Journeys begin with a single step but beauty begins with the serenade of a single note. This note grows into a symphony of ideas composed of people’s dreams, hopes and their passions. Jason Michael Paul and Amy Andersson are two such individuals. Jason Michael Paul is the producer and Amy Andersson is the master conductor for the Zelda Symphony event. Jason Michael Paul has produced such concerts as “PLAY! A Video Game Symphony,” “More Friends: Music from Final Fantasy,” “Dear Friends,” The 25th Anniversary Legend of Zelda, and now “Legend Of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses.” Amy Andersson has a resounding background in conducting. She is a composer, arranger and currently the conductor/music director for the event.
I asked them about their roles in the concert and also about their views on the Zelda franchise. What I found were two very dedicated and honest creatives that wanted above everything else, to please the fans of the Legend of Zelda franchise.
The first Legend of Zelda game appeared on the scene in1986. Since its initial release the series has grown beyond its 8-bit confines into a giant subculture. In the video game, the main hero Link goes on an adventure to save Princess Zelda while thwarting the evil plans of the wizard Gannon. Along the way he encounters many curious creatures as well as a number of daunting obstacles. The Nintendo series is still at the top of its game especially now with the help of the musical explorations of the Zelda symphony.
In terms of business, producers work in the background to make sure all the elements in the foreground are at their best. Conductors make masterpieces even more masterful with their formal gestures and perfect timing. For each of them, Jason and Amy, there are rules to the business that have to be considered. I asked Jason, were there any rules he lived by in his profession.
“There’s a lot of rules (laughs) but the number one rule to live by would just be to have integrity. Make sure you treat people the way you want to be treated. There is a such thing as a wrong decision. So make sure you really think about the choices that you make. Because you are in control of some things. Its better to make the right decision by thinking about it, than to make the wrong decision by acting spontaneous. I think in my years, I’m 38. I’ve been doing this since I was 21 years old, even younger than that, but I think I have made the mistakes. I hope that I can teach other people before they make the mistakes that I’ve made. And also that I never make the same mistake twice.”
Jason Michael Paul, in his own words has a “lifelong passion for the game.” He seeks to bring this musical experience to fans everywhere. Especially in Jacksonville!
“I want to try to bring it to where they are. Hence the reason, why we are going to Jacksonville. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time and I am really excited to be able to bring it there.”
He wants to see other musical experiences from Nintendo’s list of games in the future on the grand stage. So Nintendo fans be glad, we have someone fighting for us!
“I want to be able to do this with other Nintendo properties as well not just the Legend of Zelda because there is a lot of games that I love from Nintendo’s catalog. For example Mario, Metroid, Kid Icarus, F-zero, Pikman the list goes on and on, there so much to offer.”
In the past I’ve been to classical outings but I wanted to know how the Zelda Symphony’s performance was different. Jason gave me some quality information about what to expect at the show.
“We try to create something that is bigger than life. That true Hollywood sound that is really arousing and gets people excited. We want to be able to capture what it was like when you defeated Gannon in a battle or some of the other bosses. We don’t want to spoil games either so we are also very particular about that. ”
Fans of the Legend of Zelda often go to these performances dressed as their favorite characters from the game. When I brought this up to Jason Michael Paul there was an instant reaction to the question.
“I love it. It’s one of those things that really makes that environment, at the concert, that much better. When you have people dressing up as Link or some of the other characters in the franchise it just makes it feel more authentic. It’s almost as if you are stepping into the Zelda universe. It’s a wonderful way to round out the experience and it is strongly encouraged!”
When on tour there are many grueling hours and checks-in that have to be handled. However when it came to the subject of his time on the road and the fans, it just made our discussion many times sweeter.
“Seeing the response you get from the fans and hearing that applause. Such gratefulness and sheer appreciation. It’s so heartfelt it really gives me the strength; the motivation, to be away from my family. And that’s the only reason I really do it is because of the fans. It really means a lot to me.”
In our conversation it came to my attention that Jason Michael Paul was also co-founder of “Coffee Bar” in San Francisco. I started wondering if one day we would see a Zelda Coffee or a Link Latte’.
(Laughs) “I am sure we can arrange for that. Some of my baristas are huge Zelda fans so that won’t be a problem.”
I inquired further about the people in the background that make the occasion so unique. A large scale operation like this takes a tremendous amount of builders, designers and dreamers.
“It’s always been a team effort. Nintendo being the best partner you could possibly ask for. When it comes to creating a show there’s hundreds of people that don’t get acknowledged but obviously Mr. Kondo, Mr. Aonuma, and Mr. Miyamoto. Some of the other players in North America, Bill Trinen, Kim Moore and Lindsey Newman. Everyone is working on this and the whole goal, is that everyone that comes to see the show has the “ultimate-ultimate” experience.”
In a bit of gamer trivia I asked them both about the Triforce, a powerful relic in the Legend of Zelda gaming world. The Triforce has three parts Courage, Power and Wisdom. To my delight Amy Anderson chose Wisdom.
“I think wisdom would be the one I would to choose, if I had to choose of the three. Because with wisdom, you can know when you have to stand up to somebody with power. You know when you have to be courageous in the face of powerlessness and when to retreat when you say this not worth it.”
“I would say courage, sometimes it takes a lot of courage to be able to do what we do. I would like to say courage but I’d like to say I have all three.”
Jason works non-stop to ensure the ultimate experience that gamers have longed for. In our conversation there were palpable moments of sincerity which, as a gamer myself, meant a lot.
Jason Michael Paul: ” I just want everyone that goes to my shows to walk away with a feeling that it was money well spent. I don’t take our fans for granted so every production that I do is at the highest level. There is never any shortcuts. I am trying to make sure that no matter what we do we “never-ever-ever” try to sell our fans short. We want to always deliver the highest possible entertainment experience possible.”
Amy Andersson eagerly spoke with me despite just being in a recent car crash. It was empowering to see that her many injuries didn’t weaken her enthusiasm for the Legend of Zelda franchise.
“I didn’t sleep any at all because I was in real pain. I thank my lucky stars. I think I am going to be absolutely fine. Thank goodness it wasn’t worse. I am feeling pretty upbeat in that sense. The Triforce was with me (laughs). I was actually wearing my Triforce t-shirt in the crash. I had Link (plushy doll) in my bag. (laughs) I was protected.”
Amy and Jason have a fairy-touched-purity, for the work that they are doing. Just by hearing her voice it was easy to grasp her talented years of conducting experience.
“You discover what it is, later in life, because you go through so many phases when you are young. You are full of energy. As you get older and your goals, your morals, and things in life change. You approach conducting in a different way. The way you are approaching music changes. If you really love it for being able to immerse yourself in the music and if you love the orchestra repertoire, it’s a great career. If you are in it for the power or prestige or the notoriety forget it, that would be fleeting and that could go away overnight. It’s a deep-deep connection to the music. It’s a deep connection you form with musicians. It’s that sense of making music that goes beyond description that fills you on a level that stays with you until the end. It goes beyond money or reviews or rewards. It’s a deep experience. That is what it is all about.”
It’s hard to pin point because it all just blends together. Its not just about one moment. Its about all the different moments. When an orchestra that has struggled through the rehearsal really rises to the occasion in a spectacular way that’s a great moment. We were on tour with an orchestra from Milan. We didn’t have audio equipment. We didn’t have our “click track” equipment. We have to be in sync with the screen. We have to be in perfect sync and so half the orchestra has a “click” in their ear. They have an electronic metronome. So do I, so it changes and you have to follow it and if you get off, the musical and the visuals get separated. Their equipment didn’t arrive. And so we had no “click” so I conducted the whole concert which is difficult to do because the tempo changes. I did the whole concert for 90 minutes without a click track and they knew they had to watch every single beat that I gave and I had to watch the screen and time my gestures. It was a special moment, in that they watched everything that I did and I gave them everything I could. Every time we ended one of the pieces they would look at me like “wow I can’t believe we’re doing this.” We were really fighting for each other and for the audience. It was like our cause to give the absolute best we could. I came off the stage and I was drenched. All my clothes were wet. I sweated so hard, it was so high pressure.
The world of music is poetic atmosphere draped in melodic meadows and harmonic hills. Amy Andersson has a great affection for music, she is also a jazz singer in fact! She was very excited at the off chance of Zelda having its own jazz style concert.
“Oh absolutely! Give me a front row ticket I’ll be there where is it? (Laughs) I thought many times about those melodies in a jazz setting.”
The more we spoke the more I began to understand her views. Her love for the Zelda fans filled her speech as she expressed how much she wanted to do her best for them.
“I go out on stage every single show and give 150% and put my heart and soul into it. To give …to show the love… (sorry I get choked up) to show them the love that they deserve. Every single time without fail. I can’t put a foot on stage without making sure that is what I am going to do. No matter how tired. No matter how sleepless when out on the tour. I make sure we are doing it for the right reasons.”
The Legend of Zelda has a rich culture with many fans across the globe. This musical experience is a rally for gamers, music enthusiasts and lovers of a good time. If your heart beats for adventure then the Symphony of the Goddesses will take that feeling and maximize it. The journey and the beauty are yours, found in the passionate world of “The Legend of Zelda.”
For more information please visit: www.zelda-symphony.com