The Ritz Theatre is to welcome Turkish-born and Juilliard-trained pianist Meral Guneyman for a concert at 2 p.m. Sunday. Now a resident of New Jersey, she has won numerous competitions and has performed around the globe as a soloist and with symphony orchestras.
Her performance at The Ritz is titled "Tango, Waltz and Milonga," featuring works by composers Astor Piazzola, Maurice Ravel and Pablo Ziegler, with a common overall theme of modern dance forms.
An avid improviser, Guneyman said she does not consider herself a composer.
"I did experiment with a few songs. I mostly transcribe/arrange music. Composition, needless to say, requires a most creative mindset, and it should just flow. Transcribing and arranging music, on the other hand, requires a different kind of vision and brain work, while creativity is still very useful," she said.
In her efforts to promote contemporary music, Guneyman has premiered works by such diverse composers as Dick Hyman, Iihan Mimaroglu and Justin Dello Joio. A multifaceted classical musician, she is at ease with the pop and jazz genres.
Her recording of the Frank Bridge sonata was heralded as among the five best of the year by Fanfare Magazine.
At the time of this interview, Guneyman was touring in Europe. Guneyman said her two children played multiple instruments in their youth, but they are not professional musicians. Although her father had some musical abilities, she credits her mother for guiding her into a career in music.
"I was 4 years old when I entered the music conservatory," Guneyman said. "My mother was a music lover and hauled all the responsibilities of our discipline in music education and all the practical things, like taking us to lessons, concerts, encouraging friendships with other musical families, lots and lots of what goes into raising a concert pianist, for all those years. ... My sister, Tiraje, is also a concert pianist, married to a concert pianist."
In addition to piano, Guneyman has basic knowledge of guitar, recorder and violin, which she learned while studying early childhood education. Now, she continues to educate by teaching master classes and giving "informances" and concerts at universities, music conservatories and other institutions.
Students and other educators have described her as "sensitive," "inspiring," "natural, flexible and gifted," "finely polished," "a team player" and "a real people person."
Her advice to young musicians?
"Love what you do. Giving it all you've got takes love. Never give up," she said.
Guneyman's studies and extensive travel have exposed her to music from many cultures. Many of the works she is to perform at The Ritz can be found on her CD, "Danzas Tropicales," which received "editor's choice/new and noteworthy" honors on iTunes for eight consecutive weeks.
In addition to playing and recording dance music, Guneyman also is a dancer. After "decades" away from the art, she started taking lessons again about three years ago.
"I dance the tango, and my dance school, Fred Astaire Studios of Princeton, wants me to dance ballroom, as well. I happily oblige," Guneyman said.
She will have some of her recordings available for sale at the concert, including "A Christmas Memory." One CD, "Playful Virtuosity," is only available in digital version because the hard copies have sold out. Guneyman said it was named "best record of the week" on German Radio Mikado and received much international acclaim.
Her upcoming recording projects include several music videos.
During her career, Guneyman has performed for numerous charitable causes, including Save the Children Fund, the Muscular Dystrophy Association, United Nations Association, Help Educate at Risk Orphans campaign, Americans for Cures and organizations that combat HIV/AIDS pandemics and promote stem cell research.
More information about the artist can be found online www.meralguneyman.com.
Tickets range from $10-$25. For reservations and information, visit www.ritztheatre.org, stop at 30 S. Washington St., or call (419) 448-8544.