On a recent Tuesday afternoon in sunny Florida, renowned pianist Roberta Swedien is discussing her March 11 show at the Encinitas Library with excitement.
“I’ve never performed there before,” she said of the unique venue. “When I first saw the library, I was blown away. It has a Steinway which is what I have at home, and I changed my program to include a wonderful piece called ‘Seascape,’ which is inspired by the huge window there that looks out onto the ocean.”
Swedien’s Encinitas gig comes on the heals of a career full of highlights, whether it was when she performed at a concert for the Nobel Prize’s 100th Anniversary or during her days helping pop legend Michael Jackson record his landmark album HIStory. “He was very serious and work oriented,” explains Swedien of Jackson. “There was no one like him at all. I worked 14 hours a day on that album, and later brought him dance bells from North India. He loved them.”
Throughout Swedien’s career, she has zigzagged and excelled across multiple genres, whether it was pop with Jackson, or Swedish Classical which she’s performing in Encinitas and describes as classical with “a kind of ‘Downton Abbey’ goes to Stockholm” vibe.
“A lot of people ask what they’re supposed to be thinking about when listening to classical music,” explains Swedien. “First of all, you can think about whatever you want. Then I figured I’d give the audience a little direction.” As a result, Swedien’s Encinitas show is a mix of Swedish classical as well as spoken material. “For example, I’m reading a 900-year-old piece of poetry before I play a particular piece, or I tell a story. However, it’s not a lecture. I get a lot of comments from previous audience members who say I took them to another world. It’s like a musical journey.”
Swedien’s own personal musical journey started at a young age. As a third generation musician, her grandparents were musicians and teachers. Says Swedien of her childhood, “My father would ask me if I wanted to sing and I just wanted to play the piano. I was in it right away.”
It should be noted that Swedien’s father is the legendary Bruce Swedien, the Grammy Award-winning producer and audio engineer who’s worked on everything from Michael Jackson’s Thriller album to Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons smash “Big Girls Don’t Cry.” Swedien is also a close confidant of Quincy Jones. “My father has said that I’m the embodiment of what his parents wanted him to become,” says Swedien of her family’s influence. “I always focused on classical and by the time my dad did Thriller I was already well established.”
Sums up Swedien of her passion and career, “I was drawn to music. It’s my language.”
Swedien brings her acclaimed recital series “The Music Room” to the Encinitas Library on March 11 at 7:30 p.m. The Encinitas Library is located at 540 Cornish Dr., Encintas, 92024; (760) 753-7376.