By Brendan Lai-Tong
Artist Interview – Giuseppe Iampieri (a.k.a Mistheria)
Welcome back to our Artist Interview series! We’re sure that you all can relate to how important it is to be a versatile musician. You never know what will be asked of you when on the job, and it will be to your advantage to be able to understand and play in many different styles of music. As you know, Classical, Jazz, Pop and Rock all have their respective performance practices. Today we are interviewing Giuseppe Iampieri (a.k.a Mistheria), a native of Italy who has had an incredibly diverse career. He has played piano and keytar professionally in many different styles and genres of music and this versatility has led him to have many exciting and varied experiences. At the age of 6 Mistheria started studying music with Maestro Marco Aurelio Pisegna, a famous accordionist, composer and performer. By age 13 Mistheria was studying at the Music Conservatory “A. Casella” in Italy where he graduated with honors and distinction in 1995.
Since then he has gone on to perform in concerts all over Italy, Europe, Asia, and the USA both as a soloist and session player. He has had the opportunity to work with great musicians such as Bruce Dickinson (Iron Maiden), Roy Z (Rob Halfrod, Judas Priest), Rob Rock, Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen), and Matt Bissonette (Joe Satriani).
When he’s not actively performing, Mistheria also teaches at some private music schools, “Fonderia delle Arti” in Rome, Italy www.fonderiadellearti.com and the “Rock Academy” in Zagreb, Croatia www.rock-akademija.hr where he teaches both Piano and Band classes. His passion for teaching led him to open an online music school “Alien Keyboards Akademy”, now mainly focused on lessons for the Keytar. Mistheria is knowledgeable in many different styles of music including Classical, Rock, Pop, Metal, Progressive, New-Age, Theatre and more. We believe that it Mistheria’s musicianship and versatility is what has led him to have such incredible experiences. Let’s hear more from Mistheria himself:
Thank you for taking the time to interview with us! What inspired you to start a career in music?
You’re welcome and thank you for inviting me to be part of your interview series. Well, it started quite simply, as it usually starts for many musicians … My dad was a hobbyist musician. When I was 7 he started to give me some music rudiments and making me confident with the Accordion, the instrument which he played. It was easy to take lessons because my dad’s teacher, M° Marco Aurelio Pisegna, was already at that time a family friend. I started taking lessons on a regular basis for over 6 years studying Accordion, Solfeggio and Theory. At the age of thirteen I successfully passed the admission exam entering the Music Conservatory “A. Casella” in L’Aquila (Italy). In 1995, I graduated in Organ and Composition.
Any advice for students wanting to do the same?
Especially in today’s social-net-connected world, I recommend to all my students to not hurry, to have patience and to not follow everything trying to “emulate” this or that artist they watch mainly on the web. It’s important – and today really easy and useful – to compare ourselves to other musicians, but it is also necessary to try to uproot all of our best first, and then start a comparison-session, whereupon you will find a personal and steady artistic way.
What experiences led you to learn and play in all of these different styles of music?
I’ve never been able to limit myself to music in a genre or style. It’s hard for me today as well. Since I’m also a composer, it depends what I want to express. I collect the style and the instruments which can better “represent” that musical emotion I want to portray. I play all kinds of keyed instruments, both acoustic and digital (Piano, Keyboards, Keytar, Organ, Harpsichord, Accordion), but sometime I feel that it’s not enough. Sometimes I would need to play violin or to sing in order to give the right “voice” to a piece and to better match a music atmosphere I want to create. Consequently, I started to work as session-player, both in studio and live. Requests came and, being for me a job to live with, I wanted to satisfy them all. I hardly refused anything, so I kept working day-by-day in parallel on different kinds of styles, genres, and tasks. It has been exciting, wonderful and an incredible experience for me to grow up as artist.
When did you start learning Keytar?
I bought it exactly when the AX-1 has been released by Roland (1992). Again, my curiosity pushed me to go to the music store and buy it. At the beginning, I played it as a standard shoulder-keyboard, I mean playing it normally as if it had been a traditional keyboard with the only difference that it was possible standing but with the one-hand limitation. Four or five years later, I started to feel that it could be an instrument to be played differently and express something new, especially able to give me the possibility to be more expressive as I always wished to be on a digital instrument. I’ve always been a huge fan of guitar and violin instruments (I’ve also studied and played electric guitar for a while) and wanted to reach the deep expression and control that these instruments allow. I needed a sound. I made the sound. I needed a better control. I programmed the sound to give me full vibrato and bending control. I achieved my final sound after seven years of study, research, practice, lessons, masterclasses, concerts.
What have you done to build your proficiency in piano and keytar? Do you have any advice for structuring a practice session?
Unlike today’s generation, when I was a child there were not so many “distractions” . There was a “religious” respect for the teacher. My only task was to study as much as possible and to have my exercises and pieces ready for the next lesson in order to be at peace with myself and to not disappoint my teachers. This is, of course, also a part of my character which cannot tolerate being unprepared for something I’m studying or working on. I really wanted to explore my instruments and try to connect them with my soul, becoming a “tool” to say what I felt. I’ve been lucky too, all my teachers have been really great and admirable people, this helps a lot.
Structuring a practice session is essential! Three hours well done are better than eight hours practicing in an improper way. I recommend always studying slowly and in small sections. Ponder the fingerings, then move the speed slower again. Ponder the fingerings again, practicing first with the left hand (on the Organ practicing first the synchronization and independence between left hand and pedal) and using the metronome. Next, move to another piece or exercise and afterwards come back to what you were working on previously. Then move to a third piece/exercise, and then come back to the second one. Alternating study gives us a better perspective, analysis and objectivity on our practice session.
What are you listening to right now and how has this influenced your playing?
I listen to everything. Of course, most of the time I listen to the music I love more (Classical, Rock/Metal, Pop, New-Age, Jazz). I continuously listen to different kinds of music and musicians. Anyone and anything can convey ideas, thoughts, solutions, innovations an experiences always. I’ve always been curious to discover new music and trying to understand why a musician used a particular solution or how he/she came to that idea. Maybe this is one of the reasons that led me to learn and play in all of these different styles of music. If you’re wondering which is my favorite music, it cannot be anything else other than the greatest composers which made music an immortal and divine art form: Bach,Vivaldi, Mozart, Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven to name a few. Then, all the rest from other genres …
What was it like to work with great artists such as Bruce Dickenson, Joe Satriani and Yngwie Malmsteen?
For accuracy, I’ve worked on Bruce Dickinson’s solo album “Tyranny of Souls”, instead I worked with many musicians which played and/or recorded with the other two musicians you mentioned: Matt Bissonette, Atma Anur and others which work or have worked with Joe Satriani and John Macaluso, John West, Anders Johansson, Barry Sparks, and others which work or have worked with Yngwie Malmsteen. Experiences have been and are always amazing because working with such kind of artists and musicians always pushes me to move my limits up, always a step ahead, which is an essential prerogative to improve our skills. Working for Bruce Dickinson and especially with his producer Roy Z (producer and guitarist for Rob Halford, Judas Priest, Yngwie Malmsteen to name a few) has been totally amazing, he’s an admirable person and an unmatched producer who knows exactly, in the recording studio, what to get from each musician and what is the piece/album’s goal.
We hear you compose as well. How did you pick up composition?
Composing is an essential and important part of my career which I share 50/50 with playing. I love to play all kinds of Music, but mostly I love to play my music, so composing is really important for me. I’ll never forget my first piece. It was a small exercise for Accordion (I was seven-eight years old) and I remember I wanted to change it to the way I liked to hear it, so I changed the key from C major (exercise’s original key) to C minor (minor has always been my preferred tonality). After that, I wanted to write something similar which was my own, and you can imagine how the rest took place …
Please tell us more about your teaching experiences at “Fonderia delle Arti” “Rock Academy” and “Alien Keyboards Akademy”.
Teaching is a part of my music career. I started with private teaching which continued for approximately 13 years. Afterwards, I started to teach in some small local music schools before I started teaching at “Fonderia delle Arti” in Rome (Italy). The experience has been excellent but short because then I moved to Zagreb (Croatia) where I have lived since 2008. In Zagreb, I teach at the “Rock Akademija” www.rock-akademija.hr directed by Ladislav Račić (founder and CEO). The “Rock Akademija” is a great institute (one of the best music schools over Croatia) where I teach Piano, Keyboards and Ensembles (Rock bands). During the past few years, taking advantage of the huge widening and culling of the geographical boundaries thanks to the Internet era, I wanted to reach some people which were asking me for some playing and practicing tips & tricks, suggestions, help, audio examples, etc. Therefore, I started to record some material and send it, and the next step was to collect this material on a website reachable by everyone. This is how my online music school “Alien Keyboards Akademy” www.mistheriakademy.net for pianists, keyboardists, and specialized on Keytar lessons was born. I have to say that both standard and on-line teaching is a great everyday experience and joy.
Any advice for teachers? What are some techniques you’ve used to encourage and help students along their journey through music.
Each teacher has his/her own way to teaching and methodical way to work and interact with students. I don’t think that a “universal” teacher exists because some students may feel better with different teachers. It’s normal. There are many aspect in teaching which make it hard to logically understand some “relations” and “good combinations” teacher-student. Whatever it is, the best combination is the one that makes the lessons interesting, lively, exciting, prolific for both teachers and students. The only thing I feel moreso than before, I always try to let the students playing the most they can without stopping them each bar or giving too many advices while they’re playing. I try to give them more freedom to express themselves, the way to go, in my opinion, to have not a student or a pianist/musician, but “that” recognizable student, “that” recognizable pianist/musician.
Congratulations on completing your new piano method book “RITHMICA”. Could you please tell us more about the exercises inside and what inspired you to write the book.
Thanks a lot! “RITHMICA” is a course for the improvement of independence and evenness of both hands. It features 30 original exercises to play different rhythms with both hands together, including midi and mp3 files. The book is divided into three parts (basic rhythm cells, complex rhythm cells, advanced rhythm cells). The idea of the book is based on small rhythmic structures defined cells. Each cell contains rhythmic and independence difficulties between the two hands. The completion of each exercise is based on the absolute rhythmic precision. I’ve specially written it for pianists and keyboardists because I try always to get my hands perfectly balanced regarding technique and expression. Independence between hands is something I studied long during my Organ course at the Music Conservatory (including, of course, the independence hands-feet which is not necessary for piano and keyboard players) and became an absolute target for me to keep a total control over my performances, especially about clearness and expression. I try to improve it in the everyday things, e.g. eating few days with the right hand, then few days with the left hand, brushing teeth alternating hands, and so on switching always hands during my day activities. “RITHMICA” requires only a few minutes of concentration a day, but the result for both hands and mind is guaranteed. Give it a try! “RITHMICA” is available on www.mistheriakademy.net and www.sheetmusicplus.com
Do you have any upcoming performances or CD releases?
Right now, beside teaching, demonstrating and programming for Limex Music keyboards department (Kolsass, Austria – www.limexmusic.com), arranging and composing for SIFARE Music Publishing (Rome, Italy – www.sifare.it), sampling Pipe Organs for Inspired Acoustics (Budapest, Hungary – www.inspiredacoustics.com), producing and managing the company Hit Produkcija (Zagreb, Croatia – www.hit-produkcija.com) which I own together with my girlfriend Ivana Greguric, and, of course, practicing my instruments (Piano, Organ, Accordion, Keytar), at the moment I don’t have so much time to perform live. Over the last two years I’ve been working mainly in the studio. I’m recording my new instrumental Metal album “Gemini” which collects my instrumental songs written over 20 years (1992 – 2012) which will be released later in 2013. I’m also collecting ideas for the next Piano album which is at an advanced stage, and the new Metal vocal album which I scheduled to finish to write on the second half of 2013. As producer and keyboardist, I’m working on the wonderful Ivana’s project “Periagoge” (she composes and play keyboards, her songs are featured on my last albums “Dragon Fire” and “Keys of Eternity”), a New-Age oriented album which will be released in 2013. Next summer 2013, I’ll perform my piano concerts with pieces from my “Solo Piano” and “Keys of Eternity” albums plus a bunch of unreleased and brand new pieces. For anyone interested, my albums are listed and available on my official website. You can stay updated on my activities as a musician and teacher, subscribe to my mailing list and to find all my other web profile links here: www.mistheria.com
Brendan Lai-Tong is the Assistant Marketing Manager at Sheet Music Plus and holds degrees in trombone performance from University of Miami and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.