New home, new ideas
Calgary-based pianist aims to share his music with the city
By Bigoa Machar, Publishing Editor
As the city of Calgary’s music scene continues to grow in size and diversity and continues to add different things, it may be easy to let go or forget about some older aspects. With local artists adapting a wide variety of genres, Robert Naumko, a pianist residing in Calgary by way of Winnipeg, says the city’s venues aren’t taking too kindly to the piano. Naumko describes one of his most recent encounters with a restaurant owner about his live music.
“She said I wasn’t a fit. They were going after a new business model,” says Naumko. “We just want cover bands to attract 55 year old cougars.”
Naumko, who has been playing music for more than 30 years across Canada, the United States and Mexico, has never played live music in Calgary for this reason, despite living in the city for almost four years now.
“When was the last time you went out to a music place and saw a piano?” says Naumko. “Everyone always mentions Aussie Rules, but that’s really more so for entertainment value, which is not what I do.”
Naumko says he’s had no problem playing in other cities, as they tend to treat new age piano much more kindly than Calgary does.
“I’ve gone back top Winnipeg and played a number of times, I went to Edmonton and played a couple of times as well,” says Naumko. “So I’m thinking, ‘Why can’t I get gigs here?”
Naumko states that he finds the lack of work for a pianist in Calgary fascinating rather than frustrating, as he takes this as a personal challenge to bring this type of music to the city.
“Last Christmas, I said to myself, ‘How can I bring this to the local community and garner interest in the city?’” says Naumko. “There is good stuff in the city, but it’s getting tired.”
With the lack of venues decreasing in number, Naumko decided to take matters into his own hands. Instead of bringing his act to other people, Naumko is trying to bring people to his art.
“Home concerts. The idea of playing in someone’s home that already has a piano and I have about 30 to 60 people come and listen to my music,” says Naumko. We then get the whole thing catered with food and people can stay afterwards to buy CD’s and I’d sign them.”
The idea of home concerts is nothing new. Naumko says he’s done this in a variety of cities across the continent, including Winnipeg, Milwaukee, Madison and Portland. Not only is he able to bring people to his music, but Naumko says home concerts are much more personal and allow for more interaction with those in attendance.
“It’s cool because you can have a meet and greet before the concert, eat some food and chat, and then play for about 45 minutes,” says Naumko. “It’s an idea I wanted to bring back because if there’s no pianos in Calgary, than I can just have mine in the studio and bring it to whatever location we have the next concert in.”
While some may be nervous to try new things in new cities, this is nothing new for Naumko. Starting off his career back in Manitoba, music has taken him all over the world.
“When I was an associate professor at the University of Manitoba, I would hang around a bunch of guys who would rent a bunch of music equipment, so I’d just play,” says Naumko. “They heard me and said ‘Robert, this is something you need to get back into.”
After a variety of odd jobs and gigs, Naumko eventually released his first CD’s, which helped him land more jobs across the world.
“I played my first outdoor show in Tecate, Mexico at a spa that attracted Canadians, Americans, Australians and Europeans,” says Naumko. “I was a guest pianist at this spa for almost twelve years.”
With five home concerts scheduled to take place in his studio and five more at other locations, Naumko is excited to bring his craft and ideas to the city.
“Even with the piano, there’s always the same thing happening over and over,” says Naumko. “Why does is always have to be jazz? Why can’t we have some contemporary instrumental? I know my music works, so we just have to create a fit for it.”
In comparison to large venues and stadiums, Naumko says the intimacy and overall atmosphere of small home concerts allow him to communicate better with his audience.
“I want to create a more open-mindedness for music and how it’s played in the city,” says Naumko. “I told myself that I want to change things around and invite people to show what I have to offer.”
With almost no public spaces in the city to play piano, Naumko has used the power of the internet and social media to let people know about his music, something he says has been successful so far.
“I’ve had people listen too little sound nuggets here and there and on my YouTube channel and said ‘Robert, please let us know when you’re going to play live,” says Naumko.
With the desire there for his music, Naumko believes that home concerts are due for a huge comeback here in the city, and he’s more than willing to be the one to spearhead the idea.
“As an artist who has a huge passion and belief for my music, I think my methodology can still have relevance in Calgary,” says Naumko.
Be sure to check out Robert Naumko’s YouTube channel as well on Twitter (@robertnaumko) to keep up with his music releases and specific dates for his upcoming house concerts.