Princeton has become a magnet for pianists. Since 2003 they gather each July for dawn-to-midnight immersion in a piano universe. During the day they soak up insights leading to the pain-free, powerful piano mastery developed by Dorothy Taubman and expanded by Edna Golandsky and her associates. In the evening participants attend the Golandsky Institute International Piano Festival, with the entire festival — from Sunday, July 9, to Sunday, July 16 — open to the public.
While the original focus of the Taubman/Golandsky approach consisted of searching out physical maneuvers that prevent or cure playing-related injuries, it has expanded beyond the piano keyboard. The Golandsky Institute also provides guides to string instrument and electronic keyboard players.
This year Hamilton-based video producer Robert Bullington extends the reach of the festival’s day and evening Princeton presentations by streaming Golandsky events on YouTube.
Bullington took a circuitous route to his mastery of audio/visual technology. A baritone with two degrees in music performance, Bullington put himself through graduate school by doing odd jobs in information technology. He eventually became assistant vice president for information security for Lehman Brothers, the fourth largest investment bank in the United States when it declared bankruptcy in 2008.
At that time Bullington refocused on his original musical interests and devoted himself to audio/visual technology as a service for musicians. He calls it “Front Row Seat Productions” (FRSP). His partnership with Golandsky/Princeton is now in its seventh season.
Bullington’s musical passions infuse his technical skills. I understand this. As a pianist, I share Bullington’s enthusiasm for the Taubman/Golandsky approach. In my experience it converts common sense and comfort into powerful aesthetic experiences.
With Bullington’s enlarged streaming program this year, what goes on in Princeton will become accessible to an enlarged audience. That includes four of the afternoon Golandsky Symposium proceedings beginning Monday, July 10. Each will be immediately accessible for two weeks. Excerpts from the evening Golandsky Festival will be available after the final Saturday, July 15, public event. See the full listing below for public and digital events.
As the streamer-in-chief, Bullington reveals how he will capture Golandsky/Princeton for the Internet. “Two people are dedicated to the symposium; one is dedicated to the festival. Another person and I float,” he says. “There are always three people at the production desk in the back of the auditorium. It’s like a mini TV control room that can handle wide shots and close-ups. We modify our work in real time as the streaming goes on. The technical term in the industry is ‘live-switched.’”
“I’m bringing together a dream team of fine arts audio and video professionals,” Bullington says. “One guy is having his first experience with Golandsky. The people in charge of the cameras are experienced and devoted to Golandsky content. Our working relationship has evolved over the years so we have to talk less and less about what’s going on.”
Bullington’s contribution the first year of his involvement in the Princeton events, 2011, was relatively primitive. Talking about his coverage of the master classes, he says, “We ran an infrastructure so that wherever they sat, the audience could see the piano keyboard with the students’ hands. They could view what was going on from the left, the right, and overhead. We used one camera and three screens for this. People could look from screen to screen to see what they wanted in real time. They could watch for in and out hand movements, for collapsed wrists or fingers, and for rotational arm movements. Another camera recorded the interactions between teacher and student.”
Over the years Bullington increased the number of cameras and upgraded both cameras and microphones for his audio-visual work. “I was devoted to seeing that what we recorded was available as teaching tools for the Taubman method, and that it benefited the people on the recording for their personal use.”
“This was not a purely voyeuristic exercise,” Bullington says. “I go to the Golandsky parties after the concerts and listen to conversations. I have permission from the Institute to use the material. I assist people in getting recordings of symposium sessions if they need to submit samples of their playing.”
Bullington makes audio/visual recordings both at his studio in Hamilton and off-site, using portable equipment. The Hamilton venture is a combination concert hall and audio/visual studio. In addition to an up-to-date selection of microphones and cameras, it includes a voiceover booth and a carefully selected 1901 Mason and Hamlin AA grand piano. “We want to make musicians as comfortable as possible in the space,” he says.
Bullington’s horizons reach beyond the forefront of audio /visual recording. Local businesses and community organizations are among his subjects. In addition, he unleashes his interest in jazz on Mercer County College’s high definition radio station WWFM, where he guides listeners through the music and interviews jazz personnel in a program called “Jazz Discoveries.”
Further, using YouTube, he focuses on the Episcopal Church in the United States, where he captures the jovial and entertaining Michael Curry, the first African American to serve as the presiding bishop and primate of the Church.
Bullington was born in New Orleans in 1964, the son of a civil engineer father and a primary school teacher. He earned his bachelor of music degree in music performance from New Orleans’ Loyola College in 1987 and his master’s degree in music performance from Boston University in 1990.
Eager to learn about German language and culture, Bullington left for Austria in 1992, and within three weeks acquired a job with the International Atomic Energy Agency based in Vienna. “That’s where I honed my IT skills,” he says. In 1999 he returned to the United States and settled in New Jersey with his with his wife of 16 years, Pamela Kelly, and where he participates in “Mostly Motets,” an a capella vocal group that performs sacred and secular music from the 1200s to the present day.
In retrospect, the zigs and zags of Bullington’s career may appear to be purposefully chosen. However, there is a strong chance that they evolved in a random sequence that Bullington molded with artistry.
The Golandsky Institute’s 14th annual Summer Symposium and International Piano Festival, at Princeton University, Sunday, July 9, through Sunday, July 16.
Golandsky Institute Symposium. Master classes and guest presentations are open to the public.
Master classes in piano: Sunday, July 9; Tuesday, July 11; and Friday and Saturday, July 14 and 15, at 1:15 p.m. in McCormick Auditorium of the Princeton Art Museum.
Master classes in violin: Monday, July 10, and Friday, July 14, in McAlpin, 4 p.m.
Guest presentations: Filmmaker Ernest Urvater discussing the creation of his film about Dorothy Taubman, “Choreography of the Hands,” Thursday, July 13, at 4:30 p.m.
Musicologist and professor Scott Burnham’s presentation “Taking the Road Less Traveled by: Schubert, Rachmaninoff, and Ilya Itin,” Friday July 14, 4:30 p.m.
Award-winning pianist and organist Father Sean Duggan’s program “Johann Sebastian Bach,” Saturday, July 15, 3:30 p.m. Suggested donation $20.
Golandsky Institute International Piano Festival, Taplin Auditorium, Fine Hall, Princeton University. All concerts at 8 p.m. $10 to $35. Tickets at Taplin or Princeton University Box Office.
Monday, July 10, Claudio Martinez Mehner, “Forever Bach: 300 Years of Baroque Dances”
Tuesday, July 11, Josu de Solaun, “A Passion for the Piano: Chopin, Liszt, Tausig, and Enescu”
Thursday, July 13, Father Sean Duggan, chamber music by Bach, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn with violinist Antoine LeFebvre and cellist Natasha Farny
Friday, July 14, Bill Charlap Trio, jazz
July 15, Ilya Itin, sonatas by Schubert and Rachmaninoff.
For free live streaming of Symposium events register at golandskyinstitute.org/live. A link will be sent to those registered. For free streaming of Festival clips go to www.youtube.com/user/TaubmanGolandsky.