Wayne Bethanis Submitted photo

It’s always nice to be able to highlight a local Mainer who’s doing great in the music world and such is the case with this week’s interviewee Dr. Wayne Bethanis. Raised in Readfield, but now resides in Los Angeles, California, this talented composer/musician studied classical piano through his 20s and even won the Bartok Competition; he’s also received his doctorate in musicology. He has since turned his sights on another genre: New Age music. There he’s proved that persistence, a good work ethic, and a clear vision can pay off and for Bethanis, it’s paid off in a big way. His instrumental piano albums have received critical acclaim around the world and his latest release, “Measures of Light,” has been awarded Best Solo Piano Album of 2021 by the New Age Music Guide. It seemed only right that I should request a telephone interview with Bethanis to find out more, he agreed and I reached him on the 28th of February. He began by asking me how it was here in Maine and I told him that it was 3-below when I woke up that morning.
Bethanis: (Laughter) Let me see — what do we have here in L.A.? Oh, it’s 77 degrees at 10 a.m. But, believe it or not, I still miss being in Maine.

Q: Do you get back this way often?
Bethanis: Occasionally, I haven’t been home to Maine in three years but I’m planning on coming back probably this summer. I miss a clam roll (chuckle).

Q: I’ve had the opportunity to sample your songs and they remind me of the New Age piano music I reviewed by artists like George Winston, Liz Story, Philip Aarberg and David Lanz. That genre was surprisingly good for stress relief at the end of a hectic day.
Bethanis: I’m so glad. New Age music can be very healing and meditative and transportive.

Q: As an appreciative consumer of music, I find myself mystified by its creation so I’ve got to ask: How does this work with you, as far as coming up with new material and the development thereof?
Bethanis: Thank you for asking. My compositional process is often really channeled. I’ll sit at the piano and an idea with occur to me, maybe a melody, and it really sort of creates itself; and I think the years of classical training that I have, there’s a sense of balance and proportion to making that three- to five-minute New Age or Contemporary Piano song. And so, almost as if there’s sort of a grid or a preexisting template in my mind, after I create that melody it sort of fills itself out. If you really listen to my music, there’s an innate formula to it that’s organic, it’s not something I plan out to do, but I’m very melody-forward in my writing, if you listen to my albums you’ll always get that big melody right up front. That melody just seems to find its way through the next four, five, six minutes in a variation stage or in a counter melody that will crop up, so that’s how it works.

Q: Do those songs form in a certain order in your process?
Bethanis: There’s never really an order to which all the steps happen. There are sometimes where I get an idea based on a mythological concept or even just a day-to-day concept that we all feel, and somehow I’ll sit down and it will translate into a melody or into a figure musically. So that’s really my process.

Q: Now what number album is “Measure of Light” for you?
Bethanis: This is my fourth album.


Q: Is it the one that has received the awards?
Bethanis: I’m very fortunate in that my last three albums have all received several awards, but this is the most decorated and recognized album I’ve ever done. I’ve just won Solo Piano Album of the Year on the New Age charts, so this album opened up a lot of doors for me and it is a departure from my previous albums. I was headed in this direction of having sort of grander ideas with really elevated orchestrations behind my piano playing. My previous album, “Hero’s Lullaby,” was heading in that direction but this one, “Measures of Light,” really, truly put me right at the top with all the other New Age artists in the world.

Q: Is this genre making a comeback, do you think?
Bethanis: New Age music, even though its sometimes difficult to define, is the fastest growing genre in Europe and it’s getting more and more popular here in the U.S. as a primary genre, so that’s really exciting. And often times, Lucky, my albums, like my second album, “Remember the Rain,” was in the Top 10 on iTunes Instrumental Chart for weeks around the world and it was classified as instrumental. It was charting all over the world on New Age charts but also spilled over into Instrumental categories and Adult Contemporary. So if New Age music speaks to you and it really nourishes you, then it’s definitely a legitimate means of musical nourishment.

Q: Are you working on something new or are you taking a well-deserved break?
Bethanis: I’m about seven songs deep into my next album, in fact, after we talk, I’m going over to Pasadena to lay down a piano track for a song I wrote. I’m really excited about this new album and with all the acclaim and the awards that I got for “Measures of Light” I don’t really feel pressured to do something (pause) — I’m just following my heart musically and I’m really loving what I’m doing. So the new album has a lot of elements of “Measures of Light” but also some new territory for me with instrumentation, it’ll be a little more radio-ready for many different markets.

Q: You started out in the classical realm and did quite well there, I understand, so why the change to New Age?
Bethanis: Well, the high-level classical piano world was a lot more competitive than what I experience now as a New Age artist. It was a completely different environment and I think I’ve really found where I belong in the Adult Contemporary/Instrumental New Age market. I was happy being a classical concert pianist in my 20s but it never answered my need to be really creative as a composer, and so now that I’m writing these songs and albums and getting recognized, it’s really deeply nourishing.

Q: Is there anything, Wayne, that you’d like me to pass on to the folks reading this article, folks in your hometown?
Bethanis: Yes, I would say to the people in the area where I grew up that if you follow your heart creatively it’s going to take you to the places that you need to go, almost magically. So that’s what I would say.

Lucky Clark, a 2018 “Keeping the Blues Alive” Award winner, has spent more than 50 years writing about good music and the people who make it. He can be reached at [email protected] if you have any questions, comments or suggestions.

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