A New Chapter: Sony/ATV President Jorge Mejia’s Brilliant Classical Album An Open Book
By Etan Rosenbloom, Director & Deputy Editor, Marketing & Communications • September 11, 2018
When we connect with Jorge Mejia, he’s spending a week in Brazil and Argentina, taking meetings for his day job as President of Sony/ATV Music Publishing for Latin America and US Latin. Mejia is indisputably one of the Latin music industry’s publishing all-stars, with regular inclusions in Billboard’s annual “Latin Power Players” feature, and a 2016 honor from the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame. It’s a job he’s clearly passionate about. But we’re reaching out to ask him about his secret identity: Mejia moonlights as a concert pianist and a composer of classical music.
Before his publishing career, Jorge studied at the New World School of the Arts and the New England Conservatory of Music, and earned a Piano Performance degree from the University of Miami. You can hear his extensive training in his brilliant new album An Open Book, which expands Mejia’s virtuosic cycle of Preludes into mini-concerti, by adding an orchestra (recorded by the Henry Mancini Institute Orchestra, based out of his U. of Miami alma mater). Mejia performed the piano parts himself, and wrote the narrative text that accompanies each prelude in its full e-book version.
An Open Book would be an ambitious achievement for any composer, let alone one with the kind of extra-musical commitments that Mejia has. So we had plenty to talk about.
So many of the greatest composers of all time have composed prelude cycles for piano. What inspired you to tackle this particular genre as your first major classical “opus?”
The first pieces I remember seriously playing on the piano were preludes. Bach’s Preludes, and some of my favorite pieces of all time, the Chopin Preludes. Meaning that I have loved the form ever since I can remember, mainly because it is so versatile - it can be fast, slow, long, short, anything really goes into little vignettes that are like little slices of time that tell a short little musical story and, in my case, an actual short story/vignette.
An Open Book re-arranges the solo piano version of your Preludes for piano and orchestra. Why did you decide to expand them in this way?
Ever since I wrote the piano versions, I knew that I wanted to create written vignettes to go with them. The palette offered by the orchestra is so wonderfully infinite, that I thought the best expression of the written word would be with orchestral music.
Did you have to make any changes to the solo piano versions to accommodate the orchestra?
At times, yes, but for the most part the orchestra versions are very faithful to their piano counterparts. This is useful for rehearsing with orchestras, because I can usually play the piano part out of whatever passage we are rehearsing, no matter what instrumentation it is arranged for. As a composer this makes it easy to show the strings or the winds - or whatever section - what you actually meant when you wrote what you did. Because lord knows the written note is a poor approximation (sometimes poorer than it should be - ahem - of what you actually mean the piece to sound like).
An Open Book is accompanied by written vignettes drawn from your own life. What’s the relationship between each piece and its respective vignette? Did you have specific images in mind that you wanted to paint with music, or is it more abstract than that?
The narrative process was the most difficult aspect of the project. In part because it is so personal, but also because in some cases, the music had a clear narrative and in others the narrative was clearly musical. So it was a bit of a challenge assembling the puzzle in a way that was coherent and, overall, what I considered beautiful.
You are of course intensely busy leading Sony/ATV’s Latin Music division. How do you find the time to compose, rehearse and perform your music?
I wake up very early every day, 4:30 to 5am, to do my creative work. It is what keeps me grounded and sane and sets me up typically for the day. Only issue is when I travel (which I do quite a bit) and when I have events the night before (also happens often enough), but overall I do my best to work every day or most days.
Would you say that your day-to-day work with songwriters has impacted the music you compose yourself?
Yes and no. “No,” because the music I write is obviously very different than what my musical day-to-day is composed of, and “yes,” because I get to see up close what it takes to be a successful creative person. The tenacity, dedication, intelligence and sheer creativity required to write at the level of the writers I work with simply boggles the mind. I have nothing but admiration for all of the writers I work with, and I believe that that admiration and respect ideally translates into the standards of the work I hope to create.
As a Colombian immigrant who works with music creators from throughout the Spanish-speaking world, how has your global perspective fed into your music?
I believe music is music. Meaning that in the classical world there are sometimes rigid demarcations of what you can and cannot do in order to pass critical muster but, as far as I am concerned, as long as it communicates and touches someone, the job is done. Whether it fits the parameters or canons of whatever is thought of in the moment as correct, is irrelevant to me - and I attribute this to a global perspective of what “music” is and what “connection” is, borne out of listening to - and thoroughly enjoying - all kinds of music.
You’ve seen a lot in your years in the music business, but I would imagine that the classical world operates by its own rules. Strictly from a business perspective, is there anything that surprised you about the process of bringing Preludes and An Open Book into the world?
At the end of the day, you are driving awareness and seeking to connect to the largest number of people possible. In the classical world - just as in the pop world - you want to play live as much as possible and even though you are possibly shooting for smaller crowd sizes (not too many classical shows at arenas), you are still looking to sell tickets and get your music heard across the world. So in essence, I think the business is quite similar, whether classical or pop - you are looking for connection.
Find out more about Jorge Mejia at www.jorgemejiamusic.com
Click here to stream and download An Open Book