We talked with virtuoso pianist, composer and writer Buğra Balcı.
Started keyboard at age of 5. Studied oud at the age of 13. Began playing bass guitar at age of 16. Became a professional touring and recording artist at 17. Got accepted to the Dokuz Eylul Faculty of Fine Arts Music Department with the highest acceptance list score in 2005. Began touring with singer Altay at 18. Got awarded by Yamaha All Star as the best bassist at 22. We interviewed pianist Buğra Balcı.
You did very successful work in America for 7 years. Could you tell us briefly about yourself?
Owned scholarships from Berklee College of Music, Western Oregon University, MMA, NHBF, The Collective School of Music. Got accepted to Queens College Jazz Master Program in 2011.
Studied classical piano with Esin Durmaz, jazz piano with Jeb Patton; bass with Kürşat And, Lincoln Goines, Lonnie Plaxico and Furio Di Castri; classical harmony with Tuğrul Aldemir, jazz harmony with David Berkman; composition and orchestration with Michael Mossman.
Appeared in major jazz festivals and venues, such as: Eskişehir Jazz Festival in 2006, Istanbul Jazz Festival in 2006, Italy Siena Jazz Festival in 2007, 6th Izmir International Jazz Festival in 2007, Karya Jazz Days in 2008, 15th Istanbul International Jazz Festival in 2008, 17th Izmir European Jazz Festival in 2009, Rockwood Music Hall in 2011, Gotham Hall in 2012, Nikola Tesla Festival in 2013, Cafe Vivaldi in 2016, 13th Marsyas Music Festival in 2017, Cemal Reşit Rey Concert Hall in 2017, Russia Moscow Music Festival in 2018, Ahmed Adnan Saygun Art Center in 2022, Hikmet Şimşek Art Center in 2023, Ahmet Piriştina Cultural Center in 2023.
Some of the names shared the stage and recorded with: Ara Dinkjian, Nilüfer, Demet Sağıroğlu, Robby Ameen (Grammy Awarded), Hüsnü Şenlendirici, Gadi Lehavi, Yeni Türkü, Bob Quaranta (John Scofield). Marko Djordjevic (Professor at Berklee), Alex Alexander (Dido, Eminem, Chaka Kahn, Ritchie Blackmore), İzmir State Symphony Orchestra in 2006 and Olten Philharmonic in 2017.
Got invited to replace a tutor at The Collective School of Music, New York in 2012. (One of the most prestigious music schools in the World where also John Patitucci and Jaco Pastorius were tutors.)
So far, among the places played in Russia, USA, Italy, Turkey and Cyprus. Gave workshops and masterclasses, including at IKSEV and Ege University Conservatory.As an author, wrote The Virtuoso Series: More than 10600 pages (147 books only for the piano). (The first book was a best-seller in the category of etudes). The purpose of this series is to make musicians virtuosos by playing music and also introducing them the music of the next centuries.
As a composer, composed classical pieces. Op.1, Op.20, Op.13, Op.46 that were chosen to premier in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago. Premier performer names include, The PianoForte Foundation in Chicago and CUNY Graduate Center Academic Coordinator Jacqueline Martelle in New York.
Also acted in the short-movie of the director Maya Sharpe: “The street talks” that was screened at the New York Film Academy in 2011.
Besides music, became a manager at Datapipe for Microsoft Azure Implementation (Azure is one of the key companies in the World for having the classified information of governments) in 2015. Became the board advisor of Ezetech Wall Street in 2016. Ezetech, launched successful startups that were also used by Facebook, Black Rock (a company that has 10 trillion dollars as the assets), %60 of the Switzerland Banks and Charles Schwab.
Awarded by NASA, IBM and InVision for several other projects in 2016. Awarded by AT&T for film scoring in 2018.
Endorser artist of Yamaha Grand Pianos and Aguilar Bass Amplifications. Also Bugra is on another one of the most important World-famous names in the music industry Studiologic’s artist page.
How would you describe the music you present to the audience in your concerts?
I have been working on what ‘new era’ music should be like for a long time. I studied both classical and jazz in America, played jazz in Turkey, and in New York, for example, I had a jazz trio as well as improvised classical solo piano concerts. But for me, the priority is always ‘innovation’, and there are traces of these in my works that premiered in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.
While doing this, I base it on Bach to have a solid foundation. ‘What contribution would Bach have made to the whole of music (universal music) if he were alive today? What kind of innovation would it bring? How would he lead and guide?’ I play the answers to these questions in my concerts. And of course, there is ‘jazz’ in it, but not all of it, because jazz is not a very developed music (in its entirety), in terms of those who developed it, Chick Corea or Kenny Garret in its last period can be given as an example (in retrospect, John Coltrane). Without spoiling the nature of jazz, I count it as a period and convey all this information to the audience as simply as possible. Of course, I bring innovations in piano technique (touch) there too. There is another example in history of Glenn Gould, for example. Horowitz is another powerful (also unique) name. I have both the ‘strengths’ of these names in history and I am pressing ivorys in a way that has never been pressed before, but this is beyond a physical speed or technique (I think that anyone who sits down and works with discipline can be a virtuoso). The innovation I am talking about can be likened to ‘praying’. Yes, if you look at my records, there are very fast chorus, but music is definitely a (dimensional) feature given to humans beyond technique and known (Newtonian) physics (to give an example from jazz: Keith Jarrett, for example, was in this direction). And preparing this music is not like playing a ready-made note; it involves a lot of ‘testing’ and work. I’m like a ‘scientist’ at this point. All of my concerts are improvised and have content specific to that night only. Of course, while doing this, I may develop and vary a ‘Chopin, Bach, Miles, Chick, Mozart…’ composition or a well-known folk song in order to communicate more easily with the audience.
In short; ‘From the Baroque to the present and the future’.
You have a historical book series consisting of 147 volumes. What advantages does this have for its employees and who are these books for?
The 147-volume The Virtuoso Pianist books are primarily for pianists, but beyond that, for composers, improvisers, jazz musicians (just like my book The Virtuoso Pianist Vol.1 – 10 Contemporary Studies, so that jazz musicians can add atonal music to the texture of jazz music more easily). They also bring the employee to the virtuoso level. They are the books of a new era. This series of over 10600 pages is especially relevant for conservatories, music schools, professors and professional musicians. There is also a book among them for the development of children. These are also atonal works, to develop the senses of a young talent in a short time.
Apart from this 147-volume book series, there are 1 baroque etudes for clarinet, 1 contemporary etudes for violin, 2 books for bass guitar (double bass) and 2 books for harpsichord (275 pages in total) (for now).
What are your suggestions for future musicians?
Music has not only developed by feeding on music. Yes, if a writer is a worker of words, we musicians are also workers of notes, but beyond that, music itself is just a ‘tool’ like the instrument itself. Bach or Chopin improvised the same way jazz does, but since they had no recording equipment, they had to write it down. In other words, this improvisation is in the nature of music, which is the most natural and what makes it special is that it achieves a ‘unique’ work. The important thing is to produce content with textural, intellectual and dimensional richness and to fall into the infinity pool independent of time and space. In order to be a good artist, a good artist cannot start only from music and notes, he must know literature, painting, sculpture, business, space physics, and the features that make a person human; Like a scientist, he must learn to directly connect with what was given to him from birth and activate his mechanism, study and develop it. It should make its strengths even stronger. He must embark on a path of doing something that has not been done before, because just as his own fingerprint is unique in the world, the works that will create life and shape life (which are energy) must also be ‘one’ and ‘unique’ (as everyone knows, it is neither enjoyable to watch nor to listen to what we know is coming). Yes, everyone is an artist by nature; is creative but must learn to process it and establish a standpoint; What does it represent, whose path has it followed, has it opened/is it opening a new path? And as they say, ‘you have to learn all the rules and then forget them all’, in order to set new rules, an artist should not only rely on consistency, he should reduce, extract it to every level, make sure that it is understandable and should know how to maintain this attitude every hour of the day.
It will decrease this place, but millions of musicians need to gain time immediately: ego will never give you up. It is a tool. If you get stuck in it without having a greater purpose or vision, that’s where I can’t be sure you’re living.