B. Allen is a composer and pianist whose music has
been described as "fresh, lyrical, and rhythmic."
His music blends the best aspects of classical and
jazz influences. Besides writing and recording the
music for "Pilgrim on Earth," a collection
of compositions for piano and orchestra based on well
known hymns, Peter has composed music for chamber
ensembles and jazz groups. He performs throughout
the United States and has three CDs and four books
to his credit.
learn more about Peter or to buy the CD "Pilgrim
on Earth," in which Peter combines jazz and classical
music in a unique American style to enliven well known
hymns, visit his website at pbamusic.com
or call toll free at 888-332-9588.
What inspired you to become a musician?
I just like it. When I was young, music was something
I could do on my own. I could be creative and express
myself, and it was self-contained. Music is also very
fair. What you put into it, you get back out of it.
I think you can achieve anything. And if you have
the desire, you'll find a way to get something done,
to learn what you want to learn. I had a really strong
desire to learn about music.
Has it been difficult or easy for you as a musician?
I've had to work really hard at it. I've been studying
music since I was 7. I practiced 2 or 3 hours a day
in high school, at least 6 hours a day in college,
and worked 12 hours a day every day in film school.
Being a musician is more demanding than many people
realize. For instance, concert violinists will have
put in thousands of hours and made huge sacrifices
just to have the right to sit on stage. For every
five minutes that you listen to them play, they've
practiced 5 hours, not to mention the hundreds of
thousands of dollars they've spent on schooling and
What challenges have you faced along the way?
I've been a professional since I was 16, a junior
in high school. And while my road over the past 25
years has not been rough, I've faced almost every
challenge -- working with other people, improving
my skills, my knowledge of my craft, or finding work,
finding interesting work, finding work that pays well.
Anyone who is a performer has had to deal with stage
fright. That's the number one fear people have, mainly
because it has to deal with rejection.
How did you deal with stage fright?
Early on I realized:
- I have something to offer;
- I'm going to do my thing;
- I'm going to be myself.
Others will either like it or not. And the people
who don't like it usually aren't going to tell you.
And now I really enjoy just being in front of an audience.
I feel just as comfortable talking to 200 people as
I do with 2 people. Talking to an audience is like
talking to an individual. You focus on what's interesting
to them, instead of thinking about yourself.
How did you have the confidence to be yourself?
Well, the turning point was probably in 7th grade.
I had a bad case of poison ivy. My face was terribly
puffed up; my eyes were almost closed; and I had to
play in a talent show at a different school. I almost
didn't do it because I looked so bad. But I put all
my trust in God. I knew I would have what I needed
and that I didn't need to be afraid. It's funny, because
I went to play in the talent show, and one of the
kids said, "Eewww! Look at his face." I
just ignored it. When I was done they all went nuts,
clapping. I knew I could play the piano, and I was
prepared. That's a big thing about stage fright. If
you're ready, there's nothing to fear. You're just
doing something you already know how to do for a few
more people. And then you can just enjoy it as if
you were playing alone, and that's what I did. And
I do love the music. I focus on that. As a result,
I don't experience that fear, which is really the
fear of being judged. The Bible verse, "Judge
not, that ye be not judged" (Matt 7:1), has been
helpful. If you don't judge other people, you're not
as likely to be judged by other people or to be afraid
of being judged by others.
Are there any other Bible passages or stories
that stand out to you as significant?
Jesus' parable of the talents is quite important.
A man gives three different servants talents (money)
before taking a journey: "And unto one he gave
five talents, to another two, and to another one;
to every man according to his several ability"
(Matt. 25:15). The first and second servants double
their money, but the third servant buries his one
talent in the ground. For me, the whole point of the
parable is to develop our talents, to use the gifts
God gives us. It is so important to value what you
have and what you have to offer, regardless of whether
or not you think the gift is small. If you don't value
it, no one else will. You have to realize what you're
good at so that you can develop it and make it grow.
That's what I've been doing with music for 30 years.
And it's bearing fruit. Another reason why valuing
yourself and your talents is important is that the
world seems to want to devalue your talents, to say
you're not worth anything. You may even hear that
message from family members or friends. So you need
to acknowledge your strengths and hang onto them.
When you're a teenager, you're making a lot of important
life decisions. You can always change your direction.
But it's so important to think carefully and get good
guidance in order to make the best decisions you can.
Certainly the Bible is the best guidance you can ask
for. And when you're still a teenager, it is easier
to undo a wrong decision than when you're 40 and perhaps
have lived with a bad decision for 20 years.
You said that the Bible was a great guide. How
has the Bible inspired you to write music?
It serves as an inspiration and a basis for composition
in that I take Bible stories and set them to music.
For example, I have a piece called "You are the
Light of the World." And this actually ties into
the idea of valuing your talents. In this parable,
Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set
on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a
candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick;
and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.
Let your light so shine before men, that they may
see your good works, and glorify your Father which
is in heaven. Matt. 5:14-16
The idea of letting your light shine is such a strong
and powerful idea that it's easy to translate that
uplifting, energetic feeling into music. And here's
a very important point -- as a composer, you can't
write or express anything that you aren't, that isn't
consistent with who you are. So if you're going to
write music that is inspirational, you have to be
inspired yourself. Allowing myself to be inspired
by those stories makes it more natural for me to express
Another idea that has helped motivate me to write
is, "Be fruitful, and multiply" (Gen 1:22).
God gives us our abilities, and we can multiply them.
In other words, write lots of music, lots of books
and plays. Don't let the quality suffer, but do as
much as you can. Be fruitful.
"Except the Lord build the house, they labour
in vain that build it" (Ps. 127:1) has also supported
me in my work. Here, the idea is that if a project
is based on God's guidance and inspiration, all the
work that I put into it is not in vain; it is going
to come to fruition. For example, the two years that
I've put into my current project is paying off. The
CD I'm making is constantly going out to a broader
You can write music on anything you want. Why
The Bible is lasting. It's not going to go away. The
truths are timeless. As long as people are interested
in the Bible, they're likely to be interested in my
music. I'm trying to associate myself with something
that lasts. The Bible has a universal quality about
it, which is both attractive and considered a very
high standard in art. Something like 2/3 of the people
on the earth use the Old Testament -- Jews, Christians,
and Muslims. That's a lot of people who have the same
thing in common. Anyone can appreciate something that
is universal because we keep on identifying with it
no matter what generation we're in. There's something
we all find in it. That's what's great about the Bible.