Q&A with Martin Kutnowski

From Argentina to the States and from the States to Canada, that’s how Martin Kutnowski’s life can be summarized. Canada is his third home, and since the day he arrived here, ten years ago, Fredericton is his house. Kutnowski grew up in Argentina, but he had a chance to study in the US. After that, an opportunity to work at St. Thomas came. The co-founder of the fine arts program fell in love with Fredericton and lever left again.

How important is music for you?

It really feeds me everyday. It’s something that defines who I am. When I play the piano, when I compose music, when I listen to the music, when I teach music I’m discovering something essential about me and about people. Music really offers a portal to understand life.

What kinds of music are in your playlist? Do you listen to any popular music from today?

Classical music, ethnic music, and different kinds of world music. I listen to some that I used to listen when I grew up and tango of course. I love all kinds of music.

You know, the problem with very recent music is that quality is not always there. What I found with pop music is that if you take any name that is very famous today, it wasn’t famous six months ago and it won’t be famous six months from now. My playlist for long drives have about 400 songs. The very best songs in my humble opinion and those 400 songs are from time to time broadcast on the radio, I don’t know why. The Beatles, the Rolling Stones or Elton John… There are great songs from now that are on my playlist like Lady Gaga and Adele that I really like, but many songs from right now are not really good.

Do you believe music needs to show a message to people?

The primary function of art is to be pleasurable. The pleasure can be because of the beauty, because of the intellectual challenge, whatever. I think that we shouldn’t forget that art is about experiencing pleasure. I listen to it because I like it, because I feel good, so if it doesn’t have a message, but people are having fun with it, I’m really down for it. If you have a million dancing with a lot of joy, they surely find a message there.

Why is music a great connector between people?

Music kind of creates a brotherhood. Let’s say you’re in a camping trip, it’s night, there’s a fire and somebody grabs a guitar. Everybody sings and all of a sudden you feel so close to everybody else.

Have you always wanted to be involved with music?

Since very early I always had a special connection with music. I learned how to play the piano relatively young, and then I started playing the guitar. At some point I was like ‘wait a minute, I want to be a musician’ but back then it was a completely different realization. It’s like this friend and at some point you’re like ‘I want to marry this friend.’ It was like proposing to music.

I was 17. I was on the highway in Buenos Aires and I was like ‘wait a minute, that’s what I want to do with my life.’ Back then, when I said to myself ‘I want to be a musician,’ the only thing I knew for sure is that I would never be a music teacher.

Because when I was 17, I thought I was going to be a rock star. I started teaching very young just because people were asking… And overtime I realized I was learning a lot by teaching. It’s been 30 years since then and I never stopped teaching music.

What’s your creative process?

I try to get myself in the skin of the character that I am representing. Not everything happens on the piano. Sometimes I’m driving and an idea comes to me and I have to hurry up to write it down before I forget.

Some people say music cannot be taught, how do you teach music?

I can teach how to play an instrument, and teaching grammar is also possible, what I cannot teach you or anybody else is what you want to write. I can’t even correct you, all I can do is offer you feedback.

What ideas are you trying to convey with your music?

Music needs to be honest. When I write, essentially what I am trying to do is to say the truth, to speak the truth. There’s a hope that my truth may resonate in others.