Finding Her Dream Music at a Hair Salon

Nana Asatiani and the Debussy Clair de Lune

“You know how there’s something in everyone’s life that they don’t want to live without? For some it’s their laptop, for others it’s their cell phone or coffee. I feel like I could give up everything to have a piano,” says Nana Asatiani, an amateur pianist from the Republic of Georgia, who taught herself to play the Debussy Clair de Lune after discovering the music at a hair salon. Nana shared her story with GRAND PIANO PASSION™.

The Piano and Her Work

I work as a private nurse, caring for a 93-year-old lady, and my patient and I usually go to an elder care facility to have dinner. There’s a grand piano in the hall, and anyone is welcome to play. Whenever we arrive, my patient goes straight to the piano and sits in an armchair, waiting for me to play. It’s a little ritual we have. It’s really nice because there’s usually other people there who listen to me. Often a listener will come up to me and tell me how much he is enjoying the music. Some people even comment on my technique. They’ll say, “You know, it was great, but I think it should have been a bit faster in the beginning,” or “It was beautiful, but I’d use less pedal.” Some people comment that their mother or father used to be a pianist, and my playing brought back childhood memories; others share how they’ve always wanted to be able to play the piano but never realized their dream. This is definitely a highlight of my job, especially because I get to play a grand piano instead of the Yamaha keyboard I have at home.

Discovering the Debussy Clair de Lune

One day I took my patient to a hair salon. While I was waiting, a man walked in and asked if anyone was interested in a piano book, 50 Greats for the Piano. I took it and started browsing. There were pieces by Tchaikovsky, Beethoven, Mozart, and Chopin. Then I turned the page, and there was the Debussy Clair de Lune. I started reading the score and humming the tune. Neither the composer nor the composition sounded familiar, but it was one of the most beautiful sounds I had ever heard. My heart started beating faster. I could not wait to get my hands on the piano keys and try it out. When I got home that day, I looked up the Debussy Clair de Lune on YouTube and watched other people play it. I fell in love with this tune. It felt like something that belongs to you and you have to have it. At that moment, probably more than ever before, I felt very grateful to my parents for pushing me to take piano lessons in my early childhood years and to my extraordinary piano teacher, Tata Starikovsky, who instilled in me this deep love and appreciation for piano music.

Learning the Debussy Clair de Lune

I have a Yamaha digital keyboard in my bedroom, so for seven straight weeks, I practiced the Debussy Clair de Lune for five to six hours a day. I was determined to put this piece together. Some nights I would stay up way past midnight trying to correct mistakes. I would play the same section over and over again. I found Thomas Labé’s rendition of Clair de Lune on the internet that was my favorite, and I was trying to mimic that. It was an amazingly fulfilling experience. I felt like I was creating something very special, my own.

Told to and translated by Nini Bitsadze.
Here is a video of Nana Asatiani playing the Debussy Clair de Lune at her patient’s elder care facility exclusively for GRAND PIANO PASSION™.
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9 Comments

  1. Teaching yourself is inspiring. It absolutely deserves to be acknowledged and publicized as nowadays people are becoming dependent on being delivered to the skills or trained. I don’t personally play piano but I enjoy the soothing simplistic sounding of the pieces and I appreciate the complexity behind it that you Nana and other playing pianist deliver to us. Thank you, and keep up the hard work.

    • Ali, thank you very much for your supporting comment. I appreciate! I am still working on Clair de lune to improve the toning and i would take any suggestions! Actually this is the first major piece I’ve learned after the graduation of my 8 years of piano school. Thanks to this site, after reading other followers stories it gave me courage and motivation. Like i said i loved the melody so much that I lost my piece until I’ve learn how to play it. I want to thank to Nancy for publishing so many interesting stories and giving me motivation to keep up with practicing and special thanks to my dearest friend Nini, who gave me courage to share my “grand piano passion”

      • Nana, it has been a pleasure to publish these two articles about you. Sending good thoughts for your continued practice on the piano!

  2. Nana, you sound like an amazing person. Not only do I find it incredible that you’re someone who loves to share your gift of music to the world, but the fact that you do so in an elder care facility truly speaks to your love of others and mankind as a whole. Everyone can do small acts like this that bring joy and peace to other people’s lives, and I was just really touched by that.

    I would’ve loved to know how long you worked at Debussy Clair de Lune before you were able to effectively teach yourself how to play it well? And isn’t it interesting the things that you learn at hair salon’s and barber shops? You just never know what unique perspectives or gems or wisdom will come from places like that. Very unexpected.

    Thanks for sharing your story, Nana!

  3. Sorry, just wanted to add one more thing and couldn’t figure out how to edit my first comment!

    Nana, if you happen to still visit this page every now and then, would you also be able to post the YouTube video in which you learned how to play Clair de lune? I’m sure there are a ton on YouTube, but some people are of course better teachers than others, and I’d be interested in trying to learn this piece on my own (I know, good luck to me, right?) as I also have a Yamaha digital keyboard as well.

    Thanks for your time.

    • Dear Ronnie,
      thank you for your time and interest to read my story. You made me very happy with your encouragement and warm comment. I believe It took me to learn the Clair de Lune about 6 to 8 weeks, although I’m steel working on it, especially after i listening on youtube version. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZIsQPdC9YnY

  4. most of the other versions of Clair de Lune plaid by others, are interesting also, but i prefer Thomas Labe’s version, it is not to slow not to fest and perfectly balanced, It is little difficult to balance the tones on the keyboard though, Nevertheless even humbling that melody without instrument is also amazing,relaxing and exiting. ( for me anyway) 🙂 please don’t give up learning Clair de lune, no matter how much time it will take, I’m sure you want have many difficulties, when you want to learn it. It might take you less then it took with me, maybe little longer but it’s worth it.Good luck and looking forward to hear from you how you will make out.
    Yes, it is fun, in some why little “educational” and interesting experience being at the hair salons.
    Thank you
    Nana

  5. Such an inspiring story. For some, music is something that they can’t live without. I personally had an intense love for music and especially for the Piano, ever since I was a kid. And recently, I have started to practice Piano using a MIDI keyboard on my laptop. She such an inspiration, thanks a lot for sharing 🙂

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