According to Wikipedia, some 12% of the population of Portland – the capital of Northwest US state of Oregon – have Irish ancestral roots. As to Oregon itself, apparently it ranks tenth among the US states with top percentages of Scottish or Scotch-Irish residents. All in all, quite some Celtic heritage there, including musician Kurt Rosenberg.
Lauded composer and songwriter Kurt Rosenberg hails from Oregon. “I am an ‘Oregonian’ through and through,” as he puts it. “I was born in Roseburg, Oregon, a lovely town located in Southern Oregon. I moved to Portland when I was two years old. Other than college, and stints in Bath, England and San Diego, I have lived in Portland all of my life.” So, it somehow figures, one might say, that his music turned out to be imbued with Celtic hues. The city’s cultural heritage has marked him; at least on a subconscious level.
In fact, “Highland Home”, along with Rosenberg’s other 2 Music Short Films, “Dawn at Gougane Barra”, and The Moon Followed Me To Falmouth are set to screen at the ‘The Movies & Music of Kurt Rosenberg’ Portland Premiere Red Carpet Event at Cinema 21 on September 28th 2022.
Rosenberg’s self-professed infatuation with Celtic music actually sprouted back in the Eighties, during his six-month stint as an exchange History student in Bath, England. Using the renowned spa city as a base, and prolonging his stay overseas for another five months, Rosenberg traveled extensively through England, Scotland and Ireland cherishing both landscape and musical tradition. And then, epiphany! “When I heard ‘Harry’s Game’ by Clannad [music theme of the iconic British mini-series of the same name set in Belfast during the Troubles], my love affair with Celtic music began in earnest,” he notes.
Rosenberg, a self-taught pianist raised in a home resounding with classical music and stage musicals’ recordings, had been composing his own music since he was 12. Mostly pop back then, heavily influenced by The Beatles, Elton John or Cat Stevens. Yet ever since he discovered authentic Celtic music at its very source, he literally found his path. “I’ve been composing Scottish/ Irish music for over 25 years,” Kurt Rosenberg says alluding to his close to 100 songs. Only to add: “My music is really quite varied, encompassing many genres. I compose Celtic, pop, 40’s ballroom, 50’s jazz, and film music. Each piece of my music conveys a different emotion, thought, or message. I want to compose melodies that touch people and are memorable.”
As far as he’s concerned, one of the most memorable moments in his hitherto career was the production of the music film “Highland Home” (2019). The five-minute flick, written and directed by Dan Schaefer, is weaving an enchanting story of a bygone romance based on Rosenberg’s original song. The film has been selected to screen at a number of prestigious film festivals bringing its creators a total of 54 wins. Among them, and probably the one he most relishes, the 2020 Best Lyrics top prize of the International Music Video Awards in London, England. “I am working to improve my lyrics, [so] I was very pleased to receive [it],” Rosenberg grants.
“Highland Home”, Rosenberg’s soulful ode to Scotland, carries a great backstory with it. He elaborates: “I love the Scottish Highlands and islands. Some 15 years ago, I was touring Brodick Castle on the Scottish Isle of Arran. When my brother told one of the guides that I played piano, I was invited to play some of my original music in Lady Hamilton’s Drawing Room. After I was done playing, the whole castle erupted into applause. Upon return home, and inspired by that visit, I sat down and composed the ‘Highland Home’ song melody. Several years later, I wrote the lyrics. ‘Highland Home’ is my love-letter to Scotland. But,” he adds, “it is also about longing to get back home, to return to a place that fulfils us and brings us joy. I hope that people, no matter where they are from, will feel the universal calling of a place called ‘home’.”
Finding one’s niche
What’s truly impressive with Kurt Rosenberg’s musical career, is that it was, well, a late bloomer. After earning a BA in History, “with an emphasis on British History”, from Southern California Pitzer College, and attending post-grad courses in Marketing, Accounting, and Business Math at Portland State University, Rosenberg went on to join his family’s olive oil business in 1999, and also run their Portland-based commercial real estate development business. He became an entrepreneur; and an avid traveler.
Five more years elapsed. And then Kurt Rosenberg retired. Only to focus and dedicate himself to his lifelong passion – composing music! Mainly Celtic, but not solely. These days, for instance, he is working on the music and lyrics of his original musical “For the Lack of Laura,”, whilst also producing yet another animated music short film; this time, for his song “The Moon Followed Me to Falmouth”, a tune reminiscent of old sea shanties on the British Isles.
Speaking of the seas, what elements does he view as essential in order to sail smoothly as a composer and musician towards success? He mentions three: talent, discipline – “need to view it as a job, not as an avocation” –, and some understanding of business – “it is competitive out there and exposure for the composer and their music is essential,” he assures.
And an extra piece of advice by Kurt to all those aspiring musicians out there (regardless of their age): “Hone your craft …. practice, practice, practice! If you are a composer, compose what you love. Don’t let anyone tell you that your music isn’t good enough. It is just their opinion. If you have a passion for your music, there will be listeners out there that will gravitate towards it. Find your ‘musical niche’!”
Kurt Rosenberg seems to have found his. What’s more, he just loves “the process of composing and songwriting”. And if he deems a new song of his “listenable, I’ll share it with family, friends, and sometimes, the world,” he quips. Speaking of the world, what does he consider to be his personal mission statement? “To become the world’s leading composer/songwriter who is bringing melody back to music,” Kurt Rosenberg declares. And concludes: “I already have a name in mind, for myself, to build my brand: Melody Maestro. And, my fans would be known as Melody Apostles.” Amen!