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Classically Trained: Brickman delights with his best-selling hits, anecdotes

If you’re missing the musical family gene, there’s still hope for all you would-be sensationally romantic piano players out there. That’s what Jim Brickman, “America’s romantic piano sensation” whose CDs are top sellers, admitted Thursday night.

“My parents had no talent,” he clarified to the crowd.

And what did Brickman do when he got off the plane at LAX, headed into the men’s room and heard his music playing amidst the stalls? Nothing, he said, but it showed him how many places his tunes are played beyond YouTube, or his fan cruise and PBS specials.

Anecdotes like those were one of many enjoyable aspects of Brickman’s Thursday night concert with the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa’s Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall. Brickman kept the listeners entertained and laughing when not playing his CD hits, which are usually in the adult contemporary realm.


Brickman, a Cleveland native, shared a great rapport with the audience. With both confidence and some self-deprecating humor regarding his “America’s romantic piano sensation” title, Brickman’s stage poise only enhanced his music that marked the second half of the Costa Mesa-based orchestra’s concert, led by Richard Kaufman.

The first half featured the Pacific Symphony only, with selections that brought out the many colors of the orchestra and soloists. It was a well-planned program in that respect.

Ennio Morricone’s “Gabriel’s Oboe,” arranged by Henry Mancini, brought out the best sound from the symphony. Particular plaudits go to principal oboist Jessica Pearlman on the film score favorite.

Later, in Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Capriccio Espagnol,” concertmaster Raymond Kobler’s solos shined, as did the whole orchestra in the Spanish-infused number.


For the second half, Brickman and his regular bandmates — electric violinist Tracy Silverman and singer Anne Cochran — joined with the symphony. Saxophonist Mindi Abair dropped by to play in some numbers Thursday night before her Friday appearance at the Newport Beach Jazz Festival.

Brickman met Cochran when both were in the same high school. He was so impressed with her onstage abilities during “Guys and Dolls” that the burgeoning pianist asked her to join his band (that was all of one man). Eventually the two won the “You Light Up My Life” talent hunt contest, maintained their friendship and have since toured together for years.

Cochran’s alto on “After All These Years” showcased remarkable expressivity with her heart-wrenching lyrics. Brickman’s captivating “Barcelona” and “Night Rain” brought out the best of his unmistakable style.

The showstopper, however, was during “Serenade,” as Silverman’s played his six-stringed electric violin. With a simple switch, his instrument produced the sound of an electric guitar, cello and bluegrass fiddle (all of which Silverman must’ve mastered using his Juilliard classical training).

Hearing an electric guitar reminiscent of an ‘80s rock solo from a violin was a highlight. Silverman’s long curly hair added to the effect.

This series was Brickman’s first performance with Orange County’s orchestra. I hope it marks the beginning of more to come.

St.Clair to speak

Pacific Symphony music director Carl St.Clair will serve as a guest speaker Thursday at the “TEDx Orange Coast: Innovation Without Borders” conference in the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.


The event goes from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tickets start at $95 and are available at Students who use the online promo code “STUDENT4TED” will get 50% off select seats in the hall.

The conference follows the TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference format but is independently organized of the New York-based nonprofit. For more information, visit

BRADLEY ZINT is a copy editor for the Daily Pilot and a classically trained musician. E-mail him story ideas at