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Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2246784
03/14/14 10:05 PM
03/14/14 10:05 PM
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Tim Adrianson Offline
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Hi, Joel! You've certainly gotten some interesting responses to date. Here's my contribution:

Classical music was always part of my home growing up (in the 1950's), and we always had a piano (an Acrosonic spinet , to be exact). This is solely because of my father, who was a big classical music fan and a pretty good pianist; by contrast, my mother had little interest in music. I started lessons at age six or so, and throughout my grade school years was taught by a Dominican nun (Sister Corinne), as I was brought up in a Catholic middle-class setting. I was recognized as gifted enough to be asked to be organist for the 6:00 AM daily Mass starting in 6th grade or so, and continued to provide that service through my sophomore year in high school. I continued to pursue piano as well, but the new Dominican nun (Sister Benedict) admitted that she had nothing more to teach me, and suggested that I get together with a teacher of professional caliber (Grant Malme, to name names).

Alas, that never happened. When I was 15, my dad was severely injured in a freak accident, and died three months later -- and with that, any support for further musical development evaporated. At that time, the Catholic H.S. I attended had virtually no musical programs other than band, and I didn't have other musical connections. It was in my high school and college years that I became more and more intensely interested in 20th century musical literature, piano in particular -- but, briefly put, I never gave myself permission, nor did my family (to say the least!), to even consider a career in music. I obtained a degree in Chemistry instead, in 1967, although I did a fair amount of accompaniment work in Applied Music courses. And I did a lot of intense solo practicing, although never with a teacher. And, because of the times, directly into the military -- the AF, from 1967- 71.

And then: the cherished 1970's -- what I lovingly remember as my "fag years". Yes, it was decided that yours truly was in fact a queer, and by my mother in particular, who literally laughed me out of the house one fine day in 1970. For those not old enough to remember, those were the days of America's "sexual awakening", and faggots could be identified and labeled based solely on how they looked, dressed, acted, and smelled. And, surely, part of that, uh, assessment was related to my intense interest in fag music, although my general comportment was more likely responsible. Hmmm.... didn't play much piano then, although I was an avid record collector and listener.

Well, I never was fully able to wipe the sneer off people's faces, but I did begin to use my considerable pianistic skills for many Community Theatre productions in mid to late 70s. When I finally escaped Wisconsin in 1981 and moved to NJ (and also recently married), I continued to serve as pianist for a great many Community Theatre and Cabaret shows throughout the '80s and early '90s -- all the while sort of maintaining a steady-state in classical music, keeping my core repertoire up, but rarely learning new material. I also began to serve as organist/pianist for a small local church every Sunday, a position I held for 25 years.

Finally, after the Community Theatre/Cabaret phase dried up (just simply because of my age and changing times, I think) in the mid to late 90s, I was looking for outlets more specifically for classical music, and found it in the Amateur Piano Competitions, first introduced by Van Cliburn in 1999. Roughly from that time period till now, I've devoted myself pretty much exclusively to classical repertoire, heavily weighted to 20th century compositions -- although I also made a point of learning all the WTC Preludes and Fugues as a major project over the past 10 years or so. This has been endlessly rewarding in my retirement ye

One additional comment -- I believe classical music is now in much better shape than,say, 1964. The young people I hear playing in Madison are IMO far more musically sophisticated, and far more aware and unprejudiced, than I recall from 50 years back. The late 60s - early 70s were ugly, ugly years, and devastating for me personally -- but out of that sprang a truer and purer fascination for classical music -- for those that "have ears to hear", so to speak.


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Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2246797
03/14/14 11:18 PM
03/14/14 11:18 PM
Joined: Oct 2004
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New York City
ChopinLives81 Offline
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You know, reading all these stories and comparing them to mine, I can't help but wonder where I would be had I started as early as some of the rest of you. I really wish I could have started when I was a child. I can honestly say that I never encountered any other kids who could play the piano within my school years and I often wonder what forces had to come together for me to be the one who went the other way...


"A Sorceror of tonality; the piano is my cauldron and the music is my spell, let those who cannot hear my calling die and burn in He11."

Check my videos @:
http://www.youtube.com/user/chopinlives81
Re: Share your story [Re: Tim Adrianson] #2246804
03/14/14 11:43 PM
03/14/14 11:43 PM
Joined: Feb 2012
Posts: 280
Midwest US
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ElaineAllegro Offline

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Thank you for starting this thread, Joel. All the stories are in various ways incredibly interesting and inspiring.

I owe my interest in piano to my grandmother's huge grand piano (I don't know what kind, I was too young), which had to be sold when she moved to a house that was too small for it. I never heard anyone play it, but it provided ample display space for photos and vases. Grandma's grand was transformed into an electric organ that her youngest son/my uncle played (but not classical). When he moved out, I begged for the organ, and it was somehow transformed again into a Gulbransen spinet. I was eight and thrilled to have it.

I grew up in a multi-ethnic, mostly first generation neighborhood in a since-then burned down and sort of rebuilt manufacturing town. Although the closest BIG CITY was not too far, no one considered or had resources to pay for teachers there. I took lessons with a local teacher via John Thompson - all the red books - and then moved on to the usual suspects in the Sonatina book until high school. My parents had some show tune records, also Caruso and Molly Picon, but I never heard anyone else play classical piano music (except what passed as such at yearly recitals) until just before high school, when a student at my school played Rondo Capriccioso at an assembly. I ended up studying with her teacher through high school, two hour lessons, my first exposure to theory (painful, painful), opportunity to listen to good pianists via his record collection, and (yeah!) Chopin and Beethoven, among others. I went to my first symphony concert in 12th grade. My parents' reaction to all of this was, Why can't you play something nice for a change, like Sunrise, Sunset. (And probably I did play Sunrise, Sunset better than I played Chopin or Beethoven at that time.) Why are you playing the same part over and over?

Starting college (definitely NOT majoring in anything remotely like music), I was asked by a misguided soul to play with a small ensemble, I foolishly accepted, and was just lost. I had never played music with anyone before, not this style of piece ever before, and that was that. Cold turkey. Did not touch a piano for decades.

Through college and beyond, I met people who enjoyed classical music, attended concerts, started buying music to listen to, found classical music stations, and started dancing fairly intensely (ballet), which involved snippets of classical music.

Fast forward through career building, family building, all the building that takes us away from some of the other things we really want to do.

A few weeks before the birth of my first child, I woke up with the urgent conviction that no child should be born into a house without a piano. After a week of intense searching, I chose a Yamaha upright. Both children had lessons, leading one to a sideline of composing (definitely not classical) electronic music, the other to accompanying herself singing (definitely not classical). But at least they have been exposed to it.

Approaching shall we kindly say midlife, I decided it was time to re-prioritize. Dance came back first, then the realization that at some point (bad dance pun), I would have to stop, but probably could play piano a lot longer. Inspired by friends who restarted playing music, I returned to lessons a few years ago, changed teachers once, and have been with my current teacher (1 1/2 hours weekly) for almost two years, "filling in all the gaps, and there are a lot of them." I bought my grand piano just before starting with my current teacher. The Yamaha lingers nearby and stares at it.

I have discovered wonderful friends and opportunities through classical music: piano groups, chamber music, duet partners, playing for senior communities, in a church... Progress is being made, slowly, a trill at a time, but there is always the next peak to scale (ooh, bad pun again) and no end of music to enjoy.

Looking forward to reading more stories from the rest of you.


Schubert, Moments Musicaux & Impromptu Op 90 No 2; Dvorak, Dumka & Furiante Op 12; Bach Inventions #2, 3, 4, 15; Haydn Trio XV:25 (Gypsy Rondo); Frank Bridge, Miniatures, Romance (trio)
Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2246854
03/15/14 06:29 AM
03/15/14 06:29 AM
Joined: Nov 2007
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wr Offline
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Great stories so far, and great story-telling.

I find that, not unlike playing live for people, trying to type out my own "my story" gives me the serious willies. I do sort of have the vague impulse to share, but I've tried, and each time, it grinds to a halt. It's just too complicated and weird. Suffice it to say that I'm a cranky old [censored] who still enjoys playing the piano and listening to 4'33", in spite of everything that's happened so far.


Re: Share your story [Re: wr] #2246921
03/15/14 09:35 AM
03/15/14 09:35 AM
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Damon Offline
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Originally Posted by wr
Suffice it to say that I'm a cranky old [censored]


We knew that! laugh


Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2246939
03/15/14 10:14 AM
03/15/14 10:14 AM
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Damon Offline
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I don't have much of a story. I didn't come from a particularly musical family. My mother played the "Black Hawk Waltz" on the piano and that was it. I don't even remember when we first had a piano in the house except that it was borrowed from an uncle. I started playing piano at the age of six (1965) because my sister did and competition with her was the only reason. I advanced pretty quickly early on but had no real love of playing until I became enamored with Liszt. Though beyond my abilities, Bugs Bunny, John Ogdon, and Edith Farnadi introduced me to my first love of classical music. My folks found an instructor to move me in that direction. I managed to win local school competitions during my teens but it was a small town. wink One time, I lost to a group of girls that lip-synched the Pointer Sisters. That should have been my first clue. smile

Unfortunately I had very little discipline and partied way too much in my youth, the seventies took their toll. When I sobered up, I realized that my technique was too far behind a professional classical pianist and my memory was never keen enough to hold the information they appeared to command, so I relegated classical to hobby status where it remains to this day. After a 4 year stint in the USAF, I played rock in various bands until the present day. My present band, is giving a final performance this April after 22 years! After that, I'm not sure if I'll continue playing professionally or not.

I will always play classical piano even if only as a hobby, though certain restaurants and old folks homes are a possible professional outlet.

Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2247177
03/15/14 07:01 PM
03/15/14 07:01 PM
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Pacific Northwest, US.
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argerichfan Offline
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My turn, I'll make it as brief as possible.

I was raised by a single mum (no siblings) and things were tight for a bit. But I always had a piano to practise on, piano lessons were a priority even if it meant tightening up in other aspects.

We were devout Anglicans, and if all of my friends hated the Church, I secretly loved the music, the ceremony, and its message for me as a confused adolescent.

So basically there was a parallel situation going on: I was a very, very talented pianist, but after hearing John Scott play Liszt's Ad nos at St Paul's Cathedral in London, I then wanted to be an organist.

Uni came up (leaving out sordid details along the way), and I entered as a pianist. In my second year I tackled Chopin's Bb minor Scherzo, things were going well until I heard Martha Argerich's recording. Here was talent on a level I could barely comprehend, and clearly I wasn't meant to be a concert pianist. I looked back on my performances of Beethoven's Op 53 and Schumann's Op 13 -decent enough, almost note-perfect- but wtf?

That in turn produced a religious epiphany, and for a few months I considered entering a seminary to be an Anglican priest.

Well, that wasn't where it was happening, so I just stuck with studying organ and church music. I have never regretted that change of direction, and I think some of the most glorious music ever written on this planet has been inspired by the Church.

For a variety of reasons I emigrated to the US in 2010...


Jason
Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2247273
03/16/14 12:02 AM
03/16/14 12:02 AM
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Posts: 6,218
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currawong Offline
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Originally Posted by JoelW
When did you discover classical music? When did you start playing piano? How does your life relate to music?

I discovered classical music as a child, through listening to my father play the piano (though he played more 30s/40s stuff than classical), listening to the radio, "music appreciation" lessons at school, TV (back in the early 60s they actually showed classical concerts on TV in prime time - amazing), including the Leonard Bernstein Young People's Concerts (great stuff!).

I started learning the piano informally at seven, and the books my father used in teaching me had classical pieces, and details about the composers. There was also a huge pile of music on the piano, and I was free to bash my way through anything I liked, without anyone correcting me, so I explored a lot of music that way - no doubt playing it terribly, but learning a lot in the process, and becoming a good reader.

When I was about 12 I saw the Chopin bio-pic A Song to Remember on TV (in b&w, so when I finally saw it on DVD decades later it was a shock to see the blood-on-the-keys scene in colour! laugh ). Dad had a book of simplified selections from the film, and I played through that, but felt something was missing (as indeed it was - about half the notes!) That began a bit of a Chopin craze, which led me to decide I wanted to learn to play the piano properly. I was 14, I'd been playing for seven years and had never played a scale, though I was already playing the organ at church, playing for choir practice and accompanying singers. After checking out all the pianists at my school and finding out who they took lessons from, I chose a teacher myself and my parents agreed to it, as long as I agreed to give up if I wasn't enjoying it! No parental pressure there! smile

At this time, too, I discovered a record section at our local town library, where you could borrow 4 LPs per week (!!), as long as you brought your stylus in periodically to be examined and replaced it when required. The first time I walked in and saw a whole big room full of records, of works I'd read about but never heard, it was like arriving in heaven. I still remember the first records I borrowed - the Berg violin concerto was one of them.

As it turned out, I'd chosen my teacher well. He was brilliant, and helped me achieve a great deal in a fairly short time. In 3 years he'd taken me from noodling around (in a fluent but fairly rough sort of way) to two performance diplomas and acceptance into music degree course at university. I didn't want to study just piano, so I found myself majoring in composition (I'd always written music), music education, taking up violin and clarinet, and doing all sorts of musical jobs, including working as a music copyist (in the days before computers and notation programs!). After my degrees I taught music in schools for A Long Time (I have the grey hairs to prove it), whilst still doing lots of playing, and teaching piano. For the last 25 years or so I've cut right back on the teaching, and my main occupation has been freelance ensemble & accompaniment work.


Du holde Kunst...
Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2247281
03/16/14 01:11 AM
03/16/14 01:11 AM
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currawong Offline
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And now, Joel, it must be your turn!


Du holde Kunst...
Re: Share your story [Re: currawong] #2247286
03/16/14 02:00 AM
03/16/14 02:00 AM
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UK
Nikolas Offline
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Originally Posted by currawong
And now, Joel, it must be your turn!
Certainly! wink

Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2247301
03/16/14 02:35 AM
03/16/14 02:35 AM
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Love reading these stories here.

I'm 16 right now. I was put in piano lessons when I was 5, and I learned basic stuff. My mom was a very good trumpet player in her early years, and we had a piano in the house. She could play some basic stuff on the piano, and my dad briefly went to a conservatory before getting his degree in business. I did not really have any push to do anything musical at that point

After about 2 years or so of the piano lessons I quit, and the piano sort of sat there not being played at all for many years. In 4th grade I started playing the clarinet. I still play it to this day. When I was about 10-11 or so I started playing through the tunes in her Alfred's Adult guide thing, (level 1 and 2). Nothing serious, it was just something I spent like 20-30 minutes on in a week.

A few years ago I started to actively play on the piano. I played the hardest tunes in the Afred's book and I was able to learn much simpler arrangements of the Entertainer, Canon in D, etc. Then I got more serious about it. Years of the clarinet and spending a lot of time typing meant I had pretty loose fingers so I was able to get back in the piano. I spent about a year or two just playing through the same 7-8 easy tunes, then several months ago I picked up some more challenging books.

I began playing easier arrangements of Moonlight Sonata, Ode to Joy, and other junk. Then I got a book that included complete solo-level work. It was a big step up from previous ones than that one. Almost all of the pieces in the book were (and still are) too hard for me. But I found Clementi Sonatina in C major, and started practicing that. Playing it like 50 times a day really got me to improve my scales. I practiced that in addition to the other stuff but I got somewhat bored of the simpler arrangements. I wanted to play the real thing but obviously that would not happen any time soon. Now I am working on stuff like Fur Elise , Habanera, Mozart G major sonata, Solfeggietto, however that's spelt.

I haven't had a piano teacher yet. I do not remember a thing about the one I had when I was very young. I plan on taking some this fall though. I love pianos a lot. As a clarinet player I do not like having to rely on other people in a band or group. I like being able to play a musical piece in its entirety on a single instrument, devoid of relying on people that cannot understand your interpretation.

Nothing against symphonic orchestras or bands and stuff like that. I just much rather prefer pianos, a one man band !


Re: Share your story [Re: currawong] #2247362
03/16/14 08:16 AM
03/16/14 08:16 AM
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wr Offline
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Originally Posted by currawong

At this time, too, I discovered a record section at our local town library, where you could borrow 4 LPs per week (!!), as long as you brought your stylus in periodically to be examined and replaced it when required. The first time I walked in and saw a whole big room full of records, of works I'd read about but never heard, it was like arriving in heaven. I still remember the first records I borrowed - the Berg violin concerto was one of them.



Lucky you! I can imagine what that must have been like, even if I never experienced it myself (the closest thing was when I first went into the music library at college and saw all the shelves of scores available for me to check out - I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn't some wonderful dream).

It's great that they cared enough to monitor what you used to the play them.

Re: Share your story [Re: wr] #2247580
03/16/14 04:28 PM
03/16/14 04:28 PM
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currawong Offline
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Originally Posted by wr
Lucky you! I can imagine what that must have been like, even if I never experienced it myself (the closest thing was when I first went into the music library at college and saw all the shelves of scores available for me to check out - I had to pinch myself to make sure it wasn't some wonderful dream).
I can imagine what that was like, too! When I found myself at uni it seemed as if I now had access to the score of every piece of music ever written. I spent so much time up in the stack section of the library reading through things.
Originally Posted by wr
It's great that they cared enough to monitor what you used to the play them.
Yes - it was actually very well run. They also checked each LP under a light for damage before and after borrowing. And, somewhat surprisingly for what was a regional centre but by no means a big city, there was quite a lot of contemporary music in their collection: Stockhausen, Boulez, electronic music, Cage. And this was the 1960s.


Du holde Kunst...
Re: Share your story [Re: currawong] #2247614
03/16/14 06:08 PM
03/16/14 06:08 PM
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Pacific Northwest, US.
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Originally Posted by currawong
When I found myself at uni it seemed as if I now had access to the score of every piece of music ever written. I spent so much time up in the stack section of the library reading through things.

I can remember that sensation!

Although since we both love and cherish the music of Richard Strauss, I would be curious to know when he first came online with you. For me it was when a singer asked me to accompany her in a few 'well known' Strauss songs. (No points for guessing which ones!)


Jason
Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2247622
03/16/14 06:26 PM
03/16/14 06:26 PM
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California
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My earliest memory of the piano is my mother playing and singing hymns. She had piano lessons when she was young growing up in Canada from the Royal Conservatory of Music. My father had tried his hand at classical guitar while growing up there. However, in our house in Southern California, my family was not particularly musical or very interested in classical music while I was growing up. We listened to oldies on the radio and my mom sang in church choir (and played her hymns), but that was about it.

When I was very young (probably no more than 5 or 6), without provocation I came over to see what my mom was doing on that piano (an old Yamaha digital piano). Because I couldn't read music, she showed me where to put my hands to play some pieces. From here I learned Solfeggietto by C.P.E. Bach and Fur Elise by Beethoven and had a blast playing them over and over and messing around. Recognizing I had some ability, I was given private lessons at the house of a local instructor. However, I had pretty serious attention and behavioral problems at that point in my life, and didn't have the discipline and focus to sit down and learn. That marked the end of my piano playing for more than a decade. It would be more than two decades before I would begin serious study.

The next time I picked it up was in a group piano class when I was at community college in 2004-2005 and 19 years old or so. I was remembering my aptitude as a child when I registered for the class. I took two semesters of that, then transferred to USC to study other subjects. Again, this was the end of piano for me for quite some time. In 2009, I took another group piano class at the same community college, but had to withdraw. In the Fall of 2010, I tried a half-hour private non-major lesson at USC but found no success, and withdrew. In the Fall of 2011, I started private lessons with a local instructor, and began my first serious studies. Finally, in the Fall of 2012 I prepared an audition piece (with the help of my private instruction) for the applied program at the community college and got in. I've now been receiving one-on-one lessons there with an instructor for 3 full semesters, as well as staying with my old instructor for help with composition and other dimensions of musicality besides technique.

I'm not sure how you would exactly add up all of this experience - perhaps it could be summed into about 2 to 3 years of total playing with 1 to 2 years of formal instruction. As it turns out, I have a real affinity and ability for the instrument and music in general, and I've also discovered I have a voice for singing in choirs and a capella. I feel like this was my missed calling in life but I'm glad I discovered it eventually, even though I'm 28 now. My progress has been very rapid but I feel my biggest weakness is my musical mind is far ahead of my technique, and it's very difficult to maintain the persistent patience and focus needed to bring it up to speed.

That's all!

Last edited by Roland The Beagle; 03/16/14 06:33 PM.

Danzas Argentinas, Alberto Ginastera
Piano Sonata Hob. XVI: 34 in E Minor, Franz Joseph Haydn
Nocturne, Op. 15 No. 1 in F Major, Frťdťric Chopin
Prelude, Op. 11 No. 4 in E Minor, Alexander Scriabin
Prelude and Fugue in G Major, Well-Tempered Clavier Vol. 2, Johann Sebastian Bach
Re: Share your story [Re: DameMyra] #2247655
03/16/14 08:21 PM
03/16/14 08:21 PM
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Scottsdale, AZ
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Originally Posted by DameMyra
When I was around 12 or 13 my cousin got a baby grand piano and started taking piano lessons. I was immediately jealous. Whenever our family went over to her house, 3 or 4 times a year, I would sit at the piano and try to teach myself from her lesson books.

About the same time I got an LP for Christmas about the lives of the great composers. It included some of their music along with spoken biographical information. It opened with Bach's Prelude in C major from Book I of the WTC. I absolutely fell in love with this piece and decided I would do anything to learn how to play it.

My grandmother, who lived a couple of blocks away from us, had an old upright and I convinced her, with much pleading, to let me come over and practice on it. I was allowed to go over twice a week for an hour and within a couple of months I had taught myself to read music and was able to "kind of" play the Bach. I then convinced my mother to let me take piano lessons from a lady who lived nearby.

After a half dozen lessons, I became friends with a girl a grade ahead of me in school, who took lessons at the local music school. Her Dad who heard me play one day and was impressed enough to take me to the same music school where I started taking lesson with a really great teacher, who I really consider as my "first teacher." I was fourteen at the time.

This teacher helped me correct some of the bad habits of the "self-taught" pianist. When she discovered that my grandmother was only letting my practice two hours a week, she found someone to donate a piano so I could practice at home. Under her guidance, in a little less than four years, I went from that Bach Prelude to preparing auditions for several colleges and Peabody Conservatory.

But not all was so good at "home" and when I was in my senior year in high school, within just few short months, I had a major breakdown, met a much older man, fell in love (I thought), dropped out of school, got married and stopped playing the piano.

The marriage lasted much longer than it should have and by the time I was 31 I was on my own, broke and sleeping on a friend's couch. I got my GED and found, through a friend, an entry level job in an advertising agency. Eventually I worked my way up to a senior level position. The agency had some internal problems and went bankrupt in 1990.

I moved to another town and got a job at a hotel, where I eventually became the general manager and marketing director. During those many years after high school, I listened to classical music, went to concerts, but didn't even consider going back to playing the piano. I also remarried.

About 10 years ago, the owners of the hotel I worked at bought the property next to it, which housed a first floor restaurant. In the restaurant was a Yamaha Disklavier. I started sneaking over during my lunch hour to play it. I would noodle over some of the pieces I had played in high school: a Haydn sonata, a Bach Prelude and Fugue, a Chopin Etude.

My bosses were aware of some of my history and knew how much playing the piano had meant to me when I was younger. That Christmas, at our company Christmas Party, the owners rewarded me for the years I had worked for them with the gift of a Yamaha upright. It took almost a year before I had it moved into our apartment, since my husband and I had to make some renovations to accommodate it.

Now that I had my own piano, I made a decision to take lessons again. I wanted to see how much I could accomplish and to see "how far" I might have taken my music if "life" hadn't intervened. I started searching for a teacher, but there were really none anywhere near where I lived. I went on line, searching to see what piano teachers were out there. I Googled various local piano competitions to see who was teaching the winners. One teacher's name kept coming up.

I sent her an email at the university where she taught, hoping she knew or could recommend a teacher in the area. I told her about where and what I studied as a teenager. I told her about my long absence from playing and how I was looking to "start over." She responding by asking if I was interested in studying with her! She asked me to prepare two pieces and we set up a meeting for two weeks later. I prepared two Scarlatti sonatas that I had played when I was fifteen.

I didn't realize this "meeting" was actually an audition and after listening to me play, she invited me to study with her. She explained that she never took adult students because most of them lost interest after a while, but she was making an exception in my case. We decided on one-hour lessons every other week for several reasons; the lesson costs were not inexpensive, I had a full time job so I wouldn't be able to practice as much as I would like to, and finally, the university where she taught was 70 miles away.

Taking lessons again was a great challenge, but also a great joy. We backtracked a bit and focused on technique. I was assigned scales and arpeggios. I remember the first pieces she assigned were Chopin's Op. 64, No.2 and Brahms Op. 118, No. 2. We did Cramer studies, moved onto Beethoven Sonatas. I was working on Op. 26 for my college auditions when I was a teenager and we picked this back up. Because of her schedule and mine, I sometimes went 3 weeks or a month without a lessons. Once I went almost two months without a lesson.

Eventually I realized that I wanted to make music and the piano an even greater part of my life. A little over four years ago, I quit my job and enrolled full time as a music major at my piano teacher's university. For the first two years, I commuted 5 days a week,70 miles each way. During my freshman year I played in a Chopin/Schumann recital. I was the first time I had performed before an audience in almost 40 years.

During my last two years at the university, I was able to trim my commute to two or three days a week. I took some general ed courses from a nearby (only 10 miles away!) community college and I CLEPed out on some other courses. I started teaching a little over a year ago at the university's preparatory school and I graduated this past May.

I still teach piano in the prep school. My studio has increased to 19 students, who range in age from 6 to 72! I commute two days a week to teach and I am also starting to do some teaching closer to home. In addition, I do some business consulting and web design on the side. I am also the managing director of a small summer music festival in Northeastern Minnesota that my piano teacher founded eleven years ago.

I turned 62 last month. I still practice daily (well, almost) and I still work on learning new rep. I do a little performing but not very much. I have always battled with almost paralyzing stage fright and I have an enormous difficulty with memorizing now that I am older. I will be performing at a small musical soiree this coming Sunday. Wish me luck!



This is such an inspiring story for someone who did "elope" with an English language teacher when she was young. You are my role model. I too got remarried and straighten to my life. I am not as talented as you are but have a passion for music which sustained me during my tough time. I basically found myself in the US without college degree (at that time), husband or any kind of job training. I could not go back to Japan (I was a shame of the family at that time). I had two jobs at local grocery store and used to sneak into college practice room and practiced the pieces I used to play as a child. That was the only beautiful moment i had in my life then. I am ok now. I have degree (s), good job and husband who love and respect me. I have a grand piano and take lessons from a college professor. I would love to go back to school and major in music. I would like to learn theory.

I usually do not share my story because it's a long story and do not feel comfortable talking about it to real friends. Sorry if I told you guys before that I came here for college.


1) Bach c minor fantasy
2) Morzart Rondo in A minor, K511
3) Schubert Impromptu A flat D935 No2
4) Scriabin op11 prelude #2 and #14 (Re do #2, new #14)
5) kabalevsky Variations in A minor OP 40-2
Re: Share your story [Re: Nikolas] #2247660
03/16/14 08:29 PM
03/16/14 08:29 PM
Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 2,303
Scottsdale, AZ
F
FarmGirl Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013
FarmGirl  Offline

Silver Supporter until Jan 02 2013

F

Joined: Sep 2010
Posts: 2,303
Scottsdale, AZ
Originally Posted by Nikolas
Interesting stories so far...

In my case things were simple:

My parents were highly educated (and now at the age of almost 80, this means that when they were young getting education was an accomplishment for Greece to begin with). And my father would occasionally play the piano and/or the guitar, at equal talent (not amazingly talent, but his company loved what he did).

So when I was 5 I got into a friends house with a piano. And I wouldn't let go! So my father mainly (but both of them *ahem*) decided that we should get a piano. If nothing happens with me, he would still be able to play something on it.

Year 1: Private lessons, with Sophia. Did nothing to me, I don't remember anything. She was rude and always smoking while teaching. Bliah!

Year 2: Private lessons: A blonde teacher called Marry. Did nothing to me. I don't remember much, except that she bragged how her students starter off Beyer immediately (brrr... But this is 1983 or so).

Year 3: Off to a small conservatory close to our home. New teacher Nicole. She would hit me with a wood ruler and yell at me constantly. I'd cry before and after every lesson. I was kept there for a full year! My parents thought that I was:
a. Over reacting
b. Hoping to get out of hard work (which I did, A LOT)
c. over reacting

In any case

Year 4: The same small conservatory, with a lovely old teacher, who would not yell, or shout, or certainly hit me. We got along just fine so I jumped at around grade 3 or 4 or something. Playing the difficult works of Anna Magdalena, and some Czerny (the collection with the 30 works in), and some small sonatinas.

She has an issue with completing all the works in a book. So we got Lemoine, which was nice and fine, but she really wanted to do all 50 of them in there! And it was SO boring. Same with Czerny! And I couldn't take it.

I stuck at grade 3-4 for about 6-7 years. No change, no change in books, no change in the quality of my playing... nothing. Never had exams. I didn't want to. And I'd compose endlessly to fill up the gap of anything interesting in my repertoire!

Year 10-11. I'm 15 at the time, and my school (not the music one) organizes a mass concert with the students. I want in and pick a few works to play. My conservatory says otherwise and forbids me to go to the concert. I tell them to [censored] off and quit the conservatory to do what I want. Anyways I would be moving to a new town soon.

Concert goes well, I perform the G major "sonatina" of Beethovens, some Grieg and my own "prelude in D" for piano and flute. I also get introduce with other like minded people (AT LAST!!!) who all love classical music. So I come to love it as well. I find out about fabulous pieces like the Pathetique, and Clair de Lune, etc... I feel in love!

We move to a new town, so in a search for a new teacher, I find Irina! A half Greek Russian piano teacher who is AWESOME! We hit it off straight away and she finally is teaching me piano and music! I jump through hoops to get to the lessons every week, and have 2 hours of lessons on a weekly bases. Within a year I complete the Grieg sonata and go further. By the age of 18 I've decided that I want to be a composer and I don't care about anything else. I want to go abroad (and away from Greece certainly) to study and nothing's going to stop me.

I go through the national exams system for universities in Greece and I manage (with relative ease) to enter the physics department of the University of Ioannina. Don't care about that at all. I manage to complete the following subjects: "English 101, English 201 and Coding 101". Three subjects out of 33 or so!

I drop out and start playing piano at piano bars and stuff like that...

and then at the age of 19-20 I meet Christos Anastassiou (one of the composers in EMF). He tells me that I should study theoretical music (which I'm not doing at the moment, as I'm equally UNlucky in my choice of harmony teachers), and he agrees to teach me. We have daily lessons and very soon I'm on Persichettis harmony of the 20th century.

I'm forced to leave my last piano teacher, a couple of years before I can complete my studies (by getting a performance diploma in piano), and I get back in Athens to finish off. I get my diplomas and everything and I also meet my (future) wife in 1999!

just for fun in 2002 I try out the National Scholarship Foundation, to get a scholarship to fund my studies of composition abroad. Most people tell me how you need to REALLY know someone from inside, but I don't care. I just want to see what the exams are like. And I win! I WIN! I get a scholarship (of around $60,000 in total).

So, I tell them that "I've not found a university to fit me yet". And they're kind enough to allow me to grab the scholarship next year.

Next year I tell them "Well... you know... ahem... I'm in the army now and my wife is pregnant..." And they're even kinder enough to allow me to grab the scholarship in the next year.

So 2004, my older son is born and I get him and my wife to London to do an MMus in composition, in Royal Holloway. The scholarship still active I carry on studying, and going for a PhD (which I got in 2010).

___________________________

There's four people in my life that changed me (not including my parents, which keep changing me even now at the age of 36). A musicologist named George kokkins. A very open minded guy, who'd done a PhD in Marseille and was full of passion for anything he did. My piano teacher Irina, and Christos Anastassiou. And then... my wife of course! wink

___________________________

But what's interesting in my case is that although my parents were very educated, clever people, etc, for some reasons they never thought about my lack of development in piano learning. Somehow they missed the idea that this was because of crappy teachers! Or they didn't think that I'd make a career out of that! haha! But they've always been supportive of me and my music attempts, which suffice to say is still happening!

And what I think is equally interesting, is the fact that I doubt I'd become the composer I am today if it wasn't for all those years of poor learning and poor teaching and poor musical environments! I think...

God I love talking about myself, don't I?


Joel, this is a great thread. I thought people here have pretty much similar paths, like starting piano at 5 and never looked back. Some maybe winning local completions for children at 10, discovered talent and accepted to conservatory / college.

Nikolas, I used the same book Beyer. It came in Red, Yellow and Blue I think depends on your level. Did collection of 30 czerny and 100 czerny pieces. You are right those were deadly boring. I remember when I heard burgmuller(spelling) music, I jumped up in joy, thinking "wow" it sounds so nice. It's amazing the poor material let you compose. I wound up quitting at 8th year of study.


1) Bach c minor fantasy
2) Morzart Rondo in A minor, K511
3) Schubert Impromptu A flat D935 No2
4) Scriabin op11 prelude #2 and #14 (Re do #2, new #14)
5) kabalevsky Variations in A minor OP 40-2
Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2247673
03/16/14 08:56 PM
03/16/14 08:56 PM
Joined: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,842
Philadelphia, PA
J
jdw Offline
1000 Post Club Member
jdw  Offline
1000 Post Club Member
J

Joined: Mar 2011
Posts: 1,842
Philadelphia, PA
Thanks for all the stories!

My family had a big old upright piano but very little money. With four kids, each of us got one year of piano lessons. Actually, I shared a year of lessons with one of my brothers, getting through the first John Thompson book when I was 8 and he was 10. Then the lessons were done.

I worked through the second year book on my own, but at the third book I got discouraged. I knew I wasn't doing it right. In particular, I knew there were supposed to be dynamics. At the time, I figured I just didn't have what it takes. In hindsight, I think our poor, clapped-out piano was doing all it could just to make a sound.

So I fiddled around on the piano now and then, playing mostly hymns (they don't require much in the way of dynamics). When I was 11, I learned recorder from the Trapp instruction book (this was before recorders were played in every elementary school). I got pretty far with that, learned to play both alto and soprano. My brothers and I put together an ensemble with soprano, alto, tenor and bass recorders.

My older brothers were very keen on baroque music. As teenagers they saved up for a harpsichord kit and built it in our living room. (Maybe I should not reveal this on a piano forum, but at one point they put thumb tacks in the piano's hammers to make it sound more like a harpsichord. Truly, by then I don't think it did much further harm.)

When I was in high school a very generous family friend and church organist bought me a flute and flute lessons. I took off with that and continued lessons through college, playing in church occasionally. I also had a few lessons in organ and music theory.

Meanwhile, I had always loved to sing, so when I could afford it, in my late twenties, I started voice lessons. That has led to much delight in singing with amateur and professional choirs, and the occasional solo.

I always felt a household needed a piano. First my husband and I acquired a charming old upright. Eventually, we replaced it with one less charming but far more musical. I was able to play with dynamics after all! Then one of my brothers gave me an edition of Chopin's Mazurkas. I discovered rubato and was hooked.

There's actually a pretty long and delightful (to me smile ) story after that, of how computer-induced RSI led me to retraining and more sustained piano lessons. But I've posted about that elsewhere, and this is long enough already!


1989 Baldwin R
Currently working on:‚Äč
Schubert, Op. 90 no. 2
Sinding, Fr√ľhlingsrauschen (Rustle of Spring)
Beethoven, Sonata no. 14 in C# minor (Moonlight), mvts. 1 & 2
Re: Share your story [Re: argerichfan] #2247677
03/16/14 09:01 PM
03/16/14 09:01 PM
Joined: May 2007
Posts: 6,218
Down Under
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member
currawong  Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2007
Posts: 6,218
Down Under
Originally Posted by argerichfan
Although since we both love and cherish the music of Richard Strauss, I would be curious to know when he first came online with you. For me it was when a singer asked me to accompany her in a few 'well known' Strauss songs. (No points for guessing which ones!)
Snap! Almost the same experience for me. In my case it was Morgen.


Du holde Kunst...
Re: Share your story [Re: JoelW] #2248000
03/17/14 03:59 PM
03/17/14 03:59 PM
Joined: May 2013
Posts: 626
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
chopinoholic Offline
500 Post Club Member
chopinoholic  Offline
500 Post Club Member

Joined: May 2013
Posts: 626
Eindhoven, The Netherlands
Joel, what a nice thread you created. I read some really touching and inspirational stories. thanks all for sharing!

Ok, I will try and tell my story too. Sorry for the messy storytelling. I'm not good at it. It has some plot holes blush

I remember my parents putting on records of Chopin and Beethoven piano concertos. I still remember Chopinís 2nd piano concerto, 3rd movement being played over and over again. It was my motherís favourite. I always loved it and still do.
I was about ten years old when I first touched a piano. It was my neighbour who had a piano and let a couple of kids in the neighbourhood play it. He noticed that I started playing with all my fingers instead of just one like the others and he taught me how to play using Folk Deanís First Piano Book.
It did not take long before I played those first three books and he said to my parents to buy a piano and put me on lessons. My parents immediately acted and not long after I had lessons from my first teacher which was also the teacher of my neighbour. She is actually the best teacher Iíve had when I look back. She was strict and only proceeded with a next piece if the current one was flawless.
After one year of lessons I got the sheet music of Fur Elise. It took me one afternoon to tackle it. That was the beginning of classical music for me.
A couple of years later we started with Beethoven sonataís, Bach WK, Chopin Nocturnes, Cramer etudes.

The talent for playing the piano was apparent and I wanted to go the conservatory. I did not think about the future and wanted to study and become a really good pianist. My teacher was not happy with my choice, but helped me anyway preparing for the entrance examination. I was aiming for the preparation years to get to the level I needed to start the conservatory. It came as a shock to me that I was accepted for the first year after the examination!

But, after 1.5 years I quit.

It was a terrible time and I made the decision in a split second. I was going to the piano lesson on my bicycle and decided then that I didnít want to go further anymore. 15 minutes later I told my teacher. Done.

I did not touch the piano for 9 months or so. It had a big impact on me.

Since then (about 18 years) I sort of sustained my repertoire, playing the same things all the time. Time passed and the grand piano I had (and was at my momís house) was neglected and did not get the service it should get. My mother said she wanted to give it service so that it could be used again. I said that it would be a better idea to replace it with a new and better one instead. And to my surprise, she agreed! She would help me buy a new grand!
This was my turning point and I studied new pieces again on the new grand. This was May last year. Now Iím playing/studying Mozart KV.333, Tchaikovski pieces for the recital, Chopin Ballade no.4, Bach WTK I. Also with the inspiration of pianoworld, for which I really would like to thank you all, I keep playing, joining the online recitals and have a lot of fun doing it.

I could go on for a while, but the my story is now in the present. So I stop.


Paul

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