MuzicNotez: Glad to interviewing you again Walter! What have you been up to since the last interview with us?
Walter Billingsley: Nick, It’s good to have your expert guidance thru this Interview & my PR Campaign.
I have been busy and have so much to look forward to! I have released three YouTube performances, I’ve added a ‘guestbook’ to my website, and I’ve been playing piano most every day, which feels exhilarating & encouraging.
MuzicNotez: For those that don’t already know, what were your influences as an artist?
Walter Billingsley: Musically, most of the Masters, i.e. Satie, Debussy, Ravel, Shostakovich and many others. Ironically I find myself fascinated with the genius talents of pop song master, Sir. Elton John. I hear my style of playing in his masterpiece, ‘Funeral for a Friend’, which I think is one of the most brilliant compositions of all times.
MuzicNotez: You’ve worked through some tough times to get where you are, can you go in to more about how that’s made you stronger?
Walter Billingsley: Yes I have Nick. In 2004 I suffered a rare & extreme memory loss, caused by an adverse reaction to a toxic, volatile & highly addictive pain medication. It cost me 2+ years of my career. I had no recall of the 50 years of music studies.
The life-changing event evolved in psychosis & mania and I suddenly had no normalcy in my life. My story of survival/recovery, aptly explained in my website, has been called ‘inspiring’. I am on the search for a global audience where I can talk about my trauma and inspire others throughout the world to overcome obstacles in your life, including the temporary loss of your career. Be strong and Never, Never give up! My journey of recovery has been the most challenging learning experience, relearning how to play piano again, relearning how to live life again and re-learning my Compositions which were erased from my memory. They were never archived in print but fortunately, my ear-training over the years has afforded me the ability to listen & re-learn by listening to the audio recordings I have. In a nutshell, my journey has made me a stronger human being, empowering me with the motivation to continue with the determination to be the ‘Best I Will Ever Be’.
MuzicNotez: Do you have any traditions before performing? What gives you the best satisfaction during a show?
Walter Billingsley: My traditions are quite simple… I psych myself into the reality that I have something to offer my audience & it’s my time to go out there and show them what I have-to showcase myself. A Dear friend and colleague, the late Great Robert MacDonald, with whom I have spent time in his ‘green room’ prior to performance, would hold his hands under running HOT water to near scalding level to warm & loosen his fingers & wrists. Without going to those extremes, I make sure my fingers are not cold! Using a cover, I gently rub my fingers and periodically pull them from under the cover & tap my fingers on a table top in different musical formations.
As Showtime approaches, I continue to convince myself that this is my golden opportunity to be a ‘show-off’.
Unfortunately, I learned the hard way that an ‘obsession with perfection’ was a dangerous mindset and could disrupt the entire purpose of the performance. I have learned to ignore, overlook & forget blunders and focus on evoking the true essence & spirit of the piece, which is my objective of any performance. As Ludwig Beethoven so aptly said … “…To play a wrong note is insignificant, To play without passion is inexcusable!”
In 2003 I has the pleasure of working with Carol J Erkes a retired professional dancer and Executive Director of the Florida Dance Theater, who came out of retirement to dance my “Lakefire” as her ‘swan song’. I was honored and pleased that neither dancer nor pianist missed a beat. That was satisfying & gratifying!
You can witness & experience that performance via my YouTube link titled ‘Lakefire…’
MuzicNotez: your writing style like?
Walter Billingsley: My writing style is more free-flowing than most. I do not strictly adhere to the ‘formats’ of a piece of music handed down to us from the Master Composers. Yes, I am aware of, and utilize the traditional ABA type forms of a song/piece, but I play what feels and sounds right to me. When I was writing I would often write the ending of a piece then develop the ‘meat’ of the piece as a build-up to the usually unique ending I’ve created. Not possessing the genius of George Gershwin, I cannot sit and compose a complete piece of music in one sitting.
MuzicNotez: If you could collaborate with any other genre, what would you prefer?
Walter Billingsley: A cellist, my favorite of the string family of instruments, or an operatic vocal. I was fortunate to study with an amazing lady who was a professional accompanist in Chicago for 18 years. She taught me the importance of being an accompaniment to the soloist & not to try to up-stage your performing musician.
I have collaborated with two seasoned classical guitarists and an ultra-talented Flutist. All the rehearsal sessions and performances were gratifying to all musicians involved.
MuzicNotez: What have you been working on lately? What’s your latest release?
Walter Billingsley: Nick, I do not have any new album releases to talk about. Most recently, I have been working on an ‘In the Mood for Love’ program, from my first CD release “In the Mood for Love’, featuring famous love songs from the 1920s to the 60s. This program I will share with my fans in the Great Plains States, when I embark on my Spring Great Plains Tour. I look forward to delighting my senior audiences with memorable songs of their past. I also add an educational value to my shows by telling a bit of interesting trivia and/or history of each song. All of my programs are a trip down memory lane for these elderlies. They are not the ‘Fans of my Future’, but they are for certain an appreciative audience.
MuzicNotez: What else are you working on? What can we expect to see and hear from you in the future?
Walter Billingsley: You can expect to see more YouTube videos. During my years of teaching piano and voice, I had a tradition of closing each recital with a performance of one of my compositions, with the intent of inspiring my students and showing them the importance of practice. Those performances are being transferred to disc that be uploaded to be onto ‘the world’s largest stage’, YouTube!
I am also excited to announce that my ‘Rhapsody for Ocean Blue’ was professionally orchestrated. It has been presented to our local Imperial Symphony Orchestra Director for consideration to premier the piece in a season or two. That would be my ‘Carnegie’, my chance to celebrate a milestone of my career. Appears as though I can start getting excited & prepared for this momentous event.
MuzicNotez: Anything else you wish to say about yourself or your music? Any message for your fans?
Walter Billingsley: To my new friends and potential fans, I realize this MuzicNotez magazine has a younger readership who may not be inclined to listen to ‘classical’ style music, but I ask of you to listen to my solo piano music and see if you find it unique, intriguing and beneficial to you in some way. Some have made it their bedtime sleep music, another says it makes her want to clean house, even though she has a hired housemaid, and others find it relaxing & comforting.
I recently had a long-time friend, with whom I had lost major contact, surprise me with a visit my website and ordered a Piece of Nature CD. She sent me a message a week later that she ‘Loved’ her new CD. Two days later, she passed from terminal brain cancer. A dear friend of hers, who spent time with her in her final days, confirmed that my music was all she wanted to hear as she left this life. That’s why I write music, to be of some benefit to my listeners, even my solo audiences. I hope each of you readers visit my site, sign-up for my mailing list, and maybe, become a fan.
Before we go, I want to present a challenge for you regarding my piece ‘Rain Waltz’, which received a less-than-positive review from a dining patron in a 5 star restaurant where I was playing. He said it was…”The most annoying piece he had ever heard & he hoped he never had to endure it again and told me to take it of my ‘playlist’ when I see him & his family come in or dinner. Listen to it and see if you find the repeated note throughout the piece annoying too you or if you find it to be just an integral part of the piece of music. Let me know what you think. I’d luv to get your feedback.
To each of you I wish only the best life has to offer. Remember: Stay strong, stay happy and stay well. Find Love, Hope & courage – all else will find it’s place.
I look forward to getting to know you and your talents.