Everyone agreed it was a magical evening.
Under date palms and a starry, Arabian night sky, an array of international musicians had come together for an outdoor concert celebrating the grand opening of Berklee College of Music’s Abu Dhabi campus. It was February 2020, and like everyone else in the audience, I was amazed at the talent on stage, including Lebanese pop star Mayssa Karaa and certified guitar legend Steve Vai.
Prior to co-founding Forte, my biggest professional project was helping to develop Berklee Abu Dhabi. The campus is located near the local branches of The Louvre and New York University. It was built to be a place where musicians from across the Middle East could learn international best practices, collaborate with each other, and innovate on the rich musical traditions of the region. The opening concert drove home just how powerful those kinds of connections could be.
The Norman Foster-designed campus of Berklee Abu Dhabi.
After the concert, I struck up a conversation with Elia Bishara, the Brooklyn-based guitarist who had performed that night. He invited me to hear him play with qanun virtuoso Firas Zreik at a small club in Brooklyn. Two weeks later, I walked into the packed club alone. The mostly Arabic-speaking crowd was friendly, upbeat, and energized. The music was intricate, soaring, and transporting. The connection between the audience and the performers was palpable. For anyone who loves music, it was the kind of performance we live for.
Elia Bishara (center right) performs with Steve Vai (left) at the sound check for Berklee Abu Dhabi’s opening concert.
Out on the street after the show, I had a sad thought: “This could be the last live performance I see for a while.” Covid was spreading, and communal events in tight spaces were starting to feel risky. A week later, New York City and the rest of the world went into Covid lockdown.
Hunter McGranahan and I began working on Forte in those early days of Covid. Every instrument lesson in the world had been forced online, and music teachers needed a video conferencing tool that would enable their best teaching.
As the platform came together, we realized Forte – a platform built around industry-leading audio quality – needed a sonic identity as well as a visual one. I recalled that Elia, besides being a professional performer, was also an expert in the field of audio branding.
In our first meeting about Forte’s audio branding, Elia and I talked about how the best audio logos tell a story. I said, “Like HBO’s logo… static, click, elation.” Elia responded, “Right! That choral C chord!” We quickly homed in on the idea that Forte’s audio logo would represent the interaction between a music teacher and student and the excitement generated when they really connect.
As Elia recalls now, “After those initial conversations we knew that in just a few seconds the audio logo had to represent what Forte stands for - a place where anyone, regardless of genre, can go to become the best musician they can be. The modest tuning of two guitars are joined by a variety of instruments that crescendo into a triumphant major chord personifying a student’s journey to musical excellence.”
The audio logo now plays automatically every time a user enters their user ID and password. Since the audio logo was launched, it has been heard by music teachers and students all over the world, thousands of times per month. Each time, a teacher and a student are coming together to make music. I hope they hear in the logo the potential for the great things that can come from that connection.
To hear Forte’s audio logo, simply log in to your account. Don’t have an account with Forte? You can sign up here.
Elia Bishara currently works for Audio User Experience, an audio branding agency. To learn more about his audio branding work, reach out to him at [email protected].