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What is an Introvert like Me Doing, Performing on Stage? 

Here is an example of how God uses the foolish and weak things. My happy place is when I am alone, the space is quiet, and I am buried in a book or studying music without interruption. I can go many hours like this, content to be isolated from people. This works well for a classical pianist whose art demands a great deal of focus and reflection, not to mention the repetitive nature of practice. It does not bode as well for the performer. And here is the irony. That to be a performer of classical music, one…

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Becoming an Artist, Part 8: Tools for Success 

It’s really wonderful how a good teacher can give you just the right tools to enable you to play better. Recently I was fortunate to be able to work once again with Pawel Checinski , who was visiting from Chicago. I played for him a little and then we got to work. He primarily focused on helping me come up with a decisive interpretation, achieve a singing tone, and use arm weight to produce a lovely sound. 

I had been struggling with the memory of the Bach Toccata in C Minor, BWV 911, often getting lost in…

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Becoming an Artist, Part 7: Working with Pawel Again 

It’s funny how you can hear that something is off as a pianist and not know exactly what is wrong with it or how to fix it until a teacher explains it. When I sit at the keyboard I often don’t ask the same kinds of questions of myself that I would if I were a teacher. It doesn’t come as naturally to me, perhaps because the work on notes and rhythms and memory and the physicality of what’s going on is consuming enough that to think beyond that is not automatic. However, as a teacher, you are physically…

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Memorizing Bach...Again 

Today I finished re-memorizing Bach’s Toccata in C Minor, BWV 911. I say re-memorizing, because I memorized it 6 years ago for a house concert. And then I moved on to learn and memorize other music and I forgot the piece. Well, I didn’t forget it entirely. My fingers remembered what to do when I pulled out the score, and it came more easily to me physically than it had when I first learned it. But remembering the piece away from the score took a grand amount of effort. And I asked myself, “Why am I putting…

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Back to Bach 

I am reworking a Bach Toccata I learned a few years back in preparation for my concert with Molly Tomlinson for the October 11th Ladies Musical Club concert. "Toccata" literally means "touched" and refers to the virtuosic nature of the music's fingerwork. Originally conceived for early keyboard instruments such as clavichord, harpsichord, and organ, the toccata is not necessarily a "piano" piece. However, I believe that if Bach were to live in our time, he would use the piano to its fullest extent…

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Intention 

I am still in search of that elusive “it” that sets the professional pianist apart from the amateur. This is something I’ve been mulling over for the better part of the last year. I am more and more convinced that it has much to do with intention. 

The amateur performer relies to some degree on chance. She knows that preparation is important and spends many hours practicing, but there is always an element of unknowing – Will my hands make that leap accurately? Will I express at the keyboard exactly what is…

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Balancing Music and Motherhood 

This is the first year my children are all in school full-time and the year I have felt the most need to justify my not working outside the home. The question often comes up, “What do you do with your time?” The question is well-meaning, as it is an American norm to meet someone for the first time and ask, “So what do you do for a living?” The assumption that a mother has nothing to do when her children go off to school in the morning is laughable to me, but understandable in our culture where we often…

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Flawless Recording 

It takes courage to record. 

Recording is a completely different animal from live performing. It is under far greater scrutiny than a live performance. An audience tends to give grace in a live performance for small mistakes, missed jumps, a blurred pedal…perhaps because they get wrapped up in the shared emotional experience; listeners seem to share a sort of sympathy with the artist. In a recording, that grace is considerably lessened: the listening audience expects perfect execution down to the slightest…

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IMOGEN COOPER, PART 2: The Re-creative Process 

After I attended her informative masterclass, I found an intriguing video of pianist Imogen Cooper giving a lecture on 'The Hidden Power of the Re-creative Process in Music' at the University of Oxford, May 2013. 

I love how she starts out this lecture. Not only is her British accent quite captivating, but the profundity of her topic grabs my attention immediately. Early on she quotes Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy: “Music cannot be expressed in words. Not because it is vague, but because it is more precise…

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IMOGEN COOPER, PART 1: Beethoven Masterclass 

Recently I attended a wonderful masterclass at the University of Washington given by British pianist Imogen Cooper. Two graduate students played Beethoven sonatas on a Steinway concert grand in a nice performance hall. I took notes as Ms. Cooper spoke with the musicians afterwards: 

She started out by asking what other Beethoven sonatas the pianists had studied and then, “Have you taken [this sonata] up and dropped it?” Meaning, after you first learned the piece, did you walk away for a period of time…

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