Philip Hermann, pianist & composer

Who or what inspired you to pursue a career in music?

Actually, I struggled a long time before coming to a point where I admitted to everyone (and most importantly to myself) that I wanted to be a musician. Although I’ve been surrounded by music my whole life, many people around me were quite reserved when I told them I wanted to be a musician and frankly, maybe I wasn’t ready back then. Initially, I started studying cultural management before I switched to music. It’s been only a couple of years since I’ve really considered myself a musician but now I don’t want to be anything else anymore.

Who or what have been the most important influences on your musical life and career?

There are actually a couple of answers to this. My uncle who is a jazz trombonist. My teachers of course. Listening to a lot of recordings. Victor Wooten’s brillant book ‘The music lesson’. Reading autobiographies of the artists I admire. My québécois music teacher Diane who encouraged my teenage self to play and perform as much as I could.

What have been the greatest challenges of your career so far?

Of course some things a lot of musicians can relate to: Getting my music out there, finding the people who like it, finding a balance between teaching and my own musical activities, etc.

But more importantly, I had quite some difficulties to just consider myself a musician. And from time to time, doubt creeps in again. Refraining doubt from holding me back is certainly one of the most important challenges I face on a regular basis.

Which performances/recordings/works are you most proud of?

Definitely my debut album ‘Words’, which is came out in February, featuring a whole bunch of solo piano compositions. Many of them are inspired by encounters, a thought or travel, and I feel lucky and proud to be able to finally put it out there.

The release concert featured not only my solo pieces but a lot of friends who joined me on stage to celebrate this great moment.

Do you have a favourite concert venue to perform in and why?

Generally speaking I like to play club gigs where you are close to the audience and everything is very personal. This is always a bit intimidating for both sides at first but if you really connect with the audience, it’s the warmest way I can think of to share music.

Who are your favourite musicians?

There are too many of them to name them all. There are certainly a couple of jazz players who influenced me, such as Horace Silver, Bud Powell, Fred Hersch, Miles Davis, Jamie Cullum. Then there are a lot of classical composers I like a lot, especially their symphonic works, such as R. Vaughan Williams, Sibelius or Tchaikovsky.

In my piano teaching I (naturally) often came across Yann Tiersen’s music which, in the beginning, I was reluctant to appreciate. It wasn’t until I saw a video of him playing his hauntingly beautiful piece ‘Penn ar Lann’ that I really got a grip of his musical genius. He has heavily influenced my writing for solo piano.

What is your most memorable concert experience?

I was pretty much awed at a Jamie Cullum concert in my hometown Dresden. The energy he brings to the stage is absolutely incredible. I love his music a lot and this concert really is among the greatest concerts I’ve seen so far.

In terms of my own concerts, certainly one of the most important ones was when I was opening for a Berlin-based singer songwriter at one of my favourite venues – Franz Mehlhose. It was the first time ever that I played some of my solo compositions in public and this really was a very special evening to me.

As a composer how you would describe your compositional style/musical language?

I have a jazz background and there are a couple of my pieces where this shines through. However, most of the time, I like to think of my compositions as music for films yet to be made. My greatest influences here are the likes of Yann Tiersen, Ludovico Einaudi, Chad Lawson, Chilly Gonzales and Lambert.

As a musician, what is your definition of success?

When people talk or write to me about how my music has made a difference for them, this is just the greatest compliment I could possibly imagine.

What do you consider to be the most important ideas and concepts to impart to aspiring musicians?

Be open to try the things you’ve never done before. Sometimes, I hear musicians say that they don’t play this or that style of music because they either don’t feel comfortable with it or simply don’t like it. I experience again and again that beauty can be found in almost every single piece of music, be it classical music, pop, jazz, hiphop or any other style. Stop being a snob about certain styles and get to know them so you can appreciate what makes them beautiful.

Where would you like to be in 10 years’ time?

One of my secret dreams is to write a piece one day that every piano student will want to learn or, even better, that will encourage people to start playing the piano.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

Finding the perfect balance between intense work on my music and spending loads of time with my loved ones

Born into a musical family in Dresden, Germany, Philipp starts playing the piano at the age of 10. Fuelled by the music of his uncle – a jazz trombonist- he soon discovers his love of the early big band sounds. As he grows older his musical taste expands constantly to this day. After his 10th year of school he experiences an ephiphanic high school year in Ste-Marie-de-Beauce (Canada) where he leads his first small band and decides to take on a music career. Back in Dresden he continues his studying of jazz music with various teachers and within the Youth Jazz Orchestra of Saxony working with german jazz greats Rolf von Nordenskjöld and Jürgen Friedrich. During that time  he leads his second band where he discovers his love for arranging music. In 2009, Philipp begins studying at Laval University in Quebec where he had the chance to meet and learn from musicians such as Rafael Zaldivar, Janis Steprans or Sébastien Champagne. Besides, he takes part in a vast number of masterclasses amongst world class musicians like Tigran Hamasyan, Mark Copland, Dave Liebman, Kurt Elling and German classical pianist Hartmut Höll.

After having finished his studies at Laval University he moves back to Germany and he moves to Erfurt, Germany. Even though Philipp has composed music before his work on his own compositions has intensified over the last two years, be it songwriting or tunes for his jazz quintet and for solo piano.

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