Free-style classicist Reuel Meditz veers to a new career
Pianist and movie composer Reuel Meditz dips into his subconscious to create
Aslender musician plays the piano for the first time at the Four Seasons lounge. Guests keep up their chatter, snug in their comfy nooks, scattered around the city's classiest bar. As the tunes rise and fall, they grow quieter, putting down their top-shelf cocktails. At the finger-crunching finale ofErnesto Lecuona's "Malagueña," they cheer without reserve. Some even give Reuel Meditz a standing ovation.
Such a response for a lounge act in a hotel bar might not be unprecedented, but it certainly is unusual.
As is Meditz, 23, who composes movie scores when he is not improvising at the keyboards in a fluent, melodious manner one observer has called "classical free-styling."
Yet another Austinite who, creatively, doesn't follow the rules.
The Arlington-born former model comes from an Austin family that tends to veer off in inventive directions. His mother, Jeanette Ingles Meditz, a writer, came to this country from Zimbabwe via Australia. His father, John Meditz, was the son of Greenwich, Conn., residential architects; he designs systems for Fidelity Investments.
Besides Reuel, there are six siblings with Biblical names: Adriel, Shiphrah, Shealtiel, Tirzah, Cassia and Shalisha.
"We're not Mormon or Catholic," Meditz says. "Just a big family."
Slightly dyslexic, Meditz was schooled at home and through correspondence courses.
"Never scratched the door of a school until some classes at ACC (Austin Community College)," he shrugs. "I'm not sure if I'm even on record there, other than enrolling before dropping the same classes."
Instead, he studied the literary classics and, of course, piano, which he started comparatively late, at age 11.
"I think I missed out on some things in high school, like the social stuff," he admits. "But this way, I could be different. I had very little pressure to be like everyone else. It gave me the option to look at people and not judge."
Helped by teacher Julia Kruger— plus master classes by Victor Bunin from Russia's Tchaikovsky Conservatory — Meditz moved from painful practicing to more advanced composition on the keyboards by age 13.
"Improvising saved my whole future on the piano," he says.
Not that the gangly kid remained indoors. He played adventure games with siblings on the family's three acres above Lost Creek.
"I risked my hands like crazy with swords, jousting and quarterstaffs," he says. "But you could be free out there. Do whatever you wanted."
He stays in shape running along West Austin greenbelts and works out, gently, without doing heavy weight training because it messes up his piano reaction time. He continues to risk those digits, though, rock climbing, paddle boarding and kayaking.
"I'm less fragile than most pianists," he jokes.
For two years, he lived in the artsy Metropolis apartment complex while playing in a Yes-like band called Interstellar Transmissions. Now he occupies a small spot on a green hill off Southwest Parkway, a quieter place to delve into his piano improvisations, influenced by composition lessons from University of Texas doctoral student Greg Bolin.
"I create pieces on the fly as if dreaming," he says. "I can tap into that subconscious state while playing, like a lucid musical dream."
And that's exactly how he went about scoring films, starting with the ultra-low-budget martial arts movie "Crosshairs," for which he was recruited after meeting actress Laura Evans in a coffee shop.
"Like Danny Elfman, I improvise as I watch the movie, then score it," he says.
Joining the Recording Academy — best known for the Grammys — helped Meditz network his way into a series of other movie jobs after that. He helped Lexie Beard score the bigger-budgeted, Texas-filmed "The Legends of Hell's Gate," for instance, and served as lead composer on the even plumper "Ije: The Journey."
Like other musicians, he teaches on the side, writes for commercials and puts out albums on iTunes.
While he has played for the Grammy Foundation and he was among the first-place winners during the Bradshaw & Buono International Piano Competition at Carnegie Hall, the Four Seasons gig was his first venture into small-scale concerts at upscale venues. He hopes to build up to concert-hall tours in the footsteps of entertainers and composers like Victor Borge, David Lanz and George Winston, whose sound his pieces sometimes echo.
"My absolute biggest dream would be to play the Sydney Opera House!" he says, getting ahead of himself. "I call my playing style ‘Mod-Class' for mixing up modern and classical during shows."
Still, he's not so much a lounge stylist as a fairly earnest romantic.
"I don't play for show," he says. "I play for emotion."
Single, Meditz recently ended a long-distance relationship and now concentrates on his music and a network of Austin friendships. Meanwhile, he is polishing his sartorial image for this new phase in his career.
"I like dressing up," he says. "If people enjoy the look as well as the sound, that's all for the best."