david cohen guitar

David Cohen and his magnificent Chinese Pipa

Jill: Well I know for instance, I interviewed Wu Man when she was here. She had a piece written for her by Lou Harrison who is an American composer and we do play on the station a piece called Yellow River Concerto which is a kind of westernized Chinese version of a rather impressive piano concerto with an impressive pipa part in it and I must say I don’t think any of us knew about the pipa until we started playing that concerto so it’s rather odd to find you, a Philadelphia born musician and accomplished pipa musician.
excerpt from Crossover with Jill Pasternak w/ David Cohen WRTI January 2007 

Pipa Master Sun Li had been in America for a few months when I started my study with her. It took a long time to find someone who would teach me. I was walking into a new culture and did not know the pipa was considered a female instrument. At the time the pipa was nonexistent in Philadelphia even in the Chinese community. The request from and American maSun Li Photole from Philadelphia traveling to Manhattan on a regular basis wasn’t taken seriously. Master Sun Li (pictured left) needing to create an income base took the chance; I was her first student in America.

At one point the school where she taught was going to be closed for a three week period. We both didn’t want to lose weeks. She invited me to Chinese Queens to continue the instructions in her home.

The period of time my study took place started in the aftermath of 9/11. My instructions started in the first week of Manhattan being reopened. The backdrop and smells from ground zero were ever present.  Being in a vehicle with one passenger I wasn’t able to drive into Manhattan. Out of the many options I chose to drive to the Highland’s in New Jersey to take the Wall Street Ferry into Manhattan. From there I walked to my lesson in Chinatown or took the Chinese bus when the lessons were in Queens. Travel time was five hours from my front door to the school, going into Queens was an extra thirty minutes (non rush hour).

I had a New York minute to make the next LIRR to get back into Manhattan after one of my lessons in Queens.  In my rush I turned a corner to smack right into a women head on. Two strangers bumped into each other and we both apologized. The woman knowing what was in the case I carried asked, “Oh, you play the pipa? In China it’s a female instrument.”  She identified herself as a pipa musician and explained that she was coming back from the printer with programs for her upcoming tour of the United States and Canada. She handed me a program; I knew who this woman was, I had one of her CD’s and was using one of the pieces from it to practice against.

She asked to see my pipa, my rush to make the train ended. I pulled my pipa out of the case on the busy Queens avenue and in the process she saw the transcriptions I was using.  Seeing that I was learning Chinese notation and real Chinese classical music she affirmed, “Oh, you really are a pipa player! She told me of her recent return from China with a pipa that was made for the tour. Her luthier had extra material and made a duplicate pipa for her to “take back to America for the pipa player she will meet.” My eyes widened with interest as I stroked my chin with thumb and index finger. She continued, “You need a new pipa, this one is for children.” Interesting timing! Both Sun Li and myself were looking for a “real” pipa for me. I had outgrown the beginner pipa I was using in addition to it starting to warp.

The words she spoke of the pipa being a duplicate were true. The only difference was the design of artwork in the headstock. Her’s was custom designed dragon, my soon to be pipa had a lotus flower. The sale took place a week later on a brutally frigid February morning the day before the Chinese New Year. I took it all as a good sign. After the purchase that took place in Queens, I met a friend in Manhattan for lunch before my journey home. Our waitress with a thick Jamaican accent upon seeing my pipa case asked, “Do you play the pipa?” She told us of her study of the Chinese pipa when she was a little girl in Jamaica.  My friend shaking his head in disbelief stated that stuff like this only happens to me.

More and more I see male pipa players performing. It was explained to me that traditionally men taught the pipa and for aesthetic reasons women performed in pubic. I am a guest in a culture, I listen, observe and learn.

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Reopening a closed case to find great discovery

While composing the composition People of the Rain I realized I needed a different feel than I had from the guitars I’ve been playing on lately. For no particular reason I haven’t played my Menkevich guitar for a few years. The said guitar is very special to me; Carlos Rubio introduced me to Luthier Michael Menkevick. From that introduction came my first custom guitar. My guitar hero also strummed an A chord on it, signed the head stock and heard me play an Allegra while her tour manager danced (turned out the tour manager was a flamenco dancer). On a hunch a few months ago I reopened a guitar case that has been closed. I reintroduced myself, apologized, polished the wood and restrung; the rhythms and melody poured out.

 

Finding Beauty-Maria Corley Interviews Guitarist David Cohen

Written by Maria Corley 2018

kindred hospital south pholadelphia david cohen pipaPhiladelphia-based composer and multi-instrumentalist David Cohen is a cancer survivor who exemplifies the phrase “beauty for ashes.” While he never suffered from the disease himself, he watched his beloved wife, Tatyana, die of ovarian cancer, a process that nearly stripped him of his will to make music. While she was alive, he became an active advocate for patient-centered care, a role he continues today. After her death, he recorded a farewell to his life as a musician, which won an unprecedented award.

In the end, David never gave up music; the passion was too great, and, as he notes, his wife would never have wanted that. Instead, he takes his guitar into hospitals, playing for and talking with “amazing people.” He also took his guitar to the U.K, where he set up a tour that included a stop at the famed Troubadour in London, launching pad for storied artists like his idol and inspiration, Joan Armatrading.

To learn more about David’s amazing journey, please click here.

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Lessons in finding the right place to backlink my guitar event services

Exploring the services of The Knot in 2017 I explained to the salesperson that in the mid-1990’s I started to advertise with the Knot as it was a new company and I’d give them a shot. In the first week of my site on the Knot going live I received an email from an excited client that wanted exactly what I was offering and was fine with my fee. I was asked to send a contract. After the formal agreement was sent I never heard back from the client. I didn’t give it much thought as I was booked all the time. At the end of the contract I didn’t renew with the Knot for the reason that the only hit I received from advertising with them was the contract that never came through. All of my bookings where from other sources; the Knot became my loss write off.

Brides.com treated me well. Not only was over fifty-percent of my event business through their magazine and website advertising but after many years of business with them I was offered the opportunity to share a table at bridal shows with their sales representative at no cost.  I assisted in giving information about their magazine and website service to brides as well as having the ability to hand out information about my own services. I also received a handsome discount on my advertising. I was rolling in events. Sadly, the magazine shut down operations as it was.

To fill the void, I took a risk and signed a contract with the Knot again. My aim was to capture the displaced clients that was created from Brides.com ceasing operations. In the first week of my site with the Knot going live I received an email from an excited client that wanted exactly what I was offering and was fine with my fee. I was asked to send a contract. After the formal agreement was sent I never heard back from the client. I didn’t give it much thought as I was booked all the time. At the end of the contract I didn’t renew another year for the reason that I had two hits; one completed contract and the contract that never came through. All my bookings where from other sources; the Knot became my loss write off.

A few years pass; the Knot has been around and proved the test of time while I watched so many other sites and event suppliers come and go. I decided to take the risk and advertise on their site again. In the first week of my site with them going live I received an email from an excited client that wanted exactly what I was offering and was fine with my fee. I was asked to send a contract which I did. I never heard back from the person. I didn’t give it much thought as I was booked all the time. There was a point in the contract period I negotiated out of the contract. I had to pay a lot but over all saved money on the last two months of the contract. The only call I received from advertising with the Knot was the contract that never came through. Again all of my booking where from other sources; the Knot became my loss write off. I remembered the excited caller and realized a pattern. I also understood my business on the Knot is equal to a Faberge Egg being sold in Walmart not discounted.

At the start of 2017 I wanted to add a backlink for my website from inside the wedding industry. I didn’t want to spend a lot as I keep my site very well optimized. This expense would be a cherry on a well iced cake. I chose the Knot again mainly because of it’s low price. The sales person also told me of many changes that have been made to attract different levels of customers to their site. When I made the decision this time to advertise with them again despite a poor performance record I went into it expecting zero business but was hoping to be proven wrong. It was a mistaken belief to think the sales pitch had any merit. Now going into the fifth month of the contract my expectations sadly have been meet except for one.

In the first week of my site with them going live I received an email from an excited client that wanted exactly what I was offering and was asked to send a contract. This time I did hear back from the client.

This is what I didn’t expect:
“Hi David,
I am happy to tell you that my assistant has mailed out your check but there is a little mix up from her. She was supposed to send out 2 checks today, one for you and another for the wedding planner. She mistakenly sent the whole payment to you. Please David, I will really appreciate if you could deduct your deposit and help send the remaining funds to the wedding planner. Your help will be greatly appreciated.

Dave”.
My reply:
“Hi David,
I will return the envelope as soon as I receive it and wait for another. The date is reserved for you.

David”

I never received the check that was already mailed out. That’s it! For the other three contract periods my excited client was a scam artist trying to isolate their prey. The consistency in my three other contracts has been zero business and three attempted scams. This fourth and the last time is running the same course. Scams are unavoidable in any internet interaction. I do not hold the Knot responsible for the attempts I received from the fictitious client. I alerted my sale representative as soon as I realized what transpired this time. They were quick to reply and I was satisfied with their response regarding the fake leads but others issues regarding the poor performance have received no reply.

Currently my goal of backlink for my website has failed miserably. My stats on the Knot analytics page show my site to be charting way below average and my Google analytics show no sign of the Knot on any dashboards. I stopped checking in on my Knot page. The only place I see the Knot name is on my credit card statement each month.

My first advertising campaign was a foul ball, the second was a strike, the third was a strike this is their last strike coming up. They are out of the series after this.

The lesson of this story is to be careful if you are starting an advertising campaign. If something doesn’t seem right it isn’t.

The lesson of this story is to think about the clients you want to attract. I have received one hit from a real client this contract period. Their price interest was $100; not the service I supply. My need is for clients who understand, appreciate and want quality work.

The lesson of the story is that if you’re looking for cheap you will get it. Do you want to work twice as hard with a low paying clientele or earn twice as much with the right clientele?

The lesson of the story is to Google search feedback on the service you want to advertise with. Read the forums from different vendors.

The lesson of this story is that the Knot struck out for this sole proprietor. I should have invested with a service that had a track record for performance.  In advance I had no expectation of developing a clientele from prior experiences. My new attempt to use the site as backline has also fallen short of reasonable expectations.

The lesson of this story is that other services have given me the experience of feeling looked after. The knot doesn’t offer that experience. I do not hear from my sales representatives. In all the other business transactions I engage in that involve sales reps a positive relationship has developed because of follow up.

 

Chaos Theory in the UK 2016

In the middle of August 2016 I embarked on my first tour of Ireland and the UK. Ireland was spent performing on the bagpipes while touring with the Pipes and Drums of the Jersey Shore Shillelagh’s. The band had the honor of performing at the Rose of Tralee Festival in Tralee, Ireland along with a few other gigs.
We ended in Dublin, from Dublin I went on to Scotland where I studied bagpiping for a few days at the Piping Center in Glasgow then onto Edinburgh for the Military Tattoo and solo guitar recital at St. Giles Cathedral located on the Royal Mile. My musical intro to Edinburgh was a pop up concert at a local coffee house the day before the cathedral gig. After the recital it was straight to the Edinburgh Airport for my flight to London for gigs in Sandwich and London.
The first stop was Sandwich where I was given the opportunity to record at St.Peters Church which dates back to the 13th century. Amazing place how sweet the sound! My gig that brought me to  Sandwich was in a pub called Hop and Huffkin’s. I was part of their Tuesday night acoustic sessions. On my day off I was taking a bus to Canterbury where I ran into a couple reading an article about me in the local arts magazine. They were the only others that went to the top of the double decker bus.
My last gig was at The Troubadour on Old Brompton Street in London. Joan Armatrading, Hendrix and Zeppelin all got their start there.  Chaos Theory live was met with enthusiasm and many bought the CD. At the Troubadour I opened for a band called ALBA; they are a band to keep an eye on.
Chaos Theory is easy to obtain by clicking on this link: Chaos Theory  or this one Chaos Theory (check out the great review on this one). It’s also available on iTunes.

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