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Posted 04.01.22

Harry’s interview with Southern Living about Piano Party & The Neutral Ground

Southern Living – March 29, 2022

If you have ever considered learning to play piano, there is no better time than right now. GRAMMY and Emmy Award-winning musician, singer, composer, and one of the South's favorite sons, Harry Connick Jr. himself wants to teach you to play piano. Really. We are serious.

The New Orleans native has created a virtual meeting place in the Metaverse, but don't let that scare you off. As Connick Jr. told Southern Living, it isn't all "those big virtual reality goggles or augmented reality." Instead, he feels, "it's an opportunity for people to connect in ways that they haven't been able to before. Like all through now it's been chat rooms and different social media platforms. But the Metaverse allows you to connect in ways that are much more immersive."

The platform the Grammy winner created is called The Neutral Ground, a nod to his hometown. "I called it that because in New Orleans that's what we call medians. Between the streets, those grassy strips, we call 'em neutral grounds."

He continued, "I thought that was a cool name because it has some historical significance for me but it also means it's a place where everybody can come together and love each other and celebrate each other and not be judged. It's a neutral place where we celebrate our diversity as well as our common humanity. And at the Neutral Ground, there will be lots of different ways for people to interact."

The Neutral Ground is free and you can sign up here. "It's a place to come [and] not get all heavy and talking about stuff that divides us, but you know, learn and celebrate and love one another. And in a place where you don't get judged. You're just immediately loved unconditionally and you're with a bunch of other people who feel the same way," Connick Jr. explained. He promises lots of exciting things to come and reasons to gather and chat. Some will remain free, while there will be other programs that require payment to be able to participate.

The first of these additional programs launched March 29, and it's called Piano Party. The Piano Party is a set of virtual piano lessons taught by the master of the ivories himself. "I'm going to teach you how to play. I'm going to share some personal stories and if you sign up for a particular package you'll be able to interact with me throughout the series. And every 10th episode we'll have a big piano party and it will be interactive and lots of fun."

As he indicated, there are two levels to choose from when signing up for Piano Party. The Premium package costs $70 and is described on site as:

2 live Interactive Sessions with Harry & the community to celebrate the milestones on your shared learning journey.

9 video-on-demand lessons, in which Harry brings the basics of piano to life.

A vibrant community where you, your fellow players, and sometimes Harry himself connect to make the learning experience even more fun.

And the Basic package includes:

9 video-on-demand lessons, in which Harry brings the basics of piano to life.

Harry will guide you through the basic elements of piano and bring you into his music-making world.

Connick Jr. encourages all to come learn to play and it doesn't matter if you have any prior experience or what type of piano you have.

"This isn't about perfection. This isn't about becoming a concert pianist. I don't care what kind of keyboard you have. If you have a little cheap keyboard… it might have 20 notes on it. And that's perfect. You can have a big grand piano or an upright or an organ or it doesn't matter. None of that stuff matters. I just want people to start pressing these little black and white things and saying oh my gosh I can make some music and that's what it's about."

He hopes for everyone to join in on the fun.

"Doesn't matter how old you are, how young you are let's go. Let's have a good time!"

As for what his motivation is for creating both this virtual community and offering to teach his craft, he said that there are a lot of reasons, but it really boils down to connection in a very uncertain time in the world.

"I'm an entertainer if there's a way I can maybe bring people some joy and maybe give 'em a little break from all the stuff that's going on, that's great… it's also a chance for me to connect with people. I think we all crave that. You know and because of what's happened with the pandemic, it seems like the technology has become expedited and how do we connect with one another? And how do we see each other? And this allows me to do that in ways that I crave because I've never been able to do it."