Piano personality: life and music

Oil painting of a girl playing piano at music lesson
I painted this in high school and worked on it some more in college.

While watching a show about a concert pianist, it reminded me of one of my piano teachers. As a kid I always wanted to play these delicate, dainty sounding pieces of music. I was a shy kid who kept most of my emotion hidden from anyone who wasn’t one of the handful of people I was really close to. So you can imagine one-on-one piano lessons was well out of my comfort zone, even though I had the same teacher for years.

This teacher always wanted me to play these very fiery, passionate Russian pieces of music. She kept encouraging me to express myself, con spiritocon soma passioneput more emotion into my playing. And while I understood what she was saying I really just wanted to play some notes. It’s funny how piano teachers can see who you are. Both of mine apparently could sense the fiery person inside. The person that had definite opinions and anger and passion, and a built-in sensuality. Both teachers wanted that to come out of me through my fingers, onto those keys and then into the air as music.

I didn’t think I had Rachmaninoff in me. But later even when I realized that I probably did in terms of emotion (by no means in terms of piano ability), I had no desire to unleash that for public consumption. And so there would always be a wall up between me and any audience. It’s like seeing a figure skater who has all the right technique, but can’t feel the music or connect with the audience through skating to music. They’re unable to create a shared moment. Watch footage of figure skater Michelle Kwan at the top of her game and you’ll see, no, feel it.

I played because I like playing, not for other people to hear. It’s the difference between a person who can just play a little and a true artist making music.

In my life, in my writing I want to be adagio, pianissimo. Because it feels safer. But that’s just a mask.

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