“For the virtuoso, musical works are in fact nothing but tragic and moving materializations of his emotions; he is called upon to make them speak, weep, sing and sigh, to recreate them in accordance with his own consciousness. In this way he, like the composer, is a creator, for he must have within himself those passions that he wishes to bring so intensely to life.” – Franz Liszt
In only a couple of sentences, Franz Liszt, one of the most famous pianists and composers of the 19th century, summarizes the reasons why music plays such an important role in my life. For me, music has always been a passion and an outlet for rehabilitation from daily stressors. Although I have put it aside many times in favor of academics and professional career, it has always been a part of me. As the quote above mentions, written scores merely represent notes on a page but it is the duty of the person playing the music to give it life and vivacity. I hope that by finally having the chance to dedicate more time to piano, I will be able to improve my technique and musicality; both of which are necessary to make the music I want to play, “speak.”
My area of expertise may be quite different from the other topics that have been shared on this blog page but hopefully it will at least prove to be a refreshing read! I started playing the piano at age 4 with very basic instruction from my father at first but then continued on to be a mainly self-taught pianist. I distinctly remember starting out with a children’s book which became a staple for me throughout the years. Using French Child’s Song by Franz Behr, I was introduced to what I now know today as the tonic notes of a C major scale in one octave. From those two notes and the dominant note of the scale, G, I was eventually able to figure out the surrounding notes by myself. Although, to be fair, I must attribute my rudimentary music theory/reading skills to taking violin lessons in conjunction. Some of my (early) favorite piano pieces I learned by self-teaching were Fur Elise by Beethoven, The Swan by Saint-Saens, and Tarantella by Pieczonka. Since then I have been able to tackle more intermediate repertoire but as of recently, felt as if advanced pieces were much too ambitious for me to learn by myself.
So I decided to finally try to find a good teacher–someone who would be patient with my shortcomings but also not restrictive as to only allow me to learn specific pieces of their choosing. The problem was: where should I start? Initially, a simple Google search provided me with directories of teachers in my area. What really made the difference in my decision of whom to contact was if they provided links to their personal social media! A professional website was the ideal gateway to other resources in which I could get more of an idea of the personality and teaching style of each possible candidate. An online presence also meant that I could probably count on them to being dedicated to their teaching career and not just their own performances where it’s all about them. Youtube was another valuable asset. In the music industry, there are a few ways your qualifications can be assessed. Two big assessments are through academic achievements and awards and/or performance quality. Posting Youtube videos on a professional website is a great way to advertise your skills. It’s important, in choosing a teacher, to note individual performance habits and if they will most likely be beneficial to what you wish to achieve. If videos cannot be found online, there are other ways of viewing a nearby teacher’s playing. For example, there are university recitals and masterclasses open to the public. (The link provided is a video from a graduate recital at UMass’ Bezanson Hall! I actually got to work with this pianist for a semester in private lessons.)
At the present time, although I can confidently say that I can read and play the piano comfortably, I still don’t think I am at the point where I can be an embodiment of Franz Liszt’s words. If I could improve on the little things like speed, control, and correct use of arm weight, I might be closer to being able to play a song with the emotion needed to do it justice. In the future, I may be able to play some of my favorite pieces–Rachmaninoff’s Sonata in b-flat major, Chopin’s Fantasie Impromptu, etc.! I strongly believe that once possible, I will have achieved more than just external reward for perfecting a song. As I read in this interesting article, it is possible that musicality can improve morality. Whatever bitterness or resentment I have in life may be mitigated by learning to be patient and knowing that with that patience, good things will happen.