According to Barrett Wissman, the digital age has created one problem that he is determined to solve.
Our focus on all that is digital has pulled us away from the in-person experience. As Co-Chairman of IMG Artists, he has been behind the organization of some of the greatest musical experiences and collaborations.
Robert Redford reciting poetry in perfect synchronicity with the strains of an orchestra; Jeremy Irons throwing his heart and soul into the role of Chopin while accompanied by a Chopin sonata; Anthony Hopkins receiving a standing ovation for his conducting his own works as a composer; Sting and Trudie Styler performing alongside some of the greatest classical musicians in the world as the passionate and turbulent couple, Robert and Clara Schumann.
His love affair with music started at a much earlier age than most with the piano virtuoso joining a symphony orchestra at the age of 10. Although he explored his options by studying economics and politics at Yale, music stayed close behind, with a pair of advanced degrees in music.
After leaving behind a high-profile career in Wall Street to embark on a journey in the entertainment industry which would redefine collaborations between artists of different backgrounds, he now launches Palm Springs Life Festival.
I was excited to be able to steal a few minutes of the very busy Barrett Wissman's time to discuss his passion and artistry.
Q: Eluxe Magazine says, "Wissman carefully selects artists from different disciplines and allowing them to extend their talents and passions into branches of the arts they're not normally associated with." Was this the vision you had when you became the co-founder of Festival Del Sole and most recently Palm Springs Life Festival?
A: One of the most exciting things for me as a creator and impresario is to bring together artists from different disciplines. Whether someone is a musician, actor or dancer, they spend most of their year performing in their normal settings on tour and at their home venues. I like to give artists the unusual opportunity to collaborate with each other creating works that are unique. I have worked over the years with artists like Baryshnikov, Robert Redford, Jeremy Irons, Anthony Hopkins, Sting, John Malkovich, Tony Bennett and many others to do this. This became a trademark of our Festivals in Italy, Napa, Singapore and several others. With the inaugural year of the Palm Springs Festival, we will see some of the same ideas and collaborations, and we have added fashion to the mix.
Q: Why the exit from Wall Street to the Entertainment Industry?
A: I never really left the financial business. I had the opportunity to invest in and build IMG Artists which was for me an extraordinary opportunity to enter the world of the business of the arts and culture. I continue to invest in companies and ideas at the same time, and I am constantly looking for interesting and compelling opportunities to invest in.
Q: Life as a piano virtuoso...
A: I don't have the opportunity to play the piano as often as I would like and certainly not like I did when I was actively performing and concertizing. Life, as a musician and, in particular, a classical musician can be a lonely one. It requires a tremendous work ethic and hour and hours of time alone in the practice room. It is a life of dedication and attention to detail. At the same time, it can be very rewarding. I still play from time to time on special occasions, as I have done in recent years with Sting in our collaboration on the Twin Spirits project, or with the violinist Maxim Vengerov.
Q: Obviously, your early roots in music played a significant role in the direction of your career, have you always known that this is where you would be today?
A: I never really knew that I wouldn't be a musician full time and that I would spend my time more generally in the arts and entertainment business. The opportunities presented themselves to me, for which I am very grateful. I started with businesses that had nothing to do with the arts and slowly but surely over time, my interests in the arts and business merged. that is fortunate because it brings together two things that I love. It is a challenge to make the arts work from a business point of view, but it's a challenge well worth pursuing.
Q: What do you hope that the world will gain from the unique and memorable performances that take place during the Festival Del Sole?
A: For me, in the digital world we live in, people don't take the time to experience things in person anymore. This is why I think people like live events still. the internet and digital world can't recreate everything. For me, the slow food movement demonstrates what our world lacks today: taking the time to savor what we have around us. I believe in a similar thing in the world of the arts and culture. One could call it the slow culture movement. In Palm Springs, we have worked hard to try to create that same ecosystem. We have put together an extraordinary combination of music, art, fashion, culinary and wine events that come together to create an overall lifestyle experience. People can savor those experiences and events in a way that brings them back to having real live experiences.