Photo: Pianofest in the Hamptons

Pianists in Paradise

First of all, a huge thank you is in order to Keitaro Harada¬†and Kei Meguro for their invaluable help in my website’s creation! I finally have a homepage, and it looks and functions much better than I could have dreamed.

I’ve been hesitant about including this blog section, quite frankly because I never feel like I have enough time to practice and learn the slightly intimidating stacks of scores on the table. But today, AS I was at the piano I felt compelled to write on a topic very dear to my heart.

My website’s launch comes in the wake of a truly momentous month. From June 14 to July 14, I attended Pianofest in the Hamptons, directed by Paul Schenly: an all-piano festival centered around the “Pianofest House.” In this house, we practiced, played, convened, cooked, enjoyed music and food, learned in music and life, laughed, and, at the culmination of the month, cried. It was undoubtedly one of the best experiences of my life. Pianofest far surpassed the normal expectations of a music festival; in fact, it didn’t feel much like a festival but rather like the forging of a timeless fellowship. Our lives seemed to intersect at just the perfect place with just the perfect timing, and for a rare moment everything outside stopped, but the inner world of Pianofest tinkered forward in a spell-like harmony. It was a gathering of beautiful people from all over the world, working toward separate goals from unique perspectives, adhered together in friendship by similar interests, and respected for our different talents and personalities.

The remarkable thing about this attitude of respect is that it comes from each of us and extends toward one another. It is relatively easy to garner admiration from audience members or those who are allowed only to see what we show them. It is much more difficult, however, to gain respect from those in intimate proximity — much less from those who are in direct competition with each other. As pianists constantly faced with a “make it or break it” attitude and as soloists pulled into the spotlight where we hold full responsibility of what might happen, the very nature of what we do is more individualistic than the spirit of most other paths. It certainly is customary to regard one another with apprehension or spite.

But in his selection process Mr. Schenly must have worked some kind of miracle. This group of 12 participants was in sync from the start: in mutual understanding rather than judgment, in support rather than in competition. It was immediate; we unconsciously chose to cooperate instead of falling to the temptation of a “soloistic” attitude. And thus our Pianofest family was formed.

One of the intriguing things about our session of Pianofest was that we were the inaugural group of the new YouTube show “The Real Pianists of the Hamptons,” a show entirely planned, filmed, edited, and put together by our fantastic, multi-talented artist-in-residence Konstantin Soukhovetski, the smoldering Italian heartthrob (and my very best friend from LA), Jacopo Giacopuzzi, and a reintroduced kindred spirit, Matt Griswold. These lads really deserve a standing ovation for all their work on top of performing and all other regular Pianofest activities.

The first few released episodes are the start of something new; an embodiment of classical music as a mix of playfulness and personality, with the seriousness of thought and background that goes into every phrase. They incorporate interviews, performances, everyday activities, and a challenge and punishment for each featured group. The first three episodes are out:

Episode 1: An introduction to Soyeon, Vladislav, and myself as the first featured group, as well as an introduction to the show.
Episode 2: Our challenge and punishment.
Episode 3: Interviews with the next group: Alevtyna, Keru, J.T., and Albert.

I’m especially excited about the upcoming 4th episode, because it’s going to be hilarious — with cross-dressing, faux-opera singing, and a sweet punishment.

All this being said, I would like to amend a reply that I made during my interview portion of the Real Pianists of the Hamptons (episode 1). When asked what happiness was, I answered that it is contentment with everything that you’ve been given. On second thought, the word “contentment” is rather unsatisfying… What I really think is this: happiness is peace. Peace with your circumstances, peace with others, peace within yourself that you stayed true to what you believe in and upheld your principles. It means learning to love people even if you don’t like them, acknowledging gratitude rather than jealousy or regret, and knowing that you wouldn’t be who you are today if it weren’t for all the past mistakes. And if there are scars that do remain, happiness is looking at them with acceptance and appreciation for their reminder to do better next time.

Pianofest comrades, I am thankful for all of you and the time we shared together. Music’s unrivaled power is most evident in the hearts and lives of every musician.