Interview: radio professional Paolo Pietropaolo talks music, taiko, culture, and audio

Paolo Pietropaolo

Paolo Pietropaolo

I recently talked with my friend Paolo Pietropaolo about ethnomusicology, taiko, radio, audio, and cultural immersion. Paolo is a freelance journalist, broadcaster, and composer who hosts radio shows and has produced award-winning documentaries. We met in Vancouver, BC shortly after I relocated there, and immediately I could sense how like-minded we were. Paolo and I have had many interesting conversations over the years and I think his passion and thoughtfulness come through clearly in this recorded interview. Paolo's body of work is impressive in quality and diversity, and I especially appreciate his attention to detail. You can find his radio documentaries at the links below and I would encourage everyone to check them out. Paolo sent me music samples from his tinnitus documentary we talked about so I have included them in the interview. He told me they “consist mostly of recorded electronic hums (ie, my fridge, computer, etc.), processed hums, keyboards, bassoon, and various other electronic musical elements.”

About Paolo
An inveterate baseball fan as well as a musician and composer, Paolo has spent much of his life trying to explain the intricacies of the arcane to the uninitiated. After one year of undergrad science at the University of Toronto, Paolo gave up on his marine biology dreams in favour of that most secure of career paths: music. Shockingly, this strategy somehow worked when a taiko drumming gig led to a career in radio. Since 2012, Paolo has been the host of In Concert, the award-winning classical music performance program on CBC Radio 2. Paolo is a Peabody-Award-winning audio documentary producer, sound designer and writer/broadcaster passionate about building bridges through storytelling. He is also a two-time winner of the Prix Italia, most recently for The Signature Series, and previously for the documentary series The Wire: the Impact of Electricity on Music.

Twitter: @paolopp
CBC Show:
The Wire documentary is archived here:
Kiyoshi Nagata's taiko ensemble:

How my online lessons work

I have been teaching online lessons by Skype for several years now. While most of us are accustomed to learning from our teacher in the same physical space, current technology is good enough that real-time instruction through a screen is still very effective. I feel that the person we study with is more important than the format of the lesson. There may be teachers available locally but if they don't offer what you need, online lessons can be a great alternative. They also have their own advantages beyond the fact that the two sides can be anywhere in the world (with internet).

How does it work? First, you would send me an email describing what you're interested in covering. Then we set up a meeting time that works for both of us. My policy is that payment is made before the lesson takes place, and the online check out system (Stripe) on my website is secure and works well. There are no refunds but credits are issued for emergency cancellations and rescheduling with a minimum of 48 hour notice. Most of my online lessons have been through Skype so you would need to have an account as well as a screen with a camera (desktop computer, laptop, iPad, iPhone, etc). The slight delay doesn't allow us to play at the same time, but a lot can be accomplished through demonstration and explanation. To take advantage of the format, I send web links, PDFs, and audio files relevant to the topic. Students in the past have also uploaded videos (public, unlisted, or password-protected) of their practicing or performance to get my feedback. And it's possible to record the lesson using software such as Skype Call Recorder. Beginning students, advanced players, and all levels in between are welcomed in my studio.

What do I teach? Past lessons have covered drumset, taiko, percussion, shinobue, and composition. My workshops page shows specific topics I have offered, but I am always open to requests. Perhaps you are learning a new piece and need some guidance on how to work on it. Maybe you want to learn a new instrument such as the atarigane and are looking for basic technique. It could be that you want to write a piece but don't know how to structure your ideas. Or perhaps you want to become a stronger soloist and better improviser. One topic that is requested regularly relates to exercises for improving stick control and rhythmic accuracy. Your musicianship will progress forward if you have goals to work toward, a good practicing strategy, and thoughtful feedback from an outside perspective. If you are interested, I recommend trying one lesson to see if it fits your needs. I have included a short video here so that you can see what the lesson would be like. Please contact me with any questions or to schedule a lesson.