The Piano Concert from HELL!
My studio in Banff, Canada. An environment that surely inspires.
There's a funny story from my early days as a piano student. I must have been ten or eleven years old, when my piano teacher signed me up to play at a recital. A gaggle of piano teachers got together to let their students show off against another. That's what it seemed to me. I was one of the younger ones and the other players were all much better pianists. The whole experience seemed so unnatural. Looking back, already then I was showing signs that I'm more suited to playing my own music - jamming out songs live on stage, making it up as I go, total freedom, anything can happen. At that piano recital I felt miserable and stifled.
So, off I went to the piano when it was my turn. I placed the music on the stand, started playing, trying to feel it (no success with that), and about half way through the piece I screwed up completely, lost my place, and didn't know what to do. I let out the most heartfelt and deepest sigh I can remember ever making. Of course everybody laughed and I used the commotion to skip to the end of the piece. I quite likely cut out more than a minute, finished the damned thing, took a deep bow and hurried back to my seat. Right there and then I vowed never to play at one of those stupid recitals again.
Well, lo and behold, despite my protestations my teacher signed me up for another turn at torture the next year. It was like high noon. The stand-off went something like this: “You have to play recitals, otherwise you're not going to improve!” “If you force me to play one of those things again, I'll quit!” She must have thought I wasn't serious and signed me up. So I quit.
Practicing Beethoven in a Metallica shirt? Yep, that's me with my baby sister. A broad taste in music showed early on.
And there went my career as a concert pianist... Well, not really, I wouldn't be suited to that anyway. Constant practicing, playing the same stuff over and over, and none of it my own music. I need instant gratification, I think my attention span is as short as my cat's, and I want to set my own rules. So here I am.
As painful as that experience was, I couldn't be more grateful to my parents for sending me off to get piano lessons when I was six. That got the whole ball rolling. I wouldn't be the person I am today if they hadn't insisted on me learning to play a musical instrument. I probably would have taken up playing something later on, as music is my preferred form of expression, but thanks to that early education I can now express myself so freely and effortlessly.
I've alluded to it before, but I think there is fantastic music in any genre. That's why I've been drawn to so many different artists. I've honed my guitar skills with Metallica and Jimi Hendrix, my bass playing with Jamiroquai, but first and foremost my keyboard chops are thanks to Beethoven and Chopin.
I've been teaching myself to play ever since I quit piano lessons and received some helpful tuition from an old jazz guitarist along the way. He taught me music theory in the most entertaining way possible (the bass player of our little jazz combo actually played the tuba!!) and thanks to that solid foundation I have become a prolific composer.
There's a theory that you have to practice something for ten thousands hours before you become truly good at it. Since I quit piano lessons I've spent that several times over practicing on all my instruments and in my career as a recording engineer. So I feel pretty confident in saying that I know what I'm doing. And happily, all of those myriad influences I've mentioned flow into all of my music.
Thanks again for joining me on this musical journey. In case you haven't done so already and if you like what you've heard so far and want to hear more, check out my releases here.