SALT LAKE CITY — Google Juilliard pianist Evan Shinners and you’ll find he is becoming known as "the voice of Bach for today’s generation."
A member of the Judge Memorial Catholic High School Class of 2004 and a 2010 graduate of the Juilliard School, Shinners will present an all Bach performance for the Madeleine Festival at the Cathedral of the Madeleine May 6.
Born in Colorado, he started playing the piano at age 9. He moved to Utah with his family at age 10.
"Our piano was mainly furniture and wasn’t purchased to give anyone piano lessons," he said. "After a while my sister and I had lessons and I learned very quickly. I played by ear. I played rock songs; Billy Joel songs I heard on the radio by ear every day for hours and hours. It was wild."
Shinners was a chorister with the Madeleine Choir School, but says the way he sings now his teachers wouldn’t find acceptable. "I sing more like Tom Waits and the Cookie Monster," he said. "I write my own songs and perform them all the time in a garage band."
Shinners owes a certain amount of his musical education to the Choir School, he said. "I learned about choral musical and that has always been close to my heart; and I learned about authors and discovered Hemingway."
That also is where he discovered Bach. "I remember the first day I came into the Choir School they were rehearsing a piece by Bach and I just freaked out," he said. "I’d been playing baseball with these same kids. They invited me to the school because they knew I was some sort of wiz-bang pianist, and to see them singing Bach floored me and affected me very deeply."
At age 12 he made his debut with the Utah Symphony. Since then he has performed at Carnegie Hall, Steinway Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Avery Fisher Hall, the American Irish Historical Society of New York, and Verizon Hall at the Kimell Center in Philadelphia. He now travels the world, performing Bach.
"When most hear his name, they think Bach," according to the website evenshinners.com. "It’s becoming commonly known that he is among the best in the world. But underneath his formal Juilliard training is one of the most powerful forces in the New York City underground."
That underground pumps life into the ‘city that never sleeps,’ Shinners said. "In New York I am a cultural ambassador of my generation because I throw parties in my studio every month and I invite all kinds of artists who are my age and younger. We play live music for each other and we share art with each other. I am also a very serious poet and novelist. I take my poetry as seriously as I do my piano. As a group, we publish books. I feel like we are trying to recreate the lost generation, and that is very important to me."
Shinners has the same aesthetic approach to music and poetry, in which spontaneity is king, he said. "You can hear that in my playing and in my poetry."
The founder and host of an online radio show, "This is E.S.," he promotes students at the Juilliard School and classical music, combining hip-hop music with emerging trends in classical music and poetry. He plays anything from classical to jazz, ragtime to Billy Joel and performs his own original music, influenced by Bob Dylan and Jack Kerouac, which he has performed throughout the United States and Ireland.