It's around twenty years ago that
Orlando-based pianist Wayne Gratz
released his debut album on the Narada
label. In 2002, Wayne began releasing
his music on his own record label, Wayne
Gratz Music, and has recently released
his fourth independent CD, Light, Lands
and Shorelines. Born in 1954 in Reading,
Pennsylvania, Wayne began playing the
piano at the age of six, and soon took
up guitar as well. He returned to the
piano in his teenage years, and has
enjoyed a highly successful career as a
pianist. Wayne kindly took time out from
promoting his twenty-second album to
answer some questions for Piano-Heaven.
Enjoy the interview...
Wayne, on your new CD,
Light, Lands and Shoreline,
which I am really enjoying. You've marked its
release by holding a concert in an historic church
hall- can you tell us a little more about the
concert and how it went?
Actually, the first concert I performed with the
Kinkade DVD was at St Peter’s Church in New Smyrna
Beach, Florida. We projected the DVD on a big screen
while I played the soundtrack on a beautiful
Steinway piano. We had a really good turnout and the
concept of big screen art and live music was very
You've been a prolific composer over the years (22
CDs since 1989!), but this is the first time I think
you've collaborated with someone else to such an
extent. How did the partnership come about? Have you
always been interested in Art, particularly that of
Kyra, my fiancé and
business partner, has a family friend that is
connected to the company Galleryplayer.
Galleryplayer produced the Kinkade DVD and thought
my musical style would go well with art. I had been
somewhat familiar with the art, and I had heard of
Thomas Kinkade. Galleryplayer sent me some of the
artwork and I found it very easy to compose to.
approach did you take to composing the music for the
album? Was it a case of studying the paintings in
minute detail and composing note by note, or was it
more a case of getting a feel for a particular piece
of art and then letting the creative juices do their
job? Are you a pianist who works tirelessly on a
composition over and over again until you get it
"just right" in your mind, or are you someone who
goes with the flow in true improvisational style?
I would find a melody
and a mood that would fit a certain painting, and
then I would improvise around the melody while
recording. Probably sixty percent of the album is
improvisation. I don’t think I’ve ever worked
tirelessly on a composition. I always like to just
let the music flow through me. Many times, I
actually have to go back and learn what I have
seems to feature heavily in Kinkade's work, and,
having looked at your track titles over the years,
water is also something that you seem to have been
inspired by in your compositions- agreed? (I see
you're a fisherman....) I guess water and the piano
are made for one another. Nature themes feature
heavily in your work- do you find it a source of
As I’m sitting here answering
your questions, I am at the ocean’s edge. Water,
especially the ocean, has always been an inspiration
to me. For example, last night I was on the beach
fishing in the middle of a thunderstorm.... a little
crazy I guess. I rely heavily on nature for my
be interested to know that fellow Narada artist
Michael Gettel's famous "Summer Rain" composition
from San Juan Suite was composed whilst in a
boat during a terrific thunderstorm).
the true piano-lovers out there, what piano and
keyboards do you use in this album? I know you
record your music in your own studio- can you tell
us about what facilities it has to offer?
have a Yamaha C7 grand piano in my home studio. I
also use a Yamaha s90 and a Korg Trinity for
background synthesizer orchestrations. I have a
digital recording suite with Pro Tools recording
released your first album for Narada way back in
1989. How did that come about? How times have
changed! Since the demise of Narada, you've set up
your own label to release your music. Do you prefer
it that way? Why do you think the two premier New
Age labels (Narada and Windham Hill) ceased trading
almost at identical times after so long in the
business? Was it something you were anticipating?
My record deal with
Narada came about after I sent them a demo of three
songs. They had shown a big interest and asked me to
send more songs to review. After about twelve songs,
they decided to sign me. At this point, I enjoy
having my own label. Kyra and I have been working
very hard to get established and just like any
business, the success we achieve will be from our
own hard work. I don’t know what happened to the New
Age market, it seemed to have just stopped. In the
music business, it’s always day to day.
Simple question in relation to music. The Internet:
friend or foe?
are challenging times in the music industry. As
someone with a huge amount of experience in the
area, is it something we just have to accept and go
along with, or are there steps that can be taken
that might help to restore the New Age genre in
particular back to its big-selling days of the
There are so many
people that have yet to be touched by the power of
“New Age” music. I think the term “New Age” has to
be re-defined. The people at the last couple of
concerts I played truly felt like they were hearing
something fresh, brand new and uplifting. I think
”New Age Music” has to be demonstrated, people have
to experience the music, not the term.
Narada roster was simply outstanding. Along with
your good self, there was Michael Jones, Spencer
Brewer, Michael Gettel, David Lanz and Kostia.
Everyone had their own individual style. I'm
intrigued as to the set-up- did you all work
entirely independently with little or no contact
between yourselves, or did you get together and
bounce ideas off one another? Do you still keep in
touch with any of your fellow artists? And whatever
became of the wonderful Kostia?
We all worked
independently. I met David Lanz for the first time
last year when we did a concert together in Atlanta
with Whisperings Solo Piano Radio founder David
Nevue. I also met Kostia at a Narada concert in
1993. The last I heard, Kostia moved back to St.
go right back to the beginning. Did you come from a
musical background? When did you begin piano lessons
and when did you start composing your own music? How
did you get your first "break"?
I didn’t really come
from a musical background. My Mother played piano a
little bit, however, both my Mother and Father were
very supportive. When I was five, they recognized my
musical aspirations. I was six years old when they
bought me a piano and I started taking piano
lessons. I was about sixteen when I began
improvising and composing music. Regarding the first
“break”, I believe it is all relative.
mentioned in my review, there always seems to be one
outstanding track on each of your albums, and each
album is full of highlights! For me, The Windows
Glow is the overall winner from your latest
album. When you're composing, do you get a sense of
which track is going to be the most popular, or are
you sometimes surprised by your listeners' response?
(I am a huge fan of Traveller!)
I’ve never really had a
sense of the “hit song” on any of my albums. That’s
up to the listeners.
finally, Wayne... what next? I'm amazed that Narada
never released a compilation of your work (perhaps
they'd still be in business if they had!) I recall
visiting your web-site several months ago and seeing
a compilation CD advertised with "bridge" in the
title- are you still hoping to release that?
Thanks, that is a huge compliment! A Walk Across
the Bridge is still a work in (legal)* progress.
I hope to be able to release it in the near future.
My relationship with Narada has been a good one.
Through the years, they have inspired me to write
more music then I could have ever imagined. All the
people at the label were truly genuine and always
had the best interest of the music in mind.
Thank you, Wayne, and I
wish you continued success with
Light, Lands and Shoreline.
Thank you!!! Great