Clavier Companion - May/June 2017 - 7
Olivia laughs at this. "Well, even I think I could
keep that from happening when I play!"
I then tell Olivia about my daughter's experience
at a graduate school audition. My daughter had
the misfortune to draw a young staff accompanist
who simply couldn't play the music my daughter
was singing. The audition resembled a Charles Ives
work-two bands playing different songs at the
same time. Throughout two agonizing Lieder, my
After all, playing perfectly
without any mistakes
usually means we didn't
risk passion. Such risk-a
calculated one taken only
after we have done all our
work-gives the music life,
daughter stood in the rubble of notes and sang,
even when the poor, freaked-out accompanist quit
in the middle of the last song leaving my daughter
to solo to the end.
Olivia looked horrified. "What happened?"
"She got in. While the faculty certainly couldn't
tell a whole lot about my daughter's interpretation
of these particular songs, they did hear her
exceptional voice and learn about her grit. In
addition, they apologized for the accompanist, a
fine pianist, who had not expected to have to play
such difficult repertoire at sight."
I then tell her my own experience, one that forever
changed my view of performing. In graduate
school I played the Mozart Trio in E-flat, K. 498, at
a Ravinia master class taught by János Starker and
Rudolf Büchbinder. Büchbinder served as my page
turner, hovering over me as I played and dropping
ash from his lit cigarette onto the bass keys.
Starker spent half an hour on ways to unify the turn
in the opening phrase of the first movement. His
intense-I think they were green-eyes terrified me.
As I walked away from the stage, an older man
came up to me and said, "For my money, the
Mozart was the most beautiful performance today."
Being a young graduate student, I began to list my
"mistakes." I guess I wanted him to know I was aware
the performance was imperfect, that my standards
were higher. The man stopped me mid-sentence,
touched my arm, and said, "Ah, but nothing perfect
has ever moved me." He turned and walked away. I
later learned the man was Starker's father.
Olivia still seems to be listening, so I continue.
"After all, playing perfectly without any mistakes
usually means we didn't risk passion. Such risk-a
calculated one taken only after we have done all
our work, like you have-gives the music life. Trust
the long hours of study and practice you have
done both with your magnificent teacher and on
your own. Trust the power of the music to speak
itself through you. Stay with the music moment by
moment, and you will play without the stumbles
and stutters of your interrupting fears. If you make
an honest mistake due to your passion, make it and
Olivia hears me, but looks skeptical.
Several days later Olivia's mother reports that
Olivia was a part of a disastrous duet performance
two days after our meeting. Although she and her
partner were using music, Olivia's partner spaced
out and stopped playing, not once, but twice. Olivia
kept on going! Eventually, mid run, Olivia pointed
to a place where they could reunite. Together, they
played well to the end.
Is this success? I think it is the beginning of it.
Olivia told her teacher, "At last! I was the one who
kept going and saved the day!"
Barbara Kreader Skalinder has
taught in her independent studio
in Evanston, IL, since 1974. One of
the coauthors of The Hal Leonard
Student Piano Library, she has
given workshops in more than
200 cities in the United States,
Canada, the United Kingdom,
Australia, and Asia. Formerly the
editor of Clavier magazine, she is the author of
The Music of Teaching: Learning to Trust Students'