Going Digital: The Pioneers Who Paved The Way

Mar 22, 2017

The music industry is making its way into the digital revolution. In fact, you can do almost anything today from your iPad; composing, producing, performing from digital sheet music, or even playing an instrument from this device. Some pioneers have taken full advantage of the iPad or other technologies and what they provide, check out some major ones below:

Joshua Bell and Sam Haywood

Let’s talk a little about these two famous artists.

Joshua Bell

is a world-renowned violinist who started touring Europe at the age 17. What truly made him famous was his first performance in a Washington D.C. subway station in 2007, an experience initiated by the Washington Post columnist, Gene Weingarten. Joshua Bell has received many prizes and recognition, including his induction into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame in 2005. Before that, he played at the World Economic Forum where he earned recognition as a “Young Global Leader”. He has played many different roles: soloist, chamber musician, recording artist, orchestra leader as well as Music Director of the Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields. He strongly believes in the benefits of music education, thus he has devoted himself to many different projects including Education Through Music which increases the number of children playing instruments within major American cities.

Sam Haywood

is a famous British pianist. He has also worn different hats like soloist, chamber musician, composer and Artistic Director at the Solent Music Festival. He also works and plays frequently with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. He was awarded the Isserlis Award by the Royal Philharmonic Society and gives great importance to music for younger generations, that is why he is an ambassador to the West Lakes Academy and has developed many music related projects for children.

These two artists are comfortable working together and it showed during their 2012 performance at the Kennedy Center. At that time, Bell had not switched to digital but Haywood had. During this performance, he used an iPad to read his music and even Bluetooth pedals to turn pages. No page turners were to be seen on stage, Haywood was delighted since he has “had page turners who’ve forgotten their glasses or fallen off the stage.” Bell, however, stuck to his paper sheet music because he thought the iPad screen was too small to perform with. Though, He still uses his iPad to compose or “when he is in a pinch in some remote corner of the world”. On his side, Haywood continues to believe that “The iPad removes so much of the risk”, and he “can even practice in the dark”! When they see Haywood performing, the audience is intrigued, especially the younger age demographic and the musician finds relief by avoiding the limitations of paper scores. Even before this duo started, in 2011 another famous conductor played his part in this digital revolution through the use of his iPad.

Jeffrey Kahane

Kahane made his debut as a conductor in 1988 at the Oregon Bach Festival. He has given recitals in major American music centers such as Chicago, New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and has conducted many orchestras including the New York and Los Angeles Philharmonics, as well as the Philadelphia and Cleveland Orchestras. He is now in his last season as Music Director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra during which he is organizing a three week festival in January 2017. Among other things, this festival will include a major educational project. He has recorded for many great labels such as SONY and EMI to name a few. Beginning fall 2016, he will also be a professor of Keyboard Studies at the University of Southern California Thornton School of Music.

To make a long story short, he is a big shot in the classical world of music and guess what, in 2011, he conducted the New York Philharmonic from his iPad. “It’s been just a life-changing thing for me in many ways”, he said in an interview for the New York Times.

The Borromeo String Quartet

This string Quartet is in-residence at the New England Conservatory. It was formed in the 1980’s at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. Nicolas Kitchen, the famous violinist who founded it, initiated the use of MacBooks to perform sheet music because he wanted his colleagues to see all four lines of the scores. He prefers laptops for their larger screens but still carefully keeps his iPad in his bag should he ever need it. For him, the easy access to original manuscripts enables him to “have probably 40 Beethoven manuscripts on [his] computer from which he reads as he plays. “That’s been stimulating in a way I could never have anticipated.”

Hugh Sung

Sung is a professional pianist and has performed and recorded with many famous violinists and composers such as Aaron Rosand or Robert Maggio. He has also worked with the Philadelphia and Baltimore Symphony Orchestras. He is part of ArtistWorks, the online music and arts school that teaches through videos, enabling him to teach piano to students anywhere in the world. He also wrote a book called From Paper to Pixels, which helps musicians transitioning from paper to digital sheet music using sheet music reader apps and pedals. To ease this transition, he co-founded in 2008 AirTurn, a company making wireless page-turning pedals and other innovative tools to ease musicians’ lives. Sam Haywood actually uses an AirTurn page-turning pedal during his performances.

“I’d been thinking about a hands-free page-turning device since I first saw a tablet computer in 2001,” said Sung. “It wasn’t until the iPad hit the market that digital scores really caught on.” His pedals make for a silent and easy page turn that relies only on a tap of the foot on a Bluetooth pedal. Since 2010, he has sold thousands to iPad users. He estimates that “the market for musicians using iPads is in the area of 2 million”


As you can see, many musicians have already embraced the digital revolution because they understand all the benefits that come with this transition.

Using an iPad can be very practical for musicians, some can even imagine further technological advances in this field, for instance, glasses that could display screens across which digital sheet music would scroll.



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