Interview with the American Pianists Association / by Elizabeth Roe

In Indianapolis, Greg and I performed in APA's Grand Encounters Series, a piano recital series that takes place in a variety of venues in Indy. Our concert was presented at the Talbott Street nightclub (great ambiance and lights!), and it featured a special collaboration with Dance Kaleidoscope, Indiana's premier contemporary dance company. For the Series' playbill, APA conducted and printed personal interviews with the artists. Here is my "Conversation":

Where did you grow up and are you from a musical family? I grew up in the Chicago suburbs. My entire family is passionate about music, and my mother's side has strong musical ties: when my mother was young, she played the violin and was the award-winning conductor of her high school chorus, and two of my aunts became teachers of music (piano and cello, respectively). Both of my sisters have a great deal of musical talent: my older sister can play the violin, viola, and guitar, and my younger sister was principal cellist in our high school orchestra. We all love to sing! However, in my immediate family, I am the only one who is a musician by profession.

What attracted you to the piano / can you play any other instruments? There was an upright Baldwin piano in our home, and as a toddler I would climb onto the bench and tinker around the keyboard for fun. My first official instrument, however, was the violin: I started lessons at age five, but I eventually lost interest. Once I switched to the piano at six years old, it automatically felt natural to me, and I instantly found the sonority and physical grandeur of the piano tremendously appealing. The keyboard itself struck me as a magical landscape of possibility. As for other instruments, I have performed on other instruments of the keyboard family (i. e. the harpsichord, celesta, harmonium, and electric keyboard), and I also enjoy strumming the guitar every now and then.

      How do you deal with the pressure of being on stage? I try to concentrate on the music and remind myself of how fortunate I am to share it with others. I often invoke what the inspirational violinist and teacher Pamela Frank once said in a master class: "If you focus on how beautiful the music is, there's no time to be nervous."

      What is an ordinary day like for you? There is no ordinary day! On the day of a concert, it typically entails a dress rehearsal in the hall, some personal practice time, napping, and eating, then performing and greeting the audience afterward (and getting a post-concert treat of some sort!). A non-performance day usually involves some combination of the following: running errands, practicing, emails, cooking or eating out, listening to music, meeting with friends, solitude, and—on a more ambitious day—filming a music video, working on websites, planning and executing various professional projects, learning and creating new music, teaching, and traveling.

      Any thoughts on classical music? Classical music is both timeless and timely. It reflects both the incarnate and the metaphysical: it captures the ineffable joys, sorrows, passion, and mystery of Life. Filling in where words leave off, it gives us a fuller awareness of humanity, history, other cultures and art forms, and especially our inner worlds. Contrary to the stereotype, classical music is not always profound, serious, and pleasant; it can also be irreverent, wildly entertaining, and shocking. In my opinion, classical music delves into the complexity, breadth, and wonder of the human experience, opening our ears, eyes, minds, and hearts to new and infinities discoveries.

      What type of music do you listen to? I listen to classical, of course, but I like to take a break from my "day job" and listen to other genres of music. I primarily gravitate toward indie/alternative rock, but I also listen to pop, folk, hip-hop, and jazz. I definitely reap inspiration from these other styles and artists. My favorite composers are Bach, Brahms, and the Beatles.

      What are your favorite movies? Roman Holiday, The Remains of the Day, You've Got Mail, Groundhog Day, Amélie, Lost in Translation, The Philadelphia Story, I Am Love, The Tree of Life.

      Tell me some interesting facts about yourself. I recently completed two years of teaching at Smith College as Visiting Artist; after graduating from Juilliard, I taught music in a public school in Queens as a Fellow of The Academy (Carnegie Hall’s professional program); in 2004, Greg Anderson and I appeared on MTV’s Total Request Live in a Harry Potter contest (it’s a long story!); when I was really little, my mom let me draw with crayons on the staircase wall of my childhood home (she has always been very nurturing of my artistic tendencies!); I wrote my undergraduate thesis on representations of music in the fiction of Mann, Proust, and Forster; I’m a proud aunt; I love karaoke; I’m an INFJ.

      Where would someone find you on a Saturday afternoon? On an ideal Saturday afternoon, I would be engrossed in a good book, sitting outside in a beautiful setting (weather permitting!) or indoors at a cozy café with tea.