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2 YEARS WITH OPUS CELLO

As I am celebrating 2 years in business with Opus Cello, my publishing company, I thought this would be a good moment to reflect on the past 2 years. It may be of interest to those who are thinking about doing similar projects.

Get ready to work

 

Little did I know when I started how much work it would be. Since I launched Opus Cello by myself, I did everything on my own: design of the website, design of the cover for my printed copies, social media, newsletter, music editing, etc.... That's on top of my work as a cellist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Cello Quartet, occasional chamber music concerts, recitals, and teaching. But it was all worth it, and I am sure glad I started 2 years ago and not in 10 years. So far, it seems to work well, and I have had only happy customers, which is the most important!

Luckily, there are great tools online for today's musical entrepreneurs: my website used a template provided by my website company, which I just had to customize ("just" does mean hours and hours of customizations though). My logo turned out exactly the way I wanted it to be for a very reasonable price. And you wouldn't guess how easy it was to design the cover for my printed copies. In other words, I do think there are many ways to get good results by yourself, with everything computers and the internet have to offer, and a touch of creativity.

Downloads or Prints?

When I opened my website, I decided to make my arrangements available only as PDF downloads. It's easy, quick, most people have a printer at home, and since I am already busy with my work as a cellist, I don't have to worry about shipping music every day. I do believe this is the future of the industry, especially with the wider use of iPads or other tablets to read music these days.
Even though most people now shop online, it was still some sort of childhood dream for me to see my music in a regular sheet music shop. Thanks to a successful first year providing only PDF downloads, I was able to invest into the production of printed copies.



I partnered with Black Ribbon, a company based in Colorado, which specializes in music printing. They are great to work with and I am very happy with the product.
The next phase for me was to get in touch with some brick-and-mortar music shops and see if they would be interested in carrying my music. Some were very interested, others took it on consignment, just to see how it goes. So far, every single music store I partner with had to place a second order, after selling out fast. I am grateful to every single one of them for trusting the quality of my work, and you can find their name on my website. You can currently find Opus Cello prints in the finest music stores of Boston, Chicago and Paris.

I could have distributed the prints by myself and potentially make more money, but I also wanted to support those small businesses who need our support to survive. I am a small business too and I understand how sad it would be if one day I was unable to sell anywhere else but on Amazon. So if you want to get one of our glossy Deluxe Editions, contact one of those shops and they will be happy to send some copies to you.

A summary

Here are a few numbers from my first 2 years as a business:

-106 orders
-18 publications
-2 Commissions from the Boston Symphony Orchestra
-3 ASCAP Plus Awards
-4 store partners
-Played by the Boston Cello Quartet, the cellists from the New World Symphony, the Tanglewood Cello Ensemble, the Trio Ponticelli, and many others.
-4 Interviews with some major cellists of our time.

I am so thankful to everyone who supported my project, from the customers who order the music, to the music shops who gave me my chance, the great cellists who took the time to talk with me and share their ideas, and the people who commissioned works from me or gave me inspiration for future arrangements.

This is only the beginning, and I look forward to expanding the Opus Cello inventory over the next few years. As for now, cellists, play away!

Best wishes,
Blaise Dejardin


 

MOZART CELLO CONCERTO (04/01/2013)

EXCLUSIVE: Discovery of Mozart’s Cello Concerto
 
It is an exciting discovery that was made a few months ago in Ravensburg, Germany. A local resident, Otto Julius Maier, discovered what looks now like a lost concerto for cello and orchestra written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The piece of music was quickly nicknamed “The Puzzle” (in G Major).
 
Otto Julius Maier tells us: “We just sold our family home and I was simply cleaning up the attic, when I came across an old suitcase that I had not noticed before. When I opened it, I found thousands of jigsaw puzzle pieces and an old picture dating from September 17th, 1926. I could see the pieces looked like music notes but I am no expert in that domain, although I have always been into puzzles.” The picture bears the name of Karl Maier, his great-granduncle, and it simply shows his hand working on one part of a gigantic puzzle, apparently representing a musical score.
 
 maierpic.jpg
Photo of Karl Maier, September 17th, 1926 (courtesy of the Maier Family)
 
O.J. Maier brought the suitcase and its contents down to the local music shop MusikHaus-Lange. Everyone in the shop, from owners to employees, spent the rest of the day trying to put some pieces of this mysterious musical puzzle together. Shortly before midnight, Erich Lange couldn’t believe his own eyes: he had just assembled 4 pieces of the puzzle forming the iconic autograph of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Aware that this could be one of the most important musical discoveries of the 21st Century, Mr. Lange drove up to Salzburg, Austria the following morning. There he met with Dr. Ulrich Leisinger at the Mozarteum, the upmost authority on Mozart’s works. The Mozart expert confirmed the authenticity of the autograph, and the hard work of completing the full puzzle begun.
 
mozarteum.jpg
 
The pink lights were turned on outside the Mozarteum’s building yesterday night, to signify the completion of the puzzle. (Photo ©Mozarteum)
 
A Mozartian puzzle
 
Dr. Leisinger gathered his team of experts and they spent the following months trying to put all the pieces together. He tells us about the complicated process: “It was hard because there were so many pieces. How do we know for sure that we are not putting notes meant for a violin in the French horn part? We hit a wall at some point when one of the blocks of pieces we put together sounded like Karlheinz Stockhausen’s piece “Vier Sterne”. It took us a full month to finally find the combination that sounded like Mozart”.
Sadly, some of the notes are still missing, not because of a lack of puzzle-solving skills by the Mozarteum staff, but simply because time eroded some of the printed pieces. The Mozarteum contacted the most eminent Mozart specialists in the world to attempt filling out those few missing notes (pianists Daniel Barenboim and Uri Caine have been mentioned as possible consultants). The Mozarteum kept the project secret for the past few months so they could complete their work free of outside pressure. “An institution like the Mozarteum cannot afford to reveal to the world a new piece of music unless it is complete and believed to be 100% by Mozart”, said Dr.Leisinger.
 
Mozart’s journey
 
Now, the question remains of how this piece of music could have ended up in Ravensburg, Germany. The historians believe that the newlywed Mozart would have made a late honeymoon trip to Lake Constance in 1783, in honor of his wife, Constanze Weber. They likely made a stop in Ravensburg after visiting Mozart’s Family in Salzburg, and on their way to Zell im Wiesenthal, the birthplace of Constanze.
 
mozmap.jpg

Itinerary of Mozart’s puzzling journey in 1783
From A (Vienna) to B (Salzburg), C (Ravensburg) and D (Zell im Wiesenthal)
 
That Mozart would leave one of his masterpieces as a jigsaw puzzle is one more testament to his playfulness and sense of humor. But the Ravensburg historians believe a wealthy local bookshop owner of the time, Ludwig Maier, could have had a hand in this intriguing story. His involvement would explain why the puzzle was discovered in O.J. Maier’s family home. Ludwig Maier is the great-grandfather of Otto Maier, the founder of the Ravensburger Puzzle Company, which published its first puzzle in 1884. He is also a direct ancestor of Otto Julius Maier, who discovered the puzzle, and of Karl Maier, pictured in the photography from 1926. Ludwig Maier being an amateur cellist, it is possible that he commissioned Mozart for what is his only known cello concerto. The commission would have covered Mozart’s honeymoon expenses. Ludwig Maier, having a passion for jigsaw puzzles, probably came up with the crazy idea of printing a puzzle of the cello concerto, leaving a most exciting challenge to the generations of cellists to come, as no paper manuscript was found. Little did he know that exactly a century later, his heirs would make a real business out of his passion for puzzles. Nor could he have imagined that the puzzle would be finally solved more than two centuries later, in the year 2013.
 
First performance
 
The Premiere of the cello concerto “The Puzzle” in G Major by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is scheduled to take place in the summer of 2013. The soloist will be German cellist Julian Steckel, accompanied by the Euroclassic Festival Orchestra under the direction of Simon Gaudenz. We can safely assume that many cellists and music lovers will look forward to the first performance of this long-lost masterpiece.

 

FAILED CELLIST BIOGRAPHY (03/04/2013)

 As a music student, I was always impressed by the achievements listed in the biographies of cello soloists in the concert programs. And like many fellow students, I couldn't wait until I had achievements of my own to write down in my biography. I saw all kinds of approaches to writing a biography from my friends, from citing newspaper quotes, to bulging facts that are barely true, or just keeping it short and simple.It is definitely a challenge to keep a biography honest, since everyone is trying to emphasize how great they are. One of my favorites is the term "Top Prize Winner", which is used by numerous musicians, some of them very respected, to look like they won the First prize of a competition when in fact they did not.  Sometimes it is due to the fact that no First Prize was awarded, which I admit is an awkward situation. Other times, musicians use it when they just got one of the 4 or 5 Prizes in the Finals but consider that any one of those Prizes deserves to be called a "Top Prize". Later on, an audience member will read your biography and assume from that term that you indeed won the competition.

Luckily, most musicians keep their biography honest. Even better, I was still a very young music student in Montpellier (France) when I came accross, if I am correct, a very unusual biography of Dutch cellist Anner Bylsma. Instead of listing all his achievements, this biography told the truth: all the failed challenges, the frustrations, everything that musicians will likely encounter on their path to a musical career but desperately try to forget.
I thought this was a great concept, especially considering that we probably learn the most from our mistakes and that even the most successful musicians often failed some of their challenges.
So here is my Failed Cellist Bio. If anyone else wants to give it a try, I would be happy to publish other examples on this post.

Blaise Déjardin, cello

Born in Strasbourg, France, in 1984, Blaise Déjardin did not play a concerto with orchestra until the late age of 14 years old. Actually, he didn’t even play a note on the cello until he was 8 years old, an age at which most musical prodigies have already made their Carnegie Hall debut. In the meantime, he did improve his skills at soccer, tennis and table tennis. He also went to school just like any French kid, learning all kinds of things sadly unrelated to the Dvorak Cello Concerto. What a waste of time. In 1998, he took part in his first Music Competition in Wattrelos, France, failing miserably to get a Prize. Not to mention that the First Prize went to a bass player, to make the humiliation complete. Curious to know how bad he really was, he auditioned for a spot at the Conservatoire Superieur de Musique de Paris and fell short in the final round. Such a result confirmed his status as a non-talented, non-special, non-amazing cellist. He later on stayed on track with his talent, failing to win the 1st Prize in several International Cello Competitions, sometimes not even reaching the Finals. His audition for prestigious chamber music programs like the Marlboro Festival (USA) or Seiji Ozawa’s Chamber Music Academy in Switzerland also brought negative results. He obviously wasn’t meant to play the cello. He was barely allowed to participate in a masterclasse in Germany, being told by an unknown German cello teacher that his bow-hold was simply wrong. He later on failed all the School Solo Competitions at the New England Conservatory of Music, proving that really, sticking to table tennis might have been a better idea. Now struggling to lower his golf handicap, Blaise Dejardin is a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, where listening to his fantastic colleagues reminds him every day that his presence on stage has to be a mistake.

FLYING WITH YOUR CELLO (02/25/2013)

In the light of the recent accident encountered by German cellist Alban Gerhardt on his way from Germany to the US, and having experienced a similar incident, I wanted to share my view on how to approach the daunting task of flying with your cello.

Let's first get some important myths out of the way:

-My cello is not that expensive so it doesn't matter that much.

It does matter. Even if your cello is not a Stradivarius, I promise you your heart will break once you see it damaged.

-I never had any problems with my cello case and I used it to check my cello for years.

All you need is one accident to see how wrong this is. My bet is that anyone who has an accident checking their instrument will buy extra tickets for the rest of their life.

-I am saving money by checking my cello.

Once your cello has an accident and you are forced to buy an extra ticket for your return trip, or make changes to your travel plans, and eventually pay for the repair of both the cello and the case, you are not saving money anymore. And your cello might not sound the same ever again.

Two Accidents-Same Story

On February 6, 2013, Alban Gerhardt first noticed upon his arrival in the US that his Knopf bow had snapped in 2 pieces. It is only a few weeks later that he found out that his Goffriller cello also suffered a back sound-post crack, which dramatically alters both the sound and the value of the instrument.
When I traveled from Boston to Paris on March 27, 2011, I found my cello in 3 pieces upon my arrival at the Charles De Gaulle airport in Paris. The neck of the cello had snapped at the base of the scroll and at the base of the neck.