In any good story, there is a turning point. A point where you know things have to change and you will begin to live your life to its full potential. This is the story of how 92Keys got started.
My turning point didn’t begin as a sharp change, but rather a small idea back in 2005, when I finally said I’m tired of amateur audio and video production. No more of this strapping a Go Pro on a stick and recording audio into Audacity like I did for pretty much all videos on my piano YouTube Channel. Writing and playing piano music is something I can do, but the production and presentation always left a lot to be desired.
So I’m sitting in class at Boise State, early Fall 2014 during my final semester of Business school, thinking about this piano/violin idea that’s been rotating in my head for a decade. And it finally hits me, “just do it, just freaking do it. What’s stopping you? There is no valid reason not to pursue what your passion actually is.”
I’ve always loved the piano/violin combination. And here’s proof. An arrangement of Amazing Grace which was the first song I ever wrote and performed. This was for my High School senior recital in 2005. Ten years ago!
There is something about these two instruments working together that has always been incredibly intriguing to me.
What’s next? An idea really isn’t worth much. Like any other entrepreneur creating something from scratch, the next step is a blank word document. Time to start formulating that idea onto a piece of paper. But then the questions start coming. Who would I work with? Can I even find people willing to work with me? I’m a nobody with exactly zero connections in the music industry. Is there even a valid business model to pursue here? How will I find startup funding to actually get the ball rolling?
Networking. Networking. Networking.
It’s now August 2015 and if you look at our ‘about‘ page you’ll see five people there in addition to myself. Each person represents a completely separate story in finding them and developing a relationship with them. And for some reason each one of them agreed to jump on board with this idea to create 92 Keys. For example…
Zachary Johansson. By day, a highly sought-after commercial director, collaborating with the largest marketing firm in Idaho. By night, someone pursuing their passion. Filmmaking. Just look at his Instagram to get a feel for his ability to capture light and emotion. I can’t wait to continue to see how he is able to develop the visual side of the music we are working on writing and producing.
Meeting Zach was the result of a meeting I had in October 2014 that turned into an introduction with a local Business advisor, who got me in touch with a Boise rep for an Angel fund. That rep then referred me to the CEO of a tech startup in Eagle, ID. After that meeting, this CEO offered to get me in touch with Zach. And this was 6 months after the first meeting in October!
Don’t ever take networking for granted. Always treat people with respect and always be professional. You never know what relationships will bear fruit.
I’m continuing to adapt to this idea of writing and creating content with this team. The first year was about building a foundation and a clear process to develop the content. I can’t even tell you how much I’ve learned in the last 12 months. In January of this year, I didn’t even know what a MIDI file was supposed to be used for. MIDI files are such a critical component for writing this type of music.
What I’m most looking forward to in the long run is taking this music we are developing and adapting it to live performance. That might not get to happen for another year or two, but that’s our long-term goal. It will be so much fun to meet all of you!
Making Performance Fun Again
I’m 28 and can only count three times when I’ve genuinely enjoyed performing live:
1. Summer 2014 – Onboard Radiance of the Seas with Royal Caribbean International during a short cruise ship stint. There was a night when I got to play for the Las Vegas Tenors, and it was amazing. The audience was on fire. The music was spectacular. I didn’t want it to end.
2. December 2012 – Rwanda. Spent a few years teaching music at the Adventist University of Central Africa. We did a Christmas concert and for one of the songs I whipped out a favorite of mine. “Oh Holy Night”. These Rwandans had never seen anything quite like it. Why is that muzungu playing like that?! Here’s the video:
3. August 2007 – Nampa, ID. Got to work with the late Mike Wiebe to create a one-night concert for piano and choir. Mike was an incredible choral director and music enthusiast. We worked all summer putting this concert together, and incidentally two nights before we were to perform he broke his leg playing tennis. The show went on, however, with him cheering us on from the audience. Here is a clip from that night.
With 92 Keys, I want the number of fun performances to grow into the thousands. And I know it will because every piece of music we create is music that will be a blast to play live.
What does 92 Keys even mean?
88 keys on a piano. Four strings on a violin. Do the math. There! Are you happy?
Feel free to refrain from pointing out keys and strings are different. Good job Sherlock, you cracked the case.
I really like the name for a few reasons. It acknowledges both instruments. It says a lot in six characters. Also, it’s only six characters. I was at a friends house a few weeks ago and they were trying to pull up “What a Wonderful World” on their TV. You know, where you have to use your remote to enter each character? It takes forever. With our name being only six characters long, it’s easier to type in on TV’s, mobile devices, you name it. We’re just trying to be considerate. At least we didn’t name ourselves “92 Keyz for Life Yo”
Why do this?
Beyond all the logistics, spreadsheets, meetings, long hours, emotionally exhausting writing and filming sessions, there is a fundamental reason why I’m a musician and why the choice was made to create a project like this. And I can only speak for myself here. But creating music is the one thing I’ve got that allows me to communicate better than talking or writing words.
I’ll never be the best pianist out there. I’ll never win an international competition. Well, nor do I have a desire too. I’ll never consider myself a part of that elite musicians community.
I’m just here to have fun, get better at what I love to do, and maybe, just maybe, a career can be created out of this. Wow. That would be awesome.