Janis, Tim

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Tim Janis

New age musician, composer

Best-selling new age and classical composer Tim Janis has made a name for himself as a composer of healing music inspired by the natural world. Composing his short pieces for piano, which he plays himself, he also employs violin, guitar, flute, and other acoustic instruments, along with the occasional synthesizer and recorded sounds. Janis first became known by playing in shopping malls, schools, and other public spaces. After selling his self-produced CDs mainly at such concerts, he began to sell them at retail outlets as well, until 1999 when, still without the backing of a major record label, he became one of the best-selling recording artists at the Barnes and Noble retail book and music chain. In 2001 he was the subject of a two-hour National Public Television special, and by 2003, no fewer than seven of his albums had arrived at the top of the Billboard New Age and Classical Charts.

Tim Janis was born in New York City in 1968. The second of three brothers, he grew up in the New York suburb of Greenwich, Connecticut. The budding composer grew up in a musical household; his mother, a social worker, was the organist at the family's church, and his father played saxophone in his time off from his work as a corporate attorney. Both of Janis's brothers also went on to careers in music; his older brother, Steve, founded a record label called CLR, and his younger brother, Peter, created a company called Authentic Recording, which has produced some of Janis's music.

Janis first learned to play music at the age of seven, and in high school he began to compose his own music. High school for Janis was a military academy in Pine Beach, New Jersey. Situated on New Jersey's Atlantic coast, this was also where Janis fell in love with the ocean that was to inspire his later work.

Working with a simple four-track home recording system, Janis began to record his own music during his sophomore year in high school. While in high school he decided to make composing music his life's work.

Rejecting the military life for which the military academy was preparing him, Janis attended the University of New Hampshire to study music composition. He also studied sound engineering at the Peabody Conserva-tory of Music.

At the University of New Hampshire, Janis began to find the musical voice for which he was to become known. He experimented with a number of different musical forms, and wrote two musicals, both of which were produced at the university. He also wrote pop songs and composed scores for independent films, and even wrote jazz, country music, and rock.

After college Janis set up a recording studio in an unheated barn in York, Maine, renting the facility out to other musicians to help make ends meet. For a month he lived in his car and worked as a dishwasher so that he could save enough money to hire musicians who would play his music in concerts.

During this time Janis formed the Tim Janis Ensemble, which consisted of piano, flute, and violin. He approached record companies to try and secure a recording contract, but met with no success. He refused to give up, and in 1995 he began to record his own CDs and sell them at his concerts. These concerts took place at small music festivals, shopping malls, and anywhere else he could find to perform. He found that he enjoyed playing in malls and other semi-public places because it brought him into close contact with his audiences, and he continued to play in such venues even after he achieved wide success.

Janis released his first album, Along the Shore of Acadia, in 1996. For inspiration, Janis drew from the seashore and woodlands of Acadia National Park in Maine, visiting the place many times while he composed the album. The album blends violin, oboe, piano, flute, acoustic guitar, bass, cello, percussion, and synthesizers, to evoke in the listener the feelings Janis experienced while in the park. In this, as in all of his work, Janis works to capture and convey a sense of the natural beauty around him, in this case the magnificence of the ocean and forests of Acadia.

Seven years after establishing his studio in York, Janis gave it up and moved to Kennebunk, Maine, where he moved onto a ten-acre working farm with his wife, Michelle, and continued to record his music in a home studio. By that time, several different versions of the Tim Janis Ensemble, up to ten at a time, were playing regularly at the same time in different locations around the United States. And since "a lot of people don't know what I look like," Janis told Roger Catlin in the Hartford Courant, most of the audience members did not even realize that the actual Tim Janis was not present at the majority of the concerts. Janis has always felt that his musical compositions are the central attractions of his concerts and CDs. He has said that he wants listeners to feel just as they would watching a glorious sunset or admiring a stretch of the Maine coastline. The titles of Janis's pieces, too, reflect his focus on nature rather than on himself or his personal life: "White Mountains," "Blue Hill Bay," "Water's Edge," and "Ocean Heights," all evoke the scenes that have inspired his music.

In 1999 Janis released December Morning. Like his previous albums, he distributed it without the help of a major record label. Even so, it became one of the 15 top-selling CDs at the Barnes and Noble book and music chain that year, and landed on the Billboard New Age Chart. It was a breakthrough for Janis.

By 2000 Janis had become known as a composer of music that had healing influences. Nursing homes and hospitals, including the famous Mayo Clinic, used his music to calm and relax patients and residents. In one case, nurses caring for a comatose auto accident victim found that when they played Janis's music, the patient's breathing calmed, and fluids were less likely to build up in her throat. Partly on the strength of this healing component to his work, Janis's 2000 release, Water's Edge, climbed to the number two spot on Billboard 's Top New Age Album Chart.

The American Cancer Society learned about Janis's work, and decided to collaborate on producing a fund-raising CD on Janis's record label. The album, called Music of Hope, features Janis playing with Paul McCartney, Billy Joel, Andre Previn, Ray Charles, the New York Philharmonic, and the London Symphony Orchestra. The American Cancer Society was a natural choice for such a collaboration for Janis, because his aunt had died of cancer in 2000. All profits from the album were earmarked for the American Cancer Society. Released in 2001, Music of Hope hit the top of the Billboard Classical Chart in May of 2001.

Janis produced another benefit album in 2002. This was A Thousand Summers, and the proceeds of its sales were donated to AIDS research and outreach programs. To make the album, Janis traveled to South Africa, an epicenter for the worldwide AIDS epidemic, and recorded music with a choir whose members have AIDS.

In November of 2001, Connecticut Public Television aired a program called Tim Janis: An American Composer in Concert. The program had been produced earlier that year, and was recorded at Lincoln Center in New York City. The special featured Janis conducting the American Symphony Orchestra playing his compositions, accompanied by images of America's national parklands.

For the Record . . .

Born Timothy Janis in 1968, in New York, NY; married, wife's name Michelle. Education: University of New Hampshire, bachelor's degree in music composition; studied sound engineering at Peabody Conservatory of Music.

Learned to play music at age seven, 1975; began composing music in high school, 1980s; released first album, Along the Shores of Acadia, on Tim Janis Ensemble label, 1996; released album Etain, Tim Janis Ensemble, 1996; released December Morning, Dawntreader, 1999; released Christmas, Tim Janis Ensemble, 1999; released Flowers in October, Orchard, 1999; released Water's Edge, 2000; Music of Hope, 2001; released An American Composer in Concert, Tim Janis Ensemble, in conjunction with public television special of the same name, 2001; released A Thousand Summers, Tim Janis Ensemble, 2002.

Addresses: Record company Tim Janis Ensemble, Inc., P.O. Box 315, Kennebunk, ME 04043. Website Tim Janis Official Website: http://www.timjanis.com.

Although Janis has appeared on both the classical and new age charts, he resists being defined as either a classical or new age artist. He prefers to think of his work as simply "instrumental music," as he explained to Roger Catlin in the Hartford Courant. And the biggest mark of his success, Janis has described, is not the number of albums he sells, but the effect of his music on its listeners. As he told Catlin, "When people come up with tears in their eyes and say what it meant to themit doesn't get better than that."

Selected discography

Along the Shores of Acadia, Tim Janis Ensemble, 1996.

Etain, Tim Janis Ensemble, 1996.

December Morning, Dawntreader, 1999.

Christmas, Tim Janis Ensemble, 1999.

Flowers in October, Orchard, 1999.

Water's Edge, Tim Janis Ensemble, 2000.

(Contributor) Music of Hope, Tim Janis Ensemble, 2001. An American Composer in Concert, Tim Janis Ensemble, 2001.

A Thousand Summers, Tim Janis Ensemble, 2002. Flowers in October (DVD), Tim Janis Ensemble, 2003. Simple Gift of Christmas, Tim Janis Ensemble, 2003.



Bangor Daily News, November 30, 2001, p.7.

Billboard, February 17, 2001.

Boston Globe, September 5, 2000, p. C1.

Dayton Daily News, March 13, 2001, p. 3C.

Hartford Courant, November 27, 2001, p. D1.

Portland Press Herald (Portland, ME), September 16, 1996, p. 2C; October 10, 1999, p. 1E.

Tampa Tribune, December 14, 2001, p. 2.

Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA), March 3, 2003, p. B1.


Tim Janis, All Music Guide, http://www.allmusic.com (November 11, 2003).

Tim Janis Official Website, http://www.timjanis.com (November 11, 2003).

Michael Belfiore