Last night I played my first solo concert in three years. I’ve always been more comfortable as a chamber musician and love sharing the music-making process and the spotlight with others. My problem is that while I’m not so fond of stepping out onstage alone, I am madly, passionately and deeply in love with the pianist’s repertoire. I love practicing and spending time (alone) with the piano and the great music that we are so privileged to claim.
Recently I’ve been practicing on a Steinbuhler DS 5.5 TM (7/8) piano and decided to have the piano moved into the recital hall so that I could have the experience of performing on a piano that better fits my hand size. While the smaller keyboard didn’t miraculously alter my personality and temperament, it did help me to feel more comfortable and allow me to play with greater ease.
I’ve had a stormy relationship with the piano all of my life. On the one hand, it called to me as a young child and was a constant friend. Much teenage angst was channeled through the piano and I have the most lovely memories of practicing with my Siamese cat by my side for hours at a time. The music itself changed my life. I loved that it was never “finished” and required me to dig deep and examine my inner life. I also claimed music as my passion, never pushed by anyone else to pursue it.
On the other hand, I was never comfortable as a performer until I started playing chamber music in college. I was always reluctant to play for others, worried about putting myself out there, afraid of being perceived as “not good enough” or a phony.
It has taken a lifetime of soul-searching and a life-threatening illness to love my own playing. While I still struggle with self-doubt and wrestle with feelings of being unworthy of Schubert (who doesn’t? —not anyone that I’d really like to hear!), I am learning to love that I have something to express that is unique and can only come through my own hands and heart. We all do.
I am a better human being because of the time spent at the piano. And I am oh so grateful that my parents bought me that beloved upright many years ago.