, authentic, and communicative. I've lamented the lack of idealistic young musicians intent on art. Adam was a pleasant surprise."
-Verne Windham, Program Director, KPBX-FM, Washington

"Tendler's solo piano tour is a sojourn he's calling America 88x50."
- Mike Corrigan, The Inlander, Washington

"Life, America, music, and himself are four things pianist Adam Tendler hopes to learn about on his tour of the 50 states... 'I'm doing this just as much to learn as wanting to share this with people,' he said."
- Trista Seers, Lander Journal, Wyoming

"I am on fire.

"Not literally, of course. But in the creative sense.

"I sat in a room tonight with a man who woke me up. For the first time in a very, very long time I feel motivated, I feel ready, I feel up to a challenge. I feel like doing something artistic, like working to improve, like being better than I am. And all he said directly to me was "Thank you."

"Isn't that weird. I mean, all he was doing was playing piano.

"Imagining some old wisened master? Think again. Adam Tendler is 23, tiny, and rather sick at the moment. But amazing. Absolutely amazing. He is touring the country, playing one concert in every state.

"The thing that gets me is that he's dirt poor, financing the whole thing out of his own pocket, and not charging anyone to hear him play. He's doing all of this to promote music, specifially American piano compositions, because he thinks that they're undervalued. He sat in a room and played, and I heard more than just some piano music. I heard history and passion and creativity and drive...

"Afterwards, I had to stay and thank that guy. I mean, he was just too awesome... So I went up and shook his hand, and he thanked me for coming. All I could do was thank him back- but he knew what I really wanted to say. He took my hand in both of his and looked at me like he knew what I was thinking, which of course he did- he knows what that music can do.

"I wish everyone could feel this. Everyone, please, get something you are passionate about in your life. Find something that you can love doing. Otherwise we will all end up the way people think our generation is- lazy and apathetic. There's gotta be something out there that you love. Find it.

"Here's to passion, drive, energy, creativity... all that jazz. And here's to being excited for tomorrow, whatever that may bring."
-Sean, from her blog RandomSean

"While his abilities on the ivories impress music lovers, his animated style bemuses children. 'Sometimes this feels like a marathon; it’s a very athletic program,' he said. 'People who come to the concerts are surprised to see such pyrotechnics at the keyboard. And it’s good for kids, whose minds seem more open about half the time. Kids try to accommodate the music in their imaginations, which is a great thing'

"And Tendler is well aware that on a tour that began without any solid engagements, there are bound to be days where the crowds are, shall we say, intimate. 'I knew I’d have to leave my pride at the door,' said Tendler, 24, who studied piano at conservatory and Indiana University. 'I wanted to experience music in its rawest and purest form — I wanted to shatter my own illusions.'"
-Chris J. Starrs, Rockdale Citizen / Newton Citizen, Georgia


"Playing the piano is one whole note on the bass of clef of Adam Tendler's life... For those who wish to enter the world of music, Tendler said that no matter what people want to do, they have to meet their challenges with effort."
-Kyle Rogers, Public Opinion, Pennsylvania

"When the average person thinks about American classical music - if they think about it at all - he probably comes up with images of brass marching bands or cowboys and 'Beef: it's what's for dinner.' Pianist Adam Tendler probably can't change that, but it hasn't stopped him from trying.

Tendler kicked off "America 88x50," his planned 50-state tour Wednesday night at Cunneen-Hackett Arts Center in the City of Poughkeepsie, playing a selection of music by American composers that reflects the breadth of American identity and creativity. He's criss-crossing the country, operating out of the trunk of his tightly packed sports car and looking for small, intimate venues to play the music he loves.

'I always wanted to play this music,' Tendler said, 'to travel and learn about myself. I wanted to play for people I thought would appreciate it.'
But it's more of a quest than a tour, really."
- Ian MacFarland, Weekly Beat, New York

"The point of the project, as I see it, is that artists in the 21st century are not being seen or heard because of all the commercialism , so [America 88x50 is] a pretty interesting project."
-Cunneen-Hackett Executive Director JoAnn Feigenheimer, New York

"It was the perfect kind of mix of wanderlust and half desperation," he said.

" Somewhat of a classical maverick, Tendler wanted to prove that classical music is accessible to people of all backgrounds. A son of second-generation immigrants who studied Swahili to Motown during his conservatory years at Indiana University School of Music, Tendler acknowledges that he does not look like a typical American boy. Nor does he fit the typical, privileged, pasty-white-from-time-in-the studio conservatory type: With dark hair and olive skin, Tendler said he blends in with Latino, Jewish and Middle Eastern crowds alike.

" Add to that his youth and signature black leather recital pants, and he's a true rebel with a cause.

" In addition to working to dismantle the hierarchy of classical society, Tendler wanted to put American composers on the map to show the country that there is an American classical tradition. Tendler said his aim with the program he played at his recitals was 'to get people there who'll hear this for the first time. ...that's all part of Tendler's desire to promote an honest dialogue about the music.

" Tendler said throughout the tour he always asked audiences for their opinions about the music after the recital and he loved it when someone had a powerful reaction to a piece — positive or negative.
-from "Across the Country, One Note at a Time" by Daphne Larkin, The Times Argus, Barre, Vermont

" Most people pursue a career in music because of the joy they derived from playing an instrument.

"The only problem, as Adam Tendler realized as he finished his studies at Indiana University, is that the traditional avenues open to a musician don't necessarily lead one to paths of joy.

"It's a dilemma that anyone who ends up with an arts degree has to face," Tendler said. "You can go back to school, or take a job that is outside your training to make ends meet, or you start competing with your colleagues for the few jobs that are out there.

"It's not that I think I'm above any of these options -- I know I will have to accept one eventually," he said. "But I sensed that I had this window of opportunity now, to do something interesting and important, to play music that deserves to be heard to people who might not get the chance to hear it.

"'It's a dilemma that anyone who ends up with an arts degree has to face,' Tendler said. 'You can go back to school, or take a job that is outside your training to make ends meet, or you start competing with your colleagues for the few jobs that are out there.'

"'It's not that I think I'm above any of these options -- I know I will have to accept one eventually,' he said. 'But I sensed that I had this window of opportunity now, to do something interesting and important, to play music that deserves to be heard to people who might not get the chance to hear it.'

"'I've had several hundred people show up for a concert, and I've had 12 people in the audience,' Tendler said. 'As long as there's one person in the hall, I'll perform for that one person.'"
-James D. Watts Jr. World Scene Writer, Tulsa World, Oklahoma

"Some say our culture is a Christian one. Some say it's rooted in a commitment to rebellion. Others claim our number one value is 'neighbors helping neighbors,' while others yet say America is a consumerist wasteland based on instant gratification.

"...Our public discourse is a cacophony - sometimes discordant and shrill, other times melodic and unified. The torrential din of our collected voices is the sweet music of our 'Marketplace of Ideas'; and that's what makes us American above all things.

"We value the cacophony as evidence of our unique freedom.

"Sometimes we want to shut our ears to it; sometimes the constant barrage of noise is too much. But if it's ever silenced and forgotten, if the 'Marketplace' is ever closed, we'll know for certain our unique freedom is graveyard-bound.

"Art has a funny way of teasing out these ideas; and, that's exactly what 23-year-old pianist Adam Tendler did at the Panida Theater, Mon. July 25.

"...This music is onomatopoeic. There are car horns, the scrambling feet of urban crowds. Trains powering across prairies - living embodiments of progress and innovation.

"There are evocations of skyscrapers, oil derricks, horse stampedes, trans-Atlantic steamships. The whole length and breadth of the country's cities, forests, lakes, mountains, plains, deserts and oceanic shores are taken in with long aural gulps.

"The music is also sorrowful. It's angry, pessimistic, weary and melancholy. The mourning of factory workers is mingled with the weary tread of farmers on Dust Bowl plates.

"It is fundamentally democratic music - as if the composers had plucked that 'Marketplace' din from the realm of metaphor and committed it to paper. It is the soundtrack of 'The America Century,' personifying, rather than glorifying, the most important and world-shaking decades in modern history."
- from "American Soundtrack" by Zach Hagadone, for the Sandpoint Reader, Idaho

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