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Pursuing Concert Piano with a Disability

Pursuing Concert Piano with a Disability
Image Description: Dressing room at Carnegie Hall with a Piano and a mirror with a Concert Dress

In the news when you see a story about a Concert Pianist it usually starts off by talking about how the pianist started lessons at the age of 5, had a grand piano by the age of 8 and was performing Concertos at the age of 10. The pianist came from a life where they were able to be afforded those opportunities and had high grades in school as well as multiple college scholarship opportunities. These stories are inspirational, but they can also lead people to believe that you have to be born into a certain life of privilege to become a Concert Pianist. “Child must start training at a young age”. “Child must have access to a nicer model of a piano”.

Well not everyone’s parents have money for those things, and not every child has learning situations come so easily. This is my story of pursuing Concert Piano, it is one of trial after trial, starting late, starting over from the very beginning and learning to adapt a Winner’s mindset to make it happen despite having the cards stacked against me.
When I was a child we went to our friends piano recital. I remember asking when it was my turn to perform. I was 10 years old in beginner piano lessons and I wanted to learn the classics and be able to perform. A year later we moved across the states and we gave my Aunt’s piano back and we were no longer in lessons.

I began to miss piano, but at the time I had to put that dream in my back pocket. I had only had a year of piano lessons and since I struggled in school the probability of being a Concert Pianist seemed even more slim.
Years went by and I had not touched a piano. I had completely set the idea of being a pianist aside as I had been told that it was an unrealistic goal. My grades in school were slipping and at the end of 9th grade I had to transfer to a new school. By the time I was a Senior in High school the only thing that crossed my mind was being able to pass my courses and figure out how to graduate on time and what entry level trap job I was going to be working in for the rest of my life.

After I graduated I got back into piano a little, I would go places, like my church were there was a piano and keep practicing. I still knew very little about how to read music, so I would rely on my ear to help guide me with my compositions. I began to be able to piece together parts of the circle of fifths and what chords went together. Other people that I worked with began to notice that there was potential there and encouraged me to pursue it, so I started to get more motivated to do something about it. For a short time I took lessons from a teacher when I could afford to do so. It felt great to finally have some formal training.

When I was 20 I joined the Navy and took piano lessons again. I decided that I wanted to pursue piano after I got out of The Navy, but with a Disability and being on a beginner level, it was a long shot. I decided to start practicing anyway in hopes of it going some were. At 24 when I got out of the Navy, I bought my own piano and began teaching myself more of what I could, then I decided that it was time to apply to College and study Music. I applied to admissions at the University but I was denied for having a High School GPA that was too low, so they suggested that I start out at the Community College. I started off by retaking courses that I had previously done poor on.

That year I gave my first solo piano performance at Steinway & Son’s performing my own compositions. I felt like I had taken my first official step to becoming a Concert Pianist. I was starting to learn the process of how things would go, work a side job to afford the cost of lessons as well as being able to afford to give a performance at a formal concert hall. Getting into the world of performing I had already learned so much, everything from what type of program would be convincing to an audience as well as how to market myself. Since I did not have artistic management this was going to be a lot more for me to take on by myself than I had realized.

I began working extra to book my own shows at piano venues in town and sell tickets to them. I became my own music manager, booking and promoting my own shows. I had my own business Accountant as well who could help me with formal tax information that I would need help navigating. I had gotten a business license for teaching piano lessons as well as performing. In 2015 I found out that I was going to do a more major formal Concert Piano performance, at Carnegie Hall! Since I was my own manager, I had to pick up multiple jobs to be able to afford to book the performance and get myself there. I went out job searching and was soon working 60 or more hours a week, some of my shifts were 24 hours long, and then I would go and work an 8 hour shift at another job, 32 hours strait of work every weekend with out sleep in between, as well as more shifts during the week on top of practicing. My body was tired, but the closer I got to the top the harder I had begun to fight to make the dream a reality.

Image Description: Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Grand Piano on Stage, beautiful blue drapes, dark blue seats in the audience and chandeliers on the ceiling

On June 26th of 2017 the day to fly out to New York to perform had finally arrived, I had done multiple performances in Spokane to help myself raise money to get there and to practice performing as well. My friends took me out to dinner to celebrate and then took me to the airport. The next few days of the trip were very busy. I was able to spend the day going around the city, the next day I had my 2 hour practice session were I got to go into the hall and do a practice rehearsal, then I had a 2 hour break. I came back to the hall and got ready backstage to perform. I could not believe that I was actually able to pull off all of that hard work and make the performance happen. After the performance I had realized that I had more of a chance at Concert Piano than I thought, I also learned more about how to develop an effective program that will draw in more of an audience.

Since having more of a consistent training plan as well as lessons, my Concert Piano plans are starting to develop more. I will graduate with my 2 year Music Degree in June, and this Fall I will be transferring to the University with a partial Music Scholarship that I had applied to years before that I had been denied admissions from due to poor GPA. I will have my next major performance next year, as soon as more details emerge and the performance is finalized I will be releasing details of the information! On Saturday August 28th I will be doing a performance live over Zoom. Feel free to message me about it

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Image Description: Harpa Hall Iceland, Concert Hall near the water with people and back round scenery

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