Classical music has a long and storied history. Many musicians today are finding innovative ways to breathe new life into this timeless genre. Pianist Cynthia Harris, owner of Classical Entertainment, works to keep this art form alive and thriving. Her company provides live music pulled from many genres for any occasion.
The magic of music is undeniable. From the stirring melody of a violin to the hypnotic rhythm of a drumbeat, music can be soothing or invigorating, uplifting or devastating. It has the power to cross cultural boundaries and transcend language barriers, giving even our earliest ancestors a sense of collective belonging.
Scientists say music “activates just about all of the brain.” It is no wonder that it lowers anxiety, strengthens memory, and helps us fall asleep. As Plato once said, “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”
Cynthia Harris, pianist and founder of live music consulting and contracting agency Classical Entertainment Inc., personally knows the joy music can evoke. Based in Las Vegas, Classical Entertainment brings live music to celebrations, corporate events, destination weddings and “the mountain-top experience of your choice.”
“Classical Entertainment’s seasoned, top tier, top call artists range in style from traditional classical, light classics and easy listening, to pop and pop fusion, classic rock in not-your-every-day instrumental settings, to jazz virtuosos, to ethnic world music, or basically whatever the client requests. Classical’s gene pool of live musicians is exceptional. We are a collective group of approximately 25 artists who play together in various ensembles at the drop of a hat!”
Cynthia says that being located in Las Vegas, Classical Entertainment has access to musicians of all backgrounds and styles.
“Musicians gravitate to the ‘Neon Mecca of Entertainment’ (AKA Las Vegas) from all over the globe due to the abundance of work available in the live music sector. In Classical’s roster, you will find North and South American, European and Eastern European, Russian, Asian, and African musicians, most of whom have classical and/or jazz backgrounds. All the artists have some semblance of classical training (hence, “classical” entertainment), some play by ear and improvise, and many brilliantly dabble in both.”
As a consulting and contracting agency, Classical Entertainment’s services are individually tailored from listening carefully to the client’s vision, educating them if needed (regarding what will work and what may not) and then delivering a musically dazzling event curated specifically for the client and occasion.
Cynthia’s love for music dates back to when she was a young girl in Tupelo, Mississippi taking piano lessons for the first time.
“I was so drawn to music. My parents put me in singing and dancing classes when I was a ‘tiny tot.’ I started piano lessons at the age of seven, and by the age of eight, I knew all I wanted to do for the rest of my life was just play piano.”
The summer after her junior year of high school, she attended the National Music Camp in Interlochen, Michigan, where she won the Harpsichord Scholarship. After this musically enriching summer, Cynthia finished high school at the Interlochen Arts Academy.
“I am so grateful to my parents for this time in my life. The excellence of the classical background nurtured at Interlochen enhanced, stabilized, and enriched my teenage years and set me on the path to all the musical experiences that have come my way throughout my musical journey.”
For her next musical adventure, Cynthia attended the University of North Texas (formerly North Texas State University) and became enamored with the jazz world. What Interlochen did for fostering Cynthia’s appreciation of classical music, North Texas did for her appreciation of jazz.
While spending a few semesters at the University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University), Cynthia switched her focus from solo piano performance to accompanying and chamber music. Playing ensemble music soon became her favored medium and has served her well throughout her decades of musical activity.
Eventually, Cynthia landed in New York City and into the musical realm of the classical ballet world.
“Being a ballet class pianist is quite challenging—one plays as a soloist but must be astute at being a chamber musician. The additional musicians are silent as they are the ballet dancers! One must have a visual understanding of the art form to make sure your music supports their silent movements and emotion. I love that world.”
In the early ‘80s, Cynthia moved to Las Vegas with an array of pianistic experiences and skills. She was able to piece together a variety of piano jobs—all dependent upon her classical background and sight-reading skills.
“I played ballet classes, was a rehearsal pianist for singers and opera productions, held down church and synagogue pianist/organist positions, taught piano lessons—both private lessons and group classes at the Community College, accompanied string players and other instrumentalists, played musical theater productions and began playing social and corporate events along with private parties. Every day was a different job!”
With the turn of the millennium in 2000, Cynthia decided to venture further into the world of Las Vegas entertainment. Though unsure of what to do or how to do it, she forged her own way.
“There was this new ‘thing’ called the World Wide Web. It seemed to be pretty cool. I had heard that one needed to hurry up and get a ‘domain name’ because if you didn’t hurry, all the names would be taken up. So with a sense of urgency, I rushed home, went online, and began to fill out the form. There was a time limit to filling out the form, causing quite a bit of anxiety. I thought, what if I can’t do it right? What if all the names are taken up?”
She came up with a name that perfectly suited her skills on the fly.
“So, when it came time to fill in the domain name, I didn’t have one! I began to think. I have a ‘classical’ background…I want to move into Las Vegas ‘entertainment’…I’m classical…I want entertainment…classical…entertainment…classical entertainment…ahhhh! That’s it! Classical Entertainment! And thus, Classical Entertainment came to be.”
Looking back over the past twenty-plus years of Classical Entertainment Inc., Cynthia is full of smiles and fond memories.
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“Such good music played by such good friends for such great clients who value a great musical experience to go along with their good times.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses nationwide, the Las Vegas music community was particularly impacted.
“Overnight, the properties closed. Shows went dark. Events were canceled. Jobs vanished. Gone! Only once did I venture to drive down the strip during the lockdown, and it was creepy! It was nighttime, and even though some of the billboard property lights were on, there was not a soul in sight. Vegas was a ghost town!”
But somehow, the music community persevered and survived. “It wasn’t easy,” Cynthia recalls.
“Musicians are a resilient bunch. In most cases, we begin our musical journey in childhood, nurtured by those who have come before us. They encourage and instill within us a strong sense of self. We practice alone for hours, building our musical self-esteem while developing the ability to find inner strength in solitude. And then there is time spent playing in an ensemble — a musical team sport, one could say.”
According to Cynthia, during the 2020 pandemic, most musicians took to their instruments to revamp their musical skills — practicing, playing, composing, arranging, recording, editing, etc., for whatever their chosen music vocation happened to be. And thanks to technology, it was possible for musicians to interact face-to-face online. New ways of working together emerged.
“For the educators, Zoom music lessons soared, being just as necessary for the adult musicians as for the young students and children. We musicians survived; we prevailed. I believe we are stronger for it but don’t get me wrong — we don’t want to endure it again! And as for my personal journey as a collaborative pianist, once the event world crashed and burned (putting Classical Entertainment in ‘timeout’), I delved back into my classical roots.”
Fortunately, Classical Entertainment weathered the storm and is back in business, rebuilding slowly but surely.
“In addition to the business making a comeback, it is as if I’ve come full circle; I am back wearing the many hats of being a small business owner. I’m loving teaching piano students again, playing for a church and building a youth choir again, working with an opera company again, playing weddings and being back in the orchestra pit again, and the most fun of all—playing in the band of one of the amazing Cirque du Soleil productions.”
Looking back on her journey, Cynthia recalls a vital truth from her childhood in Tupelo, Mississippi.
“My sixth-grade teacher, who was also the sixth-grade teacher of Elvis Presley, was a source of inspiration, motivation, and persistence. My musical prowess was already evident as a pre-teen. Mrs. Camp constantly told me that if I practiced hard enough, I would grow up to be as rich and famous as Elvis…”
She is happy that she decided to take the path she did.
“As I reminisce, I hold my classical background in the highest esteem and am filled with gratitude for all those who made it possible—my parents and family, teachers, mentors, clients, and the many students of all ages who have inspired me throughout my career. Although I’m technically at retirement age, I could never retire: there is simply too much music to play.”
To learn more about Classical Entertainment’s services, visit www.classicalentertainment.com
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