Wednesday, December 4, 2013

An Interview with Henry Wiens of Quiet Heart Music

After years of receiving letters and calls from grateful listeners, Yamaha recording artist Henry Wiens recognized the significant healing power of his music and began to distribute his CDs to nursing homes, hospices and hospitals across the nation. This year Quiet Heart Music completed its tenth year of operation as a small business.

EN: Rank for me the sales of your seven CDs for the most recent year.

Henry Wiens:
A) Quiet Classics
B) Wind Beneath My Wings
C) Eagles Wings
D) Quiet Heart
E) Quiet Valor and Precious Memories about equal
F) Silent Night - last for obvious reasons.

EN: What is it that makes Quiet Classics so popular?

HW: I think Quiet Classics has enduring, strong appeal because of the strength of the melodies written by master composers. These great songs inspired me to write some especially creative arrangements. I viewed the music through a meditative lens that enabled me to simplify the themes that were most peaceful and calming. The result was music that is easily accessible to everyone, regardless of their previous knowledge of classical music.

EN: You studied music theory and composition at the University of Minnesota with internationally acclaimed composers, Dr. Paul Fetler and Dr. Dominick Argento, winner of the 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Music. What were some of the lessons you took away from having studied with these masters?

HW: Dr. Fetler taught me the principles of counterpoint as exemplified in the work of J.S. Bach. He showed us how every single note was deliberately placed and chosen by the master composer. I learned that excellent music is crafted with extreme care. Of course all the care in the world is no substitute for the genius that provides the raw material - the substance. I was privileged to experience awe in his classroom upon hearing music he had just exposited.

I studied orchestration and advanced theory with Dr. Argento. He "red-lined" my fledgling compositions and was quick to point out anything he considered to be excessive or florid. He was also a stickler for specifics. For example, he required that we remember the diameters of the various timpani found in an orchestra. But when it comes to composing and arranging, the guiding principle I learned from him was that "less is more".

EN: You undoubtedly had many people tell you how moved they were by your music over the years. What prompted you to start Quiet Heart Music?

HW: The idea of QHM formed in my mind because of multiple circumstances that were woven together over several years. First, I experienced the loss of my father from Alzheimers and my closest friend from cancer at the age of 45 soon afterwards. During this time, I had recorded "The Quiet Heart" CD for an independent record label called ColorSong, based in St. Paul, MN. As ColorSong marketed this CD nationally in the '90s, I received an astonishing number of letters from strangers who wanted to thank me for helping them through a time of grief and/or chronic pain. As this feedback accumulated and as I dealt with my own grief, I began to understand the deep healing power of music. I also became increasingly motivated to create and record more music that would help hurting people. That led to the next question: "How can I get this music into their hands?" This meant I needed to become an entrepreneur.

EN: Being an entrepreneur is something very different from being a musician. Did you get some guidance along the way or has it been “learn as you go?”

HW: Learning to be an entrepreneur has been a trial and error process. I've often joked about writing a book about what NOT to do. I've also learned by exhibiting at many conferences and questioning the attendees and other vendors. There have also been some experienced leaders (in long term care) who have helped me network within and beyond their own organizations. Special thanks in that regard to Allan Swartz, "The Connector Guy". I have called him with questions on many occasions and he is always extremely helpful!

EN: All the testimonials you receive must be gratifying. Are there one or two that especially touched you?

HW: I've gotten some very moving and rewarding feedback over the years. One mother who lost 3 teenage daughters to a car accident on the eve of her son's wedding (on icy roads near Willmar, MN) sent me a thank you note about 6 months later, saying that she and her husband listened to "The Quiet Heart" every night to help them go to sleep. Another mother wrote me years after her son committed suicide, saying that she still listened to my music daily and found comfort.

Last, I am amazed at feedback from people who talk about my music's enduring quality. This almost sounds like a left-handed compliment, but they often say something like "no matter how many times I listen to your CDs, I never get SICK of them". I'd like to believe that this relates to both the non-trivial substance and craftsmanship of the arrangements. As I previously noted, a guiding principle in my playing is that "less is more." Every note should have a reason for being what it is, where it is, and how it's played. Truly "music speaks a language that is deep, touching us in places words can never reach".

Quiet Heart Music now offers a free “Download Card” when a gift card is purchased with a CD. The cards were created for people purchasing personalized (usually "Memorial") CDs with sympathy cards, though other kinds of messaging is available. The Download Card can then be given to any family member or friend who uses the internet to download music. By following the instructions printed on the back of the card one can obtain a free digital copy of the same CD. The card is an easy way to share this gift of music.

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