US acts giving classical music a modern makeover

Weird, stuffy, boring, old soul.

These are some labels that have been attached to my eight-year-old son, courtesy of his friends and some adults.

It's not surprising actually, considering it's in reference to his huge aversion for pop music, opting instead for the beautiful sounds of classical masterpieces.

While classical music is generally not considered mainstream and is perhaps shunned by many, let alone appeal to the younger generation, there are artists who are doing their part to change the perception that anything classical is slow, yawn-inducing and old- school.

In the 90s, the infamous bad boy of classical music, Nigel Kennedy, introduced some spunk to the genre, and Vanessa Mae sexed up the scene with her stylised performances.

In the Noughties, sultry female quartet Bond specialised in classical crossover and synthpop.

More recently, violinist David Garrett, pianist Maksim and male duo 2Cellos infused classical music with hardcore rock.

With the rising number of crossover musicians, classical music isn't just for elevators or to put your baby to sleep.

US acts The Piano Guys and Lindsey Stirling, who are both coming to town for gigs soon, are part of the makeover movement.


Cute as a button, the 28-year-old Californian is a ground-breaking violinist who earned the title of "hip-hop violinist" due to her unique style of fusing classical violin and dubstep beats with modern dance.

The self-professed dork is also hailed as a "goddess" by geeks for making music videos for popular games such as Halo, Assassin's Creed III and Legend Of Zelda, and also for her covers of Game Of Thrones and The Lord Of The Rings theme songs.

Stirling, who studied film-making at Brigham Young University in Utah, says she composes a "vision", rather than a song, thus resulting in her elaborate and theatrical music videos that have captivated millions of fans around the world.

The Billboard chart-topping musician started playing in alt-indie bands, at open-mic nights and jamming with other bands as a teenager, but YouTube made her a star.

Her original dubstep composition, Crystallize, put her on the map in 2012 and it became the eighth most-viewed video on YouTube that year.

Her YouTube channel has over six million subscribers and over 900 million views.

She has incurred the wrath of classical purists and was famously told that her style of music can't sell by the judges of reality TV series America's Got Talent in 2010, of which she was a contestant and was eliminated in the quarter-finals.


She is one person who has the ability to make classical music appealing to the young.

How can you fault someone who can keep in tune and rhythm while performing a perfect pirouette in her music videos?

Stirling will be hitting the stage here next month as part of her world tour, featuring songs from her second album, Shatter Me.

"I love fun costumes, I dance all over the place, I do twirls and jumps and everything," Stirling told about her Shatter Me tour.


WHAT: Lindsey Stirling Shatter Me

WHEN: March 3

WHERE: MasterCard Theatres at Marina Bay Sands

TICKETS: $88, $108, $128, $148 from or 6688-8826


Like Stirling, The Piano Guys deconstruct classical music and fuse them with mainstream hits.

Since 2011, the four dads from Utah have made over 50 music videos on their YouTube channel, which boasts over 500 million views and more than three million subscribers.


One of their most popular videos, with more than 31 million views, is Let It Go , which juxtaposes the hit song from the movie Frozen with the Winter sequence from Antonio Vivaldi's The Four Seasons.

Comprising pianist Jon Schmidt, cellist Steven Sharp Nelson, songwriter Al van der Beek and videographer Paul Anderson, The Piano Guys are coming here in April.

Songs from their fourth studio album Wonders, which debuted at No 12 on the Billboard Top 200 last October, will be featured.


How they mash up classical tracks with pop songs is an organic process, Schmidt told The Hollywood Reporter.

"If a song really grabs our attention or moves us for whatever reason, a classical melody will weave its way in pretty organically."

He added: "And we have 16 kids between us, so sometimes they'll come to us with an idea."


WHAT: The Piano Guys Live in Singapore

WHEN: April 13

WHERE: The Star Theatre, The Star Performing Arts Centre

TICKETS: $88, $98, $118, $128, $148 and $158 from

This article was first published on Feb 18, 2015.
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