Yesterday, I watched the most recent incarnation of Spiderman with my son on the big screen. There was a line delivered by Tony Stark (Ironman) to Peter Parker (Spiderman): “If you’re nothing without the suit then you shouldn’t wear it”. He was asking for Peter to return the suit because he’d failed to obey the rules of his super hero probation which could have resulted in his own death and that of other innocent bystanders. Peter didn’t want to hand the suit back because it gave him powers that others admired and envied, and was becoming dependent on it for his self worth.
This little scene resonated powerfully in me. I thought about my own career in Music.
Living a musician’s life is very exacting, and potentially unfulfilling if your ultimate goal is to gain attention by proving how great you are at playing your instrument. If all the hours spent in isolation to hone your skills are solely to pat your ego, to dazzle your audience, to win a competition or produce the next superlative recording of the entire oeuvre of Beethoven, it would be the equivalent to prancing around like Spider-Man, swinging amazingly from building to building, showing everyone your sparkly spandex suit and rippling biceps but steering clear of dangerous situations where your talents could be useful.
There’s no substance to this ambition for glory, and life is likely to turn out heavy with emptiness.
Having played in my first competition at 2 1/2 years old, and having experienced success and accolades, I also felt that something was missing.
I’m not sure whether it was just a matter of time, or just living a life in the relentless pursuit of perfection that brought about this epiphany. Importantly, there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with striving to be the best you can be and it’s important to experience success. When I could sense and hear improvements, I was motivated to do more, work harder. Striving brings about opportunity. Striving gets you onto the concert stage or into the recording studio. I wore the suit for a long time but wasn’t really in it, if you know what I mean.
I am convinced now that being able to share all the hard work in ways that can serve others creates a deeper meaning to being a musician, a meaning more sustainable than for the simple self glory of a successful recording, concert or competition.
The result of my epiphany is that I want to create a legacy.
I encourage a new generation of performers through my own performances and teaching. It takes enormous dedication, diligence and sacrifice to master the Piano and to deliver Music’s message successfully to an audience. It means sweating the details, being self-critical and suffering setbacks.
But when Music is at the centre, not the individual ego, and when the goal is to share and nurture its beauty, that’s when the rewards strike the soul.
I have been encouraging a new generation of composers for many years. My most recent project, The Sonata Project, commissions and gathers together in a series of concerts, the finest new solo sonatas for Piano. In my desire to support women in composition I have met several young females already active in this arena, three of whom (Jane Stanley, Aristea Mellos and Melody Eötvös) have contributed powerful, magnetic sonatas to the Project. I am VERY excited to be presenting these in November this year.
I work in outreach programs in bringing music to the most vulnerable amongst us - refugees, homeless, the mentally unwell - who I can help raise awareness and funding for by sharing my gifts.
I feel a sense of fulfilment when I can connect my art with science. Currently, I am exploring the effects that the early uptake of studying the piano has on the brains of ageing people and I am collaborating with neuroscientists and researchers from my University to develop a framework for taking this research forward.
I explore the methods that science has informed in teaching piano without injury.
My current far-reaching approach to being a musician has earned me the privilege of wearing Music’s Suit.
I am a more balanced musician and human being when I consider my place in the musical world to be one from which I can serve others. My ultimate goal is to help keep the art of composition, live performance and my beloved Piano alive. Performing, creating and sharing Music are some of the few human activities that are honest, pure and beautiful and that enhance the lives of millions.
But, for me to continue with my broader Musical agenda, I need the financial support of like-minded, generous people from the community. If you would like to learn more about any of my projects, please contact me.