A Pianist’s Pandemic: A Conversation with Dan Crisci

(Photo by Dan Crisci)

Dan Crisci grew up with an undeniable love for music.

His journey began at the age of seven when he began to play piano, and when it came time to decide on an undergraduate major, he chose to pursue a degree in music.

Midway through his college career, however, Dan opted to pursue the more “traditional” career route of majoring in math. He began his professional career in pension consulting post-graduation, interviewing at two firms. Taking a job at one, he was asked on a whim by the other if he would teach piano to an employee’s daughter. Keen on the idea of playing piano once again, he agreed.

Dan began building up piano students – working his pension job during the day, traveling to his students’ houses at night, and playing gigs on the weekends. Still not able to shake his love of piano, he quit his pension job, instead deciding to put his energy into developing the next generation of pianists and playing gigs around the New Jersey and New York area.

“At one point, I didn’t really think it was possible to do that,” he says. “But, I did it.”

Now, Dan is a successful jazz pianist who has written and recorded his own music, all while offering his musical knowledge to a plethora of students. The onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has affected his ability to teach, but he’s leapt to the online world of performances, beginning his live streamed Homebound Concerts with his wife and children. 

I had the opportunity to sit down with Dan and hear first hand about his experience adapting to the online landscape during the COVID-19 pandemic. In our conversation, he discussed his life before the pandemic, the positives that have come out of this time, his online performances, and his thoughts on the future of the entertainment industry.

Below is his story.

A Pianist Pre-Pandemic

What was happening in your professional life before the pandemic?

“I was teaching lessons, maybe 10 or 12, and students would come here once a week. Then I would do gigs. I would go out to play bars or clubs restaurants, library concerts, things like that. There was a singer that I was working with quite a bit. I had a bass player friend who would come over here every Tuesday we were just jamming. I would, just as I always do, continue to compose music.”

COVID-19’s Unforeseen Creativity

How has the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic changed your daily life?

“Some of the students I haven’t taught since March. They just didn’t want to try the remote lessons. Right now, I’m only teaching five students remotely. 

There’s always positives. I’m one of the fortunate ones in that my wife and I were able to withstand this. We’re lucky. My wife and I actually got back to making music together. We used to when we first met, but then with the kids and her job and my stuff, we were really not doing too much music together. Then, when we were all locked down, that kind of started up where we started going back to stuff we used to do. 

We had the idea to start the Homebound Concert, so we’ve been doing it Friday nights. We’ve probably done 25 of them or so. We don’t have a huge audience, but we seem to have a loyal handful of people that watch and enjoy watching. We’ve been able to connect musically with that small audience that we have. We have made some money from it because we do put out the virtual tip jar. It’s kind of changed our week because through the week we plan what songs we’re going to do. We always do a few original and sometimes our kids will do pieces that they wrote. It’s a little family thing.

I would say in the past I would write music fairly consistently, but also in spurts. This year, I’ve already written like 41 songs, which for me is really a lot. I’ve written 11 songs in the last two weeks. I’ve had some creative output from being home so much. When the kids have gone to bed and my wife goes to bed earlier as well, I may be at the piano and writing some music. I’ve also been doing this show from time to time called Jazz Piano Meditations where I just play some of my slower meditative moodier, you know, just calm kind of stuff.”

Uncharted, Online Territory

Dan Crisci (Photo by Dan Crisci)

How have you adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic?

“I’d like to become more of an online musician and make money online. It’s been hard though. I do have some resources and courses that I purchased on that. I think part of the problem I’m having is that it’s such a foreign thing for me compared to how I grew up. It was just like hanging out at the clubs and trying to get to know who booked the music in these places. I don’t like being online all the time. Who knows, maybe I’ll get the hang of it. But, I get overwhelmed with the online world.

I know in some ways for me, playing my grand piano online is actually not a bad fit. I remember when I first started doing the online shows, people comment. So after the gig, I’m going through my phone and I’m responding to the comments and I’m thinking, ‘Well, this is really interesting.’ This has replaced, at a live gig where you would go out and talk to the audience. I remember it struck me that this is the equivalent.

I just don’t know if a lot of clubs close down and even when it goes back to sort of normal, what it’s going to look like. Will half those clubs be gone, will three quarters of them be gone, will new clubs open up? But, we do know that the online world is always going on.”

The Return of Live

What do you think lies ahead for the future of the entertainment industry?

“I really hope that live entertainment comes back. That people can have that in their lives again. I want musicians to get their jobs back. I just want the general public to have to be able to go out and experience live music and shows.”

Make sure to follow and support Dan Crisci and the Homebound Concerts at the links below:

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