Kurt Bestor's high-tech Christmas
Music • Composer's approach to holiday concerts suddenly has a modern ring.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Beyond his Christmas shows, Utah composer Kurt Bestor has a well-deserved reputation for being the first musician on his block to use the latest technology to connect with fans.

But don't worry: He still plans to appear in person, not via hologram, at his upcoming concerts.

This is the 22nd year Bestor will perform his holiday show. The composer says nearly everything involved in the big-budget production has changed because of technology.

But Bestor, in the flesh, is still at the heart of the shows. "Me being on 'Second Life' doesn't take the place of a live show," Bestor said about the virtual-reality website where he — or, rather his avatar — performed a show several years ago.

You need look no further than Bestor's Facebook page to see how proactive he is as a social networker. He has reached the limit of 5,000 friends. On his Facebook page, he posts video blogs, contests and new daily songs for fans.

Of technology, Bestor says: "It doesn't write music for you. But it's a better ink."

The composer can often be found in his Avenues home studio, with his hands on separate keyboards, one tickling the ivories and the other on a computer keyboard. He hasn't used paper for writing sheet music in more than five years — all transcription is done on the computer.

Despite working throughout the year on musical projects, Bestor is best-known in Utah for his annual Christmas shows. He spends months preparing for them, incorporating some 30 percent to 40 percent of new material every year.

Bestor recruits musicians from all over the world to perform during his Christmas shows, so he doesn't get to rehearse with all the performers until right before the shows. But thanks to technology, the musicians already have the music they need; Bestor e-mails them an mp3 of the song, as well as a PDF file of the sheet music weeks in advance, so they can start practicing.

He also uses computers to collaborate with the guest musicians. This year, his special guest is Jason Castro, the "American Idol" finalist who competed in the same season as Utah native David Archuleta. Bestor is writing special music for Castro, and they're e-mailing back and forth to create music and arrangements.

Bestor is also an avid user of Twitter to solicit ideas. For example, his bass player for the Christmas concerts is of Cuban descent, so Bestor wanted to add a Cuban twist to a carol the band will perform. On Twitter, he asked what musicians he should listen to to get inspiration for a Cuban groove. He received tweets of recommendations from people all over the world.

The composer is so plugged in that he recently hired a part-time publicist specifically to help him with his social network. Bestor will continue to post his own status updates and tweets, but he needed help with his newest projects: He's working on a music app for the iPad and other platforms. He plans to release it in several months. "Hold on to your hats, ladies and gentlemen," Bestor brags.

Bestor showed me some of the features of the app, but I swore that I wouldn't reveal too many secrets in the newspaper.

After all, he wants to debut his creation online. Of course he does.

dburger@sltrib.com —

Social-networking Christmas, Kurt Bestor style

When • Tuesday, Dec. 14, at 7:30 p.m.

Where • Austad Theater, Weber State University, 3848 Harrison Blvd., Ogden

Tickets • $24 to $42 at www.weberstatetickets.com/tickets

Info • Annual Jaynie Nye Benefit Concert

When • Thursday, Dec. 16, at 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 17, at 8 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 18, at 2 and 8 p.m.

Where • Abravanel Hall, 123 W. South Temple, Salt Lake City

Tickets • $17.50 to $37.50 at ArtTix.org

When • Wednesday, Dec. 22, at 7:30 p.m.

Where • Hafen Theatre, Tuacahn, 1100 Tuacahn Drive, Ivins

Tickets • $24.50 at www.tuacahn.org

Info • "One Silent Night" — A Kurt Bestor Solo Piano Christmas Concert

When • Friday, Dec. 24, at 6 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 25, at 6 p.m.

Where • Egyptian Theater, 328 Main St., Park City

Tickets • $25 to $30 at www.egyptiantheatrecompany.org

Info • "One Silent Night" — A Kurt Bestor Solo Piano Christmas Concert