January 4th, 2013
02:35 PM ET

Lino’s Lesson

Editor's Note: Jim McKelvey is an engineer, entrepreneur, artist, environmentalist, co-Founder of Square and Third Degree Glass Factory and general partner of Cultivation Capital. He is a man who embraces challenge in many forms. Tune in Sunday, January 6 at 2 P.M. E.T. to watch The Next List's full 30-minute profile on McKelvey.

By Jim McKelvey, Special to CNN

Most glassblowers agree that one man, Lino Tagliapietra, is the best.

Who’s the most skilled programmer? Who’s the most talented singer? Who’s the smartest attorney? Who knows? But in glass, we all agree that this 80-year-old Italian dude is the best in the world. Imagine what you can learn from someone who is undisputedly the best in the world.

I got to study with the “Maestro” at a time when he took only 10 students a year.

During the week I spent with Lino, every student got to ask him one question. It could be anything. Lino always knew the answer.

Your one question was a big deal. Students either asked ultra-complex technical questions or requested that Lino make the glass behave in ways nobody thought possible.

My question was elementary. I asked the world’s best glassblower how to properly center a foot on a bowl.


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June 20th, 2012
02:28 PM ET

Turning the 2,600-year-old organ into a modern, rocking instrument

By The Next List Staff, CNN

(CNN) - As Cameron Carpenter walks down Venice beach wearing leather pants, a loose-fitting Slayer shirt and a bleached blond mohawk that sports the spirit of David Bowie, you might think the guy is a rock star. Or a fashion designer. Or maybe even an actor. What you might not guess is that Carpenter is a classically trained organist with a super-conservative pedigree.

His ideas, however, are anything but conservative.

While his profession might seem to clash with his look, rest assured his renegade spirit and controversial ideas about modernizing the organ, 2,600-year-old instrument, are in lock step with his persona. Carpenter fiercely, unabashedly and unapologetically wants to change the way the organ is played, and the way the audience experiences the music. FULL POST

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June 15th, 2012
01:55 PM ET

An unreasonable man (or organist)

Editors Note: Cameron Carpenter is a world-renowned, Grammy nominated organist who plans to build his own touring organ. Watch CNN’s “The Next List” this Sunday at 2 p.m. ET to hear his full story.

By Cameron Carpenter, Special to CNN

(CNN) - I'm unreasonable - as most organists will tell you. (My agent would agree).

If you play the guitar or the violin, or if you're a singer - or if you play any reasonable musical instrument that can be moved from place to place without a five-figure tab and a debate-ridden crew of experts; if you play any reasonable instrument that you can mention to your friends without invoking images of "The Abominable Dr. Phibes," "Phantom of the Opera" (and "Dr. Phibes Rises Again") – if you play any instrument that doesn't cost millions of dollars to build - then you are LUCKY. Because you sure don't play the pipe organ.

Even the Brobdingnagian double bass is Gucci-bag fashionable and portable in comparison to the pipe organ. There's something ominously metaphorical about an instrument that literally isn't going anywhere. One has to wonder: does this earthbound immobility extend to the attitudes that surround the instrument? Does it influence the mentalities, the expectations, the ambitions of the people who play it? Does it shape our expectations as listeners?


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An ancient instrument goes mobile
Cameron Carpenter and Robert C. Tall before organ performance on Venice Beach.
June 14th, 2012
01:00 AM ET

An ancient instrument goes mobile

By Heather M. Higgins, CNN

Los Angeles (CNN) – Perched high above Glendale, Calif., in the dry heat of the Verdugo Mountains sits an octagonal room that houses a musical instrument with a storied past and an uncertain future.

“There's no question about it that the pipe organ will always be the most revered of the organs, but it doesn't reach the masses now like the digital organ will,” said Robert C. Tall, PhD., 74, an organist who has played many of the great organs around the world.

If you've never stepped inside a church like the magnificent Milan Cathedral, or if you've never attended a concert at a hall like the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, chances are you haven't heard live organ music. All of that could change. The fledgling digital organ, which has been relegated to second class, has a new generation of champions.

One of those champions is virtuoso and traveling sensation, Cameron Carpenter.

“The organ is in a kind of crisis. I think it needs radically outsider approaches to reestablish its connection with the world at large. And that's what I'm doing,” said Carpenter at the TED 2012 conference in Long Beach, Calif. earlier this year.

Carpenter is embracing new technology to design a digital touring organ invented specifically for the 21st century.


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June 12th, 2012
10:25 AM ET

Bringing the organ into the 21st century

Editor's note: Cameron Carpenter is the subject of CNN's "The Next List" on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.

By The Next List Staff, CNN

(CNN) - Cameron Carpenter is a fiercely talented musician whose passion is to play the organ in an unprecedented way. Decked out in Swarovski crystals and leather, he doesn’t look like what you’d expect an organist to look like.

And he surely doesn’t sound like one.

“The organ is in a kind of crisis,” he says. “I think it needs radically outsider approaches to reestablish its connection with the world at large. And that’s what I’m doing.”

Carpenter has a love-hate relationship with the instrument he’s dedicated himself to playing. He thinks the traditional pipe organ we see attached to churches and concert halls is outdated.  But he sees the digital organ, which is often seen as the ugly stepchild of organs by many musicians, as the future of the instrument.

He’s embracing that technology by designing his own digital touring organ.

“The instrument that I want is an organ that will answer my every need and which will give me something for every musical genre and will hybridize all the organs that I love,” he says.

Most organists don’t ever have the opportunity to build a relationship with their own instrument. Often they travel from place to place and play in churches and concert halls around the world, none of which are standardized.

Cameron’s touring organ will allow him to play one organ no matter where he is in the world, decked out with all the bells and whistles and with his own brand of theatrical flair.

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May 1st, 2012
02:59 PM ET

The Big Idea: Banjo music connects America and China

By John D. Sutter, CNN

Over in our opinion section, Abigail Washburn writes thoughtfully about the power of music to connect people from different cultures. She has a unique persective from which to make this claim, since she's a banjo-playing bluegrass musician - with curly blonde hair - who sometimes sings in Chinese.

Here's what she has to say about music's cross-cultural powers:

Music is a powerful way to connect cultures. I see it when I'm on a stage at a bluegrass festival in Virginia. When I look out at the sea of people in lawn chairs and bust into a song in Chinese, everybody's eyes pop wide open and they nudge their neighbor: "Is that girl singing in Chinese?" After a show, people would come up to me; everyone seems to have a story about their connection to China. And I see the power of music when I'm on stage in China: I start a Chinese song and the audience roars with delight that the blond, curly-haired girl with the banjo can sing their music.

More importantly, I see how music directly connects people's hearts. Like the time a little Chinese girl came up to me after I performed at a relocation school in Sichuan's earthquake disaster zone and asked: "Big Sister Wang, can I sing you a song that my mom sang before she was swallowed in the earthquake...?" She sat on my lap and I could feel the warmth of her body. She sang me the song, and tears started rolling down her cheeks and tears started rolling down mine. The light shining from her eyes felt like a place I could stay forever.

Check out the full post on CNN Opinion, and watch a video interview above.

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March 29th, 2012
01:18 PM ET

'The Next List': An archive of fascinating people

Every Sunday at 2 p.m. ET the CNN show 'The Next List' profiles a person with a new idea that could change the world. Here's a list of all of the innovators the show has featured since it started in November 2011. Check back for updates.

Hugh Herr, prosthetics developer and bionic man


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Innovators turn 'disruption' into positive change
February 14th, 2012
01:26 PM ET

Innovators turn 'disruption' into positive change

By Heather M. Higgins, CNN

(CNN) - Disruption is often associated with negativity – it implies trouble and confusion.

But, once in a while, a good shake-up may be just what the world needs. Nearly 400 creative thinkers gathered in Lower Manhattan on a recent Saturday to fuel a dialogue that aims not only to spark innovation but to propel change in the next three to five years.

The early February event was billed as “TEDxBigApple Disruptive Ideas,” and it provided a platform for an impressive roster of 15 change agents. Speakers ranged from physicians to fashionistas, green-tech innovators and urban planners. The group is purely volunteer-driven. It's independently organized but is designed to mimic a TED-like experience. TED is a group dedicated to "ideas worth spreading." FULL POST

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February 3rd, 2012
04:20 PM ET

Rock on a ukulele?

It’s Super Bowl time and that of course means one thing…amazing ads! It's part of the reason we all sit glued to the television even if the game isn't that exciting. And at an estimated $3.5 million for thirty seconds of 2012 Super Bowl airtime it’s really no wonder why ad agencies and production companies up their game while making commercials for the big game. We say bring it! Bring your ads!! And that sentiment reminded us of recent Next Lister Jake Shimabukuro, virtuoso ukulele player whose newest hit single is entitled "Bring Your Adz." In this case “adz” doesn’t refer to advertisements but a Hawaiian tool used for cutting. Here’s how Jake explains it:

"An adz is a small ancient Hawaiian tool used that resembles a small axe.  In rock & roll, players usually refer to their guitars as their axe. ‘I remember hearing people say, “bring your axe to the gig. ” I guess “bring your adz” is the ukulele version of the expression."

Whether it is an expression or not, we know it rocks. And seriously who else could do it? Let’s hope the same can be said for the Super Bowl…and the ads.

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January 23rd, 2012
03:13 PM ET

Jake Shimabukuro redefines an instrument

His enthusiasm for the ukulele is infectious. His mastery of the instrument is jaw-dropping. Hawaii-born Jake Shimabukuro was chosen to be our first musical "Next Lister" – not only for his virtuosity on the four-stringed instrument but also for fundamentally altering how the instrument is perceived by millions of people.

You don't have to look too far to see that the ukulele's popularity is on the rise. Underground ukulele clubs are popping up. Bands are being formed. Even celebrities like Warren Buffet, Eddie Veder and Francis For Coppola have found solace in the ukulele's simplicity. A quick search for 'ukulele' on Youtube will yield tens of thousands of creative covers and original diddies that inspire and delight. Search 'Jake Shimabukuro' and you'll find that several of his videos have been viewed by millions – a testament to his skill and popularity.

Shimabukuro truly believes the 'uke' is an instrument of peace, hence the title of his new album: "Peace, Love, Ukelele." And, indeed, Shimabukuro's amiability personifies the album's credo (although, his quick and volatile hands while rapidly strumming his uke seem anything but peaceful).

Shimabukuro's approach to songs on the ukulele often shatter convention. There's an unexpected sophistication that defies the instrument's perceived limitations. His musical palette is eclectic – encompassing rock, jazz, old 'uke' standards, and covers of songs no one would ever think to play.

Watch The Next List's profile of Jake Shimabukuro, and you'll see why he's another one of our agents of change.

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