By MIKE CHAIKEN
The title offers a nod and wink as to what listeners are going to find when they push the play button on Alex Mika’s new album.
The effort from the Bristol resident is called, “Piano Is Not My Forte.”
The play on words indicates a sophisticated sense of humor resides in the brain of this sophomore at the University of Connecticut.
“I’ve always been fascinated with comedy,” said Mika in an email interview. “I think there’s a lot more things you can say if you’re being witty or funny about it.”
On the album that also serves the score to his one-man show of the same name, Mika said, “I was exploring the concept of relationships, of all sorts, and I felt that the emotionality of music lends itself well to the lightness of comedy, and vice versa. I think the two are very complimentary.”
Rather than writing a pop music score, or even a rock opera, the young performer sticks to tradition- crafting a piece clearly in the musical theater tradition.
“Musical theater was my first love, it’s truly my greatest inspiration,” said Mika. “What separates theater songs from pop songs, for example, is that they’re constantly moving forward, where you started is different from where you ended.
“If I include a chorus, it’s only because the chorus has somehow changed meaning since the beginning; the story has moved along,” said Mika. “In both comedy and theater, it’s all about movement.”
Mika said his biggest influences are Stephen Sondheim (“Into the Woods,” “Sweeney Todd”) and musical satirist Tom Lehrer.
“Sondheim… (is) very witty and truly a genius with how he employs language in his musical theater songs,” said Mika.
Mika said he learned about Lehrer from his calculus teacher during his senior year of high school. “(Lehrer was) a brilliant satirist of the 50’s and 60’s, and that really changed how I viewed musical comedy and inspired me to incorporate music in my own work,” said Mika.
The show from which the music on “Piano Is Not My Forte” is drawn, said Mika, “is somewhere between a stand-up comedy performance and an hour-long soliloquy broken up by music.
“It revolves around the concept of relationships that change us as we mature,” said Mika. “I first explore my relationship with music, how I learned to play piano and how I failed to learn guitar, and how that failure has taught me, as well.
“I then transition to my teenage years, with learning to drive, my wild driver’s ed class, and high school. This then goes to my entry into college, and the shock that comes from such a change of pace in life. I then look back at playing board games with my family as a child, a sort of intimate memory, and follow it with a more universal look at America as a country and society,” said Mika.
“The piece is ended with an exploration of love, relationships, honesty, and the struggle of trying to properly compliment someone,” said the Bristol resident.
“I wanted to not only share my own experiences, but to demonstrate that in nearly every story… we can all relate to one another in surprising, and funny, ways,” said Mika.
The stories were drawn from his own life and from his observations about the lives of others, said Mika.
“‘Fake I.D.’ is really the only piece that is completely made up,” said Mika. “That one came from the idea of identity crises when you’re a teenager and just spiraled into someone having a crisis because they made too many ID’s to keep track of and lost themselves.”
Mika has many years of experience with music, having begun piano lessons at 5, and then working his way into community theater at 11. He was a regular on stage at Bristol Eastern High School with roles in “Spamalot” and “To Kill A Mockingbird.” And he was a member of the school’s a capella groups.
College came calling though, and Mika found himself without time to pursue his passion.
Hence, his decision to put on the one-man show, which now lives on YouTube on Mikamagic Films.
Mika said he decided to put the songs together as an album because “each piece still tells its own story (without the full stage production), and can be related to by many.
“Comedy is about laughing at what makes us human, laughing at life and at ourselves with others, and I hope this release reaches people to make their day lighter, and hopefully, funnier,” said Mika.
Alex Mika’s album “Piano Is Not My New Forte” is available for download at Amazon.com.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver.com.