Aspiration for Students of Adult Piano Lessons
My June selection, The Classical Musician Today: Getting and Keeping the Career You Want, is a recent release by two veterans of the classical music industry, Barry Alexander and Cosmo Buono. The book provides a fascinating inside look at the issues emerging concert pianists grapple with. The book is also an inspiring read for amateurs, with about one-third of the content directly relevant to the student of adult piano lessons.
I should note that while Alexander and Buono wrote the book for all classical musicians, my review here takes the perspective of a pianist.
“The Artist Inside,” the first part of The Classical Musician Today, covers topics of interest to both the amateur and professional, beginning with how to find a good teacher. “Choose someone who wants to teach,” the authors counsel, “and is not just doing it while waiting for the next performance opportunity.” As evident from our original video below, Cosmo Buono, the member of the author pair who runs a piano conservatory, embodies that passion for teaching.
Later chapters cover how to develop a philosophy of auditioning and performing, useful for the more advanced student of adult piano lessons. The authors stress personal responsibility for one’s performance, while not worrying in the moment how the music sounds or whether the audience “likes you.”
This idea of developing a strong sense of one’s performing self is further developed in Part Two, especially in one of my favorite chapters, “Nerves, What Nerves?” Stage fright occurs when artists question their right to feel good about themselves. “Nervousness usually occurs in direct proportion to your need for approval,” Alexander and Buono declare. “To reduce or eliminate nervousness, decide you have a right to be an artist.”
Part Three of the book, entitled “You as a Business,” works through how to manage one’s classical music career from brushing up on interpersonal skills to presenting oneself properly on the web. This part could apply to anyone in a performing career, such as actors, and really any creative professional, including my own profession of writing. I liked the authors’ suggestions to maintain separate social networking pages for one’s personal and professional lives.
I also was drawn to the chapter on Technique. Alexander and Buono advise that “when starting a work, you must first attempt to understand the composer’s message and decide how to communicate that message using your technique. You need to know what to do with your body to make sure the message of a note or phrase is communicated fully.” Breaking up a work into very small pieces is the key to leveraging technique.
The Classical Musician Today may be ordered on the authors’ website. A lyric baritone, Barry Alexander is COO of the Alexander and Buono International, which includes the ABI competitions in piano, flute, strings, and voice. Cosmo Buono, a concert pianist trained at the Julliard School, gained reknown as a specialist in one piano for four hands and resuscitated duets favored by Liszt and Chopin. The CEO of ABI, he directs the Alexander and Buono Festival of Music.