My love affair with Tchaikovsky

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My love affair with Tchaikovsky

It’s probably no mystery (as my mouth is rather large) that I’ve been working on Tchaikovsky’s first concerto these days. Today was special, though. I don’t even know how, but I got into such a sort of transe exploring one of the most beautiful little parts of the piece.It brought me to thinking about this whole journey (and writing this):

At first, it was like standing at the foot of a giant mountain. I had anticipated the climb for so long and then there I was. I had no idea what it would really really be like and that honestly freaked me out.  ‘This is what really big things feel like right before you do them, right?’ Was along the lines what my subconscious was yelling at me.

The early days of work were like a passionate fling (skipping class (and everything else) to practice was suddenly a moral obligation). Those days, it was also an escape for me. Tchaikovsky was both my ‘3AM sobbing in tears’ and my ‘3PM jamming out’ piece.

Then came the duty and the diligence (that part felt a bit like working out because your wife wants you to look good). I had to live out my decision to love Tchaikovsky.  I’m convinced that those days when I didn’t feel like it were worth more than all of the others that I did.

These days, Tchaikovsky is like family. He is somewhere forever in my heart. I know we will have many more journeys and adventures together. And this piece, well, it’s become extension of me now.

 

If you haven’t listened, please do. You won’t regret it.

 https://open.spotify.com/album/5kBgA8jDaeb1VHUheup53y?si=l-WB9k72SwmLMxqG-M4qtw

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A Gem From Puerto Rico

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A Gem From Puerto Rico

Last weekend, I was in San Juan, Puerto Rico for a few performances.  The culture was vibrant and enchanting, the food was as delicious as I had anticipated, and the people radiated with a fresh spirit of light and hope.  Monday morning (a week ago), I boarded a plane back to Miami with a heart and mind consumed by one thing—the elderly woman I had met the night before.  As is becoming a trend for my travels, this random encounter has had my brain and heart on overdrive.

Here’s the story:

Tuesday, I landed in MIA from BCN (9-hour flight—6-hour time change—serious jet lag).  That night, I got everything prepared for my trip to Puerto Rico.  First thing the next morning, I boarded my flight to SJU.  The next few days were spent preparing a 2-hour lecture for conservatory students, rehearsing ~3 hours a day with Henry Hutchinson (violin) and Jesus Mendez (cello) (they were amazing), practicing my solo music, giving my first lecture (ever), performing for conservatory students, and performing twice on Saturday at the Gallery Inn in the heart of Old San Juan.   This was all leading up to Sunday's solo/trio concert in the nearby city of Ponce.

On Sunday evening, after the final bows had been made and I was backstage ‘for good’, I was flooded with the delicious combination of exhaustion, fulfillment, and joy.  The only thing left: a cocktail hour.  I thought little of it—say hello to a few people, get out, get to sleep.  About 30 minutes into it, still trying to make my way to the food table, I met her.  The little old woman grabbed my shoulders and with them, my attention.  Looking into my eyes, she said, “I want to thank you for the years of work, discipline, and sacrifice that stand behind this performance.  Without that, it would have been impossible for us to experience such a beautiful and inspirational night.”  After what had seemed like a million fake smiles, I felt my face form a genuine one.  And then (somewhat awkwardly), my lips moving to say, “Can I hug you?”

I’m used to hearing people congratulate my talent or offer some awestruck question about how I was able to memorize so many notes or how my fingers could move so fast, but thank me for the work? Never.  It got me wondering over the next few days whether many non-musicians realized that playing a musical instrument at a high level is primarily the result of one thing: disciplined work.  Then came the inevitable question: do I accept that fact about those who are better than I am at the piano?  No.  I immediately knew that I didn’t.  I liked to believe they were from another planet or granted a better set of genes.

But why? The answer I’ve come up with (and what I believe is responsible for my own lack) is that it is more comfortable for our egos to designate *intimidating* skills as unattainable anomalies of nature rather than (quite simply) smarter, longer, and harder work.  It takes a bit of humility to accept that somebody else may be outworking or outsmarting you.  Past this tough pill of humility, though, lies an unimaginable potential for growth.  What are we waiting for, then? Even if it’s just in secret humiliation, let’s all cut it out.  We can learn from greatness of every kind.  It’s about time we started.

-JG

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My wacky future and what I’ve learned by being wrong

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My wacky future and what I’ve learned by being wrong

I suppose nobody’s life feels ‘normal.’ In that sense, I am normal. As a kid, I never believed that I was good enough at the piano to quite ‘make it’ yet could never quite stop trying to make it. I was afraid of performing for the memory slips I knew I’d have yet unable to keep myself from signing up for every recital and competition possible. The idea of going to music school petrified and thrilled me in many of the same ways. My thoughts on the topic were something like this: “They will tell me that I’m not good enough and it will make me want to prove them wrong.” Little did I know that I was the one in dire need to be proven wrong.

At the University of Miami’s Frost School of Music, I was met with a rude awakening to a much kinder reality. Rather than being forced me to fit into a ‘classical pianist’ mold, I was encouraged to embrace my ‘disadvantages’ as strengths and to explore a broad palate of interests beyond my area of focus. Among these were various musical genres and collaborative forms, creative writing, the applications of neuroscience in piano playing, political science, health and nutrition, musical entrepreneurship, and marketing. Many of these curiosities were satiated while others found a place as steady hobbies. My interest in entrepreneurship and marketing, however, only grew as it was fed. It wasn’t long before this curiosity had blossomed into the burning desire to start a business.  I barreled ahead with hours of independent research, endless brainstorming (daydreaming), and occasional ‘business pitches’ to just about anybody who could tolerate to listen.

It wasn’t long before my time at Frost began threatening its extinction. Unsure of my next step, I flew across the country in search for my next piano teacher. I was delighted to find not one, but many amazing teachers and opportunities which promised a bright future.  This search, however, brought me face-to-face with the gnawing internal realization that the conservatory dream I had worked so hard to earn belonged to a path I had abandoned some time ago. “If not that, then what?” I had no idea.

It didn’t take too much research to realize that my options for studying business and piano at a high level simultaneously were rather slim. So, I looked to my soon-to-be alma mater for the solution to this wacky situation of mine. A meeting later, I was assured that Frost’s Music Business and Entertainment Industries Master’s Degree (MBEI) would work for me.  Taking advantage of the highly adaptable nature of the degree, I’d be able to take piano lessons, work with the music business department’s roster of industry-proven faculty members, and have access to many of the University of Miami Business School’s specialized marketing and business courses.  Best of all, none of this would come at a cost to the final (very crucial) ingredient necessary in my wild degree: a credit load small enough to allow time for serious practicing. I couldn’t have imagined a better prospect, much less found one elsewhere.

This past week, when I began working on setting up the semester’s class schedule with my advisor, I encountered many unexpected glitches and obstacles which began bleeding dangerously close to looming deadlines. Out of the country and unable to act as I would have otherwise, I resorted to believing that beyond our misunderstandings lay an insurmountable mine of empty promises about this ‘dream degree’.  I accepted doom and looked to Facebook to vent my frustration. It wasn’t long, however, until I realized (rather painfully if you ask my ego) that these obstacles had solutions and that, behind those, lay the untouched reality of my wacky MBEI degree.

On the other hand, my post travelled far beyond the ‘friends-only’ privacy setting I had destined it to. The cause of this is not one I intend to dwell on. Rather, I have found myself incredibly grateful for those who offered me a helping hand and a concerned ear.  I am even more grateful for many others who had the courage to bring me the reproach I deserved.

Beyond the cloud of disappointment and self-imposed humiliation this situation brought, I was met with a choice. I could choose to learn from this experience or dig my feet further into the ground and look everywhere but at my own flaws. You can guess what I did. Here’s what I learned:

1. Humility and patience leave, in their absence, a sort of blindness to their absence. Only a habitual sort of ‘maintenance check’ can guard against this human tendency and the equally human tendency to fall flat on one’s face.

2. One should, in every circumstance, pursue any and every means of private communication available before contemplating a next step.

3. Given the human tendency towards frequent error, an honest and humble examination of one’s actions and an open admittance of one’s faults will, regardless of circumstance, be the best choice. 


I can’t wait to get to school.

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How I fell in love with a piece of music

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How I fell in love with a piece of music

Most people dread the flu.  I dread creative block.  Two weeks ago, I had contracted it in full force.  Instead of the medicine cabinet, I headed for the car.  I cranked up the volume and let music consume my consciousness.

Next came a freakishly irresistible wave of emotions. My heart was finally understanding the music I had been slaving over for weeks.  With tears streaming down my face thirty minutes later, I welcomed passion with a smile.  

The mystery of it allured me--its origins, its possibilities, its presence.  I couldn't stay away from my piano that week (well, until I crashed four days later).  Since, my love has matured a bit.  It keeps growing, but its intensity has become manageable (as in: my sleep schedule has gone back to normal).

So now, a gift to you: a few listening tips, my imagination of the piece, and listening links.

  1. Remove distractions and isolate yourself (*ultra* mandatory)
  2. Put it on loud (recommended)

My imagination:

I felt the first movement as a daydream that is no longer possible.  With this, a deep pleasure, pain, and sorrow. The second, an insanely fast Waltz, I head as an attempt to run from that pain. A set of overly frivolous escapades with anguish lurking beneath the surface. Then, the third, an acceptance of the loss. The dreamy indulgences of the first movement are replaced with bittersweet memories. Then, the finale--a sense of bitter anger followed by a return of the theme from the first movement. This time, though, its hope is extinguished.  And in a flurry to end, even this despair is banished.

So check it out.  It's gold.

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How a Random Italian Man Changed Everything (Monday Musings #3)

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How a Random Italian Man Changed Everything (Monday Musings #3)

If you follow me on Facebook or Instagram, you probably know I was in Italy a few weeks ago.  I went to participate in the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival which is a program for young artists seeking to further their careers.  The festival was amazing and my time there was packed with adventure, exploration, and growth.  What impacted me most in my time there, though, was an encounter I had with the most unsuspecting subject—Raphael.

Raphael was the old Italian man who locked up the school we practiced at. Our ritual was such: he would knock on my door every evening to let me know it was time to leave.  I’d coyly bargain for more time.  He’d refuse.  I’d pack up and leave.

About a week into my time there, I had a practice session that changed everything.  Let me try and explain with an example most people can directly relate to: imagine for a second what it feels like to see somebody you love dearly after having spent considerable time apart from them.  You are first happy simply to be reunited.  Soon, though, you can’t help but notice and appreciate those things which you had never noticed in them before.  Your love for them can no longer be just as it was—it is compulsed to go deeper.  This was how I felt that day about Chopin’s Polonaise-Fantaisie.

When he knocked on my door that day, I couldn’t help but ask if I could play for him.  He seemed a bit surprised by my request and checked to make sure he had understood me correctly.  When I had confirmed, he nodded with a smile and sat down.  I played.  I wasn’t thinking of getting all of the notes or impressing him—simply of showing him what I had found.

After, I turned to look at him.  With a warm smile on his face, he let the silence grow.  Then, in Italian, he said, “I have deeply enjoyed this. Nobody here has asked me to play before. Thank you.”  Then, as I had all of the other days, I asked if I could stay longer.  This time in an apologetic tone, he said it couldn’t be.  I laughed and told him not to worry.

I felt amazing inside as I walked back to my hotel. For the first time, I hadn’t been thinking about whether or not I'd hit all of the right notes or play ’the right way.’ I was simply showing him what I loved. For so long, I had lacked the courage to move beyon my fear of rejection and need for approval.  In that moment, though, I knew I would never cower to it again.

The next few days, I found myself haunted by the second half of Raphael’s comment.  How could it be that nobody had asked to play for him?  It really really bothered me. Eventually, I realized that I was just as guilty.

I had been lulled into believing that I wouldn’t be able to actually share music until I had reached a certain level of knowledge and success. I was willing to drive myself half insane practicing ungodly hours in the hopes that I’d some day get the chance to perform for thousands of people.  All so that I could be ‘good enough’ to share music.  Put so bluntly, it sounds ridiculous.  Yet, we buy it.  Not just musicians—we all buy into it. We begin to believe that we won’t be able to make an impact until we are given a stage.  Why? I’m not sure.  What I do know is that I refuse to allow this lie to rob me of my opportunity to share music ever again.

So, in conclusion: I may never see Raphael again, but boy do I love him.  

To those who read, I appreciate you more than you know.  If this got you thinking, hit me with a comment.  Theres more in these ideas to explore.  What do you think?

Much love, JG

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Deliberate (life) Practice

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Deliberate (life) Practice

Hey there. I'm pretty stoked you actually made it back. 

Get this: for a few years now, I've known about deliberate practice (It's a strategy for practicing.  I'll explain, don't worry.).  A few weeks ago, a conversation with a friend led me straight into the realization that I had never bothered to about using deliberate practice for anything but piano (namely, life).  And, well, It's been quite a wild ride since.  Now, let me try to explain what deliberate practice is and why it's extremely relevant.

Think for a second about how you learned to walk.  You most likely saw people around you walking and thought it might be a useful skill to acquire.  Additionally, those around you were probably encouraging (or forcing) you to give it a try. So, you did.  You tried and failed over and over again.  Now, every time that you failed, two things were happening: your muscles were getting stronger and you were subconsciously acquiring data about how (not) to balance. A couple hundred (or thousand) attempts later, you finally took your first step. You muscles were finally strong enough and your brain had enough data to figure out how the whole balance thing worked.  This very natural sequence of learning is at the heart of all skill acquisition (practice). Check it out.. 

Now, skip a few years to when you (probably) learned to ride a bike.  Given that your brain had matured since you were learning how to walk, you were now able to analyze your failures and make conscious tweaks to your technique.  It's very unlikely that you were thinking strategically about learning to ride your bike.  Even still, you learned by making conscious observations about your failures (e.g., if I start too slowly, I'll fall over).  The process probably went a bit like this.. 

deliberate practice.jpeg

You might have spent a while in the frustrating 'mindless attempt -> failure' loop.  I definitely did.  Regardless, the realizations and tweaks you accumulated had you riding around the block in no time.  Now get this: without thinking twice about it, you were employing a primitive (and unnecessarily frustrating) version of deliberate practice.

In order to bump it to the next level and remove unnecessary frustration, two things have to happen: first, the 'realizations' must be converted into 'analysis and hypothesis creation' and second, all mindless attempts must be eliminated.  Let's say I was trying to learn how to nail a free-throw shot in basketball.  I'd start by attempting.  Then, I'd analyze what happened and make a hypothesis as to why I failed or how I could improve (e.g., analysis: it was too short and too far left. hypothesis: I need to throw it with a bit more force, a bit higher, and a bit more to the right.  I'm going to try that by putting a bit more force in my right arm and this time releasing it from a higher position.).  Then, I'd try again applying those things.  That process, I'd repeat until I was sufficiently satisfied with my abilities.  Simple enough, right?  Check it out..

IMG_3560.jpg

You may remember a few times in your life when you really really wanted to learn how to do something and you ended up using deliberate practice somewhat accidentally.  In most aspects of your life, however, your primitive deliberate practice very likely degenerated to mindless repetition.  Don't get me wrong: the ability to move skills that were once impossible for you to execute into the mindlessly repeatable category is not only necessary but ridiculously incredible.  Imagine for a second that you still had to consciously think about every step you took, every syllable you pronounced, etc. . . For one, you'd probably go insane.  Secondly, you likely wouldn't have time to do or learn much of anything else.  Yes, it would be awful.

The harm of mindless repetition?  Well, when you're on 'automatic', you are no longer practicing 'deliberately'.  And when you aren't practicing deliberately, you are (for all intensive purposes) slamming the brakes on your rate of improvement.  You are returning to the 'subconscious' form of practice you relied on to learn how to walk.  Yikes.

Let me be clear: I'm not suggesting that you go around thinking about every step you take and all of that.  What I am getting at, though, is that you decide to deliberately practice those skills in life which are always in need of improvement.  At least, that's what I'm going to be doing.  I even made a list.  Check it out..

IMG_5E65DAF0F5F1-1.jpeg

I got to thinking: If I'm so willing to spend hours and hours a day deliberately practicing how to play the piano better, how is it that I have never once deliberately practiced how to be a human better?  And, if I deliberately practiced these skills which I actually need most, how much better would all of the other aspects of my life be?  

Anyway, that's about all I've got for this weeks post. Now it's your turn to hit up the comments section and let me know what you think.  Here are a few questions to spark your imagination:

  • Why was/wasn't this helpful for you?
  • Do you ever use deliberate practice in your life?  If not, why not?
  • In which ways do you/will you use deliberate practice that could be useful for me/others to hear about and consider?  
  • Is there a facet of this you've thought of that I didn't include? 

much love, JG

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The Insidious 2x4

Hello and welcome. I’m glad you've decided not to do the billion things you could (or should) be doing for a few minutes.  Given that you don’t close the tab on me, I will now get to explaining the stupid title, how it’s rocked my world, and why it’s a relevant concept for you to consider. Enjoy.

A few years ago, I decided I’d try my hand at a blog. It failed. Exactly two weeks and two blog posts into the thing, I realized that I had no clue what I would actually write about (yes, level 10 idiot).  At that point, I had to do what any regular human would do--cut and run. I accepted that the whole deal wasn't for me and that I'd just stick to playing the piano. "whatever."

Every few months, though, I would indulge a sort of ‘blog craving’ (kind of like when you really want Mexican food and you dare to let your mind think about what Nachos would actually smell like if they were right in front of you… ah.).  My self-critic would kick into high gear with something like, “ha, Joana. Really? You tried that and you failed. Why do you think you can do it now? You will fail again and embarrass yourself. Again.  And don’t forget: even if you don’t completely flake on the blog, you have nothing relevant to say to begin with.”  I'd accept, drop the craving, and go back to banging on the piano.

About a month ago, though, I had an answer for my internal self-critic.  For the first time, I knew what I would write.  I had content that would last for ages—content that was about music; content that was personal; content that was relevant.  All of this, thanks to my newfound friendship with the insidious 2x4.

Now bear with me on this little imaginative journey (I'm sorry for the linear thinkers reading.. you might want to find another blog.): Picture your face being swatted by an actual 2x4 in public (here’s a picture of a 2x4 just in case if you forgot what they were or like looking at random slabs of wood). The effect would terrifying, painful, and *very* humiliating, no? (We should probably all take a moment to be thankful that we don’t generally run the risk of getting slammed with a 2x4. I did.). But now, imagine that the thing getting hit was your ego (ouch.) and the 2x4 was something you don’t know but *really* should.  Are you still imagining or has a memory popped up now instead?

If you still haven’t grabbed ahold of what I mean (or if you’re just down for a funny story featuring my embarrassment), let me further illustrate with a personal example:  It was the middle of the fall semester of my junior year in college—very regular kind of day.  I walked into my piano lesson and my teacher (who always starts with a, “how are you?” or (if he’s in a very serious mood) “what will you play for me today?”) opened with a hefty 2x4. “How many piano Sonatas did Mozart write?” Now, non-musicians, if this question bears no significance to you, just imagine being asked a very simple question about one of the most important figures/topics in your field.  It’s the kind of thing you're just *supposed* to know—something so basic that they don’t usually even teach it to you in school.  Well, surprise surprise, I didn’t know it.

*queue full on panic mode* It felt like a fire alarm was blaring in my head while some mean computerized voice shouted, “What are you going to do now, Joana?”  Now, being the idiot that I am, I decided to guess confidently (lie?).  My teacher's head was down.  Great.  Then, he lifted it.  I waited.  He laughed.  Really really great.  Since digging a hole through the ground wasn't an option, I wailed out an exhaustive list of excuses for why I didn’t know it and what had compelled me to guess.  He listened (the man has some serious patience).  Then, he told me a story about a time when he had encountered a similar experience, guessed, and been humiliated.  Just as I was beginning to feel a bit less embarrassed, his tone grew serious again.  Then, he cautioned me against ever again calling my integrity into question when my reputation was already on the line (ouch, Joana.).  Then, he said, “Now go home and memorize these things.”  I did.

My story and your own experience make a few things clear: when the 2x4 is something objective, we really only have three possible routes (escape tactics) to follow.  We can lie successfully, lie unsuccessfully, or admit our ignorance. Regardless of the choice taken in the immediate situation, though, the end result is generally universal: we acknowledge the fact we didn’t know and learn it to avoid a future 2x4 swat. Simple, clear. Right? Yes. 

*now, enter the insidious 2x4* 

Ah, not so simple.  Instead of a fact you should have known, imagine that you are smacked upside the head with an *idea or a concept* that you hadn’t thought of. Why is this so insidious? Because instead of three escape methods like we had before, the insidious 2x4 only leaves its victims two possibilities: improvise about how and why this new concept is some brand of wrong *or* admit that we had never previously conceived of this particular idea. Now, compared to the factual 2x4, it’s a pretty sweet deal—we can always slide out unnoticed and unashamed. The problem (and why I’ve called it insidious) is that we begin to believe ourselves. We believe that our improvisation was really quite intelligent and a perfectly adequate reason to go on as if nothing had hit us in the first place. And actually, we do this so often and so well that most of us don’t even know that we do it! At least I didn’t.

This thing shocked (as in electrical shock) my world a few months ago. I was at a music festival outside the practice room building at 2AM. To give just a bit more perspective, I had been practicing for weeks (as in: besides vital necessities, all I did was practice. Not because I wanted to, but because I had a deadline). I was tired. I was frustrated. I was cranky. I had been sitting in silence for less than a minute when a friend of mine walked outside. I watched with secret dread as he began walking towards me. “Don’t start a conversation. Don’t. Don’t.” I screamed at him silently. Five seconds later, we were having a conversation. Great. Five minutes later, it got philosophical. Ah, even greater. Then, he brought up the topic of improvisation (no, not musical improvisation).  The kind of improvisation we do to get out of facing the ideas we haven’t heard of before. That was all it took for me to feel a rush of anger over what I judged to be a rude and unjust accusation. The anger was better than the frustration, though. “Game on,” I thought as I improvised vigorously on the topic of improvisation and why I don’t do it. It sounds funny and really quite stupid, but I didn’t realize how ironic this was until much later.  I’ll spare you the details and just say that it turned into a war with many casualties (namely, my ego). 

It stuck with me the next few days, though. At first as a grudge, but then as a serious question: do I actually improvise? Is that actually bad? And the one I couldn’t let go of: Is he right? Yes. He is right. I had never thought about it. And so I began to honestly think about it. In the next few weeks, I gradually became aware of just how many insidious 2x4s I had convinced myself out of exploring and considering.  (If you are still wondering about the dude, yes. I apologized profusely and thanked him. He laughed. We are still friends.) 

Soon, I started to actually look for these insidious little guys. Finding them has become to me like discovering a gift I forgot to open (for the record, that has actually never happened to me). The other thing I wanted to do was to bounce these ideas off of people and see what they thought about them.  If they had ideas to add, I wanted to hear them.  I started walking around like a lunatic (literally) grabbing anybody who would listen saying something like, “You will never believe this. You know, I’ve never even once until now actually thought of .. blah, blah, blah.”  The new connections and explorations that these conversations brought was beyond wild.  At this point, I had to go bigger—more people, more ideas, more input. Clearly, the next step was facebook.  I made new friends with ‘facebook friends’ who I never even imagined might want to listen and bounce off ideas.  It was amazing.  It is amazing.  But then it hit me. “Joana. Blog.” So, here I am.

Do comment below or message me or whatever you want to do.  What do you think?  What are you ideas? What are your opinions?  Ah, and do you know how much you improvise?

love.

-JG

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3 Ways the Classical Music Industry has Failed Us

            Hurricane Matthew has been all the talk this past week and I figured I couldn't make a blog post and totally ignore it.  Wednesday afternoon, my entire University was urged to leave campus and seek shelter in preparation for the storm.  While it didn't end up hitting Miami as directly as some had predicted, my heart was broken over the effects that the storm had in Haiti, Cuba, and the Bahamas.  Many lives were lost and entire cities were ravaged by the merciless winds and floods.  

            With Thursday and Friday entirely free, I had quite a bit of extra time on my hands to practice and read.  I was excited because just last week, I had made the impulse decision to steal away for a few moments at the library.  The title Who Killed Classical Music? had jumped out at me the second I laid eyes on it.  And ever since, the book had been sitting on my piano begging to be read.  Now, finally, I had the time.

            Inspired by the information I found in Norman Lebrecht's book, I identified three areas in which I believe the classical music industry (which I will liberally refer to as "we") has failed most severely.  While this is not a summary of the points that Mr. Lebrecht makes in his book, the information that I have used for my three points comes primarily from his book.

1. We snoozed on social media.      

Towards the end of the 20th century, there were several attempts by the industry to make classical music 'appealing' again.  Sex appeal and Television were two strategies that agents and managers jumped to.  Both of these attempts, however, failed to give artists the long-standing appeal they had hoped for.  When the age of social media rolled along, however, the classical industry was all-too hesitant to jump on the bandwagon.  When society demanded that stars share their personal lives online, musicians of all genres, athletes, and even politicians stepped up to the plate.  Yet classical musicians vastly refused to take part.  I even did significant research myself and found that the number of classical musicians with active and personalized social media campaigns is scarce.  What will it take for today's artists to wake up and use social media as a tool to reach otherwise unreachable audiences?

2.  We lost touch with the middle class.       

At some point, the classical music industry 'strategically' shifted its focus from the general public to the wealthy elites.  In today's world, an interest in classical music and a high social status are almost synonymous.  What the industry failed to anticipate was the reality that we face today: a world in which many people frankly feel that classical music is out of reach.  Our concert halls have become a pageant for society elites that has left the average person entirely out of the equation.  If classical music is to become relevant in our society, we must remove the social barriers that have turned so many ears away.  This change can only come about if venues and artists alike become accessible to society as a whole.

3.  We have failed to recognize that some form of education is in order.       

Because such large portions of society have been vastly alienated from classical music, performers can no longer expect that their hard work in the practice room will be met by hordes of appreciating audience-members.   In order to gain an audience, it is now the artist's duty to educate those who have never been given a chance by the classical music industry.  I have been glad to see many performers take a few minutes during their recitals to share about the music they are performing.  However, this does little to educate the most crucial demographic: potential audience-members.  In order to thrive, artists today must find a way to teach simple music appreciation outside of the concert hall.

            As I sit at my desk in front of my piano typing this out, I can't help but wonder what will come of my art--my music?  I've looked at the numbers and I've seen the dying crowds.  What will happen to classical music in my generation?  Yet what keeps me from despair is the irrefutable proof of my own personal experience.  My passion for the piano was born out of a fascination for the complexity, beauty, and relevance of its music.  And while not everybody will turn to practicing countless hours like I did, I believe that given the chance, many people just like me can come to love classical music.  

            And so I end by asking you: what will you do to make up for the failures of the generation who has gone before us?      

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Drama, Injury, and Growth

Lately, I have been mulling over the idea about starting a blog.  As is now apparent, I decided to give it a go.  My idea is to use this platform as a way of sharing about myself and my creative process.  I hope you all enjoy reading about my daily life, its struggles, and its rewards.

Last Thursday afternoon, I had to stop practicing because my right wrist was bothering me.  Once I realized that I would just need a few days of rest and that I didn't have tendinitis, I almost welcomed the guilt-free break.  I finally finished the season of Dexter I had been crawling through and hung out with a million friends I never had the time to see.  It felt so great to be real college kid.

But after a day, it stopped being all that fun.  My deadlines weren't going away and neither was the soreness in my wrist.  At this point unable to restrain my frustrations, I began speaking (ranting) to all of my colleagues about my issue. I suspect that I sounded rather dramatic when explaining this "grave" problem I had.  My embarrassment reached an all-time high when I discovered that one of my pianist friends was recovering from tendinitis... (she was gracious enough to still take a silly picture with me)

While this sobering and humbling experience did much to repress my outward emotion, I was still a wreck on the inside.  I mean, seriously.  Imagine having five essays due and not being able to write them without the great possibility of ruining your ability to write at all for the next semester.  I was in a panic!

On the third night of my recovery, I found myself alone in my dark room.  Sulking amidst my hand creams, anti-inflammatories, and wrist braces, I began to (perhaps selfishly) wonder how much non-pianists even considered the athleticism and coordination required to play the piano.  So, I dug a little deeper and realized that even I didn't fully consider them.  

Take Chopin's Fantasie Impromptufor example (not nearly the most technically demanding piece in piano repertoire).  Playing just one second of this piece requires 380 distinct motor actions. Keep in mind that this is what would be required to simply play the piece mechanically (WHAT?1).  Now, add to that the artistic and musical effects, the fact that this activity must be sustained over the course of the entire piece, AND the fact that performing pianists are expected to juggle a rather large amount of repertoire. 

It requires years of training to be able to precisely execute these fine-tuned actions without building up excess tension.  Pianists must also develop strong muscles in order to gain the stamina to keep this up for the duration of an entire concert.  Imagine having to pulse a two-pound dumbbell for an hour and a half.  Maybe it would seem ridiculously easy at first, but by the 70 minute mark, that may not quite be the case . . .

So, next time you come in contact with a pianist, make sure you get a good double-take on their hands and forearms.  You might be surprised!

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