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#496084 - 07/20/01 04:26 PM pianists we admire who began studying later in life
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
in the child prodigies thread, someone mentioned that there might be pianists who began studying the instrument after childhood.

i am very curious about this. i'm now 45, began studying as an adult, have studied about 7-8 years total, with a long hiatus in there at one point, and truly feel i missed my calling because the piano wasn't my instrument as a child (though i did study a few other instruments, learned to read music at a young age, and came from a musical family).

are there great pianists--or any pianists of professional caliber--who began studying as adults?

i'd like to start taking my playing very seriously, with even the idea of a possible career change, but wonder if this could never be more than a fantasy. \:\(
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piqué

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Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#496085 - 07/21/01 01:23 AM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
Mat D. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 512
Loc: Sterling Heights, Michigan
I don't want to discourage you, but I can't think of a single "great" pianist who started as an adult.

As for a career change, that sounds kind of scary--If you are thinking of Classical music as a career, I'd say this is an impossible task--your competition is Volodos, Marc Andre Hamelin, Kissin...

If you are thinking of lounge pianist, maybe there is hope if you can entertain. There is money to made if you can entertain & sing. A pianist who can sing and has a good repertoire (pop, jazz, broadway etc.) can come make a decent living (if you like that kind of work--I don't). I've got a friend who plays a 'single' doing "one-nighters" using a digital keyboard and some sequencing, etc--he sings well & is entertaining---he comes home from a gig with $600-$900 and sometimes plays 2 gigs on a single day. It's not an easy life IMO.

Best, Mat D.

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#496086 - 07/21/01 03:32 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
MacDuff Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 560
Loc: Southeast, U.S.A.
There was an article in "Clavier" magazine some years ago about a woman who began serious piano study in her 30s (if I recall correctly), went to music school and completed a B.M., and established a piano school in her community (several teachers sharing studio space in a commercial business district).

[ July 21, 2001: Message edited by: MacDuff ]

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#496087 - 07/21/01 07:19 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
hmmpf! are there really no classical pianists who did not begin studying in childhood?

i wonder if this means it is impossible for an adult to achieve that caliber of playing, or if it means that all adults take up the piano strictly as an avocation and don't attempt to go any further with it?

maybe to frame my question more specifically--is it *possible* for an adult to reach a professional level of classical performance even if they began studying late?

as for competing with the likes of kissin--i'm sure i wouldn't have been able to do that even if i had begun playing while still in the womb! ;\)
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piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#496088 - 07/21/01 10:49 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
magnezium Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 722
Loc: Singapore
 Quote:
Originally posted by pique:
is it *possible* for an adult to reach a professional level of classical performance even if they began studying late?[/b]


in my opinion, it's theoretically possible. however, you must take into account the time span required to build up your popularity through which you will achieve some form of success if you see performing as a career. the things that build up popularity, such as competitions etc, usually have age limits etc. and without this exposure to the world of piano few will request you to perform at festivals etc simply because they haven't heard of you. even if you are an exceptionally wonderful pianist, it'd take so long for the world to recognise you that even if you did get some fame you wouldn't be experiencing it for very much longer...

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#496089 - 07/21/01 10:54 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
Mat D. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 512
Loc: Sterling Heights, Michigan
Hi Pique, You mentioned "career change" so I thought I'd throw the worst case scenerio at you.

IMO, it's quite possible to become very proficient at the piano having started as an adult, but when you say "professional, I think of making a living at it, and that is quite another thing.

You might want to look at the careers of recent competition winners--even runner's-up are not getting the "good" gigs, the ones that actually pay enough to make a living.

I hope I don't sound cynical, I don't think I am, but "A" is "A" and it's tough out there--

$.02 more ---- Mat D.

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#496090 - 07/22/01 01:04 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
i guess i should clarify~
i know all about the competitive world of classical music, as i grew up steeped in it. as a kid i was urged to go for a professional career (flute) and rejected the idea because the level of competition is so ludicrous. as a young adult (20s), five years into learning the piano, i was encouraged to work towards this also--in fact, my quasi-famous teacher said he would only continue with me if i would commit to it!--and i rejected the idea as ludicrous then as well, for the same reasons.

now i'm finally starting to realize how powerfully important the piano is in my life. no doubt the realities of the classical music world would make earning a livelihood at it pretty much impossible at this stage of the game, if it ever was possible, anyway. (i know lots and lots and lots of people who went for that brass ring, had all the advantages, and never made it.)

i guess what i'm wondering more is if i could ever play like a professional, and do the things professionals do--like perform publicly in ensembles or as a soloist--even if it would never pay the rent.

or, does my late start mean there just isn't enough time left to get that good? or do adults just not have the capacities to learn an instrument as well as children do?
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now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#496091 - 07/22/01 01:33 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
CrashTest Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/23/01
Posts: 4110
If you really enjoy piano playing and want to do it professionally, there is absolutely no reason why you can't. As an adult, the musical experience you have gained so far is more than a child's, which should help a lot. If you can put in the many hours of practice daily, you can get very good. There is no rule saying that only child prodigies may become virtuosos and the like, they just have an advantage of starting earlier. If you think you will have the time and skill necessary, go aheard and do it!

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#496092 - 07/22/01 05:45 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
Mat D. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 512
Loc: Sterling Heights, Michigan
pique, I understand your question a bit better now. I do think it is possible to become a good enough pianist to perform "publicly" with enough hard work & God-given talent.

My question is why make that your goal. The process is the joy; the learning & loving of the music should be the joy in itself. If you are striving for nothing short of playing w/orchestra (or other public performance, such as recital) then you are putting too much stress on yourself to achieve that goal and IMO will miss much of the joy of the music making along the way. In other words you would be doing exactly what you didn't want to do when you were young--to compete, only now you would be competing for gigs etc.

I say, slow down and enjoy the music and hopefully you will achieve your ultimate goal. You will have years of wonderful music making in the process!

Best, Mat D.

[ July 22, 2001: Message edited by: Mat D. ]

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#496093 - 07/23/01 12:11 AM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
thank you, matt, and others who have given encouraging words.

the goal is to play that well, not neccessarily to win gigs. i'm not a very competitive person, except perhaps with myself. i've already had two creative careers that involved tremendous competition, and if i hadn't been able to get by on plain talent, i would have thrown in the towel. even so, it was tougher than i would have liked. being a professional musician would, i imagine, be even tougher.

am i being confusing? it's not that i see myself onstage with an orchestra or ensemble, or winning gigs, per se. i just would like to play that well. it's the vision of being able to play that well that motivates a lot of my practice, though of course i also just plain enjoy playing.

the reason i want to play that well is because i have an idea of how i'd like to express the music, and being unable to is frustrating. i hate the nagging feeling that it could be just a pipe dream that i could ever be that accomplished. you know, you hear with your inner ear how you'd like to interpret a piece, but you can't make it happen....yet?

how many here can relate?
\:\)
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#496094 - 07/23/01 06:35 AM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
magnezium Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 722
Loc: Singapore
 Quote:
Originally posted by pique:
the reason i want to play that well is because i have an idea of how i'd like to express the music, and being unable to is frustrating. i hate the nagging feeling that it could be just a pipe dream that i could ever be that accomplished. you know, you hear with your inner ear how you'd like to interpret a piece, but you can't make it happen....yet?

how many here can relate?[/b]


oh yes... i have many of these moments where i feel if i could just get my interpretation out of my head and into my fingers i'd be such a great pianist... but maybe this transferring is what being a great pianist is all about...

[ July 23, 2001: Message edited by: magnezium ]

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#496095 - 07/23/01 01:35 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
Mat D. Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/29/01
Posts: 512
Loc: Sterling Heights, Michigan
pique,

You are half way there because you know what you "want" to do with the music, you now need to work out the mechanics.

I think you'll make it, now get practicing!

Best, Mat D.

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#496096 - 07/23/01 05:36 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
Bernard Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/06/01
Posts: 3857
Loc: North Groton, NH
pique,

I'm struck by the similarities of our lives. I'm 44.5 and began lessons about 10 years ago...

As far as 'career' goes, I think there are many ways to define a career in music. First, there is the "internationally reknown" level--which is a phenomenon--for lack of a better word, since many exceptional pianists do not even make it at this level. Then there are those great pianists who concertise locally, probably setting up their own recitals (and hoping for a large enough turnout to cover the costs of the hall, etc.). Some go into teaching, some become accompanists, some join or establish a chamber group, and so on and so on.

Do you play for other people now? If not, might I suggest: perhaps this is what you are yearning for; music *needs* to be heard by other people. My teacher would be thrilled to know that you desire to have your music heard.

To feel less isolated, I occasionally take a chamber music class at one of the local music school's adult programs; this affords me an opportunity to be with other musicians in a learning environment and be in a recital at the end of the semester. Perhaps there are some schools near you that offer something similar?

I think the bottom line of your questions is this: if you believe in yourself, evaluate the situation so you can set realistic goals and then go for it.
_________________________
"Hunger for growth will come to you in the form of a problem." -- unknown

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#496097 - 07/24/01 10:31 AM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
thanks matt and bernard! i especially appreciate your suggestions, bernard. yes, what i am looking for is a way to *share* my love of the music, and that is the missing piece. the music school suggestion is excellent! there is a school at the university here, though i don't know if they have adult ed chamber ensembles. but i would love that and will look into it.

i don't get to play for others much. i haven't quite gotten up the nerve to ask my friends if they'd let me play for them.

my teacher has 45 adult students, and we do have a big piano party a few times a year where we have a potluck and all play for each other. i performed there for the first time a couple of months ago, and it was exhilarating. even better was having the support and cheers of my fellow students, who are very generous in overlooking each others' mistakes. and it is fun to hear what everyone else is working on.
_________________________
piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#496098 - 07/29/01 02:47 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
Joe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/27/01
Posts: 86
Loc: New Jersey
Wow, this is a great thread. I'm one of the 'adult beginner' lot, so I empathize with it. I started playing in college, and changed my major to piano. It's not an easy way to go, but it's possible. You can even make a 'living' at it, I do. HOWEVER, I feel that I'll never be as natural on the instrument as if I had played as a child. I have to work hard to do things some people can just toss off with ease. As far as being a concert pianist, I a) have no desire for it, and b) think it would be an unrealistic goal for someone like me. I won't say it's impossible (I hate that word) but highly unlikely. You need to be able to devour music like mad to keep up with a career like that, and that usually means not only playing as a child, but being a prodigy as well.

Not to worry, there are plenty of opportunities for honest talented hard workers who don't mind not being famous.

Oh lets see, Paderewski started relatively late, was it 13? He was quite the rock star way back, though by all accounts not nearly as good as his fame. He sure could play the crowd though. Harold Baur started in his early twenties, though he was a violinist before that. He WAS well respected among pianists of the day, especially in the chamber repertoire. He was a very rare bird, indeed!

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#496099 - 07/29/01 07:16 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
thank you for introducing me to harold bauer, who i had never heard of before. however, it was a bit intimidating to read that though he began his piano studies at the age of 20, it was with paderewski, and withing a year he was concertizing professionally! so, he was an adult prodigy!

but at least this goes to show that it isn't absolutely necessary to study as a child. however, it might be necessary to be a musical genius! ;\)
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piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#496100 - 07/29/01 09:19 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
Brendan Offline



Registered: 05/26/01
Posts: 5303
Loc: McAllen, TX
Don't do it.

If you want to make music a greater part of your life, get a church job, maybe take on a few pupils or play some gigs, but don't just outright change your career to piano. It takes many, many years to build up a network of contacts that you can rely on (and vice versa, of course), and to just jump in cold isn't really the best decision. In this field, it really depends on two things: who you know and how well you can perform (in that order).

Many very good pianists never make it because they either have poor communication skills or no contacts. On the other hand, I know a guy who is only so-so but will make his Carnegie hall debut this year because he got in good with some influential conductors at the Aspen Music festival, who helped him secure a debut concert.

This, of course, isn't an excuse for mediocre performance, but my point is that you can't really expect to decide to change your career to piano and all of a sudden have 20 concerts a year on your plate. I play maybe 15 or 16, but at least half of those are through school, and the others are usually return invitations to places that I've performed before (and sporadic concerts as a result of competitions).

Of course, your decision is ultimately up you, but do think thoroughly about it.

Brendan
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#496101 - 07/29/01 10:42 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
netizen Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/02/01
Posts: 1926
Loc: New York
You've gotten an interesting range of responses from "don't do it" to "proceed directly to the shallow end of the pool" and points in between. I am not sure what it is want you want to do exactly. My advice, however, is that you ought to follow your passion. This requires not only serious thought about external factors (money, training, family obligations, etc), but, more importantly, searching within yourself.

For a number of years, I taught piano and music theory at a state college. I had the chance to work with many "re-entry" students (college-speak for "persons not of the usual college age"). Among them were many fine people, most seemed (at least to me) to have a sense that they were pursuing music because it profoundly mattered to them. I had a student in her mid-70's, a retired elementary school teacher, of only intermediate ability. But she derived enormous happiness from learning. She couldn't care less about becoming a professional concert pianist. But, all the same, she was there every week alongside the young and blindly ambitious doing what made her happy. Another student, in her mid-30's who had taken up piano in her 20's, through hardwork, talent, tenacity established herself as a fine musician regionally, earned a master's degree, and last I knew was teaching at local community college. By all accounts, she is happy playing and teaching piano.

Are you going to make a lot of money? Likely not, and likely as not, you wouldn't even if you were years younger. In my most pessimistic judgment, I'd say that if one hasn't won a major national competition by age 25, it just is not in the cards. Period. Anyone but a fool realizes that being a concert pianist isn't all teacups and tuxedos. Nor is it simply a matter of talent. Many, many fail --including those with extraordinary pianistic pedigrees-- to realize a real "career" as a concert pianist. But this ought not to stop you, if for you playing and performing is an inescapable joy.

[ July 29, 2001: Message edited by: netizen ]
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we are to stand by the president right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public."-- Theodore Roosevelt

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#496102 - 07/30/01 09:12 AM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
sandman Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/13/01
Posts: 605
Loc: toronto
two tiny bits of info...
paderewsky began serious study at age 23.. and currently one of the best pianists around in my opinion, Volodos, began serious study at age 18... i know that this isn't exactly old, but many many famous pianist have won numerous international competitions and other such stuff by that age... so in child prodegy terms its reletivly old

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#496103 - 07/31/01 02:59 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
piqué Offline
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/15/01
Posts: 5483
oh, well, then paderewski and i have more in common than i thought, as i took up the piano at age 23, also. ;\)

i don't think i said anywhere that i expected to become a concert pianist with 20 appearances a year on my plate. though i happen to have a great many contacts in the music world, if that is what it takes. and new contacts can always be made.

i do appreciate the words of support for following one's passion and joy. i truly believe in that.

netizen, i liked hearing about your student in her 70s--good for her!

and i'm not sure exactly what it is i am aiming at. but when i think about the intermediate student in her 70s who is pleasing herself but will never be a pianist, there is a part of me that hopes i will attain more as a musician than that. i like performing, and i'd like to play well enough to be worth hearing. i'd like the ability and the opportunity to communicate musical ideas.

my very first piano teacher, who had a master's degree from indiana, ended up giving up teaching the piano to go back to law school and become a high-powered corporate attorney. she was sick of never having any money. her first major purchase was a brand-new steinway grand piano. she also bought season tickets to the opera and treated all her starving musician friends every week.

my second teacher, a graduate of moscow conservatory, who had enough flair and charisma to outshine 99 percent of the competition on stage, received very few opportunities to concertize and was very frustrated just teaching.

my third teacher got to perform regularly at lincoln center as a soloist, but he also has to take regular tours of india and south america and play in lots of american backwaters just to keep his name out there. from my p.o.v. it looked very grim, constantly being on the road, and the amount of ego one has to generate, just to overcome the constant fear of rejection--not a great way to live, imho.

this type of career inevitably begins to look like it is more about self-promotion and ego-gratification than it is about the love of music. i suppose it is like most things one loves--when you turn them into a business, you lose something in the translation.

so, as i think i've mentioned, i'm already all too well acquainted with the hazards, trials, and challenges of launching a concert career.

but something is calling to me, some form of making music a greater part of my life instead of just a "hobby."

i don't know if i should take comfort from reading about paderewsky and bauer--they also were prodigies who simply got a late start....

but it is still very good to hear that sometimes people take up this instrument as an adult and make a go of it, in some form.

thanks for the boost!
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piqué

now in paperback:


Grand Obsession: A Piano Odyssey

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#496104 - 07/31/01 09:52 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
ZeldaHanson Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/31/01
Posts: 276
Loc: Cape Cod, MA, USA
I just started when I was turning 17. I'm nearly 18 now. I'm always worried about not being able to become successful because of this. But I have so much belief that I have the ability to make myself be successful in anything that I am completely in love and obsessed with. I have been obsessed with pianos since the first moment I saw them as a child. I just never thought of it as a future until a little while ago. But I'm putting so much effort into every day, constantly studying theory, and 4 hours or more extra practice in the piano a day. And because of all this constant effort every day, I have already been in the national guild aditions, performed in recitals, performed major works emotional and technically satisfying, and have played in fancy resteraunts. If I can do all this in 8 months, I'm just dieing to see what I can do in another year or so. I'm going to college for music this fall at a Community and hope to study furthur at a Conservatory afterwards. BUT....I have a backup career. I am also a sucessful web designer at the moment. If my music carreer attempt fails, I can fall back on my designing or html programming. I say go for the music plan you have in mind, but contain a backup for yourself.

Love
Zeldah
_________________________
Glenn Gould in regards to music:

The problem begins when one forgets the artificiality of it all, when one neglects to pay homage to those designations that to our minds-to our reflect senses, perhaps-make of music an analyzable commodity. The trouble begins when we start to become so impressed by the strategies of ours systematized thought that we forget that it does relate to an obverse, that it is hewn from negation, that it is but a very small security against the void of negation which surrounds it.

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#496105 - 08/01/01 01:50 PM Re: pianists we admire who began studying later in life
Joe Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/27/01
Posts: 86
Loc: New Jersey
Paderewski did play as a child, but from all accounts had awful teachers. The age of 13 sticks in my mind, that may be his first attempt at studying. Even that is late by the standards of his career. I think age 23 is when he went to Leschtizky to study, in spite of much discouragement. I'll have to go back and look it up.

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