Cleveland International Film Festival } March 25 – April 5, 2020 } Tower City Cinemas

From Stuffy to Stylin': Filmmaker Wants Viewers to Appreciate the Enduring Power of Classical Music

April 08, 2016   |   posted by Lara Klaber in Filmmakers


Dull. Outdated. Stuffy.

Jonathan Keijser begs to differ when it comes to using these descriptors for classical music.

To him, it’s “an unbelievably powerful art form.”

As a classical double bassist, music was always a part of his life. “Music is an essential form of communication and expression that touches part of core humanity within all of us.”

As he started his second career as a filmmaker (he received a master’s degree in film production from the University of Southern California School of Cinematic Arts), he wanted to explore this music genre and show “how classical music is dynamic, engaging, and extremely relatable,” he says.

He combines music and film together into one documentary, “What Would Beethoven Do,” which makes its world premiere at the Cleveland International Film Festival.

Keijser’s film follows composers, conductors, and artists young and old. Notable artists such as Bobby McFerrin, Grammy Award-winning vocalist, and Eric Whitacre, Grammy Award-winning choral and orchestral composer, add their voices to the debate about why classical music is still relevant today.

“I hope to spark a much-needed conversation about classical music and dig deep behind why we create art,” says Keijser.

Viewers of “WWBD” will see “musical renegades,” from composers flirting with modern mediums, to young musicians dedicated to changing the narrative, to a man who’s bringing turntablists and orchestras together.

Through it all, Keijser was adamant about showing diversity.

“There is a large amount of older Caucasian men who dominate the classical music world,” he says. Instead, Keijser tells his story through three diverse musicians: Ben, an exuberant, infectious 76-year-old conductor; Dinuk, a
Sri-Lankan born Canadian composer who sees no boundary between genre; and Britlin, a soft-spoken young woman and authentic composer who writes from the heart.

“All of their stories are vital to a diverse classical music world,” Keijser says.

He also wants the audience to know that his documentary film is not stuffy, either.

“Documentaries are not just about talking heads giving expert opinions,” he says, “it’s about emotional connections from one human to another.”

Keijser leaves us with his final thoughts: he hopes that audiences will realize that “not all classical music sounds the same,” he says. “Just like in any genre—there are exciting pieces, sad pieces, and pieces that convey every emotion in between.”

—Anne M. DiTeodoro

PDF  Download Related PDF [6.3 MB]

Related Screenings:
04/08/16 @ 6:20 PM – What Would Beethoven Do?
04/09/16 @ 3:45 PM – What Would Beethoven Do?
04/10/16 @ 9:20 AM – What Would Beethoven Do?

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