Barbara Graff

Pianist & Composer

United States of America



Pianist and composer Barbara Graff grew up in Illinois and studied classical piano at a young age. She was surrounded by an extended musical family. Her mother and aunt played piano, while another aunt was offered a scholarship for opera at Northwestern University. Her brother sang in the local choir for many years, and although not afforded the opportunity to hear him in person, Barbara heard stories of her maternal great grandfather’s beautiful voice. As a child, Barbara won awards for creative writing. As an artist, writing songs with words is the perfect marriage of her two loves, music and writing. She is also athletic and enjoys basketball, bicycling and the outdoors.

Barbara is a graduate of Loyola University in Chicago and holds a Masters degree from Northwestern University.

At a holiday cocktail party in 2009, Barbara chatted for three hours with another woman at the party until the two of them “closed down” the venue. When they traded business cards, it was only then they realized they had a musical connection. Carol became Barbara’s friend, piano coach and mentor, introducing her to New Age pianists such as Jim Brickman, George Winston and David Lanz, and encouraging her to reignite her artistic spark and pursue her musical destiny.

Inspired by her mentor with New Age influences, and influenced by her love of artists as diverse as Taylor Swift, Jason Mraz and Sheryl Crow, Barbara began composing her own songs. Her debut album, “Second Act,” was born from this fusion of sound, followed by a spa album, "Sweet Autumn Splendor" and in 2015, "Pergola: Purely Piano." Barbara also writes songs with lyrics accompanied by her piano, beginning with the holiday hit, "Christmas Magic," which won as one of the best holiday songs of 2015. She has released new piano songs with lyrics and several country songs that appear on this site under "Barb's Country Crossroads." All of her music is featured on several radio stations including Pandora Radio. She has received rave reviews from key piano reviewers including "Mainly Piano."

Many artists have careers that peak at any early age, and then feel their best years are behind them. Barbara’s “Second Act” is a long way from reaching the zenith. Barbara knows life is full of surprises, and the best is yet to come.




What does music mean to you personally?

As a pianist and songwriter, I'm a storyteller. This is often accomplished with music alone; sometimes accompanied by words. The piano music is relaxing and often uplifting or inspirational; occasionally mysterious or haunting. Through it all, I use the beauty of music and the magic of words to help make the world a better place. Music nourishes my soul. When I play piano, and especially when I compose songs, I get lost in the splendor of music and in the sea of creation. For me, music is so within me I can’t stop hearing melodies. I wake up in the morning with melodies that I dreamt the night before. I can’t stop writing music, melodies pop into my head and I have to do something with them!

Do you agree that music is all about fantasy?

Music can be about fantasy, it is certainly not limited to that at all. With words especially, it can be about messages, about trying to clarify or enhance thoughts to humanity that make us better human beings. Or a message that helps people to live their lives better. It can also be cathartic, both to the musician and to those listening. It can be relatable, especially with lyrics. It can be about cleansing your soul. People use dance music in dance halls, or in excercise classes or working out. Or in the case of piano instrumentals, it is often about relaxing, or using it as background for meditation or yoga. Piano and other music provide background in restaurants, and uplifting music is played in stores to provide an upbeat experience.

If you were not a professional musician, what would you have been?

I’ve had several careers in my life, and the one I’ve probably liked most besides music and writing is marketing. Marketing is used by musicians to market our music. I like marketing because it’s the creative side of business. I like to use creativity in everything I do. If I weren’t a musician, I’d be a writer, I’ve always liked to write. I actually am a writer, because I write music with words as well as without them.

The classical music audience is getting old, are you worried about the future?

My music is more New Age Piano than classical, although New Age Piano is definitely highly influenced by classical music. New Age music is classically inspired! Many radio stations and fans consider our genre as part of the classical genre. New Age was most popular in the days of Yanni, back in the 80’s. So our market has shrunk since the explosion of New Age Piano. Lately it has increased again because of formats like Spotify and Pandora. People use these streaming services for yoga classes, relaxation, studying etc. So our type of music in some ways is being re-discovered due to it’s accesssilibity in our digital culture.

What do you envision the role of music to be in the 21st century? Do you see that there is a transformation of this role?

I believe music will continue to become more interactive and collaborative. There is a possibility people will return to having music in a fixed medium such as a CD or vinyl in some instances, for the beauty of saving music and seeing photos of the artists or their album themes. I can only hope that people begin to see more of a value for music. Right now it seems that they love music, yet expect it for free or almost free. That is not right. Artists spend an inordinate amount of time and money developing their compositions. They pour their souls into them. Music takes a great deal of effort, intelligence and talent to create. Fans appreciate that, but our current society doesn’t award us for it.

Do you think that the musician today needs to be more creative? What is the role of creativity in the musical process for you?

I think musicians are very creative. They need to find ways to be different, to make themselves stand out because there is so much competition. For me, the musical process is all about creativity. I start with a stream of consciousness, and then build on it by using music theory and composition structure to enhance it and mold it into a viable song.

Do you think we as musicians can do something to attract the younger generation to music concerts? How would you do this?

I think the best way to get younger people involved is to have our music featured in popular culture. For example, when something classical sounding and absolutely beautiful is the theme song for a popular series like “Downton Abbey“ then everyone, including younger people, are exposed to the beauty of classical music. We can then build on that popularity by covering these songs in our concerts and exposing the attendees to more of the beauty in our genres. So we need to get placement firms and publishers to use more of our music in television shows and movies!

Tell us about your creative process. What is your favorite piece (written by you) and how did you start working on it?

My favorite piece of mine is Bring me a Rainbow. I worked on that piece for at least a year, constantly restructuring it and improving it. It all began with a stream of consciousness, a song that just came to me on the piano. I added words to it, then I wrote the accompaniment using a notation software program. Later I developed an instrumental version and I added my piano solo section back into the piece. I dreamt, slept and lived that song. The response to it has been incredible, both the version with words and the instrumental version. This song helped my music become accepted to some major radio and streaming stations.

Can you give some advice for young people who want to discover classical music for themselves?

Try listening to various sources of classical music on Spotify or Pandora and see what resonates. Try New Age Piano, also commonly called Contemporary piano; the flowing nature of New Age Piano may be a more accessible type of music for some younger people. Also investigate classically inspired music such as themes from movies or popular TV shows like Downton Abbey. Try different New Age or Classical composers. For example, the classical geniuses that most inspired me were those from the Romantic period.

Do you think about the audience when composing?

I do not think about the audience when I’m composing. Especially not for instrumentals. Essentially every song I write is in some way a piece of myself, very authentic. Even my instrumentals may be expressing an emotion of how I feel about something in my life, past or present. I suppose I bring the audience into my thought in the sense that I want the composition to be as beautiful and perfect as possible, so fans and my peers can appreciate it.

What projects are coming up? Do you experiment in your projects?

I‘m currently working on a new piano solo. I’m also working on my lyric writing, and hoping to join a workshop that will enhance the storytelling detail for the verses of my songs. I’m always trying new things and experimenting with new genres. I’ve written country songs and Nashville country music-inspired instrumentals. By experimenting with other genres, I can bring those influences into my piano music and expose my fans to new aspects of music.